The best tablet for your child will depend upon a number of factors including your budget, their age and what you might want them to use it for.
Many parents buy tablets to entertain kids on long journeys as well as at home. Others might want them for educational reasons, or communication with friends and family.
Some tablets are designed for very young kids, from 3-6, and those aimed at older kids may not suit younger children.
Conversely, when kids reach around 6 or 7, they no longer want what they see as a ‘baby tablet’ and will start asking for something a bit more grown up.
Older kids might well ask you to buy them an iPad. That’s one reason we’ve included latest iPad mini and iPad 10.2 here. The latter is cheaper than the iPad mini, and neither are what you’d call budget tablets. If price is a problem, you can find a refurbished iPad mini on Apple’s website, but there are more and more websites popping up which sell refurbished tablets as well as phones.
A couple of places to look include Back Market and Music Magpie (UK) / Decluttr (US)
Just don’t buy one that’s too old, though, as really old ones may not support some apps or might have poor performance. Another issue is that they’re quite fragile. But, you can always buy a protective iPad cases and Apple’s App Store has the widest selection of apps and games, many of which are free.
Apple gives you relatively good parental controls: you can disable Safari (to prevent web browsing), restrict music, videos, apps and games to the appropriate age level, and Screen Time lets you enforce time limits for certain apps, as well as a Downtime during which they can’t use it at all.
Amazon Fire tablets
If even a refurbished iPad is out of your price range, then Amazon’s Fire tablet are likely to be the best options. They come in three screen sizes, 7, 8 and 10 inches and for each size is available in a Kids Edition and Fire Kids Pro.
Kids Editions are aimed at younger children from 3-7 and the Fire Kids Pro is for those aged 6-12.
However, it’s crucial to understand that Amazon Fire tablets are not Android tablets. They 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.
You can use a workaround to install Google Play, but this – in our experience – leads to disappointment as some apps (Snapchat, for example) simply don’t run very well on Fire tablets because they’re not powerful enough or the app experience isn’t good because the tablets mostly have mediocre cameras.
Amazon Fire Kids Edition vs Fire Kids Pro: what’s the difference?
The hardware you get and the price you pay is the same for both: it’s the bundle and software that’s different.
Kids Editions come with a chunky, rugged case, a two-year warranty that covers accidental damage, plus a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ which gives them access to a fairly good range of apps, games, videos and books.
Fire Kids Pro tablets come with a slimmer, more grown up case with a flip-out stand which puts the tablet at a suitable angle for watching videos hands-free. They, too, have the same two-year warranty and Kids+ subscription, but the content is tailored to kids from 6-12.
There’s also a new, more grown-up interface that older kids will appreciate. It includes a hand-curated web browser, and you can also enable a filtered browser that’s more suitable for pre-teens.
It’s handy to know that even the standard versions of the three Fire tablets come with good parental controls, the hand-curated safe web browser and the kid-friendly interface, so you can save money if you don’t want the case, warranty or Kids+ content. This means you do not necessarily need to buy the Kids Edition, especially if your child is already around 7 or older.
Conversely, the kids’ tablets also have the full adult interface (and Alexa), so when your children grow out of the restricted child-friendly interface, they can ditch the bumper case and start using it like a proper tablet.
If you’re not going to buy any of the models already mentioned, you could go for a standard Android tablet intended for adult use. Then you’ll have to install a parental control app to ensure kids 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.
Best kids’ tablets to buy in 2022
1. Amazon Fire HD 8 / 8 Plus – Best Overall
- USB-C charging
- So-so cameras
The Fire HD 8 has a bigger, better screen than the Fire 7 and it’s also around 30 percent faster. There’s also more RAM, more storage and you can expand that by up to 1TB using a microSD card.
Another difference is that it has stereo speakers and a USB-C port for charging. Alexa is built in and she’s hands-free even if the tablet is asleep with the screen off.
You have the option of the standard Fire HD 8 or a Plus model which costs £20 / $20 extra. For that, you get wireless charging and an optional dock which, in addition to charging the tablet wirelessly, enables Show Mode. This means it works just like an Amazon Echo Show and, with Alexa on-board, you can use it for video calls, music videos and watching Amazon Prime videos.
Of course, that’s not something a child will care about, but it means the tablet could do double duty if you were also thinking of buying an Echo Show.
As with all three sizes of Amazon tablets, there’s a separate Kids Edition of the Fire HD 8 which costs £139.99 / $139.99. It comes with a bumper case, year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ and a two-year accidental damage warranty.
While overall performance and camera quality isn’t the best here, for the money it’s hard to beat.
2. Amazon Fire 7 (2019) – Best Budget Option
- Good size for younger kids
- Poor camera quality
- Relatively small screen
The Fire 7 is best known for being the cheapest tablet around that’s worth buying.
The 2019 model is still the current one and has double the storage of its predecessor, a slightly better front camera and a choice of three colours.
