(Ages 4 and up/$99.99)
The LeapPad Explorer features a built-in camera/video recorder, a built-in microphone, and a library of more than 100 learning game cartridges, books, apps, and videos. Just like mom and dad’s tablet, kids can touch the LeapPad’s five-inch screen with their finger or tap it with the stylus. Kids can also turn, twist, and shake the tablet for motion-based play. LeapPad also works with all Leapster Explorer and LeapFrog Explorer cartridge games and downloadable apps. Games auto adjust so kids can learn at the right pace. Each LeapPad book app is actually three books in one, offering each story at three different reading levels. LeapPad remembers a child’s progress from game to game and book to book to keep the content challenging and engaging. Content includes everything from phonics skills, mathematics, and spelling to geography, world languages, music, creativity, science, and life skills. Kids can also practice their writing skills with step-by-step guidance and a child-sized stylus.
(Ages 4 and up/$79.99)
VTech, which has been a leading manufacturer of interactive learning toys, has gotten into the game with the InnoTab, an activity-rich tablet designed for ages 4—9. The interface will be familiar to anyone who is familiar with a tablet computer. Apps appear on the home screen and can be selected with a touch. A swipe lets you scroll through them, and turning the unit lets you reorient the layout of the screen when you turn it on its side. Resident apps include an e-reader, motion games, art studio, and a coloring book. The InnoTab is also an MP3 player, a photo player, and an organizer. You can also connect the InnoTab to the computer to download more ebooks, games, and apps. (Parents can use the online Learning Lodge Navigator to track kids’ progress in learning.) In addition to the resident apps and downloadable content, there’s also a complete library of cartridges that let kids play games and have learning adventures with a variety of favorite characters from Disney, Nickelodeon, and more. The InnoTab has a headphone jack and a stylus. It comes in pink and blue versions.
(Ages 7 and up/$16.99)
Cash Bash is an electronic handheld learning game that helps kids practice money skills. Watch the screen and quickly press the coin and dollar buttons to add up the matching amounts. You have 60 seconds to answer as many money facts as you can. There are two levels of play. Level 1 is for younger players who have coin identification and counting experience, but who are just beginning to add coin values up to a dollar. Level 2 plays exactly as Level 1 except total amounts go up to $20.
(Ages 2 and up/$24.99)
LeapFrog’s Touch Magic line brings touch technology to preschool toys. The Touch Magic products recognize every tap, touch, and swipe to bring each toy to life. The Touch Magic Learning Bus introduces children to the alphabet using music and games. The interactive surface with glossy, smooth graphics encourages exploration and features more than 40 touch points.In Learn Mode, kids touch a letter to hear its name, sound, an object that starts with that letter, and a fun sound effect. In Game Mode, touch the ball icon to hear a question. Then explore letters, objects, and sounds to find the answer. In Music Mode, preschoolers can use the six piano keys and two drum pads to play along with three songs: "The Wheels on the Bus," "The ABC Song," and an original song called "Rockin’ School Bus." Each object on the bus has its own sound effect and each band member plays an instrument. Add and layer music and sound effects by touching band members, letters, objects, piano keys, or the wheels.
Fisher-Price Smart Tablet
(Ages 3 and up/$25)
The Smart Tablet is designed to introduce preschoolers to letters, phonics, numbers, first words, and typing through a variety of games and activities. There are six modes of play. In Letters mode, use the keyboard to press letters and make up words, then play and listen for phonics sounds in Phonics mode. The bilingual Numbers mode features counting activities (1–10) in both English and Spanish. In Music mode, touch number or letter keys to hear notes and songs. Game mode provides 20 mazes and nine levels of game play. Typing mode gives children a free-play experience to type their own messages using the Qwerty keyboard, which shows upper and lowercase letters.The tablet’s LCD screen changes between a green, red, and blue backlight. The screen color changes automatically during play, and the child can also change to his favorite color at any time. The kick-stand on the back of the tablet makes it easy for kids to use the tablet on a table or their lap.