First, let me be clear that I’m no expert on this topic. This is just based on what I’ve seen at home.
Kids are quick to adopt. No kidding right? We have a number of tablets and phones in our home and in very short order one of those quickly became “his tablet.” Now, this was entirely my fault as I loaded some flashcards and other games on that tablet specifically, making it the one he used regularly. Interestingly he didn’t use it obsessively as I’ve heard from other parents, perhaps due to the fact that we limited the apps installed, and kept them to learning (vs gaming) apps.
Regardless, it became his tablet… and it wasn’t designed for toddlers. It was an Asus Transformer Prime TF201 which isn’t made to bounce or have drinks spilled on it.
Solution? The Asus mysteriously disappeared and I picked up a LeapFrog Ultra Ultra. Here again we’ve limited our installed apps to those that include some manner of quiz even if paired with a game or two. My observations thus far:
- The hardware isn’t super cheap. Now, you may say that it doesn’t seem too expensive relative to buying say a Nexus 7 or other similar low-priced tablet… but I say it’s not cheap based on the speed of the device. Build quality seems fine. Ours has been dropped several times and seems to shrug it off.
- These devices are slow. The pricepoint isn’t rock bottom, so why they can’t build with better processors and more RAM I have no idea, but they are slow. That said, while my son sometimes gets frustrated, he seems willing to bear with it for now.
- Games are much better than the free, and even paid games we tried on our Android devices. They’re not nearly as cheap mind you, but they seem appropriately priced. Note as well that if you start your app search by visiting sites like RetailMeNot you can usually find some pretty decent discount coupons to make them even more reasonable.
- Games that we’ve tested for encourage learning, but don’t go far enough in my opinion. For example, we have a racing game that requires our son to answer simple math questions between rounds. Unfortunately, he is able to guess his way through as the questions get harder rather than having to stop and think in order to proceed. My expectation was that there would be some minimum accuracy threshold for answers in order to move forward, else you would have to start again. This approach has held true across a couple other games suggesting that either its just easier, someone has decided that it is effective despite appearances, or they would rather trade engagement for learning.
All this said, please don’t take the comments above to mean I wouldn’t recommend the device. It definitely serves a purpose. It is easy to use. It appears to be well built and forgiving. The games are entertaining. There is an element of learning built into even racing games and the like. The price-point isn’t terrible. That said, I anticipate the request for something faster, sleeker and with better games in a couple years (and would be somewhat disappointed if it didn’t come).
LeapFrog LeapPad on Amazon.com