It’s no hotrod in terms of performance, but it’s still the best tablet you can buy if you’re on a budget.
The Kids Edition comes with the same benefits as the Fire HD 8 and HD 10, but costs double at £99.99/$99.99, so isn’t quite as tempting as the standard Fire HD 8 which is simply a better all-round tablet.
3. Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro – Best for Entertainment
- Good size for older kids
- More powerful processor
- Relatively expensive
Although it’s quite a lot more expensive than the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8, Amazon’s biggest tablet has a sharper screen, better battery life and – like the latest Fire HD 8 – a USB-C port and the potential for faster charging if you use a 15W charger (a 9W charger is supplied).
Performance is pretty good for the price, but it’s still obviously a budget tablet and that’s evident from the plastic build and mediocre cameras (even on the latest 2021 model).
For entertainment, however, it’s a great device with decent speakers and a headphone jack (which all three Amazon tablets have).
We think the Kids Pro version is the best option, but the regular Kids Edition offers an identical tablet with a chunkier case that offers better protection.
Whichever option you choose – and that will come down to how old your child is – they both cost a couple hundred quid (or dollars) and come with a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ and the two-year warranty that covers accidental damage.
4. Realme Pad Mini – Best Android kids' tablet
- Premium, compact design
- Great battery life
- Poor cameras
- Slow charging
- Limited update support
Small Android tablets are few and far between, especially from established brands like Samsung or Lenovo.
Realme might not have the same strong brand name and, despite being new to the tablet market, the company’s Pad Mini is a decent choice for kids. It’s nicely designed and has a 8.7in screen, all for a sensible price.
Battery life is very good and Realme hasn’t messed around with Android too much. It pre-loads Google’s YouTube Kids and Kids Space apps, and you can use Google’s Family Link app to manage screen time. It’s a good choice if you want to avoid Amazon’s Fire tablets and buy something with the Google Play Store.
There are a couple of drawbacks. One is its low-resolution display. Kids may not mind the mediocre performance, but the real challenge is buying one. It still isn’t available from Realme’s official online store in the UK. You can buy it from Amazon UK, but it isn’t available at all in the US.
5. Apple iPad 10.2in (2021) – Best for Older Kids
- Great app store
- A 'proper' tablet
Older kids will certainly appreciate being given an iPad, but it’s a much more expensive option than any Amazon tablet.
Nevertheless, the 9th-generation 10.2in model (the 2021 version) is relatively good value at this price, which is a bit cheaper than the 2020 version. The base model now has 64GB of storage, but as even it isn’t expandable. The next step up – 256GB – is a lot more money.
There’s a new 10th-gen model, but this is a good chunk more expensive.
You may want to look out for refurbished 8th- and even 7th-generation iPad 10.2 models; but bear in mind base models had only 32GB of storage, which isn’t really enough, even for a kid’s tablet.
Getting back to the software, the iPad 10.2 will get software updates for several years to come, and (like the 7th- and 8th-gen models) supports the Apple Pencil, which kids love to use.
6. Apple iPad mini 6 – Best Performance
- Great performance and screen
- Apple Pencil 2 support
- Really expensive
You’d be forgiven for assuming a smaller iPad would be cheaper, but the new iPad mini is a lot more expensive than the 10.2, and even the 10th-gen iPad.
The mini now shares the same design as the rest of the iPad range and has a slightly larger screen than previous iPad minis at 8.3in.
Base models still have 64GB of storage, despite the higher price, and support for the Apple Pencil 2 – which may not be important for kids.
If anything, the iPad mini 6 is overkill for kids, but if money is no object, it’s still a great device.
What to look for in a kids’ tablet
You might see a specially designed kids tablet that isn’t in the list here. The biggest problem with these is that they often have a very limited selection of apps and games. As kids get a bit older and want to have the same apps as their friends, you might find you have to buy a new tablet because they’re just not available outside of an iPad or Android tablet.
We still rate Amazon’s range of Fire tablets highly, even if there are still some apps – particularly social media – which you can’t get on them. But if your child is older than around 8 or 9, we’d recommend going down the iPad or Android route if your budget allows.
Two of the main things you should consider are battery life and screen size.
Many kids’ tablets last around half the time of an iPad – which is about five 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 the size and weight of 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 (such as an iPad), 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 a bonus to be able to expand that storage. 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.
Consider 32GB of storage the absolutely minimum, and 64GB the minimum we’d recommend. If you can afford more, great – your kids will thank you later. (They won’t, of course. But they also won’t moan that they’ve run out of storage.)
Finally, think about how they’re going to listen to any videos. Almost every tablet has Bluetooth, and you can get good, cheap Bluetooth headphones for kids. If they already have headphones that connect using a wire, then make sure you check if the tablet you’re about to buy has a minijack socket: some don’t.