Here is one handheld gaming system that both parents and kids will be able to agree upon. The Leapster Learning Game System takes the brain-building principles that Leapfrog laid out in its earlier electronic learning devices (which have an interactive book format) and applies them to a video-game format. Leapster draws kids in with familiar video game templates—all of which have a secret weapon: a built-in learning component. LeapFrog hopes that kids will become so engaged in the gaming aspects and familiar television and movie characters offered by this toy that they won’t even notice that they’re learning and reinforcing valuable reading, math, and language skills.
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Aimed at 4- to 10-year-olds, the 6-by-4-inch Leapster is sized for little hands and comfortably shaped with safe, rounded edges. The 2-1/4-inch touch screen is ample for most of the gaming activities; although a little cluttered when used for the art and drawing modules. Buttons are suitably placed on either side of the unit for thumb-operated control. The right side features “A” and “B” buttons for selecting settings and answers while the left has a multi-directional gamepad for game play. A pen is also attached for drawing, selecting tools and settings, and dragging and placing objects. The 3-inch backlit display makes games visible in the dark (although parents will prefer that the Leapster is shut off at bedtime) and the animated graphics, while not completely state-of-the-art are well done and suitable for this age range.
The Leapster Learning Game System takes the brain-building principles that Leapfrog laid out in its earlier electronic learning devices (which have an interactive book format) and applies them to a video-game format.
As with the manufacturer’s LeapPad products, the Leapster does require the purchase of additional cartridges to expand its capabilities. Kids can choose titles with their favorite characters to play educational games with. The star-studded list of celebrity narrators includes TV personalities, such as SpongeBob Squarepants, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Dora the Explorer; and movie stars, such as Nemo, Cinderella, Ariel (The Little Mermaid), and Batman. Leapfrog’s own cartoon star, Tad, is narrates a few as well. While stocking up on the extra software titles can get expensive, it also gives parents some control and input on which characters they’d like their kids to learn from. And, characters for these titles are appropriately matched to the maturity of the targeted grade level (pre-K through 4th grade).
Starting up or hitting the Home button takes players to the main menu. There is one staple pre-loaded game that children will likely come back to again and again. Rabbit River is based on the Frogger game format, but with an additional learning element. In letters mode, kids guide their bunny to hop floating logs to the other side of the river while jumping on specific letters to identify them or spell out a requested 3- or 4-letter word. In numbers mode, the bunny must land on specific numbers on the logs to skip count by twos or form a correct equation. The other pre-loaded activity is Color Corral, an interactive coloring book designed to boost creative problem-solving skills. This module is like a kid’s version of Photoshop and offers a variety of scenic templates, colors, tools, and moving icons that kids can combine for an infinite number of possibilities. The included manual gives suggestions on how to reinforce these math, reading, and art concepts in the real world. .
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Each game offers multiple skill levels so kids can ease into new territory at the beginner level and challenge themselves with more advanced learning problems as they understand the concept. If kids are stumped at any point during a game, they can hit the Hint button and receive a friendly push in the right direction from an animated tutor, Edison the firefly. Edison also appears automatically if kids answer a question incorrectly several times in a row and coaches the child to reach the correct answer. The Pause button lets kids stop the game for a snack break and pick back up again where they left off.
Designed for portability, the Leapster fits easily in a backpack or tote bag and is ideal for more purposeful edutainment on the go, whether it’s a quick game on the bus ride to school or hours of playtime during vacation travel. This learning system runs on four AA batteries or on a rechargeable battery pack when combined with the Leapster L-Max Recharging System (sold separately). Leapster covers this handheld device under a 3-month warranty. –Cristina Vaamonde
Portable interactive system with action-packed games focused on learning essentials for preschool to fourth grade
Comes with 2 games built in.
Expandable with large library of games
Teaches phonics, spelling, math, art, music and more