Choosing the best tablet for kids is important for many reasons. Once a child has a device, it becomes almost an extension of them, so parents and caregivers need to be sure about what they are about to introduce to their kids. A child’s tablet is also most likely their first introduction to technology, and managing the content they consume on the devices is a chore that we should expect device makers to make easy for us. There are also the subjective but no less important questions of durability, aesthetics, and cost to consider.
For these reasons I tested the five leading tablets on the market today with the help of my 6-year-old and 4-year-old.
We tested each tablet for about a week and used criteria such as ease of use, app and game quality and device quality, from audio and touchscreen performance to durability, to determine their worth. We found the Amazon Fire Tablet HD 10 (11th Generation)(available at Amazon for $199.99) to be these easiest to use, the easiest to hold and transport, and it comes preloaded with oodles of games to keep your kids occupied.
These are the best tablets we tested ranked, in order:
Amazon Fire Tablet HD 10
Amazon Fire Tablet HD 8
Onn Tablet 10.1
Samsung Galaxy Tab A7
Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition (11th Gen)
The best thing about the Amazon Fire HD is how stocked it is with easily accessible, ad-free, and fun content. Each Fire tablet comes with one year of Amazon Kids+, which provides access to more than 20,000 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). 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, which means a caregiver has to go to the app store and find all the games or apps that their child may like as well as download and preview them; it can be a timely process. And many free apps contain ads that children inadvertently tap on, leading them to the app store. Free apps also often only contain a few aspects of the game at the free rate before asking to be purchased. (To be fair, this can also happen with the Fire tablets.) The partially-free apps are frustrating for kids and annoying for parents. The same is true for apps available in the Google Play store, which powers Android devices like the Samsung and Onn tablets we tested.
The Fire tablet also provides different accounts for parent and child, and a passcode is required to enter the parent’s account, though a parent account is not mandatory. The parental controls are robust and allow you to limit your child's screen time and what they can play. You can also view all their recent activity. We especially liked that the settings could be adjusted based on the age of the child using the tablet. Having the ability to set an age-range for each child's individual account—as opposed to the overall device—was a big plus when siblings are sharing one device.
Our kids figured out how to use the device right away—faster than their parents did, to be honest—and they were reading and playing games in just a matter of minutes. There are loads of books available through Amazon FreeTime, and we liked how easy it was for the kids to find appropriate reading material with just a quick search.
If you're planning to use the Fire HD 10 for watching movies or listening to music (parent approved, of course), you'll be pleased with the quality of both the sound and the picture. And if your child is partial to art and design apps they will be very happy with the crisp, bright colors of the display.
Also a plus: the squishy bumper case with built-in stand that is included with each Fire Kids edition, and the fact that it uses a USB-C connection instead of the micro USB ones that our older tablets use. The USB-C is much easier to plug in to the device—there's no wrong way to insert it—and it charges a heck of a lot faster, which is always a plus when it comes to impatient children.
One last and pretty great plus: The Fire tablets come with a 2-year warranty while the rest we tested only have a 1-year warranty.
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 Montclair, NJ with my husband and two kids. Our daughter is 6-years-old and my son is 4-years-old. They have both been using tablets and interacting with screens for years, a skill that was honed and mastered during the pandemic. Before COVID-19 my husband and I were wary of screen time, and to be honest we still think about it as we try to ask our kids questions while they’re engaged with screens and they don’t hear us. But tablets are educational too, and require more from the child than just passively watching TV. By the way, 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 can be impossible to abide by those rules. This assignment gave me the opportunity to really study what’s best for my kids.
I tested each of the tablets for about a week. First, I set up the tablets, which includes charging, establishing accounts and, depending on the device, setting up a separate child account. 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 the 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 design.
Lastly, my kids performed their own tests. I gauged their interest in the pre-installed and downloaded apps, how easily they were able to navigate and use the tablet and how quickly they lost interest in it. I took notes each time they used a tablet and wrote about their experiences after each test.
What to Consider When Buying a Tablet for Kids
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 tablets gave me some pause, I was able to use them with little effort and enjoyed them more than just giving my children an 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 and the Onn tablet came pre-installed with lots of apps, games, and more. Linking the Fire tablets with my Prime account was also extremely simple. The Samsung, on the other hand, had the additional step of setting up the Kids portion of the device.
