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Touchscreen Toy or Tablet Computer: Which Tech Gift for Your Child?

Updated on September 18, 2014

Which Touchscreen Tablet is Better for Your Child? Innotab vs LeapPad vs iPad vs Meep...So Many Options!

I love touchscreen technology! The tactile child finally has an edge, or so it seems, with the ability to manipulate and maneuver on the computer screen. Tablet computers include benefits for many modalities, but when it comes to deciding on which one, it's tough to lay out the kind of cash that is required for an iPad, and even some of the other types of tablet PC's are rather pricey. Given that, it's very exciting to see the toy industry provide relevant technology, aimed at children.

Both VTech and LeapFrog are leaders in the production of electronic learning systems for kids, and this year, both have released touchscreen tablet toys for kids. Which is the right choice for your child, when it comes to Innotab vs LeapPad? Are your kids too old for these electronic learning systems? Are there better choices for older children? This lens will over view those possibilities, and assist you in that choice of LeapPad vs Innotab.

As time passes, be sure that each of these high quality toy manufacturers will continue to improve upon their winning devices. In its first year, for example, the LeapFrog tablet received a number of awards, to which it is responded with a 2012 updated version, the LeapPad 2. One of the highlights of the new model was a large quantity of free content.

The latest version is an actual real tablet, more than just a touchscreen toy for your child. The companies have to stay competitive, and that means more advanced options than ever. The LeapPad Ultra is available for preorder. For the 2013 holiday season, it's a great option if you want the benefit of a real tablet and the assurance of meaningful content.

Innotab 3 will release near fall of 2013, providing additional on board memory and slots for memory cards. Additional camera and video features will also be included. The wonderful news is that the new devices will retail at the same amount as the originals were priced at, making the transition affordable for parents that want high quality tech toys for their children.

If you are a parent that has budget restraints keeping you from spending on a new device, the eBay market of old devices should explode when the newer models release. (Find eBay listings below)

One of the additional things to watch with both companies is the Black Friday sales. It's not uncommon for devices from both companies to turn up in significant sales on the day after Thanksgiving melee, and with the expansion of this touchscreen toy market, the deals ought to be impressive on older devices.

One word of caution for those that remember last year's shortages...waiting to purchase the system that you want may lead to disappointment.

Image Credit: Amazon

Kid Tablet with an Awesome Guarantee

Fire HD 6 Kids Edition Tablet, 6" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case
Fire HD 6 Kids Edition Tablet, 6" HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case

Do you worry about a tech toy for a child because of the destructive nature of that kid? You will truly appreciate a tablet choice with the protection plan included. The latest Kindle Fire is made to last, directed at kids, and marketed with a 2-year guarantee of replacement in case of accidents. You really can't beat the kid-proof construction and that promise to replace!

 

A Word About Durability! Can a Real Tablet Withstand a Child's Use?

I have eight children, and even my oldest kids have had serious challenges with tech gadgets. This is as adults who should be responsible enough to avoid problems. But, to be honest, I've had may own serious mishaps. I dropped my very first smartphone into a bed of cucumbers as I was watering. This was not a good way to start my tech life.

One of my oldest children dropped the iPhone last year, resulting in a need to make use of the $10/month insurance on the device. That plus a $200 deductible got her back in the loop. It wasn't an option to not include the insurance at that point, given the fact that I wouldn't have been able to afford a brand new phone otherwise. My son has dropped and ruined a couple of cellphones as well. We've also had fried laptops, game consoles, and other devices.

You want a protection plan on any major electronic device, even a kid-friendly tablet. Your child may be super-responsible, but if a replacement device would be an inconvenience, then you don't want to risk it. It may or may not be used, but the protection plan is well worth the extra investment.

LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra/Ultra XDI  Kids' Learning Tablet, Green (styles may vary)(Discontinued by manufacturer)
LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra/Ultra XDI Kids' Learning Tablet, Green (styles may vary)(Discontinued by manufacturer)

Also available in pink, the LeapPad Ultra is more than a touchscreen toy, built to engage your child in productive but fun learning experiences. It's a great price, comparable with many of the best rated kids tablets on the market. Additionally, you have the knowledge that you can work with progress tracking on LeapFrog's website.

