Tablets Just for Kids
First, there are the dedicated learning devices that have been around for a while, even before the first iPad hit the market. These devices, such as the LeapFrog and VTech lines, do not use a typical tablet operating system like Android but instead offer a proprietary system. The benefit is the tablets are easy to control since there is not a way to load outside apps or access the internet outside of what may be needed for a game. The downside for many is the parent needs to buy software made specifically for the device and cannot just shop an app store to find games, videos, music or books for the child.
The tablets that are made to use a standard operating system also tend to offer proprietary software, but that is usually installed over the Android system, making it possible to pick up apps and content in the Google Play store. And while there is not an iPad version made for kids, there are plenty of rugged cases out there to choose from, including the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn series that presents toddler-friendly buttons and handles, with bumpers and a screen film to protect the tablet. Time magazine also has a nice guide to kid-proofing an iPad using the built-in settings options.
If you are in the market for a kid-specific tablet, the following Android-based tablets tend to get the highest rating by consumers and also are relatively inexpensive. They all feature a sturdy design and buttons that are easy for a younger child to use.
Polaroid Kids – While this tablet is Android-based, the main system is set-up to be easy for a toddler or young child to navigate with little help from an adult. Big, colorful tiles take up the main menu and feature familiar Disney characters. The tablet comes preloaded with apps, books and videos and can accommodate more that are either purchased by parents from the regular content store or added by the child in the Free Play store, which is a special Google Play store that only features free, kid-friendly apps. The device also has parental controls that let you set maximum play time and other access restrictions.
Kurio Xtreme – Like the Polaroid, the Kurio has its own special software running over Android but it lets a lot more of the Android system through, including the ability to load any apps or content from either the special Kurio collection or the regular Google Play store. The tablet features the ability to add up to eight users so each child can have their own profile and apps. The parental controls include an internet filter, app blocker and time controls.
nabi 2 – The nabi 2 is designed with education in mind, focusing on math and reading in the kid side of the software. The device has two modes, the kid mode and the parent mode. On the kid’s side is the proprietary nabi software with the apps, controls and restrictions a parent would want to have for unsupervised play. The parent side features the full Android experience so the tablet can either be used by both parent and child or the parent side could be a benefit to step the child up to a regular tablet once they are old enough, yet still retain the physical protective features (or even for an older sibling to use).
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids Tablet – The Samsung is one of the tablets that has been adapted from an existing tablet line and as such, features the same ability as the nabi to use kid mode or adult mode. On the children’s side is a set of games and content that the parent can control. The titles are the same you would find in the Google Play store, such as Fruit Ninja, and more can be added by the parent using the parental control features. Switch out of kid mode and the tablet is a fully functional Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.
Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition – The newest adaptation is Amazon’s new Kindle for kids, which is pretty much a Kindle HD 7.0 that is locked down, has a neat case and sports a nice 2-year no questions asked warranty. The initial year comes with a prepaid set of books and videos, but otherwise the tablet is fed the same way as any Kindle, either by an Amazon Prime membership or by buying the apps, books, music, and videos through the Amazon Kindle store. Like the others, it features filters and parental controls to allow for dedicated entertainment time and off time.