Handheld Games for 3 Year Old

Updated on June 19, 2011
S.B. asks from Encino, CA
13 answers

Hi all -
I've been thinking about getting my son some sort of handheld video game when he turns three - something basic with games for learning reading, numbers, etc., and can grown with him over time. He doesn't watch TV and we don't have a lot of electronic toys, so this would truly be new for him. What are your favorite devices/brands/games? Have you had any problems with the games consuming your kids' entire attention? Do you find that these days, such games are necessary just to keep up - in other words, are kids who are playing these educational games more advanced in school later on? Thanks, moms!

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answers from Kansas City on

my daughter has the leapster explorer and she really likes it. We love it for keeping her occupied at the grocery store and in the car.

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answers from Medford on

We got Leapsters for our 5 and 3 year old at christmas. They love them. I think they are helping my 3 year old advance a little more than he was before. We don't play them all the time. They get them for a little bit before rest time at daycare and on the weekends in the morning before mom and dad get out of bed.

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answers from Los Angeles on

DS. Or an ipod touch. the leapfrog game is good. but, becomes "uncool" pretty quick.

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answers from Sacramento on

gosh, only positive responses, everyone needs at least one negative to even it up, right?! I would hold off on a handheld. they are super hard on the eyes. our family eye doctor was rather upset when we told her we were considering getting a gameboy for our then four year old.. we held out til he was six and we were going on a cross country train trip. that being said, my now fourteen year old son is a game system collector and has almost every nintendo system known to man. i really have to watch his time on the game systems cause it does cause eye strain.... so if you do get a game system really watch the time spent and make him look out long distance for awhile to get his eyes back to normal. we did get him a leapster to help with his learning to read (yeh, it was after the gameboy) and as soon as he could read he dumped the leapster (it's not as FUN). good luck!

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answers from San Diego on

We have the VTech MobiGo for our 4 yr old son. We only have two games for it so far but he enjoys playing it. I almost think I should have just gone with an ipod touch. He enjoys playing the educational games I have for him on my iPhone and he's really good at them.

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answers from Boston on

i bought my then 3 and 4 yr old the leapster explorer for christmas.. both loved it!!! there is leap world online where you can see your childs progress as they learn and play games. the rechargeable battery pack is expensive at $40 but we have definitely got the $ out of it! the explorer is great when going long distances in the car or if i know they are going to be waiting at an appt or grocery shopping we bring them, but when we are at home they are not time engrossing :) good luck

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answers from Los Angeles on

My suggestion is for VTech's ABC Text & Go to start.

It has a PDA-style QWERTY keyboard, the child can personalize his "pal," and there's a typing game so kids learn letters while practicing beginning typing skills. A message button lets kids receive preset messages (it says "You have a message from your friend (or pal)!") and use the keyboard to respond. It focuses on learning letters, numbers and vocabulary. It also has a volume control, yay!

The suggested age is 3 and up, but I got it for my little guy for his 2nd birthday. We went into Target with gift cards he'd received at his party, and he picked what he liked. He actually LOVES it. He already loved playing with cell phones, and I think he thinks he has his own oversized Blackberry, he calls it his "Foam" : ) He presses the letters and likes to hear the words, is starting to enter the missing letter in words which really impresses me, and is learning how many certain numbers are. For the money it's a great learning, handheld toy.

When he's a little older at Christmas I will more than likely him get the Leapster Explorer. I've passed so far because I didn't want to get into buying all the games yet, but I hear great things about it!

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answers from Minneapolis on

My son has a Vtech Vreader that he loves to play with. It doesn't consume all his attention but great to take to a restaurant or something. He's normally a run around active kid though so it's nice for him to settle down for a little bit and focus. They do learn from them too. Our 4 year old neighbor has the leapster and he seems to like his a lot. He could play for hours but he's a lot different from my son.

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answers from Honolulu on

"Leapster", by Leapfrog.
It does all that.
Many places sell it, online as well.

My kids had theirs from 2 years old. And it grew with them.
My kids loved it.
My 4 year old son, still plays with it.

These things do not make a kid smart or smarter or more advanced.
But it exposes them to skills/fine motor skills/comprehension/problem solving, and following direction skills. And it is intuitive learning. So that is a good way to learn too. It is a visual and auditory way of learning. Which is good.. many kids learn best that way. And yes, it is independent learning.
My kids, without instruction from me, just 'knew' how to use their Leapster games and figured it out by themselves.

My kids play the Leapster, and kid games on our iPad.
They do not get consumed by it nor carried away.
So we don't have that problem, with our kids getting too consumed by it.

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answers from Detroit on

We had the Leapster and my kids liked it. They did not use all that much, but it kept them entertained when they did. We bought our 5 year old a DS for X-Mas this past year and our 3 year old constantly wanted to use it, so off we went to buy her one! Ugggg. I have to say, it was worth the money (a Leapster is $65 or so and the DS is about $120). My kids are far from addicted to them…they maybe use them once or twice a week for 30 mins at a time. Great to take out to eat or on a trip. There are plenty of games (I think we have 8 total) that do not require reading, but have things like puzzle solving, matching, coloring, letters and so one.

Bottom line, we looked at it as an investment. You may get a year or 2 out of the Leapster and then you most likely be upgrading to the DS. You may want to consider spending a little extra now and having the devise for years to come.

BTW, if you can hold off a bit, last year, the day after thanksgiving, Walmart had INCREDIBLE deals on the DS. My mom picked ours up for us and it was $65 or $80 (can't recall exactly). Now you are paying the same as the Leapster and your child will be just a little bit older.

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answers from Louisville on

Don't take this as criticism (I promise I'm not anti-video game), but books are a better tool at your son's age. He'll learn more from looking at text in its normal form and having you talk to him about it and work with him for a little while each day than he will from hours of educational video games. Kids don't become advanced from being involved in technology earlier on. They get ahead by having the parental interaction, which the video games are intended to limit (not by you, by the people who make the games). Yes, they can come to consume the child's attention, but every child is different. Some aren't as prone to the addiction, others are. To me, it wouldn't be worth the battle that early on.

As far as getting ahead goes, if you want him to get a great head start, talk to him constantly about the world around him. Point out colors, animals, objects, shapes, start working with him on his letters and their sounds. Read tons to him. Play counting games with him. There have been lots of studies showing that the number one factor in common with kids who are ahead in school (academically and otherwise) is the involvement of their parents in teaching them.



answers from Los Angeles on

My just-turned-3-year-old likes her Fisher Price iXL.

We use it mostly in the car (when she's bored and trapped in her car seat), and she has figured out how to use most of the functions on her own. It doesn't consume her, and she still enjoys books and making up stories and songs and other things. She watches some TV but doesn't have any other electronic games and doesn't use the computer yet.

While I don't think it's absolutely necessary for kids to have electronic games, it's a reality that we live in a digital world and kids will need to develop digital skills. Electronic games, especially ones with an educational bent, are a great start, when done in moderation like anything else.

Here's a link to iXL info on the Fisher Price site:



answers from San Diego on

i got my 3 yr old son a VTech Mobigo. he loves it! it helped him learn the alphabet, addition, shapes and much more. as long as you monitor the usage i think a handheld game is just fine.

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