April 30, 2014 -- Kids now have a fitness band to call their own. LeapFrog, creator of tablets and interactive learning toys for children, unveiled the LeapBand activity tracker at an event in New York City tonight. The device seizes on the popularity of similar activity trackers for adults, including FitBit and Jawbone Up. These wearable technologies typically keep track of steps taken, calories burned and even hours of sleep acquired.
In a statement, Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos, manager of LeapFrog’s Learning Team said, “We understand that raising a confident child not only includes making sure they are versed on the ABCs and 123s, but also have the tools to establish healthy habits and stay active.” Ten different activity challenges come pre-loaded on the LeapBand and there is access to an additional forty, via download. Kids are encouraged to, “Walk like a crab” or “Pop like popcorn,” and their activity earns them points, which in turn unlocks eight customizable virtual “pets” like a panda or penguin. Additionally, mini-games let kids earn virtual toys for their pets.
The launch of LeapBand seems timely, in light of first lady Michelle Obama’s public efforts to combat and raise awareness of childhood obesity. Despite this, my initial impression was that kids 4 – 7 years old (the recommended age for LeapBand users) were already pretty active at this stage in their lives. Did they really need another pricey gadget to boost their seemingly boundless energy?
Turns out they might. “Once kids are in school, they’re not as active as we think they are,” said Diane Debrovner, deputy editor at Parents magazine. “They spend a lot of time sitting in school . . . I think it will be surprising for parents to find out how inactive their children are [during] a lot of the day.”
Given the increasing number of children who interact with mobile devices these days, Debrovner did express concern on the introduction of yet another potentially distracting screen. “It’s strapping a screen onto your child’s wrist 24/7 . . . it does make the concept of limiting screen time a little more complicated for parents.”
LeapFrog attempts to address this concern with parental controls to designate “School Time”, “Night Time“, and “Quiet Time” modes that lock the game and pet play.
It’s too early to tell whether kids will take to the LeapBand, since it won’t be available in stores until the fall, but if there’s a takeaway from the trend of adult fitness trackers, it’s that a little healthy competition never hurt anyone. “It game-fies fitness and it makes being active more fun, and gives kids the types of points and rewards for being active that they’re used to getting from playing their favorite game on the iPad,” noted Debrovner.
The LeapBand measures 2.3 by 1.6 inches with a thickness of 1.9 inches, and comes in green, pink and blue. It has a built-in accelerometer, 1.44-inch color screen, external speaker and rechargeable battery. A companion app with mini-games is available for iOS and Android devices, as well as LeapFrog’s LeapPad Ultra tablet. The LeapBand will retail for $40.