It’s hard to say no to your kid using technology without feeling like a parent from the dark ages. Tablets with educational games, screen time limits, and parental controls offer a way to keep them entertained without crossing into mind-numbing territory. These are the ones to consider.
Kids are device-hungry nuts these days. Seriously, WTF happened to Sesame Street and a book before bedtime? But we digress.
Technology has changed a lot since you were small. Your kids have probably mastered the features on your iPhone better than you have due to constantly asking to play with it. And when you do eventually get it back, it’s a sticky mess covered in slobber and other unexplainable slimes. But in the age of touch screens and constant connectivity, there’s not really a way to say “no” without feeling like a parent from the dark ages.
Enter kids’ tablets: the happy medium between giving your kids the access to tech that they want, without turning them into a technology zombie. (You know what we’re talking about — those kids who have their faces glued to a smartphone while they get pushed around in a stroller. It’s weird, right?)
What’s going on in the world of screen time recommendations?
Kids’ tablets go far past keeping them occupied during a long car ride (or during days on end at home while school is canceled — the new normal, for now).
Screen learning and screen time restrictions are increasingly huge points of study. Parents’ questions often boil down to “how much is too much?” Though this is rarely met with a definitive answer, recent research can at least shine light on best practices.
In April 2019, the World Health Organization issued much-anticipated guidelines around screen time for preschool-aged kids: One hour is the recommended maximum for children ages 2 to 4. These suggestions are based off of the idea that healthy cognitive development of young kids is built through face-to-face interaction. This lines up with recent research done by Vanderbilt University’s Georgene Troseth, who says that toddlers probably won’t learn much from a screen, anyway.
It’s around their third year of life that children can make the connection that the thing on the screen represents a real person, and that that person is teaching them something. “By age three, many children are active media users and can benefit from electronic media with educational content,” explains Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a learning designer at LeapFrog enterprises, in this Inc.com article. “This content often uses strategies such as repeating an idea, presenting images and sounds that capture attention, and using child rather than adult voices for the characters.”
Kids are actually interacting with content, making the learning experience richer and more memorable. Tablets just feel more like playing, and it’s not surprising that kids may be more willing to learn when it doesn’t feel forced. Besides, playing and imagination are the building blocks for creativity and empathy — so even if they’re playing Toca Boca instead of doing multiplication, they’re still gaining real-world skills.
One project by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (a non-profit run by the same people behind Sesame Street) compared literary assessments of kindergarten through third grade students who had used tablets at school. The students who used tablets saw higher test scores than those who didn’t use tablets, and they were able to recognize 20% more vocabulary words due to an improved ability to recognize sounds and represent sounds as letters.
A 2018 meta-anlysis published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal combined numerous studies from the past few years, ultimately pinpointing a significant touchscreen learning effect. Learning on a touchscreen with physical pressing and swiping was particularly beneficial for STEM, as apps or games have the ability to create a memorable real-life experience (compared to simply reading about a science experiment).
Dr. Michael Levine, founder of the Cooney Center, put some perspective on the difference between “learning time” and “mindless time:“
“The idea is not to have parents simply hand these devices over to their kids. Instead, the games and ebooks provide examples of hands-on activities that parents can do with their preschoolers in their kitchens and backyards to promote vocabulary and content knowledge in both languages, which helps build a solid foundation for life-long learning. …Instead of pushing screens away, it’s time to put them to use in a thoroughly modern way.
TL;DR: Tablets are a great learning tool as long as they’re not a kid’s main source of learning. Kids will always need to be comfortable reading print books and doing math by hand. Sure. But the opportunities for self-sufficient and interactive learning on a tablet can’t be understated — plus, being able to sit your kid down with Paw Patrol: Rescue Run while you join a meeting on Zoom is a godsend.
How do you choose the right tablet for your kid?
Most tablets made specifically for kids will already be equipped with built-in parent accounts, timers, and pre-selected websites or apps that are strictly for kids. Easy enough.
