Leapfrog is a great toy company whose toys mainly have an educational component. We own a few things from them, have seen a few more at friends houses, and now, recently, we've received 3 new additions to our toy collection for review! Basically, on anything we've seen, the entertainment value has been high, and it's really great to have an educational twist as well. Our kids have picked up a lot through playing, without even realizing that they're learning!
Here's a little bit about each toy we received - read on for a great giveaway, and stay tuned for another Leapfrog review next week, with another great giveaway as well!
Leapster Explorer (designed for ages 4-9). Our nearly 3-year old son would love to be able to manipulate it like his brother does, but it is too advanced for him yet. He does become rather "hooked" at times, and is hard to detach from his playing, but that's more to do with his character than with the Explorer. :)
The Leapster Explorer comes with a code that allows you to download a game from the Leapfrog collection. When you first log on to the Leapfrog website, there are lots of cool games/ videos and e-stories that you can download after you purchase them. Your code is valid for a small selection of these apps, which is somewhat disappointing. However, the stuff we did download turned out to be very cool, and the kids are enjoying their game and story very much (we had 2 codes).
We did have some issues with connecting our Leapster Explorer to the computer. The theory is that you can connect to the Leapfrog site to download new apps, parents can follow their child's progress, and the child can make use of LeapWorld (something we've not had a chance to try yet). Each time we attempted to connect, we were unsuccessful, and it wasn't clear what was happening (or not). Finally my husband (who works with computers) decided to connect our computer directly to the Internet through the modem instead of through our network (and router). And it worked! Unfortunately, this means that we won't be connecting the Explorer to our computer very often, as we have to change our connection settings each time (and back again). Luckily, the Explorer works very well on it's own, but we can't really access all of it's functionality easily.
Along with the Explorer, we were sent the game Ben 10: Ultimate Aliens. This game teaches some geography skills, animal facts, life science and map skills. Mostly it's just good fun, although I'm not very keen on games that require you to "kill" the bad guys - and there are plenty in Ben 10! Jonathan loves this game, and Richard (dad!) has been seen playing it as well. A suggestion for future programming is to allow you to save your game at any given moment, rather than at completed levels only, because your mom may call you that your "screen time is up" and then you have to start over at the beginning of the current level if you can't persuade her to let you finish it off. We've had many struggles about this one. :)
Mainly, our experience with the Leapster Explorer has been very positive, and Jonathan really enjoys playing it. He really wants more games to go with it - cartridges are available at the Leapfrog shop online, and at various retailers. The Explorer can be connected to earphones, for when no one else wants to hear it :) and has a volume button, something I'm really happy with, as it seems that many toys are too loud. Jonathan likes that you can add games. He also enjoys playing with the virtual pet app - part of this is letter writing, where you trace letters with the stylus.
Tag Jr. (ages 2-4):
Tag Jr. has been specially modified for littler children, who aren't ready for reading words yet but just want to listen to the story, and who haven't the motor skills to point at a specific word yet. The Tag Jr. book pal, an alien-looking pointer, is held in the fist, rather than in the fingers, and it reads the whole page. Characters or items on the pages make sounds or speak when pointed at as well. The book pal comes with a sample book, and more books are available for purchase. Many familiar titles are available, and the reading voice is pleasant and enthusiastic. Daniel really enjoys the extra sounds made by various characters on the page Some even ask you a question (to find something else, by a clue) and when you answer correctly (by clicking on the correct item), praise is given. Tag Jr. has 2 volume settings, something we parents appreciate! Once again, you need to connect to the Internet to download the audio files, and this happened without any problems at all! You can customize your book pal so that when you turn it on and off, it greets you by name, and this is something Daniel really likes! It's obviously his! :)
Chat and Count Cell Phone (ages 18-36 months):
play phone" we've seen, and we've had several! :) The sounds are pleasant, without being annoying. The volume control actually works, and even the "loud" setting is acceptable. There are fun songs, and counting routines. For instance, when you press on number 7, it shows you 7 pictures and makes 7 noises! The puppy pal (visible on the screen sometimes) "speaks with you" and encourages you along. The puppy looks a lot like Scout, a stuffed interactive toy for kids ages 6-36 months, and something we would consider buying for Annalies. Daniel enjoys the phone, and has been learning a few numbers along with it. Annalies is a bit young for the phone yet, although when she presses buttons randomly, stuff happens, and she loves that! The buttons are easy to push, and I like that the numbers are very clearly printed. Also, it's cool that it has the letters under each number, just like a real phone. Other toy phones we've had really didn't look like a phone - I think part of this one's appeal is that it's less "toy-like" and more realistic-looking.
One lucky Glimpse reader will win a Tag Jr. - perfect for someone who's going back to nursery school, or just not quite old enough for school yet, but still wants to join the reading crowd! Visit Leapfrog's website and tell us about another Leapfrog toy your family would enjoy.