First Look: LeapFrog Unveils LeapBand

Fitness Trackers just made a big leap, but this time, they’re tracking the kids. Educational entertainment powerhouse, LeapFrog, unveiled the LeapBand, a wearable activity tracker designed for kids. Part gaming device, part fitness tracker and part virtual pet, the LeapBand is touted as being the first of its kind.


The LeapBand activity tracker gets kids moving and having fun with 50 different activities and challenges, tracking a child’s physical moves so the more active a child is, the more points they earn with their virtual pet. As the child earns points through active play, they can unlock additional games, challenges, levels of play and virtual rewards for their on-screen pet.  

Just like a gaming device, the kid is rewarded with play.  The wearable aspect creates a new dimension for kids who are on the go. The more activity and physical movement a kid does, the more points they get. 


My first thoughts? As an entry level fitness tracker for kids, this thing is pretty unique.  It retails for around $40, and it’s something that can engage an active kid who also appreciates games and virtual pets.  Because the device is geared to 4-7 year olds, the LeapBand is image-based, as opposed to text and numbers often seen in the adult fitness trackers. Another difference for the LeapBand is that data collection will be geared to parents and not the manufacturer.


The fact that we “need” a device like this is a whole different discussion.  Physical activity should begin at home; a toy shouldn’t be the sole motivator to get moving.  Ultimately, there’s nothing like playing outdoors totally unplugged.  That said, I appreciate that this technology encourages physical activity and healthy habits.

With the likes of Nike Fuel, Jawbone Ups and Fitbit catering to the adult fitness market, LeapFrog is hoping to tap into this emerging trend. According to NPD Group, the overall digital fitness device market is said to be worth $330 million in 2013. As tablets for kids are on the rise, could wearable tech be the next big thing? The reaction I’m seeing and hearing so far sound decidedly skeptical. Ultimately, it’s the consumers who determine the need and demand so, we’ll see!



My older guy is at the older end of the target demo. I can see him getting a kick out of feeding his unicorn or other virtual pet.  As an active athlete, however, the LeapBand would strictly be an at-home toy.

Between school and after school sports, I’m not sure he’d benefit from the fitness tracking.  Is this something his school and coaches would allow? Probably not. Nevertheless, having the ability to care for his pet on his wrist? That, right there, would keep him entertained at doctor’s offices or playing in the backyard.


At the launch event, we were able to get a quick glimpse of the LeapBand.  Here’s a quick demo:


Weigh in: is the LeapBand something your child would enjoy? Or do you think wearable fitness trackers for kids is unnecessary?

Classroom Fun: Oh, The Places You’ll Go and Oceanhouse Media Dr. Seuss Apps

As Read Across America week winds down, I thought I’d share about my fun afternoon with J’s class today.


Dr. Seuss reminded us that Life’s a Great Balancing Act (Just never forget to be dexterous and deft).  Which is why I chose to read Oh, The Places You Go! in class today.  In my trajectory as a writer and parent, I want to believe that it was his suggestions and wise words that have pointed me in this direction. (More on this later…)

Even though Oh, The Places You’ll Go! can be verbose for young five year olds, the class very much understood Dr. Seuss’ ideas and emphasis on imagination.
After reading to the class, we continued the conversation about Dr. Seuss with What’s in the Cat’s Hat, a hands-on game game from my friends at Wonder Forge.

This game is a classic guessing game, where the kids can utilize their senses by guessing what’s hidden IN the Cat’s hat.  Each kid took a turn poking and shaking the hat, even reading off prompted questions from the cards.  We heard silly guesses, but once the kids started getting their guesses right based on clues, the momentum of their deductive reasoning started to roll. I can’t say enough good things about Wonder Forge; this fantastic company has won numerous awards for their games and it’s no wonder why. Beyond What’s in the Cat’s Hat, Wonder Forge has various Dr. Seuss puzzles and games, including an app-centric game called Fun Machine.

