Those of you who’ve been hanging around here for a while know I’m a fan of Leapfrog toys. My kids have enjoyed them starting when they were babies (LeapStart Learning Table) and the love affair has continued (LeapPad, Leapster, and the LeapFrog Explorer Globe which — I kid you not — got our son fascinated with the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben and ultimately inspired our family trip to London and Paris two summers ago). As mainstream learning toys go, I think their quality and features are tops.
Leapfrog has made a bold move into learning “toys/tools” for older kids with the FLY Pentop Computer, which they recently sent me for review. This “smart” hybrid-pen (it’s an actual pen that can, you know, write on actual, you know, paper) has a built-in computer that knows what its user is writing. Freaky twist on handwriting recognition, eh? Special FLY paper and stickers have tiny micro-sensors that track the pen’s movements or activate a sound.
The applications are fascinating: the FLY can be used as a PDA (with a built-in scheduler and calculator), a homework helper, a toy, and so much more. It’s almost overwhelming to consider everything one can do with a FLY…in a good way. Of course, buying the associated programs and games will set you back plenty, so this is more of an investment (think computer + software) than a one-off amusement. But for older kids, it’s one worth looking into.