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 early 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 they’re learning and reinforcing valuable reading, math, and language skills.
|With the Leapster Learning System children can play games, read books, create art, and watch videos.|
Aimed at kids ages 4 to 8 years, the 6-by-4-inch Leapster is sized for little hands and comfortably shaped with safe, rounded edges. The 2.25-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 stylus 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.
As with the manufacturer’s LeapPad products, the Leapster does require the purchase of additional cartridges to expand its capabilities. Kids can choose from a star-studded list of their favorite characters to play educational games with, such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, Nemo, Cinderella, Batman, and more. Leapfrog’s own cartoon star, Tad, narrates a few as well. While stocking up on the extra software titles can get expensive, it gives parents some control and input on which characters they’d like their kids to learn from. Plus, characters for these titles are appropriately matched to the maturity of the targeted grade level (pre-K through 4th grade).
|This handheld system is a perfect fit for small hands and easily portable.|
Starting up or hitting the Home button takes players to the main menu. There is one 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. Another 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.
Each game offers multiple skill levels so kids can ease into new territory at the beginner level, then 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 a quick game on the bus 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).
Handheld computerized learning system
Interactive touch screen and pen
Multiple Skill Levels: Adjustable skill levels let kids learn at just the right pace for them.
Tailored Tutorials: Integrated tutorials help children learn new concepts, step-by-step.
Grows With Your Child: The Leapster software library features games for pre-K through 4th grade.