Leapfrog Tag is the latest and most ingenious in a line of popular educational toys for children that help with reading and comprehension.
The electronic pen can "read" specially-printed interactive books and quiz children by sensing where on the page the pen is being pointed. It does this by scanning patterns of tiny dots printed all over each page.
This does away with the need for the large, plastic, touch-sensitive book holders used by earlier LeapPad systems, making Leapfrog Tag more portable and environmentally friendly.
The pen comes with one book suitable for 4 to 8 year-olds pre-loaded, Ozzie and Mack, but the data for additional books - sold separately - needs to be downloaded from a website via a USB cable.
The pens can also upload data on a child's performance to a computer, giving anxious parents something extra to fret over, or smug parents something to boast about.
The whole philosophy behind LeapFrog has come in for some stick from people concerned that parents may use such gadgets as an alternative to sitting down and reading together with their child.
But the evidence points to them being used as an occasional diversion. Leapfrog has sold 30 million consoles and 72 million interactive books since the debut of its first LeapPad in 1999.
A bigger concern is that the low ratio between console and book sales suggests parents rarely buy books, other than the ones the consoles are supplied with.
There are 13 books available for Leapfrog Tag at the moment, but according to the company's website these may not be available in all markets.
Leapfrog Tag is a clever device and Australia's "Toy of the Year", but it would be easier to recommend it more strongly if a wider range of interactive books was better-stocked in shops, public libraries and toy libraries.
- © Fairfax NZ News