Toddlers and Computer Toys

LeapPad and BoyI just read an article in the USA today that asks the question, “Do toddlers really need computers to learn“?

The article makes the case that young kids have too much “screen time” and not enough outdoors time. That may be true as a trend in the US, but to me, that’s really a parenting issue more than a problem with a certain type of toy or technology.

One of the hottest new “screen toys” this year is the LeapPad by LeapFrog. I listed it in my list of the 20 Top Toys of 2011. Every time I’ve been at a store and browsing the toy aisle this holiday season, the LeapPad is sold out, so I know demand has been high for this toy.

I’ve also written previously about my kids experience with the Fisher Price iXL vs. the LeapFrog Explorer. These are great electronic learning toys for young kids.

The LeapPad is suggested for Kids 4 years old up to around 9 year old. So it really isn’t a toddler toy. I’d have to agree with that. My Pre-school age kids love their LeapFrog Explorer and Fisher Price iXL — but our 1 year old don’t play with these toys much if at all.

Personally, I think that these educational toys are great. My young kids also certainly love to spend time with my iPad and playing games on my iPhone. Many of the games we let them play have an educational value, while some are “just for fun”. As parents, we make sure to limit “game time” or “screen time” (including tv) so that our young kids are getting enough exercise and “real world”, not just “virtual world” play time.

So overall, I have to disagree with the USA Today article and I think that these “computer toys” are great for young kids. But just like everything else, it’s most important for parents to monitor what their kids are doing and provide boundaries and guidance all along the way.

Best Learning Toys: iXL vs Leapfrog Explorer

I’ve been comparing the Fisher Price iXL vs. Leapfrog Explorer and trying to decide which is the best learning toy for my kids? So I bought one of each for the kids this Christmas and spent some time this week setting up each device and installing games so that on Christmas day the kids can open the gift and start playing right away.

I’ve been comparing the Fisher Price iXL vs. Leapfrog Explorer and trying to decide which is the best learning toy for my kids? So I bought one of each for the kids this Christmas and spent some time this week setting up each device and installing games so that on Christmas day the kids can open the gift and start playing right away.
Fisher price iXL Learning SystemLeapfrog Explorer

The iXL is a new device from Fisher Price. The LeapFrog Explorer is a brand new device that is really an updated version of the very popular Leapfrog2. Note that games are not cross compatible from the Leapster2 to the Explorer, so if you have an Leapster2 and update to the Explorer, you will be needing to buy new games also.

If you do buy either of these systems, I do highly suggest that you open the box ahead of time and do all the setup. Both systems were fairly easy to setup, but it is a bit time consuming. With both systems you have to install their software and possibly download some updates.

Boy with Fisher Price iXLAfter that, you have the ability to customize the device with the child’s name and a few other customizations. On the iXL, they work in your child’s name and favorite color into things which is a nice personalization. On the Leapfrog explorer, having multiple user profiles is even more valuable. As you child progresses through the games and levels on the Explorer, the levels increase in difficulty. If you have multiple kids at different age levels who will use the device, having the ability for each of them to learn at their own pace is great.

Next it’s time to install games. On the iXL, you install the games directly onto a hard drive built into the device and there’s an option to add an SD card for more storage. The Leapfrog Explorer is “cartridge” based, so it’s just one game at a time. The caveat there is that on the Explorer, you can download and install “Leaplets”. These are simple ebooks or game apps that can be installed on the device for some additional learning options. The Explorer comes with 1 credit to download a Leaplet and of course, you can buy more credits to download additional Leaplets.

After setup, I played with each device for awhile to get a feel for how the kids will like it.

Child with Leapfrog ExplorerThe iXL has multiple ways that it can be used. They advertise that it’s “6 in 1” and I have to agree. The iXL feels more similar to an iPod Touch that is rugged and designed just for children. The Leapfrog Explorer is more similar to a handheld gaming device. It’s even laid out with buttons similar to a gaming controller with an “A” and “B” select buttons.

The iXL 6 ways to play includes a photo viewer, ebook digital reader, game player, note pad, art studio for coloring pictures and mp3 player. You have the ability to upload your own photos to the iXL which kids will love to view and they can also then color on top of those pictures. So that’s a fun customization. Games also come with mp3 songs, but you can also load any song onto the iXL, so in that sense, it really does start to feel like an iPod for kids.

The iXL is designed for kids 3 years old up to age 7. While the Leapfrog Explorer is designed for kids age 4 year old up to age 9.

Both of these systems are great. So it just really depends what type of experience you are looking to provide for your kids. The iXL does many things (very much like an iPod for kids with book reader, games, coloring, music player and more). It is very easy to navigate, even for children as young as 3 years old. So for younger kids, the iXL will be the way to go.

The Explorer is a bit more complex and is really a “hand held gaming device”. If your kids aren’t ready to jump up to a Nintendo DSi or similar handheld gaming device and you prefer that the games they play have educational value that Leapfrog is known for, then the Leapfrog Explorer is the way to go. It will be more interesting to older children who want more challenging learning games than the iXL can provide.

We bought the iXL for our 3 year old and the Explorer for our 4 year old, but I’ve setup profiles for both kids on each device and expect that both devices will be a hit for each of them.

So which one would you pick and why?

Spy Net Secret Mission Video Watch

The Spy Net Secret Mission Video Watch is a high tech “spy toy” that is an all in one high tech spy gadget.

Spy Net Secret Mission Video WatchThe Spy Net Secret Mission Video Watch is a high tech “spy toy” that is an all in one high tech spy gadget.

Here are some of the top features:
-take photos
-record video/audio
-built in Lie Detector
-built in voice changer
-option to connect to computer and download missions
-full color screen

Girls and Boys age 8 year old and up will enjoy this watch as one of the best toys for hi-tech spy work!

PopOut! Peter Rabbit Book for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch

Peter Rabbit book for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
The Story of Peter Rabbit first appeared more than 100 years ago in 1902. For more than a century, kids have loved this book and story. Now the book has been re-imagined as a brilliant app for iPad, iPhone (3GS and newer) and iPod Touch (3rd Generation and newer).

The book comes to life with interactive elements that will allow children to touch and move objects right on the page.

You have to watch this demonstration video to really appreciate how amazing this app really is.

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit is available for purchase through the iTunes store for $4.99.

Check it out here.

Nerf Laser Tag System 2 Pack 2009

The new 2009 Lazertag System 2 Pack is a fun action game for kids age 8 year old and up. This set comes with 2 Phoenix LTX taggers (guns) for competitive fun. If you have a friend with the same set, then groups of more than 2 people can play and that’s when this game can become even more fun.

The taggers will light up and have several sound effects to create an interactive experience. There is a rumble pack that vibrates when you’ve been hit and a recoil effect that sounds with each shot fired. There is also a “shield” feature that can keep you from being hit while on the move. You may want to stock up on batteries, this 2 pack will need 12 AA batteries to get the game started.

This is the newly updated version of laser tag for 2009. The game can be played inside or outside!

Ucreate Games and Animation by Mattel

The New Ucreate Games and Artimation by Mattel is one of the most popular toys this year for kids age 7 year old to around 13 years old.

This unique and creative new game allows kids to take a simple drawing and then animate it. Kids can build and customize unique games with a combination of hand drawings, and a library of: drawing templates, photos, sound effects and other game components. This games requires that you connect it to a computer with an internet connection.

Aside from a computer and internet connection, everything else you need is included. The kit includes a drawing table, folding camera software, dry erase drawing supplies and a game template booklet.

Read more customer reviews and check it out for yourself!