Most adults grew up back in the day with tangible toys and knick-knacks (like coloring and story books, sports equipment, board games, action figures and dolls and the like) that kept us entertained and that sparked our imaginations. For the average child growing up today, many of these items have been replaced by interactive digital content on various screens and smart devices.
In fact, more and more parents are now providing their toddlers with their own tablet to keep them occupied. There are even kids’ tablets that have been designed specifically for use by young ones, like the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro. Aside from the vast selection of digital content accessible from these tablets, you’ll find that there are plenty of add-on products that help spark a child’s imagination and creativity.
What A Tablet Can Offer To A Child
There is a tremendous amount of high-quality, non-violent and family-friendly content available for tablets in the form of videos, interactive games, eBooks, educational programs and creativity tools. Keep in mind, there is also plenty of content that simply is not suitable for young kids.
Instead of relying on a tablet to be a babysitter for your children and giving them unlimited access to whatever content they’re able to stumble upon, consider pre-loading it with curated content that’s appropriate.
According to Dr. Ran Anbar, MD, FAAP, director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Update Medical University, “Children under 12 can learn from video games and thus should be allowed to use games, such as Minecraft or Roblox. These games allow for social interactions with their peers, which should be monitored by a parent.”
Most tablets’ app stores house a vast selection of educational and edutainment content. This includes interactive eBooks, games, videos, music and kid-friendly mindfulness applications. There are even ways for young people to communicate safely with their friends and family members via video calling and text messaging.
If you look a bit harder, you’ll also discover interactive toys that work seamlessly with a tablet. These are designed to bridge the gap between purely digital forms of entertainment and real-world toys and creativity tools.
The Best Tablets For Kids (Ages 12 And Under)
Depending on your budget and objectives, when it comes to finding the ideal tablet for your child, you have three main options—an Amazon Fire tablet, an Apple iPad or an Android-based tablet (from a company like Samsung). Here’s a quick look at what each offers.
The Amazon Fire Kids Tablets Are Designed For Young People
The Amazon Fire Kids tablets are Android-based, but use a custom version of the operating system specifically designed to access Amazon’s vast content library. To keep things affordable for parents, Amazon has taken several of its low cost tablets and adapted them specifically for kids.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro Offers A Decent Size Screen
The Apple iPad Can Be Suitable For Young People
For parents that already rely on Apple products and have amassed a library of App Store, iTunes and Apple Music content that’s suitable for kids, providing a child with an iPad makes sense. Any iPad can be added to a Family Sharing account for Apple-provided content.
While the basic iPad model starts at $329, it does not include a case, stand or the Apple Care+ service (for technical support and repairs), so you’ll need to pay extra for these add-ons. All Apple iPads do include parental controls that allow adults to block certain types of content and limit screen time. These features, however, need to be turned on and managed manually.
The iPad Offers A 10.2 Inch Display And A $329 Starting Price
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8 Offers Full Android 12 Compatibility
Tablet Add-Ons That’ll Educate And Entertain Your Child
Check out this selection of educational and edutainment toys and tools that can be used in conjunction with any tablet. These products will provide your child with a more hands-on and tactile experience as they learn, play and interact with their mobile device.
“Parents should be aware of all content accessed by their children and should exercise their judgement with electronic content just like they need to monitor other exposure to other experiences in their children’s lives,” Dr. Anbar added. “Children should be taught to only use their tablet for recreation after completing their schoolwork or chores.”
The OSMO Little Genius Starter Kit Offers Multiple Learning Games
It’s Never Too Early To Teach A Kid How To Code
Kids Learn Letters, Numbers and Basic Spelling Using This Toy
Teach Your Kid Basic Coding And Problem Solving With This Cute Robot
Combine LEGO With A Tablet For The Ultimate Playful Creativity
Discover More Quality Content For Your Child’s Tablet
A vast selection of optional content is available no matter which tablet you provide to your child. You can load some of this content onto the tablet itself, while others can be streamed from the web. The content is free in some cases, but some needs to be purchased outright or you’ll need to pay a monthly or annual subscription to access it. For example, while the Amazon Kids+ service is a tremendous amount of content for one fix-rated monthly fee ($2.99 per month for all tablet types), other services and types of content are offered on an a la carte basis.
