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Sounds Like Learning CD and DVD / Fingerplays and Fun CD / Letter Fun Lotto / Short Vowel Fun Review by April Elstrom

Barbara Milne
TL Concepts, Inc.
5362 Rockledge Drive
Buena Park, CA 90621

The preschool years are delightful years of discovery and play. Barbara Milne has used her experience and training in early childhood education and children's music to create many products to aid the young child in learning through music and games. She developed the Sounds Like Phonics and the Sounds Like Learning series for Discovery Toys, though some are also available at IQ Boosters, where she sells additional musical recordings.

Fingerplays And Fun CD

Fingerplays and Fun is a charming CD that contains 14 bright and cheerful songs for toddlers and preschoolers. These songs include 13 action songs and fingerplays, as well as an alphabet song. Many of the songs are traditional children's songs, but this CD also includes six original songs written by Barbara Milne, who also provides the singing voice for the music. The Fingerplays and Fun CD comes with a lyrics sheet that includes the actions for each song as well as an alphabet poster that shows both uppercase and lowercase letters with picture cues that help the child remember the letter sounds.

The Fingerplays and Fun CD can be used in the home, nursery, daycare, or classroom setting. It can be used as background music during playtime or in a more directed learning experience. Children would also enjoy playing their own instruments and singing along with the recording.

When I played this CD in my home, my 2-year-old and 4-year-old both enjoyed it, but my 6-year-old felt it was too young for him. That reaction was exactly what I expected, as this CD is best suited for children at the preschool and kindergarten level. Older children with developmental delays could also benefit from this CD. The recording quality is excellent, and the CD has a cheerful and peaceful sound that will appeal to young children without annoying the parents. The instructions for the fingerplay actions are clearly understood; however, the print on the poster is small, and the lyrics for different songs seem to run together without an obvious separation.

This CD would be perfect for families with young children. In families with a mix of older and younger children, this CD would have a few unique benefits. The Fingerplays and Fun CD would provide a directed way for older children to interact with the younger children, and it would allow parents to easily invest time in playing with their younger children.

Sounds Like Learning CD

Sounds Like Learning is a musical CD designed for babies, toddlers and preschool children. Fourteen of the 20 songs are written by Barbara Milne, who sings all the songs on the recording. The quiet, soothing songs introduce beginning learning concepts, such as opposites, counting, months of the year, and letter sounds. The CD comes with a lyrics sheet as well as a poster that introduces the alphabet and its phonemic sounds.

Sounds Like Learning can be used in the home, a daycare, or the church nursery. It provides a peaceful background for napping or playing. When I played it as background music, my 4-year-old skipped to the music and sang along with the tunes she recognized. It didn't take her long to learn the other songs, just as Mrs. Milne intended. Although the CD appealed to my younger children, my older children quickly grew tired of it. It is very gentle and soothing, which helped to keep my younger children calm during school hours.

This CD has a colorful cover design and is recorded with soothing guitar music. Barbara Milne's voice is charming, and the overall tone of the music is pleasant. I liked how easily the CD introduces basic concepts to preschool children. It would also be beneficial to those with learning delays who learn well through music and repetition.

Sounds Like Learning DVD

The Sounds Like Learning DVD provides a video to accompany the "Apple, Apple, A A A" song, which is on both the Fingerplays and Fun CD and the Sounds Like Learning CD. Each letter is shown with a picture cue as the words to the song are printed across the screen. The picture cues match the learning posters that come with the Sounds Like Learning DVD as well as the picture cues used in the Sounds Like Phonics games listed below.

This short video drew the attention of my 2-year-old, 4-year-old, and even my 7-year-old. It held their attention from start to finish, and the younger two begged to have it played again--two more times to be exact. My musical 4-year-old danced to the music as she sang along. This DVD is perfect for preschoolers since it combines the visual and auditory learning modes. If children are allowed to dance or move as they view it, it also taps into their kinesthetic learning mode.

The Sounds Like Learning DVD is sold in a bundle with the Sounds Like Learning CD at IQ Boosters. It is not currently available at Discovery Toys, though the other products are.

Sounds Like Phonics Short Vowel Fun Game

Short Vowel Fun is a card game that teaches preschool children to recognize letter sounds and rhyming words. This game is intended for children age three and up, though I think some three and four-year-old children would need help to play the game. Each playing card has a two or three-letter word on it, and every letter has a picture cue to help children remember its sound. The two levels of Short Vowel Fun cover all five vowels as well as 17 different consonants. The only letters not covered are q, x, y, and z.

The Short Vowel Fun game comes with two stacks of 52 cards in two different levels. Each player is given four cards, and one is placed face up on the table. The youngest child goes first and tries to match the first letter or rhyming sound of one of their cards with the displayed card. If they have a match, they lay their card on top of the other card. If they do not have a match, they must draw a card. There are Magic Monkey cards that can be used as a wild card to change the direction of the game if a player does not have a match. The winner is the first player to use all his cards. As children progress, the game could be made more difficult by starting each player with more cards.

This game was a hit in our home. My 4-year-old and 6-year-old both greatly enjoyed playing the game and continue to ask to play it. I played it with them several times, though my 2-year-old actually thought he was playing the third hand in the game. Even though my 6-year-old is already reading, he enjoyed playing the game and recognizing which words had rhyming endings. When I was busy, they happily played it with their older sister.

I appreciated the simplicity of this game. It doesn't have playing pieces to set up (or lose), and it is easy to learn. Another benefit is that this game is designed for the young child's attention span, moving quickly and maintaining the child's interest and focus. I enjoyed playing it with my younger children and knowing that they were learning while we played. This game will continue to be a favorite in our home, as it is simple and fun.

Sounds Like Phonics Letter Fun Lotto Game

Letter Fun Lotto is a versatile game that helps children (ages 3 and up) explore letters and sounds through play. The game includes four double-sided lotto boards, 36 letter cards, 50 round markers, and instructions for four different games. The two sides of the lotto cards allow older parents to tailor the game to their child's ability, as one side is more advanced than the other. This game covers all 26 letters of the alphabet.

The colorful, illustrated lotto boards can be used with the letter cards to play a simple matching game or a more complex matching game. The letter cards can also be used to build words or rhyming words. The letter cards are double-sided: one side has the letter alone, while the other side has hidden picture cues. Our favorite game was Bingo, which uses the lotto boards, the letter cards, and the round markers.

When playing Letter Fun Lotto with my 4-year-old and 6-year-old, we explored all four game options. My 4-year-old enjoyed the matching games, but they were too simple for my 6-year-old. My 6-year-old enjoyed building words with the letter cards, but my 4- year-old wasn't able to. They both enjoyed playing Bingo, and we played several rounds of the game so that they each had a chance to win. Their 2-year-old brother wanted to be included in the fun, so we helped him play along.

It helped us to realize that there are two different sides of the lotto boards: a simpler side that uses only picture cues that match the letter cards and a more difficult side that uses different pictures. We needed to put the 4-year-old on the simpler side, and though my 6-year-old is reading, he sometimes needed to be reminded to look at the letter on the card and not the picture while playing Bingo.

The versatility of this game makes it especially beneficial. It can be used in many different ways to enhance learning, both as part of a structured lesson time or as a part of a family play time. Letter Fun Lotto truly involves both play and learning, and more importantly . . . children enjoy it!

In conclusion, Barbara Milne's Sounds Like Phonics games and CDs have helped me focus on my preschool children, who sometimes get lost in the shuffle of older siblings' schoolwork and the household chores. Mrs. Milne's products provided a fun learning environment for our young children and allowed us to enjoy spending time with them.

Product review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2011