Dr. Seuss apps from Oceanhouse Media

And speaking of apps, Dr. Seuss has an app—quite a few, actually.  Oceanhouse Media has done a great job with bringing Dr. Seuss titles to iPhones, iPods and iPads.  While I love my technology as much as the next geek, there’s nothing quite like a real book.  Nevertheless, you can’t beat having access to a myriad of Dr. Seuss titles while on the go.  Green Eggs and Ham while in the dentist waiting room? Why not.  Fox in Socks while on a 2-hour road trip? Don’t mind if we do.  The best part of these apps is that they’re interactive where you can record your voice while reading and even share those recordings.  Oceanhouse Media has a number of Dr. Seuss classics in the $3-5 range, as well as a few free apps.

Dr. Seuss Camera

Another app that gets rave reviews from my favorite five year olds: The Dr. Seuss Camera, also from Oceanhouse Media. This app simply utilizes the iphone, ipod touch or ipad camera and frames the subject with several different Dr. Seuss characters and imagery.  Point, shoot, edit and create, this app is endless Dr. Seuss fun and is free.  This app is a great way to continue the Dr. Suess conversation and branch it out to digital media.  In fact, we took pictures of J’s entire class and the kids had a blast picking and choosing which characters they wanted to be.  Sally, by the way, was the class favorite—for boys, too!  Go, Sally!

I loved talking to the kids about my job today.  Since most of the kids aren’t reading quite yet, I didn’t bother telling them about NKT, other than the topics that I focus on.  It was cute getting questions from parents asking me if I work FOR PBS.  No, but I am a proud VIP.

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NKT Faves: Bot Shots, Chan and Skylanders Cloud Patrol

As usual, so much has been going on around here.  Even though I haven’t been updating as frequent as I like, I’m always updating Twitter, Facebook and my current obsession (and everyone else’s,) Instagram.

My current Instagram obsession made me think about the other obsessions we have going on in our house.  My Four year old is at that stage in life where he clings onto things incessantly.  And the fact that I review kid products means that his obsessions change with every new package we receive, or so it seems.

So, I thought I’d try to update weekly on what are our new favorites.  It will most likely be a random sampling of things, but all fun finds nonetheless.

1. Transformer Bot Shots

These Bot Shots from Hasbro can be cataloged in a few different ways:  they’re collectible, have a battle aspect and they transform.  They’re small in size, which makes them perfect for young school-aged kids and maybe even preschoolers.  The fact that they’re Transformers adds to the cool factor.  When in battle mode, players can push, then crash into their opponent, and then the Bot Shot automatically transforms.  I can’t tell you how many battles we’ve had with our guys.

I love the low price point for these toys, almost as much as I love the fun play pattern.  It’s competitive, yet creative and all around fun, especially for Transformers fans.

2.  Chan, Pie and Gnon Teethers

I’ve had a lot of baby on the brain as of late, and baby toys are no exception.  I’ve talked a lot of Sophie the Giraffe, but I’m so excited that the makers of Sophie have friends for this famous giraffe.  Chan, Pie and Gnon are rubber, just like Sophie.  These little mushroom-looking characters are easy to grab and even have a squeaker toy inside.  As my baby learns to grasp things, it’s so cute to hear that little squeaker squeak.

3.  Skylanders Cloud Patrol

The uber popular video game franchise is already a hit on the web and on consoles, and now, it’s available on mobile platforms.  Our whole family loves playing Skylanders, so naturally, Cloud Patrol was an instant hit for all of us.  Cloud Patrol has a combination of mini-missions and shooting adventures, which are all easy to play on a touch-pad devices.  The colors and characters are just as vibrant as the other game platforms, and quite honestly just as addicting.  Activision is getting it right with the multi-platform interactivity.  I love the way you can engage characters you already own, just by inputting the number they came with.  Skylanders Cloud Patrol is a game that will be along with many of our roadtrips and train rides this summer.

