Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Leap Pad Letter Factory

This Christmas I was sorely tempted by the Leap Pad Fridge Phonics toys at Aldi, but I put them back on the shelf.

Something cheaper always turns up when the time is right:

  • Yesterday my 1.5 year old pointed out "O" and "B" on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
  • Today I found Fridge Phonics at Goodwill, complete with all the pieces AND working batteries! Only $2, or about the same as the sales tax on a new set.
Do you think the Leap Pad toys are a good educational value? Which do you recommend?

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Meredith, I'm a lurker but I want to add my two cents on your question. I like the Fridge Phonics letters; however, I use them mostly on a magnetic white board for letter recognition.

With regard to the other Leap Frog products, the only ones I now "endorse" are the videos.

I have had a number of the other products over the years, from Leap Pads to the number and letter caterpillars and radios, and have found the following: The kids don't learn anything from them (with exception, perhaps, of the Leap Pad). They're just more(expensive) electronic toys that loose their allure very quickly. The play value of electronic toys is very minimal in the first place, imho, and by the time a child really needs to learn most of the skills set Leap Frog puts on these toys, the toy is too babyish and not entertaining, and consequently not played with.

Meredith said...

That's kind of what I was thinking. We have the Letter Factory DVD ($1 from a yard sale) and checked the others out of the library on a regular basis.

Those seemed to be a hit.

We've picked up several Leap Pad book sets for car trips, where the game function of the story seems to entertain well.

Other than that, the Leap Pad products we've found have quickly lost their novelty.

I thought $2 was a good price for the Fridge Phonics set, though, even if it is only used a short while.

Anyone else have a Leap Pad product that you like or dislike?

Missy said...

I am not a huge fan of the whole leap frog line, except for the item you just scored. My older son received it as a gift, and I think it made a big positive difference on his and his younger brother's learning of letter recognition and sounds. We just recently passed our like new set along to someone else.

We have owned a few other of their products, but none had the staying power of this simplest one. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I am not a huge fan of the Leap Pad products either. I have had many of them through the years brought into this day care by the children. They get tired of them so quickly. Then you "must" buy new 'books' for them etc.
I think REAL books and a PARENT'S time are far more important.

One of the things I use here is simple, old fashioned, and so easy...flash cards...I have letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and animal (Spanish words for animals) flash cards. I work with younger children age 2-4 with these flash cards almost everyday in 'circle' time...they learn a lot. By the time they leave me at age 5 to go to 'real' school they know how to read their letters, their numbers, and they know shapes, and all the colors and they know a lot of Spanish words too. I love the children so much in my care, it is a thrill to see them learn the words...
Thanks for sharing..Roxie

Renee said...

We don't have many Leap Frog products, but we do have those fridg magnets. I think it depends on the child and how they learn. My daughter didn't touch them much. My son has definitly benifited from them. I'm certain they helped him with letter recognition. He enjoys being in the same room with me so he has spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen with me.

Indie said...

I have to say that I'm hating the leap pads. I don't think that the kids learn much from them. I'm constantly having to fix them when they malfunction (including the new one from Christmas). And the pages of the books are too thin. I tore one just by trying to turn it so I can't get mad at my kids when they mess them up. My husband thought they were wonderful when he has used them in the classroom in the past, put they are just not the best for my kids. I'd rather let them use the computer which actually works most of the time.

kykathy said...

My 19 month old son has this set, but I bought new at Target, didn't get it for the bargain price you did! However, we really like it, and he can recognize several letters. I don't have any other Leap Frog items, and I'll be watching the comments to see what (if anything) is recommended!

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

I think you definitely got a great bargain. I almost bought this toy for my 2-year-old (she'll be 3 in March.)

We do have the Leapster and the Leap Pad. The Leapster is expensive, but I was sent two as a promo/review and I have to say that both my girls love it. It's excellent for road trips and for waiting at the pediatrician's office. Now, would I have forked over the $60 plus for one or the cartridges? Probably not. But that's what my mother-in-law is for. Just joking...sort of! She likes to get the girls one really nice toy at Christmas.

We do have the older Leap Frog music table and it's been a huge hit with both my girls through the years. I bought it used on eBay.

