Introducing kids to screens can be a fraught experience—whether it be via FaceTime with grandparents, Snapchat filters, or Peppa Pig videos on YouTube Kids. Once your child has seen a screen a few times, they’ll be eager to see it again and again. For each parent, whether to allow children to play games and watch videos, and for how long is different. But it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually have to decide which tablet is best for your kid.
That’s why, together with my nearly 3-year-old daughter, we tested eight different child-focused tablets (including an Apple iPad) to find the best device for kids. We kept safety issues in mind, how the tablets adapted for older kids, whether an Android tablet or other operating system mattered, and how the devices might interact with existing gadgets parents might already own.
Using criteria such as ease of use, intuitiveness, app, and game quality, durability, and audio and video performance, we found the best tablet for kids is the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (available at Amazon for $129.99), whether you’re looking for a device for younger kids or one for older kids.
These are the best tablets we tested ranked, in order:
- Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition
- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition
- Samsung Kids Tab E Lite
- Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition
- LeapFrog Epic
- LeapFrog Ultimate
- Dragon Touch K8 Kids Tablet with Stylus
- Kurio Xtreme Tablet
We found Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet to be the best tablet for kids. It’s easy to set up, simple to use, and comes with so many pre-installed apps and videos it would take some time for your child to grow tired of it.
The Fire HD 10 came in at a very close second to the Fire 8, because they are pretty much the same device. The major difference is the 10 is larger: it has a bigger screen (10.1-inch HD vs. 8-inch HD) that may be unwieldy for smaller kids. Another difference is the 8 has more space for a Micro SD slot (up to 400GB of additional storage, versus 256GB in the 10). For comparison, the Fire 7 has a 7-inch display (it’s not HD) and it’s most recent release includes 512GB of additional storage via a MicroSD slot.
The best thing about the Fire tablet is how stocked it is with easily accessible, ad-free, and fun content. Each Fire tablet comes with one year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited. Basically, it provides access to more than 13,000 apps, games, videos, books and other content from PBS Kids, Disney and more (don’t worry, it’s not all downloaded on the tablet when you first get it). My daughter was entertained continuously and never asked me for help to find other things to play or watch. After a year, users pay a monthly fee for FreeTime. At present, pricing begins at $2.99 per month.
In contrast, the Apple iPad comes with no pre-installed apps or games and most free apps contain ads that children inadvertently tap on, leading them to the app store. Free apps also only contain a few aspects of the game at the free rate before asking to be purchased. This is frustrating for kids and annoying for parents.
There are different accounts for parent and child, and a passcode is required to enter the parent’s account. The parental controls are robust and allow you to limit your child’s screen time and what he or she can play. There’s also an added educational layer in the Fire tablet. You can require your child to log a set number of minutes using educational apps before moving on to videos or games.
In addition, the Fire 8 tablet felt sturdy and stood up during our drop test. The picture and audio quality are also very crisp.
Where to Buy
How We Tested
Hi, I’m Georgia Kral. In my career as a journalist, I’ve reported on many topics, from restaurants and food to parenting and education. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and two kids. Our daughter is a couple of months shy of four and has been interested in phones and tablets (all screens, to be honest) since she was about one. We held out for as long as possible before we reached for an old iPad, put a thick, plastic cover on it and downloaded some games for kids when she was about two years old. Her younger brother, who is a few months shy of 2, watches television with his big sister but is not developmentally ready for tablets. We were wary of introducing screen time (the World Health Organization recommends screen time to be limited to one-hour per day, beginning at age two), but in the media-obsessed and technologically driven age that we live in, it’s impossible to avoid it. This assignment gave me the opportunity to really study what’s best for my kids.
I tested each of the tablets for about three days. First, I set up the tablets, which includes charging, establishing accounts and setting up a separate child account. Depending on the device, I then downloaded apps and set up parental controls. The ease of navigating the interface of the tablet, from how intuitively it worked (or didn’t work) to how difficult it was to set up the child’s account and restrictions, played a large role in where the tablet appears in our rankings.
Next, I checked the basics on how each device worked: I measured audio and video quality, touch screen sensitivity, battery life, ease of connecting with Bluetooth and WiFi, and quality of the design.
