Introducing the Leapfrog Tag Junior

Back in January I wrote a little teaser about Leapfrog's Tag Junior: a younger version of the popular Leapfrog Tag, for toddlers and preschoolers. Well, the wait is over, and Tag Junior is now in stores!

The good folks at Leapfrog sent me a Tag Junior as part of the Ambassadors of Summer Reading Program, so I've been able to take a good look at it. Believe it or not, at the ripe old ages of 8, 5 and 5, my kids have been having a grand old time with the Tag Junior and the Tag Junior books! In fact, since there is no resident baby or toddler in the house, I asked Jammy to demo some of the cool features of the Tag Junior:

(I promise you, as soon as I can rent, beg, borrow or steal a toddler, I'll take some adorable photos of him or her playing with the Tag Junior, but for now consider this as a product demo brought to you by a leading Leapfrog Expert).

The Tag Junior uses the same cool infrared technology that recognizes words, symbols and pictures printed on the special Tag Junior Books. Like the Tag, you can use the Leapfrog Connect software to upload data from the Tag Junior to Leapfrog's Learning Path, and gain insights into what your child has been using the Tag Junior with, how often, what skills he's learning. But Leapfrog has thoughtfully tweaked the design to make it easy and fun for 2-4 year olds to play and learn with. Here are, to my mind, the three biggest differences between Tag and Tag Junior:

1) Instead of the pen-style Tag reader that kids use to point to words on the Tag books, the Tag Junior features a chunkier reader that's easy for chubby little hands to grasp. The "pointer" was changed to a flat bottomed "stamp",just right for developing fine motor skills. And I adore the Tag Junior's beady green eyes: it looks like a cute plastic toy that a baby might want to grab and start gnawing.

2) The Tag Junior books are chunky, sturdy board books with large type and colorful illustrations, just right for the 2-4 age group. Again, the books feature well-loved toddler stories and characters -- Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh and Curious George, to name a few -- that kids would ask their parents to read even if the Tag Junior ran out of battery juice.

3) Instead of teaching literacy skills, the Tag Junior focuses on more basic preschool concepts such as colors, shapes, letters and numbers. Unlike the Tag, you can touch an area on the Tag Junior book multiple times, and you will get a different sound each time. It keeps kids entertained and guessing, even mine.

I've always admired the way Leapfrog merges learning and entertainment, and the Tag Junior is no exception. Your little ones are going to love it -- and even more important, they're going to associate books with fun and enjoyment. Which brings me to the BEST thing about the Tag Junior: even the most reluctant readers will start reaching out for books. And if the Tag Junior can set a child onto a lifelong path of reading, that's a smashing success in my book.

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