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June 13, 2017

The best kids’ tablet you can buy

by John_A

Updated: Added the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition and Apple iPad (2017). 

It’s no surprise that kids love tablets. Most tablets are easy to use and small enough for their grubby little hands. If you want to keep those mucky fingerprints off your screen, make sure that the content they access is suitable, and snag a device that might survive a drop or two, then it’s time to consider purchasing a child-friendly tablet.

Thankfully, there are plenty of terrific tablets for kids out there. Some are specifically made for kids, and others incorporate parental controls to ensure your child doesn’t go anywhere that they shouldn’t. But whether or not you choose our go-to kids tablet, or one of our other top contenders, the list below has everything you need to get your kid set up at a nice price.

Our pick

Amazon Fire Kids Edition

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition

Why should you buy this: Created especially for kids, it’s durable, affordable, packed with age-appropriate content, and comes with a 2-year free replacement program.

The best

Fire Kids Edition Tablet

Everything you need in a tablet to keep the kids entertained and provide parental peace of mind.

$99.99 from Amazon

Who’s it for: Young children with parents on a budget

How much will it cost: $100+

Why we picked the Amazon Fire Kids Edition:

If you’re looking for a tablet that’s safe and fun for young kids, then you won’t find a better deal than the Amazon Fire Kids Edition. The parental controls are excellent, allowing you to define exactly how much screen time your kids can have, as well as what they can and can’t get up to.

It comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which offers access to thousands of curated books, movies, TV shows, apps, and games that are suitable for your children based on their age. It costs $3 per month thereafter if you have Prime, or $5 a month if you don’t. You can also set up multiple profiles with tailored content to suit each child’s age.

You also get a chunky protective case available in pink, blue, or green. If your little angel does manage to break the tablet, there’s no need to worry because Amazon offers a no-questions-asked 2-year replacement warranty that covers accidental damage.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is your best bet, but it costs a little more at $130. The trouble with the 7-inch version is that the screen resolution isn’t great at 1,024 x 600 pixels. The HD 8 ups that to 1,280 x 800 pixels and also offers double the storage, at 32GB, and dual speakers for better sound.

The Fire Kids Edition won’t suit older kids, but it’s ideal for youngsters getting their first tablet. It’s a complete solution that’s quick and easy to set up, and has everything your child could want out of the box. For the money, this is the best kid’s tablet around.

Read more here

The best tablet for preschoolers

Leapfrog Epic

LeapFrog Epic
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: This tough tablet features great parental controls and plenty of educational apps and games to help your kids learn and develop.

Our Score

The best tablet for preschoolers

LeapFrog epic

Strong educational software with good parental controls in a durable package is perfect for preschoolers.

$88.49 from Amazon

$74.95 from Walmart

Who’s it for: Very young children and parents looking for an educational option

How much will it cost: $90+

Why we picked the Leapfrog Epic:

The strength of the Leapfrog brand has been in creating educational software that’s tailored for different developmental ages, but still a lot of fun for kids. The company usually limits devices to its own platform, but this is an Android tablet (and it’s better for it).

The Epic is aimed at children between ages 3 and 9, and you get a tailored experience with apps and content to match your child’s age. We think it’s best suited to the lower end of that age range. Kids can create their own home screens and there are apps, games, and other content that’s very well-designed, though you don’t get many full apps with the tablet – you’ll have to pay extra for the best ones.

The chunky protective bumper comes in green or pink. It also has a built-in stylus attached with a cord, which is ideal for budding artists. The parental controls offer all the depth you could want.

Sadly, this is another kids’ tablet with a poor-quality screen – the resolution is 1,024 x 600 pixels. It’s also slow and laggy, which can prove frustrating for wee ones and adults alike.

Overall, this is still a solid choice for young children, especially since it has come down in price. The durable design and the educational software elevate it above some of the competition.

Our full review

The best tablet for 5 to 9 year-olds

Amazon Fire HD 8

Amazon Fire HD 8

Why should you buy this: This great value tablet offers everything kids need and it gives parents plenty of control.

Our Score

The best tablet for 5 to 9 year-olds

Amazon Fire HD 8

It’s very affordable, easy to set up, and offers lots of entertainment value for kids, particularly if their parents are Prime members.

$69.99 from Amazon

Who’s it for: Elementary school kids with parents on a budget

How much will it cost: $80+

Why we picked the Fire HD 8:

There is a lot to like about the Amazon Fire HD 8. It’s a good choice for slightly older kids. It offers a sharp 8-inch display, dual speakers, and decent performance. What you miss out on, versus the Fire Kids Edition, is the bumper, the replacement program, and the first year of FreeTime Unlimited. The basic model of the Fire HD 8 also has just 16GB of storage, but it does have Alexa enabled — which the Kids Edition tablets don’t.

