Top Tablets for Toddlers and Pre-Teens!
A Buying Guide and Comparison
Last Updated: 21st, January 2017
Kids love iPads, and most of the time, parents are all too happy to get a quiet 20 minutes while their child is engrossed in playing Angry Birds or watching Peppa Pig. But giving a 700-dollar tablet to a child is a recipe for financial disaster, and when 20 minutes becomes 2 hours, the tablet seems to be less of a boon and more of a curse. But don't worry - there are low-cost tablets that can do everything your little angels will want them to do, and stop your little devils doing things you don't want them to be doing.
On this page we hope to give you all the information you need to make an informed choice about which device to buy for your little treasures.
We start with a technical comparison chart of every major tablet aimed at children (you can check the battery life, for example, or screen size), some tips to help you choose which to buy, mini-reviews, and a timeline of tablets for kids since the beginning of history (i.e. 2011).
Recommended for kids aged 2-7: LeapFrog LeapStart. Read our full review here.
Considerations Before Buying Tablets for Children
Tablets are most often associated with business use and tech-savvy media consumption, but they can also be an excellent tool for tiny humans. They can be used for gaming and media, but they also provide a wonderful, interactive learning environment and a fun introduction to technology. However, when shopping for these tablets there are several special considerations to keep in mind.
The most immediate concern is durability. A tablet intended for clumsy people with underdeveloped motor skills must be very well-built and feature protection that normal tablets do not. Rubber or silicone bumpers, highly scratch-resistant displays and robust construction materials are all essential to prevent damage. The rough use that a tablet will endure in the hands of a child may eventually damage even the most well-built tablet.
Price is also a major concern. Do you want a decent tablet that won't cause you emotional pain when it gets trashed? Or do you want something with more features that your children can 'grow into'? The tablet's form factor (size, shape) is important as well, since smaller tablets are easier to hold and manipulate for tiny hands. A seven-inch form factor provides ease of use without sacrificing much display real estate (presumably your 5-year-old won't be running large spreadsheets on their tablets, and if he's into that, drop me a line - he can do my accounts).
For younger children, the user interface should retain functionality without revealing the complex operating system underneath. In addition, consider the apps and content that come preloaded with each tablet. More educational and entertainment content will give a child more variety to engage them without needing to immediately begin buying new content. Parents are often interested in tablets that feature easy-to-use parental controls, too. And you are likely to be looking for a device with built-in wifi.
Tablets for Tykes Reviewed and Rated
On the comparison chart below, the ratings of our tablet experts come after the name - anything over 4 is well worth buying. Anything from 3.5 or higher is still worth checking out; there will be some problems with it but those won't matter if the price is right. For further reassurance, click the 'See all' reviews button - that will take you to the Amazon page of the tablet where you can see what real parents are saying about that model.
We hope you find what you're looking for!
By default, tablets are listed by release date (newest first), but can be sorted in different ways by clicking on the corresponding column headers. MSRP normally refers to the price on release but sometimes refers to the latest price we have in our database. The Reviews links take you to Amazon where you can check the current price.
The Complete History of Tablets for Tadpoles
Released August 2016 - A great addition to the LeapFrog range. Educational, fun, expandable. The tester book will give you an idea of which content your cherubs will respond to, allowing you to focus your money buying books you know your little ones will respond to. Full review here.
Amazon Fire Kids Edition
The Fire HD Kids Edition is an ideal first tablet for bambinos - it's robust and affordable, with an unbeatable replacement offer from Amazon. (They'll send you a new one if your brats break it, anytime within the first two years!). It's got a well thought out ability to let your offspring have a 'full' tablet experience while allowing parents lots of scope to set boundaries.
There's loads of education and entertainment to hand, and some welcome flexibility to go outside the Amazon ecosystem.
| Tablets for Children: A Timeline
LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum
A great educational tool as well as being fun, the Platinum was a well-received next step in the children's tablet niche. Nippers love the Paw Patrol and Imagicard software, while parents can be sure no naughty content is being accessed. During the design phase, engineers repeatedly threw the device down flights of stairs to ensure it could cope with the rough and tumble real-world situations it's likely to be in. It's a great device for parents who want to be sure kids are learning something and don't have the time or ability to fiddle around with settings.
Chromo Inc 7 Tablet
One of the best-selling tablets on Amazon, this fun little tablet has solved many a family tablet dispute! Read our full review here.
Dragon Touch Quad Core 7"
A very powerful, very affordable tablet for your little urchins. The battery life is poor, but kids fight over it, the parental control app Zoodles is built-in. It's the perfect form factor for children - just the right size and weight, and it can handle any task kids are likely to throw at it. But the real advantage is the price - given how likely a bairn is to ruin a tablet, the low price is awesome.
