Product Discussion: Leapfrog Scribble & Write

If you ever wanted your youngster to begin learning the alphabet, the Leapfrog Scribble and Write is a great way to start.

Leapfrog, for those unfamiliar with the company, develops toys and games that merge education and fun.  While not everything they put in the marketplace is a home run, the Scribble and Write is one product that probably is.

The S&W is crafted to teach the alphabet, and it does so in several ways:  tracing upper-case and lower-case letters; drawing shapes; and guessing letters.  Basically, letters and shapes, shown in the form of red dots, appear in a traceable writing area. Verbal instructions voiced by the S&W prompt children to trace the object which appears using an attached stylus.  (In the “guessing” mode, a letter is drawn on the tracing surface and children are asked to identify it by pressing the proper alphabet button on the S&W.)

In brief, the Scribble and Write is a great way to get your child familiar with the alphabet, both in terms or recognizing letters and writing them.

Product Discussion: Leapfrog Phonics Pond

Phonics, as most of us probably already know, deals with teaching the basic concepts of reading through speech sounds.  Leapfrog’s Phonics Pond implements this idea in a neat and enjoyable teaching tool.  (Many of you with smaller children may already be familiar with Leapfrog, a company that regularly puts out a wide array of products that incorporate both learning and fun. For my money, Phonics Pond does a great job of integrating the two.)

First, let’s look at the physical layout of this product.  Aesthetically, Phonics Pond presents all the consonants of the alphabet (in lower-case letters) as yellow push-buttons on purple fish icons.  Vowels appear as red push-buttons on green frog icons.  At the upper right corner is a “Help” button labeled with a question mark.

Phonics Pond actually teaches in a multitude of ways. A slidebar on the right lets you indicate which of the following seven activities to formally initiate:

            Discovering Letters – Children press the letter of their choice and are rewarded with the name of the letter.

            Finding Identified Letters – Phonics Pond asks the child to find a specific letter of the alphabet, e.g., “Find the letter O”.

            Letter Sounds – Children press the letter of their choice and Phonics Pond imitates the sound the letter makes.

            Finding Letters by Sound – Children are given the sound of a letter and asked to identify it.  (This is essentially just the reverse of the “Letter Sounds” activity.)

            Spelling – Various 3-letter words are spelled out, and children are asked to press the corresponding letters that make up that word.

            Random Spelling – Children are asked to press any three letters to make their own word.  (Should the letters pressed not form an actual word, Phonics Pond will still sound out the letters themselves.  In addition, certain inappropriate words will be ignored if spelled, whether by accident or design.)

            Music – Children are prompted to press a letter, which will cause music to be played – mostly perennial favorites like “This Old Man,” “Yankee Doodle,” and the like.

Overall, Phonics Pond seems to do a great job of teaching through the concept of phonics.  Even better, it does so in such a way that children will actually enjoy learning.  Finally, this would seem to be a product that will have long-term utility, especially in households with more than one child.

3 Gifts for Pets This Christmas

While going through the hustle and bustle of shopping this holiday season, we’ll all run through the list of usual suspects in terms of who’s on our shopping list:  Mom, Dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, etc.  Are we forgetting anyone?  Surely you didn’t forget your pet!

Pets are the most loyal of companions, and quite often our best friends.  It would take quite a lot for you to forget to put them on your holiday shopping list.  However, just in case you did, help is on the way.  Here is a short list of gift items that you and your pet will love:

 

Lectro Soft Outside Pet Bed

 

Your canine or cat will cherish you forever for this gift: a heated pet pad. Appropriate for either indoor or outdoor use, it will keep your pet warm – even in the face of severe weather changes. Furthermore, it’s particularly effective for older animals.

 

 

PetSafe Interactive Laser Pet Toy 

Focused Light Cat Toy

This impressive little device will keep your pet – in particular cats, but dogs as well – busy for quite some time. Basically, it generates  laser patterns in random fashion for your pet to play with. Or, if set in the manual mode, you could point the laser dot anyplace you like and watch your pet pursue it. All in all, it’s an incredible toy that your pet is unlikely to tire of.  (And if you’d like to get in on the action with your pet, try the hand-held Interactive Focused Light Cat Toy.)

 

 

 

Scoopfree Self-Cleaning Litter Box

Needless to say, cat owners may get far more benefits out of this gift than the cat (much like the man who buys his wife a bowling ball for their anniversary). It works for weeks at a time, there is no cleaning or scooping to deal with, and owners never have to handle any pet wastes or the like.

 

 

 

In essence, if you’re still on the prowl for that special toy or gift for your pet, any 3 of the items noted above will probably make your day.  Your dog or cat will enjoy them immensely, and because your pets enjoy them, there’s no doubt that you will, too.

Educational Toys and Gifts: Combining Learning and Fun

One way in which many parents will vary their normal shopping routine this year will be an increased focused on educational toys and gifts. Let’s face it, there are lots of cool toys on the market that provide almost endless entertainment, but wouldn’t it be awesome if your child were also learning at the same time that they’re playing? With that as the goal, what follows is a list of really cool educational toys and gifts

Leapfrog Scribble and Write (Ages 3-5 yrs.)

