Review: LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum kids’ tablet
It sometimes astonishes me how much technology is part of my three-year-old’s life. At nursery they have an iPad, there are computer classes as part of the Early Years curriculum and she’s baffled when we can’t download the particular episode of Octonauts she wants anywhere, any time.
And while I try to limit the amount of screen time she gets, especially when she is so young, technology will be part of her childhood in a way it simply couldn’t have been for mine.
The trick, for me, is finding the balance. On my wishlist, educational games and apps, no way for her to accidentally spend a fortune/access the darker side of the internet, and something solid enough to withstand being dropped (which should also safeguard *my* devices). Could the LeapPad Platinum be the answer?
We were sent it to review before a plane flight with her dad last month (a rare one without me) – one time when all screen time rules are suspended. In the middle of the chaos of the house move, she’s also had a bit more chance to play than normal.
So what do you get?
The vital statistics first… Aimed at ages three to nine, it has a 7in multi-touch screen with a stylus attached and you can access 800+ games, plus eBooks, apps, videos, music… You can also get interactive cards to use alongside.
Most games are sold separately but all are designed or approved by LeapFrog educators as are the child-appropriate videos within the protected web browser. The learning library promises to draw on 2,600 skills.
There are also front and rear cameras, a speaker and headphone socket plus Wi-Fi for the child-safe browser and some of the games. You can create multiple profiles, so if it’s being shared by children of different ages, they can each have their favourite games or apps stored separately.
The tablet has a five-hour battery life and a USB charger. It also seems to save power well if you don’t use it, as we had a big gap between sessions.
The RRP is £99.99, although it’s currently on offer for £50 at Amazon.
Minnie loved most of the various pre-installed apps – so much so that we have barely looked at the AppCentre and haven’t even had chance to look through the browser. PetPadParty, where you feed, groom, wash and exercise your pet was a massive hit – you can play with friends if you happen to have any with the same tablet, but it’s plenty of fun alone.
There were plenty of educational touches too – one, which sees you running a street food stall, has maths, item recognition, and teaches about basic cooking and cleaning skills (more use for a three-year-old than a nine-year-old admittedly).
The games also improve fine and gross motor skills. Some games included tilting and shaking the tablet (thankfully in a case with a shatterproof screen, another plus) with others involved more precise finger movements. The little stylus is great, although she naturally prefers to use her finger which isn’t always as effective, although it is a touchscreen device.
She also enjoyed the link with existing toys – a Leapfrog Violet ‘read with me’ dog, which she was given as a present last year turns up in one preinstalled game.
As an adult, I love the idea of a safe browser (and being able to turn wifi off), as well as the settings such as time limits for play even if we haven’t used them. She’s already got the idea of unlimited videos on YouTube so I wonder how long she’ll be happy with this particular restriction though.
And with so much that comes in only pink or blue, it was nice to have the option of green or pink, so it’s a bit more unisex.
The Imagicards are also a nice idea – they’re an extra, from £19.99 and our letter card pack costs £24.99. You can use them with the game (although we had mixed results) but also without the pad so great for throwing into a bag to practise phonics or spelling.
The not so good
A few minor quibbles as we played – some games are occasionally a bit American, while one we couldn’t seem to work. It was a bit unclear how to play and the most obvious thing to press to start was right next to the back arrow. After she’d accidentally cancelled it three times and we still didn’t know how to play, we both gave up.
More annoyingly, the pad failed to recognise some of the Imagicards. I’m still not clear if that’s because we need to unlock something as we repeated the same action for some cards which worked and others which didn’t. Even as an adult it’s frustrating, especially as I couldn’t quickly tell if it simply wasn’t working, if we were doing something wrong, or if we did need to play longer or complete something to unlock the rest.
On the flipside, some games have a reasonably lengthy starting tutorial – great for explaining what to do, but she would already be bored and trying to play when it was demo-ing. And there’s no way to skip, so by the 50th time you play, it might get dull.
The AppCentre does have a lot of choice, but within a limited range so you won’t necessarily find the big names you’d be able to get on an Android or Apple tablet. All of them are paid for too, although the trade-off is that there are no adverts and in-app purchases. There’s an Octonauts one I know she’d love, which is £10, along with various Frozen ebooks and a game, the latter currently reduced to £12. Checking those two brands alone, I could have spent £30+ easily.
LeapPad Platinum review – my verdict
I think this is a fantastic first tablet – the price is less than most of the bottom-end tablets (especially when reduced and now the Hudl is off the market) and for younger kids the safety aspects are great.
I suspect it’s better for younger kids too – by 6/7, I’d expect they’ll want more choice or big name apps which this simply doesn’t have, and parental controls on a standard tablet are likely to be best. For younger kids (possibly even two+, certainly three) there’s plenty to explore and if they haven’t had free rein on an iPad or other tablet, there’ll be fewer questions about why it can’t do x/y/z.
I know we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what we could do – there’s music and ebooks for starters, plus that browser. It’s been very easy to while away an hour or a flight with just the preinstalled games, with both of us playing together rather than her simply mesmerised by technology.
And apart from one brief crash, it’s been fast and efficient too.
There’s no getting away from the fact the extras cost, and if you want an all-round tablet that will download movies, watch CBeebies, have apps etc, this isn’t it. But if you want a really sturdy child-safe tablet with lots of educational games, music and books, this should definitely be on your list.
Disclosure: I was sent the Leappad Platinum for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own (and Minnie’s)
Images copyright MummyTravels