Looking at the cover of the magazine, it doesn't look any different to any of the other kiddies' magazines on offer. Even the characters, cute as they are, with their enormous eyes and pudgy baby faces, look very similar to numerous other children's TV characters, like the Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, etc. They are called the Piplings, and even their names are reminiscent of other TV shows : Lau Lau (not to be confused with Laa Laa the Teletubby), Nok Tok (sounds strangely like Ninky Nonk), Yojojo (anyone thinking of Yoho Ahoy ?) , De Li (ahhh finally one that doesn't immediately make me think of another Cbeebies character !!)
Flicking through the magazine, it offers all the same type of activities too - a hide and seek observation game with stickers, a maze/follow the dots to practise fine motor skills, spot the difference, colouring, storytime ... The editor explains that it's all based around five key areas : feeling good, communication, being creative, finding out and physical development. It's the same old same old.
Nevertheless, Juliette, aged 4, was immediately sucked in and excitedly did the whole thing from cover to cover in one sitting, whereas normally she will get bored after a few pages and move on to something else. She loved the Yogo "copy the pose" exercises. I loved the little comprehension questions in the storypages to check she was following and understanding what I was reading.
One interesting moment was the "draw and spot" page when she had to copy a narabug (butterfly). She immediately said "oooh it's difficult, I won't manage that" but I showed her the step by step instructions, she followed the lines (concentrating so hard her little tongue was sticking out !) and she succeeded ! She was really excited about doing something she thought was beyond her capacities and rushed off to show her dad ! That's got to justify buying the magazine just for that one feel-good moment !
I realised as I was working through the magazine, and confirmed my suspicions by reading the introduction to parents on the first page, that the whole focus of this magazine is feelings and emotions. It's not always easy for pre-schoolers to explain how they're feeling so giving them the vocabulary of emotions - happy, pleased, clever, excited, disappointed - has to be a good thing. The topic for this issue was kindness but presumably that changes in each magazine.
When I took a closer look at the sticker sheet, I realised that the reward stickers were in two parts. Some for the parents to give to the children for good behaviour (with specific instructions on what needs to be done to get the sticker) but also stickers that the child can give to the parent (thanks for playing with me, thanks for looking after me, ...). I thought it was a great idea for the sticker exchange to work both ways, cleverly reinforcing the kindness/sharing/your actions making others feel good message of the magazine.
My only slight quibble would be the price, which seems a little high at £2.35 when it's for a pre-schooler and will inevitably get ripped apart and scribbled on within minutes ! I also thought it was lacking in fan pages/competitions/send in your drawings and photos pages, but as this is a new magazine, that may be introduced in later issues.
star rating : 4.5/5
You can discover the Piplings in a cute and very simple little game online : http://www.waybuloo.com/game/