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I bought this last Christmas for my daughter who was five at the time. I knew one of her friends was getting a DS, but thought that she was too young to have one. I found this as an alternative and I'm exceptionally pleased that I did! I should also add, that my daughter is more than happy with this product as an alternative too...and her friend with the DS plays on it also!
It is very easy to use, and she got the hang of it in no time...meaning that she can play the games herself without needing constant supervision! It isn't as delicate as the DS, and at half the price is an absolute bargain. The screen is very bright and clear, and is sensitive enough for the stylus to be used effectively without being too much so. The size and shape are perfect for little hands, and it is easy to load and unload cartridges without damaging them. I love the fact that all of the games are educational (although I still restrict the use of the console), and the age ranges vary from 4-6, 5-7, and 7-9yrs old. My daughter is currently using the 5-7yr games, as they have three levels of ability within them allowing her to continue playing with them as her development progresses (a huge positive when you consider the price of the games).
So far, she has downloaded a jewel train game from a leaplet (which when bought, provides credits you can exchange for downloads), and she has the @Penguins of Madagascar,' 'Disney Princess' and 'Toy Story' cartridges. I'd say that Toy Story is her favourite, although this is due to the characters rather than the games...I find them all entertaining to play :)
As with the other leapfrog products, you can also connect it to your computer to track your child's progress (which can be done in conjunction with other products), and it is the same high quality that leapfrog always seem to achieve.
My only problem with it, is that it 'eats' batteries, and the recharging station is not currently available in the UK, so I'd strongly suggest some rechargeable batteries!
Why I wanted it
I bought this for my son at christmas. He was 3 at the time but turned 4 in April, my middle son uses this as well he is 2 and will be 3 in June. I liked the fact it advertised an age range from 4-9 and that the games grow with the child. I am a childminder so I thought it would be useful for all of the children I look after. I also didn't want to buy something he would get the hang of too quickly.
This is a nice sturdy product, it has been dropped down the stairs and happily survived (much to my relief!) The buttons are large and even the 2 year old has got the hang of what the buttons do and how to get back to the main menu. It comes with a pen which I was sure they would break but 5 months on its going strong after daily use. It states it is intended for ages 4-9 but my 2 year old can use it although it does depend on the game.
Leapworld is the online area where you can download e-books, videos, flashcards and games. Credits can be used here to purchase add-ons to games you already have.
You can also view your childs learning path to see which skills they have gained or are still working towards. This is split into different age ranges and skills so you can not only check your child is meeting their own age but also if they are ahead. It tells you if your child can do something or is working on something. This path is individual to each child and also combines with their learning path from other toys, e.g. tag. Don't be too disheartened if it says your childis not even working towards something it maybe that you don't have the game that teaches those skills. Also do remember to take what it says with a pinch of salt. No children are the same and your own view of their progree and any teachers they may have holds more weight than this.
you can aldo view demo's and download some playable ones. This at least lets you see a bit more of the games and give you an idea if your child will like it before you spend your heard earned money on it.
Games can be purchased for around £20 each, these are little cartridges and the games we have a quite large so should last some time, although he did complete Mr Pencil in the first month!
It is possible to buy leaplet cards. A pack is around £10 and has 2 cards with codes on. It does say that downloads cost 1 or 2 codes but I haven't come accross any that need 2. The videos are excellent and educational with approx a 30 min run time, from looking at the options I would say for my children this is the best way to spend the codes. The children quickly learn the song and even the 2 year old now knows what sounds all the letters make. The games are quite small, the nearest comparision I can give you is the difference between buying The Sims for a PC and then buying it on your mobile. The proper games are good but the download games are no better or bigger than mobile form ones. I haven't bought any e-books yet as I also got my 2 year old a V-Tech Storio for christmas ao I can't give you a fair idea of what they are like. There are only a couple of flash cards available, I can't remeber what they all are but I know one of them is Spanish, so for a bilingual child or a big Dora fan these would be great.
