Embarking on family adventures with young ones often involves finding the right balance between technology and tangible experiences. But for our family, screens are ok in moderation, especially on long drives and flights. But finding the right device for a kid can be confusing and difficult. Join me on a journey through our journey- including the trials and tribulations of testing out tablets for kids. We’ll fill you in on the highs, lows, and the ultimate recommendation for the best tablet for kids.
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When shopping for a tablet for a younger kid, there are a lot of things to consider. First, younger kids won’t always know how to navigate the tablet, and may click on the wrong things. So it’s important to find a tablet that is easy to use, and easy to put on ‘lock-down’ so they can’t access anything inappropriate, or change a bunch of settings until the device starts reading everything on the screen out loud in a different language (not that we’d have ANY experience with that!). Second, they can be really hard on electronics. So we need a case to make the tablet indestructible. Finally, when purchasing a tablet for a kid, we didn’t want to spend a ton of money. And Thirdly, we find that build in screentime limits really help with managing screentime.
A little background on me- I follow technology trends and read tech blogs and articles on a regular basis. I don’t always buy the latest and greatest, but I like to keep up with what’s available. And because its usually best to stick with one system (Android vs Apple), and I prefer to have more flexibility to tinker and customize my stuff more than Apple will allow, I’ve picked Android. So yes, my preference is to pick Android over Apple products, but I’ll look at any device with an open mind.
Kindle Fire Kids Edition– no go for our family
- Pros: inexpensive, comes with a case, expandable memory, built in parental controls.
- Cons: Amazon-specific OS with a smaller app store, did not hold up well for our kids. We went through 6 of these. Doesn’t function well unless its regularly on wifi
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 – Runner up!
- Pros: inexpensive, expandable memory, mostly-stock Android OS, built-in parental controls
- Cons: slow, needed to purchase a kid-proof case
iPad– our (unexpected) top pick!
- Pros: good build quality, large app store, easy for the kids to navigate, built-in parental controls
- Cons: Expensive, need to buy a kid-friendly case, no expandable memory.
So, in our research, it seemed that lots of people were very satisfied with the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It is cheap, runs a kid-friendly version of the operating system, and came with a thick, rubberized case. We bought two (like everything else with twins, since ours fight over everything) and put them to the test.
But honestly, we didn’t love them. We found that they work best on wifi. And because we exclusively use tablets in the car or on the plane, that meant they didn’t work well when we needed them. App disappear when not on wifi and we’d have to download again. Overall, it felt like we were constantly fussing with them.
Plus we found that they just didn’t last. Yes, our children are hard on devices and its not ideal. But when purchasing a device for a child, you have to expect that. We after having one break, we purchased a new one. And after that one broke as well, we decided they just weren’t worth the hassle, even though we loved the price point.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 isn’t Samsung’s highest end tablet. But we like the price, the fact that it’s an Android and runs the Android OS, has built-it parental controls, and it has an SD slot for expandable memory.
The tablet was fairly easy to use, and with a decent battery life. The built-in parental controls allow you to set it up so that only certain apps are available for kids. But because the tablet was purchased only for the kids, I just deleted anything they didn’t need. There are plenty of games and apps available for kids in the Play store. And of course, we purchased a super-protective case.
The one issue we found was speed. The tablet just isn’t as fast as we hoped, and its worse when apps aren’t closed out properly, as kids tend to do. Rebooting, and swiping out of all apps occasionally definitely helps with the speed issue, but it can be a little finicky.
In this case, we felt like we got what we paid for. But for a kid, it is probably just fine. Yes sometimes things will be slow, but overall, it works just fine especially for the price.
Overall, we liked this tablet, but not as much as the next tablet. This is our runner up!
The next obvious choice to consider is the iPad. The iPad cost more than we really wanted to spend on a tablet for the kids. And, because Apple does not provide a slot for a SD card for expandable memory, we needed to make sure we had enough memory on the device itself. The two options Apple gives you are 64gb or 256gb. 64 is definitely not enough if we wanted to download shows and games for the kids, so we opted for the 256gp, which tacks on an extra $150.
But the truth is they really do just work! The Apple operating system is simple enough for kids to use, and they have enough built-in parental controls that have helped us manage screen time, and control what our kids can do on their tablet. Plus, they last! In fact, we have iPads that are still working great after 4 years! So, even as not an Apple guy who was very hesitant to buy these in the first place, I have to admit, they really are the best choice for kids.
(But we definitely recommend using a sturdy case for kids because lets admit – its gonna get dropped a LOT. We have this one and love it because its easy to clean and provides a lot of protection from accidental drops)
And though the price point is quite a bit more than I wanted to spend for kids, they last forever. While cheaper tablets will stop working after a year old less, the iPads last years and continue to work just fine.
There is no shame in buying an older model to save some money. You can save quite a bit! It’s also worth waiting for Prime day or Black Friday sales as iPads are often significantly discounted.