Opinions on Electronic Game Systems for Toddlers

Updated on November 18, 2011
K.N. asks from Collegeville, PA
15 answers

My son is 3 1/2 and is saying that he wants a computer for Christmas. He has a LeapFrog Clickstart system that he got last year which I know is outdated (it was just something that was cheap and I thought would be easy for him to use). He likes it and uses it sometimes but I think the games are kind of boring for him. They are too easy and I don't think they are that educational. I was wondering, are the Leapfrog Explorer games any better? I'm sure the graphics are better but the games themselves - do they teach more and does it take more than 2 minutes to play a game? I was thinking about getting him the new Leapad that came out but I was reading reviews and it got a lot of bad reviews on battery life and price of the games. Which brings me to my other question/idea. We have an iPad which is one of the reasons why we really wanted to avoid getting something like this. It seems to me that we could buy some educational apps for $2- $3. I know there's something to idea of him having is own but still - $100 plus batteries, games and accessories seems like a lot of money for kids' toy. I'm kind of rambling now but my questions are - are these games systems worth it? Do your kids use them? If you have an iPad, any good apps you can recommend for toddlers? Opinion of the Leapad? or Leapster? I haven't done much research on the VTech version of these game systems - Any thoughts on those? Leapfrog seems to be the more popular brand but that might be do to better marketing vs. a better prodcut. I would love to get thoughts from other moms. Thanks so much.

UPDATED: Wow so not really the responses I expecting. It seems that my question implies that my son doesn't know how to play and I don't do anything constructive with him (read, go to the library). My son has great imagination, loves playing with his construction toys, trains, superheros - you name it. We go to the library and the park. He has a sandbox and bike. He goes to daycare 4 days a week where he plays with other kids all day. Oh and we read a book - the paper kind- every night before bed. While I know this is good, I think he also needs to be learning to write his name, recognize his letters and start to learn basic math (he does all of these things to a certain extent but needs more practice). I try to get him to sit down and practice writing but as you can imagine - it does not hold his interest. My thought was that a toy like the Leapad would make this more interesting for him and allow him to develop those skills. However I'm unsure if this would hold his attention either or if would be a pricey toy that ends up sitting on the shelf. I also want to mention that I have 10 month old twins so sometimes I need him to just sit quietly for a bit, especially on those nights that my husband works late. I figure he's better off playing on a Leapad or a game on our iPad rather than watching TV. For everyone that thinks 3 is too young to introduce technology, I completely disagree. Technology is here and it's not going anywhere so we need to go with the flow and embrace it. It a skillset that we did not have to learn as young children but it does not mean that it won't be useful and necessary for our children's development.

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answers from Houston on

Books are so much cheaper. Believe it or not, kids can actually learn w/o sitting in front of a screen.

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answers from Columbia on

Please, please buy him something that he actually has to manipulate with his hands and fingers. Have you seen the video of the toddler who didn't know how to TURN A PAGE in a book because she had only read books on the ipad?

Babies and toddlers learn about their world through their senses. ALL of their senses.

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answers from Charlotte on

K., your son has the rest of his life to play video and computer games and learn all things tech - years and years ahead for him. Right now he needs to be doing physical things - running around, playing with manipulatives, reading real books, building things. It is SO important that children use their imaginations - these games DON'T provide that.

Wait several years before letting him do a lot of computer work. Don't buy him a computer now. Even a gameboy at this age is inappropriate.


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answers from Dallas on

Please try and stay away from video games. Buy him really books and real board games. I understand computer time but please only let him go to good wholesome sites (PBS Kids, Sprout, Bookflix).

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I'm in the camp that at his age, he really doesn't need that sort of stuff - sorry. He would be better off checking out books at the library, drawing and coloring with real paper and crayons, playing with real board games, assembling puzzles, playing with Play-Doh, building with blocks and Legos, playing with other kids at the playground. I'm not saying he's not doing those things now, but IMO getting into the electronics is sort of opening a Pandora's Box that you are better off waiting on until they are older.

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answers from Washington DC on

The naysayers of technology! Sorry, but I see no harm in kids knowing how to use technology. Like anything else, it needs to be in moderation. I wouldn't get him his own at this age, but maybe do the apps or get him something simliar. While I would let him use it, I would not buy him his own. We have 3 computers in our office - one for each kid - and they use them when they want to for what they want to (that is not blocked). They really don't use them all that much. I find them more often playing creatively or reading a book. But I think when we make things off limits, kids gravitate towards them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We stuck with a regular old computer.

www.starfall.com (fair warning: most toddlers given 1 hour a day of freetime on starfall (as in are allowed to click on "T! Tiger! Grrrrrr! Whoa! Look at his teeth! Whoa!" as. many. times. as. they. like. -dozens and dozens, 7 years later and I STILL have them all memorized) are reading fluently in 6-12mo... warning because reading toddlers are dangerous, although since yours is older you may not have as many problems). It's set up PERFECTLY for toddler brains (the voice is AS EXCITED each. and. every. time. they. click. on. a. letter.), although it's nominally for k & 1st


PBS Kids


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answers from Cincinnati on

Leapsters and such have never ever held my kids attention. They needed a different kind of stimulation. My 3.5 year old son got a DS lite a year ago. He plays it every single day and it really comes in handy in the car or at the grocery, Etc. We don't let him play junk games. The game system comes with Super Mario Bros which is very easy to catch onto, and there are many educational games. There is an entire "Learn" series with math and geography, Etc. They are good for 4 and up. There is also and I spy game for young ones,. Google the game scribblenauts, it is a puzzle type game that is really neat.

Getting our 3 and 6 year olds DS's was one of the best investments ever!