General purpose tablets aren’t a bad choice at all — many sites name the iPad as one of the best tablets for kids even though it’s technically for everyone. These won’t have the same built-in parental controls as tablets specifically for kids, so you’ll need to get creative if you’d rather your kid not have unlimited access to the internet. Apple and Android have features that can filter or block content and prevent purchases, but the closest thing you’ll be able to get to play-by-play monitoring is by installing a legit parental control app for iPads or Android tablets.
If you’d prefer to just make the family tablet more kid-friendly rather than purchase a whole new one, Osmo is a super neat iPad and Fire Tablet add-on. The Osmo Genius Kit connects to your tablet for hands-on exercises that coincide with physical pieces that move on-screen when your kid moves them in real life. Subjects include numbers, words, tangram, Newton, and art, plus extra packs for more advanced stuff like STEM and coding.
Things to keep in mind when shopping for a tablet for kids: Screen resolution (depending on the amount of movie watching and gaming they’ll be doing), storage (they’ll probably have more apps than you do), intensity of parental controls (for obvious reasons), and rugged-ness (because kids are basically adorable destruction machines).
Here are the nine best tablets for kids you can get right now:
Worry-free guarantee • Dolby Atmos speakers • Case comes with a built-in stand • Kid-specific FreeTime is continuously expanding • Super customizable parental controls • Decently long battery life
YouTube is hard to censor
Amazon has outdone themselves with an ultra-durable version of the Fire HD Tablet that can take whatever kids throw at it.
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids EditionAmazon has outdone themselves with an ultra-durable version of the Fire HD Tablet that can take whatever kids throw at it.
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Kid stuff: Instead of rummaging through an overwhelming digital store to find a few kids’ apps, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is Amazon’s all-in-one subscription service made specifically for kids ages 3 to 12. It offers over 20,000 kid-appropriate books, movies, TV shows, and educational apps and games with character favorites from Disney, PBS, Nickelodeon, and more. After the first free year, you’ll pay $2.99 a month if you’re an Amazon Prime member, or $4.99 a month as a non-Prime customer.
FreeTime+ includes over 1,000 Spanish books, videos, and games.
Parent stuff: Parents can set time limits in general or for certain apps, which will automatically block access when the time is up. Amazon knows 12-year-olds don’t want to see the baby stuff, and that 3-year-olds don’t want to see the reading stuff. Age Filters ensure that your kid only sees age-appropriate content so that you don’t have to constantly monitor what they’re looking at. Parents can also give children selected access to extras like Netflix or YouTube in Freetime. (Though a word of caution on YouTube, as the site has been having difficulties keeping controversial content off the site.)
Durability and specs: The Kid-Proof Case and worry-free guarantee are total game-changers. The colorful cases were made to withstand drops, spills, tugging, what have you — but if something does happen to break, Amazon will send you a new tablet with no questions asked. Specs aren’t anything to be marveled over, but like, it’s a kids’ tablet. A quad-core processor up to 2.0 GHz, 2GB of RAM, 12 hours (maybe) of battery, and the HD screen are quite enough for movies and games. Plus, Dolby Atmos speakers!
Apple Pencil compatibility • New A10 chip makes it faster than many PC computers • Augmented reality learning capabilities • New iPad OS for better keyboard experience
No built-in parental controls or kids’ content
A fast, capable laptop replacement, the classic iPad looks cool and will be your kid’s go-to for interactive learning.
Apple iPadApple’s newest entry-level option has more power than many PC computers and will likely last for your kid’s whole school career.
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32 GB, 128 GB
- Battery life:
Educational stuff: With general-purpose tablets, content is up to the user. has a massive amount of free educational apps and a way more robust selection than most kid-specific tablets: Find apps for core skills like math, reading, and science, or hone in on more specific interests with apps for biology, language learning, or test prep. Kids are also guaranteed to be psyched about the iPad’s augmented reality capabilities and AR apps, allowing them to immerse themselves in the world around them (or planets outside their world, or the ocean below their world). There’s even AR frog dissection.
