Remember Tamagotchi and Nano pets from back in the day? Yes, I was part of this illustrious era. Kids used to walk around caring for their virtual pet to the point of distraction, and even banishment from schools. Some were so deeply entrenched in the digital-petscape that they would swagger from class to class with a carabiner straining their belt loop, bulging with their menagerie of digi-pets and attesting to their general awesomeness.
Well, LeapFrog’s new LeapBand brings this love to a new generation, taking kids’ fascination with digital pets and using it as a force for good. They combine the digital pet idea with an activity tracker and games that encourage active play. The kids wear it like a watch and get to feed their pet, wash their pet, and most fun of all, play—like, actually play—with their pet.
The LeapBand is loaded with silly little challenges that the kids enjoy with their pet to earn Joules, which they collect in their treasure chest. The more Joules they earn, the higher the level they achieve and the more activities and pets they can unlock.
Around fifty activities are available and they range from rolling like a log, to wiggling like a worm or stomping like an elephant. On the first day we had the LeapBand I quirked my eyebrows when I saw my four year old randomly get up off the couch and start jumping like crazy before sitting back down, and then he repeated the process except this time did something strange on his hands and knees. It took me a minute to recognize these oddities for what they were; he was playing with his pet and earning Joules. How adorable is that?
Besides being able to care for and play with a pet, the watch has a couple other useful functions. First it shows the time, and when the kids push the star button it will tell them, audibly, what the time is. Second it has a stop watch. Everything is more exciting for my kids when they are being timed. They like to time how long it takes to run from one end of the house, up the stairs, and back again, or how long they can stay up in a hand stand, or even how fast they can sprint a lap around the couches (which is what Brax happens to be doing as I write this).
The other good thing is that you can lock the games on the LeapBand so that only the time will show during hours that you don’t want them playing on it, i.e. school or sleep time, but the LeapBand still records your kids’ activity and they’ll continue earning Jourles during locked time.
Now, for the parental side of things: As a mom, at first I was a little concerned about strapping an activity tracker on my kids. I’ve heard terrible stories about kids learning the unhealthy tendency to obsess about body shape or weight by observing the same traits in their parents. I was afraid we might be toeing that line. I don’t want my kids to really even be aware of their body shape at the moment. I just want them to be active and eat healthy and let their naturally active lifestyle keep their body in shape.
After having the LeapBand for a little while now, my fears on that account have been laid to rest. The kids love the watch and enjoy playing with it and enjoy seeing how many Joules they’ve earned for their treasure chest. I’ve even noticed an increase in their activity levels just from the kick they get out of doing activities with their pets and timing themselves in random races.
Independent of the kids’ use, parents can sync the watch to the computer to see how active the kids are on which days. As a mom this information helps me to pinpoint days that I should limit TV watching a little more (Sunday and Monday, by the looks of it. J/k she wasn’t wearing the LeapBand those days), or figure out ways to get the kids some more active play. My official opinion is that the LeapBand does a good job of balancing health awareness and promoting activity for kids without crossing the line into unhealthy fixation, while providing parents with valuable information to help their kids be healthy as well as a tool to get them more active.
*While LeapFrog provided me with a free LeapBand, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions stated above are my own.
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