LeapPad Explorer, www.leapfrog.com, $100
Soon, it will be possible to hand your children their very own tablet computers, providing, of course, you can pry your smart phone out of their hands.
At this week's American International Toy Fair in New York, various devices were previewed, scheduled to be in stores later this year.
One of those wee tablets was LeapFrog's LeapPad Explorer ($100), which has a 5-inch color LCD mono-touch screen, microphone, headphone jack plus an SD card expansion and a USB connection. It also has an additional set of game controls and a camera. It can run a library of existing Leapster Explorer cartridges.
The LeapPad comes with a stylus, is powered by four AA batteries and runs additional $25 software cartridges that feature many of the same characters your child watches on TV. In addition, built-in accelerometers permit such grown-up capabilities as automatic screen rotation, and a new breed of motion-sensing games.
Can such a toy possibly compete with a $230 iPod Touch, backed by a growing library of 10,000-plus $1 apps? In terms of content, probably not; but you are less likely to care if the screen gets covered with applesauce.
NUTRITIONAL ANALYSIS VIA SMART PHONE
Fooducate, www.fooducate.com, free
Just in time for the new government dietary guidelines, a free app helps you adhere to more healthful eating.
Fooducate lets shoppers scan a product's bar code in the grocery store for an instant read on a food's health value, represented by a letter grade from A to D. Once a food has been scanned and recognized, the app offers more healthful alternatives or can compare two products side-by-side.
Fooducate said its app uses an algorithm that counts not just nutrients, but also if the nutrients have been added in processing, which would result in a lower score. Sodium, sugar and saturated fats count against a food; fiber and naturally occurring nutrients count in a food's favor.
One of the app's strengths is its ability to decipher ingredients -- for instance, warning that an Odwalla Berries GoMega food bar has four teaspoons of sugar, and most of it is added. Fooducate recommends an MRM Triple Layer Protein bar or an apple instead.
It also spots additives that may escape notice because they go by a different name -- who knew that autolyzed plant protein was essentially MSG?
NEW YORK TIMES