Gift Guide 2016: LeapStart

Disclosure: LeapFrog Provided me with a LeapStart System and some books to facilitate my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review.

I am thrilled to see that LeapFrog has re-tooled one of their classic learning toys for preschoolers and toddlers.

I say it often in this space, but I’ve been at this parenting gig for a long time–20 years, to be exact! I am thrilled to say that Leapfrog toys have been with me every step of they way, from a caterpillar who shared a crib with my son and taught him the ABCs to the Epic that lets my daughters enjoy having a tablet just like their older brothers but is age appropriate for them!

When I was given the chance to review the new LeapStart, I was excited. The LeapStart is a re-tooling of the very first Leap Pads, which were such a joy to my sons in the days before screens.

While I do not personally have a big problem with screen time and kids–I have been a digital pioneer and I grew up close enough to the Silicon Valley that screens have always been a part of my life. However, not everyone is as comfortable as I am with screen time.

The LeapStart learning system spans four levels. Level One is for toddlers ans pre-schoolers, and Level 2 for the pre-kindergarten set. Level 3 is Kindergarten and Level 4 is for First Grade. There are two different base models which vary a bit in stylus size and the unit designed for younger children has handles.

There are several books (sold separately) which system -wide span 400 different skills from ABC’s to STEM skills like coding.

There is some initial set-up as the audio for each of the books needs to be downloaded from the Leapfrog connect site. But the bonus is, unlike the early LeapPads, there isn’t cartridge to keep track of alongside the book.

This is an affordable little system and it is easily customized to match your children’s interest. My girls really enjoy the Kids World Atlas, with Global Awareness. They have had fun learning some basic phrases in six different languages!

My daughter enjoying the Kid’s World Atlas

Each book also has a sticker section in the back where they are prompted to place stickers in a chart as they achieve certain skills. My girls are very motivated by such rewards, so they have found this to be a fun challenge!

Something that I really love about LeapFrog products is that they are designed by real educators, and as such, there is a good process in place for imparting skills in the right way, at the right level. This continues with the LeapStart Learning System.

I recommend this system for families who have young children and prefer a more analog approach to learning, rather than with tablets or computer games. There is a lot of open ended learning, and the size of the unit ensures that it is not easily misplaces (like our Tag Readers often are!)

Buy It:

And some of our favorite books:



LeapPad Platinum Review

LeapPad Platinum review


Disclosure: LeapFrog sent me a LeapPad Platinum and the PAW Patrol Imagicard game in order to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

LeapPad Platinum Review

We have been enjoying LeapFrog products for a long time, my oldest is 19 and learned to count and learn ABCs with a LeapFrog Learning bus.

Our younger children are really enjoying this latest offering from LeapFrog. The LeapPad Platinum tablet is a kid-friendly tablet that allows for fun, educational game play as well as safe web-surfing.

The seven inch touch screen displays crisp graphics, and as an impatient mom, I totally appreciate the increased processor speed. The battery life is long, between 5 and 7 hours depending on activity, and can be charged with USB or AC adapter. No batteries needed! Win!

All of our older LeapPad cartridges work in this LeapPad, and we can also share downloaded content purchased for our older devices as well. I have twin daughters, so I appreciate that I can download a game once and both girls can have the game on their own devices. This is a great savings for us (plus, let’s face it, those cartridges get lost.) There are over 1,000 games and apps available, and if you watch sales on you can get some great deals!

This is a kid tough and kid friendly tablet and my girls love the lease of use. I admit to even having fun playing some of the games–you never quite outgrow the joy of leveling up.

My girls love the dual cameras and the video recorder and have fun playing the the included Photo Fun Utility.

One of my favorite new features is the enhanced parental controls. There is now an option to set a time limit for playing and then the device shuts down for a preset amount of time. This is a great way to help limit screen time.

The LeapPad Platinum includes 8GB of memory and 10 apps (music player plus 10 songs, Pet Pad Party, Pet Chat, Photo fun Ultra, five Utility Apps, and a choice of App download).

This is the perfect, age appropriate tablet for the 9 and under set. My twin five year-olds give it two thumbs up!

PAW Patrol Imagicard Game Review

This game has been the biggest hit with my five year-old twin daughters.

The package includes a collectable tin, the Imagicards (and they are sturdy–much thicker than a standard playing card) a fold out play mat to sort the cards onto, and a downloadable game. And this is the key for a family with multiples: the game is downloadable so can be played, at the same time, by more than one child. When a new game comes into the house, this is a HUGE bonus!

This game arrived in the mail while my girls were off visiting grandparents, so I had a chance to play-test it myself, and I’m not ashamed to say that I really enjoyed playing the game. It is engaging and goal driven.

This is the perfect game to get my girls warmed up for Kindergarten. It covers numbers 1-20, basic shapes, patterns, sorting, and some basic arithmetic. My girls may be twins, but they are not the same, and the game adjusts seamlessly for their skill level.