Lastly, my daughter performed her own tests. I gauged her interest in the pre-installed and downloaded apps, how easily she was able to navigate and use the tablet and how quickly she lost interest in it. I took notes each time my child used a tablet and wrote about her and my experiences after each test.
What You Should Know About Kids Tablets
What About an Apple iPad?
As I mentioned, the first tablet my daughter used was a hand-me-down-iPad. This is likely true for others. There are obvious benefits to this tactic. It’s free, it’s already set up and you, the parent/caregiver, already know how to use it. But there are downsides to iPad’s too, mainly that the parental controls just aren’t comparable to tablets made especially for kids.
With an iPad, you can’t set up a separate child’s account making it difficult to limit the device to only kid-friendly content. You can, however, set up your child with their own Apple ID, which allows you to control (somewhat) what they may be doing on another Apple device. This is called Family Sharing. For the purposes of this testing, that didn’t help, since it’s usually only older kids, who might have access to their own cellular devices. So if you give your kid an iPad, make sure you wipe it of all social networking and content apps. We took YouTube and even YouTube Kids off of ours because trust me, you don’t know what they could get into. And even if it’s harmless content, some YouTube videos aimed at kids bring out a scary level of addiction in children. (Not to mention the bizarre trend of YouTube videos featuring popular characters in not-so-innocent storylines.)
We decided to test the new iPad anyway, as a benchmark for the rest of the tablets. In our rankings, it came it in the middle, below the Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablets and the Samsung, but above the LeapFrogs and others. There is no doubt the iPad is well designed and that it works very well. But we also tested a brand new device, and that’s not what most people will be giving their preschoolers.
The iPad is also the only tablet we tested that didn’t come with a cover already on it. We also evaluated two covers for ease of assembly and protective qualities, the Topsky Case and the Fintie Case. Both served their purpose: when the tablet was dropped neither case was damaged and the iPad was securely protected inside. The Topskie is a bit heavier and well built, but the Fintie comes with a handle that converts into a stand, which was a nice feature for a young child.
What to Consider When Buying a Tablet
An important consideration when choosing a tablet is the operating system it runs on, and what companies, if any, are already linked. For example, if the parents or caregivers use Apple products, a Samsung or other device that runs on Android software may not initially be as desirable. Along similar lines, the Amazon Fire tablets are linked with your Amazon Prime account, which makes managing them very simple if you use Prime regularly. These considerations did not affect our rankings, as everyone uses different products in their lives.
For me, I use Apple products: iPhone, MacBook, etc. And while the Android devices gave me some pause, I was able to use them with little effort and enjoyed them more than just giving my children an old iPad.
Another consideration is whether you want a tablet that comes ready to use or one that needs to be set up with apps and content first? The Amazon Fire tablets all came pre-installed with lots of apps, games and more. I have a Prime account and linking it with the tablet was extremely simple. The Samsung, on the other hand, had to be registered first before the Samsung Kids portion of the device could be enabled.
The age of your child also comes into play. An iPad is better suited to an older child who will be able to appreciate its quality and may be less in need of assistance when it comes to downloading apps. The Fire and Samsung tablets are good for all ages as the apps that are available span age ranges.
Other Tablets for Kids We Tested
The Fire HD 10 tested pretty much the same as the HD 8. It is highly recommended for older children that will be more able to handle the bigger size. The only real difference is the 10 has a 10.1-inch HD screen, as opposed to 8-inch HD. It also has less storage space—only 256GB.
But just like the Fire HD 8, it comes stocked with great content and one-year access to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited.
Where to Buy
The Samsung Kids Tab E Lite came in closely behind the Fire tablets in our testing. It’s a pretty sleek device; easy to set up and seamless to use. Like the Fire tablets, there are different accounts for parent and child, and a passcode is required to enter the caregiver account. The parental controls are robust and allow you to limit what your child can do on the tablet based on the type of activity (games, videos, etc.) and for how long.
After setting up the tablet, in order to create the child account, the user needs to register and sign up for Samsung Kids, which is an all-in-one subscription service much like Amazon FreeTime. It gives access to all the games, apps and other content in the Samsung Kids library. There is content for kids ages 3 to 12 from Sesame Street, PBS Kids, National Geographic and more. The first 30 days are free and then subscriptions start at $7.99 per month or $59.99 per year.