 

A Real Tablet from Leapfrog...LeapPad Ultra

The idea of a toy tablet is fun for youngsters, but don't sell those little ones short. My niece just spent the weekend video recording her visit, and she does some pretty incredible things with her iPad. I can't foot the bill for the top of the line systems, but a LeapPad Ultra is priced perfectly, built for the tough action of a kid but made with learning programs and apps that will engage youngsters mindfully on their own levels. I love camera and sound options, great for encouraging exploration and creativity.

Tech Mishaps

Have you had your own mishaps or have your kids destroyed costly tech devices?

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Nabi Tablet for Toddlers and Kids

Nabi Touchscreen Tablet for Kids
Nabi Touchscreen Tablet for Kids

If you are looking for the quality of development that provides thoughtful creation of software with relevant concepts for your toddler and early elementary school children to work on, the Nabi is a positive option. It's a little more costly than the Meep, priced in the $200 range. The Fuhu NABI NABI2-NV7A 7-Inch Tablet integrates kid friendly apps and activities. A child friendly music store includes more than 9,000 titles while a 2.99 per month streaming program for popular children's television programming is also available. Parents indicate that the tablet is durable without seeming like a toy.

Meep Tablet for Kids
Meep Tablet for Kids

Toy-like Appearance in a Real Tablet for Kids: Meep Tablet Release

Parents will love the Meep Tablet for tweens and kids. Targeted at ages 6 and up, the Meep touchscreen device is built tough for kids, but it's a real 7" Kids tablet. That means it's not as likely to be outgrown quickly. If your youngsters are close to the upper level of touchscreen toy target ages, this may be a better choice because it will last longer. My 8 year old gave me a thumbs down at the idea of having a LeapPad Explorer, but he loves touchscreen devices like Nintendo DS.

I love this as a tablet with parental controls built in. A coin allowance for the download store is manageable, and what's really nice is that this is built with kid content in mind. While other major tablet choices are pretty attractive, I hate the idea that my kids might stumble into objectionable content, and let's be honest, it's tremendously difficult to monitor all download activity. This introductory tablet is a good tool for helping your upper elementary aged children learn to handle tech gear while being responsible for budgeting how they spend their coins and weighing pros and cons of various content choices.

New LeapPad Versions: LeapPad Ultra is Coming

The newest version of the LeapPad Tablet Toy is due out soon. This touchscreen toy will be an updated version of the previous tablet toy. With front and back cameras, the toy tablet will extend the already exceptional applications and uses of the previous LeapFrog Tablet. Watch for a more extensive selection in the app store.

InnoTab Touchscreen Tablet Toy from VTech

The VTech InnoTab 3 is already available for preorder from the company site. InnoTab is iPad-like in design, but chunkier. There are software cartridges available for purchase to use in conjunction. Synch it with the computer, for further applications, and downloads. There are also WiFi options. Enjoy the different media players: e-book reader, MP3 music player, photo viewer and video player. The InnoTab tablet will retail at $69.99.

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer

LeapFrog's Touchscreen Tablet Toy for Kids

LeapPad Explorer received huge acclaim in 2011, the year of its release. With a retail price at $99.99, slightly more expensive than the VTech Innotab the LeapPad can sync with the computer, and has apps available for download. The use is much like that of an iPad, but very much more tooled to the needs of the 4-9 age group.

The sleek look of the LeapPad Explorer is very nice, much more in line with the "iPad for Kids" concept, as compared to former LeapFrog tech toys and learning systems, which tend to be very chunky and child oriented in appearance. This doesn't have the look of a babyish toy, but rather, the sleekness that goes hand in hand with a high tech concept. If you need alternatives as you look for an iPad for toddlers or kids, this is an affordable choice.

One of the exciting features of the LeapPad Explorer touchscreen tablet is the ability to track your child's progress online. LeapFrog has had interesting coordination of their learning products with online synching...in earlier years, a docking station connected to the computer via usb, and cartridges were inserted for personalization of spelling lists, and other interests. In the case of more recent products, including Leapster Explorer and the LeapPad Explorer, the device is connected directly, via usb, not just the cartridge.

