We’ve come a long way since the days of the etch a sketch. This week BB and I have got our hands on a new toy: LeapFrog’s all-singing, all-dancing scribble and write pad to practise writing letters and numbers (pictured). Think talking etch a sketch with flashing lights and music.
My main reason for being keen to review this tool for 3 to 5 year olds is to reinforce BB’s numbers – she can count and recognise numbers 1 to 20 so now seems as good a time as any to start learning how to write them.
The pad comes with a keyboard featuring upper and lowercase letters and numbers and a stylus attached to a cord which kids can use to write on the retraceable screen. Once they’ve pressed their chosen letter or number red dots appear under the screen and Mrs LeapFrog talks them through how to write it – ‘start at the top’, ‘draw a curved line’ etcetera.
Once they’ve mastered the task in hand (BB’s tongue is permanently stuck out in concentration) they press a red button and Mrs LeapFrog congratulates her pupil by telling them to clap their hands four times or stamp their feet twice. BB has been quite absorbed ever since it arrived, which given its pocket size makes it handy for car journeys and travelling. It even comes with volume control so there’s no need to worry about annoying fellow passengers.
At £19.99 it’s not the cheapest gadget in the box, but I think LeapFrog’s target age range could be widened, meaning you’d get several years use out of it. There are two different levels, and at 26 months old BB is quite content having a go at the numbers using level 1. It will be a while before we progress to the letters, and longer still until we graduate on to level 2. And if you don’t fancy letters and numbers, turn it off and draw pictures instead.
Of course the discovery of a talking etch a sketch almost prompted me to say That Thing that I promised I’d never say – ‘there was no such thing as toys like this when I was young…’
Almost, but not quite.