You don’t like giving your kid your phone so it can be their babysitter, but you don’t mind it being the occasional substitute teacher. Get control over screen time by giving them their own indestructible, educational, and user-friendly tablet. The devices below are all set up to play games, watch shows, draw, write, code, create — you name it. Because it doesn’t look like the world is going back to pen and paper anytime soon.
Here are some of the best i-alternatives (and one iPad) that can be your kid’s new study buddy.
Samsung Kids Galaxy Tab E Lite
With built-in educational apps from Dreamworks, Sesame Street, and National Geographic, your kid’s going to learn more from this tablet than you do from yours. (Facebook is not a “productivity” app.) You can also lay down the screen time law with automated time-outs, app category restrictions, and zero in-app purchases. Never again wonder how $500 got spent on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood “popularity points.”
Ages: 3 – 7
Samsung Kids Galaxy Tab E Lite ($120)
iPad Mini 4
If you insist on keeping Apple in the family, go the more affordable, child-sized route with the newest iPad Mini. It’s thin, it’s light, and all of that means it’s easier for your kid to keep his hands on. But, better get a badass protective case just in case. And if they’re the next Spielberg (the cool Jaws one, not the Bridge of Spies one) an HD camera will help them create their first student film. They’re might not even be a student, yet!
iPad Mini 4 ($399 – $599)
Amazon Fire Kids Edition
The full name of this device includes the words “kid” and “proof,” which means you’re on the right track. Amazon also boasts a 2-year warranty to cover any damage just in case that turns out to not be true. Let them set fire to this Fire — Amazon would cover it for you. The “Kids Edition” also includes a one-year subscription of Amazon Freetime Unlimited family-friendly content, where they can watch all the movies and play all the educational games they want. It also allows you to monitor your kid’s learning progress. Great, now they’re smarter than you.
Ages: 3 – 10
Amazon Fire Kids Edition ($150 or $100 with Amazon Prime)
Leapfrog is a tech veteran when it comes to kids’ reading systems and educational toys, so it’s no surprise that their tablet features trivia and games designed by teachers that focuses on curricula like math, reading, writing, science, and creative skills. It also offers a safe web browsing experience — because who knows what might accidentally pop up when they Google their favorite Pokemon? (You do. It’s Pikachu fetish porn.)
Ages: 3 – 9
LeapPad Platinum ($130)
If you’re in the Google camp, this tablet might appeal to you just because of its wide selection of Android-only education apps. The apps put an emphasis on STEAM over just STEM (“A” is for “Arts” — as in “you’re going to end up paying for a liberal arts education”). The InnoTab also has more a grown-up feel for the enterprising preschooler. Your kid can get in on family group message chats and virtual planning bulletin boards. Think of it like Slack Jr.
Ages: 4 – 9
VTech InnoTab ($100)
Sprout Channel Cubby
Your third favorite children’s TV channel, Sprout, now has its very own tablet device, featuring games, apps, and digital coloring activities. Face it: Your kid is more likely to do something educational if it’s coming from their favorite cartoon, not their favorite textbook. The other features that sets this device apart is MeeGenius, which includes hundreds of read-along book options (including 10 free titles). That should hold them until high school.
Ages: 2 – 5
Sprout Channel Cubby ($99)
Vizit Me Fable
The VizitMe Fable is a great piece of tech to encourage their artistic side. Sure, there are plenty of books and games, but there’s a stronger focus on tools to help them create digital artwork and take photos. And because every good artist also needs to master the art of self-promotion, the Fable comes equipped with a private, kid-friendly social network that lets them send what they made to a curated list of friends you control. You can still put it up on the fridge, but you might need a neodymium magnet.
Ages: 3 – 10
If you have an middle or high school student with tough homework assignments, consider this high-functioning tablet which comes equipped with Windows OS and Microsoft Office. Just make sure they take a break from building spreadsheets every once in awhile and also try some of the pre-loaded apps and body-motion games. (You know what they say: All work and no play makes Jack repress his deep-seeded need to connect.)
Ages: 8 – 12
Kurio Smart ($200)
Nabi Dream Pro Studio software indulges their inner Pixar genius by letting them draw, create animations, edit videos, and publish their own storybooks. Oh, who is creating Toy Story 18? Probably your kid. You might even be tempted to steal it so you can finally shoot that web series idea you’ve been kicking around. (It’s called Dad Men, and it takes place in an advertising agency in the 1960s that’s full of depressed, overworked fathers.)
Ages: 6 – 10
Nabi DreamTab ($90)