What’s the best tablet to buy for a child?

Kids love tablets, and with so much child-friendly content available that can be both entertaining and educational, it’s easy to see why. If you’re looking to buy your child a tablet, we can help. We’ve reviewed the best and most affordable out there to help you find a tablet to suit your budget and their age.

Age appropriate

The best tablet for your child will depend on their age. LeapFrog and Kurio make tablets which are well suited to young children from around 3-6. When kids reach around 6 or 7, they no longer want what they see as a ‘toddler’s tablet’ and will start asking for something a bit more grown up.

Amazon Fire

And Amazon has the answer in its range of Fire Tablets. We’ve reviewed and compared every single current Amazon Fire tablet, so you can read more about them.

Of most relevance here are the Kids Edition versions. These are more expensive than the standard versions (up to twice as expensive), but include a bumper case, a two-year warranty that covers accidental damage, plus a year’s subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited (FreeTime Unlimited in the US) which gives them access to a fairly good range of apps, games, videos and books. Parental controls are also excellent.

Kids Editions are otherwise identical to the standard versions of the tablets, which also include the Fire for Kids / FreeTime app, the parental controls, hand-curated safe web browser, and ability to create different profiles so siblings can share it.

This means you do not necessarily need to buy the Kids Edition, especially if your child is already around 7 or 8.

However, it’s crucial to understand that Amazon Fire tablets are not Android tablets. They do not have the Google Play store or any Google apps on them. Instead they have Amazon’s Appstore and you have to watch YouTube via a web browser.

You can use a workaround to install Google Play, but this could lead to disappointment as some apps (Snapchat, for example) simply don’t run very well on Fire tablets.

Apple iPad

You children will no doubt already know what a ‘proper’ tablet should be like because they’ve borrowed your iPad or Android tablet. That’s one reason we’ve included latest iPad mini and iPad 10.2 here. The latter is actually cheaper than the iPad mini, starting from £349 from Apple. If you can find a refurbished iPad mini from Apple’s website, these can also be a good option.

If an iPad becomes available as a hand-me-down, that’s great: your child will be over the moon even with an old one. The issue is that they’re quite fragile. But, they have the widest selection of apps and games, many of which are free.

You can buy child-proof iPad cases and disable Safari (to prevent web browsing) and restrict music, videos, apps and games to the appropriate age level, so they’re actually quite a good choice for kids – though their parental controls aren’t as comprehensive as on tablets designed specifically for kids.

Android tablet

If you’re not going to buy one of the above, you could go for a standard Android tablet intended for adult use. Then you’ll have to lock it down (or not) to ensure the little ones don’t see things in apps or online that you’d rather they didn’t. When kids are using tablets, keep in mind how much screen time is healthy for children.

Best kids tablets 2020

2. Amazon Fire HD 8 2018

Amazon Fire HD 8 2018

3. Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)

Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019)

4. Kurio Tab Advance

Kurio Tab Advance

5. Apple iPad 10.2in (2019)

Apple iPad 10.2in (2019)

6. Apple iPad mini (2019)

Apple iPad mini (2019)

7. LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi

LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi

What to look for in a kids’ tablet

The advantages of a specially designed kids’ tablet include a ‘safe’ web browser (or no internet access) and pre-loaded games and apps which are appropriate for kids.

What they don’t tend to have is a wide choice of the latest games. The LeapPads, for example, are great tablets, but your kids might be frustrated when they can’t get the same games or apps their friends have on Android or iPad.

And that’s why we rate Amazon’s range of Fire tablets so highly. You can set up password-protected profiles so you can give each child access to only the books, games and apps you want them to see. 

You can set different time limits for reading and playing on an Amazon tablet. The fact that the range starts from just £49.99/$49.99 and for the most part gives you access to the popular games that kids want to play.

Admittedly, as they get older, they will quickly discover missing apps: there’s no doubt that Amazon’s selection is not as broad as Google’s.

Which specifications should a kids’ tablet have?

It’s best not to dwell too much on specs as they rarely tell you how good a tablet is for a child. Two things you should consider are battery life and screen size.

Many kids’ tablets last around half the time of an iPad – around five or six hours. They can, of course, use their tablet while it’s charging, but it’s worth avoiding any that don’t charge over USB as this makes it awkward to power them on long car journeys. Amazon Fire tablets do charge via USB.

Younger kids might struggle with a 10in tablet, which is why the Amazon Fire 7 is a good choice all round. Its 7in screen is just the right size for small hands.

Rather than looking at processor speeds and RAM, read our reviews to find out if a tablet is fast enough to keep up with your kids. Gigahertz ratings aren’t a helpful guide in this respect.

Is 32GB enough for a tablet?

A third important aspect is storage. If the tablet you’re considering has no microSD card slot, you’ll have to start deleting apps, music, photos and more when the internal storage is full. It pays to get as much storage as you can, but it’s still important to have a microSD slot. Memory cards are cheap and even if a tablet doesn’t let you install apps on it, you can still use it for photos, videos and music.

Some tablets have 32GB or even 16GB of storage. That’s enough if storage is expandable, but we’d caution against it if not. Videos and games can quickly eat up 32GB of storage.

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