Choosing tablets for kids can feel like an overwhelming challenge. There are an increasing number of options to choose from and it can be really hard to know even what you need to consider let alone which tablet is best for your situation. We’ve detailed the factors we encourage you to consider below but have also reviewed a range of tablets in more detail here to allow you to make an informed decision. Or if you need by understanding the basics of what a tablet actually is you’re not alone – have a look at our article ‘What is a tablet?‘
Who will use the tablet?
The first thing to consider is whether the tablet will just be used by one or more children in your family or by adults as well.
- Tablets for one child’s use: Consider tablets targeted at their specific age range vs. tablets that will be useful for many years as your child grows.
- Shared tablets: If you are going to share the tablet with your child then you may want something that is more versatile but also that makes it easy for you to protect your content. Ideally a tablet with separate logins for different users is best. The last thing you want is for your children to have access to your email, twitter, facebook accounts or to buy things via online shopping without you even knowing! See our article on: avoiding unauthorised purchases.
This is one area where iPads are often less good than other tablets currently. Whilst iPads have some useful built-in restrictions you cannot set-up multiple user accounts (which you can on many Android devices) nor are their apps to restrict what children can access as are available through Google playstore.
Screens typically range in size from 7 inches to around 10 inches. It’s worth thinking about the size of screen you / your child would be happy with, particularly as a trade-off against cost. Many people feel that a 7 inch screen is easier for young children to hold and is often more portable, however a larger 10 inch screen does give children more space which can be great for watching videos, shared usage and games that require precision/dexterity. However, we’ve found that most children are very happy with either 7 inch or 10 inch equivalents so in most cases we don’t see this as a deciding factor. It is worth considering screen size primarily in terms of how it relates to the cost – if the 10 inch device is just what you want but a bit pricey, consider the 7 inch equivalent.
Most people are aware that iPads are the highest cost option which is generally true, although there are an increasing number of Android and Windows devices with a similar price tag, particularly with the 7 inch screen size.
Android tablets vary in price the most so if you’re on a budget you’re likely to find something to suit.
Lower cost tablets typically have lower screen size, lower quality graphics (general screen and camera quality), and are slower to use. They may also have less storage space. Screen size and graphics quality tend to worry children less than slow loading times – although slower speeds help them learn some patience too! We suggest getting the highest power device for your budget. It is worth also noting what comes free with the tablet as some children’s tablets are sold with a number of apps pre-loaded which can be really useflu.
Apps – choice, cost, quality and multi-device use
Whether you buy an Apple iPad, one of the many Android tablets, a Windows tablet or an Innotab, LeapPad or similar, apps are a key feature your child is likely to use. Apps are little programmes or games that you can download onto a tablet and use, often requiring no access to the internet once downloaded (although not always). For children, apps can be just for fun or extremely educational (or ideally both).
- Choice: iPads have the widest range of apps and apps are often launched here first. However, the number of apps on Google Playstore continues to grow rapidly, particularly for children’s content and there is a lot of choice even on bespoke tablets like Innotab and LeapPad that are specifically targeted at younger children.
- Cost: apps on iPads and Android tablets typically cost a similar amount. Many apps are less than £2 and some are free (although beware of in-app purchasing). Apps on platforms like Innotab and LeapPad often cost more per app.
- Quality: Apps must pass certain criteria to be accepted onto the Apple App Store ensuring a minimum level of quality. Whilst the Google Playstore is less monitored, there is good content available for children and several Android tablets have other app stores such as the Kurio App Store on Kurio tablets where apps are more carefully selected. Both Apple and Android stores have their share of good and poor content for children – we suggest looking at reviews before you buy (see Good App Guide for reviews of good apps).
- Multi-device use: it is worth thinking about what other devices you have in your household that you may wish to share content with. If you have an Android phone, for example, an Android tablet may make sense so that anything you’ve already bought via Google Playstore can be accessed.
- Pre-loaded: do also consider what apps comes pre-loaded (if any)
It is also worth considering how you access new apps on the tablet – in most cases this can be done via Wifi on the tablet itself or on a computer and then downloaded. For devices like the Innotab you can also also buy physical cartridges to plug into the device.
Parental controls & internet access
Compare the available child protection features. Consider whether there are any restrictions built-in (e.g. for online access, in-app purchasing and time management) or whether you can download additional apps or kid-safe browsers to provide more peace of mind. Alternatively, choose a device with no wifi/internet access to minimise eSafety concerns (but do then consider how you will access new apps – probably via a computer).
When choosing tablets for kids, ensure the device comes with a good quality child-proof case or that one can be purchased in addition. We strongly recommend a good quality case to protect the tablet from accidents. See our article on iPad cases.
Look at what you can plug into the tablet. Some allow you to add memory cards to get more storage space or transfer photos onto the tablet. Many tablets have USB ports for you to connect anything from a printer to a keyboard/mouse or other peripheral, and a mini-HDMI socket to connect up to a TV or other screen to enable you to watch videos on a larger screen. Some like the iPad only connect to anything via a proprietary connector (whether for power or to connect to other devices). Some tablets will also connect wirelessly to various other devices either over wifi or via bluetooth – whether that’s to allow you to change the TV channel or take on a handsfree kit – if this is important to you it’s work having a look at what’s available.
A few tablets have access to 3G or 4G networks as well which would allow you to continue being connected to the internet when away from wifi but these are typically more expensive and not generally a priority for children.
Specification: Processor/Speed, Battery, Camera, Storage, Screen resolution
Good battery life, a decent camera and sufficient storage space are all important features for most people in a tablet.
- Processor/Speed: the better the chipset the faster the tablet will run, as well as the faster the processor. Higher specs (e.g. moving from dual core processors to quad core and 1GHz to 1.5GHz) typically add cost and may be worth the cost for adults to use but encouraging children to have a little patience is never such a bad thing!
- Battery life: can vary widely – however for a child this is often less significant than for a shared family tablet as it’s a good idea to restrict the amount of time a child is on a tablet anyway!
- Camera: it’s amazing how many apps now incorporate cameras in some form whether just to take an image of the player or for some added value. It is generally useful to have both a front facing and rear facing camera but quality varies and is often less good that smart phones. In many cases the camera quality isn’t a big issue for a child.
- Storage: it is typically worth getting as much storage as you can afford – particularly for shared tablets or where music/video is likely to be key. It’s amazing how quickly you use the space up. However, if you are just giving your child access to a few apps (and you can always delete and re-download apps you’ve bought on the app stores) then less storage space may be sufficient and save money.
- Screen resolution: obviously the higher this is the better and typically the more expensive. Viewing angles can also vary a lot as can the quality of the image. Generally we recommend getting the best you can afford, however, children tend not to be as picky as adults when it comes to screen quality so long as the screen resolution is good enough.