When my daughter was 1 she got Lulu the Spinning Spider for her birthday because it was literally the only toy she seemed attracted to when we were browsing at Target. I give it a thumbs up.

So, overall I would say I'm pleased with the Leap Frog family of toys. The Leapster and Leappad are not cheap, though, and definitely are worth putting on a wish list or buying slightly used.

*MichiganMomma* said...

I can hear my daughter using the Leap Pad for quiet time as I type. We too have had many of the "Leap Pad" stuff - I don't think the baby toys are worth all the money, nor much of the toddler stuff.

We do like the fridge "Word Wammer" which is helping my older two children learn how to sound out word and put them together.

We also have the Leap Pad Letter Game which my son just loves. So I think it's just hit-n-miss. In that case, it's MUCH better to find those awesome bargins than to pay full price for something that just won't work for your children.

Great find~
Lori

michellenotdawn said...

The only piece of Leap-stuff we have is the fridge phonics, courtesy of my mom (so free for me!). It arrived when Fox was 11 months old, and within two weeks he could identify the letter "B". He added "E" to his repertoire after another week, and now at 15 1/2 months he knows A, B, C, D, E, H, O, Q, and W. We don't drill him on it, but like Renee said, he likes being in the kitchen with me and using the toy while I cook. He enjoys the music table in the church nursery and at a friend's house, but I don't plan on purchasing more of these products for him. Like Roxie, I prefer reading real books to him. Hope this helps!

Margo said...

I don't own any Leap Frog toys, but some of my friends do and their kids say some of the letters.

HOWEVER, I am not a fan of such educational "pushing." Kids are bright and they will learn reading in due time. When I was in school, we weren't expected to read until the end of first grade. Now I hear that children read in kindergarten and I wonder what purpose is served . . . .
I also prefer more open-ended toys without electronic noises and batteries.
(hmmmm, I just deleted another paragraph of philosophy - this is really a big soapbox for me; I'm a former teacher, now SAHM to my 2 year old daughter and expecting another baby; my methods are lots of books, lots of talking, and plenty of fresh air - - along the lines of what Louisa May Alcott's books advocated, for example).
However, let me end this long comment by saying that I think each family has to choose what works for them. So I don't mean that my methods are The Right Way and Leap Frog is bad, nor would I refuse Leap Frog if my mother in law gave it to us (she's a fan of that sort of thing and also a former teacher!).

Tiffany said...

Meredith - hi! I have forever loved your blog, but I'm not sure if I've ever commented. I blogged about this set today. We have them for our 20-month old and it is by far and away the best purchase we ever made for him. That being said, I have no intention of buying any other leapfrog products! I only got it with hopes of entertaining him while I was in the kitchen (he does not enjoy toys at all - he much prefers conversation, being outside, or one-on-one play), and it actually does. I don't think that it's the toy itself that it magical, I think it's that he's fascinated with letters right now. We have done no formal teaching, but he is picking up on letters & sounds so quickly just by using this a couple times a day (and of course reading tons!). I love that while it's "techie," it doesn't think for them. I mean really, the alphabet is not that open-ended nor does it spurn much creativity at this point (recognition), so I don't think that this one battery operated toy is going to hurt him forever! =) (I HOPE!)

AnnMarie said...

I'm very much against their products and similar ones. I think the old (one of their first perhaps?) commercials that showed a little girl learning to read on her own with the toy and her parents watching from the doorway adoringly.

HELLO!!!! PARENTS NOT TOYS SHOULD BE READING WITH THEIR KIDS.

I still feel very strongly about it and will never allow my kids to have toys like this.

Caveat, however, they've been a good tool for my special needs sister who at 13 is still a pre-reader. No one has had the time or patience to read enough with her--her reading level is like having had a 3 year old for 13 years and may continue at that level the rest of her life. The toy never gets tired of reading to her over and over and over again day after day after day.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog last year and have caught up on all the archives in my free time :) I find your thoughts and advice very insightful. We don't have the fridge letters, but we do own a few other Leap Frog products, via gifts. My criticism is that they are too loud for children. They usually have 2 volume settings and even the lower one is way too loud for baby ears, even with tape over the speaker. I agree that the Leap videos are great - Letter Factory and Word Factory have been big hits for my son. Question for you: Do you usually make sure there are working batteries in toys you donate/sell?

