New LeapFrog LeapPad 2 and Leapster GS give Educational Gaming a Power Boost

There are a lot of options for educational toys and apps for children. Many of them target specific age groups with stimulating colors, buttons, and sounds but not many will grow with your children. Before you know it, every 4 or 5 months you are putting away toys that they've outgrown. Announced today, LeapFrog's new LeapPad 2 and Leapster GS kid-friendly tablets are designed to grow with your child. 

The LeapFrog LeapPad (right) and Leapster (left) were first introduced in 2011 and received numerous toy awards and praise from parents and educators.  LeapFrog has taken the feedback from parents and their kids and really brought their content and hardware to the next level.  

The LeapPad 2 now has a new screen and processor that generates faster touch feedback and better graphics. The new screen also uses less power than the previous LeapPad, resulting in an hour increase in battery life.  There is now a front-facing camera in addition to the camera on the back -- both received an upgrade from 0.3 megapixels to 2.0 megapixels.  There are now even more games that use the cameras for photo manipulation and even augmented reality games.  The internal storage has been bumped up to 2 GB from 4 GB, which is enough for up to 40 LeapFrog video packs. This device is designed for kids 3-9 years old. 

During our hands-on with the LeapPad 2, we were impressed by the speedy touch feedback powered by the new processor.  The graphics were impressive for an educational toy at this price point. We played different games that allowed us to take pictures, insert them into the game and design our own characters. We played an Olivia the Pig game that was aimed towards younger users of the LeapPad 2, and was intended to teach kids routine, pattern and exploration of interactive elements by living a day as Olivia. Younger users can click on different objects on the screen and learn how to explore a touch screen environment to trigger action events. 

LeapFrog also partnered with the Disney and made a special Disney Princess edition of the LeapPad 2 (shown above) that comes with special Disney content, a special carrier case and stickers (shown below). 

While the LeapPad 2 is great for LeapFrog's Ultra eBooks and more click and play activities, the Leapster GS Explorer is a great device for fast-action LeapFrog games because of its size and button controls. The internal storage, display, and processor also received a bump in specs.  The Leapster GS now also comes with a built-in microphone and back-facing camera, things that used to be available only as optional accessories.  This Leapster GS is designed for kids who are 4 to 9 years old. 

We played an augmented reality game with the Leapster GS that used the back facing camera to capture live video of our environment, which the characters in the game interacted with. When we played the games where we had to shake the Leapster, we really felt that the device was heavier than expected for something designed for children as young as 3 years old, but at the same time we were not at all concerned about dropping it and shattering it into pieces because of its sturdy design. 

The coolest thing about the LeapFrog is the content that's available for the hardware.  LeapFrog is very focused on putting out content that match latest research on child development and learning and there is a strong commitment on tailoring education to the individual kid.  Over time, the LeapPad 2 and Leapster GS will learn and track the user's progress and bring the education level to different games so that there is never a dull moment or a steep learning curve.  With this auto-leveling system, the device will once in a while throw in a tougher question to keep your kid engaged.  The game will automatically level-down when it senses that the kid needs more time to build fundamental knowledge on a topic.  Parents can also track their kid's progress by looking at the subjects and they types of games that their kids are excelling at or having problems with. 

LeapFrog constantly partners with new kids cartoons, movies, shows and educational brands like Discovery Channel to produce fresh and fun content.  Later this summer, LeapFrog will reveal new content with its newest partner --the ever popular Sesame Street. Although we only saw a sneak peek of the video, you can be sure that Elmo will make an appearance in the games and the videos for LeapFrog.

The company offers universal cartridges and digital downloads for both generations of both devices.  If you are looking to upgrade, have no fear, because you will not have have to purchase all new cartridges and games. Digital content is associated with the LeapFrog account instead of each individual device.  

The LeapFrog LeapPad 2 and the Leapster GS Explorer will both be available for pre-order on July 18th. They will also be available at major retailers early August. The LeapPad 2 will be $99.99, and the Disney Princess Edition will be $129.99.  The Leapster GS Explorer will be available for $69.99.