Are your kids spending too much time on games? What are they watching on their tablet — and is it age-appropriate? How can you ensure they don’t access content that isn’t suitable for children? Such questions can haunt a parent considering buying their child a tablet, but they needn’t do so. Tablets aren’t just for adults now, and there are plenty of mobile slates out there intended for kids, with built-in tools to help you keep track of what they’re doing and when.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is our pick of the bunch, as it’s durable and it comes with age-appropriate content you can keep track of. But it’s not the only option. Read on for the entire lineup of great tablets you won’t be afraid to give to your kids.
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Why you should buy this: Created especially for kids, it’s durable, affordable, packed with age-appropriate content, and comes with a two-year free replacement program.
Who it’s for: Young children with parents on a budget.
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 HD 8 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 access.
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 purple. If your little angel does manage to break the tablet, there’s no need to worry because Amazon offers a no-questions-asked two-year replacement warranty that covers accidental damage.
There is an older, 7-inch Kids Edition tablet, but the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is your best bet, even though it costs a little more at $140. The trouble with the 7-inch version is that the screen resolution isn’t great at 1024 x 600 pixels. The HD 8 ups that to 1280 x 800 pixels and also offers double the storage, at 32GB, as well as dual speakers for better sound and an impressive 12 hours battery life — and it now comes with USB-C for easier charging.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 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 kids’ tablet around.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition review
Why you should buy this: This tough tablet features great parental controls and plenty of educational apps and games to help your kids learn and develop.
Who it’s for: Very young children and parents looking for an educational option.
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 is 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 1024 x 600 pixels. It’s also slow and laggy, which can prove frustrating for wee ones and adults alike.
Overall, the Leapfrog Epic 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 Leapfrog Epic review
Why you should buy this: This great value tablet offers everything kids need and it gives parents plenty of control.
Who it’s for: Elementary school kids with parents on a budget.
Why we picked the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro:
This 32GB tablet, while outwardly similar to the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, is a good choice for slightly older kids: The parent controls, Kids+ subscription, and other features all remain intact, along with the high-quality 8-inch screen, but there are several additional options here that make the Pro version better for kids that are growing up fast.
First, while the Pro version includes all the Kids+ content, it also has a separate Amazon-run digital store with a wide variety of apps created specifically for age ranges anywhere from 6 to 12 years old. Kids cannot buy the apps on their own — instead, they can send their parents specific requests for apps and parents can choose to authorize a purchase or not. When the time comes, parents can also authorize specific non-store apps like Minecraft or Zoom when they believe it’s appropriate. The dual cameras are also suitable for voice chatting.
Second, the included case for the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro is still made for kids, but the Pro model comes with a slimmer version that’s friendlier for kids who have more control. Parents can also choose a bundle that adds a sleeve, headset, and screen protector for a more complete package of options.
Why you should buy this: Slim, stylish, powerful, and packed with useful features, this tablet will open up a world of possibilities for your kids.
Who it’s for: Older kids who need something more powerful.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite:
As your kids head toward 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. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite could be ideal. It’s one of our favorite Android tablets because it’s very light and portable, it has a wonderfully sharp and colorful 10.4-inch screen, and boasts an impressive 11 hours of battery life. It’s also not limited, like Amazon’s offerings — you can enjoy the full range of Android apps and games on your Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e.
You can set up separate profiles for every family member since this is a tablet that adults will probably want to use as well. You can safeguard access with the fingerprint sensor. Samsung also offers a comprehensive Kids Mode, or if you want to install alternative parental controls, you’ll find a wealth of options in the Play Store.
This tablet will serve equally well for watching movies, gaming, reading, or even doing homework. It also has two speakers tuned by AKG with Dolby Atmos support, a decent 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 64GB or 128GB storage, and a handy headphone jack — and it comes in a choice of gray, pink, or blue.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite 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 sort out your parental controls. It’s also more expensive, but it’s the kind of tablet that any middle schooler would be delighted to own.
Then again, you may have a good idea about just how your tween is likely to treat a new tablet, and balk at spending several hundred dollars when responsibility is still coming in careful stages. If that’s the case, there are other options: We’d specifically recommend the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 as an alternative. It’s a very similar tablet as far as usability, with less storage space and a little less power for nearly just half the price of the Tab S6 Lite, making it a great choice for parents looking to save.
Our lowdown on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
Why you should buy this: A fantastic design, plenty of power, and the best tablet app library make this a truly tempting choice for teens.
