Your buying guide to the best tablets for kids
Kids love tablets, and with so much child-friendly content available that can be both entertaining and educational, it's easy to see why. If you're looking to buy your child a tablet, we can help. We've reviewed the best and most affordable out there to help you find a tablet to suit your budget and their age.
The best tablet for your child will depend on their age. Amazon has cornered the market for budget tablets and offers Kids Edition versions of all three sizes of its Fire tablet range. These are more expensive than the standard versions, but include a bumper case, a two-year warranty that covers accidental damage, plus a year's subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited (FreeTime Unlimited in the US) which gives them access to a fairly good range of apps, games, videos and books. Parental controls are also excellent.
Kids Editions are otherwise identical to the standard versions of the tablets, which also include the Fire for Kids / FreeTime app, the parental controls, hand-curated safe web browser, and ability to create different profiles so siblings can share it. However, it's also crucial to understand that Amazon Fire tablets do not have the Google Play store or any Google apps on them. Instead they have Amazon's Appstore and you have to watch YouTube via a web browser.
There's a brand new version of the Fire HD 10 Kids Edition for 2019, which is a bit faster and has better battery life. It's the same price as before, so it's worth opting for this instead of the previous one which came out in 2017.
LeapFrog and VTech also make tablets which are well suited to young children from around 3-6. When kids reach around 6 or 7, they no longer want what they see as a 'toddler's tablet' and will start asking for something a bit more grown up.
You children will no doubt already know what a 'proper' tablet should be like because they've borrowed your iPad or Android tablet. That's one reason we've included latest iPad mini and iPad 10.2 here. The latter is actually cheaper than the iPad mini, starting from £349 from Apple. If you can find a refurbished iPad mini from Apple's website, these can also be a good option.
If an iPad becomes available as a hand-me-down, that's great: your child will be over the moon even with an old one. The issue is that they're quite fragile. But, they have the widest selection of apps and games, many of which are free.
You can buy child-proof iPad cases and disable Safari (to prevent web browsing) and restrict music, videos, apps and games to the appropriate age level, so they're actually quite a good choice for kids - though their parental controls aren't as comprehensive as on tablets designed specifically for kids.
If you're not going to buy one of the above, you could go for a 'normal' tablet (probably running Android) intended for adult use. Then you'll have to lock it down (or not) to ensure the little ones don't see things in apps or online that you'd rather they didn't. When kids are using tablets, keep in mind how much screen time is healthy for children.
What to look for in a kids' tablet
The advantages of a specially designed kids' tablet include a 'safe' web browser (or no internet access) and pre-loaded games and apps which are appropriate for kids.
What they don't tend to have is a wide choice of the latest games. The LeapPads, for example, are great tablets, but your kids might be frustrated when they can't get the same games or apps their friends have on Android or iPad.
And that's why we rate Amazon's range of Fire tablets so highly. You can set up password-protected profiles so you can give each child access to only the books, games and apps you want them to see.
Plus, you can set different time limits for reading and playing. The fact that the range starts from just £49.99/$49.99 and for the most part gives you access to the popular games that kids want to play.
Which specifications should a kids' tablet have?
It's best not to dwell too much on specs as they rarely tell you how good a tablet is for a child. Two things you should consider are battery life and screen size.
Many kids' tablets last around half the time of an iPad - around five or six hours. They can, of course, use their tablet while it's charging, but it's worth avoiding any that don't charge over USB as this makes it awkward to power them on long car journeys. Amazon Fire tablets do charge via USB.
Younger kids might struggle with a 10in tablet, which is why the Amazon Fire 7 is a good choice all round. Its 7in screen is just the right size for small hands.
Rather than looking at processor speeds and RAM, read our reviews to find out if a tablet is fast enough to keep up with your kids. Gigahertz ratings aren't a helpful guide in this respect.
A third important aspect is storage. If the tablet you're considering has no microSD card slot, you'll have to start deleting apps, music, photos and more when the internal storage is full. It pays to get as much storage as you can, but it's still important to have a microSD slot. Memory cards are cheap and even if a tablet doesn't let you install apps on it, you can still use it for photos, videos and music.
