My son has been eyeing up the LeapPad Explorer for months, ever since his little friend showed him one at swimming one night after school, so when I was offered one to review, I couldn't turn it down. I've always resisted buying my children DS's and iPods as I feel at 5 and 6, they are a little too young for them and my two are more than happy to spend three hours colouring so I don't feel like I need a device to entertain them. One of my gripes about things like DS's is that they seem to be used by parents as a way of keeping them quiet and well, I've always felt they are a little anti-social.
For some reason, I don't feel quite the same way about the LeapPad which is why I had already considered buying one. Perhaps it's because there is a strong educational element to the LeapPad Explorer and through the use of the many apps and activities it can help to develop such skills like reading, maths, science, geography, art, music and languages.
We were sent the LeapPad to review, along with a Toy Story game, Spongebob Squarepants game and a £15 voucher to choose our own apps to download. In the box you get the LeapPad which has two pre-loaded games on it and one downloadable game which you choose during the set-up process (I chose the Jewel Train game), the parent guide, a USB cable and a spare stylus.
I decided to set up the LeapPad before I showed it to the children, so sat down with a glass of wine to commence the process. Set-up was quick and I found the instruction were easy to follow, we were up and running in no time.
Set-up was easy, the instructions were easy to follow and we were up and running in no time.
One of the first areas I explored was the LeapPad connect site so I could see what apps were available. There's a good range of apps including games, flashcards and e-books. A lot of the apps available are reasonably priced at around £5-7.50 with the more popular games like the Disney ones being £20. I personally think £20 is a bit steep but I did relent and download the Disney Cars game as my son had some birthday money to spend and he was desperate for it. I would quite like to see some cheaper games/applications available, perhaps around the £3 mark or even some occasional free downloads.
The LeapPad has clear instructions for the children and they didn't really need any help from me to get going on it as it's quite intuitive. I like that they can have their own user accounts and all games and apps you download are available on each account. There's also a guest log-in, which is what I use if I ever have a sneaky go!
I love the Learning Path function on the LeapPad Connect site, it really appeals to the spy in me. I like being able to see what they have been playing on and what skills they are excelling at and where they need a bit more practice so I always make sure that they log-in to their own user account.
The LeapPad has a built-in camera, video recorder and microphone and this is one of the features my children like best. They love to take pictures and video of each other being silly and I like that you can upload the photos to the LeapPad Connect site and share them via Facebook or save and print them.
I let the children loose with the £15 voucher and they each chose a £7.50 game. My son went for "Stretchy Monkey" which seems to be a very popular game around here with the boys and helps with learning patterns, matching and shapes, whilst the little lady opted for "In the Kitchen With Hap" which I love. The game covers things like measurement, health eating and counting. I've got my eye on "Mr Pencil" next and if it wasn't £20 to download, I'd probably already have it!
The LeapPad itself seems quite robust and isn't really rubbery like I would have expected. I'm not sure quite how much abuse it would stand up to as my children are quite careful but I'd like to think that if they dropped it accidentally it wouldn't shatter into tiny pieces immediately.
My top tip is get some rechargable batteries. It might just be that I bought rubbish batteries but the LeapPad just ate them up. I now have a dedicated set of rechargables purely for use with the LeapPad but I'm pretty sure there is a power adaptor available separately should you wish to buy one.
One downside is that having one LeapPad is that it does mean my two little darlings fight a little about who has had longer on it but I refuse to buy two of everything and insist my children should learn to share! We tend to use time of the LeapPad as a reward now and they are understanding that. Mainly because I don't like the behaviour electronic games bring out in them but also because they love playing it so much, it works really well as a reward.
The LeapPad Explorer is not a cheap item however if I didn't already own one, I would definitely consider buying one. It's fun and educational and I think as they'd use it for a few years, it works out to be good value for money.
With thanks to LeapPad for providing this product for review. All words and opinions here are mine and based on my own experience of the LeapPad Explorer.