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Thursday, November 23, 2017

LeapPad Ultimate learning tablet for preschoolers

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is just how far technology has come since I was a kid and how different my childhood was compared to my kids as a result. When I was little we were never exposed to mobile phones {I didn't get my first one until I was 17} or computers {we finally got one when I was 14} and iPods and tablets didn't even exist yet. The only screen time we had as kids was in front of the tv watching abc kids, but these days kids are exposed to screens everywhere and screen time has become a wildly debated topic amongst parents.

Some people have complete screen time bans yet in other households each child has their own device. Some kids have time limits and restrictions, some have free access. Should I allow my kids screen time? Will I set time limits? Is it preparing them for the future or delaying their development? Should we blanket ban everything? I imagine these are dilemmas our parents never really had, yet they're very real concerns for parents today.

While I have a huge love for traditional toys, because that's what I played with as a child, I also believe in embracing technology and utilising it for learning. These days tablets are included on school book lists from grade 1 so I personally don't see an issue with exposing my children to them beforehand. The conundrum I have though is creating a balance between making screen time fun but also purposeful, so when I discovered that Leapfrog make their own range of educational Leappad tablets for kids I got really excited. We've been road testing the new LeapPad Ultimate for a few weeks now and I'm really impressed with it as it provides the perfect balance of educational apps that both teach and entertain kids, while also having lots of parental control options to limit access and implement usage time restrictions if you desire.

What is the LeapPad Ultimate?

The LeapPad Ultimate is the latest educational tablet from LeapFrog specifically designed for children. The tablet comes pre-loaded with apps and games to help develop core skills in mathematics, reading and comprehension, science, logic and creativity to prepare kids for preschool and beyond. It also allows access to kid-friendly web content curated by learning experts with parental controls and password protection options that can be used to set play time limits and manage multiple profiles.

The LeapPad Ultimate features:

  • 15 pre-loaded apps and videos including: Pet Pad Party, Photo Fun Ultra, Sing-A-Long, Read-A-Long Video, Letter Factory Adventures, Letter Factory Flash Cards, Pet Pals interactive storybook, Cosmic Cleanup science game, Pet Pals Hide & Seek puzzle game, 5 utility apps + 5 demo games.
  • Kid-safe LeapSearch™ web browser allows access to approved, kid-appropriate content. 
  • LeapFrog® Learning Library access to more than 700 learning games, videos, ebooks and more.
  • Parental controls with password protection provide the ability to set play time limits and add multiple user profiles
  • Just for Me™ learning technology personalises select games and adjusts learning levels between different profiles.
  • Built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery {5+ hrs battery life}
  • Shatter resistent 7-inch multi-touch capacitive screen {1024 x 600 resolution}
  • Stylus pen to encourage correct pencil grip
  • Energy-absorbing bumper
  • 2MP front and back cameras
  • 480p video recording
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/h
  • 3.5mm stereo jack with microphone
  • 8GB Memory
  • Manufacturer's warranty

Kid Tough Design

Regular tablets are often thin and extremely breakable requiring the additional purchase of a tough case to make them safe for kids to use, but the LeapPad Ultimate is quite chunky {yet lightweight} and durable enough to withstand anything a young child can throw at it {or throw it at}. The screen is inset within the casing making it less likely to be knocked or scratched. In addition to this there's a thick rubber bumper that runs the entire way around the side to protect the tablet if it's accidentally dropped, or in the unfortunate event it's thrown, sat on, walked on etc {all the things small children are likely to do at some point}. It also has a shatterproof screen with a film over the glass, so none can escape should there be a freak accident and the screen does get damaged.

To be completely honest I haven't been game to test these out by deliberately trying to damage it {because I'm not insane}. I'm sure at some point though bub will test out its durability {whether by accident or on purpose} so it's nice to have the reassurance that it should withstand anything she can {literally} throw at it. Plus there's the added bonus of not having to buy a separate case to protect it.

Kid Safe Internet Browsing

The LeapPad Ultimate allows kids to safely browse the internet via LeapSearch the LeapFrog search engine. LeapSearch provides access to online content that has been approved by LeapFrog learning experts as kid appropriate. Children can explore different videos, music, stories and images under a number of categories.

One of my biggest issues with bub having a tablet is what she'll have access to online. On her past devices we've limited her online access to YouTube Kids thinking this would stop her from finding anything inappropriate, but it turns out there's still a lot of weird stuff on YouTube kids. I've had a few quick browses on LeapSearch and am yet to find anything I wouldn't want her to watch. The best way I can describe it is it's like a cross between a more filtered version of YouTube Kids and an online resource directory. There's a good balance between funny and educational content. And yes they'll still have access to the Frozen theme song, that song is everywhere.