Vtech Innotab Max
A more grown up version of its earlier tablets, the InnoTab Max had dozens of useful family-friendly features, from its bundled apps to the parental controls. With a larger screen and built-in lithium battery, it improved on some of the pain points of the InnoTab 3S. Minors loved the stylus and rotating camera and parents with previous InnoTab products liked that the device was backwards compatible. It was selling well and receiving great reviews on Amazon late in 2015.
Nabi Big Tab HD 20 and HD 24"
These gigantic tablets raised eyebrows. 'They're more like monitors for kids!' 'At least they won't get lost!' But on reflection most reviewers were positive. The huge screen is simply lots of fun - PC Mag called it 'wonderfully absurd'. It more or less has to be kept plugged in, since the battery will only survive half an hour away from base. Performance was good, though there were many complaints about disc size and lack of expansion.
The best tablet for toddlers, bar none! Great for education, games, parental controls, and very, very durable. It's a winner, as thousands of ecstatic parents and toddlers will tell you!
Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition
Along with the refreshed Kindle HD tablets, Amazon has also produced a Kids Edition of each. As the name would suggest, the Kindle Fire HD 6 Kids Edition promises to provide a genuine tablet experience in a form that's both safe and enjoyable for children of all ages. The tablets, available in 6-inch and 7-inch varieties, are largely identical to the standard Kindle Fire HD slates. The most immediately obvious difference is the kid-friendly exterior. A tough, rubberized coating provides protection from drops, scratches, impacts and various other forms of abuse. If that isn't enough, the Fire HD also includes a free two-year warranty plan that covers virtually any kind of damage a child is likely to inflict.
Also included is a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which provides thousands of hand-picked apps, games, movies and other media guaranteed to be safe and educational for young children. Naturally, there's also a robust set of parental controls and safety features. App store and in-app purchases are disabled by default, and kids won't be able to access email, web browsing and other potentially troublesome features. Parents can also set time controls as well as various goals and restrictions, such as half an hour of educational activities before games or movies are available.
LeapFrog LeapPad 3
The LeapFrog LeapPad line has been the standard when it comes to children's tablets since the introduction of the original, and that's not likely to change with the LeapPad3. Intended for children ages three to nine, the LeapPad3 includes ten free apps and access to more than a thousand others, all designed to be educational and entertaining. A 5-inch capacitive touchscreen provides improved touch response, and a rechargeable lithium ion battery provides at least six hours of battery life. The LeapPad3 improves considerably on its predecessor's performance as well, thanks to a one gigahertz quad-core processor and four gigabytes of memory.
Perhaps the most notable change is the addition of LeapSearch, a kid-friendly wireless internet experience that allows children to surf portions of the internet without any worry about inappropriate content. Additionally, LeapFrog's Pet Chat and Pet Pad Party apps allow anklebiters to wirelessly connect, chat and play games with other nearby LeapPads. The LeapPad3 is also slightly lighter than previous versions, despite being physically larger and more durable thanks to a shock-absorbing frame, rubberized exterior and shatter-proof display.
At the same time, LeapFrog announced the LeapPad Ultra XDi, which was similar in many ways, but with a bigger screen and more capacity.
This bright yellow tablet found a very small niche for itself. It shipped with a bunch of 'Jake and Jade' educational apps installed and great parental controls.
Kurio Xtreme 7"
Good interface, terrible performance. The screen was as good as something from 2 years earlier. Having made all the early running in the tablets for kids market, Fuhu found themselves up against industry behemoths like Samsung and Amazon. Sadly, they took some shortcuts - especially with that awful screen. A shame, especially as the software side of things was handled so well. The interface was intuitive and very child-friendly.
Fuhu Nabi DreamTab HD8
A tablet that everyone loved - until it stopped working. It's always a worry when a solution to problem is listed on the Amazon product overview section! Parents who bought devices that didn't break were delighted with its performance. It was a great tablet for your cubs to draw pictures (it came with a stylus and the Dreamworks app) - just a shame that the excellent customer support team were forced to work so hard.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids
When it comes to building a tablet for children, the most immediate challenge is constructing a device that's durable enough to withstand the inevitable abuse that imps are bound to inflict. To that end, Samsung has wrapped their Galaxy Tab 3 Kids in a tough shell, and they've provided optional polycarbonate or silicone outer cases that can help to further kid-proof the Galaxy Tab. This tough exterior shelters a respectable 1.2-gigahertz processor and a seven-inch, 1,024-by-600 pixel display. It may be thoroughly unimpressive compared to adult tablets, but the Galaxy Tab 3 Kids is more than adequate for youngsters. The Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system sports a number of kid-friendly tweaks and age-appropriate games, and Samsung's parental controls give parents a host of time and content management options to control how and when their child can use their Galaxy Tab.
