Best Tablets for Kids 2014
Fire HD Kids Edition
The Fire HD Kids Edition is a good balance between cost, capability and child-friendly features.
Tablets for Kids - Kindle Fire, iPad, Nabi, LeapPad, ...
Tablet PCs have become very popular with kids. A tablet is not a cheap toy, so you want to make sure you get the right one for your child or family. There are options for preschoolers, little kids, preteens, and teens. Here's an overview of the best tablets for kids to help you choose. I'll be updating with new tablets throughout 2014.
I'm an IT professional and Mom to two elementary school aged boys. We have both the LeapPad and InnoTab learning tablets for kids and we also own a Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 and two cheap Android tablets which are used by the adults and shared with the kids, oh and an iPhone and Netbook too! And we've added an iPad to the family collection. I'll explain the pros and cons of different options in this article so you can pick the right tablet for your child or children.
If you are considering an Amazon tablet then take a look at my Kindle Fire for Kids page which has much more information.
Choosing a Kids Tablet
When choosing a tablet for a child to use there are four main options:
- A kids learning tablet such as the LeapFrog LeapPad or VTech InnoTab. These are specially designed tablets for younger children which have a library of educational software available.
- A kid-specific Android tablet such as the Nabi 2. These tablets have a rugged design and parental controls and give access to child-friendly Android apps and limited/monitored internet access.
- A general purpose Android tablet such as the Kindle Fire. Not designed for kids (but you can get cases to protect them.) Access to android apps and the web. Limited parental controls.
- An Apple iPad. A more expensive option but gives access to lots of excellent kid-friendly apps. You may think you can share an iPad with your child, but they will often want to use it at the same time as you.
We'll take you through some of the best options in each category. Our top tip is to choose a tablet that is appropriate for your child now. If you choose a tablet thinking it will last a long time then it might not be the right choice today and meanwhile the tablet technology will move on by the time your child is old enough to appreciate it.
Some of the Top Choices
We'll go into more detail later on each of these and some other alternatives, but these top choices will give you a good idea of what's currently available on the market.
Kids Learning Tablets
Available in green or pink.
The LeapPad3 is the 2014 update to this popular range of designed-for-kids tablets. This year sees a significant upgrade to the previous models with higher-end features making it into this standard model.
There are lots of educational games available for the LeapPad3. The emphasis here really is on learning through playing rather than on being a general purpose tablet. My children used a LeapPad when they were younger and definitely got a lot from it.
The LeapPad3 has a capacitative touchscreen (like most adult tablets do now), it has a rechargeable battery so you just plug it in to charge and it's faster than previous models. A significant upgrade is kid-safe web browsing.
The recommended age range for the LeapPad3 is 3-9. We'd only recommend buying a new LeapPad for the younger end of this age range though if slightly older kids already have one then they are likely to keep using it.
Older kids start wanting access to word-processing apps and reading text-based eBooks and are better served by a less-restricted device.
LeapPad Ultra XDi
The LeapPad Ultra XD is the 2014 upgrade to the high-end LeapPad tablet for children. It has a larger 7" screen which is the key difference for this model now that the LeapPad3 has Wifi with web access.
The LeapPad Ultra XDi is due for release in fall 2014.
VTech InnoTab 3S Plus
New Plus model for 2014
InnoTab Plus Models for 2014
The InnoTab is another kids learning tablet and this is the new version for 2013. It's quite similar to the LeapPad and also gives you access to lots of educational content and entertainment too.
The new models for 2014 are the InnoTab 3 Plus and InnoTab 3S Plus. That one letter 'S' makes a big difference here. The 3S Plus has Wifi and access to curated online conmtent. It also has an instant messaging app that allows kids to communicate with their parents' smart phones.
The InnoTab Max is a very interesting new tablet for kids for 2014 - it's due out in the fall, in time for Christmas.
This tablet does what made-for-kids tablets just had to do at some point and runs the Android operating system. This means that it will have access to large numbers of curated educational apps for children.
This removes one of the barriers that people see for choosing a children's tablet rather than a general purpose Android tablet - access to content.
Definitely worth considering if you want a kid-specific tablet that will last your children a bit longer.
Learning Tablets for Kids - Pros and Cons
Learning Tablet Pros
Learning tablets are less expensive than most full tablets
Learning tablets are designed to be easy to hold and durable
There's a good selection of educational titles available
The tablets allow fun activities like drawing and taking videos and they are all easy to access
You can give your child freedom to use a learning tablet and know they can only access appropriate content
Learning Tablet Cons
Learning tablets will only appeal to younger kids - Mom and Dad won't be able to borrow it!
