Saturday, August 27th, 2011
Do you remember at what age your said your first word? How about the age when you first learned to count, or read? Most of us wouldn't but our parents do. Not only do they remember those dates but most of them treasure those memories.

Now, we as human beings get to have a lot of "firsts" in our lives but somehow only those keystones are truly remembered. It seems that one of the main reasons is that those events are associated with our developmental rate. How many times have you heard parents bragging that their kid started talking before the neighbour's kid or something to that extent? Ok, well, maybe not those words exactly but I am sure you must have heard parents use those important dates to show that their kid is developing well and mastering these all important skills in life.

One fine day a lightbulb went off somewhere and a (genius) man said "lets make toys that will help kids learn those skills while they are playing". Since then educational toys have been among the top selling products for kids pretty much world wide. They have helped our kids learn to read sooner, recognise colours, shapes, letter, numbers … And how many geniuses of today turned out to be so smart because of educational toys? Could it be that half the country is walking with iPhones in their pockets because Steve Jobs had Rubik Cube as kid or maybe we were all glued to our TVs watching Steve Irwin explore the wildlife because he had that animal puzzle? Who knows but multiple studies have now shown that educational toys greatly assist our development as kids.

Not to say that the Rubik Cubes are a thing of the past, but lets face it, we are living in a digital world and our kids are getting better with technology than we ever were. In the light of that, toy manufacturers started producing digital devices that will help our kids learn. LeapFrog (funny name for a serious company) probably took it further than anyone. Last year they released their Leapster Explorer that helps kids learn to read, write, count and much more, and most importantly all of it is done in a form of a game to ensure our little ones continue to be entertained throughout the process.

This year they sort of took it to the whole new level with their new creation - LeapPad Explorer. It is quite literally an iPad for kids. It is a tablet device with a touch screen that also has a built in camera, accelerometer (my new word for this week), speakers and changeable cartridges. The amount of stuff you can do with it is ridiculous. There are now hundreds of educational toys for it to guarantee you little one doesn't get bored. The camera comes with a photo studio that lets you edit photos. It also serves as an electronic book reader. It comes in two colours - green and pink and also has a case that you can buy.

Most toy retailers have already put it on their "Top List" for this Christmas and with only 20,000 units entering Australia it seems that they might sell out before the tree "goes up".


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