Melissa

Tricia said...

I agree with the above comments. We have the DVD's and my DD loves them! She has really benefited from them.

We also have the letter magnets which we really like. Also, for pure entertainment we have the matching animals for the fridge. My DS (16 months) carries it around like his personal Jam Box! LOL

All the other MANY Leap Frog toys we have received as gifts have been sold, donated to church etc.

Tricia

Jenni said...

My daughter LOVED the leap frog musical table, and used it from age 7 months to now (2 years), but she hasn't learned a thing with it. She has a Leap Frog Lily plush doll that counts, but hasn't learned from that either, nor enjoyed it much. The magnetic letters, however, are awesome! She loves reciting the letter sounds, and she plays with it enthusiastically at her cousins' house even though she has her own!

Anonymous said...

Didn't like the Leap pads, but I LOVE the "Letter Factory" video!

Anonymous said...

We don't have any of the leap frog education items except for the DVDs. My Children love the "Letter Factory" DVD and their other DVD product lines. They aren't to keen on the "Math Circus" though.

My children also don't sit in front of the tv much because we do alot of "real" learning (books, museums, etc) But I would HIGHLY recommend the dvds. You will find them among the Leap Frog section of TOY R US or Walmart and not in the DVD section of the store. I do know that the Library carries them but we have found it very hard to get them when no one has them checked out.

A learker who loves your site!
Carmen

Angela said...

We used the Fridge Phonics and the video just until they could sing all the letters, and then took the electronics away but kept the letters on the fridge. They obviously helped making learn fun, but now we've "unplugged" the TV during the day. Much better! The little ones still sing the songs, A says A...

I'd like to hear if you are glad you got them or can't wait to get rid of it! :)

Miranda said...

We've had the leap pad products and they were okay. Personally, I got tired of buying batteries!

Beth said...

We love the DVDs around here; they do a great job of reinforcing the phonics I'm teaching my son.

But no beepy Leapies! I'm an old mom (39 when my second was born) and I like to keep things quiet and old school. My little guy can make enough great noises on his own. :)

Jen said...

Fridge Phonics is my FAVORITE toy, and I've been a parent for 10 years now. My fourth toddler is now learning letters and sounds quickly, as her brothers did before her. I also enjoy Letter Factory DVD.

I'm somewhat shocked to hear all the anti-toy methods of letter recognition and pre-reading skill building. In my opinion, anything helping a child to learn to love letters is a good thing. And if something keeps him occupied in the kitchen with me while being educational, BONUS!

Bo Tai-tai said...

We have the refrigerator phonics. My sister-in-law bought it the year I said "no batteries, no lights, no noise" gifts for Christmas.

Two weeks ago in her cognitive evaluation the therapist said she was at a 4 year level for letters and sounds and quite a bit of that is due to the refrigerator phonics. Now K sees letters and will say either the letter name or sound.

I do like them. It looks like you found a good bargain.

Rachel said...

I agree with the videos. They are incredible. My now 2yo son knew his letter sounds before he turned 2, and I never quizzed him on them, he would see letters and tell me their sounds spontaniously. I only have the fridge phonics and it comes out every few months, and all five of my children want a turn to practice their letters. I can only handle electronic noises for a short time. After all, my children make enough noise on their own!!

Jane said...

I haven't read all the other comments, and I haven't seen too many of the leap frog products. I have looked at Fridge Phonics and it is good because of the short and long vowels that it covers. While finding the "o" on a magazine cover and finding words on street signs is the 'old school' way, it's decidedly more social.

Gini (Hallquist) Young said...

Holy Moly! I love these things! I don't have one but I must admit that I envy the friends I see with these on the fridge. I'm with you on onld school learning. Do kids need these leap frog things? Nah. But some of them seem to be more helpful than others. This is the one I would love to have. Totally jealous you found this with no missing pieces at Goodwill! Amazing.

Kim said...

The baby really likes the ABC caterpillar. I think that is the only one we have.

TJ said...

I'm surprised to find the negative comments on Leap Frog. While I didn't care for the leap pad itself, the other items we've loved. The Baby Tad that plays music, the blocks that have rhyming songs and teach colors, and we have the fridge magnets that help you match animal fronts to animal behinds. My kids love them. All have been gifts, or given to us by other mom's at church.