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster for Kinect is Family Fun at its Best

Sesame Street is always at the forefront of children’s media, and the video game segment is no exception.  Last month, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment released Once Upon a Monster, the first Sesame Street title for Kinect for Xbox 360.

A vibrant, funny, family adventure game, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster features a storybook-like experience that allows kids to explore scenarios with Elmo, Cookie Monster and meet new monster friends along the way.  The game features a helpful co-op gameplay option, which, I think, is inherent for young players.  And according to WBIE, through gameplay, Once Upon a Monster underscores social, emotional and other life lessons, for which Sesame Street is already known.

The friendly, familiar and furry monsters, ultimately, were the main appeal of this game for my preschooler.  The dancing and other adventures, coupled with the sharp graphics, “made” this game for him in the end.  From start to finish, and whether they’re big or little, the game involved players’ movement from head to toe, creating active gameplay that was virtually nonstop.  This would be such a fun alternative to movie night or even a complement to traditional game night.  The co-op gameplay feature gives parents a proactive approach to  stay involved in this specific element of screentime.  And although it may not be the most educational title (as far as letters and numbers go,) I do appreciate that Once Upon a Monster gets kids moving–without a remote!

Rated E for Everyone, this game is ideal for preschoolers to early grade school and their family members.  Change up the holiday family gathering monotony! I personally can’t wait to see my 20-something brother join in on the fun!  Coordination and the ability to comprehend basic verbal instructions are important, but a little monkey-see, monkey-do always helps with that.  Sesame Streeet: Once Upon a Monster for Kinect for Xbox is available in stores now and retails for $49.99.

The kid and I were onhand at the NYC Once Upon a Monster launch, where we had a chance to demo the game before its official release.  Suffice it to say, the kid and I both had a blast moving and grooving to “that monster game” as the kid lovingly calls it.  Check out the kid and a few little buddies checking out Once Upon a Monster at the launch event.

Check it

Visit the official Sesame Street Store and save 15% on Once Upon a Monster with the promo code: SESAMEBLOGGER

This offer expires December 15, 2011.

Full disclosure:  I’m an affiliate of the official Sesame Street Store, and there are two affiliate links above.  As always, I appreciate your readership, and by visiting and shopping through any of my affiliate links, you help me keep this site afloat!
Product sample was provide to facilitate this review; as always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Aquadoodle Draw ‘n Doodle is Educational, Mess-Free Fun

Like most preschool-aged kids, my guy has been practicing his letters and numbers.  There’s so many great toys and tools that promote reading and writing-readiness, and Aquadoodle‘s mess-free mat is one that’s become a mainstay in our lesson enrichment stash.


This toy has been around for a few years, but it just recently found its way into our inbox.  There’s so many reasons to like this educational toy, but I especially  like the fact that it promotes kid-powered creativity and brain power. With just water and the included pen and mat, the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is both fun and educational, while remaining virtually mess-free. The kid loves the pen; it’s ergonomic shape for littler hands and cool water “ink” were quite the novelty for my 4 year old.  He loved seeing the different colors appear within the various sections of the mat.

Not too many complaints with Aquadoodle, although, I will warn that the pen will leak water if you don’t twist it tightly.  The water filling, too, can become a preschooler “I can do it myself” nightmare, as I’ve learned.  No really, kid, you don’t need a refill after writing one letter!

Here’s a little video where I try to get the kid to draw an “A” on the Aquadoodle.  Ten requests later, he finally complied. Sheesh!

In the $20 range, the pricepoint of the Aquadoodle classic Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is very reasonable and a great pick for toddler and preschooler birthday presents.  In addition to the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat, Aquadoodle has several products in their line, such as the Travel Doodle, Plush Doodle Pet and the Doodle Wall Mat.

You can find Aquadoodle products as retailers such as Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.

