Your buying guide for the best kids’ tablets in 2017
The best tablet for your child will depend on their age. LeapFrog and VTech 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. Find out how to keep children safe on the internet.
As well as tablets, some manufacturers also make kids’ phones, and there are also kids’ headphones to save you from listening to whatever they’re watching or playing.
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 the iPad mini 2 in this list.
Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued by Apple which seems to be phasing out its smallest tablet. Even at £259 from Argos, it’s the most expensive option here by a long way.
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 (our colleagues at Macworld have rounded up some of the best), 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.
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Why is the choice so limited?
Aside from VTech and LeapFrog, there isn’t a massive amount of choice for kids’ tablets. Tesco discontinued the excellent Hudl 2 and Samsung never made a successor to the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids.
This leaves only Amazon, which sells Kids Editions of its 7in and 8in tablets. These are more expensive than the standard versions, but include a foam case, a two-year warranty that covers accidental damage, plus a year’s subscription to Fire for Kids which gives them access to a fairly good range of apps, games, videos and books. Parental controls are also excellent.
We don’t have a separate review of the Fire Kids Editions, because they’re otherwise identical to the standard versions. This is why you won’t see them in our list below, so just decide if the included case, warranty, and Fire for Kids subscription are worth the extra cost for you.
Note that the standard tablets still have the Fire for Kids app, which includes the parental controls and hand-curated safe web browser, and ability to create different profiles so siblings can share it.
If you’re not going for one of the above, you could go for a ‘normal’ tablet (probably running Android) 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.
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 games and pre-loaded 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. These are fully fledged tablets with a great feature called Fire for Kids (even included on those which aren’t specifically the Kids Edition). 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.
Plus, you can set different time limits for reading and playing. The fact that the range starts from just £49 is why we think the Amazon Fire is one of the best choices for kids right now.
Which specifications should a kids’ tablet have?
It’s best not to dwell too much on specs. They rarely tell you how good a kids’ tablet is. 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.
Younger kids might struggle with a 10in tablet, which is why the Amazon Fire 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.
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.
Best kids tablets 2017 UK – kids’ tablet reviews
3. Amazon Fire HD 8 2017
- Reviewed on: 10 July 2017
- RRP: from $79.99
The Amazon Fire HD 8 2017 ticks a lot of the right boxes. It’s affordable, well built and plays back video to an exceptionally high standard.
But we’ll say it again – you need Amazon Prime to fully enjoy it. It’s not that it is a complete necessity, but the prominence in the operating system of Amazon’s own apps and services means without a Prime membership it’s a frustrating user experience.
This caveat aside, it’s an incredibly priced media consumption tablet that exemplifies Amazon’s dominance in the low-end market – this over makes it an attractive, interestingly unique option.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 2017 review.