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Toy Store - Product Reviews - LeapPad Learning System

We’ve started our reviews with the LeapPad Learning System ™. At the moment, the LeapPad seems to be very popular. This talking book comes with an interactive "magic pen" that works like a hand-held computer mouse pointer. Children can opt to turn the paper pages and listen to the story read with different voices for each character. Or they can interrupt the read-aloud session to play with the magic pen (permanently attached with a wire). They can point the pen tip to any word on a page and hear it pronounced, or touch a picture and hear a sound effect (such as "Strike one!" for the baseball bat). Very similar to the popular Living Books computer games, this 10-by-11-inch book is more portable than a home computer. Stories in this set include Lil's Loose Tooth, Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, and Winnie the Pooh in A Sweet Good Morning. The set also includes a paper piano keyboard and map and human anatomy games. –Editorial Review from Gail Hudson , Amazon.com.

So, is it just hype or is it a quality educational toy! Well, I went and bought one for my kids so I could find out. Let me tell you, I’d heard and read many good things about the LeapPad and LeapFrog products in general, so my expectations are high and I was curious to see how children respond.

Within seconds of installing the batteries and inserting a book, we got started. It’s a great thing when you can just open it up and it works the way it’s supposed to. Hardware wise, the unit is solid and nicely designed. The pen is securely attached, although the cord seems to get in the way a bit because of where it’s attached. The books are made of a flexible, matte plastic which is a plus for durability and the cartridges have a little back flap so you can attach them to the book for storage – very handy.

The books are developmentally sequenced and colour coded which made choosing which book to buy very easy. We started with a story book, Finding Nemo and a phonics development book - Leap’s Alphabet Friends A – Z, both of which have an age recommendation of 4 – 7 years. My daughter’s quite the Nemo fan and her language skills are very good, so these seemed like good ones to start with.

In the story book, you get to hear the story as well as play little games and hear additional sounds on each page - just like those interactive books you can get for the computer, except these are portable, so the bedtime story routine, has a whole new element now.

The phonics book is more activity orientated, focusing on teaching the alphabet, letter names as well as letter sounds (very impressive). There so much to do in each book, it’s hard to do it all in one session. I like the voices too – for us in Australia , a British voice is a real bonus (I suspect the ones sold in America have an American accent).

Educationally, I think it’s a very worthwhile activity. The voices, sounds and games are motivating. It’s bright and colourful, so children can’t help but be interested and want to find our what all the things on the pages do. It reads the stories or you can choose to select the words yourself with the magic pen, which is great for developing pre-reading skills such as working from left to right, sequencing, word knowledge, (knowing that a group of letters makes a word) and word recognition (ie the letters N – E – M – O make up the word NEMO).

I also like that you can choose to spell the words and even sound out the syllables. This teaches letter recognition, letter blends and phonics skills. Phonics is an important skill in reading and some children have real trouble working out the sounds letters make so I think anything that reinforces these skills is valuable.

Value for money? Yes! Educational? Yes, definitely. Interesting and fun? Absolutely! I can see this product growing with our kids. I’m sure LeapFrog will release more books on more subjects so we can look forward to many learning hours together.

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