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LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer {Review}

LeapFrog's LeapPad Explorer topped last year's list of hot holiday toys and was named the Toy Industry Association's Toy of the Year 2012.


Designed to change the way kids pre-school to 9 learn and play, the LeapPad is a personalized tablet with built-in camera and video capabilities, and a library of 140+ cartridge games and activities, featuring innovative apps designed to inspire creativity and make learning to read enjoyable.

Santa didn't leave one under the tree for Sebastian this past Christmas, assuming he was too young to appreciate it, but in the few months since then, he's become proficient with the iPad and the ease with which he navigates the screen and apps gave me the confidence to let him take theleap.

LeapFrog sent us a LeapPad Explorer tablet to review, as well as two new "Ultra eBooks:" Cinderella and Cars 2. The set-up/personalization of the device takes about 45 minutes, maybe longer if you don't already have LeapFrog Connect installed on your computer. I made the mistake of opening the package with Sebastian and he was beside himself waiting for it load. Therefore, I highly recommend setting up before you get the little one(s) involved.

The LeapPad Explorer has 2GB of memory, enabling it to host apps that you can download via the online App Center. Some are available for purchase on cartridges also. The price of the downloads ranges from $5-$25 and LeapPad is cross-compatible with the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer, so if you've already purchased content, it will work on the LeapPad too. It's worth mentioning that the LeapPad requires AA batteries and does not come with a charger, other than a USB cable to connect to the computer, so you'll want to stock up on extra or rechargeable batteries.

LeapPad Camera

The tablet is sleek, compact, and super durable. Sebastian's already dropped it too many times to count but it doesn't have a scratch. It's 5-inch touch screen comes with a stylus that can be tethered to the device but is easily controlled with the fingers. At 2.8 years, Sebastian has no problem navigating the interface, although some of the directives may take time to get used to since they are slightly different than those of other devices such as a PC, iPad, and iPhone.

The camera and video feature, built into the back of the device, is Sebastian's favorite so far. I overheard him yelling at the dog earlier today, "Mapu, say cheese!" A blogger's kid if I ever heard one.


*The camera quality is better, Sebastian's just moving a mile a minute.

He then likes to open the photos in the Art Studio and augment them. They're easily uploaded to your computer when you connect the device and can therefore be shared. Here are some photos of me, enhanced to show my inner beauty I think:

LeapPad Art Studio

The Ultra eBooks are one of the biggest draws and have some really cool features that leave me wondering how I ever learned to read:

  • Three reading levels that adjust to match each child’s reading ability, which the device remembers from book to book across the library so when you start a new Ultra eBook, it remembers the reading level from the last book played with;
  • Phonics support. You can touch a word to see letters highlight as the word is sounded out;
  • Engaging interaction. Kids not only enter into the world of the story but interact with that world by tapping on characters, words, and objects. Ultra eBooks also have integrated mini games that help move the story forward.

Information about each child’s game play is recorded on the device and can be downloaded to the LeapFrog Learning Path, an online portal where you can follow each child’s developing skills, see areas where he/she excels or needs support, and share achievements with friends and family.

There are few toys that can hold Sebastian's attention for long periods of time and we take lots of car trips to visit the grandparents so I'm thrilled to discover the LeapPad. While he obviously can't take advantage of all of the features at his age, what I like best about the LeapPad is that it will grow with him, continuing to challenge and engage him along the way.

{Disclosure: LeapFrog provided the LeapPad Explorer and cartridges for review purposes. No compensation was provided and all opinions expressed herein are my own.}