Mary Altaffer/AP
Rowe Eis, 4, holds a LeapFrog learning

LeapFrog Creates a BlackBerry Toy for Kids

February 05, 2009 01:28 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Children’s electronics maker LeapFrog has created an educational device similar to a BlackBerry called the Text & Learn for young children.

Text & Learn

With its LCD screen, complete QWERTY keyboard and built-in calendar, the Text & Learn is meant to help youngsters learn the months of the year, spelling and basic computer skills.

There’s a puppy “guide” children can talk to with Text & Learn’s version of text messaging, and also a mock Web browser for kids to explore, according to U.K. paper The Daily Telegraph.

LeapFrog says its product will help parents expose their kids to technology without putting them in the way of potential online dangers. The Text & Learn will be released in the United States this summer and cost about $25.
“Whether it’s keys, a cell phone or jewelry, we all know that toddlers love to play with anything shiny they see their parents using,” writes Orlando Sentinel blogger Etan Horowitz. “And with lots of parents owning BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smartphones, there are probably lots of people out there who have to wrest their BlackBerry away from their toddler.”

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Opinion: High-tech kids and the value of educational toys

On Momlogic, blogger Dani Klein said she once read an article about when to expose children to technology like cell phones and iPods. After reading about a 4-year-old who “has been on the Web since he could sit up” and a 6-year-old who had an iPod and wanted his own cell phone, Klein said she wondered, “Who are these people who think giving an iPod to a 6-year-old is a sound idea? The last thing I want to do is encourage my child to stick something in his ears to block out the world. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think a child should be able to tune out the sounds of real life by plugging pods into his ears with music to score his life.”

“Any parent with a child between the ages of 3 and 11 can tell you: technology has crept into nearly all aspects of playtime, nearly every type of toy,” according to Newsweek. In 2008, companies at the Consumer Electronics Show gathered for the first annual “Sandbox Summit” to determine how children as young as 3 play with technology, and what they may want when they’re older.

Parents’ Choice Foundation, the group that helped coordinate the Summit, said it wanted to see more thought put into kids’ technology-based toys. “We see how play and technology are merging,” Claire Green explained to Newsweek. At the event, Carly Shuler of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop reported on a study indicating that most toymakers don’t use much research to determine how to make a product that suits kids’ educational needs.

In an article by ABC News, Terry Fitzpatrick, executive vice president of distribution at Sesame Workshop, said, “With cell phones, iPods and portable DVD players our children are engaging with media more than ever. —Now is a good time to step back and take a look at where we're going.”

Key Player: LeapFrog

LeapFrog was founded in 1995 by Michael Wood, who decided to start an educational toy company after finding that there were no products available to help his child learn phonics. Since then, the company has built a reputation on creating educational toys for kids.

Reference: Toys, technology


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