I call it this because I’ve been a Leapfrog fan since my daughter was a baby (and she’s now 7), and now we are again a Leapfrog family with our second child.  Some of the only toys we saved from my daughters babyhood are Leapfrog toys – now passed on to her little brother.  My favorite is the drum from about 8 years ago – bang it and it counts and sing the alphabet song.  The new and improved version does colors and Spanish, so I can see already the progress and thought they have put into the products over the past few years.  When I started reading up that Leapfrog not only had ‘baby toys’ but items that would be great for her now and through middle school I was thrilled.

What I’m really impressed with is their leap (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the online world called Leapfrog Learning Path.  We are a high-tech, geeky family and our kids are the same.  I am very impressed with the amount of data that gets synchronized between the gadgets and the Learning Path for parents to track.  One thing I haven’t found yet (or maybe it doesn’t exist yet) is a way to print some sort of report so I could show my daughter’s teacher.  Being that my daughter reads at 4 levels above her grade, but is about average in her grade for math, tracking this is very beneficial to us.  Having her sit at the kitchen table and do ‘extra’ math problems to strengthen her skills is *boring* but playing a game is *fun*.

Leapfrog was kind enough to give us a pink Digj to try out.  There were extra games available at the seminar to take, but some of the moms loaded up for their kids – so my daughter will have to wait until Christmas to get any extra games for the system and really see how well it works.  It’s hard to give an honest review and feel for the product with only the built-in game, so if you plan on purchasing one, be sure to pick up a few games right away for the system.  I’ve seen bundled packs available in the stores already.

So far though the math she’s getting on the Didj system is on par with her grade level, and it seems to adjust the questions to her correct and incorrect answers.  The learning is so integrated into the game playing, I feel a little guilty about it, sort of when I hide pureed cauliflower in her mac and cheese.  She was playing for about 10 minutes and then ran over to me to tell me how cool it was the game was asking her math problems (even better yet she gets to ‘blast’ the answers).  She really doesn’t see any difference in playing the Didj compared to playing a traditional computer game.  What she is into though is how you can customize the little character that you play all Didj games with, very similar to making a paper doll.  No worries though, there are plenty of robot and cute monster characters for the boys to choose from as well.

We also received a Leapfrog Crammer, graciously given to us by a new blogger-buddy that had received two in her gift bag.  The Crammer is recommended for 3rd grade and above, but I thought it would be a great addition to my daughters gadget collection.  The fact that it has a built-in MP3 player makes it even cooler, so she can listen to music while she takes the multiple-choice style quizzes and flash card sets.  So far I have not been able to get the Crammer to be recognized on my daughter’s Learning Path profile, but I think it’s more that I’m running the software on a Mac.  I will load the software up on her PC and try to get the software to recognize both the Didj and the Crammer.  Because the software won’t load, we are stuck with the default profile on the Crammer – which is WAY too hard for her.  Now I’m just waiting for her teacher to call us and ask why my daughter is learning algebra!

Last but never least are the Learn & Groove Counting Maracas the baby received.  He’s all boy, and loves to smack things against each other to either make a loud noise or cause me to get up and run.  Maybe both.  His favorite new game is taking the maracas that is plays the music and has lights, and smashing it against the 8 year old Leapfrog drum – producing a wonderful mix of English, Spanish, new songs, old songs, colors and alphabets.  Quite the musical compilation.  The second maracas is just a rattle, and doesn’t talk or sing or flash light.  Thank goodness.  Sometimes his preference is for the non-active maracas, and sometimes he likes the one that does more.  I guess 1 year-olds have preferences too.

All in all I’m honestly impressed with how far Leapfrog has come since my family was first introduced to them 8 years ago.  I’m even happier that the products are now made for kids that are older so that my daughter can keep enjoying her techy games that she loves.

Disclaimer: I was invited to a Leapfrog seminar through the New Jersey Moms Blog and received the Leapfrog Crammer, Leapfrog Didj, and Learn & Groove Counting Maracas as gifts.

[tags]leapfrog, digi, crammer[/tags]