Which? reviews VTech and LeapFrog toy claims Experts brand some educational toy claims overblown

06 December 2011

Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer

Does the Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer's stylus really help develop children's writing skills?

Research carried out by Which? Computing questions some of the educational claims being made about hi-tech toys from major brands.

Experts examined the claims of six new and bestselling toys from VTech and LeapFrog, including the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer and the VTech Innotab which feature on the list of ‘Dream Toys 2011’, from the Toy Retailers’ association.

Educational games

Which? asked the manufacturers to produce evidence to support the claims, and gave this to an academic panel to review.

The panel also tried out the six toys – the VTech Storio, VTech Innotab, VTech My Laptop, LeapFrog Tag Reading System, LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer and the LeapFrog My Own Leaptop.

The claimed benefits of the toys ranged from helping with reading to stimulating ‘critical thinking through memory’.

Educational toys – the verdict

Experts felt that the toys were fun and could offer some educational benefits, but that some of the toys’ claims were overblown.

The panel felt the claim the VTech My Laptop could ‘teach early computer skills’ was unlikely due to a poor quality screen and an A-Z, rather than Qwerty keyboard.

And they struggled to use the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer’s ‘nifty stylus’, which is supposed to ‘let children perfect their writing skills’.

One expert felt the claim the VTech Innotab ‘develops logic skills and strategic thinking through memory’ was ‘rather meaningless'.

Read our panel’s full assessment of the VTech Innotab, VTech Storio and VTech My laptop, and the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer, LeapFrog Tag Reading System and the LeapFrog My Own Leaptop

VTech and LeapFrog toys

Which? Computing editor Sarah Kidner said: ‘As Christmas draws closer, the race is on for people to find the perfect present. 

'Parents in particular will be looking for something to entertain and educate their children over the holiday period and beyond. But many educational claims on hi-tech products were based on peer-reviewed studies and not supported with any scientific evidence.

‘Our advice would be that parents should be realistic in their expectations: the toys are fun, but may not be as educational as the manufacturers claim.’

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