On a rainy day it kept them both occupied, entertained, and quarrel free for hours! They don’t watch a lot of TV, but were somewhat familiar with the Paw Patrol characters. However, the game plays fine if you have no knowledge of the show. The storyline in the game is self contained.

I think it is clever how the cards work within the game; when a card is “scanned”, or photographed, the characters leap onto the screen. The game can also be played without the cards, as there is a digital card gallery included. I find it interesting that one of my girls likes to physically flip through the cards, while my other prefers the digital gallery.

This game is prefect for children from 3-5 years.

Buy It:

LeapPad Platinum on and

PAW Patrol Imagicard game on and


National Reading Month: An Interview With Kristi Yamaguchi

Some of my warmest childhood memories are of me sitting on the lap of my parents and grandparents being read to. Reading is a big part of our family life–and if you have been in our house you know that we are overrun by books!

However, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Education, only about half of all children aged 3-5 are being read to on a daily basis. (And, honestly, during a busy week my kids likely fall through those cracks as well.)

Last week I was contacted with the opportunity to hold a phone interview with Olympic Figure Skater, children’s’ book author and literacy advocate, Kristi Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi is teaming up with LeapFrog and her Always Dream Foundation to promote reading for National Reading month in March.

Kristi and I are the same age, and grew up within 100 miles of each other (though we never crossed paths that I know of!). I remember watching her compete in the Olympics from my college dorm room. To say that I was excited to get the chance to speak with her, is an understatement. Please excuse the fact that I picked up a respiratory bug from my little ones and sound less than healthy!

Click here for more information on the 20/20 reading challenge and start a great new habit today!

*** PLEASE NOTE: This interview opportunity is sponsored by LeapFrog***

LeapTV, My Favorite LeapFrog Product! Review


We have a family of gamers, ranging in age from 18 down to 4. The younger kids always want to get in on the video game action, but the games are either not appropriate for them, or the controls are too complicated to handle.

Enter LeapTV, the first console gaming system actually designed for children aged 3-8. This system is not only extremely simple to set up (it took me under five minutes. . .even with twin four year-olds clamoring behind me), it is intuitive for the children to play.

I was not sure we needed another game console. However, this is not just another game console! This is true active, moving, learning play. We actually have way more motion in our living room than ever before, and the girls have even forced me to get up and dance (sorry neighbors!). Especially during our long North Dakota winters, it is nice to have the girls moving, rather than watching yet another video.  the learning aspect does not hurt either!

Like all other LeapFrog Products, these games start at a baseline level based on your child’s age, and then adjusts according to ability level, therefore, growing at just the right rate. This is nice for my girls who are the same age, but at different ability levels for some games.

The games have three different play modes, and depending on the game selected, will either require no controller at all ( using the camera, and placing your child IN the game), or pointer controller, where the game is played similarly to a wii remote (but with a cushioned end and more natural grip), or classic control in which the controller is held in two hands and buttons are pushed.

The transitions between scenes in games can be a bit slow at times, but worth the wait, and allows for some downtime for excitable kids. The graphics are fresh and clear, the sound is good, and, most importantly, play value is high! This is a system that my girls will enjoy until they “grow into” the x-box or playstation in their upper elementary years.

As a busy mom, I appreciate the small footprint of the game. LeapTV

As a frugal mom, I would appreciate a rechargeable controller.

If you have more than one child who will play, or frequent playdates, you will want to purchase an additional controller.

Additional games are easily downloaded using the built-in wi-fi, or fun relatives can purchase game cartridges for birthdays and holidays. The system comes with one bonus game, Pet Play World, but you will want to make sure that you have at least one additional game. My girls love the Sofia the First game, and there is a lot in that game to keep them busy! leaptv-educational-active-video-gaming_31511_detail_7 Purchase it: at Amazon,,

Disclosure: I was sent a sample of this product to facilitate my review. However, all opinions are my own, and I was not required to post a positive review.

How to Get Your Kids Moving! (and giveaway!)


Last week I had the honor of interviewing soccer star and mom of three, Mia Hamm about kids and fitness. As a mom of six kids, and someone who spends more time at the library than the gym (and it shows!), I am always concerned about ways to keep my kids active.

Moms, we are fighting a big fight in working to keep our kids active! kids today have more homework than ever, and when they come home to unwind, they often follow their parents’ example and unwind with a heavy dose of technology. (Guilty as charged). Add to this, the trend of parents being prosecuted for allowing their kids to play outside, and you see that things are much, much different from when we were growing up.

So sit back, and listen to some great tips from Mia Hamm! When you are done, take a moment to enter the easy  giveaway! I have two LeapFrog Leap Band fitness trackers to giveaway, so two of my lucky readers will be winners!

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