There are some big advantages to kids using tablets rather than full computers. The locked-down nature of a tablet’s operating system means that it’s rather more secure and less prone to issues such as malware. The touch-first interface of a tablet can work well with younger and less adept fingers than a full keyboard, and the extended battery life of most tablets also leads to less frustration than with a laptop too.
But which tablet should you pick for your child? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but here’s my recommendations, as well as some more general tablet-buying tips for younger kids.
What to look for in a tablet for kids
Tablets can be had with screens anywhere from around 7 inches all the way up to 13 inches or more, which gives you a quite wide range to pick from. Bear in mind that while a bigger tablet gives a bigger “screen” to learn from or play with, it’s also a bigger and heavier item – and one that’s a little easier to drop
Can you get a protective case?
I’m of a mind that everyone should put tablets in cases, but then I also have my clumsy moments. You know who else has lots of clumsy moments? Kids do.
You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches, heartache and tears if you budget for a decent bumper-style case for your chosen tablet model. Yes, it’ll cost more than a standalone tablet would, but it’ll pay for itself the first time it’s dropped if the screen doesn’t shatter.
Which operating system does my kid need?
For some primary schools where tablets are an acceptable BYOD choice you may have no choice, with some specifying iPads for example. For most education purposes there’s less between Apple’s iPadOS and Google’s Android OS than you might think, especially as so many education apps really just run in a web browser anyway.
It’s a more mixed affair for general apps, however, with iPadOS generally being a little more aware of the larger size of tablets. Android apps will run, but sometimes only as smaller windows or less well oriented for tablet displays.
What parental controls are available?
Kids love to tinker around the edges of things, and being left with an unattended tablet with an internet connection could be a recipe for disaster, whether it’s unwanted content access or them spending up big on virtual game items using your credit card.
Look to be able to lock down both app buying and even access to the tablet with a strong passcode, so that you remain in control of your child’s screen time. Ensure that you don’t leave app purchases as the default without a passcode to keep your child’s app spend under sensible control. Sure, it’s a little more work to unlock it for them every time, but it ensures you maintain as much control as possible.
Don’t just buy the cheapest one
Look, I’m a parent myself, and it’s 100% understandable that financial pressures exist around getting anything that your child might accidentally break quickly. Getting the cheaper one means that they don’t waste as much money, right?
The problem here is that cheaper tablets often rely on very old Android versions which may not be as secure, might miss out on apps or services that your child’s school needs, and may run slower than treacle. That’s not open licence for your child to demand a $3,000+ Apple iPad Pro 12.9 – but it is worth remembering that in tablets, you do get what you pay for.
Best tablet options for kids
The basic entry level Apple iPad is my absolute go-to option whenever anyone asks me about tablets for kids, because it hits a number of sweet spots. It’s Apple’s cheapest tablet, which appeals to my parental hip pocket nerve, but that money does buy you a very good and capable tablet that outclasses what you can get in an Android tablet at that price.
Apple’s parental controls are really easy to set up and understand, and the iPadOS ecosystem incorporates a lot of superb educational content and simple kid-friendly games. It’s even capable of hooking up to a Bluetooth capable keyboard and mouse if you need a slightly more flexible computer at the end of the day.
Apple iPad Mini
Apple’s smaller iPad also has lots of kid-friendly appeal because it is a smaller tablet, which means it’s easier to grab hold of in smaller hands and simpler to stow into a school bag – although again, a good protective case is an absolute must.
The most recent generation of the Apple iPad Mini is a more powerful device than the entry level iPad, so it’s a more expensive proposition, which wasn’t the case for older iPad Mini generations.
However, that should mean it’s got more than enough power for an entire primary school run as long as the school in question is happy to work with tablets as educational devices.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE
Samsung’s got a lot of Galaxy Tab options, and they’re generally very good, but I’ll highlight the Galaxy Tab S7 FE as an alternate pick for school use, because it’s a more affordable – relatively speaking – tablet with a very nice large display and included stylus, which could make it a great option for those budding artists in the family.
It’s an Android tablet with a 12.4 inch display, a true rarity at its price point and a good match if the smaller size of some tablets is an issue for school or at-home learning. It’s also reasonably powerful within the scope of most Android tablets, although Apple’s iPad lines remain the gold standard for performance. A keyboard case will cost extra, however, but that’s expected for most tablets.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet
Most Chromebooks are sold as full laptops, but that’s not what Lenovo does with the Chromebook Duet. It’s a ChromeOS tablet that sells with an included keyboard case and kickstand, so you can use it like a Chromebook laptop or as its own standalone tablet.
ChromeOS is an operating system built around Google’s Chrome browser with a strong focus on security and stability, which makes it a good pick for kids as there’s not much they can break in a software sense that isn’t recoverable simply by rebooting the device.
What’s more, ChromeOS devices like the Chromebook Duet can run most (but not quite all) Android apps, so it’s a best of both worlds’ scenario there. The Chromebook Duet isn’t super powerful, but its small size makes it a good match for school bags as well.
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