If our house was burning down, my three-year-old would want to save his plush rabbit pal Deedee, our iPad mini 2, and as many Paw Patrol toys as he could carry. He loves playing games and watching videos on our tablet, and the toys obviously come in handy when he's hit his screen time limit, but what he really loves are toys like Osmo, that let him use real-world objects and an iPad app at the same time.
LeapFrog is combining a physical play experience with a digital app, offering three new Imagicard games for kids ages 3 to 8. Kids can use the cards to play a game on one of LeapFrog's LeapPad tablets, using the tablet's camera to "capture" the card in the game for an augmented reality experience. But if screen time is over (hey, that tablet's got to recharge at some point), they can still use the cards to play other games totally offline. And if you don't have your cards with you — say, you're in the car and it's not practical to spread out the play mat — digital versions of the cards exist inside the game, so you can keep playing.
True to LeapFrog's pedigree, these games are designed to be educational, developed with learning experts and thoroughly kid-tested. The LeapPad tablets allow every kid in the family to have his or her own account, so the difficulty level of each game matches the child's ability, and gets harder as they play. Parents can get reports on how the kids are progressing, too.
Paw Patrol is on a roll
I got a demo of the Paw Patrol game, which comes with 30 cards in a little tin, along with a play mat. The play mat has spaces to stack the cards, sorting them into categories: Numbers 1-10, numbers 11-20, shapes, and characters (all the Paw Patrol pups, plus their human friend Ryder). The back of the play mat has info for parents, including instructions for the offline card games — and LeapFrog told me that in their testing, some kids invented their own card games too.
The companion app is a direct download for the LeapPad tablet, and when you fire it up, you're in Adventure Bay, full of citizens in need of assistance, just like on the Paw Patrol show on Nickelodeon. You're prompted to pick a character, so you'll choose a card, and scan it into the app with the LeapPad's built in camera. Detection is automatic — kids don't have to try to hold the tablet while pressing a button. Just aim the camera, and when the card is detected, your chosen pup leaps off the card and into the game, ready to help.
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