For years, LeapFrog has developed tools to help children learn to read. Now, the company is turning to the second of the three R's, writing.
LeapFrog's newest device, the LeapReader, is an update of its Tag Reading System, a chunky electronic stylus that sounds out words and sentences printed in LeapFrog books. The LeapReader, aimed at children ages 4 to 8, takes the lesson a bit further by instructing young learners to trace letters, encouraging them to then write their own and correcting them if the letters go astray.
The pen works only on LeapFrog books, so parents don't have to worry about scribbles on the coffee table. And it's compatible with the older Tag library of books.
LeapReader has a USB port to connect it to a computer for charging and downloading additional content. The pen contains 256 megabytes of memory, enough to hold up to 40 audiobooks or 175 songs, which are available from LeapFrog's site.
Keeping in mind that children like to play, too, LeapFrog developed the Creativity Camera, a case and app that work with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Once the device is locked inside the protective case, the app uses the device's camera to take pictures, which can then be edited and morphed to create funny faces. The camera, intended for children ages 3 to 6, includes an augmented-reality game that children can use to take pictures of imaginary fairies flying around the room.
My boyfriend and I took the Creativity Camera and the LeapReader on a recent trip to visit his nieces, ages 4 and 7. The girls responded intuitively to both devices, turning them on and getting started immediately. They were unable to choose a favorite, although the camera produced more giggles. Their mother joined in, too, helping identify words and posing for portraits.
The LeapReader starter kit, which comes with a sample activity book, costs $50 and is available at most national retailers. Additional books cost about $12 to $20. The Creativity Camera case costs $20, and the app is free.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.