Andrea said...

Meredith,
How serendipitous! :)
While, generally, I don't like the Leap Frog toys, this one was an exception. My toddler played for 20 min with this at a friend's house. I think it's great.

Like you, I *almost* bought this last week, but put it back on the shelf, thinking I could do my own.

I'd still *love* to find one at Goodwill, though!!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the Leap Pad products are much better than a lot of other phonics teaching tools. I made up games for my children, found magnetic letters at a rummage sale & used those when I wanted something more tactile, & relied heavily on alphabet books (the kids always seemed to prefer being read to over a toy that made noise, anyway). We had some stickers & I made a memory game by putting them on metal lids from frozen orange juice containers (actually, this game had a lot of appeal for quite a long time, as the baby could play with them by rolling & twirling the discs, the next oldest child could name the pictures, & the oldest child really got into the game of "Concentration" by matching the pairs). Anyhow, they're good students in school now, & I don't have a lot of regrets that I didn't (couldn't!) buy some of the really new & cute educational toys.

Brenda

stephanie said...

We love the Fridge Phonics! They are the only Leap Frog toy that we have and we're actually on our 2nd set. (My nephew, during his phase where everything went into the trash can, threw away all the letters one day). :) My four year old still plays with them and attempts to spell words with the letters. I love them, because it helps to keep the baby (and toddler) in the kitchen while I'm cooking and under my eye.

And $2 is a GREAT deal ... congrats!

Green Tea & Kimchee said...

My youngest did like the Leap Frog DVDs. However, when it came to learning to read he used www.starfall.com and he really enjoyed it.

Amy said...

We haven't tried any of the Leap pad stuff and I prefer to read and work with them on phonics and letters and such. But one resource I found on the web (FREE) is Starfall.com My 3yo son and I go throught the site occasionally and we love their songs for the alphabet and vowels.

Anonymous said...

We own no Leapster products, nor do we intend to (too noisy). But I just wanted to share a tidbit that I recently read in a teaching-toddlers-at-home book: I should try to focus most of my early efforts on lowercase letter recognition BECAUSE ALMOST EVERYTHING IN PRINT IS WRITTEN IN LOWERCASE NOT UPPERCASE (not yelling here, just visually illustrating a point that I'd never really thought about before reading it). I'm finally excited that I found that lowercase letter fridge magnet set at a consignment sale. I always thought of it as second-best. Who knew?

Grace in Nashville

SongBirdy said...

My youngest is six and I know we didn't have this available when the two were younger. But I did find myself wishing again and again that I could afford a Leap Pad. My son was a slow reader and the two times he played with one, it really seemed to help him and myself with my frustration issue after the 3rd year of covering short vowel sounds.

But we do have some older games, one is a geography game. Kind of cute but we've really made it much more difficult.

And we have a spelling game. That's great but we use it a lot more like flash cards.

Thats the entire collection!

Oh, and my son... learned to read and then took off like a rocket with his abilities. Sometimes they are just not ready!

Mrs Pea said...

Our son won a Leap Pad with a beatrix potter book as a prize and our baby came home from her foster carer with a leap pad caterpillar - I have to say yuck! We allow him to play with his prize when he remembers it, but it is just a game and he learns nothing from it - the caterpillar is long since "gracing" some charity shop bargain hunter's nursery.

Steph said...

My boys (4 & 5) both have a Leapster and they love them. It's not a substitute for learning and we didn't intend it to be - and they don't use them everyday. But they are enjoyed around here.

The other Leap Frog toys . . .not so much. We were given a bus and an inchworm when they were little and they never played with them. My 21 month old doesn't play with them either. She, did, play with a friend's fridge phonics set but we have a stainless fridge and they won't stick. But I would get those if we did. :)

Kate said...

I like Leap Frog/Leap Pad toys, but in moderation. I'm not a big fan of noisy, electronic, play-for-you toys. My son going for a basket of wood blocks or sorting through crayons or playing with tractor toys or flipping through a picture book confirms that most of the time these electronic gizmos are useless. Still, he has a few that he plays with fairly regularly.

Kathryn said...