Parental controls: Nothing is built-in, so you’ll have to get . In your iPad’s settings in the Restrictions tab, you can put a virtual lock on any app or make functions off-limits (Safari, the App Store, iMessage, and Facebook are a few you may consider hiding). The “Allowed Content” tab has options for movies or websites, where you can disable specific URLs or allow only G-rated movies to play. If monitoring kids’ usage more closely is a must, installing parental control software like or is a quick fix for an extra security boost.
Durability and specs: Basically a mini computer, this 10.2-inch tablet is decked out with technical details that blow most other tablets on this list (as well as some laptops) out of the water. Upgrades from Apple’s previous iPad include a new A10 Fusion Chip that’s said to house double the oomph of a Windows PC4 and support of the new iPad OS for a better keyboard experience. Artistic kids or habitual pencil-and-paper notetakers will appreciate that the first-gen Apple Pencil is also supported.
As for durability, iPads don’t come with cases at all. If your iPad will be in the hands of little ones, there are tons of protective kid-proof cases and screen protectors that you can buy separately.
Chromebooks are super unlikely to get a virus • Vibrant, *almost* full HD display • Lots of internal storage for a Chromebook • Ultra thin and portable • 100GB of one-year free trial of Google One
Cramped keyboard, but little hands won’t notice • Only port is one USB-C • Apps like Netflix are slower in app form than web version
The Duet is a user-friendly Chromebook, a lightweight convertible, and a total steal.
Lenovo Chromebook DuetFor the tasks a kid needs to do, this 2-in-1 is a champ that’s much cheaper than other Chrome OS tablets.
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Kid stuff: Leveling up a grade at school typically means more schoolwork online — and more lugging around a personal computer. (In a non-pandemic world, at least.) The Duet’s ability to act as a truly portable laptop replacement really expands its shelf life for those older students. A thin-and-light design is also a must for little hands and little backpacks to carry comfortably. The Duet weighs less than a pound to about two pounds (depending on whether the keyboard is attached). Connecting the keyboard is as easy as matching up a few magnets.
Lenovo doesn’t yet offer a kid-specific curated suite of content like Amazon FreeTime+ — though we expect the Duet will be one of the next Lenovo devices to use Google’s Kids Space. For now, families can choose from millions of explore age-specific and fun, educational apps from the Google Play Store.
Parent stuff: As long as Kids Mode is on, parents can comfortably cut kids loose to play and learn without worry of them landing on something less-than-appropriate. Each kid gets their own profile, which parents can customize by choosing which apps and websites are allowed, blocking the concerning ones, and setting time limits.
Given the internet security and simple OS that Chromebook laptops offer, it’s easy to see why parents would want such kid-friendly measures in tablet form. Every web page or Chrome app runs its own sandbox, essentially ensuring that other parts of the device won’t be compromised even if that page gets hacked. Most malware is designed for Windows or Mac, so Chromebooks rarely get viruses, anyway.
Durability and specs: Barring picks like the Google Pixelbook, Chromebooks aren’t exactly known for their power. However, the Duet holds its own with anything an elementary, middle, or high school student might need to do. The octa-core processor handles word processing and video calls like a pro, and shouldn’t flinch too much at typical power suckers like Netflix. The 1920 x 1200 display is surprisingly crisp for the price.
Storage capacity can be expanded with a microSD card (sold separately) • Expandable storage • Worry-free guarantee • Case has a built-in stand
Battery dies quickly • Tiny, quiet speakers • YouTube is difficult to censor
Energetic kids are no match for the Fire 7’s protective case and Amazon’s worry-free guarantee.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids EditionEnergetic kids are no match for the Fire 7’s protective case and Amazon’s worry-free guarantee.
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Kid stuff: As we wrote earlier, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is Amazon’s subscription service made specifically for kids ages 3-12. Over 20,000 kid-appropriate apps with characters from Disney, Nickelodeon (to feed the Peppa Pig obsession, of course), and more are at your fingertips — saving parents from having to comb through an entire App Store. The first year is free; after that, you’ll pay $2.99 a month if you’re an Amazon Prime member, or $4.99 a month as a non-member.