I should add after reading the responses, that my children don't stay glued to their DS's, we limit it to 20 minutes or so a few times a day or in the car.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

We got my daughter the VTech Mobigo handheld game system...she is 3 and she loves it! The games are educational and age appropriate (they have games for 3-5 and 5-7, etc (i think)). The games for her age are adorable and they have Dora, Disney Princesses, CARS, etc. The game system is like $50.00 (comes with one game) and the games are around $19 a piece. Definitely worth checking out. As for alot of the responses below, my daughter reads books and colors ALL THE TIME...this is just another option. Great for long car rides too! I recommend it.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My son (4 1/2) has the Leapster Explorer and he loves it. In fact, I bought a 2nd one at a consignment sale for my daughter (~3). She doesn't play with any of the cartridge games (although she's about ready to), but just uses the coloring screen option. He plays with the Pet Pals (helps learn to recognize numbers, lower & capital letters) and Penguins of Madegascar (numbers mainly). Also check out www.abcmouse.com. This might be a good website for you to set him up with on the computer to give you a few moments to tend to your twins. We also have a VTech computer that is just a b&w screen with educational games (matching, identifying letters, letter/sound associations, counting, etc.). At 3, I had to help him find the games that he could do easily (press a key & the computer said the letter & the sound it makes). Now, he can turn it on, find a game he wants, and goes to town.
I'm with you - technology is here. My kids learn something each week at school. My son can properly shut off the computer after watching his teacher do it once. They're amazing (kids...but technology too)! :)

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answers from New York on

My son is 3 1/2 years old too. I as thinking of getting him a Mobigo for Christmas but decided against it. My initial thought was that he enjoys the games on PBS we play together (he can't use the mouse on a notebook computer yet) so get him something he can do himself. But there are so many kids that are practically inseperable from their Nintendo DS or other mini computer game systems. I know that everything is supposed to be in moderation but children's brains are still developing and they were not designed to have technology put into the equation. I think if you can honestly say you will only let your child use it for a short amount of time each day then it can't hurt, although it can get expensive. I would stick to activity books, which my son loves.



answers from San Francisco on

I don't have direct experience with a Leapad or Leapster, but the plan in my household is to give my twin boys (almost 3 years old) hand-me-down iPads when we next upgrade the ones my husband and I have. I plan on downloading educational games/books for them to use.

So far, we haven't given them much play time on the iPads we currently have, although they would like to play with them everyday. In terms of games that they have played, they like traffic rush (which isn't really educational but it has trains and cars in it that they have to manipulate) and Zoo Train. Zoo train has multiple aspects to the game. One is pattern matching as you have to match train pieces to the layout on the board.

In general, I think a computer or iPad (or similar) type device is okay when used with moderation. It's not something that you'd want a kid/toddler to do all day. But realistically, I don't see how a short period of time a day is really all that terrible. The whole rest of the day (hours) can be spent reading, playing outside, and playing with "real" toys. If you stick to educational or learning type applications, then it's not like using the electronic device is wasted time. And if it's a portable device, there are instances where it's a useful tool to keep him entertained (as opposed to needing to carry lots of toys/books with you).

If you like to do rewards, you could always make play time with it a reward. One way is to just directly reward if he does something. Another way would be to bank time (ex: for every gold star you get X minutes of play time) and then let him use those minutes whenever he wants with a max usage per day. There could also be a learning benefit to having to manage his banked time....play it all now or save some for tomorrow.


answers from York on

Ironically I posted a similar question the same day and you and it seems you got most of the wrath...I am sorry because I side with you. My 3 yo son has plenty of toys, puzzles, crayons, books, etc. He has a wonderful imagination. We do limit TV, computer time and video games but the reality is they exist in our house. He enjoys playing on sprout.com and can already use the mouse very well to click and drag. He can recognize many of his letters on the keyboard. When he plays these games I or another adult are sititng with him and talking about it with him. I too want to get my son an electronic game for Christmas. I did buy MobiGo since I found it on sale for a really good price and had a 30% of coupon on top of that. If I decide on a different game system I can always return it.

If I could send you a flower I would!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Neither of my kids liked the LeapPad at all. But we got a Leapster for my older son when he turned 2. He loved it right away and now, at age 5, he still likes it. We just bought a few of the more advanced games so he did not outgrow it. The younger games require indentifying numbers, letters, and shapes. The older games work on simple arithmetic and reading. The only problem we have is that now my younger almost-two year old and my older son sometimes fight over it.

We do have a few of the free apps for our iphones/ipad for the kids (older son likes Bubblebirds, younger son likes a free toddler game that identifies shapes). We use them in restaurants when waiting for food, etc. I think these games are entertaining but not necessarily educational. The kids also love using those, but we don't allow it very often, because we don't want those items dropped and broken. The Leapster has been dropped on the concrete garage floor many times and it's still holding up.


answers from San Diego on

My kids have probably every system Leapfrog has put out in the last 10 years. They use them all the time!. Some games are more educational then others. It depends on how they were designed. But my kids have taken away a lot from these games. They also develop great hand eye coordination. Some of the older systems use actual books that you turn pages on. It's all in how you use them. Interact with your child while they play. Don't let them sit passively, staring. My 2 year old is able to trace her letters already, quite well, thanks to playing with the Leapster Explorer. She's already trying to write them on her Magnadoodle. We also have educational apps for them on the ipad as well as books. They might be getting the new Leappad. We've considered the DS but we're not sure on that yet.
My kids absolutely love books *gasp* Proper paper books! We have bookcases overflowing all over the house of books they read and look at every day. They play with their toys, they ride their bikes. They also love their video games. Paper books are dwindling in popularity because everyone is moving to e-readers. Booksellers like Borders are going out of business as a reflection of that.
Electronics are not evil.

Sorry..edited a couple typos. Typing while nursing LOL

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