It has been almost a week since we received some Leapfrog products to try out, and things are (pardon the pun) just hopping along. By far the easiest to get started with right out of the box is the Leapfrog TAG reading system. The TAG (and by the way, I still have no idea what TAG stands for; any ideas, people??) works much the Leapfrog Leap Pad product that my kids know and love-- children just touch parts of a book to hear stories/phrases/words/sounds read to them, or to play educational games. Except it's much better, because you don't need to lug around the bulky LeapPad and cartridges, just the small TAG reader and the books (which you can shelve in your regular bookshelf since they look just like regular books).
One unique feature of this new generation of Leapfrog products is that they connect to the online Leapfrog Learning Path, which allows you to track your child's progress online. I haven't played around with it too much yet, but once everything is set up (and aye, there's the rub) it looks like a good way to see what your child is actually doing with the Leapfrog produts, short of looking over their shoulder.
For example, I get to see how many times The Pea has actually read each TAG book we own (in the photo above, it's Click-Clack-Moo: Cows That Type, a hilarious tale about some revolutionary farm animals and their soft-hearted farmer). Her Learning Path also tells me how many questions she answered while reading the book, and how many she got right. This is a great feature because The Pea reads through books at lightning speed (like I used to do). I have no idea whether she is just skimming through the story (like I used to do), and this helps me get a sense of her reading comprehension. You just have to remember to connect the TAG to your computer's USB and periodically upload the information stored in the TAG.
At $49.95, the TAG system is not cheap, but you do get a lot of mileage out of it. The books are $13.99 each but I have seen them on sale at Target and the Leapfrog online store for $11.99 -- not bad for a hardbound book. And the Leapfrog online store puts out frequent sales and coupons to encourage parents to try the system out for their kids, for example:
- Buy 3 TAG books, get the 4th free: Enter promo code FL8TGS before Sept. 30
- Get free shipping on TAG gift packs until December 31, no coupon necessary
- $5 shipping on orders $50 and over, until September 15, no coupon necessary
The TAG system comes with one storybook -- Ozzie and Mack -- included, and you can buy extra books at Target, Toys-R-Us and Walmart, or online on Amazon or the Leapfrog website. There are over 20 titles, with more to come soon -- and they can't come soon enough, especially for my 7-year-old. All the books go easy on the words, since they are meant to help pre-readers and beginning readers learn to read, so I'm hoping that Leapfrog will someday add more advanced books to the TAG range, with more reading comprehension activities for older kids.
Speaking of ages, the recommended age range is 4 through 8, but I think 4, 5 and 6 year olds will get the most use out of it. The Pea has fun with it, but she already knows how to read. 3Po and Jammy, though, love being able to "read" books by themselves, just like the Pea. I love that they get to play electronic learning games which don't involve staring into a video screen. And yes, I have to admit, I love that "someone else" can read a book to them 10 times straight (I love Click Clack Moo but there's only so much I can take) Don't worry, the TAG doesn't replace reading time with mama or daddy. It's more like training wheels that provide a fun way for kids to gain the confidence to read on their own.