Last year, for Christmas, we bought DS an original LeapPad.
We thought it might stop the tablet wars that were raging through the house at the time. Our problem was that we had 4 children, and only 3 iPads and it did help quite a lot.
But DS isn’t stupid and at the age of almost-4, he knew the LeapPad wasn’t an iPad. Not only was the screen smaller, but it didn’t have as many games on it as the iPads did, it wasn’t as responsive as Apple’s tablet and the thing ate through batteries faster than you could charge them. He really liked the child friendly size of it and he played with it quite a lot, but it wasn’t quite the same.
And then the iPad 3 came out; DH had to have one and the tablet problem was solved. Finally, we had 1 tablet per child and no one ever argued again. Okay, that’s a lie but you get the picture.
The LeapPad was still picked up now and again, because it was something ‘different” but was usually put down again within 6 hours when it had run out of batteries. And then I always forgot to replace the batteries, so when DS wanted to use it, I had to hunt around for some more.
In July, I attended Christmas In July, and got a good look at the LeapPad2. It looked good, but I was cautious. How could I be sure it was really *that* much better than the original LeapPad? £80 is a lot of money and DS was quite happy with his iPad access.
Then in August, we went on holiday and 2 things happened. DS dropped one of our iPads on a slate floor in Namibia. The screen shattered and the tablet was irreparable. Then DH claimed the iPad 3 as *his* iPad and took it to work with him every day. Fair enough too, but we were now down to 2 iPads for 4 kids.
Thankfully the kids were back at school, and their screen time was severely curtailed enough for them not to argue over tablet access too often.
Then, at the beginning of this month, we were offered a LeapPad 2 Explorer to review. I was only too happy to accept and when I presented DS with his new toy, he was beside himself with excitement.
His sisters were beside themselves with jealousy, ‘ It’s Not FAIR’, they all complained, despite the fact that they now had less competition for the two remaining iPads.
DD1 , who is ten, considered the LeapPad too babyish for her but she coveted it from afar. The other 2 were not so subtle. They hung over DS’s shoulder every moment he was using it, and ‘helped’ him as much as possible.
Now and again, they manage to part him from it but when they do, DS kept a beady eye on his sisters, to make sure they were not interfering with his profile.
Such occasions were rare, as DS absolutely adored his new LeapPad.
In fact, in order to write this review, I had to wait until DS was in bed at night before taking the opportunity to have a play myself.
First things first, it comes with a pen which is attached to the unit. Any parent who has spent hours searching for a Nintendo stylus will agree that this is a stroke of pure genius. The LeapPad2 also a great size for little hands, whether held in portrait or landscape mode, and the unit looks positively robust when compared to more fragile-looking expensive tablets.
I think the LeapPad 2 is pretty good value for its RRP of £89.99. It is much faster and more responsive than the original, and the batteries seem to last longer. We have moved to rechargeable batteries and only seem to have to change them every couple of days, and someone always seems ot be playing on it. There is also a recharger pack available that allows you to play while plugged in; the chances of Santa bringing DS one of these this year are pretty high.
The kids have had a lot of fun with the front facing and back facing 2MP cameras built into the LeapPad2. The front facing one makes it much easier for them to take self portraits and although the resolution is not great compared to a ‘proper’ camera, it’s certainly fit for purpose. Some of the photos can be used in games and apps along with recording of your voice from the built in microphone. It also has a video recorder but my lot haven’t really explored this function yet.
The Leap Pad 2 needs to be plugged into a computer when you first get it, and you have to spend a few minutes registering the device with the LeapFrog App Centre but it’s all pretty self explanatory. It comes with a few apps preloaded; Cartoon Director, Pet Pad, interactive Art Studio, LeapFrog Learning Songs, and you get to choose another free app the first time you connect the device. There are over 220 apps and games available from the App Centre but if you are used to the prices of Apple and Android Apps, you may be in for a shock.
Apps range from £3.50 to £20, so most people are going to have be selective about which Apps they buy. But when you consider all the Apps are of high quality and have educational value, the cost isn’t too bad. Like with the more grown up tablets, there are games, ebooks, learning videos, music apps, creativity apps, foreign language apps, flash cards and expansion sets available, many of which are character branded. For example, we have a Thomas and a Brave game, as well as a Dora the Explorer game. It’s worth bearing in mind that the voices on the games and apps are American, so this will affect some of the phonics used.
Once your LeapPad is registered, you can set up a profile for each child that uses it. There are 4 different profiles and one remains ‘Guest’ by default, so it allows 3 children to share one LeapPad. Parents can set different levels of ‘play’ for each profile and you can also follow your child’s progress and see how they are doing, if you feel so inclined. Progress is remembered from game to game within each profile, unless you are playing as a ‘guest’.
The LeapPad is the ideal device for younger children; LeapFrog suggests it is for kids aged 3-9 years, and I think this age group is about right, especially if you don’t want your kids online just yet.
If you are always handing your iPad or iPhone over to your children at home, in the car or out and about, then do yourself a favour and buy them a LeapPad2 for Christmas. You can always get relatives to chip in for accessories or Apps, and as a bonus, you’ll have birthdays and Christmas present suggestions sorted for at least a couple of years.
We were given a LeapPad2 for the purpose of this review, but the opinion expressed above is unbiased and honest.