When LeapFrog launched in 1999 with its first LeapPad, the concept was simple – founder Mike Wood had wanted to create a way to help his child learn to read. Now, the brand has not only updated the LeapPad several times to a tablet that’s almost unrecognisable from its early days, but added products including the Tag and LeapReader reading systems and cuddly learning toy My Pal Scout.
Described as “the perfect first tablet for kids” by LeapFrog, the LeapPad 3 is in a crowded market, packed with competitors such as the VTech InnoTab Max (£99.99), and InnoTab3 (£74.99), as well as the more expensive – but higher spec – Kindle Fire HD Kids (£109.99).
It’s a totally different experience from using a tablet like an iPad, but the price reflects that. At £89.99, this is a tablet you don’t mind your kids getting their hands on.
MFM mum Magda Ibrahim
Is it easy to set up the LeapFrog LeapPad 3?
Yes, it’s easy to set up although it did ask for a few details about my child, such as name, date of birth, and so on, which some parents might not wish to share.
The paper instructions with the LeapPad3 are quite minimal and include one diagram of the tablet’s various buttons and slots, and a few paragraphs on settings.
However, once turned on and set up – which takes about 20 minutes – using the LeapPad3 is fairly self-explanatory.
How does the LeapPad 3 work?
It’s very simple – after turning on using a small silver button on the side, the LeapPad 3 comes to life with a user screen.
Once you choose the user, which can be personalised, the home screen pops up with a choice of apps and games. Using the attached stylus your child can select what they want to play with – and you can buy extra apps or cartridges from a choice of hundreds.
It’s quite intuitive using arrows, ticks and crosses to go forwards, select or not. There is also a home button on the front of the tablet which means your child can get back to the home page at any time.
Is it as responsive as an iPad or adult tablet?
No. Although you can use your finger to play games, it doesn’t have the fluidity of an iPad or adult tablet.
I even found it a bit glitchy using the stylus as occasionally game features wouldn’t follow through without a few taps.
Tell us about the peer-to-peer feature, how does it work, what do you think of it?
With the peer-to-peer feature your child can play games or ‘chat’ with another child who has a wifi-supported LeapPad device but they must be in the same room.
One of the pre-loaded apps, Pet Chat allows kids to use the feature by using a series of ready-to-go phrases like ‘I’m great!’ or ‘See you later, alligator’, as well as emoticons.
The Pet Pad Party app also allows children to play with each other’s pets using the function.
Other games with this feature include Arturo’s Bug Adventures, although I struggled to find other available apps with the peer-to-peer option.
For us, it wasn’t that great a feature as none of my son’s friends have a LeapPad3 and his cousin has an older version, which doesn’t have the option.
What do you think of the screen size?
The LeapPad3 has a 5in screen which translates as 11cm width by 6.5cm height. It does seem quite small and I particularly noticed when my son was playing on a Jake the Pirates game how teeny the characters looked. Bearing in mind how much I loved my Nintendo Game Boy as a child with its 2.6in diagonal screen, I don’t think my son cared.
What‘s the resolution like?
The resolution is 480×272 pixels which is pretty low resolution and some of the graphics can occasionally seem a bit pixelated.
The actual size of the whole LeapPad3 is 19cm x 13cm x 2.5cm. Its curved edges and the thoughtful placement of the home button, directional movement button and the on/off switch and volume meant it was easy for my son to handle the tablet.
What’s the audio like?
I found it easy to hear the accompanying audio which is attached to each section of an app or game and there’s a handy volume control button on the bottom right hand side of the LeapPad 3.
Is it heavy for little hands?
No, the weight of the LeapPad3 is 385 g which is around the same as a Kindle HD Fire Kids tablet, which weighs 360g with its kid-proof case.
It is chunky so it certainly doesn’t feel light – but my three-year-old was perfectly comfortable holding it.
What age would you recommend it for?
Although LeapFrog recommends the LeapPad for ages three to nine, the reality is that it’s probably better suited to the younger end of that scale.
My son, who is three, absolutely loves it, but his cousin – who has just turned seven and had an older model LeapPad a few years ago – has all but grown out of using it.
Is it easy and safe to connect to the internet?
Yes, one of the first prompts on set up was to connect to wifi and it worked straight away.
It connected using our home access code so as far as I could tell, it was as safe as using any of our other devices.
The limited internet capability was both a positive and negative. I felt totally happy letting my son browse the LeapSearch app as it is packed with pre-screened pictures and videos appropriate for children such as craft tutorials, animal videos and music.
