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Pocket Consoles Are Latest Educational Toys
Anew generation of hand-held electronic devices have entered the children's educational toy and game market.
By James Tweedie
Apart from Nintendo's DS and Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP), hand-held electronic devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players and readers (characterised by Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad ranges) have so far been made for and marketed to adults and teens.
Now a new generation of pocket consoles have been launched specifically for chldren, including Fisher-Price's iXL Learning System, Leapfrog's Leapster Explorer and VTech's MobiGo.
Available in Green or Pink, Leapster features a touch-screen display and built-in stylus, and retails for less than £40.
Aimed at children from toddler and preschool age to nine years old, Leapster features educational games covering subjects from art and music to geography and maths.
Games come in the form of slot-in 64 Megabyte cartridges, but you can also buy and download software 'apps' called 'Leaplets' from an online shop by connecting the device, with it's 512Mb internal storage memory, to a PC or Mac computer.
Leaplets come in various forms: e-books to teach vocabulary and spelling, videos to teach counting, language flash cards, and games.
Cartridge games include Mr Pencil Saves Doodleburg, a kind of electronic children's craft kit game based around drawing, writing letters, numbers and shapes.
Disney Princess: Pop-Up Story Adventure teaches linguistic phonics skills, story comprehension and musical pitch.
The Jewel Train Leaplet teaches logic and reasoning skills by challenging kids to piece together a train set to reach a particular destination.
Older kids will like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which manages to work geometry and fractions into the action.
Other games include popular franchises Dora the Explorer and Toy Story 3.
MobiGo, which features a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard in addition to a touch-screen display, retails for £50. It has a headphone socket for no-noise fun, but be warned - it runs on 4 AA batteries, so invest in rechargables if you don't want to spend a fortune.
Game cartridges go for £17 and the device can hold up to four downloadable educational mini-games, most of which you must pay for.
Cartridge titles include Dora the Explorer, Toy Story 3 and Mr Men and Little Miss, but the console comes with the six-game Touch & Learn Game Pack.
Touch and Learn includes Wild Fun, where kids must choose the odd one out from a set of animals displayed on the screen.
In Space Challenge, players tap on spaceships to complete number sequences and addition problems.
Shooting Gallery uses the keyboard to type letters matching those on cardboard duck targets.
Ice Escape is a logical chidren's puzzle game where the player moves ice blocks to make a bridge for a little penguin.
In Fantastic Forest, kids help a squirrel leap from tree to tree by drawing lines and geometric shapes on the screen, while in Music Maestro players improvise music by tapping on the screen.