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Looking for the Best Reading System for Our 2.5 Year Old

Hi Mamas! We are interested in buying our 2.5 year old son a reading system for Christmas. He has a wonderful vocabulary and his speech is very advanced for his age. I am a stay-at-home mom and I read to him every day through out the day and at bed time. He absolutely loves books and has memorized many of them. I was thinking about something like LeapFrog - My First LeapPad. Or LeapFrog TAG Junior Book Pal Reading System. We will of course continue to read to him, but we thought it would be fun for him to also have something such as the LeapFrog system. However, which one? What are the pros and cons? We would appreciate any information that you may want to share! Thanks so much!

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My children read early too. My husband and I just read to them every day and they both went to preschool. Instead of singing the alphabet try to search for a sound song. All you need to teach them are the sound and Bob Books at the book store.


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the best thing to do is just keep reading real books to him. he'll get enough boring phonics stuff when he hits school. if you have time with him, and you want to switch it up a bit, have him dictate stories to you and illustrate them. he can write his own books! a machine or robot won't do much in the long run to stimulate your kid's imagination and creativity. they're better for babysitting, frankly. use your time with him to do v=creative projects; act out scenes from the books with costumes, think up different endings, and like i said, have him write his own books; this is the time for real, in depth literacy development to take root - don't think a talking book is going to teach him much - humans are better teachers, and real books are so much more interesting!

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I got Hooked on Phonics for my oldest son, and he could read by the time he was in Kindergarten, but in hindsight, now that he's 20, I would not do these reading systems with my kid.

There is such a thing as pushing too much too early, which can cause stress and take some (or all) of the joy out of learning. My son was bright and by all accounts advanced, so I thought pushing him early was a good thing. Focusing on their intelligence and forcing things early often backfires, causing a perfectionist complex and a lack of effort, and there is much research to that effect. Always focus on his effort, rather than his intelligence.

If your son loves books, and is doing great as is, why change things? Just keep reading books with him and sharing that wonderful time together. What greater way of igniting a love of reading than sharing a book with mommy! Beware of inadvertently squelching his love of books and taking the joy out of learning. One of my favorite quotes about learning is: "Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." Remember that as you seek to advance your son.

I found that all 3 of my kids pretty much became the people they were meant to be, following personality types and abilities that were there since birth, and it had nothing to do with how I tried to "direct" them. The less I tried to make them BE something (and I did less with each kid), the more successful they were. My youngest was practically ignored (I was tired)and he's never gotten below an A in school.

Oh if I could just go back with my oldest son and cuddle with him on my lap giggling and reading books, instead of drilling him over stupid phonics! How much more he might have excelled in school!

Listen to Tina K., below, and Reva, above. They are right on.

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The first question you need to answer about your child is if he likes and can hold attention long enough for an electronic toy for pre-reading skills. Honestly, I am in the education field, and there's nothing like getting a head start, since I see SO many way behind. Unfortunately, some of the kids behind are that way because they were either pushed too hard, or not enough. What you are doing now is wonderful. I see these videos of toddlers reading words on the screen from some super expensive "eduational" tool, but that is a hoax and obviously just memorization like your child and most children memorize their favorite books. Also, I started my child with LeapFrog as well, and as an educator, I can see it's a great system...for an emerging reader. However, my son did not enjoy this non-human interaction, and rarely ever used it. My daughter just played with it in an entertainment fashion, poking at the button repeatedly to get a broken record effect. This may all seem negative, but truly, the BEST reading system is what you are already doing. Parent and child interaction, reading a book together. Some books have small pictures where the words should be so your child can "read" the picture in your mid-sentence. Those are cool. They feel proud that they recognize the picture and are helping you read. The key there is that they are helping you, and are in control for something that is appropriate for children to control. Helping them happens all the time, but WOW now he's helping Mommy! Another idea is to have him tell you a story and you can type it up, make a book together, draw pictures for it, maybe cut out pictures if he is using safety scissors, etc. Get some puppets or make sock puppets and act out the scenes in the book. They love these things. These are the types of literacy activities that a toddler or young child would enjoy and benefit from. I hope this helps, and I know it was long, and if you read through this, whoohoo!

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We have an Alpha Bug and a Number Bug that the children in our daycare love to play with. They aren't 'reading systems' but do help the children learn their letters, numbers, colors and letter sounds. I also found a leap pad in a thrift store that our kids enjoy. The biggest help toward reading skills we've found though, is simply reading books to the child, taking walks and pointing out things as we go and listening to the child's responses in order to find their interests and work with that. Our little two year olds love to talk about the trains they see... the local commuter trains... and they count the cars. They recognize stop signs and other traffic signs along the way. We look at cars or other objects and talk about color, size, etc. When walking we also - in areas where it's safe to do so - let them run ahead a ways, giving them instructions to stop at certain landmarks we see, and they wait for us to catch up, then give them the next place they can run to. Poplular landmarks are lampposts, unique mailboxes, certain vehicles that may stand out, or the most popular in our neighborhood are the yellow pads with the bumps on them that are at each street corner. They know 'stop on the yellow' quite well now, and all I'm wondering is how we're going to explain that street lights mean 'stop on red' 'caution on yellow' after teaching them to stop on yellow. Children learn better with concrete things than with workpages or written material, so whatever you do decide to get for a reading program, do be sure to include these other things.

