My daughters have reached the age where they’re starting to play with some of the same toys. The 4-year-old loves her Calico Critters, and her 8-year-old sister is willing to join in the fun…even if she does turn the furry friends into aliens (that still counts as playing, right?). What becomes more of a challenge is when my little one tries desperately to keep up with her big sister’s gaming sessions. While I’m not a huge fan of handheld entertainment (why rely on a machine when you can be using your imagination?), that’s becoming a more difficult pill to swallow as the kids get older. So when we can find some electronic games that tap into their creative sides, then I’m all for a little screen time. Now with 2 girls vying for the same toy, things can get a little tricky. Seemed like a good excuse to check out this holiday season’s most sought-after gifts: the LeapPad 2 and LeapsterGS. Since my older daughter has both the original LeapPad and the Leapster Explorer, I was curious to see just how LeapFrog could expand on their game play and make it worth the price of admission, so to speak. First off, the LeapPad 2 is packed with plenty of apps that let kids play, draw and take pictures…but it’s much faster this time around. That means game downloads don’t feel like you are waiting “for-ever” (that’s the 8-year-old talking). Plus, now there are 2 cameras, including one that is front-facing so kids can now take pictures of themselves. This added capability thrills my older daughter, and allows me a reprieve from playing amateur photographer. And because all her LeapPad games are backwards-compatible, they still work with the newer model–something we can always appreciate. Since my 4-year-old has inherited her sister’s Leapster Explorer, she’s been hoping Santa will treat her to the LeapsterGS. Even though she’s at the beginning of the suggested target age range (4-9), she’s already familiar with the handheld game commands and comfortable with following the straightforward directions. What’s really appealing for active kids is the built-in motion sensor that lets little bodies join in on the fun, as they tilt, shake and twist the GS along with the game. While some apps may be a little more advanced, like the math-focused Escape of the Sillies, it’s encouraging to know she’ll be able to move up to that level of game play as she grows.
In a Nutshell: Kids pining for the latest gaming devices? The latest models from LeapFrog offer plenty of bang for the buck, and equal amounts of entertainment and education.