Very happy child
Reviewed in the United States on 26 December 2019
First, the bad: Getting this bugger out of the box! Leapfrog systems require setup, and they're rechargeable batteries, so they require charging. Both of those things mean you have to open the box and set it up BEFORE you give it to your excited toddler on Christmas morning. But this thing is not a willing participant when it comes to coming out of its box. I had to basically total the box to get the pen out, and there was no getting it back in without fresh glue, so in the end it ended up in a gift bag with the new books, and thankfully my girl didn't complain that it wasn't new in box this time. That, to me, makes "gifting" it a big problem.
As for setup, standard Leapfrog: install the Leapfrog Connect software on your PC, wait for a long time for the books download and install, if you're a Leapfrog customer you already know the drill. It's not the most convenient system in the world, but at least the downloads are small, and it could be slower. (Installing the Connect software for her LeapPad, where it must download every single massive video she owns before it will let me even look at anything, is MUCH slower, so I'm not going to complain about this one.) Took me about an hour or so to install all of her old LeapStart books on the pen, and it came with the sampler book preloaded. Left it charging overnight to be safe before I put it away to be gifted.
Getting to the charging port is a complete pain. If this were a battery powered device, I could get it. It's for little kids, and you don't change books all that often, so hiding the port makes sense. But it's a rechargeable battery. You need to plug it in daily. Make it easy to plug! There's no way my daughter can get to the plug on her own at the moment, she does not have the fine motor skills to get the cover open, which means she needs me to charge it for her, which is a drawback to her learning independent responsibility for her devices. On top of that, the cover itself feels like its days are numbered. Everything about it reminds me of the charging port cover on my old Galaxy phone, which we needed to replace four times. I guess when it finally breaks she'll be able to charge it herself, but I prefer not to be looking forward to things breaking when I buy them.
Now the good:
Love the increased file size. We have a lot of books, so many that she used to have 2 separate LeapStart pads, each with different books, because they didn't all fit. This fit all of the old ones plus several new ones and has room for several more. I think the description says 13, but it would depend on the book. The 3D books are larger, and the new Go books are the largest downloads, but I easily fit 10 of the older books, some of which were 3D, and both of the new Go packs with some room left over to grow into. I don't see her needing a second one of these, thank god. (She has 3 Tag pens and counting, the storage on those was so small!)
The battery life seems great, and charging is very fast. She played with it on and off all Christmas day, so when we sat down to dinner I plugged it in to charge, and it was fully charged again by the time we were finished eating. It should hold up to your average child's use in a day I would think. She has been playing with it very heavily since we got it, and mostly just playing videos, which is generally the most power intensive thing any device can do, and it's held up fine. Looks like we won't end up with battery life frustration like she does on her tablets, even if it is a video device.
I was unsure on this feature. We had purposefully NOT bought any of the 3D systems or books, (we wanted less screen time, not more!), and I was very hesitant to buy the pen because it WAS animated. I would have been less worried about buying it if it had not included the screen and just been a regular Tag/Leapreader style pen. But my daughter is left-handed, and the systems did not get the use they probably otherwise would have because the stylus was always a problem for her. She uses her Tag pens for hours on end, but the LeapStart she rarely touched, even though she liked it. It just seemed too hard for her, even though it was apparently meant for much younger children. We opted to get this pen at the Black Friday price just so that her existing LeapStart books might get more use, and we knew that she was comfortable using the Tag pen so this one should be comfortable for her as well. In that respect, it definitely is. She's thrilled with it, and she is not getting frustrated anymore.
She LOVES the animations bonus, and we discovered as a nice surprise that even though she did not own any "3D" books, this pen does work as 3D with all of the books that were re-released as 3D versions: Scout, Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, etc. So she has plenty of videos to find, which has made it very exciting for her today. It has also been a nice bonus on several of the games in those books. For example, there's a "find the hiding birds" game on the Paw Patrol book that there's no visible payoff on, you follow the instructions about where the bird is hiding and it tells you if you found it or not, but with the animation, when you do find the bird, there's an animation of the bird you found. A lot more fun at that age. Wish they would animate the Leapfrog character books the same way. She is getting a few animations on those books, spinning a spinner game pops up an animation of the spinner, etc, but more animations would be extremely welcome.
And that's where the current issue I have with the animations is. When she got to the pages/points, even in the sampler book, that had audio but no animation, she turned to us and said "it's broken!" The finer nuances of hot-spots are hard to work out at these children's ages, and it may be a while until she can accept that the pen isn't broken, it's just not supposed to play a video there. And I'm afraid that she will avoid her non-3D books in favor of the 3D ones since they're not as "exciting", no pictures. Which would be a shame, as the skills in those books are more important for her than the ones in the small selection of available animated titles. It would be very nice if Leapfrog would go back and animate its own licensed titles, like the Learning Friends, Mr Pencil, and Let's Go to Kindergarten, as those are all characters she loves and would really like to see in animation, and those are all necessary preschool/kindergarten skills that aren't covered by the Disney/Nickelodeon titles they did animate. Hopefully the new School Success title with Tad and Lily will make up for some of those gaps (I haven't received mine yet). I am even considering re-buying the new Human Body set, even though she already has the same exact set in the original Tag format, just because the animations are useful and she might learn a tiny bit more with them. Originally I had dismissed that title as an unnecessary waste of money, but she's been using that one sampler page all day, even though she's already had the older set and used to death for the last 3 months. Seeing the individual body parts separately and in motion instead of all getting tumbled together and partially hidden by each other inside the body map could be worth it.
Overall, I would say the system is definitely worth the $30 it's currently going for, and I'm very happy I bought it (as is my child).
15 people found this helpful