Pick of the Day: LeapFrog Tag Interactive United States Map

I was an absolute map and globe geek as a kid.  Thanks to my Dad’s love of maps, we each got our own atlas when we reached a certain age (I think I was nine).  As with his atlas, we were encouraged to keep a record of our travels in our atlas.  Yep–we got to add our “lines” as we called them directly onto our maps!  It was very exciting to see new lines on our state, USA, and world maps as I got older. I know that this new interactive map would have been brought home as something to explore together!  Read our complete review!

LeapFrog’s new line looks like fun!

We had a preview today of LeapFrog’s new toys for 2010.  I’ve seen many of them at an earlier showing (I think I may have blogged about having seen so many promising toys–but they were all embargoed).  I’m not big on keeping secrets so showing me toys I’m not allowed to write about for months really doesn’t work for me. Today I was assured that I could write about everything…

New for 2010, Leapster Explorer

Leapster Explorer

If you’re looking for a hand-held game console for younger kids, this will probably be the one to get.  We haven’t tested it yet–that said, it’s faster, the graphics are amazingly clear and bright–and the games are varied and interesting. The Leapster Explorer will retail for $69–and while your preschooler will probably still want to play with your iPhone, they will also be more than satisfied to play with the Explorer.  In the photo below you can see a demonstration of Sugar Bugs–where you are given the task of getting the sugar bugs out of the person’s teeth.  For some reason this really grossed out my mother when we saw it a few months ago–it doesn’t bother me too much–we’ll have to see how kids react. The company will continue the existing Leapster line (at a lower price point) and continue to bring out a few games a year to support it).  Some may be disappointed that the Explorer will not play your existing library of Leapster titles.

Demonstrating Sugar Bugs

What I did think was really promising was the on-line expanded experience of LeapWorld….it’s FREE (once you’ve purchased your Explorer)…and the content is not just more ABC drills…there’s lots of wonderful new concepts to explore — a weather app where you can set the temperature, the humidity, etc. and then see how your settings impact the weather on the little town.  Maybe because my older son was obsessed with the Weather Channel as a preschooler – this seems particularly fun. There are also educational games that aren’t about right or wrong–but exploring.  For example, there is a scale –and you can add more objects to each side to see which weighs more.   From what we saw today–there seems to be a happy revival of the what many refer to as the Golden Age of Children’s Software of the ’90s–where technology embraced educational games with innovation and creativity.  From a safety standpoint–this also has advantages since your child gets to LeapWorld by plugging in their Explorer to your PC–not by surfing the web. We sat so quietly during this presentation (we’re normally a noisy group) that one of our pr buddies thought we had already left the showroom.

Of course, our intention to behave and be relatively quiet was completely blown when we got to the new baby toys. There were many  interesting toys…pretend lap tops (with a blog and email feature) for two year olds, new drums, a new activity table…but then we all saw the following toy.  I don’t know why I always think I’m being punked –but today I was sure this was it.  So I decided to say nothing at first. I heard a little chuckle from my niece Ali (assistant extraordinaire) and my brother James was leaning an elbow into me in just that way that older brother can…and then I just lost it.   I looked around…was this a joke? (My mother was on deadline with another project so she wasn’t with us today – but truth be told I think she would have laughed as well–but she probably would have told us to behave ourselves!)

LeapFrog's Learn & Groove Magic Wand

Here’s the photo and you can watch the video.    

Ok, we got over it

I really liked this new interactive pot, called Potty, –that comes with veggies..my favorite part?…the lid says “open” and “closed’…this will be great fun for toddlers. Watch the video!

We also  saw more extensions on the TAG and TAG Jr. reading lines (both Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winners).  More titles are promised for both and there will be an interactive USA and World Map to go with TAG that looked like fun for both kids and parents. While there were more licensed titles–we were assured that there would still be more classic storybooks in the growing collection of the TAG libraries– we hope so.

We look forward to testing the new products with kids — and I have a sense that the folks in toyland know that as a family, we take what we do very seriously, but with an appropriate sense of humor…

TAG Interactive World Map

Parents surf and watch TV eight times more than they read to kids

While we’re all on facebook and twittering…not to mention shopping on line and watching tv…it turns out that we’re not reading to our kids.

Leapfrog recently sent me the findings of a study they commissioned that indicated:

“While the majority of parents (83 percent) do read to their child daily, those who do spend an average of about 32 minutes reading, compared with a total of 209 minutes (approximately 3∏ hours) a day watching TV and browsing the Web.”

Does this surprise anyone?  At first this looked really upsetting but if you’re really reading books with your child for 32 minutes a day (if that’s for real)…it’s a good start. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the day our kids should be plugged into the tv/computer.  The problem I always had with my boys is that bedtime reading always became about one more book–and then you feel conflicted– after all you’re thrilled they want to read more…but at some point you realize it’s not about the book, but about not going to SLEEP!!!

LeapFrog is running a promotion in honor of National Reading Month…to inspire kids and parents to read one million hours. If you sign up, you’re in the running to win a TAG Reading System (We gave this electronic reading system our Platinum Award last year.)

For more details on the study, visit

Tag Reading System-Beyond the commercial

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.

Trends from Toyland: Leapfrog's TAG

tag.jpgFor 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.