However, there’s no chance to get online for a quick Google browse yourself, even in parent safe mode.
What are the included apps like?
Well, let’s put it this way, you will definitely need to buy extra apps and games. It comes with several apps pre-loaded but this includes basic features such as a calendar, clock, notepad and calculator.
The more exciting apps are a music player, photo editor, art studio, voice memo, music player, and video camera.
For my son, the best pre-loaded app was without doubt the Pet Pad Party – which allows children to create their own cute monkey, dog, cat, penguin, unicorn or other pet, give it a name, colour and play a series of games with their new pal.
What do you think about the different types of software?
The range of software available is enormous and prices start from around £2 with age ranges from three up to 12, so there’s certainly plenty of choice.
If anything, I found trying to choose quite overwhelming but LeapFrog has helpfully created bundles and categories such as learning games, eBooks, foreign languages and many more to make the decision easier.
What is the battery life like?
The battery is supposed to last six hours and it definitely met the claim. It lasted well and we only needed to charge it once during a long weekend in Madrid, despite my son using it for the airport, the flight and during the break.
Older LeapPads needed four AA batteries but the LeapPad 3 comes with a built-in lithium ion battery, along with a USB cable and charger which I found convenient.
How long does it take to recharge?
The LeapPad doesn’t give a percentage charge figure like an iPad or smartphone does, so it’s tricky to say exactly how long it takes but I found it was fully charged within an hour of plugging it in.
Does it come with enough storage space?
The LeapPad 3 has 4GB of space so it’s not huge but comparable to other tablets like the VTech InnoTab Max.
Tell us about the camera and video recorder
There’s a 2 MP camera at the front and back of the camera, plus the tablet has 480 pixel video recording. It’s not the best quality ever but adequate for kids to use for fun snaps and videos.
Is it durable?
Definitely. LeapFrog says it is “kid-tough and thoroughly drop-tested” and I can vouch for this as my son dropped it on a hard floor a couple of times! The casing is a thick, robust plastic and the screen is shatter-safe.
Is the LeapPad 3 more of an educational tool or is it an all-round entertainment tool?
As far as I was concerned, the LeapPad3 was a fantastic all-round entertainment tool which has some educational value.
I think it’s stretching it a bit to labour the educational element too much as if my primary goal was education then I’m not sure my first port of call would necessarily be a kids’ tablet.
However, the LeapPad 3 and its parent company LeapFrog has won a barrage of awards for its educational value.
There are hundreds of reading, writing and maths games available and it is a nice thought that your child is learning alongside being entertained. I would like to try out the language apps particularly as my son will start learning French at school shortly and I think that could help me to assist his learning.
A good-quality, durable kids’ tablet that will provide hours of entertainment and is particularly useful for travelling.
It’s good value and perfect for a birthday or Christmas present but extra spending is inevitable to buy all the apps and games your child will want.
I would recommend it, especially if your children keep borrowing your tablet!
Star rating – 4.5 out of 5
MFM mum Suzanne Baum
Is it easy to use?
Yes! With two teenage brothers, my youngest son, six-year-old Jake, is used to playing on technical devices and so is quite experienced in working his way around the InnoTab3, and our iPads.
However, I found this tablet was a lot easier for him to handle, be left to play by himself and I found him more engrossed in the tools it comes with, such as the camera, music player, voice recorder and apps (It comes with 10 apps).
Tell us about the games.
The Photo Fun app is very entertaining for Jake who spent a good half hour making pictures with funny masks and experimenting with the cool effects.
There are lots of game cartridges to go with this device and it is worth investing in a good selection as once the apps have been explored you do need to add to its contents.
But at £19.99 I think the games are quite pricey (especially as the iPad has so many cheaper apps to buy) so choose carefully what will interest your child.
Our favourite was the Disney Doc McStuffins cartridge, which Jake loved; despite it being aimed at kids aged 3 to 5! The game encouraged him to use problem-solving skills to help Doc treat toy patients and learn health lessons.
Is it recommended for the right age?
This tablet is aimed at three to nine year olds but I think Jake (6-years-old) is the perfect age for it.
Any older, and the content can prove a bit babyish and unlikely to keep an older child interested for long, when there are so many other gadgets for older kids on the market.
An excellent product for younger kids. The fact it is very sturdy means it won’t break easily and it is designed to fit into small hands. If looked after it can last a long time.
It’s responsive, the screen size is perfect and it’s a great all-round entertaining and educational tool, saying that the games are quite pricey.
Star rating – 5 out of 5