5 - 7 Years
This electronic writing desk teaches kids the alphabet, letter sounds, letter formation, spelling, and word creation in a fun, interactive format. Kids can choose from six games: letters, a letters quiz, phonics, a phonics quiz, spelling, and "create-a-word." In the letters game, children push a letter to hear its name and see how it is formed on the LCD screen; players can also write their own letters on the "magic" writing screen. In the spelling game, children learn to spell simple words.
Buy Phonics Writing Desk by LeapFrog
In the phonics game, children first hear a letter and then are given a short word as an example. Along the way, the always-helpful LeapFrog "coach" offers lots of cheerful hints so children won't get stuck in any of the exercises. Additional features include an automatic shut-off, an oversize pullout handle, a variety of comical sounds for incorrect answers, and a two-position volume control. --Tami Horiuchi
This laptop-sized desk emphasizes writing skills, but it is also an effective phonics tool. Children can learn letter recognition and identification tasks, phoneme identification and recognition tasks through an introduction to short vowel sounds embedded in three-letter words. Many electronic games have poor sound quality, making auditory letter discrimination difficult, but the sound in this system is crisp, clear, and full of repetition and inflection. The writing exercises are short, simple, and fun. The child composes the lines and circles that form letters using an appropriately sized plastic "pen," which helps improve fine motor skills and builds self-confidence. The computerized writing style offered may not be the style taught in school, but it provides a foundation for future learning. Left-handed students may find the position of the cord-anchored pen cumbersome. This is one of the few hands-on phonics tools that includes both lowercase and uppercase letters in its repertoire. Identifying lowercase letters is an essential part of learning to read, as most text is printed with lowercase letters. --Kathryn Tracy. A certified teacher, Kathryn Tracy holds a BA in French Education and an MS in Speech and Hearing Sciences.