My son will be 6 in April, and desperately wants a DS. He has a leapster and still plays with it pretty frequently. I see the age range for the leapster says up to 8, and the DS starts at 6. I'm wondering what the differences between the 2 are, and if I'm getting him a more advanced thing before he's old enough to appreciate it. I don't want it discarded because he's not ready for it, or to have too many things that are too similiar in the house.
The Leapster is mostly an educational toy, a DS can be good for that, as well as all types of games. My children hardly ever played with thier leapsters again after they got DS's. There are benefits to both, but they will not outgrow the DS. A lot of adults own them for Brain Training, puzzle games (Professor Layton), Teenagers like sports games, action games, and role playing games, and kids of all ages love the Nintendo staples (New Super Mario Brothers, Kirby, Mario Kart, etc). As he gets older, his friends with DS's can play games with him as DS's wirelessly connect to play many games. I highly recommend you give it a try.
Great first games include: Nintendogs, New Super Mario Brothers, Mario Kart DS, Mario Party DS, and if he was a year or two older, Animal Crossing: Wild World. You can't go wrong with any of these.
You can look at videos of gameplay of any of these at IGN.com or youtube...
The same thing happened with my Kindergartener. She has a Leapster 2, but she just HAD to have a DS. She got one when she turned 6 and she plays it, but it's not as educational or age appropriate as the Leapster games. The Leapster games are categorized according to grade level, but the Nintendo games for kids are all labled "E for everyone" which makes it harder to know which kids will enjoy them. Some of the DS games might have characters that appeal to young children, but they might require skills that those kids don't have yet. My daughter often has to ask for help reading the text in the DS games and that takes away some of the fun. With the Leapster, the instructions are read aloud and if there is text, she can read the words she knows and touch the ones she doesn't to hear them read to her. If your son still plays with his Leapster I would give it a few months or another year before getting him the DS. They're about to come out with the DSi, and he might end up wanting that instead, or some other gaming system might be out soon that he might want. One thing that my 6-year-old does not like about the DS is that she can't just play whatever game she wants. She has to get through certain levels before she has access to some of the games, and that frustrates her. She can see all of the icons for the games on the card, but some don't function until she finishes playing a game that she is already bored with. If your son has played DS games and is aware of this, it might not be a problem for him, or maybe not all DS games operate this way, but that was one major difference between the Leapster and the DS. She's going to try a few more games to see how she likes them, but if she has the same issues with them, I have a feeling she just might end up playing the Leapster more, atleast for this year.
I don't mean to sound like a jerk (although I do most of the time) but you moms do realize that consoles like the ds are not disposable toys like the Leapster. These are major investments, not only in terms of money, but in terms of software too. It sounds like you expect these to be educational tools for your young kids (i.e. a Wall-E counting game), and while some of those games may exist (I can't think of one) the majority of these games are geared more toward 10 and up and even many adult targeted games exist for the ds. I didn't want to come across as a nerd adult male who plays Grand Theft Auto all day and is laughing at you for not being informed well, I'm just saying that you may be expecting something different from the DS and you may want to hold out a little and get more information from gaming websites (1up.com, ign.com, etc) to get a better idea of what you are getting into.
P.S. That E for Everyone is the ESRB rating. It's the way that games are rated based on content (violence, sex, language, etc). You can find out more at http://www.esrb.org/
Actually the irony here is the Leapster/2 are very similarly priced to a DS. Current price for Leapster is approx. $55 give or take a buck- BUT the charger is another $30-40, so total is just south of $100 for the Leapster. The DS lite is currently on sale for $129 (w/free game- and of course the charger comes with the NDS), so very nearly the same price- $20 or so- not that big a deal.
Another point that is really interesting is that I can commonly find games on Amazon under $20 for the NDS- whereas Leapster games tend to be +$20. So the reality is the Leapster is actually a bit more expensive in the long haul. Throw in the fact that I see much less mention of hardware failures under user comments for NDS and the point is further driven home.
However, after looking far & wide for evidence as to which to get (in my case a slightly over 3 year old) I came to the conclusion of the Leapster 2- simply because at this point I think the unit has more educational focus and also, perhaps more importantly, better game flow for someone that age. In the long run both units (as is all technology) will become quickly antiquated and we all (even kids very young) get the upgrade blues. Pervasiveness of technology ultimately is about the here and now- if you can't use the technology, it is nothing more than a novel idea.
My son had a Leapster from age 5 to age 7, after age 7 he did not get the thrill anymore. I mandate what I buy him (my kid does not tell me "he has to have something") and so for his eighth birthday I am reading all these posts to determine if the DS Lite is best. The Leapster was a terrific tool, keeping him on pace for learning. The do grow up and get bored of it however.
Thank you M. Farris for this wonderful info. it is good to know this!! I made up my mind my daughter will not play these games until shes 10 or older for now books and other activities will be good for her intertainment : )
My son will be getting a DS for his 6th birthday in July. He's already beaten all the Leapster2 games (for boys) and mastered the skills of even the 8yr old rating games. This console will be passed on to his 2 year old sister who currently uses it for coloring in the car. I feel as though I shouldn't have bought him the Leapster to begin with because he soared through the games so quickly. Many of the games were not even a challenge for him when he was 4 years old. So, first look at how challenged your child is by the Leapster. Next, see how gentle your kid is. The DS is a lot more fragile/less kid-proofed than the Leapster2. Also, make sure your kid doesn't play all the time. If the sun is out my kid wants to play outside, not with his Leapster or with my Wii. When kids start prefering video games to playing outside there is either something wrong and the consoles should be taken away or they are pre-teens and thats just how they are. Just keep an eye on it and good luck.