So let’s face facts, your kids can (and will) eventually get hold of your tablet. The lure of it being a “grown up” toy, combined with the fact that it both lights up and has buttons, not to mention the many, many warnings you’ve given them not to touch it will by now have made it an irresistible goal. In all probability, they are planning to grab your prize technological possession as you read this.
So what can you do?
Well, our advice is to look into getting them their own tablets. That’s right, they make tablets for kids.
I’m talking about tablets that look good with rice crispies and snot smeared across the screen, tablets that can be thrown down the stairs twenty-three times a day and still function happily, tablets with buttons that are specially designed for little fingers to press.
Not only are these tablets wonderfully designed and made, they also come complete with a vast (and growing) collection of educational apps. So the kids will be learning something at the same time as playing.
I reviewed one such tablet, the LeapPad Explorer 2, and this is what I thought.
The tough screen, thick outer casing (described on at least one site as “tantrum proof”) and heavyset design of the LeapPad 2 all speak to adult concerns about technology in the hands of children. However, the bright colours and toylike plastics demarcate this model very clearly as your child’s tablet, setting it apart from your own version.
The screen’s resolution (480 x 272) is pretty terrible, but perhaps not so much when you consider the mess your boy or girl probably makes of a bowl of spaghetti. Screen wise, the major screen problem here is not low resolution, but is, in fact, the stylus, which can often miss the target completely (spaghetti or no spaghetti).
Elsewhere, the 500MHz processor isn’t really up to much and tends to be prone to odd slip up here and there, even when its only processing 2D puzzle game apps.
The LeapPad runs on four AA batteries (up to nine hours), or an optional charger, although the amount of charged stored is, frankly, abysmal.
£62 is a great price for a tablet, but is perhaps a bit much for a children’s toy. However, if you want a decent junior tablet, then this price (and up) is what you’re likely to be looking at, I’m afraid.
Reading all that back to myself, it does seem like I have a bit of a downer on this tablet, but honestly, I really don’t.
All told, the LeapPad Explorer 2 is a fine little device. As a junior tablet, the LeapPad is fun and uncomplicated in all the right ways and its special kid-friendly operating system is a great first step towards the more demanding worlds of iOS, Windows or Android.
The apps are generally good, with rudimentary puzzle games and learning software based around science, music, maths and even foreign languages. On the downside, the apps, while mostly very good, can be a bit pricey. To make matters worse, a lot of them are depressingly simplistic, even for a five year old. Being shown what to do at the start of every turn quickly becomes depressingly repetitive, no matter how old you are (which also serves as a sorry testament to how many times I had to go back and restart them during testing).
Aside from the minor niggles, however, this tablet generally performs very well.
As a way to prevent little hands from finding their way to your iPad or Surface, the LeapPad is an excellent purchase. As a learning tool, it is both well designed and fun, but as a tablet, it leaves rather a lot to be desired.
It is easy to imagine children getting annoyed with the slow response times, occasionally choppy animations (due to lack of processing power) and apps that, whilst generally fun and likeable, can also be annoying and overly patronizing. The other worry here is that your little ones may well outgrow this tablet before you finish paying for it.
However, all things considered, this is a fun little device that should, at worst, provide a few weeks’ distraction and, at best, give your children a helpful leg up into multiple scholastic areas, as well as information technology.