LeapPad 2 released in late summer, 2012. Your choice of the latest in LeapFrog products will be well worthwhile as the company is making a great deal of free content available. One of the biggest flaws that I noted in the previous version was that there was such great expense involved in purchasing games and software. The new device and new content demonstrate an understanding of the competition on the part of the marketers, as most inexpensive tablets provide significant quantities of free content.

LeapPad Ultra is an excellent choice in 2013 because of its use of WiFi connectivity and a more realistic tablet experience. Suitable for ages 3 to 9, the device is more enhanced than previous versions while enabling kids to have the benefit of durability. I love the relevance of LeapFrog programs, and I think this is going to be a tremendous leap for the product line.

LeapPad Explorer or VTech InnoTab

Your choice of one touchscreen tablet toy vs. the other may depend on finances, previous experiences, or availability. If cost is your determining factor, you will save a few dollars on the InnoTab. If characters available in software are a priority, you will need to look at the available programs. InnoTab will have 9 different software titles available at release, featuring a selection of favorite childhoold characters, while LeapPad Explorer will have significantly more software cartridges available. While the LeapPad tablet is compatible with cartridges from the Explorer learning toy, the Vtech InnoTab is not compatible with cartridges from previous VTech electronic learning systems.

With both of these touchscreen, iPad-like tablet toys, your child can download more games, ebooks, and apps online. However, the LeapPad integrates with a LeapFrog progress tracking program online, vs. no such opportunity with the Innotab tablet toy. As a busy mom, I think the extra personalization is well worth the additional cost of the LeapPad system.

Both touchscreen toys will include ereader functions, art studios, handheld video gaming, and picture/video viewing. However, the VTech tablet toy lacks a built in camera, while the LeapFrog tablet system includes a camera/video recording function. The original InnoTab integrates with the VTech Kidizoom Camera, which costs just under $40. The new InnoTab 2 will include camera and video built in.

Note that neither touchscreen tablet toy is compatible with ebooks that are used on Kindle, Nook, or iPad. These are strictly compatible with ebooks created by their companies, for the specific platforms. For ereader suggestions, read on.

LeapPad Explorer on Ebay

Some stores have limited purchase quantities on the popular touchscreen tablet toys. If you find yourself short on time, and aren't locating the tablet, eBay is another option.

Bear in mind that there are so many kids tablets hitting the market that older versions of the LeapPad and other iPad toys for kids will be much easier to track down second hand.

Ages for iPad like Toys

Innotab vs LeapPad: How do younger and older kids handle these tech toys?

You may wonder about the targeted ages for these cool tablet learning systems: both are said to be appropriate for ages 4-9, and as a parent, I would agree that a 4 year old is more than capable of working with this sort of system. The characters will easily interest my elementary school aged children, and VTech's offerings appear to have come a long way, compared with the last VTech learning system I purchased. In fact, both systems offer software cartridges with the same characters: Cars, Toy Story, and Rapunzel.

The toy is interesting and adaptable enough that my 9 and 10 year old boys would find it fun and useful...this may depends on your child, to some degree. The beginnings of the tween stage may be the end of a child's acceptance of an electronic toy, so you need to really consider your child's personality and interests. These tablet learning systems provide a range of uses, but the housing might be viewed as childish by the upper elementary-aged student.

It's important to keep your child's personality in full view. I thought about a tablet toy for my son for his 8th birthday, but I showed him the item a month or two ahead...big thumbs down. He wanted Legos. There's something to be said for the classics.

Touchscreen Toy or Tablet Computer

You've read about the touchscreen iPad-like toys on the market... What's your impression?

Do you prefer a toy tablet or real tablet for your youngster?

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ipad-2-tablet-for-tweens
ipad-2-tablet-for-tweens

Tablet Computers and iPads for Kids

There are many tablet computers available, and iPad is just one of many options. However, iPad is probably the best known, and most popular. The price reflects this, though, with a $500 price tag on the most basic model. Kids can be hard on tech items, and so when it comes to purchasing tech gifts for children, it's very important to keep the potential for damage in mind. While it is obvious that an iPad needs to be used by a very young child with supervision, the same might be true of older children. The learning potential of these tablet computers is amazing, but the cost of replacing a damaged tablet, preclusive. I have enough trouble with kid mishaps with video game systems such as Nintendo handheld devices. An iPad isn't a consideration for my 10 and under aged kids.