People who have bought into the Amazon ecosystem, particularly Prime members, will get the most out of this device. FreeTime Unlimited can still be added from $3 per month, giving your kids access to a wealth of apps, games, TV shows, books, and more for a fixed fee.

You can set up multiple profiles and employ Amazon’s excellent parental controls to keep a firm grip on what your kids get up to. The battery life is also good on this tablet. It could conceivably serve as a family tablet, suitable for parents to use when the kids have gone to bed.

The display and performance can’t compete with the top tablets and the cameras are poor, but that’s reflected in the price. For less than $100, this is a solid choice.

Our full review

The best tablet for 10 to 12 year-olds

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

Why should you buy this: Slim, stylish, powerful, and packed with useful features, this tablet will open up a world of possibilities for your kids.

Our Score

The best tablet for 10-12 year-olds

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (8-inch)

This svelte, speedy tablet is ideal for reading, gaming, and watching movies.

$649.99 from T-Mobile

$599.99 from Verizon

Who’s it for: Older kids who need something more powerful

How much will it cost: $350+

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8:

As your kids head towards middle school, they’re going to want a more grown-up tablet and they’re reaching an age where they can be trusted with it. Samsung’s 8-inch Galaxy Tab S2 could be ideal. It’s very light and portable, it has a sharp screen with a 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, and it’s lightning fast. It is also not limited, like Amazon’s offerings — the full range of Android apps and games is available for the Tab S2.

You can set up separate profiles for every family member, if you want to. This is a tablet that adults will probably want to use as well, and you can safeguard access with the fingerprint sensor. Samsung offers a Kids Mode option for parental controls, though it’s geared towards younger children, and you can easily find alternatives in the Play Store.

This tablet will serve equally well for watching movies, gaming, reading, or even doing homework. It also has a respectable camera in it and great battery life.

It will require a little more setup work than some of the others on our list. You’ll want to snag a case, set up profiles, and install some parental control software. It’s also a lot more expensive, but it’s the kind of tablet that any middle schooler would be delighted to own.

Our full review

The best tablet for teens

Apple iPad (2017)

apple ipad 9.7 2017
Julian Chokkatuu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: A fantastic design, plenty of power, and the best tablet app library, make this a truly tempting choice for teens.

Our Score

The best tablet for teens

Apple iPad 9.7

This is, quite simply, one of the best tablets you can buy.

$329.00 from Apple

Who’s it for: High school kids who want the best

How much will it cost: $330

Why we picked the Apple iPad (2017):

The iPad is a great tablet with no weaknesses, and it has everything your teen needs to work and play. It’s very slim, has a beautiful 9.7-inch display, and offers access to the best selection of dedicated tablet apps that you’ll find. Battery life is great, the camera is good, and it sports Touch ID.

For families already invested in the Apple eco-system, this tablet makes a lot of sense, and may even be something to look at for younger kids if you have the budget. You can use Family Sharing to give everyone access to any apps, books, movies, or music that you’ve purchased.

Apple’s parental controls, called restrictions, allow you to dictate what your child can access on the iPad and you can restrict content by age rating if you want to. There are plenty of parental control apps if you want to maintain a tighter grip.

If you want something that can serve as a laptop for your young student, and money is no object, then you might look at the iPad Pro 10.5 or even the Surface Pro 4. For a more portable option, consider the iPad Mini 4. But ultimately the iPad has no real flaws and is sure to be a hit with your kids.

Our full review

How we test

We use all the tablets we test extensively. Primarily, we expect tablets to serve up content, and so we read on them, watch movies, play games, and test apps. We always make sure to check out additional functionality, including the cameras, to see how they measure up. The strength of the hardware and performance is weighed up against the price tag to help us find the right recommendations. For this roundup we also took into account the overall package, ease of setup for parents, and suitability for different age groups.

Some advice about kids’ tablets

We’ve tested out several different tablets aimed at kids and the truth is that we’re generally disappointed with what we’ve found. Too many manufacturers serve up underpowered hardware with shoddy software on top. If you’re willing to do a little work, it often makes more sense to buy a good tablet that isn’t specifically aimed at kids, get a decent case for it, and install some parental control software yourself.

For a completely hassle-free experience that won’t cost much, we have recommended the Fire Kids Edition, but if you’re willing to spend more money, and engage in a little tinkering to set things up, you should look further down our list.

We strongly recommend avoiding any kids’ tablet that has its own operating system instead of Android, iOS, or Windows, especially tablets that have a cartridge system. These products are terribly limited and you’ll have to spend a fair chunk of extra cash to get more apps and games for them.

There’s so much choice on Android and iOS, that you’ll be able to keep adding new apps and games for years to come. Even Amazon’s more limited Android app library is extensive and full of options for fun or education. You can also install streaming services like Netflix if you opt for a major platform.

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