Parent stuff: Everything mentioned about parental controls and Amazon Free Time with the aforementioned Fire HD 8 is the same with the Fire 7 — same age filters and time restrictions, same optional blocking of apps like YouTube or Minecraft, and same easy switch between kids’ profiles. However, we’ll always reiterate how seriously amazing and intuitive FreeTime is. It keeps an eye on your kids’ usage so you don’t have to, and the kid content is so genius that kids don’t even realize they’re learning or being monitored.
Durability and specs: The Fire 7 sees a slightly lower resolution than the Fire HD 8 and doesn’t have Dolby Atmos speakers. It does, however, offer expandable storage up to 512 GB and the ability to use Alexa with parental controls on.
Revamped design with thin bezels • Amazing high-res graphics for the cost • Decent for heavy duty gaming • New lightning fast A14 Bionic chip
Apple Pencil, keyboard, etc. sold separately
Apple’s middle child sees some of its best upgrades to the cameras, processor, and exterior design.
Apple iPad AirThe diet iPad Pro welcomes a blistering fast processor and is Apple’s best bang for your buck
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64 GB, 256 GB
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Kid stuff: All iPads are general purpose, so parents (or kids, if they’re old enough) will choose which apps to download. Conveniently, the App Store is home to thousands of education-related apps for all age groups and interests, from simple math and reading to biology with augmented reality or college test prep.
Parent stuff: There’s not really an all-encompassing “kid mode” for iPads, so it’s up to parents to mess with settings or install parental control software. At the least, the iPad’s Restrictions tab lets you put a virtual lock on any app or make functions off-limits (Safari, the App Store, iMessage, and Facebook are a few you may consider hiding). Even if a responsible older kid doesn’t need their usage monitored 24/7, this is handy to keep them from getting distracted during homework hours.
Durability and specs: Schoolwork may actually be enjoyable with these crisp visuals and no-lag screen — you’re basically getting Pro speeds for a fraction of the price. The 2020 Air’s rapid responsiveness is 40 percent faster than the previous model and can be attributed to the new A14 Bionic chip. Graphics on the crisp Retina display look stellar, and so will the 4K videos that the upgraded 12 MP camera can capture. Hold it up to the traditional iPad or a Fire HD tablet and see the difference in visuals.
Dual Dolby Atmos speakers • Switch from kid mode to parent mode with a PIN • Comes with four months of YouTube Premium • S-Pen included • Built-in Notes app with handwriting recognition
No hardware keyboard attachment • Gaming is meh
The simplified version of Samsung’s latest and greatest offers stylus support and a beautiful screen.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1Little ones will love the creative leeway of the S Pen and parents will love having a totally separate interface.
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Educational stuff: The Samsung Kids interface is designed specifically to morph fun and learning while easing kids into computer literacy and the habit of using a touchscreen. Kids can peruse trustworthy games, books, and TV shows while getting to know Croco, Cooki, Lisa, and Bobby — the adorable cartoon animals they’ll be playing with. A subscription to Samsung Kids+ opens up even more parent-approved games like Toca Boca and TV Shows like Lego Batman. Kids who like to draw, design or take notes by hand will dig the S-Pen, which is included.
Parent stuff: A simple PIN saves parents from having to use a tablet loaded with kid controls. In Parental Control Mode, parents can set limits on their child’s usage and customize the content they see. Of course, parent mode has a completely different interface (the default one for all Galaxy tablets). Different family members can add profiles and have their own ~adult~ account.
Specs and durability: The price hike from Samsung’s bottom-line budget tablets (the A and A7) can mostly be attributed to the addition of stylus support and inclusion of the S-Pen with purchase. But, as the “lite” version of the regular S6, it still sees a lot of nice specs for the price of the most basic iPad. The 2000 x 1200 display dazzles, the Dolby Atmos stereo speakers boom, and the processor handles Adobe and Microsoft OneNote with ease.
