The 5 best tablets for kids in 2016

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New Atlas looks at some of the best tablets for children

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If you're sick of constantly finding your tablet battery drained because your child has been using it with their favorite tech toy, or to binge on cartoons on Netflix, it might be time they got their own. But which one to choose? Here we look at some of the best tablets for children which are available in 2016.

Things to consider

Before jumping in with our pick of the best tablets for kids, it's worth thinking about some of the factors you'll want to consider when selecting the right one. For example, if a tablet is likely to take a regular beating in the hands of your child, you'll need to look for one with built-in protection, or at least a protective case.

Other considerations should include whether the operating system allows the parental controls you'll want. Some tablets, particularly those aimed at younger users, have robust controls which allow parents to limit what apps young users can run, or what websites can be accessed and when. This means you don't need to worry (quite as much) about what they are doing.

There's also the questions of whether the tablet can run the apps your child wants, or needs to use the device along with their tech toys (or the educational toys you want them to use). There's no point buying them a new tablet of their own if they still need to borrow yours whenever they want to run their favorite app, play their top games or use their new robot pet.

You'll also want to give some thought to what size tablet is going to suit your little one. Too small and they will invariably still want you use yours, but too big and they will leave it at home and not use it at times they otherwise could have. Obviously there's also the ever-present issue of cost.

Amazon Fire Kids Edition

The Amazon Fire Kids Edition features the same hardware as the Amazon Fire tablet, but in a kid-proof case and with a two-year guarantee which even covers your child breaking it, which could be handy. It has a 7-inch 1024 x 600 screen, and is powered by a Quad-Core 1.3 GHz processor running Fire OS 5, which features good parental controls.

There are plenty of apps available for the Fire Kids Edition via the Amazon Appstore, including most of the ones your kids will probably want. The device also ships with 12 months access to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited which gives users free use of thousands of kid-focused books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games. The 16 GB version of the Amazon Fire Kids Edition carries a list price of US$100.

LeapFrog Epic

LeapFrog is well known for its educational tech toys (from activity trackers to games consoles) and the Android-based Epic is its latest kids' tablet. Aimed at users aged between 3 and 9-years-old, it packs a 7-inch screen, 16 GB of built-in storage and a microSD slot, also with 1 GB of RAM. A chunky bumper is bundled with the Epic to offer extra protection when needed.

A customizable home-screen makes it easy for children to navigate on their own, while the Leap Search browser ensures safe web access. In addition to having access to LeapFrog's educational content, the Epic can also download select Android titles from the Learning Library store. There's also the opportunity to side-load some apps from the Amazon app store. The LeapFrog Epic is available for around $100.

Kurio Smart

Offering something a little different to the other tablets in this roundup, the 8.9-inch Kurio Smart is as focused on enabling your child to do their homework as is it on entertaining them. Running Windows 8.1 (but upgradable to 10), having Microsoft Office installed and coming with a detachable keyboard, it's a bit like a "My First Microsoft Surface."

While parents might like the appeal of a homework-ready tablet, kids are likely to be equally enamored with the selection of games and apps. These include Kurio Motion Games (where kids move around in front of the camera to play) and those available on the Windows Store. The 32 GB Kurio Smart costs $196.

Fisher-Price Learning Tablet

In our previous round-ups of tablets for kids we've included a number of Nabi tablets from Fuhu because of the impressive parental controls on offer. Well, earlier this year the firm was acquired by toy-brand Mattel which has now launched a number of tablets featuring Hot Wheels, Barbie and Fisher-Price content. Our pick here is the Fisher-Price Learning Tablet which comes loaded with apps, games and videos which will suit young users aged around 3 to 6-years-old.

The Android-powered tablet features a 7-inch screen, a rugged design, and 16 GB of storage (though this can be expanded using MicroSD cards). The Blue Morpho OS makes the tablet easy and safe for kids to use, with its Wings Learning system helping to teach them as they play. In addition to this Fisher-Price and Nabi content, the tablet can access the Google Play store, meaning there are plenty of apps to keep your kids busy. The Fisher-Price Learning Tablet costs $100.

Apple iPad Mini 4

When it comes to tablets, Apple's offering needs little introduction. The iPad Mini 4 features a 7.9-inch 2048 x 1536 pixel screen, an Apple A8 chip and runs iOS 10. While this all means it's a good device for adults, it's size also makes it well-suited for kids, even if the price limits that appeal as far as their parents are concerned.

In terms of compatibility, the chances are that the apps your child wants to run are going to be available on the Apple App Store, as are those companion apps for their connected toys. In addition to the $400 suggested retail price-tag (for the 16 GB version), the lack of robust parental controls probably means the iPad Mini 4 is more suitable for older, and more responsible, children.

Conclusion…

We've not seen the release of as many kid-focused tablets in 2016 as in previous years. This is probably partly due to the fact that more parents are now choosing to give their children hand-me-down tablets when they upgrade theirs. However, there is still a good argument for a dedicated kid's tablet, especially for younger children where educational content and parental-controls are more important.

We'd suggest that if your child is under six-years-old, then one of the kid-focused tablets, like the LeapFrog Epic or the FisherPrice Learning Tablet, could be the best bet. If they are old enough that getting homework done is important, there's the Kurio Smart. Meanwhile, the Fire Kids Edition and iPad Mini 4 are both tablets which are powerful enough for adults, so should be more than enough tablet to keep children happy now, and for the next couple of years.

Hopefully this article has helped you identify what you are looking for in a kid-focused tablet, whether that's ruggedness, compatibility with toys, or the ability to do homework easily. Whichever tablet you opt for, make sure to ensure it's fully charged, updated with the latest firmware, and that you have enabled any parental controls you want to use before you hand it over to your little one.

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