Tablets are great for keeping children entertained for hours, but you can’t simply hand your new iPad off to Junior and hope for the best. If not monitored properly, your little one could accidentally buy a lot of expensive media and apps, or stumble upon a minefield of inappropriate online content. Fortunately, there are tons of kid-friendly tablets on the market that offer robust parental controls, age-appropriate apps and oftentimes a durable rubber frame that will survive your toddler’s slippery hands.
Some kids tablets offer the type of premium performance that mom and dad have come to expect, while others are best left in timeout. After playing with just about every children’s slate out there, here are the ones you should buy and avoid.
Amazon Fire Kids Edition (BUY)
Amazon’s Fire Kids Edition bundles the company’s 7-inch budget tablet with a new protective bumper and a year’s subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited for just $99 (16GB). FreeTime Unlimited gives you more than 10,000 books, videos, educational apps and games curated for children. Plus, a two-year guarantee promises to replace your Fire HD if your child destroys the tablet.
Apple iPad mini 2 (BUY)
Why splurge on the $399 iPad mini 4, when you can pick up the mini 2 for just $246? Given that the only real differences between the two are the gold color option and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, that’s a great price. Otherwise, your little one will be able to enjoy the same robust app and game selection; sharp Retina display; and long battery life. You can put the extra dough you’ll save toward content and a sturdy case.
Fisher Price Learning Tablet (New and Noteable)
Built by Fisher-Price in partnership with nabi, two leading names in educational toys and tablets, the Learning Tablet comes complete with 35 apps and games that are designed to help children 3 and up learn. The preloaded content includes Storybook Rhymes volumes 1 to 6, Wings Learning System and a slew of videos that help kids get familiar with shapes, numbers, letters and phonics. The Android-powered, 7-inch slate also includes full access to the Google Play store and 16GB of storage.
LeapFrog Epic (BUY)
The 7-inch LeapFrog Epic offers a cure for the common kids tablet home screen. The Epic runs a proprietary UI on top of Android that offers an interactive virtual world that kids can customize and make their own. Made for children between 3 to 9 years old, this slate comes with a decent set of apps and adequate parental controls, though it weighs more than other kids tablets.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8-inch (BUY)
If you want to treat your little one to one of the most jaw-dropping tablet displays on the market, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 (8-inch) is worth a look. This tablet’s 8-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel display is ideal for cozy movie nights, and the slate’s robust Kids’ Mode ensures that all content your child gets his or her hands on is age appropriate. The Tab S2 8-inch can run you up to $400, but its premium price brings with it one of the best screens on any tablet.
Fuhu Nabi DreamTab (AVOID)
Fuhu typically delivers some of the best kids’ tablets on the market, but its new Fuhu Nabi DreamTab needs a bit of refinement before it’s ready for your youngster. While the Dreamworks-themed DreamTab sports the robust parental controls, fast performance and kid-safe design Fuhu is known for, the tablet has a disappointingly short battery life (less than 6 hours) and is cluttered with too many apps that do the same thing. Unless your kid absolutely swears by characters like Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda, you’re better off sticking with Fuhu’s more solid Nabi 2.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids (AVOID)
Samsung’s $249Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids tablet has all the makings of a solid children’s slate, but the competition simply does things better. While the tablet’s colorful design and equally colorful interface will catch Junior’s eye, the device’s sub-HD display and lack of a kid-friendly browser are a bit disappointing. If you’re seeking something equally colorful inside and out, you’re better off with the Amazon Fire Kids’ Edition.
LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum (AVOID)
From a purely educational standpoint, the LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum isn’t the worst tablet around. However, your children won’t have access to as much content as they would if they were on a more full-fledged tablet. This device also suffers from short battery life, a low-resolution display and sluggish performance.
Kurio Xtreme 2 (AVOID)
A $100 tablet with a grippy bumper, motion-controlled games and a handful of educational apps sounds nice on paper, but the Kurio Xtreme 2 has too many asterisks holding it back. The device’s parental controls are OK, but they’re missing a setting to stop Junior from making in-app purchases. The tablet also has a relatively dim display, and its performance is sluggish compared to most other tablets.