Reviewed by David Savage
The twins have just turned 4 years old and will be going in to Reception in September so we were delighted when we received the new LeapFrog LeapStart, an interactive learning system that works with LeapStart activity books.
There are 2 versions of the LeapStart available – LeapStart Nursery (2-4 years) and LeapStart Primary School (5-7 years). These cover 4 levels; Nursery, Pre-School, Reception and Year 1. Both work with all the books there are just a few cosmetic differences such as the stylus, on the Nursery the stylus is wider and easy to hold for little hands while on the Primary School is in more of an easy to hold pen shape and the Nursery comes with a carry handle where the Primary School version doesn’t.
So when it arrived the boys couldn’t wait for me to open the box. They love technology and gadgets and love learning new things, so the LeapStart is a perfect fit. And because you can buy new books for a variety of different subjects it is always going to be of use.
There was no initial setup required apart from putting in the batteries (2x AA batteries, not supplied). The LeapStart Primary School measures 10.75” x 10.50” x 2” approx. when the unit closed (21.75” x 10.50” x 1” when opened). The LeapStart has a 3.5mm headphone jack and micro USB connection, internal speakers and comes with 256mb internal memory which holds enough audio for 8+ books. Upon opening the LeapStart there is the power button and volume up/down buttons as well as the stylus attached to the casing.
So before we started with a book it can already be used as it has 2 permanent pages; one for music and one for preparing food. The music page has Word-o-matic which teaches words from the world of music, music match which asks you to match instruments to the sounds, Music Notes asks you to find musical notes on the scale. The second page is called Mix & Measure which is about adding different foods to a blender to make a smoothie, so you have you find the correct measurements and ingredients and follow the recipe to make a smoothie.
So we received Let’s Play – a 12 page sampler book (levels 3 & 4, Primary School) with the LeapStart. This book has some activities from the Primary School range of books, teaching skills such as reading, maths, logic and reasoning. Before you can use the books you have to connect the LeapStart to a computer and download the audio for the book using the LeapFrog Connect software (you will need to download this from the LeapFrog website). Downloading the audio is easy, just put you book into the LeapStart (the spiral spine of the book clips on the LeapStart) and press the stylus to anything in the book and follow the instructions. The Connect software will see the book and you can start the download. Once downloaded you can then play the games and each book will talk to you when you press the stylus to an image, letter or number.
We also received Kids’ World Atlas (Level 3, 4-6 years Primary School) to test the LeapStart with (not supplied when buying a LeapStart) and have since bought Daily Routines (Level 1, 2-4 years, Pre-school).
Overall, both boys love playing with the LeapStart and the different activities. The books are very easy to use and as they cover a wide range of subjects featuring lots of activities which improve children’s education and knowledge in a fun way and the books are always replayable. The activity books grow with your child and each book teaches 50+ key skills from ABC’s, numbers, shapes, colours, phonics, writing, counting, critical thinking, logic & reasoning, problem solving and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
The LeapStart itself is a very durable kid-tough plastic and although has been dropped on the floor numerous times is still in one piece with no cracks and in working condition.
I would have liked to see a carry handle on the Primary School version (there is one on the nursery version) just to make it easier for the children to carry around. There is a slot on the back of primary school edition so that you can carry around a spare book.
The LeapStart is so easy to use. It not only prepares children for nursery, pre-school and primary school but teaches life skills as well all in a fun and easy to understand way through games and play.
LeapFrog have always made great learning toys and the LeapStart is sure to be a winner. We will be buying more books to expand our library.
The LeapStart retails at £39.99 (nursery or primary school edition) which is excellent value for money. Books retail for £9.99 each, which I initially thought was quite expensive but you get about 35 pages of interactive learning in each book with various levels of play so it is actually more than a reasonable price to expand your child’s education.
We love it and I’m sure you will too!