Little Leaps Grow-with-Me Learning System, which uses the family's DVD player and television set, provides a kid-friendly DVD controller and special DVD content to create a learning environment in which parents and their babies interact.
The system is designed to be used by both babies (ages 9 to 24 months) and toddlers (ages 24 to 36 months). To accommodate these two developmental stages, Leapfrog has made the accompanying controller reversible. Parents snap out the controller from its base and snap in the side with three large colored buttons for babies or choose the side that has an outsized joystick surrounded by two buttons for toddlers.
To set up the system to work with your DVD player, you need to load the accompanying Learning Steps DVD and follow the directions on the TV screen about how to sync the Little Leaps kid-friendly controller. Once synced, your family can explore three activities which come with the unit. Add-on DVDs are available at $18 each and specify their content by "Baby" or "Toddler."
With babies, you can explore the "Baby Cam" activity, which has a strong appeal because it features a real baby going for a walk in a stroller. The camera angle is from over the baby's shoulder so that the audience sees what the baby sees. While on the walk, the baby and you hear a series of sounds. The video stops and asks you to guess what the sound is. Then you are instructed to push a button to see what the baby sees. Pushing any button on the controller reveals the source of the sound—for a "quack", you see a duck swimming in a pond.
The sample toddler activity is "Letters with Lulu." Kids are encouraged by Lulu, an animated spider, to join her in singing the alphabet song. Thereafter, toddlers are asked to use the joystick to select letters for Lulu to weave into her spider web. During the second round of the activity, Lulu introduces the sounds of the letters.
When analyzing whether to invest in this system of educational entertainment for young children, parents should consider how they plan to use the system with their children. At first blush, Little Leaps flies in the face of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children age 2 years and younger not watch television. That recommendation is based, in part, on the belief that babies need positive interaction with other children and adults when learning to talk and play. If parents use this system as a framework for talking and playing, then the system is not one of simply having a baby watch television.
The sample content provided on the Learning Steps DVD features videos of babies and toddlers doing things; and it combines animation, puppetry, and live action videos. The educational content is taught by four Backyard Friends: Nestor the bird, Sami the squirrel, Bunbun the rabbit, and Lulu the spider. These friends appear as soft, adorable puppets or as animated friends. While there is television watching involved, the content has been created to encourage discussion between the parent and the child as well as interaction with the onscreen characters through the use of the controller. Learning is at the heart of all the activities, including vocabulary development, counting, awareness of emotions, cause and effect, learning letters and their sounds, and more. Music and song are used throughout the activities.
For toddlers, this is a terrific way to introduce educational entertainment. The Little Leaps content is charming, funny, and interactive. For babies, parents should see this system as a tool to widen their baby's world, but not as a babysitter.
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