2 experts and 3 parents have answered
I think there are a number of connections that you need to ask yourself. Firstly, LeapPad is aimed at young children, whilst Android tablets are aimed at an older market ( 12 years + minimum ). So you need to understand that the user interface ( buttons / menus etc. ) are designed as such. A leapPad has an intuitive menu for young children.
Secondly, as the child grows up, LeapPad software again is aimed at a younger audience, so would quickly offer nothing to a slightly older child, whereas an android tablet would offer a lot more.
On the negative side for android tablets; anndroid tablets are not locked down by default and it would become very easy to look/download content for an older agegroup. This may couse concern, and if you are not able to lock down the tablet yourself, then you may experience issues.
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It might be worth considering a Kurio - an android option aimed at Age 3+. I'm trialling one at the moment and have been impressed. It includes many childproofing features - like internet access controls and the ability to limit the amount of time or time of day your child can use a tablet. You can have different logins on the tablet for different children (and adults) and the adult gets to choose which apps the child can see. It comes with 60+ apps with more available through the Kurio store. The store doesn't include all android apps only those approved by Kurio - this does limit the selection currently as it's quite new (and doesn't give you immediate access to things you've previously bought through Google Play) but the number of apps seems to be growing daily and this does offer peace of mind that the apps are appropriate for children.
The LeapPad is also a great device, is cheaper (although the apps are more expensive) and has been around longer so I guess you'll find more 'friends' who have one, but the Kurio has the potential to grow with your child, has cheaper apps and plenty of child protection built in (compared to the Tesco Hudl or Argos MyTablet which have no built in child protection). Definitely worth considering.
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Buy a normal cheap tablet if you are confident about installing the appropriate child protections yourself. There are some fabulous android apps for education of all types available for free or absolutely minimal cost, and any number of web articles to tell you what they are. If you buy the likes of a leap pad, (as I did this Christmas), you will end up paying through the nose to add apps and games, which are only available through the branded website, and cost a fortune (up to £20 for a game), as opposed to 99p on Google Play. If you stick on a screen saver and a silicon sleeve, it should last as long, plus you will get the added advantage of being able to play downloaded tv and movies with a bit of extra storage, which is a no-no for a branded kids tablet.
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LeapPads and other so-called child-friendly tablets are not necessarily all that child-proof!
With the first one, the flimsy foam-rubber tip on the included stylus disintegrated within weeks, exposing a metal stud underneath that had badly etched into the screen before we noticed what was going on.
Had it replaced at the store and this time, we decided to remove the stylus (our 3-year old didn't really need it). But this new tablet kept dropping its wifi connection intermittently and then one-by-one, each installed app stopped working (including the 2 extra apps we bought) until only about 3 out of the original 30 apps would do anything. All the rest went to a blank screen and couldn't return to the home screen without turning it off and back on again.so returned it to the store a second time but for a full refund.
Additional apps are expensive (typically £12.50+ each) with little content and usually have been played out after about 15 mins, then are never visited again!
Buy a cheap, regular tablet - I recommend the Amazon Fire HD "Kids' Edition", which includes:
- A foam protective case;
- A child-friendly user interface, pre-loaded with apps and icons suitable for young fingers;
- A 2-year, no-questions-asked replacement guarantee if it gets broken (this is in addition to the normal fault/defects guarantee);
- One year free subscription to Amazon kids downloadable content (books, games, videos);
- Front and back cameras;
- Faster processor/better screen, resolution, etc.
And all comes in at the same cost as the LeapPad
The reason I think, why LeapPads and additional purchased content are so expensive is simple - people aren't buying them in bulk so prices are high: and frankly they're rubbish!