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Parents and caregivers around the world, we hear your tired cries. We know that your kids have much, much, much more energy than you and keeping them entertained can feel like an endless task. In recent years, the advancement of tablets, including affordable versions geared towards kids, has helped ease some of the strain on parents. From keeping kids busy while traveling to keeping them busy while adults try to find time to adult, tablets have quickly become a popular product for kids. But are they safe and which one is best?
When it comes to screen time, the advancement of tablets, smartphones and computers have changed the game. No longer is it a question of ‘how much TV is safe for kids,’ with parents and caregivers expected to navigate a world with more access to different types of screens. Screen time and the effect on kids is an ongoing study because technology is ongoing, but at this time, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend no screen time for children under 2 and less than an hour of screen time for kids ages 2 to 5 (video chatting is not included because of its interactive nature).
Many tablets for toddlers come with pre-programmed educational content, but how much learning can happen between a screen and a young child? This seems to depend largely on the child’s age. In a 2016 study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, parental interaction with a child under the age of 2 who was using a tablet was crucial for the child to understand the concepts being taught. In a 2019 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors found that toddlers who had more daily screen time did poorer on language and literacy tests.
Human-to-human interaction is always a preferred method of learning, especially for babies and toddlers, in comparison to learning through educational apps and videos, but time constraints, lack of childcare and other factors can limit a parent’s ability to be their child’s sole source of learning. There does seem to be a jump when kids hit the toddler stage around ages 3 to 5 and are better able to learn from the age-appropriate educational material. Some studies have found that age-appropriate shows were able to help children understand literacy and emotional concepts.
The benefits of educational apps increase as children get older and are better able to conceptualize the lessons being taught, but does that mean no tablets for toddlers? Not necessarily. While independent play and human-to-human interaction with adults remain preferred methods of learning, there are times when this is impossible, i.e. on road trips when parents are driving, during meal prep when it’s dangerous for a child to be in the kitchen, etc. Like all healthy relationships, moderation is key, and understanding that tablets for toddlers offer temporary substitutes for entertainment and learning and not a replacement is key to kids and parents reaping the most benefits out of their new toy.
As for which tablets for toddlers to use, we’ve included an age-appropriate guide to help parents navigate the changing landscape of screens.
1. Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet
Designed specifically for kids ages 3 to 7, built to last, affordable, and easy to use? It doesn’t get much better than the Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet. The tablet for toddlers is housed in a protective case that comes with a two-year guarantee. Each Fire tablet includes one year free of Amazon Kids+, which features access to thousands of E-books, songs, apps, games, and more kid-friendly content. Parental controls make it easy for adults to set limits on website access, browsing, and viewing time. The tablet comes with front and rear-facing cameras, 32GB of memory which can be expanded up to 1 TB, and 12 hours of battery power. The Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet is geared towards kids ages 3-7 and for the same price, parents of older kids can opt for the Fire HD Kids Pro, which has a slimmer case, more access to websites and access to a digital store (parents must still approve any purchases).
2. Fire 7 Kids Tablet
For a tablet that has similar specs to the Fire 10 but is half the price, we like the Fire 7 Kids Tablet. Access to Amazon Kids+ for one year, a two-year guarantee on screen protection and parental controls are the same for both tablets, but cost savings come into play in terms of the tablet’s size, memory and battery. The Fire 7 Kids Tablet has a 7” screen, 16 GB of storage that can be upgraded to 512 GB, and seven hours of battery. Like the Fire 10, the Fire 7 Kids Tablet is also geared towards kids ages 3-7 with a Fire 7 Kids Pro option for older kids that includes a slimmer bumper, digital store with parental controls, and an open but filtered web browser.
3. LeapFrog My First Learning Tablet
BEST FOR BABIES
As we mentioned earlier, screen time should be avoided for little ones under 18 months, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy a tablet for toddlers. It should just be one without a screen. The LeapFrog My First Learning Tablet is a great option for a baby’s first tablet since it’s screen-free. Little ones can touch the brightly colored, light-up buttons to learn shapes, letters, numbers, words, hear music and understand phrases. There are also several buttons that mimic a ‘real’ tablet, including a phone and camera. The tablet for toddlers includes volume control, making it ideal to use while traveling.
