“How much screen time is okay?” is one of the trickier questions 21st-century parents face. Most set rules that fall somewhere between an outright ban and a digital free-for-all, a moderate approach supported by the research. But just as important as the quantity of screen time is the quality: What are kids doing when they’re staring at a screen? The difference between endless rounds of some brightly colored nonsense game and a vocabulary-building educational one, for instance, is vast. Kid-focused tablets are one of the best ways to limit and control screen time, but with myriad options from tech and toy companies alike, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between versatility and restrictiveness.
The best tablets for kids are tough, compact devices that can entertain kids on the go, and, with a bit of setting up, give parents control over how and how much a kid uses their tablet. Our picks are available at a variety of price points, run everything from custom operating systems to stock Android, and are aimed at different kids of all different ages. The best part about them for parents? Once you pick one up, sharing your iPad becomes a thing of the past.
We have this tablet. We have dropped this tablet too many times to count. And it's still working like it's new. Enough said. You can't beat the durability, or the price.
Pros: This is one powerful entertainment portal. You can watch Amazon shows (obviously), plus HBO, Sling TV, Showtime, what have you. And you get instant access to over 600,000 of the most popular free and best-selling games out there.
Cons: It’s got a mono speaker, if sound quality matters, and 8 or 16 GB of memory. So not a lot. Unless you use the cloud.
The widely used Kidoz platform comes pre-installed on this bare-bones, 10.1-inch Android tablet. Its interface and content are both designed for kids. An included silicone case protects the tablet, a built-in stand makes it easy for kids to comfortably watch videos, and the micro HDMI port makes it simple to connect this thing to your TV.
Pros: The real thing that sets apart this tablet is the included Disney content — 18 storybooks and six audiobooks inspired by new and old classics like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. Thankfully, screen time limits mean you don’t have to argue to make them take an electronics-free break.
Cons: This tablet is good for younger kids, but it doesn’t have the specs or the physical keyboard to be anything more than a content consumption device.
As its name suggests, this tablet is aimed at preschoolers and kindergarteners. It comes with apps to help kids practice basic reading and math skills in addition to creativity and problem-solving.
Pros: The curriculum adapts to kids’ abilities based on right and wrong answers, so kids won’t deal with content that’s too easy (and boring) or too hard (and discouraging).
Cons: The 7-inch touchscreen is “shatter-safe” but not indestructible, though the energy-absorbing bumper helps.
Amazon's kid-targeted tablet comes with a two-year worry-free guarantee that covers anything that happens to the tablet. In other words, if your kid sets fire to this Fire, Amazon will still cover it.
Pros: The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition includes a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a treasure trove of family-friendly content like age-specific ebooks, programming, and educational apps from trusted brands like Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and PBS Kids. FreeTime also has time limits, age filters, a kid-friendly browser, and trackable educational goals.
Cons: If you don’t have a Fire tablet of your own, managing what your kid has access to (and how much, and when) just isn’t as convenient as they’d like it to be.
The Tab E Lite features an integrated bumper case to protect this tablet from falls. With built-in educational apps from Dreamworks, Sesame Street, and National Geographic, there's a ton for kids to learn from this 8-gigabyte, 7-inch tablet.
Pros: You can lay down the screen time law with automated time-outs, app category restrictions, and zero in-app purchases. Never again find a suspicious charge on your credit card statement only to discover that that $500 went to “popularity points” in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
Cons: The screen has only a 1024 x 600 resolution, a figure that lags behind plenty of competitors even at similar prices.
If your kid is a tinkerer who might be interested in computer science, this tablet from Kano is a great choice. It's up to kids to assemble the 10-inch touchscreen display, battery, USB ports, speaker, and other components into a functioning tablet with keyboard and touchpad. Once it's up and running, the Kano comes loaded with creative apps that let kids design games and make art and music.
Cons: If your kid just wants to get online, they might be frustrated with the need to assemble the Kano Touch. It’s also not nearly as powerful as full-size adult tablets, so it works much better as a sort of exploratory device than a workhorse.
When it comes to tablets, there are iPads and then there's everything else. If you want to keep your kid in the Apple ecosystem, this basic model is a great choice.
Pros: Again, the seamlessness of the Apple ecosystem is tough to beat. This iPad comes with FaceTime, which the grandparents will enjoy, and Apple parental controls, which let parents control screen time, content, app purchase, and privacy settings.
Cons: iPads are pricey and, as anyone who’s ever dropped one sans case can attest, fairly fragile. You’ll need to invest in a tough case if you opt for this model, even if it takes away from the aesthetics of the device itself.
This Android-powered tablet has pretty basic specs: two gigs of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage, Bluetooth, wifi, and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera. It's most impressive statistic is its 20-hour battery life, a great thing for kids who might forget to keep their tablet charged.
Pros: The tablet has multiple accounts built in, and you can use yours to designate your son’s or daughter’s as a kid’s account. Kid’s accounts give young users access to curated content, a browser with pre-approved websites, and scheduling limits that can be set by parents.
Cons: There’s a so-called kid’s pack that is designed to make it a better fit for younger users, with a bumper case protects it from falls, a blue light filter that spares your kid’s circadian rhythms, and fun, scratch-resistant 3M stickers. Sadly, it’ll cost you extra instead of being included in the price.
The Surface Go does the basics well: It weighs just a little more than a pound, has nine hours of battery life, and runs a full version of Windows 10. That means that older kids who might need to work with Microsoft Office or use full versions of creative software like Photoshop will be able to run those programs on this tablet, which comes with a detachable keyboard cover and stylus.
Pros: Windows 10 also comes with parental controls that allow parents to set limits on internet browsing, downloads from the Windows and Xbox stores, and screen time. It will send parents reports on web browsing and application usage.
Cons: It’s 2019, which means the Microsoft Office suite of apps is less important than it has been in years. Any half-decent Android tablet can handle Google Drive documents, so be careful about overpaying for power your kid won’t need to use.
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