LeapFrog's Text & Learn brings with it the familiar learning approach the company's known for, this time in the form of an oversized "PDA" that's perfect for kids' little hands. The device is targeted toward children age 3 and older, with mascot Scout serving as the guide for curious kids. Read the rundown below to see if the device is perfect for your little one.
Great for learning: Say what you will about the need to introduce kids to a PDA (albeit a make-believe one) at such a young age. But there's no doubt that young kids will learn with this device. The Text & Learn offers three main modes that include an alphabet teaching tool, sending text messages to Scout, and a set of games that test knowledge about the alphabet and shapes. There's also a feature for music, following directions and a daily calendar that lists Scout's activities. Like many LeapFrog offerings, the lessons are disguised within fun activities that make it easier for kids to pick up stuff. In teaching the alphabet for example, the Text & Learn provides alliterative examples such as "icy igloo" with Scout providing cute visual examples on screen.
Keyboard smarts: Some folks may question why LeapFrog decided to go with a QWERTY keyboard approach instead of having the Text & Learn's buttons arranged in alphabetical order. But with computers now being a major part of people's lives, especially for school and learning, having a QWERTY interface actually helps prepare kids for computers at an early age. I know it helped me as a kid when I used to fool around with my grandfather's old typewriter. Next thing I knew, I could type without even looking at the keyboard.
Solid design: The Text & Learn is quite durable and can withstand a lot of abuse, good news for folks with young kids who aren't quite coordinated yet. It even has a slot in the back if you want to mount it on a wall.
Scout is adorable: LeapFrog did a great job in designing its canine guide Scout. Not only will kids love the fact that he's adorable, Scout also makes the whole learning experience enjoyable. He's sure to elicit plenty of giggles from young kids.
Price: At $21.99, the Text & Learn is a great deal for what it offers. What a young kid can potentially learn from this device is going to be worth a lot more than that.
Black-and-white screen: Younger kids likely won't mind the "old-school" black-and-white screen that comes with the device. But in the age of Nintendo DS and 3D animated movies, a black-and-white screen could be seen as boring by some children. Having a color screen would also provide a great opportunity to teach kids about different colors and simple color theory. It might bump up the price, but the added benefits may still make the change worth it.
Text messaging could be more developed: The ability to receive and send text messages with Scout is a nice feature and all. But it would've been nice if there was more "follow-through" with those messages. When Scout says he's going to play at the park, for example, it would be great if you actually had the option to meet him at the park and play games. As is, the feature is a bit lacking, although younger kids likely won't notice.
From reading letters and text to typing messages to send to Scout, the Text & Learn provides a great opportunity to improve young kids' literacy. Younger kids will especially benefit from the device. I have a 4-year-old cousin who just started going to school and the Text & Learn is perfect for her. I would recommend it for kids age 3 and 4, maybe 5, but that's starting to push it a bit. By age 6, kids will likely get bored of the device easily and rather play with a Nintendo DS. For the price and function, though, I think the Text & Learn is worth it.
Disclosure: A review sample was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.