Read More: Best Tablets for Kids
4. ANIMAL ISLAND AILA Sit & Play Plus Preschool Learning and Reading System
BEST FOR TODDLERS
The ANIMAL ISLAND AILA Sit & Play Plus Preschool Learning and Reading System is a great option for parents who need a gadget that can keep their little one occupied with educational content for short periods. Instead of sitting a toddler in front of the TV, this tablet for toddlers uses AI to understand a child’s learning stage and adapts its interactive content to fit the child’s current level. Designed for kids ages 12 to 36 months, the ad-free tablet is pre-loaded with content that has been curated by educators, including storybooks, songs, and games to help little ones learn shapes, numbers, colors and more. A companion app allows parents to monitor milestones and learning modes. The tablet for toddlers also comes with a lullaby mode that makes it ideal for keeping on in the background during naptime, feeding or playtime.
Read More: Best Tablet For Reading
5. Fisher-Price Smart Tablet
BEST FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Help kids practice their spelling and letter identification with the Fisher-Price Smart Tablet. While this tablet doesn’t compete with other models on our list that offer streaming and access to apps, it’s a great way to keep kids focused on learning letters, numbers, and phonics. The tablet allows young learners to learn through play, including mazes, animation and music and includes some Spanish teaching as well.
6. Apple iPad Mini Wi-Fi 64GB
BEST FOR OLDER KIDS
For a splurge-worthy tablet that can grow with your kids from childhood to the teenage years (godspeed, parents), there’s the Apple iPad Mini Wi-Fi 64GB. Featuring up to 10 hours of battery life, a high definition 12MP wide back camera and ultra-wide front camera, landscape stereo speakers, and an 8.3” Liquid Retina display, the Apple iPad Mini can be used to stream, surf and study. Parents can still set controls to limit access to sensitive material and curfews just like they can with kid-centric tablets. With the Apple iPad Mini, kids can connect their tablet to a full-sized monitor and keyboard to turn the device into a computer.
7. LeapPad Academy Tablet
BEST EDUCATIONAL APPS
For older kids who are ready for a tablet for toddlers that can be used to entertain and educate, there’s the LeapPad Academy Tablet. The Android tablet comes preprogrammed with more than 20 academic-based apps that range in skill level between 3 and 8-year-olds. A shatter-safe screen, bumper and built-in kickstand make it easy for kids to set up their tablet in a comfortable position and an attached stylus allows kids to quickly move through their apps and practice penmanship. The tablet comes with three free months of the interactive LeapFrog Academy library, which has more than 2,000 guided academic lessons. The tablet allows kids to surf online through LeapSearch, a kid-friendly browser. Parents can set restrictions, including blocking certain apps, websites, and setting time limits. We also like that a MicroSD slot is included to double the device’s memory from 16 to 32GB.
8. Contixo 10-inch Kids Tablet for Children
If you can’t decide on which size of the Amazon Fire Tablet to get for your child, take a look at the Contixo 10-inch Kids Tablet for Children. The Contixo has one of the biggest screens on our list and comes packed with several features that both kids and parents will love. Housed in a drop-proof case, the Contixo has several safety features in place to keep kids safe. The 10″ IPS HD Display helps to reduce eye strain and the parental controls make it easy for parents to limit sites and time spent online. There are several pre-installed educational games and apps and users can access sites like Netflix and Disney+ to stream content. The tablet for toddlers is WiFi only, but it has a 12-hour battery and 16GB of storage (which can be upgraded to 128GB by adding a microSD card), making it ideal for downloading shows, movies, music and books for travel and use offline. We also like that the tablet includes dual front and back cameras for aspiring photographers and videographers.
9. Dragon Touch Y88X Pro 7-inch Kids Tablet
For an affordable tablet for toddlers that lets kids access educational apps and stream shows and films, we like Dragon Touch Y88X Pro 7-inch Kids Tablet. Like the Contixo, the Dragon Touch comes with 16GB of memory with the option to increase to 128GB by adding a MicroSD card. The 7” screen is protected with a rubber bumper and has a kickstand for added convenience. The tablet arrives with 18 E-books and six audiobooks from Disney and parents can add apps like Netflix and Hulu while also setting limits on content and time through the parental controls. The Dragon Touch also comes with a built-in camera and while picture quality may not be the best, kids will still enjoy snapping shots of their favorite items.