Leapfrog Leapster Explorer Review
Warning: Major parent love happening here.
When I was sent the Leapster Explorer to review I was dubious. Wasn’t this nothing more than a glorified Nintendo that purported to have educational properties? I am not a fan of my child sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time, and this set off a thousand warning bells in my head.
Well, I have to confess that this Leapster Explorer, has enchanted everyone in this house. Not only do I have to pry it out of my husband’s hands every now and again, but it has now become the argument du jour every day. Once my daughter has her little paws on it, trying to get my daughter to stop playing it is like trying to stop Arnie from coming back. (sorry)
I know that this sounds like a negative point, and it is, it’s also positive because of the scale of learning that my daughter has experienced. Her problem solving skills, letter skills and drawing skills have improved dramatically in the week since it arrived.
Let me tell you more about the product itself. It is a sturdy handheld device with a full colour screen that’s really well sized. I’ve ranted in the past about the horrific screens that comes with some children’s laptop ranges and this beats them all hands down. You can adjust the screen brightness and the quality is exceptional.
The device itself is really easy to use. You press the On switch and are taken to a log-in screen. Here you can create a profile for your child and set their age-group so that the learning experience is tailored to their skill levels. After only two days, my daughter could switch it on, access her profile, and get playing without so much as breaking a sweat. As a mother who wants her child to adore reading as much as she does, this improvement in letter recognition is delightful.
All the games that have been designed to work with the Leapster Explorer are educational. We got the Disney Princesses game with ours and it made my husband cry. He’s not a fan of Disney. To be honest, neither am I, but if my daughter even hears the word “princess” her ears prick up like a bloodhound. Anyway, the games included with the Disney Princesses title are all very, very clever.
Children have their reading, writing and problem solving skills challenged in different ways across the stories. They start at the beginning of the “movie” and work their way through different scenes via mini movies and challenges.
The three other games were The Penguins of Madagascar, which was a bit too advanced for my daughter, and Toy Story 3, which she can play but she needs a bit of help with some of the challenges, and Mr Pencil. The latter is very good for building reading skills and for playing together. The Penguins of Madagascar felt too much like a Mario game than actual education and I don’t really let her play it. Mr Pencil, however, is downright brilliant. It shows children how to draw specific letters, shapes and words. It’s my favourite. The links above are to a special that Argos is currently running on these titles.
There is an impressive range of these games to choose from too. Check them out here.
When you first get your Leapster Explorer you’ll also get two Leaplet Download cards. These can be used to buy Leaplets when you go online, and these Leaplets are, honestly, really clever educational games. You can connect your Leapster to your PC in seconds, it is very much a plug-and-play device, and then you need to download Leapster Connect. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have access to the Leaplets, your child’s educational journey, and so much more.
Just sticking with the Leaplets for now.... I feel like I should set reviews aside for each of them. My personal favourites include the Sugar Bugs – a game that teaches kids about good oral hygiene – this got my child so worried that she had green bugs on her teeth that she brushes them far better than ever before. Other titles include the Jewel Train (problem solving), Harmonies (music), and Wheel Works (logic and thinking).
They are broken down into Games, eBooks, Videos and Flash Cards, so you can choose which ones you feel would benefit your child the most. While they don’t have a huge range on offer right now, I can only see this growing as the Leapster becomes more popular.
The other thing you get when you download Connect and get your device hooked up to the internet is a personalised educational programme that tells you exactly how your child is faring. The Learning Path offers additional activities, tools and advice on working with your child to improve weak spots too. When I logged in it showed me where my daughter was struggling and where she was excelling and, based on that information, I chose specific games for her to play that challenged her weaker areas.
Coming in at a tidy £59.99 on Amazon or Argos, this is not a cheap device. However, it isn’t that much more expensive (and in some cases, less so) than other educational toys and it has a superb back-end support network that very few other people offer.
Individual games will cost you around £19.99, and the Leaplets will cost around £9.99 at Amazon for a set of two codes (the average game only uses one code).
In terms of value for money, this product is a complete win. Since we got it I haven’t had the dinner-time whine, I’ve spent a happy half an hour here and there playing the game with her and (I have to admit) having as much fun as her. She’s actually had to take the game from me saying, “Mommy! It’s my turn!”.
The games are addictive, fun, clever and educational. The online extras are a fantastic way of learning together and spending quality time together. The parent section gives you tons of extras that honestly impressed me a great deal.
The negatives? Yes, it’s hard to limit her to a maximum of an hour a day and there have been some downright horrible tantrums. It’s a pricey investment to start with and it is a bunch of games.
The positives? It is not battery heavy, brilliant for travelling and long journeys, educational and fun.