Who it’s for: High school kids who want the best.
Why we picked the Apple iPad (2020):
The new iPad is one of the best tablets available with no weaknesses, and it has everything your teen needs to work and play — plus it’s more affordable than the latest Air model. The slim tablet has a beautiful 10.2-inch display and offers access to the best selection of dedicated tablet apps and games that you’ll find. Battery life is great, the camera is good, and it sports Touch ID.
For families already invested in the Apple ecosystem, 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. There are plenty of parental control apps if you want to maintain a tighter grip. There’s also support for the Apple Pencil, which could be ideal for the budding artist in your life, though you do have to buy it separately for $100.
If you want something that can serve as a laptop for your young student, and money is no object, then you might look at adding the Smart Keyboard for an extra $159. If your teen loves gaming, the best Apple Arcade games justify the $5 per month subscription.
However, now your kid is a teenager, there are a lot of great first or replacement tablet possibilities for you to explore. A Surface Go 2, for example, is a much more affordable alternative that offers a Windows interface over iOS (or upgrade for more power from the Surface Pro 7). On the other hand, if you want a tablet that can act even more like a laptop or desktop replacement, you may want to pair the excellent M1 iPad Pro with a few choice accessories — but keep in mind that’s an expensive purchase.
Our full Apple iPad (2020) review
Why you should buy this: It’s a smaller iPad fit for smaller people
Who it’s for: Kids who are ready to upgrade to an adult tablet they’ll be able to use well into their teens.
Why we picked the iPad Mini (2019):
While the iPad is an excellent device, it’s a little larger for kids who are still growing and want a more accessible tablet for playing games. The iPad Mini is an ideal alternative, offering most of the iPad benefits with a smaller 7.9-inch display that’s more comfortable for kids. The 64GB model is fine for children’s use and helps keep the price down, especially compared to the latest standard iPads. It works with Bluetooth keyboards and the 1st-generation Apple Pencil if kids like drawing — and it’s likely to last for years if well taken care of.
On that note, we do advise that you pick out a durable case so that the various accidents of childhood don’t put the mini out of commission early. Check out the best iPad Mini cases for your protective options.
There are a lot of opinions on this, and they vary considerably. A few general rules can help parents who aren’t sure what to aim for. First, a tablet often goes well with education. Is your kid at a level where access to a tablet could help them learn concepts or do research?
Second, technological exposure is so pervasive these days that learning how to use mobile devices shouldn’t be a concern no matter what devices your kids may have, so there’s not really anything akin to “starting them early.”
Third, many parents feel comfortable with a “family-owned” tablet device with proper protections that can be shared among everyone and helps maintain family time while still providing some tablet benefits. This is a flexible solution that can work for many years with the right ground rules.
Not necessarily. But a tablet does provide a useful way to play games and interact with learning apps and various journeys of discovery. The key is careful monitoring and diligently restricting screen time to make room for other healthy activities. Tablets may start to become especially useful as kids starting moving up in grade school (this is also based on what their friends have and use, of course, but that’s a different issue). For older kids, everything that a tablet can do can usually be done on a smartphone as well, which may make a common-sense transition later on.
We generally recommend avoiding any kids’ tablet with its own operating system instead of Android, iOS, or Windows, especially tablets that have a cartridge system. There aren’t many built-in apps or games, so you have to fork over even more money to add entertainment to them.
Kid-friendly tablets are about as safe as any other smartphone, computer, or laptop. Since all of these devices connect to the internet, your kid will also have access to social media, email, YouTube, and other websites and apps that are out there. It’s not possible to always sit next to your child and supervise their tablet usage, but you can see what they’re doing on the tablet without actually watching them. With parental controls, it’s possible to limit activities and app access as well as screen time to whatever purposes you feel are safe (more on this with the question below), as well as some monitoring options to see what your kids are doing.
For younger kids, the Leapfrog Epic has entirely contained ecosystems on proprietary platforms. This is probably the only option where it’s worth buying a separate platform that isn’t Android, iOS, or Windows because it’s limited to exclusive Leapfrog content appropriate for young children.
Amazon Fire tablets for kids are a perfect choice for this type of parental control. Amazon provides extension parental control options and a kid’s plan designed for kid-focused content, making it an ideal option for younger kids. When your kid starts to age out of that kind of restriction, you might want to get them a standard tablet and install third-party parental controls. We have an excellent guide to the best parental apps for mobile devices.