8 best kids’ tablets
A look at the best devices on the market to help your little ones have fun and learn, too
Tablet computers aren’t just for playing games, though that may be the attraction for many children. They are strong educational tools for everything from improving hand-to-eye coordination to learning in an entertaining way.
Kids’ editions of regular tablets, notably from Amazon, offer greater robustness and a no-questions-asked replacement policy in this sector. While tablets from Apple are not built specifically for children, they are versatile and easy to use, and can be loaded with children’s apps such as Swift Playgrounds, Apple’s own product that teaches kids to code.
In terms of age-specific products, LeapFrog, the pre-eminent kids-only tablet brand specifies a three-to-nine years age range, but Apple and Amazon don’t target their products in the same way, though their devices are versatile enough to suit children of those ages and above.
Apps on children’s tablets are worth consideration. On Apple, parental control is limited to restricting access to connecting to the internet, the camera, buying or downloading apps, for instance. You can also control what ratings of movies can be downloaded. Others, like Lexibook, download through a dedicated store which creates its own controls. Amazon’s controls are the most detailed and complete.
1. Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition: £99.99, Amazon
Amazon’s slogan for this is: “If they break it, we’ll replace it. No questions asked.” It comes in three colours: blue, pink and yellow, all protected with a robust, plastic bumper case. Amazon uses a special version of the Android operating system. It has fewer apps than on regular Android devices but each one has been fully tested so that you know they work. And the Kids Edition includes a year’s subscription to Fire For Kids Unlimited, which provides access to popular apps and games. Amazon has included tremendous parental controls to manage usage limits on the device such as bedroom curfews, or educational targets such as reading, which must be met before access to, say, video or games, will become available. It also restricts internet and social media access. Incidentally, the same tablet is available without the kid-proof case, Fire For Kids Unlimited and two-year no-questions-asked guarantee, for £49.99.
2. Apple iPad: from £339, Apple
This iPad, though not the cheapest tablet available, is great value, providing more than a million apps to keep kids busy. These include the Swift Playgrounds coding language learning app, which is aimed to suit children from the youngest ages upwards. Beyond that, the 9.7-inch display is bright and high-resolution, the processor is fast and responsive and the sheer versatility and quality of the apps puts Apple beyond its rivals – for all ages. Apple’s iPad and iPad mini 4 below also offer the choice between wi-fi only and wi-fi plus cellular, which means you can put a sim card in it to use on the go, making it handy to keep little ones busy in the back of the car, say.
3. LeapFrog Epic Tablet: £94.99, Amazon
LeapFrog is a brand that focuses sharply on kids’ tech where web access is limited to content deemed child-appropriate by the company’s learning experts. The Epic is the first from LeapFrog to use Android, so there are plenty of popular games and educational apps available. LeapFrog has designed its own apps and has a customisable home screen so children can design it’s on-screen look as they like. There are also some games which the company describes as “auto-levelling”, which adjust to the age and capability of the player. And it is not without its safety features: a solid green bumper protecting the shatter-safe 7-inch screen rounds off the overall design.
4. Apple iPad mini 4: From £419, Apple
If a smaller iPad seems a better fit for little hands, the 7.9-inch display on the iPad mini series is a great size. Not only is the display smaller but it’s also the highest resolution in terms of pixel density of any iPad, so it looks fantastic. It’s very thin and light, though it’s also the priciest (and classiest) tablet on this test. The 8-megapixel rear camera is also more powerful than equivalents on rivals here. It might seem too lavish for a child but iPads are pretty durable so it’s likely to be around for a long time, making it a decent future-proof choice. And the presence of the Swift Playgrounds coding app is a big bonus, too.
5. Fire HD 8 Kids Edition: £129.99, Amazon
This is essentially a slightly bigger version of the Fire 7 with – you’ve guessed it – an HD 8-inch display. As with the 7-inch above, you can buy it even cheaper if you choose the regular edition (from £79.99). But either way, the Fire offers brilliant value that shouldn’t be underestimated. It comes in the same colours as the smaller version but has a higher-resolution display and twice the on-board storage (32GB instead of 16GB). In both cases these tablets have the capability of adding extra storage, something that Apple doesn’t offer. It also has high-quality dual stereo speakers, unlike the smaller Fire. Great for slightly older children or those who want the biggest screen tablet that Amazon makes.
6. LeapFrog LeapPad Ultimate: £99, Argos
Available in trademark green and now a bright, bright pink version too, the LeapPad Ultimate is solid and tough with a 7-inch display. Like all the tablets here, it is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery. This is not an Android tablet so you’re limited to the apps the company provides – though there are over 1000 of these available and ready to be bought or downloaded separately. LeapFrog says it teaches elements such as coding, reading comprehension, music and rhythm, and more.
7. VTech InnoTab Max 7: £89.99, Argos
The VTech tablet uses a specially customised version of Android but has a distinctive look to the interface. The screen cover doubles as a stand for watching videos and the device comes with a stylus, though the touchscreen can also be controlled by a finger. More than a dozen apps are installed but more are downloadable. The camera has just a 2-megapixel resolution so image quality is basic, rotating to either point backwards or forwards. The Kid Connect feature means you can also send messages to the InnoTab from an app on iPhone or Android phones, or from other InnoTabs.
8. Lexibook Junior Power Touch Tablet: £86.99, Amazon
The 7-inch screen on the Junior Power Touch is much smaller than the tablet itself, which means the speaker can be directly front-facing, and still makes the gadget feel more durable thanks to the silicone reinforcement. This part of the design also makes it easier for little hands to grip. The Android operating system is modified to be kid-friendly and gives access to thousands of apps curated in the Lexibook Market to ensure suitability.
The Verdict: Kids’ tablets
For a reasonably priced, robust tablet tailored for kids, either of the Amazon Fire devices win out. There are a comprehensive range of entertaining and educational apps and well-thought-out parental controls. For versatility, quality and huge range of apps, the Apple iPad has to get a mention and LeapFrog’s long-term commitment to the children’s tech world gives it a lot of credibility, too.
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