You may or may not know that earlier this summer, I started running. For my birthday, Mr. B. bought me a GPS running watch. After that, both girls wanted to join me running... so far I've managed to avoid it because I think they may slow me down while I'm trying to learn to run but eventually I'd love it if my two girls were to join me on my runs. Then the LeapFrog LeapBand came into our lives and suddenly Lara felt all grown up with her own activity tracking watch - just like Mummy's!!!
The LeapBand is the latest gadget from our friends at LeapFrog and it has a really different slant on things - in the past, most of our favourite LeapFrog kids tech has been designed to encourage learning but the LeapBand is designed to encourage fitness and activity through a virtual pet game. I think it is a fabulous idea.
Physical activity and sport doesn't feature awfully highly in the priorities at Lara's school (although there are lots of other good things they do well!) and, until recently, I wouldn't have said that physical activity featured much in our home life either so I was really excited to be able to offer Lara the LeapBand as a way of inspiring her to get up and get active throughout the day. I know from my own GPS watch that the little prompts to move throughout the day make me take a short walk around the office, or sometimes even longer.
The LeapBand was launched earlier this month by star athletes Greg Rutherford and Beth Tweddle who really wanted to stress the fun element of the LeapBand. As with all Leapfrog products, the LeapBand is designed to use fun to create that little spark to make your child want to go and do more and find out more. Maybe that two minute jumping up and down activity in your living room could be that spark which leads your child to be an Olympic gymnast or athlete?
The LeapBand comes with a number of activities pre-loaded but, when you connect it to your computer (using the downloadable Leapfrog connect software) you can upload more onto it. I've configured Lara's to have all of the 50 available activites to make sure she gets a lot of variety. Some of the activities are challenges such as "jump up high and clap your hands 5 times" and others ask them to act like a different animal such as "wiggle like a caterpillar" there are lots of imaginative role play ideas too such as pretending to pick flowers or pretend to swim. I had expected a few more traditional sporting activities for older children (the LeapBand is recomended for children aged 4 to 7 years old) because actually it is Holly, my youngest, who seems most taken by these role play challenges.
On the age recommendation, I think the LeapBand could be tricky for an older child to wear. Lara is a very tall and well-built 5 year old and she finds the firm, semi-flexible strap on the LeapBand to be too tight and inflexible for her to wear comfortably, even on the widest setting. It fits a lot better on her younger sister (2).
The thing that really keeps Lara interested in the LeapBand is the pets. The colour-screen on the LeapBand displays your currently selected pet. The more "joules" your child earns through physical play, the more pets they unlock. The default pet is a colourful unicorn but so far Lara has unlocked two more pets. These pets also feature in the matching Petathlon games app which you can download if you child also has access to a tablet or smartphone - the game is available on iOS, Android and on the LeapPad.
Petathlon Games is a good quality, free app with fun games featuring the pets, all with a sporting theme. Finding out about the game has inspired Lara to want to unlock more pets through more challenges - exactly what the LeapBand was designed for!!!
My favourite feature on the LeapBand is the ability for me to configure quiet times when Lara shouldn't be using her gadget. You can set times of day and days of week when restrictions should be applied and during this time, if your child tries to play, all they see is the watch face displayed. Last week we took the LeapBand on holiday with us and I was stressed that it always kept showing the watch face... it was only later that I realised I'd configured it so that Lara can't use it during school hours during the week!!!
The LeapBand costs around £29.99 (which I think is good value) and comes in a range of different colours. You charge it via USB through your laptop or USB charger.