As the parent of a child getting ready for kindergarten, I am always on the lookout for new educational materials. One of the best sources of educational tools is LeapFrog. They've been producing a variety of read-along-style and game products (such as their LeapPad and Leapster products) for a number of years and we've always been quite satisfied.
So when this series of DVDs from LeapFrog was announced, I knew we'd have to check it out. Originally released in 2003, LeapFrog Letter Factory is one of the DVDs being re-released this year in preparation for some new titles being released in the Fall as part of the collaboration between LeapFrog and Lionsgate. Letter Factory walks viewers through the alphabet with a colorful, engaging, musical tour. The 35-minute feature not only teaches the letters and what sounds they make, but reinforces that information regularly throughout the program to allow the child to build on that knowledge.
Leap and Lily are the well-known older siblings in LeapFrog products and Tad is just a little frog who doesn't know his letters yet. He's enthusiastic, but tends to get in the way when he tries to help the family with the big presentation they're giving at the Letter Factory. When his brother and sister get wrapped up in the preparations, Tad wanders off into the factory and eventually bumps into Professor Quigley. With the wacky Professor, Tad works his way through every letter in the alphabet, learning what each sound they make as they train to be part of a talking alphabet book.
My four-year-old was entranced by the story and enjoyed singing along with Tad and the Professor. Tad flew with the F's, jumped with the J's, and kicked with the K's. My favorite was the X's x-raying. Each letter had a creative little process to go along with it, from the A's screaming in fright to the Z's taking a nap.
The feature used simple, crisp, 2D animation to explore the Letter Factory with Leap, Lily, and Tad. I found the style very similar to Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, which we've seen in book, video, and computer game formats. However, LeapFrog updated the images, which made it more current than the classic Dr. Seuss material (including a hip-hop act and a bunch of letters swinging like Tarzan).
In addition to the main feature, there is a learning game where you receive a clue and use the DVD remote arrows to pick the letter that matches. Though it was fun to play through once for a few minutes, I can see my daughter getting bored with it quite quickly.
Also in this series of DVDs is LeapFrog Talking Words Factory which builds on the Letter Factory. New DVDs are heading to retail stores sometime in Fall 2009.
If you're looking for a fun way for a child to work on their ABC's, LeapFrog's Letter Factory would be a great addition to your video arsenal. For more information on other LeapFrog products, check out the LeapFrog website.