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LeapFrog LeapPad From LeapFrog Toys

Interactive Tablet with Educational Software For Kids Ages 4-9

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Leapfrog LeapPad
©LeapFrog

The LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer is a fun, educational toy recommended for kids ages 4-9. The tablet device includes educational software that facilitates creativity, fine motor control, problem solving as well as skills for reading, math, and spelling. This toy has an integrated camera to take videos and pictures. Children access the device using either their fingers or a stylus pen that stores on the side of the device. For additional fee's, LeapPad game cartridges can be purchased at retail stores, and apps can be downloaded online using a USB cord.

Features

- 5" screen size with 480 x 272 resolution

- 2 GB Internal Memory

- 400 MHz processor

- Uses 4 "AA" batteries

- Built-in camera that takes pictures and video

- Built-in microphone

- AC adaptor available but not included in purchase

- USB port included in device and USB cord included in device purchase

- Headphone jack

- High-Resolution finger touch screen

- Handheld gaming capable

- 100+ Interactive books, games, videos and apps available for purchase

- LeapPad is compatible with all Leapster Explorer (compare prices)cartridge games and apps

- Additional game cartridges (compare prices) can be purchased (MSRP about $24.99) and feature well known Disney movie characters

- Apps can be downloaded by a parent online and retail for $5 and up

- E-Reader capabilities

- Home screen can be personalized with the child's photo

- Allows for motion based play using a sensor

- Book apps that provide interactive, cinematic reading experiences

- Story studio allows children the ability to create their own stories

- Additional stylus included with purchase

- Limited 1 year warranty available

- Voted Toy of the Year at the American International Toy Fair

Device & APP Information

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer©LeapFrog

On the main page once turning the LeapPad on, there are 4 different "sign in" or "login" type profiles available. 3 customizable ones, and a guest slot. Children can customize their login by typing in their own name. They can take their own profile picture, and chose their grade, pet pal and personalized background screen.

There were 9 different icons on the first page of my LeapPad after I turned it on. After loading an app, if I decided to return to the home page, I found that it took about 12 seconds before I could make another choice from the menu. The kids I watched playing with the device did not seem to mind, but as someone who is used to working on an iPad, to me the delay was noticeable.

The Camera App allows children to take a picture or video. Editing features include adding stamps and patterns, writing on the image with colored pencil markings, color tinting photos, saturating images, stretching photos, changing from color to black and white, magnifying portions of the image, and mirroring the image. There is an undo button to remove any unwanted edits. Edited pictures are saved in the "my photos" folder and videos are saved in the "my video" folder. Using the camera, children can take pictures of themselves or others. There is a 5 second timer that can be activated so the child has time to turn the device around to take their own picture. I was very impressed that the camera in the device was even able to take a clear photo while the device was moving quickly. This is a great feature for young children.

The Pet Pad App allows kids to design and take care of their own individualized pet by feeding it, cleaning it, playing games or doing tricks with it. When doing "tricks," this activity is actually an upper and lowercase letter tracing activity. Children use the stylus to trace the letters in the proper formation starting at a green dot and ending at a red dot. I tried this activity multiple times and I'm not sure if I was completing the activity right, but it didn't appear to track my stylus because I was never able to actually get the device to display more than the first stroke. It ended up making lots of beeping noises at me, which was really frustrating. Letter writing is a perfect activity for school age children to practice, but for those kids who are not fond of this activity in the first place, I don't expect this particular activity will motivate them to practice it regularly.

The My Stuff app is essentially a folder to view all the photos, videos, art drawings and stories the child has created.

The My books app lists all of the e-books downloaded to the device.

The Roly Poly Picnic game was installed on my device. In this game, the child starts at level 1, and choses whether they are a beginner, advanced or an expert. By holding the LeapPad with two hands, they tilt it side to side or front to back, in an effort to roll their roly poly bug around the land. The bug enters tunnels and the child must answer questions that have to do with spelling and letter sounds to earn a piece of food for the Roly Poly to bring to the picture. The child can unlock different levels and roly poly characters based on their performance.