Full Android suite works with Google apps (sans side loading) • Dolby Atmos speakers • Thin bezels make incredible screen-to-body ratio • Very low monetary commitment • Google Assistant and smart home control
A non-committal first tablet with a vivid display and thin design that’s cool for middle schoolers.
Lenovo Tab M8Kids can set alarms or Google questions via voice commands, squeezing some self-sufficiency into their tablet use.
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- Battery life:
Up to 20 hours
Graduating to a premium business tablet like an iPad might be premature, too. Something like the Lenovo Tab M8 is right up a tween’s alley, and the price tag won’t have parents paranoid about the tablet being carried like a third limb.
Kid stuff: Toggling between regular mode for parents and Kid’s Mode 3.0 is quick and easy. Kid’s Mode is an independent account that, like most other child-friendly suites, puts the blinders on and pulls out kid-specific content like games, apps, videos, and audio. Eye protection mode is automatically turned on to combat light sensitivity. Look for Google’s Kid Space to be available soon, too.
Parent stuff: Parents can also set time limits with the Kid’s Mode parental controls. If kids over 12 don’t want to be locked into kids’ content, parents can opt for parental controls elsewhere (Google Family Link is a good one). Unlike Fire tablets, Lenovo tablets offer a true Android experience that won’t put you through side loading for random Google apps.
Durability and specs: The screen on an 8-inch tablet looks a lot bigger with an impressive 83% screen-to-body ratio — sleekness that can be attributed to thin bezels. A resolution of 1280 x 800 is bright enough, and the Dolby Atmos speakers make up for any entertainment related slack. These specs mix together in just the right way to conserve a single battery charge for up to 20 hours.
Ultra-customizable parental controls • Educational books and games available through the Samsung Kids+ library • Expandable storage • Durable
Obnoxious green color option • Expensive
Ideal for parents who want to watch their kids’ behavior like a hawk *without* making them feel restricted.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A Kids EditionIdeal for parents who want to watch their kids’ behavior like a hawk *without* making them feel restricted.
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Educational stuff: One of the best features of the Tab A Kids Edition is it comes with a free one-month trial of Samsung Kids+, a subscription-based service library (similar to Amazon FreeTime) that’s filled with specially curated educational games and books that align with STEM and . Kids can take their pick of hundreds of trustworthy apps like National Geographic, Dreamworks Animation, and Sesame Street. (The Google Play Store is still available for them to access — with parental supervision, of course.) And when Samsung Kids+ is turned off, parents can use this tablet like a regular Samsung device.
After your Samsung Kids+ trial ends, you can choose to extend your subscription for a pricey $7.99 a month, or cancel and keep $75 worth of games and books.
Parental controls: Parents can set time limits and handpick apps for their kids, and then watch their progress on the main dashboard. (It’s basically watching them like a hawk, without them feeling restricted.) Everything is ad-free and in-app purchases are automatically off-limits, so you can be sure they’re not going to any site or buying anything they shouldn’t be.
Durability and specs: The Tab A Kids Edition features a 1280 x 800 display, two cameras, up to 13 hours of battery life, WiFi connectivity, and a quick 2.0 GHz processor. It comes with a lightweight, durable bumper case that makes the tablet easy to grip and hard to break. Its internal storage capacity caps out at 32 GB, but you can expand it up to 512 GB with a microSD card (sold separately).
Shatterproof screen • LeapFrog Academy with personalized learning • Kid-friendly web browser • Expandable memory
Poor battery life • Less-than-stellar screen • Very little internal storage space
Large icons, specially curated internet access, and a shatterproof screen makes this great for little ones.
LeapFrog LeapPad AcademyLarge icons, specially curated-for-kids internet access, and a shatterproof screen makes this great for little ones.
