Best Handheld Game for 4 & 5 Year Olds?

Updated on September 27, 2010
A.R. asks from Lyle, WA
15 answers

I'm getting ready to take a very long flight with my children. We normally don't allow them to play video games, but I thought that I might get one (or two) for our trip. Do you have any recommendations for an inexpensive game for a 4 & 5 year old? The 5 yo is reading at a 3rd grade level.
Thanks Mamas!

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answers from Portland on

Whatever you do, do not get a V-tech. I have gone through 2 TV consoles and am on the 2nd handheld. I bought another one simply because I already a lot of $ invested in games, otherwise, I would have tossed it out. I finally got my 2nd son a Leapster, and it's great. Haven't had any trouble with it EVER!

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answers from Charlotte on

A., if you get them gameboys and let them play video games, you are basically giving it to them for the next 10 plus years. They are too young to do this now. Please don't give in to the temptation. Kids get VERY focused on this, they have to get to certain places in the game before they can save the program or they lose everything they already did, and the learning curve takes a while, so they want to play A LOT.

Beth is giving you good advice about buying educational handheld games for them. The Magic Treehouse game dovetails with the books. That is wonderful, because in first and second grade, they'll be reading that series.

Having two boys who started gameboy in 2nd grade, the longest I could wait because of so much peer pressure around them with all my friends' children playing, I know how hard it is for them to want to do other educational handheld toys once gameboy gets into their "system". We did educational computer games before this too - only educational, and they didn't want to play those anymore once they started with gameboy.

I hope this makes some sense.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

My 4 1/2 year old loves his Leapster Explorer. He reads at about a 2nd grade level, and the games totally hold his interest without being over his head developmentally.

Also, all the games are adaptive, in that they automatically get harder as your kids master the skills.

There's a stylus so kids can basically just touch where they want and there's also the traditional arrows and A and B buttons that other video games have.

You can also download the Leapfrog movies (Letter Factory etc) so that might be nice on the flight.

The device iteself is about $65-$75 depending on where you get it.

The game cartridges are $24 but you can find them on sale.

Leaplet download codes are 2 for $14 and it's one code per game, two per movie. (the downloadable games don't have as much to them as the cartridges which typically have a few different games under the larger game umbrella).


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answers from Seattle on

The Leapster for your younger one and a ds for your older (way to go on reading at the 3rd grade level!!). We have both in our house. My 3 and 5 year old prefer the Leapster but my 5 year old will play my 7 year olds Nintendo DS (I'm not sure he 'gets' it though).

On a different note, some flights come with TV's in the headrest. Well worth the $6 it cost (and they provide the earphones). You might see if your flight offers that. If not, if you brought a small laptop and headphones you can play dvd's for them.

Lastly - lots of snacks!!! Flights really don't supply much food nowadays, but they let you bring lots of snacks.

Have fun :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My kids started at age 5 or 6 with Gameboy. You can still buy them used at Gamestop for about $20 and up. The games are also only available used since Nintendo no longer supports this platform. After that they got Nintendo DS. Thier older style holds both Gameboy and DS games. Since then DSi and next year DS3D is coming out. I agree with the other poster - it depends on the games they want to play. For starters the Leapter and Vtech units are much more educational, but if you truly want it for play, the DS has MANY MANY more games available for it. Check out a Nintendo website. Oh, and buying 1 did not work for us - my kids are 3 years apart and they each wanted to play. DS has many games that can connect via the wireless feature on the DS (not via your home WiFi, the 2 handhelds just "talk" to eachother) so they often play "together" even though they are each on their own unit. At night they "text" back and forth (called PictoChat on DS) on these consoles. We have had our for about 6 year, they have been dropped and even the edges bitten by the cats, and they keep on working.

