Buyer's guide: six questions to ask before buying a kids tablet
How to choose the right tablet for your child
If you spend half your life trying to wrestle your tablet back from a Peppa Pig-addicted toddler, perhaps it's time you considered investing in some kit specifically for them. Most of the major tablet manufacturers (with the very notable exception of Apple) have released devices that are just for kids. They're built tougher, they're simplified and they come with kid-friendly software that keeps things safe and enables useful features such as limiting the amount of screen time they can have each day. Best of all, they're pretty cheap - with some even coming in under the £100 mark. And with the January sales coming up, you can expect to find even more of a bargain. Before you go on the hunt for a new tablet for your little ones, consider these key questions...
Will it break?
The whole point of kid-friendly tablets is that they are built to last. The iPad mini is a popular choice for kids, because of its diminutive size, but it's not designed to withstand being dropped on the floor repeatedly by an absent-minded five-year-old. You can expect any child's tablet to be built into a shockproof case with a toughened screen. The likes of the Leapfrog Epic and the EE Robin come encased in a bumper case as well. Amazon's Fire 7 Kids Edition has a bumper case, too, but on top of that it also comes with a two-year warranty that guarantees a replacement in the case of accidental damage.
What will it cost?
If the tablet you're looking at comes in at much more than £100, you need to take a careful look at what you're getting for that extra cost. The Kurio Smart can currently be found for around £160, but then it's more than just a tablet. This device comes with a detachable keyboard and can run Windows 10. That means your kids can do all their homework on it using Microsoft Office, making it a great first laptop for children and young teenagers. But there are eye-catching prices for the straightforward tablet options. The aforementioned Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition is £99.99, while older models such as the Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra XDi remain capable but can be picked up for less than £60.
Will my kids be safe?
One of the perks of choosing a kid-specific tablet is that its operating system will have been specifically designed with children in mind. On some devices, that means you get a walled garden style internet experience, where only a few select sites are accessible. On others, it's possible to whitelist sites that you are happy for your children to visit. You could of course buy a general tablet and then install child-friendly software, but check first that it will give you all the functionality of a dedicated product. For instance, one of our favourite features that comes out of the box with the Leapfrog Epic is the option to set a limit on the amount of screen time each child can have each day. You can even set the device to reward them with extra time if they complete specific educational tasks.
How many apps does it have?
Some tablets can only access their own bespoke app store. That might mean a fairly limited selection of apps, so take a look into what's available (and what you think you'll need) before taking the plunge. The EE Robin is an Android-based tablet, which means the might of the Google Play store is accessible for app downloads. As you'd expect, Amazon's tablet enables access to the Amazon Appstore, as do some other tablets such as the Leapfrog Epic.
How long does the battery last?
For many parents, a big bonus when buying a tablet is its entertainment value on long journeys. If you're going to be on the move for hours on end, you'll want a tablet that won't give up the ghost before you get there. Check the manufacturer's stated battery time for its device (and then take off about 25% for a more realistic estimate). A decent tablet should be able to provide five or six hours of battery life at a minimum - although bear in mind that battery life is always cut quite quickly by video playback.
How large is the screen?
The thing to remember here is that bigger is not always better - at least when it comes to a kids tablet. Most of those on the market come with a seven-inch screen - and with good reason. It makes for a device that fits comfortably into little hands, while still giving enough screen space for them to work/play with.
Six of our favourite kid-friendly tablets
When you're on the lookout for a kids tablet, these are among those worth considering.
- Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
- Leapfrog Epic
- EE Robin
- Vtech Innotab Max
- Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra XDi
- Kurio Smart