Looking for ways to entertain a nearly four-year-old on a long haul flight was pretty daunting, but we made sure we were well equipped with books, games and toys for the eight-and-a-half hour journey to Barbados. As part of our bag of tricks was a Leapfrog Leapstart system, which we were hoping would keep him occupied for a chunk of the journey.
If you’ve never heard of it, the Leapstart is an interactive learning system that is a cross between a book and a computer. You buy different activity books which help children learn to read, count and solve problems, using an electronic stylus. It’s something I’d been considering for Christmas, but didn’t get around to buying, so trying it out on our 8.5 hour flight was the perfect chance to give it a good go!
We were very kindly sent the system, along with a book, to test, so here’s our Leapfrog Leapstart and PJ Masks Moonlight Hero Maths review…
We kept it as a surprise for our eldest son, so he wouldn’t start using it before we went on holiday. I thought it would have more of an impact if we just packed it in our hand luggage and brought it out when he started to get bored on the plane. So when it arrived, we hid it under the stairs until he went to bed, then started to set it up.
The system takes two AA batteries, and once you’ve tracked some down and popped them in, you need to set up the system. I was glad we did this when our son wasn’t around as he probably would have been a bit frustrated that he couldn’t use it straight away. You plug the Leapstart into your computer with the USB cable supplied, and register the device through the Leapfrog website.
The contents of the book you’ve bought also needs to be downloaded, so hang on to the USB cable!
A little tip for those of you who are, ahem, slightly disorganised like me … make sure you buy a pack of batteries. If you take them out of your remote control and they’ve been used for a while, the Leapstart will suck the life out of them. I’m sure most people with young children have supplies of batteries … and we’ve now stocked up!
My first thought on testing the Leapstart was that the design is really good for young children – it’s like a little plastic briefcase with a handle for them to carry it around. I could see our son walking through the airport carrying it like a mini businessman! There are also only three buttons – on/off and volume up and down – which means it’s nice and simple for little ones to use.
Once you’ve downloaded your book’s contents, you’re set to go. The book clips into the middle of the Leapstart so it doesn’t fall out if you pick it up, and children are given instructions to work through. At the bottom of the page are different symbols so you can choose which level to work at, and you can press the star icon as many times as you need for the instructions to be repeated.
The stylus pen is quite chunky and has grips on the side, so it’s not fiddly to use, but I think the cable could do with being a bit longer. To make the tip connect with the book it has to be upright, and getting it to the top corner of the page is a bit of a struggle if it’s not at the right angle.
We were sent the PJ Masks Moonlight Hero Maths book to review, and our son really enjoys using it. I wasn’t sure if it would be too difficult for him being a maths book as he’s not four yet and can’t do sums, but the lower level is perfect for him. A lot of the activities aren’t maths based, so it feels more fun than work. An example activity is finding certain shapes or numbers on a page, and the next level would work up to answering simple maths questions.
With the PJ Masks characters and the novelty of the stylus pen, I think it’s a fab way of learning … and sneaking a bit of work into playtime!
The book kept our son entertained for a fair while on the flight … until his little brother wanted in on the action and it ended with a bit of a wrestling match.
As he enjoyed it so much, we’ve since bought the Leapstart World Atlas (he absolutely loves maps and reading his children’s atlas before bed), and the Shapes and Colours book for our youngest son (nearly two). My plan was to take these on our car journey up to North Wales as another little surprise, but mother of the year here completely forgot that you need to download the content onto the system before they can be used. So we had no use out of them while were in the car! I really need to remember that for next time!
Overall, I’d say the Leapfrog Leapstart is a great learning tool for preschool children as there’s so much choice with the books you can buy. The Leapstart retails at £39.99, and the books cost £7.99 up. We bought the two books in the Argos two for £15 deal, which made them good value.