What you need to know Read less, play more
Wearable technology for kids is all the rage at the moment, and the LeapFrog LeapBand provides a great opportunity to get children active while engaging them with technology. It's never going to replace their Wii-U, Nintendo DS or Xbox One, but it gives parents a solid chance to promote a healthier alternative that can be still be seen as cool with the physical challenges and fun games the LeapBand supplies.
Chunky active fun in the shape of the LeapFrog LeapBand
LeapFrog LeapBand Review
You'll have heard about the obesity problem amongst our youngsters, and probably witnessed it first hand - kids these days seem to be allergic to physical activity, glued instead to mobile phones or gaming devices, or to the sofa and the latest incarnation of FIFA on Playstation, Wii or Xbox. There's plenty of hand-wringing about how to reverse this worrying trend, and while the LeapFrog LeapBand doesn't pretend to be a panacea, it does provide parents with the opportunity to engage younger children in physical activity that's driven by cool technology.
In simple terms the LeapBand is a watch-like electronic device that tracks children's activity with the goal of improving their fitness and health, at the same time as them having a load of fun. It's a bit like Tamagotchi meets Boot Camp Fitness, without the military angle.
The LeapBand generates interest wherever it's seen!
How it works
Using similar motion tracking technology as more expensive adult activity trackers (basically an accelerometer, see below), the LeapBand measures a child's activity whenever they are wearing it.
They can follow their activity progress on the energy bar that moves around the LeapBand screen. Every jump, wiggle, run, and dance earns points to unlock fun new rewards. Designed just for kids, the controls are easy to use and intuitive. Animated graphics and audio challenges add fun and encouragement for kids.
The LeapBand features a pet pal (Tamagotchi), interactive games, and daily challenges. In active play mode, the band might ask your child to do tasks such as "leap like a frog" or "swim like a fish with a wish." For each challenge, the child earns points and the energy bar charting their progress extends a little bit more.
Bright colour screen, easy to use interface, engaging activities
There are 10 pre-loaded games, with another 40 waiting to be unlocked by moving up the levels of gameplay.â
LeapBand design & technology
The LeapBand has a 1.44 inch colour LCD display, compared to the more minimal, cool adult activity trackers, and is available in Green, Blue and Pink. It's not overly childish - even the eldest of the target ages of 4-7 years won't be embarrassed to be seen wearing and using one, and it will most likely appeal to slughtly older children too.
To our eye it is on the chunky side, but every child we've tested it with thought it was cool - there's no point trying to second guess what meets that standard, remember those ridiculous trousers that had the crotch around the knees?!
The LeapBand is well-constructed and tough enough to cope with the everyday challenges kids will put it through - it has shatter-proof glass and is waterproof to a shallow depth, although it probably won't benefit from a trip to the local swimming pool, or being worn in the bath.
The LeapBand is easy to setup, and kids get to grips with it in no time
It has a built-in rechargeable lithium battery, and a full charge will last 3-4 days depending on usage. It's recharged via a standard USB cable which you can connect to a PC or a dedicated charger plug. If used with the School Mode and Night Mode, which restrict usage to two set periods each 24 hours, the quoted battery life is easily achieved. For continuous and long day weekend usage we found it needed charging every day.
The LeapBand has no GPS receiver and no touch screen, but it does feature an accelerometer to measure how much the wearer is moving.
Parental controls provide a means of reducing the chances of the device distracting a child from other activities like school and homework, primarily through the School and Night Mode settings. These allow you to define two periods per day when the device is inaccessible, and when it functions as a watch and stopwatch only. You can set these times using the Leapfrog Connect app via your computer.
Petathlon Games app
The LeapFrog Petathlon Games app expands the play of LeapFrog's LeapBand. Kids earn points for being active with LeapBand, which can be used in six events in the app.
Customised digital pets like dragons, unicorns, penguins, and more compete in fun-filled competitions to win medals and pet accessories that sync back to LeapBand. The mode also provides learning opportunities related to staying active and being healthy while they play.
The LeapBand is a great device that will benefit most kids and parents. Even treated as a first watch and stopwatch with additional features it's good value, with an RRP of £29.99, but it really comes into its own when encouraging active play, and hooking into the competitive spirit most children have.
It's not going to solve problems of inactivity single-handed, but it is an excellent addition to the strategies available to parents to get children more active. If you've got a child aged 4-10 who likes technology, is likely to enjoy a virtual pet, and needs to get (or is already) active, the LeapFrog LeapBand is an ideal gift.