Full disclosure:  I was provided with product samples for purposes of this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Water Balloon Fun with KAOS Nemesis

Long summer weekends usually means grilling, relaxing and fun in the sun.  And since the kids are already in the pool, why not break out the water balloons?

Of all the fun summer toys we’ve been checking out this season, a family favorite has been the water balloon launcher, KAOS Nemesis Wrist Launcher.  After filling up the cool textured balloons via the handy garden hose nozzle, big kids can launch their water balloons with the KAOS Nemesis Wrist Launcher.  Likened to a lacrosse stick (albeit for water balloons,) the launcher can launch water balloons up to 100 ft.

Even though I have pix of the kid playing, it was my husband and the neighbor kids who had the most fun seeing who could launch their balloons the furthest.  The smaller kids had fun trying to locate where the balloons landed and picked up the broken pieces. And of course, it was the grown men who had the most fun with the Kaos Nemesis.


From personal experience, I don’t recommend actually launching the balloons AT people.  The launchers make for a fun poolside or BBQ game, and one that gets everyone involved, from the filling of balloons, to launching, to measuring/cleaning balloons.  The best aspect from the official balloon filler?  The nozzle that helps you streamline the process!

Intended for kids 8 and up, the KAOS Nemesis from Imperial Toys retails around $14 and can be found at retailers like Target, Toys R Us and Kohl’s.

Full disclosure:  Samples were provided to facilitate this review, but as always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Magnetic Alphabet Sets: Easy on the Eyes and the Noise

When we first bought our refrigerator, I pretended that we’d be one of those families that would keep it sleek and clean from any kid-scribbled artwork or other child-like paraphernalia.

Yeah, right.

Fast forward a few months later, and our fridge is graffitied with photos of our own kid, other people’s kids, said artwork and now, those ubiquitous magnetic alphabets.  Don’t get me wrong, I love LeapFrog’s Fridge Phonics, but just a few minutes at a time. So, out of personal preference, we opted out of the popular plastic ABCs in lieu of a set of the wooden (and quiet) kind.

As with most families of young ones practicing their ABCs and 123s, the magnetic alphabet has been an invaluable learning resource. Here’s a slideshow of our picks of alternatives to the more popular magnetic alphabet sets, and ones worth checking out.

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Gag-Worthy and Gross: Dino Poop and Dr. Dreadful

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone.  I’m not one for pulling pranks, but I do enjoy laughing at clever gags—from a distance.

For April Fool’s Day, I thought I’d spotlight a few new toys that are sure to elicit a few gags and giggles for those who appreciate the gross factor.  And yes, these are real toys!

Dino Poop

Uncle Milton has a great lineup of new Dinosaur Train toys, but one that definitely caught my eye is Dino Poop.  This pliable dough that looks like, well, poop, lets kids discover what a dino had for lunch.

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Gift ideas for 3 Year Old Girl

Friend and NKT reader, Sarah, posted a really great question on the NKT FB page last week.  With her daughter turning three soon, she asked if I had any gift ideas.  On the heels of last month’s Toy Fair, I have stacks of ideas, actually.  As a mama to a three year old boy, I was excited to research some answers to Sarah’s question.

Three year olds are known for continuing to express their individuality and independence. They are honing their gross motor skills, and for most, attention spans are still quite limited. Role playing and group play is a growing trend at this stage, too.  And as much as I’d like to ignore the whole gender toy issue, like many of you, I’ve seen firsthand just how different play patterns are of boys and girls at this age.

Sarah said her three year old is into girly toys, pets, bubbles and jumping.  And since I haven’t had a chance to talk about many of the fun toys I saw at Toy Fair, this is a great topic to discuss since I saw so many great products that embrace these exact themes.


Princesses, long-loved favorites to toddlers, preschoolers and beyond, still have a strong presence on the toy front, especially with the success of last year’s Rapunzel.  Even though Disney has hinted at no more new princesses in the near future, toy makers still have a strong grip on this multi-million dollar license.

