updated 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Wood made the leap into inventing in 1990, when he designed an alphabet pad embedded with talking computer chips to help his son Mat, then 3, understand that letters represent sounds. Five years later he decided to take his idea to Toys "R" Us. The chain promptly placed a $1.6 million order, so Wood quit his job as a lawyer. Smart move: Last year his company, LeapFrog, racked up $170 million in sales on its 100 toys, from stuffed frogs that spell to talking globes. Parents and educators alike snap them up. "All my students can spell their names because of LeapFrog," says Dallas-area kindergarten teacher Roselyn Ross. "They can see themselves learning."
Wood's toys may encourage kids to hit the books, but Mat, 13, who lives part-time with his dad and step-mom Connie, 44, in Orinda, Calif., doesn't buy it. Though LeapFrog helped Mat in school, reading takes second place for him. "I like football," he says.