Not an iPad; sorry kid
November 29, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Leapster vs MobiGo vs Fisher Price iXL vs ?

We're considering getting our 3-1/2 year old a hand-held device for Christmas. I've seen lots of different kinds but have no idea how to sort through the differences or figure out what would be good for her developmentally. She loves to fool around with my iPhone and my laptop, is on the brink of reading (can sound out words phonetically), and I think she'd love a toy like this. And yes, we're thinking of it more as a toy than an educational tool but if it challenges her and gives her some additional skills than that's a bonus.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each system?

I'd prefer something that was upgradable and could grow as she does and that focuses less on the branded character (Dora, Cars, Buzz Lightyear, etc) but it looks like most of them are pretty heavily associated with all the branded characters.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Shopping (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My son and his friends (3-5 year olds) have been through two of those. Leapster was OK but the fivers started to get bored. Mobigo was really buggy. There's tons of used devices out there at yard sales and consignment shops if you choose to go that route.

What they all love now is . You have an enormous amount of control over what they can access and you just need a cheap way to get to the internet. And no, they can't get to porn from there!
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:34 PM on November 29, 2011

My kid is at the same age/stage as yours, and I wasn't thinking about getting him anything like this until we went on vacation with an older kid who had a Leapster Explorer. He still used it, and my kid loved it. So, that's what Grandma is getting him for Xmas this year. I also am thinking of it more as a toy, from the reviews they don't hold up forever so I am not expecting it to last indefinitely.
posted by pinky at 8:00 PM on November 29, 2011

We are on our second Leapster 2 (I accidentally broke the first one by closing it in a reclining chair - don't do that, the screen doesn't like it.). While my son (he's now 5, he's had one since he was about 3 1/2) does enjoy playing with it, he enjoys the phone/PC games more. I'm trying to sort out a way to get him an older/used iPod Touch for Christmas this year, since I think he'll actually get more out of it.

They are absolutely heavily branded. I also find that he sometimes has trouble with the game mechanics, in large part due to the small screen & really lousy graphics.

The one 'plus' of the Leapster is that you can plug it into a PC and get usage stats, so in theory you can sort of track how your kid is doing in solving the academic puzzles.
posted by anastasiav at 6:35 AM on November 30, 2011

The downside I see to any of these are the relatively high cost of game cartridges. Like $20-$30 per game for Leapster, which we had in the past.

I know you said no-go on an iPad, but how about an iPod Touch? The sheer volume of 99 cent and free games (educational or not) is staggering. And it will definitely grow with them. My 6 year old, when operating a new device for the first time, asks me right off if it is touch screen. Both my 12 year old and 6 year old have had hand-me-down out of service iPhones for over two years now - held up well, definitely some drops along the way. Plenty of kid-friendly cases out there also.

My youngest was able to navigate the entire iPhone from the age of 3, and actually learned to select songs without being able to read (cover art, counting down in the list, etc). Now that he is beginning to read, the iPhone is nothing but positive reinforcement for recognizing words. Add to that the ability to watch movies, and it is a magical device. I played the part of old person the other day and was telling my 12 year old that 20 years ago I could not have imagined carrying something that did all of this in my pocket.

Refurb 32 GB model is $179 at the moment - older version from 2009. Brand new 8 GB is $199, so a trade-off of space and newness. My boys run up against the 8 GB wall, but it is still a good amount of storage without overloading movies and music. Might be far outside of your price range, but thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:47 PM on November 30, 2011

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