LeapFrog LeapPad 2
The five-inch LeapFrog LeapPad 2 successfully addresses several of the complaints about the original LeapPad Explorer, most notably durability issues. The internals are well-braced and protected from all the abuse a child can put it through, and the touchscreen has been made more durable as well. It also uses less power, leading to an increase of more than one hour of battery life. The tablet now features well over 325 apps in a wide selection meant to educate and entertain juveniles as young as three years.
Ematic Funtab Mini
The Ematic Funtab Mini is, as the name suggests, the smaller cousin to Ematic's Funtab Pro. The Funtab Mini features 45 pre-loaded apps and an adaptive education program that automatically adjusts to a child's skill level, and it's again built on Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It also features wireless connectivity, parental controls and a kid-safe internet browser. Unfortunately, the 4.3-inch Funtab Mini is plagued with issues. The app selection is significantly limited compared to other tablets in its class, there are issues that can prevent the device from charging at times, and the construction quality is relatively poor. Even with a very low price tag, the Funtab Mini is hard to recommend.
The Arnova Child Pad is based on Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, and at first blush it isn't changed much from the full version. The interface appears less child-friendly as compared to some other options, and operating it can be fiddly at first. After a while most children will have no problem with it, however. The form factor is ideal, and the weight is a very comfortable 380 grams. The Child Pad loses points for its poor selection of pre-installed apps, however.
Fuhu Nabi 2
Under its hood, the Nabi 2 (full review) closely resembles a Nexus 7 tablet. Performance is excellent even compared to some adult tablets, and the 1024-by-600 pixel display is a sure improvement over most of its competitors. Parental controls are not as extensive as the Kurio 7, but they are more than adequate. The list of preinstalled apps is extensive, though it contains more quantity than quality. The Nabi is also heavier than most, weighing in at 600 grams. However, overall the Nabi was hands-down the best tablet available for children when released. The powerful platform and improved display make the device appealing to older children, while the range of software and the sturdy, food-grade silicone bumpers make it a good choice for younger kids.
KD Interactive Kurio 7
The Kurio 7, like the Child Pad, is based on Android Ice Cream Sandwich. The user interface is much more appropriate for kids, however, and should be easy to use for any age group. The Kurio also features exceptional parental controls. In addition to setting age restrictions for each user profile, the Kurio also allows parents to allot a given duration of time for each user as well as implementing a schedule in which the device cannot be used during certain times of the day or night. Where the Kurio fails is absence of the Google Play store. In its place, Kurio's proprietary store offers a poor selection and occasionally inflated prices. Though the preloaded app selection is excellent, the Kurio store is a disappointment.
Vtech Innotab 3S
The Vtech Innotab 3S was a gaudy chunk of a tablet with a colorful 5-inch screen. Superficially fun and packed with features, it ran on 4xAA batteries and at times was agonisingly slow to load apps. Cheap to buy, but to get the most of out it, parents often bought cartridges to go with the device. A potentially expensive choice...
Oregon Scientific Meep
Oregon Scientific's Meep includes the Google Play store, which is an advantage over tablets that only provide a proprietary solution. Other than that, there are few redeeming features. The display uses optical sensors rather than a capacitive or resistive touch screen, and as a result the performance is dreadful. Even simple actions such as manipulating volume controls become arduous tasks. Considering there are no physical controls, this is a major problem. Performance is poor as well, with apps running slower than competitors such as the Nabi 2. Though it can be had for less than many other tablets, its lower price can't outweigh its many flaws.
Polaroid Kids Tablet
The seven-inch Polaroid Kids Tablet runs on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, though the user interface is drastically modified. The large, tiled design more resembles Windows 8 than Android, but it should be very simple for youths of any age. More than 30 apps come preloaded, along with access to a limited market. The Google Play store is removed, limiting the number of apps accessible to the device. Though the price is friendlier than the Nabi 2, Polaroid tablet is inferior in performance and display in comparison to Fuhu latest kids oriented tablet.
Tabeo 7 Tablet
The Tabeo 7 Tablet, like the Polaroid Kids Tablet, sells itself largely on its reasonable price point. In addition, the capacitive touch screen performs much better than tablets such as the Meep. However, the Tabeo offers little else of value. While the tablet offers 50 bundled apps, less than ten are education-oriented. Many others are likely to be of little interest to children. Performance is sluggish thanks to bare-bones specifications, and the restrictive Tabeo Store offers a very limited selection in terms of new apps.
Vinci Tab II 7
The Vinci Tab II is perhaps the most appropriate tablet for toddlers and young children. Wrapped around the device is a large protective handle made from food-grade material, which protects it from both falls and the inevitable chewing that most objects get when placed in the hands of toddlers. The included Vinci Curriculum is another big boost for young children, as it provides a wide range of educational games that are challenging enough to keep kids learning but simple and fun enough to get them engaged. The performance, while not comparable to the Fuhu Nabi 2, is more than adequate for its intended uses.