Even digital natives need to turn on lights
I recently played with some of the newest 2011 LeapFrog products. Since numerous reviews have already been written about the merits (or not) of the well-priced LeapPad, I’m not going to waste space by adding to the debate. Suffice it to say this is a great product with a finite repertoire. Overall, what impressed me more than the actual products I saw, was the way 21st century skills were seamlessly woven into the play.
Play is how kids learn (do I say this every week?). Whether it’s babies’ facile fingers, or tweens’ curious minds, toys and media that promote exploration, experimentation, and open-ended thinking are key to developing future creative thinkers.
LeapFrog’s My Discovery House, appropriately geared for six- to 36-month old kids, has combined a variety of elements in a lightweight, house-shaped “activity box.” Heavy (maybe a little too heavy), on songs and sounds, the House activities range from the more mundane sliding open windows to the original turning of a faucet. Day and night modes offer different routines. More abstract concepts such as opposites and short stories are also included.
However, what I loved most were the simple things—a realistic light switch that made the windows and lamp glow; a ding-dong doorbell; a white refrigerator that had food inside (next version, will the fridge be stainless steel?). These are actual skills that kids—digital natives or not— need to know. By presenting them in a fun way, kids can (and will) click and press and open and shut ad nauseum.
Likewise, the LeapPad. No matter what its shortcomings, it is a realistic-looking, sturdy touch-screen tablet with fun games, a camera and video, and tons of add-on activities. Whether it’s a precursor to their own iPad, or a toy du jour, the act of navigating a touch pad for fun and/or functionality teaches kids how to effectively use a 21st tool despite what’s on the screen. In other words, the medium is just as important as the message.
Email me at email@example.com about any great products you’ve seen lately.