September 7th, 2010

Leapster 2

Manufacturer’s Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

My Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

A couple of months ago, Milo, Belle and I were staying with my parents in Michigan. The three of us hail from the Pacific time zone, so adjusting East by three hours was not super easy. Especially for one five-year-old girl who fancies herself a night owl.

For more than a week, Belle was up late, tormenting Milo and I with songs, loud self-talking, and complaints that she wasn’t tired.

“She needs something to do up there,” my mom said. “Let’s get her a Leapster.”

Of course, any (grand)parent worth their salt knows that everything between siblings must be equal. Which meant a Leapster for Milo, too.

The next day we surprised the kids with their first, very own handheld video game players. Though it wasn’t the DS Milo felt he’d rather have, both kids were stoked.

And I just have to say…I freaking love the Leapsters. They’re educationalish—with all games involving math, reading, or spelling, but graphic and exciting enough that the kids think they’re getting away with something.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider Leapster time screen time, in the same way that TV and the Internet are, and I limit it. But Leapsters are infinitely portable, fun, and difficulty levels are customizable. While most of the games seem geared toward 4- to 6-year-olds, my seven-and-a-half-year-old son still finds many of the games too challenging.

Leapfrog (the company that makes Leapsters) also expands the merriment online. With Leapworld, kids can play games that complement what they’re doing on the Leapsters. And Learning Path lets you connect your child’s Leapster to your computer, get online and supposedly see what they’ve been up to.

Each Leapster 2 comes with one (pretty lame) game that you download from the Leapfrog website. They also include a coloring activity called Creativity Castle. For the games featuring licensed characters and more intricate levels of play, you pay about $25.00. It’s easy to find printable $5.00 off coupons on the website though.

So, if your older kid can get over the stigma of owning a Leapster 2 rather than the ultra cool Nintendo DS (which costs about $100 more than the Leapster, by the way), then plug some headphones into the Leapster, snap them over your kid’s head and do the dishes (or your nails) in peace.

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This Weeks Tip

For a creative way to limit your kids time in front of the TV… give them a small sum of money each week (over and above their allowance, if they get one). Each time they watch a television show, charge them a dime. They’ll begin editing their own TV watching!