Monday, October 20, 2008

The Leapfrog Party. Or, how I lost my purse and still made out like a bandit

Being a blogger has its perks, but I've never been as blown away by corporate generosity and thoughtfulness as I was yesterday at the Leapfrog party hosted for Chicago Moms Blog contributors.

To crib from the Passover seder, had they invited our kids over to run riot in a KinderCare indoor playground but not painted faces, that would have been enough.

If they'd painted faces, but not hired a caricature artist to draw their faces, that would have been enough.

If they had hired a caricature artist but not served us pizza and salads, brought in developmental experts to talk with us about choosing toys for our kids, let us schmooze with our bloggy friends and interact with all of their electronic playthings, that would have been enough.

But we got all that an an armful of toys to take home! Z added two new books to her Tag Reader collection and our beloved Fridge Farm now has neighbors, the FridgeTalk Wordplay Recorder and the FridgePhonics Magnetic Set (which we had borrowed from a neighbor years ago but had to return). Plus, Z asked one of the representatives from Leapfrog to send her a pink Leapster2, the Gameboy-like handheld you see her playing with in the photo.

Yes, that's my child using a stylus. And I don't mind. You see, there was some spirited discussion among the moms about the appropriateness of electronic learning toys. In general, the moms of younger kids fell into the "all wood, Montessori or Waldorf for my child" camp and the moms of older kids threw up their arms and said they'd surrendered to the computer, the Internet and the Wii long ago. Resistance is futile; particularly when you kids reach school age.

I'd like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. Z gets heavy does of hands-on, all-natural learning at her very traditional Montessori school, but as long as she's reading real books, drawing her own pictures and acting out her rich imaginary life with dolls and cardboard boxes, I'm happy to mix things up a bit with an interactive toy that reinforces her critical thinking and phonics skillss. Unlike the Vtech video game system that I dissed for throwing a letter-match challenge over a driving game, the Leapfrog products don't use "educational" as window dressing to make mom feel better about buying her kid a video game. They seem genuinely designed to keep small minds challenged and engaged. And if you don't believe me, check out the online Learning Path, where parents can see how often their kids are playing with toys like the Leapster and Tag reader and how well they're doing on the interactive games and quizzes.

So it was a great party. We had fun and scored toys. But somehow I managed to leave with two kids, two coats, my backpack, my cell phone, my car keys, the Ergo carrier and an armful of
free toys. Leaving behind my purse. Yes, again.

Fortunately one of the lovely ladies from Leapfrog drove my purse to my house (!!!), thrilling Z, who thought she'd come to deliver her Leapster.

If you're in the market for a Leapfrog toy, save $10 on a Leapster 2 or Didj orders of $50 or more. Use code HY8BHPR at the checkout before 11/15/2008.