Best tablets for kids for 2021
Tablets are a growing presence in school classrooms, providing a useful and portable tool to teach our children.
While nobody wants their child glued to a screen 24/7, strategic use of a tablet at home can help with your child's education and keep them entertained on rainy days or long journeys.
Buying a tablet for your kids to use at home may not be as expensive as you think. We've chosen some great tablets that are portable, affordable and simple to use.
Should you buy a tablet designed for children?
None of the tablets we've selected have been designed exclusively for children's use, because we've found you're better off buying a low-cost (but robustly built) 'grown-up' tablet, rather than something from a kids' range.
Opting for a tablet that isn't targeted at kids will generally give you a better product that starts quickly and has decent battery life, plus it will be more flexible as your child grows and wants more from the tablet.
Pick a decent cheap Android tablet, for instance, and you'll be able to download and run more apps than you would on a 'kids-only' device. You can still set up parental controls and, if your child no longer needs the tablet, you can use it yourself with full 'grown-up' functionality.
What makes a good tablet for kids?
If you're shopping for a tablet for a child, your budget and the specs will depend on what your child will use it for. However, there are a few things that it's worth bearing in mind over and above what you'd think about if you were buying a tablet for yourself.
- Size If you're shopping for a younger child, you don't want a huge device that could be too big or heavy for them to hold. Smaller screens make for lighter tablets; opt for a tablet with a seven-inch screen. A typical seven-inch tablet weighs less than 300g, whereas a typical 10-inch model will weigh in at nearly 0.5kg.
- A tough case It's likely your child's tablet will take the occasional tumble; protect it with a silicon 'bumper'. Before you buy a tablet, ensure perfectly fitting cases are available that can withstand being dropped and knocked; these will protect your device better than a generic folio case where the tablet is only held in place by a few elastic straps.
- What charger it uses Kids aren't always known for taking good care of their possessions and there's a fair chance the tablet's cable may get lost or broken. If you opt for a tablet that's compatible with chargers you use yourself for your smartphone or other devices, you're more likely to have the right cable on you at any given time, making a dead tablet on a long car journey less of a pain. Most new phones use USB-C, aside from iPhones which use Lightning.
How to set up parental controls on Android
Some tablets have a specific 'kids mode' in the settings. But if you simply want to give your current Android tablet to your child, you can follow these steps to control what they can access on your tablet.
- Go to Settings and then Users. You’ll see the option to Add user profile. If you don’t already have a password or code to lock the home screen, you’ll be prompted to create one.
- Choose which apps you want your child to have access to. So you can tick the likes of Minecraft and any educational apps, or ensure that Facebook, the Play Store and YouTube are turned off.
- When you click on the new user, you’ll be invited to edit their profile with a name and customised settings.
How to set up parental controls on an Apple iPad
You can’t create different user profiles on Apple tablets, but you can still implement certain restrictions on how the iPad is used.
- Go to your Settings and click on General. Then press Restrictions and Enable Restrictions to turn them on and begin choosing them. You’ll be asked to set a four-digit passcode.
- You can then work your way through the list of apps, settings and content, choosing which ones require the passcode and those that can be accessed and changed by anybody.
Limitations of parental controls
It's worth noting that the most effective way to control how your child uses a tablet is to keep an eye on them while they do so.
Parental controls are only as good as the software behind them; an app that appears to be kid-friendly could contain ads that are age-inappropriate, or may be updated with content that you no longer approve of. In other words, adult supervision is the only 100% reliable parental control.