My 2 1/2 year old son loves these!! He played with them at our friends house, and wanted to take them home. So he got them for his birthday--can't remember if it was the 1st or 2nd. He can identify all 26 letters, both lower and upper case, and he knows their sounds. We also read to him alot and he has started "reading" to himself--picking out letters and telling himself the story. (I always thought that I would be one of those moms with no plastic, talking toys, but he loves Fridge Phonics and his Fisher Price Little People sets.)
I also recommend his favorite book "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." We have been reading it to him since he was 3 months old and we are on our 3rd copy. It teaches both upper and lower case letters and is fun to read and look at.

Anonymous said...

Love most of the dvds here. I am homeschooling seven and would highly recommend the leapster/l max system. Yes some games are junk but there are many that are great, academic concept wise. And they go up to the 4th gr level. For drill and kill to really get those math facts down the math cartridges are fun and the kids learn.

Candace said...

I have never really liked anything that Leap Frog has put out...it seemed like a way to dupe parents into buying toys that are un-needed for their childs education...that being said I love the videos. Moreover I swear that my son became an early reader due to his exposure to the videos.

Anonymous said...

I like that Songbirdy's son learned to read and took off! I don't why everyone is anxious for their children to read early. I always read (from birth)to my son and he has always loved books. He was not taught to read at his kindergarten (1/2 day) and could not read at all when he started lst grade. He was in the top reading group in lst grade and kept up well but it was the summer AFTER lst grade when he had his "ah-ha" moment and from then on read like an adult. He simply was not ready to REALLY read until age 7 (and his IQ is 160!) He is now a successful attorney who reads constantly for work and pleasure and is a writer.

I would provide fridge letters and books and other learning materials and if a child shows interest in learning to read early, great. If not, let him/her guide you. There should be no pressure on a 3-year-old!

Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home said...

I'm generally not into electronic toys or teaching methods. In fact, we don't really allow our daughter to watch videos, even educational ones. We prefer old fashioned reading, flashcards, etc.

However, a friend of ours had the Leap Pad Word Whammer (it's like the one you bought, but it holds 3 letters, and is used for making simple word combinations). My daughter really enjoyed using it and my mother wanted a Christmas present idea, and being out of other ideas, I suggested that.

It has turned out to be a wonderful supplement (yes, only a supplement, it in itself is not a true teaching tool, in my opinion) to the other work that we are doing in our homeschooling. I don't use it for teaching, but when she plays with it during her play time, it reinforces what I am teaching her, and she is really increasing her phonics knowledge through playing with it. Plus, she enjoys it. A lot.

I'm sure it's not for every kid, but considering the price I paid (free), I'm happy with having it.

MyHeartIsAlwaysHome said...

Love the fridge phonics and the Leap Pad Fridge Farm. Megan (18 mos) is starting to point to the animals on the frige and make the appropriate animal sounds. She is also starting to say her ABC's which I think is partly due to the fridge phonics she plays with often.

I have other hand me down Leap Frog toys and they are just toys. I don't think she is learning much from them. They are just fun and entertaining.

topaztook said...

My 18-month-old got the Fridge Phonics for Christmas. She enjoys it, to an extent, and has learned a couple of letters from it, even though we're not pushing it: it's just for fun. She likes listening to the alphabet song, and she loves playing with magnets, so these are some she can play with. (She's not going to learn x soon, though, since I haven't fished it out from *under* our fridge yet.)

She got the music table for her first Christmas when she was six months old. We like it because it's so easy to change the legs from none, to two, to four, and made it easy for her to play with from the stage when she was just sitting up until now. Again, we like it because it's a fun way to make some music, and it has a great variety of songs.

~Babychaser~ said...

I love LeapFrog stuff!!! My 14 month old is really getting good at getting the pieces in correctly by himself (that is step one in the learning process.) We got this one and the farm animal one for Christmas (by my request) from my mom. I knew DS was probably too young still to completely get it, but figured with his birthday in December too, that he would be ready before gift getting time again. :) $2... Great find!

Just Jenny said...

My son is in speech and they use this leapfrog for helping with sounds. I was given one for my son to have at home. It not only helps with knowing the sounds, but the letters that go with the sounds.

you got a great deal!

me :) said...

