I wrote a post this morning on 4Kids or More called Raising old-fashioned kids in the 21st Century. I talk about my struggles with balancing the demands and developments of our technological world with my desire to raise children that have a knowledge and appreciation for what often seems like dying arts–sewing, knitting, baking from scratch, natural history.
It's a struggle I've faced a lot lately, especially as my kids get older and even as our homeschool days get more demanding. How and how much technology do I let my children engage with? Just keeping up with my 2nd and 4th grader is work enough for one mama, but then I have a toddling, get-into-everything baby, and four year old Elizabeth who simply can't get enough. She always begs "to do school".
And while I unfortunately don't have a back-up of meticulously assembled preschool activity stations, I often find that sometimes, I need to turn to technology to help fill in some of the gaps.
So this is all a big lead-in to explain why I decided, when given the opportunity, to test out this new device from Leap Frog called "My Own Story Time Pad".
It is described as being for children ages 2 and up, and advertised as a "pretend tablet packed with personalized stories and preschool learning fun." But I wasn't interested in reviewing it so that Elizabeth could feel like she had a Kindle or iPad, just like Mommy. I wanted to know if it offered worthwhile educational value and could be an optional activity for her to use during our homeschooling day. Something to be used perhaps as a reward, with the added benefit of learning. I know, mean old mom, always wanting everything to be "educational".
The StoryTime Pad offers multiple modes for play. There is Story Time–where children can listen to stories featuring the Leap Frog characters of Scout and his friends. There are eleven stories to choose from and download from an online "hub" that can be even be personalized.
Messages allows children to "send" and "receive" personalized emails. By downloading the Leap Frog connect software, I can choose from a variety of email messages to download and have waiting on the StoryTime Pad. The emails are read aloud to your child and they can even reply.
The Pad also holds a small music library of both sing-alongs and melodies. And when I used the software to personalize the song's on Elizabeth's Pad, I was really pleased to see that the majority of options for melodies were classical pieces from famous composers.
Where the StoryPad really gets down to the basics of learning is with it's ABC Alphabet mode. Here children can begin to learn letter names and sounds. And I appreciate the fact that the keyboard on the StoryPad is arranged in alphabetical order, not in QWERTY arrangement.
So, what's my conclusion? I think that like most products from Leap Frog learning opportunities are enmeshed in all aspects of the toy. While a child may think they are playing "games" or sending emails, they're also working on letter recognition and sounds and interacting with print. And I think for the price, The StoryTime Pad packs in a lot of options for play, entertainment and learning. It is simple to navigate and use independently–case and point–Birdy at 18 months somehow figured out how to turn it on and always have it play music. (Oh, but Birdy IS a tiny genius. I forgot to mention that part.) Though I do wish the actual screen were larger and more legible, since at this preschool age, seeing the actual letters clearly is so important.
Bottom line, I think this makes a great toy for little kids that offers educational benefits. Kids will be drawn to things like it's email and music modes while in the meantime they're learning along the way. Is it exactly what I was looking for as a homeschooling aid? Not quite. But it does make for a nice reward for work well done. And it does keep the baby quite happy on long car rides. Double bonus.
Disclaimer: Thank you to LeapFrog for sponsoring this review. While LeapFrog provided the product to me for this review, the opinions I've expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest point of view. This review is made possible through the lovely ladies from the Clever Girls Collective. #MyOwnStoryTimePad #spon