Kids will grow out of a learning tablet faster than a regular tablet (though technology movies on all the time so tablets do become outdated.)
Tip: Buy for your child now (not for the future)
A lot of parents are considering skipping the learning tablets and going straight to an Android device. They are different things. My 4 year old gets so much from his LeapPad2 as it has just the right content for his age.
He uses the Kindle Fire occasionally, but it's not his tablet of choice. When he's a bit older he can have an Android tablet which will have a higher spec than one I'd buy today.
His big brother on the other hand loves the Kindle Fire HD.
Android Tablets for Kids
Fire HD Kids Edition
Fire HD Kids Edition 6" or 7"
Amazon have released a new children's edition of the popular Fire HD tablet this year. The Fire HD bundles together a high-quality, well-specified tablet with a brightly colored protective case, a year's subscription to FreeTime unlimited content and a 2 year warranty which includes your child accidentally breaking the device.
You also get Amazon's multi-user support so the device can be shared between siblings (and borrowed by parents!) The parental controls allow parents to determine which content their children have access to and to place limits on how long or how late children are permitted to use the content.
The 6" version is smaller and cheaper. 6" is a larger screen size than many kid-specific learning tablets have. 7" available for slightly more money and is a standard tablet size.
Well worth considering. For older kids see the new Fire HD range discussed below.
Nabi DreamTab HD8
An Android Tablet for Kids
The Nabi DreamTab is the 2014 update to the Nabi range of Android tablets designed specifically for kids.
One thing you need to be aware of with this tablet is that it has a strong tie-in with DreamWorks and their franchises feature heavily. Kids will have Kung-Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Shrek and Puss in Books content marketed to them. Our kids aren't big media consumers, but these are some of their favorite movies. You may have different views.
The DreamTab is built on the Android platform but have a lot of Nabi-specific features layered on top to provide an experience for children aged from preK-6. It's much more grown up that LeapPad and InnoTab tablets.
An interesting feature of the DreamTab is the Dream Pen stylus for writing and drawing - an accurate stylus is something I've found lacking in other tablets for children.
There's lots of educational and entertainment content plus parental controls, kid-friendly social media and utilties.
Worth considering if you want a proper Android tablet but one that comes pre-configured to allow kids to get he most from it.
Nabi 2 Tablet for Kids - New for 2012
The Nabi 2 Tablet by Fuhu is a 7" Wifi Android tablet for kids. Find out all about the Nabi and it's design and content for kids. The Nabi 2 is the seco...
Nabi Jr (New in 2013)
Fuhu Nabi Jr Tablet for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
The Fuhu Nabi Jr is a 5 inch mini tablet for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. This isn't a pretend tablet, it's a real Android tablet with a good specifica...
Fuhu Nabi XD Tablet for Tweens
Fuhu Nabi XD is a 10" Android Tablet for tweens and teens. Following on from the successful Nabi 2 tablet for kids, the Nabi XD has a larger screen and ...
General Purpose Android Tablets
Um, son, do you think I could have a go on that now?
Kindle Fire for Kids
The Fire HD 6" and 7" tablets are new from Amazon for the 2014 holiday season and is available in a choice of cool colors. The Fire HD is not designed specifically for kids, but Amazon have lots of kids content and good parental controls. It's an excellent choice for kids once they are able to read and move on from an educational tablet.
For 2014 there's a new 6" model which is excellent value for money. It's very portable and affordable enough that you'll feel comfortable with tweens and teens taking it outside the house.
The Fire tablets run an Amazon-modified version of Android. It offers a selection of apps from the Amazon android marketplace, including kids apps. Other android apps may run on the device, but the Amazon ones are easier to install and many are tested to work with the Kindle Fire reducing hassle.
Fire HD 6" 2014 Model
Fire HD Pros and Cons
Kindle Fire for Kids Pros:
The 6" and 7" screen sizes are good for kids.
There's a growing library of kids books and lots of interactive kids books and comics which may only be available for Kindle Fire (or available there first.)
It's a mainstream tablet with lots accessories and information available and easy access to video, book and music content
It's a proper tablet so adults can borrow it too!
Reasonable price for a powerful tablet.