Letter Factory DVDs - pure genius. My DS, then almost 4 year old learned his letter sounds in 3 days watching the videos (the first one - once per day). Yes, he's VERY bright - but I've lent the DVDs out numerous times and they have been returned with RAVE reviews. The blending one and the silent "e" DVDs were also great. The Math one is not anywhere as good as the letter ones (there are 3 letter ones). For a visual/auditory learner (and I have seen the best results with boys for some reason) they are genius.

Leapsters - I hemmed. I hawed. I broke down and the kids LOVE them. Just like muffins made from a mix are not as good as from scratch - mix muffins are better than McDonalds or PopTarts. Similarly, the Leapster is not reading with Mom in front of a fire - but it's also not Cartoon Network or Playstation. For my visual/auditory learner - he really has learned a lot from the games. No, we don't play it everyday, but it's great for road trips, etc. I recently found a PILE of games on clearance at Walmart for between 5 and 8$. Ebay has good deals also.

Fridge Magnets - we used these with beginning phonics to make sure we had the correct sounds ("b" not "buh"). They were very helpful for that stage and were good incentive for learning new letter sounds.

I do not care for any other leap pad products.

Amanda said...

We have both the Leap Pad and the FP Power Touch Learning system, and my kids lost interest in both really quickly. Particularly in the Leap Pad, the book would slide in and out and wouldn't register correctly. The Power Touch was a little better, but not much. Thank goodness both were Christmas gifts because they've just taken up space on the bookshelf.

My daughter just got the Leapster as a gift this Christmas, but already, it's lost its luster.

As for an excellent educational product that can be found inexpensively, Bob Books are the thing to have. I highly recommend this excellent set of readers. My first-grader just completed GATES (gifted and talented) testing and reads 97% better than other first graders nationwide. My kindergartener started the year reading, and was considered to move up strictly because of her skill level. She reads to the class when the teacher needs a break, and she begins GATES testing next month. I'm quite sure they wouldn't be such strong readers were it not for the foundation we built with those books. (The focus on reading began in earnest at age 3 for both.)

Amy said...

My oldest son won a Leapster L-Max as a colouring contest prize a couple years ago. It came with several games already so we didn't buy cartridges for a long time. Eventually, we picked up "Letters on the Loose" as a birthday present - but they're expensive. We're in Canada and paid about $45.00.

BUT, the big surprise was that our then three year old daughter really got into playing the games. She learned to recognise and write almost all of the alphabet without us even realising it, lol!

We've enjoyed having the L-Max for long car trips as it is small and portable. Would I recommend paying for a new one? Probably not. The only reason we have one is because we got it for free.

Dana said...

We have several of the Leap pad Toys, we got most of them when our oldest now 6 was very small either we bought them or they were given as gifts to him and we kept them for our youngest who is now 2.
I have to say I love the leap pad videos, they are awesome, our oldest loved them!!

Michelle said...

We love our fridge phonics! I am glad you scored them for such a great price!

CC said...

I LOVE my fridge phonics!! So much that I have 1 at home and 2 more in 2 different classrooms that I work in. I am pretty sure my son learned all his phonics at age 2-3 with this particular toy (and others have said the same about their kids!)

Julie said...

We have this set, handed down from my sister. It isn't any more entertaining or educational than the old-fashioned non-electronic fridge magnet letters. My kids, lie yours, learn more by pointing out letters in real life.

Janette said...

Reading is a developmental step- and it requires a certain part of the brain to turn on (while another part actually comes to relaxing). IQ and reading ability have very little to do with each other.---off the teacher soap box-lol.
Like Mrs Anon. my son did not read until after first grade. Was I ever in a panic. Fortuantely, I worked with teachers who told me to calm down. He read in second grade and never looked back- graduating for an excellent university in Physics many years later.
Thanks for the insight on Leap Frog. I thought they seemed like expensive gagets- and will stick to the "regular things" when buying for the grandbaby:>)
I will be looking for the magnets that you found though.

Anonymous said...

You were so smart to wait on these. I got a new set and in a month they were lost under the fridge. I think kids learn more from talking and reading on their own. Read to them from great library books and they understand reading can be fun!! The stories are way more inspiring than letter sounds.