When you first turn it on you get a screen with different profiles on. You can have 3 profiles and a guest profile. You can access the settings for the 3 main profiles and set the age of the child, this affects the difficulty of the games. This is a very useful feature for a machine that can be shared as it stops older children getting bored and younger children getting frustrated.
As a childminder I have several people as well as my son wanting to use the machine. I have set up a profile for my eldest, my middle child and my full time minded child. The older school children all enter as guest, it seems this profile tends to be on the highest difficulty anyway and as the school children are aged 7-9 this is ideal.
As children play the game they earn badges for completing certain tasks. These badges then show as differnt medals next to their profile. The badges also earn them credits which they can use in leapworld.
At around £60 this is quite expensive but definatelt worth it for the amount it will be used. The older children seem to enjoy playing on this as much as on their DS's and at less than half the price of a DS and educational I'd say its a bit of a bargain.
It comes pre-installed with a game called Pet Pad. This is a create your own pet game allowing you to feed and wash your pet (additional food and shampoo can be purchased using credits in leapworld.) If your kids are anything like mine get used to it declaring oops you've run out of food/shampoo and to connect for more. My kids are a bit little yet to realise a cat doesn't need washin 20 times in a row! Each profile has 3 pets which can all be customised. Note that credits are earned by the profile so you must buy food and shampoo for each profile separetly. It has 4 areas, the living room which lets you see and select your different pets. Inventory so you can see what you are running low on and an area to customise your pet. The fourth area is called health and fun, this is the main playing area.
This area is split into 4 different sections
1) Bath time, you must drag the pen over the pet to rinse it, then 4 more times to shampoo, scrub, rinse again and dry.
2) Treat time, here you can select what treat to give, then tap the screen to drop it for your pet.
3) Flingo, this is where you must essentially launch your pet and try to pop balloons as they appear by touching them with the pen.
4) Tricks, this area has all the letters upper and lower case for your child to trace over. This can be frustrating to begin with as it needs to be very precise or it makes them start again. The 4 year old has no issues with this and has worked his way through all of it. The 2 year old has been know to scream and send it flying! He can now do it most of the time though and as he has a very strong prescription of glasses his fine motor skills were a little behind and this has helped him no end.
It also comes with one leaplet card allowing you to download one thing in leapworld.
It also comes with all the relevent wires, these are the same as the ones for tag and tag junior so handy for spares if you have them all.
It takes 4AA batteries. I use rechargeable batteries NiMH 2900mAH (slighly bigger capacity than the duracel ones you can buy.) I would say this gives you about 24hrs worth of use.
All in all this is a fab machine, the only problem I have found with it is its storage capacity. My son has 2 games, 1 demo, and 3 videos. Whilst the videos are great they do take up a lot of space so my son has very little space. there is no option to add anymore storage e.g an SD card to the device. Leapworld does store all the games you have downloaded so you can download them again. If we want to purchase anything more leaplets we will have to take some stuff off and juggle them around a bit. The only other thing is that this is American so some of the words it uses are different, the age ranges in the profile are done in school years so this is also slightly different but not too hard to work out.
I bought the Leapster Explorer for my 4 yr son for Christmas. He was initially asking for a Nintendo Ds, but knowing that he'll want to play it all the time I didn't think it was a good idea. After researching the Leapster Explorer I thought it would be a more suitable option. Thankfully I was correct, this console is educational, it can be connected to the computer to check your childs progress, navigate round Leapfrog World, my son enjoys pretending to buy shampoo for his pet which comes preloaded on the console. To enhance play leaplets can be purchased to download ebooks, games, flash cards and videos. Extra games can be purchased, I bought the Penguins of Madagscar which has helped him with his counting and Toy Story 3 which helps with spelling. I have noticed my son's counting and adding up has improved since playing the Leapster Explorer. He enjoys playing his Leapster Explorer and hasn't even mentioned the Nintendo Ds since he's had it, he's more interested in telling me the games he now wants me to buy.
The console takes 4 AA batteries, but I would advise getting rechargable batteries.