Kindle FreeTime unlimited is a subscription service for kids with videos, ebooks, games and apps
Kindle Fire for Kids Cons
Parental controls were slow to arrive on the Kindle Fire. It's more expensive than some kids tablets (but has more features.)
Google Nexus 7
My partner has one of these and my kids do use it sometimes, but they prefer the Kindle Fire.
Google Nexus 7
The Google Nexus is a high spec Android tablet made by Asus. It doesn't have any features that are specifically aimed at kids and is a full-featured tablet for adults, but it's getting very good reviews so it's an option for older kids and teens particularly. You can install parental control apps to make the tablet more suitable for use by children.
Cheap Android Tablets for Kids
A cheap Android tablet is an option for older kids if you have a tight budget. Just remember they will be cheap for a reason and likely to be less responsive and future-proof than more expensive options. A general purpose Android tablet will require more set up to install parent control apps and you'll want to consider a protective case.
We have a couple of cheap Android tablets that get used by the kids and adults in the house. They're great for situations where you'd be worried about using a more expensive tablet such as on public transport.
One of the issues we've found with cheaper tablets is that the screens tend to be poorer quality which makes it hard to comfortably read eBooks , and that's one of the activities we really want to encourage!
There are lots of cheap tablets that will support Netflix, Skype, and lots of other apps.
View more Tablets under $150
iPad for Kids
The iPad Mini from Apple is a new tablet released in time for Christmas 2012. The iPad Mini is a 7.9" version of the iPad. The iPad Mini is a more expensive option than the other tablets we've mentioned here. You don't get better hardware for your money (some of the Android tablets are very good) but you do get a slick user experience and access to the wide range of apps for iOS.
Don't feel bad if you can't afford an iPad Mini, there are other great choices, but if you can afford it and prefer Apple devices then it's worth considering. It's an obvious upgrade for kids who have had an iPod touch device and are already familiar with iOS.
iPad for Kids - 9.7"
Kids love iPads. Many kids share an iPad with their parents or even have their own. The iPad got a headstart on android in terms of apps and there are lots of fun games and apps for kids available. There are good interactive books for kids on the iPad too - I'm sure Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on catching up and overtaking here.
The iPad is simple to use, has established parental controls and a head start on apps. It's larger (9.7") screen is a benefit in some situations, but 7" tablets can be better for kids to hold.
iPad for Kids Pros
The iPad is a well established high quality tablet with a good range of titles for kids
There are lots of accessories and cases designed for kids available for the iPad
The forward and rear facing cameras and tilt sensors enable further activities and games
iPad for Kids Cons
The iPad is expensive! If you can easily afford the iPad then fine. But don't spend money on it that you can't afford, there are cheaper options that will be just fine.
A smaller device may be more convenient for kids
Microsoft Surface Tablet
Microsoft Surface Pro - New for 2013
The Microsoft Surface Pro is another new tablet which came out in early 2013. It's not aimed at kids specifically. The Microsoft Surface Pro is a high end tablet with a 10.6" screen so it is more expensive than some of the cheaper tablets we have looked at.
The key advantage of the Microsoft Surface is that is runs Windows 8 and most kids these days use Windows at home and / or school so will be familiar. Think of this tablet as a Netbook / Laptop replacement with touchscreen features rather than just an app and media player.
The Windows 8 version of the tablet has a release date in early 2013 and it's very early days for this tablet. Unless your kids are happy to be early adopters of technology I'd probably wait until mid-2013 before choosing the Microsoft Surface tablet.
A larger tablet that runs Windows 8 and has an optional keyboard case.
Good for kids who want a consistent Windows experience with school or home PCs.
Touchscreen Desktop Computers
Touch screen Desktop Computer
This option isn't a tablet, but I thought it was worth mentioning the option of a touch screen all in one desktop computer. They are like very big tablets on a stand with a keyboard attached. We have one and my kids (aged 4 and 6) love it! They are so used to phones and tablets that they expect to be able to touch the screen so a touch screen computer makes a lot of sense.
Obviously a touchscreen computer isn't portable like a tablet but is worth considering for use at home. Actually some are portable around the home (with a battery) so they make great home computers for kids who are used to touch screens and portability.
Best Touch Screen Desktop Computers 2013
A guide to the best touch screen desk top computers for 2013. With Windows 8 coming out and everyone being used to the touch screens on other devices, touch ...
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Best Tablets for Kids