The Ultra E-Book on my device was Cars 2. The e-book had multiple features that included choosing a 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade reading level. The book can be read aloud, or the child can read along with the story, or on their own. There were 3 different games included in the e-book. Kids use the stylus to choose features that will disguise Mater from the bad guys. In the other 2 games, the child either tilts the LeapPad to race Lightning McQueen, or uses the stylus helping Mater avoid obstacles. Players earn badges by answering comprehension questions from the story correctly and participating with skill in the games.

The Story Studio App allows children to create their own individualized stories similar to a digital scrapbook. Children create individual pages from included topics topics such as: my birthday, my family, my favorite things, my expressions, when I grow up, my friends, my imagination. There are 2-3 template choices for the book available per topic. Children can add photos, drawings and even the sound of their own voice with audio content to their stories.

The Art Studio App allows kids to create their own drawings, using customizable colors, brush tips (pencil or paint brush), pattern brushes, and stamps. Images can be magnified and mistakes can be undone. I used this app a lot to work with kids on improving their letter formation to practice writing letters. I wish there was a button that just wiped the screen clean rather than having to erase completely or back out of the app and enter it again to start over with a blank page.

The Video App included a 35 minute video, The Letter Factory. The ability to scroll through the video is available and it can be paused. There was not any observable lag when watching the movie.

The Jewel Train 2 Twisty Tracks App is a problem solving game where children manipulate train tracks by rotating them to create 1 long connected track. When the tracks are all aligned, the train travels through the path to the station collecting jewels and earning points.

I Spy Super Challenger is a cartridge game that I purchased individually for use with the LeapPad. I found in this particular game, and when using some of the apps, that despite following the directions and using the stylus, the device did not always correctly read the stylus if the item that was being accessed was very small.

Battery Information

I have been using the LeapPad, with 4 "AA" batteries for several weeks, and though I haven't kept specific track of the amount of hours, I have definitely turned this device on and off at least 50 times, and used it, on average, at least 5 minutes per use. At that point, the device informed me it was time to change the batteries. I did search the device for a minute or so looking for the battery compartments thinking they would need to be unscrewed. The battery compartments are the two vertical slots on the back of the device that are simply lifted up with a coin or flat screwdriver. The batteries were a little tricky to get out, so your children will need parental assistance. As with any battery operated device, you may wish to invest in good rechargeable batteries for continued use.

Bottom Line

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Cars E-book©LeapFrog

In general, this is a very fun educational toy for kids. Over the course of a few weeks, I used the device with about 6 different children. All of them enjoyed accessing it, and despite some brief frustration with the stylus not always correctly identifying their answer, they all seemed to enjoy the Cars 2 e-book, the Art Studio, Roly Poly Picnic Game, Jewel Train 2 App, and the ability to wash and dry their Pet Pal. In general, the touch screen sensors were very accurate and quick when accessing the device with a finger. Overall, I felt the narrator on the device was excellent when providing instructions and directions on various games and apps. Though I have not connected the device to my own computer yet to download additional apps, I was not a fan of the amount of times that the device encouraged me to find an adult to download the device to receive additional badges. None of the children had difficulty supporting the weight of the device. I do like that there is an auto-shut off feature. In general, though the device takes about 12 seconds between app transitions, I had to keep reminding myself this is a tablet designed for kids. As I said previously, none of the children ever commented on the speed being slow. Though both the children and I had some frustrations with some apps and games when using the stylus, in general for $99 this is a good buy considering that it is a portable, fun beginner tablet for kids. If you have previously invested in any other Leapster Explorer cartridges, this device is compatible with all previous cartridges, but it brings additional gaming content the children enjoyed by tilting the device. Given LeapFrog's partnerships with recognizable licensed partners like Disney Princesses, Cars, Scooby Doo and Dora the Explorer, I was able to observe the children feel as if they are playing games, not always realizing how much educational content was embedded into most of the activities.

Here's a link to additional LeapFrog educational toys.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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