If you’ve been dragged down the toy isle at your local big box store, you’ve undoubtedly seen the plethora of tech toys that look like a kiddie version of the classic GameBoy. You’ve probably even found yourself staring off into space as you ponder why there are so many of these systems, and which one is the best?, not noticing the little girl push past you to grab the new game she wants for her birthday. Luckily for you, the nice people over at LeapFrog sent us the 2011 Toy of the Year award winner. After being put to the ultimate test by my three munchkins (and mommy and daddy too, of course), here’s what can honestly be said about the Leapster Explorer.
Right out of the box, you’re ready to play, as long as you remembered to grab some batteries. You did remember to get batteries, right? Good, just checking. Now that you’ve managed to install a few copper tops, turn on the system. Create a user profile for your kid(s), yep; LeapFrog gives you multiple users on the same device so you don’t have to worry about making your younger kid play a game that’s too difficult. Use the included stylus on the touch screen to type in his name and grade. Now it’s time to play.
The only game you get with the system is Pet Pad, but when you connect the handheld to your computer, you’ll get to use a free code to download another. Young kids love having a virtual pet that they need to feed, play with, and clean. Best thing about this is that, unlike many other pet games/apps, no real money is needed to “buy” food or accessories. Instead, you’ll be rewarded for your time spent playing games and answering questions correctly with tokens that are used to buy threats and shampoo for your pet.
To truly get the most out of your Explorer, you’ll need to shell out a few clams and either download games through the LeapFrog Connect or buy cartridge games at the big box stores, just be sure to steer clear of that pushy girl. Kids these days, sheesh. Me and my crew ventured out to Walmart, dropped $25 and picked up a copy of Disney Tangled, you know, that chick with the long hair. My girls really loved shooting arrows, painting, and navigating Rapunzel through the forest as the narrator and animations helped the story come to life. Little did they know, their tiny little brains were learning. (Cue evil laugh) I was personally amazed that an educational game could be as much fun as it is.
Thankfully, the game self-adjusts the difficulty to match the user’s level. In other words, your preschooler will get easy questions and more visual hints whereas your second grader will be expected to answer correctly quicker and with less help. If that’s not awesome enough for you, wait until you check your offspring’s’ progress with the help of the Learning Path, a free online resource that allows you to take a more active role in your child’s education. Now you can see exactly what areas the user struggles. Genius!
If you’re in the market for a handheld educational game thingamajig, you’d be foolish to buy anything other than the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer. For all of the reasons already mentioned and many more that can’t fit into this review, dad, you’d be a superstar if you got your little tyke one of these. Just be sure to buy the ac adapter (sold separately) unless you own Energizer stock.
- Big, bright touch screen.
- 40+ games and activities available for purchase (games, e-Books, videos, flash cards and more)
- Multiple user accounts
- Self-adjusting difficulty
- Children can learn school and life skills (Math, Science, reading, geography, creativity, music, health and problem solving)
- Parents can track and view detailed progress
- Games are exciting and engaging, a winner among kids
- Doesn’t come with a cartridge game
- Apps are a bit pricy ($7.50 – $10 each)
- A/C adapter, rechargeable battery pack, carrying case, camera… are all sold separate meaning you’ll drop a decent chunk of change in the near future
- No Wi-Fi connectivity requires a USB connection to download and synch your device
- Not 3D capable – ok, obviously I’m joking here. I’m just trying to keep the pro/con ratio balanced.
At the end of the day, the Leapster Explorer is a true gem. Buy your kid one at LeapFrog.com.