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DVD Review: LeapFrog: Learning DVD Set

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As a family who owns quite a few educational DVDs I can attest to the fact that what LeapFrog is doing with their learning movies is both innovative and effective. Rather than focusing on repetitive drills, or straightforward simplistic presentation of facts accompanied by musical accompaniment, each of the DVDs included in the LeapFrog: Learning DVD Set integrates simple phonics and math principles into an engaging, and entertaining storyline. As a result, our children ask for the LeapFrog DVDs more often than they do any other educational offering we have available on disc.

The LeapFrog: Learning DVD Set incorporates three of LeapFrog’s best titles for preschoolers and provides a comprehensive introduction to the basic preschool/kindergarten skills of letter recognition (short consonant and vowel sounds), basic blending, counting, and animal group recognition.

LeapFrog: Let’s Go to School provides a typical storyline for allaying the fears of children on the cusp of attending a public school (of course, not all children will attend a public school). In a dream-like sequence Tad and Lilly discover that the school equipment is just as nervous about the incoming class as they are about attending. The blocks teach some basic counting skills, the alphabet book quickly goes through letter sounds, the calendar introduces time-telling concepts, the animal figurines teach about sorting and animal families, and so on. Because of the brief introductions given to each topic, this general overview is the weakest educationally of the set. Five sing-along songs and an interactive alphabet book are provided as additional reinforcing bonus features on the DVD.

However, LeapFrog: Letter Factory and LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory more than make up for the lack of depth by focusing in on introductory phonics and blending in DVDs of approximately 35 minutes each. In the first DVD Leap, Lily, and Tad need to go to their father’s Letter Factory where they produce talking letters. While Leap and Lily provide a presentation for a very important customer, Tad is left out due to his lack of reading skills. Taken for a tour through the factory, he visits rooms, each dedicated to a letter of the alphabet. The colorful, animated letters are engaged in activities that embody their sound.

The A’s scream, “Aaaaaah!” when frightened. The E’s are hard of hearing and ask, “Ehhhh?” whenever someone speaks to them. The M’s proclaim “Mmmmm!” as they devour delicious muffins. The set also includes a full set of alphabet flashcards that depict the lively letters in poses, settings, and costumes that represent their sounds on one side, and directions to parents on how to use the cards to teach their children on the other with a simpler representation of the letter.

In LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory Leap, Lily, and Tad are recruited to make more talking words for the very popular talking dictionaries, and to assist Tad in the filling out of a contest application for his father. Various fun machines make vowels sticky, wham words together, and more. Rhyming songs and a fun plot add to the appeal of this title. This is my six-year-old’s favorite of the three – she loves the neat word machines and inventions. Both Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory include a simple, interactive learning game as educational reinforcement.

Created with children from ages two through six in mind, I was somewhat skeptical about the set’s ability to reach younger children. However, the animated, cartoon-style adventures of Leap, Lily, and Tad have not only made her a fan, they’ve also been teaching her the building blocks of phonics! My six-year-old already has a firm understanding of the concepts presented in the set, but she has also really enjoyed the discs for the story alone, and reinforcement has never hurt anyone!

Our children are limited to bringing along one or two DVDs when we travel to visit relatives, and they often ask to bring their LeapFrog movies with them. Only a day or two after watching LeapFrog: Letter Factory, my three year old made an ‘s’ with her wikki sticks and proudly hissed ‘Sssss, this letter says ssss, Mommy!” Right on.

The LeapFrog: Learning DVD Set is an excellent first step into learning for preschool-aged children. If your little ones haven’t had any exposure yet the building blocks of phonics and blending, I can’t recommend this set enough. The associations are fun, lively, and easier to remember in the context of a story-based plot than they are through rote memorization alone. Above all, it’s fun, bright, and engaging – everything a small child could ask for with all the educational value parents’ love.

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About Jennifer Bogart