This past winter, I visited LeapFrog to learn more about their corporate philosophy, their design process, and their commitment to education. I’m not sure what I expected, but this industrial space adorned with leaf canopies from IKEA wasn’t quite it. It was clear that the company had embraced their playful side! At the time, John Barbour, CEO, alluded numerous times to a new product that would help get kids to be more active, all while maintaining the spirit of the LeapFrog brand. We weren’t let in on the secret then, but it’s clear now that he was referring to the LeapFrog LeapBand, an interactive activity tracker for kids. I was given a unit for review.
The LeapBand is like a swanky pedometer for kids. Geared toward ages 4-7, it sits like a watch on their wrists and tracks all of their movement throughout the day. There are characters for them to interact with and collect (for LeapFrog fans, imagine PetPals) and the LeapBand can issue special challenges that help get kids active and earn more gems. They might be instructed to move like a monkey, leap like a frog, or pop like a piece of popcorn. The LeapBand comes with set of challenges installed, but parents can add more when they connect to their LeapFrog Connect accounts. They can also connect with a special free Petathalon app on their LeapPad, iPad, or Android device.
The LeapBand comes in LeapFrog pink, blue, and green. I opted for the blue and immediately handed it over to my 7 year-old daughter when it arrived. I didn’t tell her what it was or how to use it. I just put it on her wrist and told her to wear it for awhile before walking away. Needless to say, she was skeptical. The device is a bit large and I can imagine that some kids, especially those with sensory issues, will balk at the size. When I saw her 15 minutes later, she raced up to me, excited to show me how many jewels she had already earned. Not long after, she was jumping with her hands to the sky as she worked to complete a new challenge.
As is often the case when review items arrive, my son (almost 9) was jealous about her new LeapBand. She wasn’t willing to take it off to share just yet. But before things got too out of hand, the mood shifted. Soon, they were both crawling, hopping, and waddling around the room together!
The LeapBand is designed to be worn all of the time with special parental controls that lock out the interactive portions during specified school and night time hours. During those times, it looks like a watch although it is still tracking activity. These hours can be set by connecting through a downloadable LeapFrog Connect software. You can also assign the LeapBand to a specific child in your LeapFrog family. If it’s not convenient to connect when your schedule changes, you can also turn on the quiet mode manually from the device itself. We choose to not have her wear it all of the time, despite the parental controls. It’s just a it too bulk to wear at night and I’m afraid it will distract her (or get lost) if she wears it to school. She uses it during playtime because she enjoys the challenges and interacting with her pets.
We aren’t the most active family and we do enjoy plenty of video game and screen time. My kids don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules about the amount of time they can be using interactive media (as opposed to static TV time). We do encourage them to get outside or switch it up if they’ve been sitting around for a long time. Even with that, we don’t have a hard time getting our kids to be active for an hour or more a day. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to keep them from being active (as experienced after my daughter had major surgery). I don’t think that your average young child (in the targeted age range) NEEDS to be reminded to be physical, as long as they have the space and the ability to do so. That said, I do like that my daughter is hearing very positive feedback in regards to her physical activity. Since she is always moving, it doesn’t cross my mind to praise her for her physical activity level. It would be like praising someone for speaking or breathing! Still, I think it’s important for her to hear now and again. It also talks about other healthy habits, like choosing healthy foods.
The LeapFrog LeapBand retails for $39.99. If you’ve got a young child to needs some encouragement to get more active, or if you’ve been thinking of purchasing a watch for your child, I think this would be a nice gift. It’s also a fun way to help introduce kids to the idea of fitness and deliberately making a choice to stay fit.
Disclosure: We received a unit for review purposes (and I had previously visited LeapFrog at their expense for an unrelated reason). There was no additional compensation and the opinions above are my own. This post contains affiliate links.