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My three eldest children all have a leap Pad learning system. My eldest son was the first to receive one some time ago, and after seeing how well his younger brother and sister got on with the console we decided it would be worth the extra investment. A Leapfrog Leap Pad learning system is designed to help younger children learn to read, understand phonics and bring enjoyment into general reading. All of my children absolutely love books, and although nothing beats a classic paperback anything that encourages children to engage in stories is good in my eyes. **The leap Pad** The Leap pad learning system is aimed at children between the ages of four and eight years old. It can be used by children who are just begging to read, or to build confidence for those that are already reading but wish to expand their vocabulary, spelling and general reading confidence. When looking at reading systems there were so many available we were unsure which to choose. While this is an older model, and is really bulky compared to other systems we have not been disappointed. The magic pen always works and as it attached to the learning system there is no way to lose it. You can tell it is very well made, and even after being dropped a number of times it is still working perfectly. We have had this system for around 2 years now, there were slimmer more advanced options available like tablets, the tag system; the storio the list is endless. The thing that really drew us into this particular model was the range of books available. There is so much choice for each age range, and in the end that is what sealed the deal on this particular option. The leap pad is basically a large plastic case that has a pen attached. On its own the Leap Pad is useless, but match this with one of the available Leap Pad books and this is when the magic begins. By adding batteries to the system, a story cartridge in a slot provided and adding the book itself to the casing it opens up a world of fun. When we first purchased our Leap pad learning system we were provided with a sample book. This is basically to give you a preview of what can be done, and by using a different character ever two pages in itself it is not a story book so you will need to purchase them separately. The leap Pad learning system is made out of durable plastic. It is rather large and when I first took it out of the packaging I was shocked at just how bulky it was. My children found it awkward to sit on their laps at first, but after a little while they became used to it and it was just like second nature setting the system up. All of my children can now set up the leap Pad independently. Mummy and daddy are required to add the batteries, but after that my children can learn to read independently. It can be used with mummy too, and I often sit with my children so they can show of their new learnt skills, but mostly they like to sit independently making the most of the system. **Cartridges** Without the story cartridges the Leap Pad system is basically useless. The main design of the toy is there, but without the cartridges and books to accompany the pen it is useless as it has nothing to work with. The cartridges are also the thing that makes this learning system useful to such a large age range. They have so many books aimed at each age level which is one of the reasons we first purchased this design. The book range run in the age ranges 4 - 6 years and 6- 8 years. Of course they are not restricted to this age range, and my son who is only five has a number of the older books, as do my two youngest children who are only two and three use the age 4-6 year books. They incorporate little ones favourite characters in to the games, and the characters for each age range are picked well. In the age range 4 to 6 years we have a number of books including Disney cars, Disney princess, Thomas the tank engine and toy story. In the older age range of 6-8 years we have Spiderman, Scooby doo and Shrek. The first books use shorter words, and focus on learning phonics. The older books work with more complicated words getting little one to break them down, while also concentrating on spelling and vocabulary. **In use** Once you have added the cartridge and the book to the learning system it is time to begin reading. Using the magic pen little one needs to press the green go button, and this always sits in the middle of the left hand page. This is consistent throughout all the books so little one can build a routine and soon it becomes second nature to them. They do need to press this button each time you turn a page so the learning system recognises we are on a new page. Then the built in voice will begin reading the story to little one. If they wish to do this themselves by simply pressing a button they can change the option so they can run the pen over the words them self. As the pen rolls across the top the word it is read out to them while emphasising the phonics and how the word is put together. There are also volume buttons, ask the question again and games that can be used throughout the books. We like this as if my children become a little bored with just reading, they can take time out to play quizzes, learn about spelling and use games to keep it fun while still teaching them the basics of reading as they go. The voice is spoken clearly, and little one can use the volume buttons on the books pages if they wish the sound to be a little louder. Each word is clear to understand, and the questions asked by the narrator along with the games are simple and quick to the point so it does not confuse little one. We have never had any problems with this learning system at all. It is durable and the pen works each and every time without fail. It has been dropped a number of times without damaging the system at all, and as it runs on a cartridge system they are basically invincible. The books do come on a spring spine and we have had problems before with pages being accidently ripped by my children. We use celotape to put them back in being careful not to cover any of the interactive features and they have continued to work. It is not limited to the three to four years at the youngest age range in my opinion. My little girl who is three and a half has had this since she was two and although she did mainly play with the games these was still perfect for introducing letters to her. My youngest son is two and a half now and he is the same, he loves to sit and try to use the system, and even though he cannot fully use it he is already getting the idea of phonics and sounds of words despite the fact he is not even talking. This learning system takes 4 AA batteries. I hate battery eaters, but I have to admit this console is one of them. A set of batteries can be used up within around a week sometimes sooner if it receives a large amount of use. For this reason I would highly recommend purchasing yourself some rechargeable batteries, otherwise you will find that the cost in batteries with continue to run up as long as your child uses this toy. **Summary** Yes there are new up to date versions of the same technology available, and this is bulky and old fashioned when compared. The thing is this is reliable, has always worked perfectly and the range of books are fantastic. It is not the fanciest item to look at, but my children will sit for long periods of time concentrating on nothing but this system. After all the time we have owned this reading system, my children are yet to give up interest and I can guarantee it gets used at least once every two days. It combines fun interesting stories, while slipping in the basics to reading like recognising standard words, teaching phonics and general reading skills. This learning system is available on Amazon beginning at £15 from marketplace sellers. You can also buy bundles on eBay for similar prices which include a number of books with them so do shop around. I would suggest buying second hand as we brought one brand new, and two from eBay and they all work exactly the same. As long as the books have been looked after there is no difference at all in the quality of the systems. Brand new the learning system will set you back £30 and then around £8 per book so it is more cost effective.