If you’re scrambling for last minute gift ideas, you’ve surely struggled with the idea of getting a iPad or an Android tablet for your kid. The two-year old and four-year-old in my life are iPad monsters. The four-year-old thinks my mother is an “app.” The actual app is Facetime, but she’s four! To the two-year-old (who is just learning to put words together), “app” is already in her vocabulary. It won’t be long until each and every one of us has a tablet of our very own. Whether for work, school or fun, tablets are able to make many things in our daily lives easier and help keep us connected.
But maybe you don’t want to trust your four-year-old with an $800 iPad. Which tablets are the best for kids? Here are my favorite tablets designed for kids, and some other inexpensive tablets they can transition into.
(1) LeapPad 2 – Street Price $99
The LeapPad 2 is the second-gen version of one of the most popular entertainment devices for children and is better than the first in every way. It has a 5” screen, comes with 4 GB of memory and has access to a library of thousands of educational games, apps, eBooks and videos. It’s also compatible with all cartridge apps and games for the first LeapPad, so upgrading to this doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch. The LeapPad 2 is probably the best kids tablet on the market for educational content.
(2) Tabeo – Street Price $149
The Tabeo is tablet made and sold by Toys “R” Us, and it comes with 50 free, pre-installed apps and parental controls. It also has access to over 6,000 free educational programs, games and books in the Tabeo App Store. It runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), has a 7” touchscreen, two cameras, 4 GB of expandable memory, WiFI access and an HDMI port. All those features mean it’s a tablet designed for kids, but powerful enough to stand toe-to-toe with other adult tablets on the market.
(3) Nabi 2 – Street Price $199
The Nabi 2 is the most powerful tablet of the three listed so far, and has been described as a Nexus 7 “dressed up in kids clothes.” Like the Tabeo, it runs Ice Cream Sandwich and has WiFI capabilities. It comes with a “drop safe” bumper and is loaded with 25 free games, 50 free songs and 30 free books. In addition to those free songs, you can load it up with tunes or access a library of more than 9,000 children’s albums.
(4) Kindle Fire 7” – Street Price $159
This is the first “grown up” tablet on the list. As the cheapest mainstream tablet on the market, the Kindle Fire not only provides tons of content for your children, but gives you something to use after they go to bed. What makes the Kindle Fire a great choice for kids is the recently-launched “Free Time Unlimited,” which is a $3 per month service that offers unlimited access to age-restricted movies, games and books for kids. You tell Amazon your child’s gender and age, and Amazon creates a custom library of books, movies, apps and more. There’s tons of content from Disney, Nick, PBS, Marvel and more, and it’s “all-you-can eat,” which means endless hours of entertainment.
(5) iPad Mini – Street Price $329 (and up)
My favorite tablet on the market today is the iPad Mini. It’s the cheapest tablet that Apple has ever made, but it’s still considerably more expensive than the rest on this list. It’s the perfect size to carry around and hold, and is home to the best App Store in the tablet world. Chances are good that you already have an iDevice laying around the house, which means all the games and apps you have bought for it can be added to the Mini through one sync of your device.
Ultimately, the tablet you should buy is the one that makes the most sense for you. Worried about your kids’ butterfingers? The Nabi’s bumper might be the biggest selling point. Looking for the most educational value? You’ll probably want the LeapPad. Looking for a device you and your children can share? The Fire and Mini fit the bill. No matter what tablet you choose, it’ll mark a great first step toward your child’s success in a connected world.