Explore an educational 3D world with LeapFrog Academy

App Attack: LeapFrog Academy
App Attack is a weekly series where we search the App Store and Google Play Store for the best apps of the week. Check out App Attack every Sunday for the latest.

Having trouble keeping your kids from being glued to their tablets this summer? If you can’t stop them, you might as well make sure the content they’re consuming is educational. For parents who don’t want to splurge on a LeapFrog Epic — or any other high tech toys for that matter — LeapFrog has another alternative. With the release of LeapFrog Academy, your kids might not even realize they’re spending vacation time actually learning.

The app — available for iOS and Android — offers curriculums in adventure form for preschool students through first grade. There’s a wide selection of more than 1,000 learning activities covering subjects like math, science, and reading, along with social-emotional skills and creativity. The app curates personalized content depending on the child’s progress throughout the different adventures.

There can be up to five profiles on one single account and parents can track each child’s progress independently, depending on the particular child, through the Parents Tab. This section is password protected and shows progress based on a rating system represented through balloon icons — three balloons being the best. It’s also a completely cloud-based platform so children can play without Wi-Fi by adding up to 24 activities of their choice to the “Favorites” section — which is then downloaded to the device.

leapfrog academy app attack worldThere are 32 pre-designed tracks known as Learning Adventures — each one is made up of three to eight lessons with six activities per lesson — and by the time you’ve reached the end of an adventure, you’ll have been exposed to a full range curriculum. As for a rewards system, currency is represented through marbles collected from completing activities, logging in everyday, or finding hidden ones throughout the game. There are also fun facts included about the pieces you’ve unlocked or collected to add to the learning process.

While Learning Adventure is a fixed path — with some variety thrown in — “My World” is where kids can get more personalized and creative. It’s essentially a large main menu that can provide them with quick access to all the different features. There’s also a character to guide them through the game and provide help when needed which kids can also customize with quirky outfits, accessories, and even pets. You can also gather collection pieces like a carousel and pirate ship, among others once you complete certain levels — yes, I went for the carousel.

“We wanted it to feel like an open dynamic environment that encourages kids to explore and have fun. We think that self expression is really important so we built out a whole system that allows them to represent themselves in this kind of rich 3D world,” David Perkinson, senior vice president of LeapFrog Enterprises, told Digital Trends.

I personally went with the green skin tone, red hair, purple skirt and a flower crown for my avatar. In terms of self expression, the choices really let kids’ imaginations and creativity go beyond the norm.

The graphics are super colorful and fun but still stick to the theme of learning, by scattering school supplies and learning material throughout the 3D world. There are bridges built by rulers and colored pencils, gardens growing musical notes, and tents made of notebooks and paint palettes. The interface is easy to use with a narrator letting you know which direction to go in to get to the next activity. One downside is the content takes a little long to load and you’ll sometimes find yourself rebooting the app if switching from one activity to another leaves you with a frozen screen.

When I went on my own Learning Adventure, I’ll admit the games were actually fun and kept me entertained. Even for adults, it can definitely substitute for those more adult brain games like Sudoku — on days you don’t want to challenge yourself too much. I was taken through different activities like puzzles — my worst nightmare but the hints definitely helped — and mathematical games where you have to guess the highest number. Even though I was playing on the same level a first grader would, I found myself as dedicated to completing each challenge as I would have been with a mobile game tailored for an older audience.

For kids, the customization and unique graphics will definitely keep them busy for hours. If there’s ever a time where they don’t want to go through the different levels, they can use the catalogue tool — which separates different activities based on the category — to choose any one they’d like. All of the content has been made specifically for LeapFrog Academy, and the company plans to continuously add more. Parents can even keep a closer eye on exactly what areas their child is struggling in and curate which learning adventures to expose them to the next time they play — without the kids knowing it’s actually for their own educational benefit.

Leapfrog Academy is available to download through the App Store and Google Play Store. It will run you $8 per month but that includes the five free user profiles per subscription. If you’re unsure whether or not it’s worth the money, you can also sign up for a free trial on Leapfrog’s website.

Smart Home

Give your kids a direct line to St. Nick with Alexa’s Call Santa skill

Amazon released new holiday features for children including Alexa-interactive calls to Santa. Customers who own Echo Dot Kids Edition or subscribe to FreeTime with Alexa can check in daily for new holiday stories, songs, and jokes.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.

Best free parental control software for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android

The internet can be a dangerous place, especially for your loved ones. Check out our selection of the best free parental control software for Windows and Mac OS X, so you can monitor your child and block unsavory sites.

The best weather apps for the iPhone

Don't rely solely on your local meteorologist to stay up to date on the weather. Take matters into your own hands with one of these weather apps, each of which brings something unique to the table.

Google’s updated Santa Tracker entertains and teaches coding throughout December

Google's Santa Tracker is in its fifteenth year and is back again with even more features. You can have fun with more than 20 games, learn about different holiday traditions around the world, and enjoy some festive animations.

The $200 TicWatch C2 smartwatch is now being sold in the U.S. and U.K.

Digital well-being and disconnecting from your phone is one of 2018's big trends. Mobvoi wants you to think about its TicWatch C2 smartwatch as a great way to help you use your phone less.

The Palm has been revived, and is now available in the U.S. and U.K.

A reboot of the classic Palm is finally here and it's tiny. It syncs to your phone and acts as a secondary device -- with a feature to help you disconnect from technology. The Palm will be available exclusively through Verizon for $350.

Yes, we really are getting a special McLaren edition of the OnePlus 6T

OnePlus has announced a partnership with McLaren F1, emphasizing a shared interest in speed. The phone company is known for producing special edition devices. Here's what we know about the OnePlus 6T Mclaren Edition.

Simplify your life with one of these wireless smartphone charger deals

Banish nightly cable fumbling with a wireless smartphone charger. If your smartphone is compatible with wireless charging, the simplicity of placing it on a pad is a beautiful thing. Wireless chargers are also excellent gifts for coworkers.

Microsoft Outlook for iOS gets big redesign, with Dark Mode coming soon

Microsoft has deployed a huge redesign for its Outlook for iOS app, which includes new blue branding and some quality-of-life improvements. Dark Mode isn't included, but it's coming soon.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.