There are some kid-appropriate eBooks that display just text and stagnant illustrations. However, there’s also a vast selection of interactive eBooks that showcase text, animated graphics and that feature sound effects as well as a narrator who can read the book to your child. Start by seeking out interactive eBooks from authors you know or that feature characters your kids already love, like Dr. Seuss.
Meanwhile, kid-friendly games for tablets may not all be educational, but they’re designed to provide a non-violent gaming experience that won’t frustrate your child. Minecraft and Roblox are extremely popular games for kids, and you’ll often find curated collections that’ll help you discover more. As a parent, you may want to try some of these games and apps yourselves before allowing your child to access them.
Also, be on the lookout for creativity apps that encourage kids to write, draw, paint or create music using their tablet. For example, the Crayola Create and Play app uses virtual crayons and markers to allow kids to draw and color on their tablet’s screen.
As for music, it’s possible to download specific songs or albums to your child’s tablet which become accessible anytime. For a broader music selection, set up a subscription for them to use Spotify Kids or iHeartRadio Family. It’s also possible to adjust a family account for Apple Music or Amazon Prime Music, so your child will only be able to stream certain songs, playlists or albums that you pre-select or that contain no adult lyrics or themes.
“Children who are anxious or are on the autism spectrum may choose to use their tablet as a way of avoiding social interactions. This can lead to increased anxiety or social difficulties, as the children do not learn how to overcome their disorder through repeated practice with in-person interactions,” stated Dr. Anbar. “Avoid using media as the only way to calm children, because this can lead both children and their parents to be dependent on media.”
Additional Tablet Accessories That Are Kid-Friendly
Whichever tablet you give to your kids, you’ll want to keep it within a case that’ll protect the device from drops, scratches and spills. Depending on the types of apps you’ll be encouraging your kids to experience, providing them with a kid-friendly stylus might also be useful.
Meanwhile, to avoid everyone having to hear the audio generated from the tablet, consider investing in a pair of kid-friendly headphones. If the tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack, any wired headphones will work great. However, you’ll need to go with wireless (Bluetooth) headphones if it has no 3.5mm audio jack.
Keep in mind, kids will tend to lose tiny earbuds (like AirPods) quickly and they may also present a choking hazard, so going with over-the-ear headphones is a smarter option. Here are some optional accessories you might want to invest in for your child’s tablet.
This Shockproof Handle + Stand Kids Case Serves Several Needs
Little Hands Can Write Or Draw With This Stylus
Belkin’s SoundForm Mini Are Great Headphones For Kids
What To Consider When Giving Your Child A Tablet
Remember, you might want to think twice about simply using a tablet as a babysitter for your child. It might not be a great idea to leave them unsupervised and occupied for extended periods of time.
One way to prevent your child from becoming addicted to the technology and spending too much time using it is to set time limits and rules that are not negotiable. Use the built-in parental controls to help your child adhere to those limits.
“Use of a tablet and other screens should be stopped an hour before bedtime to let the mind calm down in preparation for falling asleep,” Dr. Anbar explained. “Do not allow children to use the tablet during the night, because this will disrupt their sleep and may permit their access to inappropriate material.”
He added, “For children between the ages of five and 12, screen time should be limited to less than two hours per day.”
Also, ensure that the various parental controls built into the device (and the services or apps the child will be using) are properly implemented. Inappropriate content in any form should never be accessible. Pay attention to what games and content your child is accessing, who they’re communicating with and what the tablet is being used for.
“Avoid applications with fast-paced or violent content, which often affect a child’s behaviors even when they do not use their tablets,” advises Dr. Anbar.
Many online services and apps have the ability to make in-app purchases. Be sure to turn off this functionality to prevent your child from using your account (and pre-saved credit card) to make unauthorized purchases.
Dr. Yuna Rapoport, MD is the founder and director of Manhattan Eye. If a child will be using a tablet (or looking at any screen for an extended period) to prevent eye fatigue, she recommends teaching young people to use the 20-20-20 rule. “Every 20 minutes, have your child look 20 feet away from their screen for 20 seconds. This allows the eyes to reset.”
With so much content available for your child to experience, they may want to forego playing outside, spending time in the real-world with friends or doing their homework, for example. As an adult, you’ll likely want to prevent this. It’s up to you to determine the experiences your child has using this technology, but we wholly encourage seeking a pediatrician’s advice when in doubt. Teaching them to be responsible and taking proper safety precautions will make all the difference.