Move over Wii. LeapFrog is vying for that active plug in play experience for kids 3-5. Zippity is co-developed with Disney. While we haven’t tested it yet, we like the idea that kids are up and moving while playing games that require them to run, jump and hop on the play mat. Of course the big question will be the content. The price is $79.95 (comes with eight pre-loaded games)–additional games will be $24.99. Scheduled for a summer release.
We really love the new TAG Reading System from Leapfrog. After years of complaining that none of the electronic educational companies leveraged the great wealth of children’s literature for their platforms, Leapfrog really delivered. The library of books includes many wonderful picturebooks by award winning authors and illustrators. So the other night when I saw their commercial (which is pretty cute)…I understood, but was saddened that the marketing choice was basically “hey, your kid can read Sponge Bob with the TAG.” True…but we hope you’ll also bring home a wider range of titles that include Chicka, Chicka Boom, Boom, I Spy, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and The Little Engine that Could.
For as many years as I’ve been covering toy fair with my mother, we have had certain gripes that continue from year to year. One of them has finally been put to rest–thankfully. Each year we are shown cutting edge technology that is going to teach our kids how to read. You know the assortment of electronic books and other platforms that have plugged into tvs. Our gripe: the books were usually poor in quality. The selections usually include books written in-house by less than inspired authors or a wide selection of licensed characters. “Where are the good books?” “Real storybooks?” we would whine (we own up to it) …. I’m sure at this point many a toy maker would even know what was going to come out our mouths since it was pretty much the same exchange every year. Until now!
TAG is Leapfrog’s new interactive pen that reads, wait for it….wonderful new and classic storybooks. The Little Engine That Could, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Olivia…are all part of the library that you can buy for TAG. Here’s how it works, you buy the book ($13.99 per title) that has been formatted to work with the special TAG pen. (The pen is $49.99 and comes with one book). You then download the audio off the Internet from the Leapfrog site. The pen can hold the audio for five different books at a time. The pen can read the story “by the page” or by the word–depending on your child’s preference. There are also some interactive games that are designed to build reading comprehension skills. Plug the pen back into the computer and you can track how your child did on these exercises. The whole on-line track-how-your-kid-is-doing is part of the new Leapfrog site and works with many of their new and existing platforms. Somehow all of this tracking makes me really tense, but I suppose there will be parents who will be into the accountability factor.
Of course none of this replaces reading with your child–but this is certainly really cool. We can’t wait to test this one. The product will be available in June.
And again, hats off to Leapfrog for spending the money on quality books.
Responding to the concerns of worried parents over the lurking dangers to kids on the internet, toy makers are trying to make computer experiences safer. Fisher-Price and Hasbro have created “gated environments” where parents pay for the platform or key to safe sites that also block your child from surfing the web. Taking it a step further, LeapFrog has created a platform that stimulates a computer experience on your television (not a bad idea if you’re worried about your child’s sippy cup near your expensive equipment!). Of course it should be noted that screen time is not as important for your preschooler as active physical play and creative activities that develop fine motor skills as well as imaginative play of their own making. Interacting with a screen is no substitute for interacting with real objects and real people.