This tablet is a nice size at 7 inches. It’s a bit smaller and thinner than the Fire 8 and the cover, while sufficient, is definitely thinner and less substantial. It may be better suited to a slightly older child.
Just as we finished up testing, Amazon released its 2019 version of the Fire 7 Kids Edition. It has additional space via a MicroSD (512GB instead of 256GB), a faster processor, and a cover that now includes a built-in stand. Besides pink and blue, the device is now available in purple, too. But otherwise, we’re pretty sure it’s similar to the product we tested.
The biggest reason the previous version of the Fire 7 we tested fell in our scoring is it felt slightly outdated in comparison to the 8 and 10. The screen is not HD (and neither is the new version) and its touchscreen was a bit less responsive, which for young children who are just learning about patience can be a dealbreaker. Fortunately, the apps and features are all still the same as the 8 and 10, which is why the Fire 7 remains in the top half of our list. It’s also more affordable than the Fire 8 and 10 so if you’d rather spend a little less and sacrifice a little quality, this is a great option.
Where to Buy
LeapFrog has been a leader in educational kids toys for decades, but its foray into tablets and learning devices for kids appears, at least from our testing, to be lackluster. The Epic received higher grades in our testing because it worked much better and more smoothly than their Ultimate device. It also featured better pre-installed apps and games and was more intuitive for the user. That said, the apps weren’t very compelling, or were hard to follow. My daughter lost interest quickly. It’s possible this tablet could be better for an older kid (LeapFrog says it’s for kids ages 3 to 9).
The Epic and the Ultimate both feature web browsing called LeapSearch. This allows kids to search through pre-approved videos and content. For example, there’s a Sesame Street page with videos of popular characters, but it’s poorly designed. The video plays but a carousel of more videos to watch partially blocks the video box. It’s unfortunate.
The Epic uses the Android operating system to run, and that is what made it work better than it’s sister tablet, the Ultimate, which runs on a LeapFrog operating system.
The Ultimate tablet is solidly built; the body is extremely hard plastic (no case needed) and the glass over the screen is shatter proof, according to the company, but the tablet itself is hard to use, confusing and counterintuitive.
I had so much trouble navigating it that I didn’t think my daughter would be able to use it at all. This proved to be true. She attempted to use some of the apps and games but disregarded it rather quickly. When I attempted to use it I found that many of the games required parental guidance. While the tablet is for kids ages 3 to 6, many of the apps required kids to either listen to directions and wait, or read in order to play something. I would guess that most children that young don’t have the patience for that, or can’t read yet.
Like the Epic, there are no free additional apps to download.
Where to Buy
The DragonTouch runs on the Android operating system. While this device had a nice handle to carry it around with that also bends to allow it to be propped up on a surface, it was difficult and ultimately frustrating to use. The navigation is clunky and the entire system is slow to respond to touch commands.
DragonTouch uses the platform Kidoz, which collects games, videos and more and features fairly decent parent controls that allow you to choose which apps (YouTube, Google Play store, etc.) appear on the child’s profile and also how long they can use the tablet for. The pre-installed apps did not excite my daughter, but downloading from the Google Play store was not difficult. The biggest problem with the DragonTouch is how counterintuitive the navigation is.
Like the DragonTouch, the Kurio was difficult to use and confusing in its design. The apps and games load extremely slowly, and using it is extremely frustrating. It also runs on Android and utilizes the Kidoz platform, which isn’t user-friendly. For example, my daughter was looking through the apps available to download, and when she clicked on one that said “free download” instead of opening up for her, it asked her to log in. This kind of requirement means a parent has to be sitting with the child while they use the device, and that reduces the usefulness of the tablet.
By comparison, the games and apps available with Samsung Kids and Amazon FreeTime automatically open and are ready to be used. Yes, you pay a fee for them, but that is a service that allows kids to easily use their tablet, and the parent to not have to be with the child the entire time.
The Kurio has its own parental controls, which allow adults to set time limits, limit web access and choose which apps are available to kids.