Squinkies, the tiny bubblegum machine-inspired trinkets that the kids love (and moms not so much), are now available in Disney Princess themes.

Word of caution: these toys are rated 4+ for safety purposes.

With the upcoming release of Tangled on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are quite a few cute dolls that focus on Rapunzel’s hair.

My favorite Tangled-inspired toy is the Toddler Tangled Rapunzel Doll from the Disney Store.  Only caveat with this adorable doll? She’s sold out on Disney Store’s site, but is probably available at select stores.  She’s cute and her hair looks manageable for the littler girls.

Tangled Sing and Glow Rapunzel doll, with her light up hair and singing voice is another cute doll that might be of interest to little girls.

Dolls and Doll Accessories

Doll and doll accessories are, no doubt, a big hit with toddlers and preschoolers because of the imaginative and creative play involved.  Quite a few toy makers have cool new doll accessories coming out, but Hasbro’s Baby Alive and Step 2’s Deluxe Nursery Station are two products that stood out for me at this year’s Toy Fair.

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Snowy Days Mean More Game Play

Have you had enough of the snow and cold already? I think we’re tired of the work and obstacles that snow brings with it, but “sleighing” down our hill certainly doesn’t get old. Like most of you, because we can’t get outdoors as much on snowy days, we’ve got a little bit of cabin fever going on.

Being indoors much more than we’d like has meant we’ve had to adjust our normal routine. I monitor and limit tv and screen time throughout the day, and so, we’ve found ourselves playing more games, doing more crafts, cooking, reading and just playing whatever comes naturally. Here’s are just a few activities, crafts and toys that’s been keeping us busy.

LeapFrog Interactive Map

I’ve said it before, but LeapFrog, to me, is one of the frontrunners in innovative, educational toys. The LeapFrog Tag Interactive Map is no exception. The Interactive Map, paired with a Tag Reader, has been keeping us busy on these snowy days, teaching us cool facts about states we’ve visited, where our relatives live and helps us visualize where we hope to visit! After locating cool spots on the map, we like to try to put our new geographic knowledge to good use and and find the same locales on our globe ($1 garage sale find.) The Interactive Map is a great way to engage imagination, curiosity while throwing a bit of geography into the mix.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Who doesn’t love puzzles? Puzzles are a great activity for kids and parents to interact. It involves logic, teamwork and patience, characteristics that have surely been put to the test with all this cabin fever! Our favorite jigsaw puzzle right now is this Super Why Hidden Word puzzle. This puzzle is a fun way to enjoy one of our favorite shows and their characters, and not having to stare a screen to do so! The Why Finder (magnifying glass) to help locate hidden words is a very fun added element that gives even more engagement after the last piece of the puzzle is put into place.

Crayola Color Wonder

Crafts, especially drawing, has been one of the best ways to pass time these days. The kid loves markers; my new area carpet and furniture does not. Our compromise is Crayola’s Color Wonder markers and paints. If you’re not familiar with the awesomeness that is Color Wonder, the geniuses at Crayola have created a line of products that only color on special paper. The markers, paintbrushes and paints only show up on the Color Wonder paper, which means no mess all over your stylish white couch. Santa was so kind to bring the boy Toy Story and other Disney themed Color Wonder coloring books. I will probably never buy another kind of marker again–we love these things so much! No mess=happy family!

WonderForge What’s in the Hat Game

Here we go-go-go! Do you guys watch Cat in the Hat on PBS? We sure do! So, when WonderForge told us about their new Cat in the Hat games, we were all about them. The What in the Hat game, though, is THE funniest game to play with preschoolers, espcially the ones who don’t know how to keep secrets. It’s a simple guessing game that involves hiding everyday items within the Cat’s hat, but it never fails, we get big laughs from this game!

What are your favorite snowy/indoor activities?

Full disclosure: Select samples were provided for editorial review. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.