Sunday, April 20, 2008

My First LeapPad

While rummaging through a closet and trying to clear some things out, I rediscovered this handy little electronic wonder, the Leap Pad, for my preschooler's learning pleasure. The last time it was out was when Kyra was young and she didn't use it much. This modern (?, it's @ least 5 years old) technological wonder has brought peace, calm, and learning to my daily car trips to and from school. Aaah, an hour to contemplate the wonders of the universe instead of our daily raise-your-hand-game, mock knock-knock jokes, and arguing over which letter of the alphabet we're supposed to be looking for. It's not that I don't like, and will probably miss, these fabulous times of interaction with my preschooler, but for Pete's sake, sometimes I just want to drive! So what do I contemplate during these times? The stupid LeapPad...

(ours is actually blue) Do you see what those spiral rings are binding together? Yep, an actual book that your child has to turn the pages on. And, as they turn the pages they have to push the green go circle to let the LeapPad know what page they are on. This is just one of the many ways in which this system puts the responsibility of the learning on the learner! If you switch books you plug in the matching cartridge, and away you go to "Leap to the Moon". (that would be the current book of choice in our car)

So why do I think this is better than a computer game? Well, many of those "interactive" games do more than interact with your child. In most instances, when your child gets the answer wrong enough times, the game will furnish your child with the answer. What's wrong with that? Well, if the computer is eventually going to do it, why should your child try to get it right? Eventually, your child will memorize the correct answers to move on to the next lesson. Trust me, kids figure this out all too quickly and let's face it, you don't want to hover and make sure they're playing it correctly or you wouldn't have given it to them in the first place, right?! On the LeapPad system, once you guess wrong the kind lady voice will give your child a hint. Then, she may give another hint. Finally, if your child still doesn't find the right answer, she will say, "let's try this again later." They can try again right then, or turn the page. Your child is responsible for supplying the correct answer because the book can't highlight the item like a computer can.

The LeapPad also requires your child to be an active learner. I've seen computer games highlight the words as it reads the text but how do you know your child is following those words? With the LeapPad, as your child touches to word on the page the kind lady voice will read the word that he/she points to. Tasha often uses this trick to test my knowledge. She likes to play the "let's spell a word game" that has recently come to our car in an expanded edition. We used to be limited to T-a-s-h-a, K-y-r-a, s-t-o-p, g-o, and d-a-d, but now that she knows most of the letters, she will pick random words off trucks and signs as we drive around. Today she apparently read the letters off a LeapPad page and after I responded with "reach" she turned on the LeapPad and the kind lady voice confirmed that I was right. Tasha sweetly congratulated me and told me I did a good job.

I would never suggest an electronic device as a teacher for your child, but they sure are handy little gadgets to have around for the right child. Like I said, Kyra wasn't much interested in it when she was younger but now she's got a hand-me-down QuantumPad from Billy that she is using to learn the states.

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