Finance may make these questionable for your older children, though, and so again, a tablet computer may not be an affordable gift. If it is within your means, you need to set ground rules with any aged child receiving an iPad or tablet pc. Tweens can be scatterbrained, a little forgetful, and a misplaced iPad isn't a pleasant thought. Further, tweens love to show off their belongings, so it wouldn't be surprising for that tablet to hide in a tween backpack, and make its way to school. Monitor the whereabouts of your youngster's tablet.

A teenager will probably be more careful, and more responsible, with a tablet computer, but you need to establish some ground rules, and logical consequences. For example: if you lose it, I won't replace it. Security is still important, and you will want to go over these details. Don't put it past your tween to forget a pass code, and lock himself out of an electronic device. Even my teenagers have a tough time remembering the passwords and usernames they create, and I know kids who have locked themselves out of electronics because they just made up a new code.

It may be tempting to grab a cheap tablet during a promotion, but be aware that sometimes, the specs on those really cheap tech gifts are often very basic. This year will see some competition in the cheaper tablet market, though, with the $199 Google Nexxus and with the Kindle Fire having such popularity. The Kindle Fire can be obtained in refurbished design at a discount, too.

Comparing Kindle Fire HD vs iPad Mini - iPad Mini features vs Kindle Fire

ipad mini vs kindle fire hd
ipad mini vs kindle fire hd

Many people have anticipated a smaller and more affordable iPad, and with the big announcement having been made on October 23, 2012, there is lots to consider. If you were hoping for a cheap iPad, I have to say that cheap is in the eye of the shopper. I look at the cost of a basic Kindle Fire and the new iPad mini for kids, and I realize that I can get 2 Kindle Fire tablets for less than 1 iPad Mini. That matters a lot when you are shopping for 8 kiddos (I am). If your budget has more flex, the iPad has the advantage of the iTunes platform, one that is loved by users of all ages. However, even my tween daughter's friend, who saved for a year to buy the new Kindle HD 7" tablet, recognizes how out of reach an iPad is for her resources. Amazon has really made technology accessible while Apple makes it desirable and elite. Above is a little bit of a visual for those of you who like charts (I'm a visual learner, and charts are very helpful to me).

kindle-fire-tablet-for-a-tween
kindle-fire-tablet-for-a-tween

Tablet Alternatives for Kids

Ereaders, Cheap Tablets, Kindle Fire and More

There are a couple of interesting alternatives to tablets, for kids who are a little too old for the tablet toys, but not ready for the responsibility of an expensive tablet pc. The Nook Simple Touch is a great option, as it is touchscreen operated, and provides a relevant environment for the avid reader. Retailing at approximately $99, this is much less expensive than an iPad for a kid. Nook does not include web browsing, though, nor apps and games.

If touchscreen tools are a greater interest, the Kindle Family of ereaders has just been updated, including the previous Keyboard Kindle, a new budget friendly button navigated Kindle ($69), and the competitively priced Kindle Fire, a tablet that provides digital streaming of video and audio, digital reading of Kindle ebooks, android apps, web browsing, and email management.

At 32% of the cost of iPad, the Kindle Fire is a more affordable tablet choice for the older child who is beyond the target age of LeapPad and InnoTab. The latest version of the Kindle Tablet for kids includes twice the memory of the original and 40% faster processing. It's price has been dropped to $159, making it exceptionally priced for the older kid who doesn't want a cutesy tech gift. If your child prefers a real tablet, the Kindle family has lots of possibilities.

Kindle Fire HD is a new series of tablets added to the lineup. The Freetime parental control app makes it possible for you to moderate your child's use of his or her tablet computer. You can limit video and game time. You may want to enable as much reading time as your child wants. There are plenty of options and you can set up multiple profiles. I love this feature. I might need it for myself!


