I am always on the hunt for worthwhile, well-made educational products to use with Maddy, Owen, and Cora. It’s sometimes hard to sort them all out because so many do exist on the market, and only recently have we invited the electronic learning devices into our home.
This New For Us Friday, we have a totally new-for-the-world device that’s not even on the shelves yet. It’s so new that it’ll rock everyone else’s world–like it rocked ours–on July 15th when it hits stores everywhere.
The kind folks at LeapFrog have also given me the opportunity to give one Leapster Explorer AND Toy Story 3 Cartridge Game away to my readers. Seriously. You’ll get the Explorer on your doorstep on July 15, the very day the product makes its way onto store shelves everywhere. Your pool pals will be so jealous. Your long car trip to the beach will be that much easier because your kiddo will be totally engaged with her new device. Your only problemo? Working out a sharing schedule if you have more than one kid.
Here’s the skinny:
- Leapster Explorer: The Explorer, like its cousin the Leapster, is a handheld gaming platform for 4- to 9-year-olds, but the Explorer takes things to a whole other level.
Considered a “best-in-class” mobile learning device, I immediately loved that the Explorer’s screen was large, its graphics clear, colors bright, and that Maddy, Owen, and Cora could either use the touch-screen feature or use the stylus with complete ease.
The Explorer is a “portable hub for dozens of downloadable Leaplet ™ Learning Apps, including e-Books, videos, game apps, and flash cards.” With 12 games and 18 Leaplet Learning Apps, kiddos can play over 40 total games on this device. And by connecting the device to the computer, they can play in the online LeapWorld–“the safe, online learning playground” where parents can also access their child’s personalized Learning Path.
Available this fall, a simple accessory, the Leapster Explorer Camera, will turn the Explorer into a single shot and video camera where kids can edit photos, make galleries, and port them into games or videos. (Eeeeee! Sounds so awesome, right?)
- Jewel Train— a logic game where kids have to connect railroad pieces in order to get their train from Point A to Point B. Owen and Maddy (and even Cora) are currently Jewel Train obsessed.
- Harmonies–players get to control four singers, turning their voices on and off and adding various musical sounds. Love it.
- Pet Pad–one of everyone’s favorites, kids get to create, feed, bathe, and entertain their own little pet who will then be on their own screen each time they log in.
- Sugar Bugs–kids get to brush away bugs in teeth. They love it, and why wouldn’t they?
- Mr. Pencil Saves Doodleburg–along with super-silly Mr. Pencil, players help rebuild Doodleburg and practice drawing lines, shapes, and letters along the way. Love, love it.
- The Penguins of Madagascar–this is the first game Maddy and Owen have ever played where they get to move their ‘guy’ with the arrows and make him jump, kick, and move. Big fans of the Madagascar movies, my kids love this.
- Disney*Pixar Toy Story 3— all the hype right now, my kids have also fallen hard for this game, where they can be Buzz or Woody and (use their early literacy skills) to complete missions and save toys from the Caterpillar Room.
- Disney Princess Pop-Up Story Adventure— everyone wants to play this. Even Owen. This really is a pop-up story, where players hear the story and locate clues in each section of the story in order to progress to the next part. All the while, they are secretly learning early reading and music skills along the way. Awesome.
The Explorer is surprisingly easy for kids to navigate, even for those who don’t own another handheld. I sat with Maddy and Owen the first few times they played, but before I knew it, they would come running to me, excited about something they figured out or proud about their progress. Some games and Apps did cause Maddy and Owen different levels of frustration, but the age range for the device is wide, so it seems only natural.
Cora, at 3 1/2 years old, initially needed my guidance, but she soon found that the Harmonies App, the Pet Pad, and Mr. Pencil game were ones that she could play with little to no frustration.
Overall, here’s the skinny on the Leapster Explorer:
- that it is lightweight and sleek but extremely durable. This guy has (shhhh!) taken a few good hits already, and he’s still kickin’ with gas;
- the clarity and quality of graphics, the color-quality on-screen, and the size of letters and prompts. My kids have no idea how lucky they are to have this kind of quality on this small of a device, but I remember those teeny, dark screens with fuzzy graphics and tinny sounds;
- the fact that the Explorer remembers each player’s skill level and progress and that even adjusts mid-game to meet the player’s needs is, in my opinion, incredible. Especially when I have three kids who can all play on the same device, log in under their names, and pick up where they left off last time on any game;
- that we can connect and download interactive e-books from the Tag Library to our device. Interactive books on the handheld? Awesome.
- the Explorer plays videos. Learning videos filled with phonics and math and fun songs and the alphabet;
- that the Learning Path (although ours has not yet been set up) will keep track of each child’s progress both on the Explorer and online in LeapWorld. I cannot wait to get it rolling because it will be really interesting to see areas where they are comfortable and areas where they need more support;
- that new content will be able to be added to cartridge games and the handheld device via downloads, starting in the fall of 2010. Really? Just seems so cool to me.
- that the pets from the Pet Pad had bodies. Really. Kids get to choose a body for their pet, but the body never shows up, and apparently it’s not supposed to. It’s a happy little head, tail, and paws, but an empty space for a body. My kids, the pet-crazy kids they are, they wondered what happened to the body. And so did I;
- that the string to the stylus was a teeny, tiny bit longer. Maddy, my leftie, loves that it’s placed on the top left side of the device, but Owen and Cora have to dance around a bit to put it in a proper, comfortable position to use;
- that I had two more Explorers so that I wasn’t constantly practicing my active parenting skills by reminding Maddy, Owen, and Cora about polite sharing skills. I’m only kind of kidding. This is a good problem, really, and the holidays are right around the corner, right?
Want to win your own Leapster Explorer and Toy Story 3 Cartridge game and have it on YOUR doorstep on July 15th? Here’s how:
- Leave me a comment telling me why your child, children, or you will love the Explorer, and you’ll be entered. Include your email address, and that’s it. Giveaway ends next Friday, 6/18/10, at midnight. Random.org will choose a winner for us to keep things nice and simple.
No worries if you don’t win one here, though; you can order your own Leapster Explorer from the Leapfrog site in either green or pink for $69.99; the Game Cartridges retail at $24.99 each and packs of two Leapster Explorer Leaplet Learning Apps for $14.99. A handful of other cool accessories are now available on the site for pre-order and summertime delivery.
Just so you know, we are still big fans of our good ole desktop computer games, and LeapFrog’s Tag and Tag Junior still rank high among our family’s few electronic ‘toys’. But New For Us Fridays don’t get much better than this, and seriously, we’re pretty darn happy the Explorer found its way to our home.
disclosure: Big thanks to the good people at LeapFrog for giving our family a fully-loaded Explorer to try out, along with several games. We are grateful for their generosity. In exchange for the free product, we were asked to share our complete and honest opinions. So here it is, my honest opinion, influenced only by my three little playas, Maddy, Owen, and Cora.