Your Kids' Ages
The age of your child also comes into play. An iPad is better suited to older kids who will be able to appreciate its quality and may be less in need of assistance when it comes to downloading apps. The Fire, Samsung and Onn tablets are good for all ages as the apps that are available span age ranges. And of course there’s the price consideration. Do you really want your 3, 4 or even 5-year-old responsible for a $300 + device?
Other Kids Tablets We Tested
Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition (10th Gen)
The Amazon Fire Tablet HD 8 is virtually identical to the 10 except for one big thing: screen size. It’s a noticeable 2-inches smaller than its bigger sibling. Now, I’m not one to get involved in family dynamics, but if the younger child in my house got the smaller tablet and the older child the bigger one, the tantrum would be fierce. So take my advice and don’t let size be a consideration if you’re thinking about tablets for two kids. But that said, the 8 is the perfect size for younger kids with smaller hands and heads—unless, of course, they have an older sibling with the 10!
It's also worth noting that the smaller screen size doesn't equal more hours of battery life. The HD 10 and the HD 8 last for about 10 to 12 hours without needing to be recharged.
The Onn Tablet is a fairly new-to-the-game device that’s manufactured by Walmart. It’s powered by Google Android and you use your child’s Google account when setting it up. There are multiple-steps involved in this process, which did give me pause as my 6-year-old didn’t yet have her own Google account when I began the testing. But once I figured that out it was fairly simple.
That’s where the fun began. The Onn has a whole bunch of cute features that really cater to younger kids. The home screen is really more of a welcome screen, with different tabs that open up and tell the user a joke, the weather, and what apps were previously used. It feels very kid friendly, and my 4-year-old preferred it over the other tablets, even though he knows the Fire tablets well.
Similar to the Fire tablets, the Onn also came preloaded with a bunch of apps spanning books to games to videos. It should be noted that the pre-loaded apps are not always the best apps in terms of quality–some leave a lot to be desired when in comes to design, usefulness and creativity.
The tablet’s build quality feels less substantial than all the others we tested, but it also doesn’t come with a thick, foam cover like the Fire tablets. This was the one tablet that suffered a very minor chip on the top corner. Kids drop tablets, that’s a given. So definitely get a cover. But when it comes down to it, the Onn tablet is definitely the most affordable 10-inch kids tablet.
If this review was about which tablet is best for anyone but kids, the iPad 2021 would win with flying colors. It’s lightweight and beautifully designed. The set-up and app installation process is seamless. It functions like a pro.
But when it comes down to usability, the iPad is just not made for kids. There are parental controls so you can limit what your kid watches or plays. You can order kid-friendly cases to protect the precious and beautifully-rounded edges. But that’s it. And when considering what your kids will use the tablet for, there’s really no reason to opt for Apple except perhaps the fact that it can connect with existing Apple family plans.
Yes, the video and audio quality is top notch—great for watching a movie—and the touchscreen is very sensitive, but you can get close to perfection with the other devices for far less cost and worry. When both my kids played with the iPad they got bored quickly because I had only downloaded a few apps on it. They needed me to get any others, and instead of asking for parental involvement they just grabbed one of the other tablets. Neither mentioned how vivid the video was or that the camera quality appeared to be just a bit better than the others.
Samsung used to make a Galaxy tablet that was just for kids; the Tab E Lite came equipped with a cushioned case and was pretty similar to the Fire tablets. It appears that tablet is now discontinued and instead Samsung users can add a kids profile to other Samsung products including their Galaxy Tab A7.
The Samsung Kids profile can be reached by clicking on the app icon on the home screen of the parent’s side of the device, and to return to the parent’s side a passcode must be entered. This added layer of protection is helpful. Once on the Kids profile it functions like a different profile, similar to the Fire tablets. Kids apps can be downloaded directly onto this profile and the design is very kid-friendly. But unlike the Fire and Onn tablets, there aren’t any apps built-in except a kids browser that includes Samsung created news, book, and movie pages. And they are oddly curated and out-of-date.
The parental controls are suitable though, and includes screen time, as well as past app downloads and usage. You can also set goals and limits.
The Galaxy tablet is small and sleek and operates nicely on the parent’s side. Without installing Samsung Kids this is really a device that’s for adults, similar to the iPad. It comes with a stylus pen and a black leather case, which does not instantly make you think of a child. And speaking of the case, it actually hindered performance. It was difficult to find the power and volume buttons at times, not to mention the headphone and power outlets.
My 6-year-old played with this tablet a few times but she would always ask to go to the “Daddy side.” I think that says something.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.