Just in time for the new school year, the LeapsterGS arrived at our door. My kids "ooohed" and "aaaahed" when we opened the package, because the LeapsterGS looks and feels sleek. It has a large screen, 2 GB of internal memory, built-in motion sensor, microphone, camera, and video recorder. No more having to borrow Mom's iPhone to take pictures. Yay! Another cool and practical design feature is the built-in stylus that stows into the device.
Technological bells and whistles are great, but that's not what impresses me. I'm more interested in the educational component, of course! Kids can work on skills in reading, writing, math, science, and vocabulary. A content library organized by subject features hundreds of games, apps, e-books, music, videos, and more.
The question is: Does the LeapsterGS strike a good balance between education and entertainment? Too little education and parents won't be happy, too much education and kids will get bored. My kids (11,9,6) and I (a Mom/educator) ALL tested the LeapsterGS to share our range of persperctives. Here's what we each had to say:
"I like the "Monkey Soccer" game , because I move my players to score goals. I like getting new players when I answer the math questions".
""Pet pad" is my favourite game, because I like feeding the pet when he gets hungry. Practicing writing letters is fun with the stylus. I really like "Kat's Matherrific Magic Show," because I get to move the whole thing and do a lot of jumping up and down actions."
"I like having the e-books, such as "Brave." I think "Escape of the Sillies" is cute, because I can put a picture of myself and record my voice to become a monster."
"I like that Leapster GS remembers each child's progress, so content adjusts as kids learn. Core skills covered in math, reading, science, music, and writing are definitely useful for school and beyond. I especially like that I could browse with my kids in the content library, and not worry they would pick something mindless. All the apps have a meaningful educational component."
As you can see, the LeapsterGS strikes a great balance between education and entertainment. My kids were engaged in learning, but barely noticed while they were having action-packed fun. As a parent who is not a big fan of screen time, I had my reservations about the ability of a gaming device to deliver educational value. I was surprised by how much my kids were learning through the apps.
The LeapsterGS is sold at $89.99 and is recommended for children 4 to 9 years (although my 11 year old enjoyed parts of it too!) It comes with free content: "Escape of the Sillies" game app (customizing monster faces and math practice), the "Pet Pad" writing app, and a choice of one popular game app.
Downloads are priced at $5 and game cartridges at $29.99.
Here's your chance to win one of these educational toys for your family! We're giving away a LeapsterGS to two lucky YMC members!
All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell us why you want to win a LeapsterGS!
You have until October 19, 2012 to enter. You must be a YMC member and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win.
You've probably heard that creative activities are good for your child's brain development and self-esteem. You may be interested to know that creativity will also play an important role in your child's future career, whether in business, the sciences, or the arts. Employers of the 21st century are looking for creative thinkers: People who see multiple solutions to challenges, and who can present material in an engaging manner. With all these present and future benefits in mind, how can you encourage creativity in your children?
Engaging in creative learning activities with your kids is a good way to get started. "Creative IQ: Giving Young Learners the Creative Edge in a Competitive World" shows you over 100 fun activities you can do with your kids to develop creative thinking. Activities involve art, music, drama, creative movement, cooking, science, mathematics and fitness - all contained within ten themes.
Hands-down my favourite theme is "Chocolotta...hard to resist." Using your five senses (YUM!), you consider or evaluate chocolate, and market it as a product. Of course, there's also the eating part! My kids also loved inventing their own restaurant as a way of practicing math skills.
Your kids will problem solve, visualize, collaborate, present, and think in ways that are not typically presented at school. If you want to learn, have fun, and develop your child's "Creative IQ" —from "fruitastic fun" to "winter wonderland" - there are plenty of activities worth doing together.
"Creative IQ" includes colourful photographs, clear explanations of learning goals, and a skill index.
(Authors: Schneeweiss and Sefton. $24.95, available at amazon.ca)
Here's the news story that instigated my little rant. Sorry.
In June 2012, nearly 100 students from New York's top public high school took part in a so-called "Slutty Wednesday" protest. Dressed in body-baring outfits, boys and girls denounced their school's "conservative" dress-code. Guidelines of this controversial dress-code include:
Shoulders, undergarments, midriffs and lower backs should not be exposed.
The length of shorts, dresses and skirts should extend below the fingertips with the arms straight at your side.
Clothing with images or words deemed inappropriate is prohibited.
I get the protesters: No teenager ever wants to be told what to wear. (Maybe the "below-the-fingertips" rule is a little too strict?) I get the administration: It's hard to establish a sense of decorum when students come to school with their undergarments showing.
What I DON'T get is why some parents are fine with their kids going to go to school dressed like they're going to a bar. Let me qualify that: Thongs and boxers in full view, skin-tight mini skirts, midriffs exposed. Since it's no longer a given that kids shouldn't go to school dressed this way, teachers have to waste time enforcing dress codes. This annoys me.
It used to be that transmitting society's unwritten rules about "what not to wear" was the domain of parents. Rules were common sense like, "What's appropriate wear for lounging around the house is not appropriate wear for dinner at a nice restaurant. "I'm pretty sure my Mom wouldn't have let me go to school wearing a T-shirt that says, "Future Trophy Wife."
What kids put on in the morning should not be a "school problem." This is not about whether clothing affects learning. This is about what to wear, what not to wear, and when to wear what!
This is not about parents taking the fun out of fashion, or inhibiting self-expression. (Go crazy with colours, patterns, and textures!) It's about parents teaching kids the lines between personal style, trends, and appropriate wear.
Most adults inherently understand that undergarments peeking out in the workplace is a faux-pas. Why, then, should this be acceptable wear for school? Unless some parents think that school doesn't deserve the same respect as the workplace. And THAT'S a problem.
What do you think? Is trying to control what your kids wear to school even worth the parent-kid battle? Does it even matter any more?