The Scribble and Write is deliberately crafted to teach the alphabet, and it does so in several ways: drawing shapes; tracing upper-case and lower-case letters; and guessing letters. Basically, letters and shapes, formed from patterns of red dots, appear in a traceable writing area. Verbal instructions from the Scribble and Write prompt children to trace the object which appears using an attached stylus. (In the “guessing” mode, a letter is drawn on the tracing surface and children are asked to identify it by pressing the proper alphabet button on the face of the Scribble and Write.)

Baby Einstein Discover and Play Piano

A cool learning gift, this toy piano has a “keyboard” that consists of five large colorful keys numbered 1-5 and has three teaching modes: keyboard, composer and counting. Depending on which mode you are in, pressing a key can play a single musical note (keyboard mode) or portions of classical music (composer mode). In counting mode, the toy announces the number of the key before playing music. In addition, there is a language selector which allows for hearing the numbers pronounced in either English, Spanish or French. Finally, another dial lets the child choose whether the notes are played on a flute, xylophone or piano.

Leapfrog Phonics Pond

The Phonics Pond is another great gift that combines fun and learning, as it teaches phonics trough various methods, including: (a) Discovering Letters – Children press the letter of their choice and are rewarded with the name of the letter; (b) Finding Identified Letters – Phonics Pond asks the child to find a specific letter of the alphabet, e.g., “Find the letter O”; (c) Spelling – Various 3-letter words are spelled out, and children are asked to press the corresponding letters that make up that word; and (d) Music – Children are prompted to press a letter, which will cause music to be played – mostly perennial favorites like “This Old Man,” “Yankee Doodle,” and the like.

Laugh and Learn Smart Screen Laptop (Ages 6 mos. – 36 mos.)

This toy provides a very nice introduction to some of the fundamentals of learning, such as counting and ABCs. It also has lots of other cool features, including words and songs. Moreover, it provides kids with a laptop of their very own, so that they are no longer obsessed with the real thing (parents with toddlers or small children will understand).

Vtech Mobigo Touch Learning System (Ages 3-8 yrs.)

This is a neat little handheld learning/gaming system for kids. It helps develop rudimentary skills in counting, spelling and problem-solving. The touchscreen gives gameplay a contemporary feel, while the slide-out QWERTY provides an introduction to the standard keyboard layout. A truly engaging, interactive gift.

Leappad Explorer Learning Tablet (Ages 4-8yrs.)

Impressive learning tablet for kids. This interactive device has a large, in-color touchscreen and comes with 4 apps, but has a over a hundred other games, apps, ebooks, and other digital media available. Its educational materials cover a broad range of subject matter, including reading, math, science and music, among others. It also includes a built-in camera. Long-term teaching and entertainment value.

Needless to say, the list above is by no means exclusive. There are lots of cool toys and gifts out there to help your child learn and grow, while being fun at the same time.

Three High-End Gifts Anyone Would Love

It should come as no surprise that people often fantasize about what their life would be like if they had an endless supply of money.  They could do whatever they want, go wherever they want, with whomever they want.  More to the point, they could buy whatever they wanted, and therefore indulge their fancies and whims to whatever degree was necessary.

Needless to say, Christmas is one of those occasions when it’s almost second nature easy to engage in this type of mental meandering, mainly because the excessive amount of shopping we do constantly makes us encounter a wide variety of products that make our mouths water, but would also break the bank. Even so, if you’re going to dream then you might as well dream big.

That being the case, presented here for your viewing pleasure are three distinctive, high-end gifts that average guys and gals probably won’ be able to scratch off their list:

 

Segway miniPRO

The Segway is almost universally hailed as a luxury gift product. Since its initial introduction, this self-balancing human transporter has been a novelty item of the rich and well-to-do. (In fact, just a few years ago, the all-terrain model came with a price tag of nigh $5000 – for a used model, mind you.)  These days, however, the price of various models has come down considerably, allowing more people than ever to enjoy the privilege and prestige of owning a Segway.

 

 

 

Heatwave Santa Fe Sauna

There’s nothing quite like being able to come home from a backbreaking day at the office and get into your own personal sauna, is there?  What, you don’t have one?  Pity… This 3-person sauna comes fully loaded, including a CD player (with built-in speakers and mp3 connection), color treatment light, ergonomic back rests, oxygen ionizer and much more. And at roughly $1800 per, it’s probably one of the more affordable luxury items in the marketplace.

 

 

 

Live Luggage Power-Assisted Suitcase

There are some things you just get used to when you spend time traveling by air:  cramped seating, eating peanuts, and – at some point – making a mad dash through the airport trying to catch a flight, dragging your suitcase behind you.  How great would it be if the suitcase could give you a hand?   Well now it can: introducing the world’s first power-assisted suitcase. Completely loaded with tech – it has an anti-gravity handle, flat motor technologies, sensors and more – it’s an unprecedented gift whose time has comes.  You won’t see many of these no matter how many flights you take – especially at a cost of $1200 each.

 

 

All in all, the three aforementioned items quite likely fall into the classification of really cool adult toys. Moreover, I may well have misstated the facts in saying that the average person in all probability can’t afford these things. In truth, he most likely can buy these items; he will just have precious little left to buy anything else… Irrespective, it is nice (not to mention just plain old human nature) to fantasize about things like this, so feel free to keep those dreams – and daydreams – alive.