Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

 Leapster Game: Pet Pals

Leapster Game: Pet Pals

Fall 2007 Video Games
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Price: $24.99

This Leapster title doesn’t come with fancy graphics or trademarked characters. But my 5-year-old loves it anyway. The mini-tasks are simple enough for her to complete, giving her the satisfaction of accomplishment and the motivation to keep working. Consider it a starter game for children who are learning their letters and who get a thrill from being able to work entirely by themselves.

The game opens with children selecting a puppy from four choices of dog breeds. Their mission is to take good care of it. A narrator gives easy to follow directions at the beginning, letting them know when their pet might need more water, more food, or a bath. With each task completed, players get "puppy points" and imaginary money to buy more food, treats or dog shampoo. Many of the games are designed to improve children’s fine-motor skills in controlling the stylus, by say, petting the puppy or scrubbing him during his bath. In the ABC game, children are encouraged to trace letters. In a game of fetch, players need to use the arrow keys and recognize numbers, prompting their puppy to jump to catch Frisbees with the corresponding number.

Note: at one point, a letter is slipped under the door. It reveals a secret code that can be entered on the web site. This is when parents will need to -- and should -- get involved. The code allows players to go to a special Web site to receive, for example, an adoption certificate for their puppy that will need to be opened, saved and printed via computer commands that are foreign to most young elementary school children. Be warned that the Web site is also a big advertisement for more Leapster products.

Lisa Guernsey   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Author of Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age 5 (Basic Books, Sept 2007)

Look for this product at:
LeapFrog Enterprises
Target Stores
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Toys R US

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