Handheld gaming devices for kids are a hot item right now and they come with a range of features including cameras, touch screens, slide-out keyboards, Wi-Fi, e-readers, music players, web browsers, drawing tablets and more. Some lean more toward educational content, while others are simply about having fun. This guide is designed to help you choose the best handheld gaming device for your child and your family needs.
The LeapFrog Leapster Explorer is the latest generation of LeapFrog gadgets for kids. With a 3.2" touch screen, stylus, optional camera attachment (available 10/2010) and downloadable apps, it's enough to make the little ones feel like they have a grown-up device of their own. And it still has features parents love, including educational games, tracking on the LeapFrog Learning Path and free access to LeapFrog's virtual world, LeapWorld. LeapFrog Leapster Explorer is geared towards kids ages 4-9 and has an MSRP of $69.99.
The VTech MobiGo looks a lot like a smartphone for kids. It's got a touch screen, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and a USB connection to download additional games. MobiGo comes with a suite of games that reinforce logic, letter names, numbers, music/rhythm, and same/different. MobiGo is aimed at ages 3-7 and has an MSRP of $59.99.
The Fisher-Price iXL is shaped like a small, plastic book. But this nifty little device opens up to be an eReader, handheld game unit, standard MP3 player, drawing pad, photo viewer and educational toy. With a 3.5" touch screen, stylus, and memory card slot, this system is geared towards kids 3-7 and has an MSRP of $79.99.
The Nintendo DSi (and its larger sibling, the DSi XL) serves as a nice introduction to gaming for kids. Despite mediocre graphics quality, the touch screen with stylus, ultra-portability, rechargeable battery dual screen and built-in camera and microphone make this the standard for kids' handheld gaming devices. Best for kids who are growing out of Leapster and MobiGo range in terms of hand-eye coordination and responsibility for their belongings, the DSi has a wide-library of kid-friendly games, include many that can be purchased and downloaded. Kids can also connect wirelessly with their friends' devices to play games and share rewards. The Nintendo DSi is best for kids ages 6+ (and more ideal for 8+) and has an MSRP of $149.99. The DSi XL is $169.99.
The Sony PSPgo is the device you're going to want to hand over to the REAL gamer in the house (and the one least likely to lose his/her toys). It's got a beautiful 3.8" screen (the only one on the list without a touch screen), 16GB built-in memory, bluetooth and even built-in Skype for making phone calls via the WiFi. The interface mimics its big brother, the PlayStation, so it will be familiar to those already on that console. Games on the PSP also cater to a more intense type of gamer, so you'll find a strong range of titles to choose from. This will also appeal to those interested in multimedia with stereo speakers on board, a microphone and crisp, clear graphics. The Sony PSPgo is best for ages 10+ and has an MSRP of $249.99.
While the Apple iPod Touch isn't technically a handheld gaming system, it might as well be. With a lovely 3.5" touch screen display, an accelerometer and anywhere from an 8-64GB built-in memory, it certainly can hold its own with the competition. There are thousands of games available for download, including quite a few that are just right for kids. The iPod Touch controls are highly intuitive for children, as well as non-gaming adults. In addition to playing games, you can listen to music, check your email, do some work, watch movies and surf the web. The iPod Touch is best for 10+ (although young children will be very comfortable with it) and has an MSRP starting at $199 for the version with 8GB memory.