December 11, 2009
If you’re looking for a high tech learning toy this season, we high recommend Leapfrog’s TAG and TAG Junior reading systems. Both marry technology with collections of award winning books. Do they replace reading a book with your child? Of course not–but they will encourage your kids to explore and “read” books on their own.
Full review and shopping info for both
TAG Reading System
TAG Junior Reading System
We’d skip their My Pal Scout–this is designed to be an interactive pet for toddlers. We found him to be less than huggable and the skills he’s meant to teach are better taught with real life experiences. All of the current interactive, downloadable dolls on the market pale in comparison to the old Actimates from Microsoft. Their original Barney really became Barney for little children. It was truly magical to watch kids interact with this doll. This doll doesn’t compare.
December 9, 2009
V Tech's Kidizoom Digital Camera Plus
Here are our some of favorites of the season– click on the name of the product to read our complete review at www.toyportfolio.com
For younger children:
LeapFrog Counting Candles (LeapFrog)
Two great cameras for 3s and up to enjoy:
Kidizoom Digital Camera Plus (V-Tech)
Disney Pix Jr Digital Camera (Disney)
If you have a child totally into cars, you need to look at:
Doodle-Track Cars (Day Dream Toys)
For kids 8 & up:
MindFlex Game (Mattel)
Eye Clops Night Vision Binoculars (Jakks Pacific)
For really advanced builders:
October 27, 2009
Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror
With budgets tight, it’s important to bring home things that really count – and there is no reason to break the bank! Here are some of our top picks for 2009 — all under $20. Read the full reviews on our site.
Sassy Crib & Floor Mirror (Sassy)
Infantino Wall Mounted Mobile Mirror (Step 2)
Stack ‘n Surprise Blocks Blockity-Pop Caterpillar (Fisher-Price)
Baby Deglingos Dog, Rabbit, Hedgehog or Cow (All New Materials)
Satin Ears Bear Security Cozy (North American Bear Co.)
Infantino Spiral Spin Top (Step 2)
Kids Preferred Nutbrown Hare or Peter Rabbit Hand Puppet (Kids Preferred)
Bright Starts Bees & Blooms Balls (Kids II)
Earlyears Zippy Zoomer (International Playthings)
Leapfrog Counting Candles (Leapfrog)
June 18, 2009
Just got word that My Pal Scout has been voluntarily recalled by LeapFrog due to a problem with the paw decals. For more information, go to www.leapfrog.com/recall. The new version will have embroidered paws.
March 19, 2009
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
February 5, 2009
Part of LeapFrog’s new product line this year includes the Text & Learn that references the design of the adult BlackBerry. While there seems to be a lot of uproar about this latest grown-up device scaled down for the sandbox crowd, there’s really nothing very new about the concept. When fax machines were new (remember that?), Tyco had a really neat version for kids. The typical toy phone has gone through many variation that track the design and functions of the real thing. So it didn’t really seem that unusual to me that there would be a BlackBerry styled toy–given the adult dependence on their devices. In terms of play value, preschoolers love taking on grown up roles with literal props. Pretend kits for playing office, restaurant, firefighter, etc. are generally a huge hit with this age group. It’s developmentally right on target in terms of expanding their own sense of themselves in a larger community. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean they need this particular electronic prop or any other. The proof will be in the game play – which is really hard to judge until we see a finished product and try it out with kids. There is another problem that every parent runs into at some point…even toddlers know the difference between your keys and some fake set of toy keys. Most kids will not accept the substitution! On the other hand, if this is a fun, easy to take along hand held device that has age appropriate content–it might be very appealing.
February 3, 2009
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.
November 3, 2008
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.
February 14, 2008
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.
November 15, 2007
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.