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Educational stuff: The LeapPad Academy comes pre-loaded with over 20 educator-approved apps that will hone your kiddo’s math, reading, writing, coding, problem-solving, and creativity skills, as well as access to the LeapFrog App Center and its 750-plus learning games, eBooks, and videos (each sold separately). It also includes a free three-month trial of the LeapFrog Academy subscription service (normally $7.99 a month or $39.99 a year), which features some neat “just-for-me” technology: It follows your child’s process and automatically adapts its games to match his or her skill set and learning speed. (There isn’t access to video content like Youtube or Netflix, which can be good or bad depending on what you want your kid to see and how busy you’d like to keep them.)
Parental controls: LeapFrog has pretty much thought of everything with this one, so parents can pretty much sit back — but there is a password-protected parental control feature where parents can customize kids’ experiences and set time limits for playing (and for how long they have to wait between playing). LeapSearch, its kid-friendly web browser, can only go to specific websites that were pre-selected by the learning experts at LeapFrog, and parents in the reviews love that they can feel safe letting their kid play without constant supervision.
Durability and specs: Available in green and pink, the LeapPad Academy comes with front and rear-facing cameras, 480p video recording, a seven-hour rechargeable battery, a stylus, and a 1024 x 600 shatter-safe touchscreen. (It’s not extremely HD, but will a 3-year-old notice?) FWIW, it’s also pretty durable thanks to a rubbery, shock-absorbent case (with a kickstand!) and bumper edges to protect against kids being kids.
Worry-free guarantee • Case comes in fun colors and patterns • Decent battery life • Huge selection of books via FreeTime • Built-in reading tools
Crappy resolution • Case prevents against scratches and not much else
Though it’s nothing special in the spec department, this distraction-free platform can help young bookworms tackle lengthy reading lists (while building their vocab along the way).
All-new Amazon Kindle Kids EditionThough it’s nothing special in the spec department, this distraction-free platform can help young bookworms tackle lengthy reading lists (while building their vocab along the way).
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- Battery life:
Up to four weeks
Education stuff: The Kindle Kids Edition comes with a year’s worth of FreeTime Unlimited, which includes tons of popular books and Audible titles for kids — everything from Mr. Popper’s Penguins to the entire Harry Potter series. Your little tyke will also get access to two valuable reading tools: “Vocabulary Builder” creates flashcards out of any words they look up in the device’s built-in dictionary, and “Word Wise” puts simple definitions above tricky words to keep them chugging along.
As a reminder, continuing your FreeTime Unlimited subscription after that initial year will cost you $2.99 a month as a Prime member, or $4.99 a month as a non-Prime customer. (Vocabulary Builder and Word Wise both come equipped on the device, so they won’t disappear if you cancel your membership.)
Parental controls: Just as with Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition tablets, Mom and Dad can use its built-in Parental Dashboard to adjust age filters and prevent them from seeing anything they shouldn’t. (Not that there’s much to see to begin with — kids can’t access the internet or social media once FreeTime is enabled, and the device doesn’t support apps like YouTube.) You’ve also got the option of adding books to your kid’s library through the Kindle Store and checking in on their reading progress.
Durability and specs: Sporting a glare-free, e-ink display, the 6-inch Kindle Kids Edition features a puny resolution of 800 x 600. That’s not a huge deal since your kid is just using this thing for reading, but they might notice some blurriness in larger type and their books’ cover images. There’s also 8 GB of internal storage space, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but Amazon says it’s enough room over a thousand FreeTime Unlimited books, which should be plenty. As far as battery life goes, the device can go without a charge for up to four weeks (based on half an hour of reading per day, both wireless and Bluetooth off, and the light setting left at 13).
Every Kindle Kids Edition comes with a case that’s available in four different designs: blue, pink, rainbow birds (pictured), and space station. It’s definitely not as heavy-duty as the Kid-Proof Cases on the Fire HD Kids tablets (it’s mostly there to prevent scratches), but thankfully the device comes protected by the same two-year worry-free guarantee — if anything happens to it within that time period, Amazon will replace for free.