- Reviewed on: 25 November 2019
The latest Fire 7 has double the storage of its predecessor, a slightly better front camera and comes in three new colours. There's no noticeable improvement in performance, but it's still the best tablet you can buy for £50 / $50.
Read our Amazon Fire 7 (2019) review.
- Reviewed on: 27 November 2019
If you don't need Google apps on your tablet then this is the best cheap tablet going. It's worth the extra spend over the Fire 7 for the larger, better screen, unless you're buying it for your kids in which case the cheaper Fire 7 will do just fine.
And now you can use Alexa hands free, or pair the Fire HD 8 with the clever Show Mode dock to get an affordable smart display for home use. If you want to watch video on Prime and Netflix and not much else then this tablet is a no-brainer.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 2018 review.
- Reviewed on: 16 November 2018
Not the cheapest kids' tablet, but a good one. If you buy it for an older child, say 6-8 years old, then you can remove the bumper and let them use the normal interface when they're ready. Just remember this isn't an Android tablet and there are no Google services aside from YouTube.
Read our Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition review.
- Reviewed on: 22 November 2017
The Kurio Advance is a typical budget tablet, elevated by its well-thought-out software. The dedicated interface provides parents with a high-level of control, while remaining simple enough for anyone to setup in a few minutes.
We had a few niggles with the hardware itself, particularly the slow power button, but at this price it delivers what you would reasonably expect. The real problem it faces is the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids, which currently sells for the same price, with a better display, more storage, and a longer battery life.
But, if you prefer to live outside the Amazon eco-system and have access to Google Play, then the Kurio is a good alternative.
Read our Kurio Tab Advance review.
- Reviewed on: 3 October 2019
It might not be hugely different from the previous entry-level iPad but Apple has yet again created a tablet that's very hard to complain about. There's no big need to upgrade if you have the older 9.7in model but if you don't then there's a lot to love here.
Apple has made the screen is larger, added a Smart Connector, made improvements to the software with iPadOS and more.
The cheapest iPad in Apple's doesn't have a laminated display and ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate which you'll find on Pro models. However, we can't expect these things without a higher price and blurring the lines to those premium models.
This is a great all-rounder tablet and a particularly good buy if you want to make the most of Apple Arcade.
Read our Apple iPad 10.2in (2019) review.
- Reviewed on: 15 July 2019
The iPad mini proves that this form factor is still desirable and useful even in an age of larger smartphones. With the A12 processor at an affordable base price, Apple’s smallest tablet is a tiny powerhouse of a computer.
Yes, the design is seven years old but with the addition of Apple Pencil support and with decent battery life, Apple has breathed new life back into the iPad mini. Not everyone wants or needs to spend £1,000 on an iPad Pro.
Read our Apple iPad mini (2019) review.
7. Kurio Tab 2
- Reviewed on: 3 November 2016
The Tab 2 is almost great. It combines a proper Android tablet with child profiles and some decent apps. However, the software could be slicker and the screen better quality.
It’s pretty good value if you can find it for under £80, though, but at the recommended £99, you’re better off with Amazon’s Fire Kids Edition which comes with a year’s subscription to Fire For Kids Unlimited and a two-year warranty that covers accidental damage. It may lack Android and Google apps, but it has a much better screen.
Read our Kurio Tab 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 6 October 2014
The specially built-for-kids LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi are similar in specs and functionality. The larger, 7in, Ultra XDi has twice the storage as the 5in LeapPad 3 but younger children may prefer the 3's smaller size and weight. We think their upper-age range is six or seven rather than Leapfrog's claimed nine, but our eight-year-old tester still enjoyed her time with both.
Software can be more expensive than other tablets, but the advantage of Leapfrog software is that it has been built by educational PhDs with both fun and learning in mind.
Just bear in mind that once your child has outgrown the kids interface, there's no 'proper' one to which to graduate.
Read our LeapPad3 and LeapPad Ultra XDi review.