In an ideal world, your children would be playing Red Rover with the neighbors, or rolling hoops down the road with a stick. But these days, both younger and older children can find a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet to be a useful and entertaining device. For research purposes (and yes, to get a little free time to write this), we set our own kids to typing and tapping on many different devices. You can read our full guide to kids tablets, but below are the two best contenders.
Best for: Rampaging Rug Rats
The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a worthy tablet—not necessarily for the hardware, which is solid enough, but for everything that comes with it. The device includes a one-year subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited (a $36 value). The service ensures that every one of the 2,000-plus videos, apps, games, books, Audible books, or websites that your child encounters on the 8-inch screen is age-appropriate. Parents can monitor their kids’ usage on their own phone with a dashboard that lets them set time limits and other restrictions. The two-year warranty comes in handy when Thing 2 drops the Fire in a puddle.
Best for: You’ll-Grow-Into-It Kids
The Mini is a more versatile device that’s best for older kids who want to do more than just consume books and videos. Sure, Apple’s parental controls will let your child safely download whatever apps and Apple Arcade games you approve, and kid-friendly streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, PBS Kids, and Disney+ are all in the App Store. Plus, they’ll look great on the Mini’s superior 7.9-inch display. But the Mini also works with the Apple Pencil ($99) and has the computing brawn required to run creative apps and host high-quality video chats. If your pretween likes to draw her own comics, record her own dance videos, and FaceTime Grandma, the Mini is the better pick.
Have an old smartphone or tablet lying around? Here’s how to prep it for your bored kid.
Setting up the device with the proper parental controls will let you block apps, set time limits, and review any game, app, or video your child tries to purchase. Follow these device-specific steps.
Amazon Fire tablets: Set them up with an Amazon FreeTime account, which will let you manage their access from any web browser. Surf to parents.amazon.com to restrict content and time spent.
Android phones and tablets: Create a Google account for them, then keep tabs on their usage and set restrictions with Google’s Family Link mobile app, which you install on your own phone.
Apple iPhones and iPads: Give your child their own Apple ID, then set up Family Sharing. On any iPhone, iPad, or Mac, go to Settings > (your name) and add Apple IDs for your kids. Set rules for each family member.
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