Three best kids' tablets
Technology isn't just for adults anymore -- kids are now getting in on the digital revolution, and thankfully, electronics manufacturers have started designing gadgets with little ones in mind. One of the best places to get your child started with technology is a kids' tablet: a tablet that's built to withstand the realities of daily kid life that can also entertain them for hours while still keeping them safe online.
The kids' tablet market is full of durable models that offer key features to support parents, but, unfortunately, it's also fraught with "bargain" models that are painfully slow and don't do enough to keep themselves secure. Here's everything you need to tell the difference, as well as our best advice for finding the right tablet for the kid in your life.
Considerations when choosing kids' tablets
When you're buying a tablet for your little one, three factors are more important than all of the others: how big it is, how much of a beating it can take, and how it helps parents keep kids safe online. Consider the pros and cons of each before shopping.
Screen size: The screen size of your tablet defines how portable it is -- or isn't -- so it's important to figure out your ideal size before you start shopping. Kids' tablet screens usually come in sizes of seven, eight, or ten inches, measured diagonally. Just remember that many models have protective guards that expand the tablet's footprint beyond the screen. Most kids do well with seven- or eight-inch tablets, but older children may appreciate the increased screen real estate of a ten-inch model.
Durability: Let's face it: kids drop things. Any kids' tablet worth its salt needs to be able to stand up to its fair share of accidental abuse. As you're comparing models, remember to continually ask if each one will withstand the worst your child could do to it. If a particular model looks at all fragile, don't buy it.
Parental controls: The most important software feature of kids' tablets is the parental controls -- settings you can adjust to make sure your child only interacts with approved content for predetermined amounts of time. As you're comparing tablets, pay close attention to user reviews of parent control software. Users will often highlight the benefits and shortcomings of a given tablet platform.
Set up parental controls before you give a tablet to your child. Every kid wants to start using new toys right out of the box, but when it comes to internet-connected devices, some prep work is definitely warranted. Spend time getting to know the parental controls on the tablet, and make sure you're comfortable with how to use all of the features. Most kids' tablets have incredibly useful child safety features, but they only work if you set them up first.
Keep a microfiber cloth handy for cleaning the tablet screen. Kids' hands aren't famous for being clean or sterile, so make sure you regularly clean the tablet's touchscreen to avoid germs. Don't use harsh fabrics like paper towels to clean the screen. Anything rougher than a microfiber cloth can cause lasting damage.
If you have more than one child, create a separate profile for each on your tablet. Most kids' tablets support the use of multiple profiles, so each user can log in and see personalized content. With personal profiles, each child is only seeing age-appropriate content, so your tablet is as useful for your early learners as it is for older children.
Q. What is Amazon's "FreeTime Unlimited" program?
A. All Amazon kids' tablets include a free one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, their subscription service for kids' content. FreeTime Unlimited includes access to kid-oriented books, movies, games, and educational apps, and even includes dashboards so parents can manage how their kids access the various FreeTime Unlimited content. (FreeTime Unlimited controls exist in addition to -- and don't replace -- Amazon's default set of parental controls.) After the first year, subscriptions start at $4.99 per month, with discounted rates available to Amazon Prime members.
Q. What is Dolby Atmos? Why is it only found on some kids' tablets?
A. v is an extension of existing audio formats that offers a richer sound experience by creating surround-sound effects that turn standard soundtracks into lush audio soundscapes. When it comes to tablets, Dolby Atmos is best enjoyed with a good set of headphones, and while it's definitely an impressive feature, most kids probably won't notice it. If the tablet you're looking at comes with Dolby Atmos, that's definitely not a bad thing, but there's no need to make it a necessary feature on a kids' tablet. (Dolby Atmos does make a huge difference in home theater speakers and soundbars, but much less so on tablets.)
Q. How long do the batteries usually last in kids' tablets?
A. Battery life in kids' tablets varies per model, and most manufacturers tend to exaggerate how long their tablets last by up to 15%. In general, you can count on a kids' tablet to last at least four hours on a single charge, and on some models, the battery life can be closer to eight hours. If you're concerned about running out of power when you're not near a power outlet, consider buying a power bank to keep an extra charge or two with you.
Kids' tablets we recommend
Best of the best: Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids' Edition, 8"
Our take: Amazon has taken the winning formula behind their Fire HD tablets and made the Kids' Edition the perfect model for children. It gets everything right, making it the gold standard for kids' tablets.
What we like: The included kid-proof case makes it practically indestructible. Amazon's parental controls are great, even if you're not technically inclined.
What we dislike: The ports are recessed within the case, making them magnets for crumbs and dust.
Best bang for your buck: Amazon Fire 7 Kids' Edition, 7"
Our take: Amazon's entry-level kids' tablet cuts corners on speed, storage, and screen resolution, but it's still a viable contender.
What we like: It's got all of the same apps and software features as the faster models, and it's just as durable.
What we dislike: It can be slow, and it doesn't have enough on-board storage, so you'll need to expand the memory with a third-party microSD card.
Choice 3: Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids' Edition, 10.1"
Our take: The Fire HD 10 Kids' Edition is an impressive, affordable tablet that boasts a big, beautiful screen, a responsive interface, and all of Amazon's most kid-friendly features.
What we like: It's just as durable as the smaller models but has a full 1080p screen that makes movies look incredible.
What we dislike: The cameras are only so-so, and the included 32 GB of storage is only barely enough.
Jaime Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.