Kid Smart apps and games

One of the best features of the LeapPad Ultimate is that it comes with pre-loaded content so kids can start using it straight out of the box without needing to purchase any apps. The 15 apps loaded onto the tablet include a variety of games, music, videos, ebooks and demos which teach foundation maths and english skills such as letters, phonics, reading, shapes, counting, identifying and creating patterns, parts of the human body {and more}. They also explore life skills such as caring for the environment and looking after pets. The apps are all interactive with a lot requiring kids to use the stylus pen to trace lines, shapes or letters helping to build important pre-writing skills and develop correct pencil grip.

Bub's favourite of all the apps and games included is Planet Goop Cosmic Cleanup a game about looking after the planet and caring for the environment. In the game kids can choose between 3 different parts of the planet to clean and then work through various levels helping to clean, recycle or compost different rubbish and spills. At the end of each level there are important recycling or environmental facts explained. Bub's learnt so much about different types of rubbish and what can and can't be recycled just from playing this game. She's now constantly telling us what types of things can be recycled and when they're recycled that means they can be reused forever.

In addition to the preloaded apps, there's  also the LeapFrog app centre {which you can password protect} that has thousands of other educational apps, games, music, videos and ebooks. The app centre allows you to search for apps by age, skill type, category and bundles and download them directly to the LeapPad Ultimate. There's also cartridge games available to purchase in store that can be used in the cartridge slot on the side of the LeapPad. Quite a few of the LeapFrog apps and games feature popular children's tv and movie characters like Dory, Trolls, PJ Masks, Pocoyo, Team Umizumi and Blaze.

As soon as I told bub we can get other games like PJ Masks and Blaze her number one mission in life has been trying to convince me to get the PJ Masks game. She literally asks us everyday "do we have enough money for the PJ Masks game yet mum? And every day her dad leaves for work she says to him "bye daddy, make sure you make lots of money for the PJ Masks". She certainly isn't shy about letting us know what she wants. Little does she know that mummy stealthily went to Big W on one of her kindy days and I have it stashed in the cupboard for Christmas. She's literally going to lose her mind when she opens her presents Christmas morning, I just have to keep coming up with new excuses to avoid her constant requests to go buy it for the next 5 weeks {wish me luck}.

Other features we love about the LeapPad Ultimate

Without a doubt one of my favourite features is the stylus pen as it helps kids develop pencil grip while playing rather than passively pointing and poking the screen with one finger {although with the touch screen function they can still do this}. I love that the stylus pen comes tethered to the tablet and also has a slot where it can be stored inside, which means we're unlikely to ever lose it and it also teaches her to put it away when she's finished using it, which is always a good life skill to learn. Bub started out just touching the screen, as she's used to an iPad, but she soon started using the stylus and now automatically uses it for about 90% of the games and apps.

Another cool feature worth noting is that each of the demo games included actually allow kids to play a level of the game themselves as well as having a video trailer to watch. It's a great feature because it lets them have a proper taster for the game and allows you to determine whether they'll actually like it before buying. Bub actually thinks most of the demos are the real game and doesn't realise it's only one level she's playing.

I'm so impressed with the LeapPad Ultimate and how LeapFrog have managed to combine so many learning aspects into the one device. Just by playing the games that come pre-loaded bub is already learning new facts which has sparked lots of conversations about issues she otherwise probably wouldn't have been exposed to yet {like different parts of the human body, how blood uses oxygen, why recycling and composting is good etc}. I also love how using the device is helping her develop skills both physically {pencil grip, hand strengthening, hand/eye coordination} and mentally {problem solving, logical reasoning, improving concentration}. I'm also completely confident in letting her use it independently knowing she won't be viewing anything inappropriate while I'm not watching.

The LeapPad Ultimate is recommended for 3-9 year olds and given it'll grow with your child as their skills develop, plus the fact that it can have multiple profiles, I think it's definitely a worthy investment. The LeapPad Ultimate is available from Catch, Amazon, Big W. Game cartridges can be purchased in store from Big W and Toys R Us or within the LeapFrog app centre on the device itself.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were provided a LeapPad Ultimate for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience using the device. I did not receive payment for this review. I have since purchased the PJ Masks game and I'm fairly certain it won't be the last game I buy.

Would you like to comment?

  1. now I see why Riley thinks Sophie needs one, it sounds amazing, and totally dog-proof (our current scale of hardiness!)

  2. Awesome what a great product to review. Keeping an eye out when on special. Go Hayley!