Leapfrog Fun

Working at home requires a delicate balance of hands-on parenting and skillful neglect. My number one job is to nurture my off-spring. However sometimes mama has a deadline so I’m always on the look out for the game or book or activity that will buy me a few moments of peace, sans mom-guilt. You know, the guilt attached to plunking your child in front of the Boob Tube in order to respond to a few emails.

My son will happily play Brain Buster games on my iphone while I grocery shop or run errands. I thought maybe this could work for my daughter. I Googled “Best educational games for toddlers” and downloaded a few apps that looked developmentaly appropriate and engaging. This was genius. Avery could practice cognitive skills, while I worked. This brilliant plan went belly up in about five minutes. I didn’t factor in the fine motor skills required to manipulate the buttons on my iphone. Drat.

Then I heard about the Leap Pad. Same idea – kid friendly brain boosting games, but designed for little fingers. I promptly put this on our Christmas wishlist. In the mean time, after hearing my plight, Leapfrog sent me two popular items to suit Avery’s developmental needs. Over the past few weeks, we have put each toy to the test and here is what we learned…

The Text & Learn is a handheld game which lets players practise letters, enjoy music, play games and send and receive “texts” from their puppy pal. The concept is great and aligns with Avery’s school goals. But, this was not the “here ya go, play with this and I’ll check in with you later” holy grail item I was hoping for. This however, was not by fault of the game, but a direct result of lazy parenting.

Most children respond best to “top load parenting.” This is where you expend a large output of parenting vigor up front, in order to buy yourself a solid stretch of uninterrupted time later. For instance, in terms of any new game, explain, demonstrate, actively play WITH your child and give them 100% of your sincere attention. Create a buzz around the game or activity and make them WANT to play. Then slowly remove yourself from the activity and hand over control to the child. Check in often to see how they’re doing, redirect and praise. Eventually, your child will gain the confidence and comprehension to play alone. Set reasonable time limits. A young child or child with delays should not be expected to play independently for more than 10-15 minutes.

Moral: You can’t simply hand over a new activity to a child and expect them to “figure it out”. Granted, some children will, and enjoy the challenge. My child however, only ends up frustrated and hiding the toy in a drawer.

The Tag Junior was the other Leapfrog item we tested. I’m happy to report it’s a hit, for both Avery and I. With very little coaching up front, as long as I set her up for success at the beginning and check in at the end of each story, Avery is able to manipulate the Tag reader and navigate an assortment of books independently. This is the activity she often chooses from her “Brain Food Bin” — the kids work on a variety of independent, skill based activities at the breakfast table while I make oatmeal and wait for the caffeine to kick in. It requires a bit of time to set up, but once it’s up and running, it’s a lifesaver!  I do not function well pre-coffee. You can read more about how this works –> here.

Now that Avery understands how to use these activities on her own, she
is happy and content for about 15 minutes (translation: 15 minutes = 5
emails answered, laundry switched over, grocery list made).

* This is not a sponsored post, but we were given these products to test free of charge. 
* I do not claim to be a parenting expert — “Top Loading” is simply something that works well for us. 

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