LeapPad: 5 must-have apps and accessories


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The LeapPad

So you've made the leap and picked up a LeapPad. That's a great start, but next you'll need a good selection of games — and an essential accessory or two.

If you already have a Leapster Explorer, you're off and running already. The LeapPad is compatible with all Leapster Explorer apps and cartridges, so you won't need to buy any games twice. Of course, your child is going to want to take advantage of the tablet's larger size and nifty features, so start with these great apps and accessories made specifically for your new tech:

Disney Animation Artist: Mickey and Friends
If your child can't stop doodling, this new app is a no-brainer. With the guiding hand of a real Disney animator, kids will learn how to draw and animate some of their favorite Disney characters, one step at a time. The touchscreen interface makes it incredibly intuitive, too.

LeapPad Explorer Carrying Case

Let's face it -- kids are pretty rough on tech. That's fine when it's a disposable toy, but you'll probably want to protect their new tablet from the day-to-day use (and abuse) it's bound to get. This official carrying case will do the trick; its harder outer shell will help protect it from accidental drops and spills, while the soft interior will keep the screen clean. Plus, it can hold up to six games and an extra stylus.

Story Studio

Some kids can't get enough story time. The Story Studio is the perfect fit, letting kids use their own art, animation and photos to create — and star in -- their very own story. It comes in a variety of flavors (Pirates and Aliens, Princesses and Mermaids) and is a must for kids with vivid imaginations.

Stretchy Monkey
If Angry Birds taught us anything, it's that flinging things on a touchscreen is great, great fun. That's largely what kids do in this educational game, but instead of knocking down buildings, they'll learn to recognize patterns and shapes while getting a basic tutorial in gravity-based physics.

Ultra eBook: Cars 2: Project Undercover

That large, 5-inch touchscreen is great for reading, so be sure to grab one of Leapfrog's excellent eBooks. Lightning McQueen and Mater will help teach phonics, word skills and boost vocabulary, and the app self-adjusts based on your child's particular reading level. And if Cars 2 isn't your kid's fave, check out eBooks based on Thomas the Tank Engine, Cinderella and others instead.

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