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Tech Tools for Older Kids - Tweens and Tech

As a teacher of middle schoolers, I had a lot of one on one contact at the Tween level, and as a Mom of 8, I have watched 3 get through the tween years, and currently have 3 children in that tween age range. I definitely have a perspective on tweens and tech, from a parenting and educational perspective, and I write many articles, as well as a tech oriented blog, with a tween emphasis. Feel free to peruse, if you are thinking about your tween's tech interests, or gift giving ideas.

Touchscreen Tablet Learning Systems Guestbook

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    • profile image

      patrickkallie1974 3 years ago

      It worth your kids future to get them a tablet. They are pretty inexpensive and a must to improve your child's development.

    • k4shmir profile image

      k4shmir 4 years ago

      nice infos. . thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I gave my grandson an iPad for his 5th birthday...he has educational apps and games...and has learned how to read and is currently excelling in math! A great educational 'toy' if you want to call it that! (It is IMHO)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Returning with a smile...I like the way you tell what to watch for in choosing a touchscreen table learning system and like the idea of growing with the child.

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 4 years ago

      You have inspired me a lot. Great lens!

    • loveanime22 profile image

      loveanime22 4 years ago

      great collection

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Last year, I gave NABI to a grandson and he loves it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for this informative article. This helpful. :)

    • profile image

      flowski lm 4 years ago

      Great tech gifts for kids. Thanks for the comparison.

    • profile image

      ezekiele 4 years ago

      very useful information..

      great lens.

    • profile image

      laptop 4 years ago

      I "liked" your lens. Great explanation of what touchscreen tablets are best for kids. Very useful information.

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      I am always surprised when I see apps on the iPad for kids because I don't think I would ever let a child use my iPad! I definitely vote for the toy touch tablets, they are probably more durable.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      These are great for the kids, blessed and added to my lens..Squid Angel flinnie.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I am a firm believer in using technology to advance a child's educational development

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      Looks like a lot of fun ideas to choose from during the upcoming holiday season! *blessed*

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Nice coverage of this dilemma for some parents.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Very cool ideas - thanks for sharing. :)

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      When my grandson was 18 months old, he loved the iPad and knew how to navigate quite well. When they bought him an inexpensive tablet, he wanted only the iPad. I like how intuitive Apple products are.

    • profile image

      demping 5 years ago

      hi there.

      anybody knows a tablet with a touch screen lock mechanism (hard key or a program tool) to restrict my baby to touch the screen when she watching learning program?

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      we have to introduce the kids to the modern computer techniques at early age. we want the kids to be computer literate to compete. touch screen is absolutely ideal for small kids. they'll enjoy it.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Wow! A lot of this is new to me. Appreciate the info.

    • profile image

      PhyllisCOliver 5 years ago

      that's how advance our technology today, even those touch screen gadgets goes to child age bracket. But i think it's only for those who can really afford those highly cost touch screen gadgets to be torn or wreck apart by the mind of a child. It's just that simple, even i think like a child when it comes to computer so when i encounter some issues with it, i just call for pc tune up online to do the job for me.

    • Gadgetlesstech profile image

      Gadgetlesstech 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! i don't think that it can ever be too early to introduce your children to technology and this certainly helps to point folks in the right direction. Good Work!

    • profile image

      Buchamar 5 years ago

      Great info!

      I feature iPad apps for kids that are educational. Come visit!

    • profile image

      Jeusdeus 5 years ago

      not seen these before, been looking at the nook tablet. interesting angle you are dealing with

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 5 years ago

      Blessed!

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 5 years ago

      Very useful review of products -- Blessed for the gift ideas that can help parents decide on the best Christmas gift for their child.

    • profile image

      mumsgather 5 years ago

      Great angle for a lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • WaynesWorld LM profile image

      WaynesWorld LM 5 years ago

      My 4 year old does things with my little 3rd generation iPod Touch that has the external speaker, that I never knew it could do. Finds youtube videos which now is his shopping tool ( =*), "Daddy, I want this and that..." There are little games that he plays and learning tools. All around it is pretty cool but of course idiots and perverts load crap that he has the potential to see so you need to be careful and watchful when the kid(s) are on youtube.

      Nice lens!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      It's hard to find out what age is best to start introducing tech toys to kids. I think I am a little conservative about this matter... Well, it probably depends on child too. Your lens made me think... Thanks!