Reviewed by Jo Tebbs
My little girl absolutely adores books (she isn’t old enough to read yet but loves looking at the pictures and any books with music/ sound) so I was really intrigued by the concept of the Leap Frog LeapStart Learning System.
LeapStart is fundamentally a book but which also includes an interactive stylus that when placed and tapped over particular parts of each page, brings the book to life – I have never seen anything else quite like this on the market!
Admittedly, you will initially need a couple of AA batteries to put into the main plastic book carrier part (but what toy doesn’t need batteries these days hey?!) but more importantly and somewhat annoyingly, you’ll then need to (using the USB cable provided) hook the book carrier part to your PC or Mac, and with a high speed internet connection, register with Leap Frog and download the audio content for the device/ book you’ve purchased. Some people may find this ‘installation’ element a hassle (and I don’t particularly enjoy things like this), but it was relatively straight forward and took a total of about 5 minutes to get it all sorted. I would like to highlight that if you don’t have a compatible computer and operating system, then in my opinion, this product wouldn’t be worth purchasing. Please definitely check that you have all the hardware necessary for this learning system before you buy it to ensure that it will function and operate at it’s optimal level. You really loose the captivating magic of the whole product if the audio element is missing!
I love the fact that there is a plastic, relatively robust external carrier (with a non-slip handle) for the LeapStart books. This means that the device can be ‘roughly’ handled, but yet still stands the test of time in small people’s hands and it can be taken in the car, on a plane or quite simply, the device can be used at home (you may just need to keep some spare batteries to hand if you take it on holiday). There’s also a socket for attaching headphones – this way you can avoid the background noise that comes with the books! Alternatively, there is also a volume button. The stylus is attached to the plastic carrier with a short plastic lead, so it shouldn’t get lost/ dropped or fall out of the carrier. It also has an easy to hold design so will assist in teaching your child how to hold a pen. Obviously, a 2 year old won’t have the fine motor control and dexterity that a 6 year old will have when using the stylus.
The product is aimed at children aged 2-7 years old and comes with a sampler book included so you can test the device out and determine how it all works. The sample book also gives you an idea of the type of activities on offer and an indication of the learning objectives that can be expected for each age level. You can then separately purchase a library of over 25 books to assist in developing your child’s skills as they grow, develop and learn.
The books are broken down into specific levels;
Level 1 – Preschool: this teaches the basics like shapes and colours.
Level 2 – Preschool: an introduction into multiple key skills like counting, writing and phonics.
Level 3 – Primary School: working alongside the school curriculum to assist with reading and maths whilst also helping with logic and reasoning skills.
Learn to Read – 12 books encouraging reading skills. These books have been created with levelled learning.
There is undoubtedly a S.T.E.A.M. ethos for learning with the Leap Frog LeapStart library of books available. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this idea, S.T.E.A.M stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths. This learning style aims to incorporate those subjects into ‘real life’ activities.
Another very welcomed positive to these books is that they engage my child’s imagination and mind without the need of a screen!! I feel that although all forms of education are helpful (in moderation of course), I feel that we are tending to be focused on using ‘screen based’ activities more and more, whether that be using computers, phones, tablets or the TV, so this interactive learning tool is a ‘fresh’ and innovative way of keeping a young mind stimulated using technology, but away from screens and back to books!
The books are interchangeable and can easily be swapped in and out. Meaning that your child can pick and choose which activities they would like to play/ do, and these can be carried out over and over again.
Leap Frog have also included some of our children’s favourite characters from the likes of Peppa Pig, Trolls, PAW Patrol and PJ Masks, in their books. This simple but yet effective element will help engage children and grab their attention, so that they will learn and play simultaneously whilst interacting with their favourite characters.
Overall, this is a lovely little learning tool that will help to keep little minds busy. I like that the device can be kept and utilised over a long period of time because the books will change and adapt providing new challenges and teaching new skills as your child grows and develops.
This would make a fantastic Christmas present for a child, and further books could also then get purchased by other family members (especially if they aren’t too sure what to buy your little munchkin). Most of the single books appear to cost around the £10 mark. Alternatively, you can also buy higher ‘level’ books for your child’s next birthday or wait until next years’ Christmas, and then add to your child’s Leap Frog LeapStart library collection!
Rating: I would rate this product 4/5
RRP: is £34.99 – £40