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I don't think you need to buy electronics to help a toddler read. The best thing, like the other moms have said, is reading aloud to him. If he shows an interest, you can go into what sounds letters make. This is the start of "decoding," which is the process that allows us to make the association with symbols (letters) and their associated sounds. My daughter went to a Carden school for preschool, and their method for 3 year olds is for you to write the letter (use a highlighter), have the child hold his pencil correctly and trace the letter, and then repeat the sound the letter makes. They also have play names. For instance, the letter "c" is also called "the cat curled up" and is accompanied by a simple drawing of a curled up cat (you can trace the drawing with your finger and show how it makes the letter c). The letter b was "the stinger of the bee and the body of the bee" (the straight part of the b is the stinger, etc.). This way the kids learn the shapes and sounds of each letter. It sounds very simplistic but it really does prepare the children for phonics-based reading.

For now, reading to him is the best thing to do, I think. Read real stories to him rather than "baby" books, if he will sit still for them. Maybe some Grimms Fairy Tales or Shel Silverstein or Beatrix Potter. If he loves being read to, he'll be really motivated to read all by himself once he's developmentally ready for it.

My children read early too. My husband and I just read to them every day and they both went to preschool. Instead of singing the alphabet try to search for a sound song. All you need to teach them are the sound and Bob Books at the book store.


I love all LeapFrog products! I do however recomend you go the the leap pad and skip the my first leap pad. You will get more use out of the skip. I have not tried out the new reading system but, I am sure it is awesome!

You obviously know that reading to your son is the best way for him to learn to read, so I won't bombard you with that advice.

My son was also very interested in reading at that age (he now reads pretty fluently at 3 1/2 years old).

He liked and continues to like the leap pad. For a kid that young, I think the pad is beter than the TAG just because it actually holds the the books and is more like a game board. With the TAG he might be frustrated or confused that the pen doesn't read EVERY book to him (if that makes sense). The books have little interactive games on each page, too, which my son continues to enjoy.

Hope this helps,


my daughter read very early as well. I got her the Hooked on Phonics and she went from a knowing her sounds to being able to read almost anything in 4 weeks. She LOVED it! It is spendy though, get a used one if you want but I got a new one so she could keep the books and do the chart. She is now is 6th grade and still an excellent reader.

Dear K.,
I think the very best reading system is simply reading to your kid. My daughter was extremely verbally advanced at 2 1/2. She was in kindergarten at 4. She didn't have Leap Frog or any of that stuff (she's 23 now), but I did have word flash cards for her and she did have her favorite books that she had memorized. I would hold the book and point along with my finger while she "read" to me so that she could learn to recognize how the words she knew so well were composed. When I read to her, I would stop and let her fill in the word. Mary had a little _______. Lamb. L-a-m-b. It might sound corny, but I had old books for my kids. Run Spot, Run! I Want to be a Fireman. OLD books. The type is big, they are relatively short and the do help with word recognition and sounding things out. Without really trying.
Learning letters and the alphabet is a process. I taught my kids how to spell their names by making up a song about it. They could verbally spell out their names before they could ever write them down.
I think Leap Frog products are great, but I also think it's the day to day stuff and kids learning by osmosis that is your best bet, especially for a child so young.
I think we worry about pushing our kids to be advanced to their detriment sometimes. Giving them tools to learn is great, but they get what they get when they get it.
My son's class was learning about silent e and there was was a question with a picture...tub + e = ________. He wrote "toothpaste". And even spelled it correctly. He wasn't wrong, that's what the picture showed, although that wasn't where the teacher was headed with that assignment. But, she could understand his thinking and we talked about it. My son is very intelligent, but the "tube" answer escaped him.
Just continue to read, don't put too much pressure. As long as you love to read and read anything you can get your hands on, your child will love it too.
My son is 14. His very favorite store in the whole world is Borders. He can stay in there for hours looking at books and we take him there every year for his birthday to get something plus people buy him gift cards. He is a history buff and you would faint if you knew how many books he's collected. He reads them all. He can't wait to get his hands on a good book. He never had a reading system other than his mom and his sister who have the same love for books and reading. Take your child to the library as much as possible. Read the recipes out loud when you are cooking. The day to day stuff is the best way, in my opinion. It just comes naturally that way.

I wish you the best.

I love all the LeapFrog products. I'm not sure if they are really a reading program though, more of fun reading activities. We were given a leap pad when my twins were about 3 and they loved it. It was nothing I ever thought about buying, but it was a handy down and got a lot of use. I ended up buying another. I bought them both the Tag books last year (when they were 4) and they loved them. But who loves them even more is their 2 1/2 year old sister. I thought they would be too advanced for her, but she watched them and learned how to use them. She has access to the leap pad too, but generally chooses the Tag books. These are great to take in the car and on trips as well. The one down side is that the Tag pen only holds 5 or 6 books. If you have more then that you have to take one of the books off the pen. You also have to figure out how to download from the computer to the pen, but it isn't too hard....I would recommend the Tag for fun reading activities. It is also a lot less bulky then the leap pad.

We just got a TAG regular book reader (not the Junior one) for our 2.75 year old. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to use it, but I showed him 1 time and he was off. We were having trouble with getting him to nap and he can use it to entertain himself at nap time if he can't sleep. It has a headphone jack.

Overall we like it, but the books are expensive and he is a bit careless about the pages of the book (folding them over, grabbing on them).

Overall, recommend it!

You're doing an awesome job by reading to your child! It is a wonderful way to develop reading skills as well as spending quality time with your son. I have the My First Leap Pad, which my oldest (5 years old) recieved as a gift when she was 3. Both my girls love it. My youngest, 2.5 years old, is just starting to be able to use it independently. It is not much of a "reading system", but it does teach them a variety of skills, including following directions, in a fun way. You can also interact with your son, if you play with My First Leap Pad games with him. We also have the Leap Pad which was on clearance 2 years ago with the entire phonis system. It is harder. My 5 year old loves it and has given the My First Leap Pad to her sister.

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