Fitness made fun with Leapfrog's new LeapBand

Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids
A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview soccer star Mia Hamm. We talked about her involvement with Fit Made Fun Day and her tips to get kids more active (soooo important at a time when a third of kids or teens in the US is overweight or obese!).  We spoke about LeapFrog's new activity tracker, the LeapBand, and how it is motivating kids to get up and about.  I had the chance to test out the LeapBand, and boy is this gadget such an exciting development!  If you have a Fitbit or a Jawbone or a Fuelband and your kid loves to play with it, you can now get him or her a LeapBand to track activity in a much more fun way!

The Basics

Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

What Leapfrog did for kids' education, they are now doing for kids' fitness -- they are using video gameplay to motivate kids and make it fun! The new LeapBand is a kiddie activity tracker that is worn on a child's wrist and registers motion. It has fun activity challenges like "wiggle like a worm" or "dance like a chicken" or "clap your hands" that kids don't really think of as exercise, just fun and games. Below are some of its best features:

Activity Tracker
The LeapBand tracks your child's motion -- walking, running, skipping, dancing, any movement.  The main screen has an activity meter (visual, not numerical) to give kids an idea of how active they've been.  The LeapBand also lets kids complete fun activity challenges ("Jump like a tiger and roar!", "Hop like popping popcorn!",  "Wriggle your fingers and toes!") for the chance to earn jewels (a pun on "joules"!).
Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

Virtual Pet
To motivate kids, the LeapBand has a virtual pet that kids can feed and bathe and take care of (remember the Tamagotchi craze?). When your child moves around and completes activity challenges, they earn treats for their virtual pet and unlock new games and new pets to play with.

Kids can interact with their pets in 3 mini games (Pet Parlor, Pet Boogie, Pet Chef), where they learn the importance of good grooming, good nutrition, and healthy habits.  There's also a separate app, Leapfrog's Petathlon Games (available on the LeapPad Ultra or an iOS or Android device), that lets kids' virtual pets compete in the Petathlon Games and play more mini games.
Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

Parental Controls
Parents can download the LeapConnect app for the LeapBand onto their computers and connect the LeapBand to the computer via USB cable.  They'll be able to view their child's activity, see the jewels they've earned, and download additional activity challenges (up to 50!) onto the LeapBand.  They can even set "quiet" times when kids cannot play with their virtual pet (i.e. school time or nap time).

Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

The Bongga

* The LeapBand is simple and easy to use, with just 4 buttons and audio instructions so even kids who don't yet know how to read will know what to do.
* The LeapBand also has a watch (so kids can tell time) and a stopwatch (so they can time themselves running or doing anything)
* Parents can set quiet times for the LeapBand (via the Leapfrog Connect app), so even though it is still tracking motion, kids can't use it to play with their pet (they can only use it as a watch). So they can wear it to school or during naptime and not be tempted to play with it.
* The LeapBand is rechargeable (via a USB cable); no more batteries to run out!

Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

The Blah

* There is no volume control.
* The plastic wristband is not very flexible; some kids might find it uncomfortable wearing for extended periods of time.
* Unlocking pets can be frustrating. Kids have no idea how much longer they have to wait in order to unlock their next pet.

The Bottom Line

All in all, the LeapBand is another great product that masquerades as a video game, but in reality is developing all kinds of skills and healthy habits!
Leapfrog Leapband fitness activity tracker for kids

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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