Last year we got Porter a “My First LeapPad,” which is a learning device from Leap Frog, a company that specializes in educational toys. It looks like this:
You play by using the red electronic pen that’s attached and press spots on the page like a touch screen. By pressing a green button marked “Go” it tells the device what page you’re on so it knows what to say and what you can do there. On each page you can touch objects to help you learn something about them or play a game of some kind that helps with identifying objects, learning relationships, etcetera. The spiral notebook is detachable and there are a number of different ones available, with a computer cartridge that you stick into the side of the blue handheld case, sort of like the old Atari 2600 cartridges (though much smaller). In that way, the things you can do with the LeapPad are limited only by the available cartridges. In addition to the four that came with it, we also got Porter a Wiggles and Thomas the Tank Engine cartridge. So far the Thomas one is his favorite, not surprisingly.
The problem with the LeapPad has been one of repetition and not quite getting how to use it. When we first got it for him, which was more than a year ago, he’d page through the spiral book touching things randomly. About as far as we got with him was to push the green button but he couldn’t seem to listen to the instruction for each page. His patience was too thin and he wasn’t able to absorb anything. So we put it away. From time to time in the intervening months, he’d ask to pull it down again and he’d play with it for a short period of time ranging from a few minutes to off and on over a couple of days. Each time he’d seem to make a little progress. He’d show slightly more patience with it or he’d figure out how to do a little bit more with it, but he’d always hit a wall. And when he hit the wall, he’d just start doing the same thing over and over and over again. He’d obsess on one page and press the same button or buttons repetitively until we’d take it from him and put it away again. And that’s how it went every time.
Yesterday he again asked to play with it. And again he did a little better with it this time. In fact, time he managed to even play one of the games and listened through it well enough to complete a few of the tasks the game asked of him. He showed more patience with it overall and seemed to have a little better grasp of how to play with it. He even tried the Wiggles cartridge, but it didn’t last long and we returned to the Thomas one. Eventually, he did hit a wall where he became fixated on the page with Thomas, James and Percy and some cans of paint. But it never got to the point where we had to put it away, which is a good sign, and it’s still out so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
Porter with the electronic pen, trying to decide which button to push.
Playing with his LeapPad.
Pressing the “Play a Game” button.