LeapPad Ultra Review

A while back, when I went to a blogging conference, one of the speakers warned about getting involved with too many companies.  She cautioned bloggers to be choosy about who they align themselves with.  I remember sitting in that room thinking, “I would love to work with All-Clad, DK Books, Moda Fabrics, Brother Sewing Machines, and LeapFrog.”  Well, All-Clad, DK, Moda, and Brother are not knocking on my door yet, but you’d better believe I JUMPED at the chance to work with LeapFrog!
This post was sponsored by LeapFrog.  I was given 2 LeapPad Ultras, loaded with games and apps, to try out at home and review.  The LeapPads are mine to keep!  The opinions in this review are mine too.
Here it is.  The new LeapPad Ultra.  It’s really big compared to the older LeapPad tablets.  We unpacked the boxes and my kids were saying, “That’s almost as big as the iPad!”
We had a couple of friends over when the package arrived.  These two little cuties LOVED playing the games you can play with a friend.  The devices have Wifi, so if you have a friend nearby who also has a device, you can play games together.  They played games with their pets and a racing game that you can actually race against each other.  As the eight year olds were playing, one of the big kids said, “Ok, I know I’m going into 7th grade, but I’d almost want one of those.  It’s pretty cool!”  Honestly, it looks very ‘big kid’ and has the feel of a real tablet, rather than just a little handheld game.
My 12 year old son set up the wifi for the girls in about 2 minutes.  They played for hours!  Usually I don’t let my kids keep their noses in the screens for that long, but I really wanted to know what they thought and they were having a lot of fun.  
*Best new feature of the LeapPad Ultra: It comes with a charger!!!  (Do you hear the angels singing?)*
With the older version, you can buy a battery charger, but you still have to take the batteries out, recharge, and put them back in.  The new LeapPad Ultra has a charger just like any other tablet.  You can even play while it’s charging.  
Now, I mentioned that I’m not a fan of my kids having their noses in their electronics all day, but this has some really cool learning features.  For example, in the racing game you have to earn your power.  The only way you can earn your power is to complete math facts.  I love it!!! Math facts!!!  My kids had registered their devices and entered their grade in school, which is how the LeapPad Ultra knows which problems to give to them.  My 8 year olds were given double digit addition and subtraction (without regrouping) problems to solve.  When I set up a new user, telling it that I was a kindergartner, I was given very simple math problems and basic number identification.  SO COOL! (I’m totally going to use these in my classroom too!)
There are a few other things I love: 
* It has something called LeapSearch, powered by Zui.  It’s a kid friendly, age appropriate, browser.  I really love the drawing lessons.  
*They have a ton of “how to” videos that teach the kids how to draw specific things.  This is one of my favorite features!  Drawing is such a hard thing for my kindergartners and I love using mini drawing lessons like these in the classroom.  Having a little background knowledge in drawing makes Writer’s Workshop so much easier!
*It has calculators, notepads, calendars, voice memos, and a clock with stopwatch.
*My kids love the built in camera.
*All of the books and apps I have already purchased for the LeapPad can easily be transferred to the LeapPad Ultra.  Actually, I did this by accident.  I logged into my account on the wifi and all of a sudden, my books appeared.  If you aren’t familiar with the Ultra eBooks, they are awesome!  You can select the reading level you’d like, decide how much reading support you want, and off you go reading!  I use these with my kindergartners as well.  It’s great for “read to self” or “listen to reading” in kindergarten.
Overall, I’m impressed!  It’s very cool.  I love the upgrades, like the charger and wifi.  It is truly everything I would want in a kids’ tablet and more.  I also love that kids can access funny/fun videos, but they are appropriate. (I walked in the room the other day and found my daughter watching videos on my iPad of some lady trying to swallow an entire jar of Vaseline.  I’m pretty sure that WON’T be a video she’ll find on the LeapPad – thank goodness.)  My only concern is price. I’m not concerned about the price of the device.  Paying a little over $100 for an electronic device seems very typical to me.  My concern is about the price of the apps and ebooks.  I found a great app that looked like a lot of fun and great learning, but I didn’t buy it because it was $25. I found myself thinking that I’d look for something cheaper on the iPad, even though I know the LeapPad is such a kid friendly/safe device.  I absolutely LOVE the ultra ebooks, but those are also expensive (in my opinion).  I did invest in those because I knew they would hit a variety of levels and I could use them in the classroom.  I really wish the books were something that would come pre-loaded.  The learning games and just for fun games are things that we can customize and pick, but I think books should be a given – something that just comes with the device.  One more thing… I wish it had simple flash cards for math facts and sight words.  That would be awesome!  I’d have my kids practice their math facts that way every day!
Would I buy it?  Yes.  In a heartbeat!  Is it all that I’d expect and more?  Yes.  Is it worth the price? Yes.  Is it more than just fun and games? Yes, it’s a learning tool! Is LeapFrog a company I’m thrilled to work with? YES!  Now, if I could just get All-Clad, Brother, Moda, and DK to give me a call… I won’t hold my breath.
Happy LeapPad learning!

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