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answers from Augusta on

Leapster Explorer
Educational and has an e reader feature.
There is a camera/ video camera coming out for it in a couple of months so it will essentially do everything the DSi does but much more educational value.
And take some books for the 5 yr old. Magic Tree house has MANY in the series



answers from Boca Raton on

Definitely the Leapster. My 7 year old still plays with his Leapster every now and then.



answers from Seattle on

Leapster Explorer all the way, it will give you a broad range of subjects and ability levels. They also make kids headphones that are very durable. If you get two sets of headphones and a splitter your children can watch each other play. I expect that if you set the rules up in advance that you'll be able to share one device. Child one gets to play for an hour then it is child two's turn.

Whatever you decide headphones are a must, the folks around you don't want to listen to the games for the entire flight.



answers from Houston on

I agree with the other posts about the leapster. My daughter is almost 4 and loves it. Plus, the games are all eduacational.



answers from Seattle on

I have three girls and we travel to the eastcoast twice a year. That is the only time they play their DS and by far the best game EVER is Cooking Mama. You don't need to read. My 5 year old started to play this when she was three and loves it. They know they can't play the DS every day. I keep them away in a draw and they don't ask unless we are on a trip. You are the mom you control what they can play. We do have a Leapster but they grew out of that way too quick especially since I don't let them play it all the time. Good luck and packs lots of snacks...oh and try Traffic Jam. It is a game that is portable and they have a junior version that my 5 year old can even play. Great game for kids and adults.



answers from Portland on

We really like the Leapster. There are games that are fun and learning like Puzzlepower, or some work on math skills. My daughter really likes the Dora Camping one that works on Spanish skills. She, too, is reading at a much higher level. Having a few different games allows her to work on various skill levels. It is not just about playing a video game, but learning in the process.

We enjoyed sticker books on our last flight. Also, some reading books that are of interest to the kids. Don't forgot to fill up water bottles in the airport after you go through security. There just isn't enough stops with the beverage cart to keep one hydrated. And many have said, lots of snacks.

A deck of cards, Uno, Skipbo (they make one of Skipbo with shapes for younger kids) and other card games for young kids.

A dvd player is nice for longer flights. The Leapster games will also use the headphones that you use with a dvd player. If both kids want to watch, you might check into a splitter for two sets of headphones to be hooked up at once. It works great on ours.

Have fun on your trip. Don't forget to pack a couple of small games/toys to play with at the other end. We keep toys/games on hand that only come out for doctor offices (mine) and trips. This way they are new and keep them entertained for longer periods of time. Oh, pack a few books for nighttime reading, too. Each of my kids has a backpack for traveling and they keep their video game and activity books in them. I take the snacks and the dvd player/dvds.



answers from Bellingham on

My girls have DS's for the same purpose but it was a little tough when the youngest was 4 & 5, a lot of games she couldn't do and would get frustrated.

Another option is the portable DVD player. I have also downloaded kids videos and "books on tape" on my iPod via iTunes. Also if you have a cell phone you may be able to download some games on it. Just some other ideas.



answers from Portland on

Skip the games and go with activity books or a magnadoddle, stickers, etc. My dd is 4 and doesn't really do video games and so when we did finally try to get her one she really didn't care for it at all. Other great ideas are colorforms, tic tac toe or travel games, a deck of cards. We got 2 books for our last trip. 1 for the plane ride there and the other for the plane ride back - she wasn't allowed to open them until we were in the air.... and that did the trick!



answers from Anchorage on

My boys have a DS and they love racing games. We have both a hot wheels racing game and a M&M racing game that they both love, and figured out how to play all on their own since I am illiterate when it comes to those devises! I think it is less about the brand of the devise you get and more about the type of game you get.



answers from Seattle on

We have a leapster - it seems a little young ( I have an almost 5 year old, and have had it for 18 months) - but I think that he is pretty bright and he can't always control the games isn't necessarily about reading level or smarts...need to have control too...He only really uses it on plane trips - but he seems to enjoy it a lot...there is a new one (Migo or something like that) which in my opinion looks really neat..I also know a lot of people who have IPod Touch/I Phones and they download kid friendly games...that way it belongs to you, but they can use it when given permission.

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