There was a time when tablets were expensive slates reserved for the tech savvy, but now they’re affordable enough for everyone in the family to have one - even the kids!
These children focused slates are a great way to keep the kids entertained for hours during those long drives, trips or days off school - but they also offer up educational games and secure surfing keeping your little ones safe online.
The best kid tablets of 2016 include a couple of Android models from O2 and EE, one from Amazon as well as a children’s favourite from Leapfrog.
Leapfrog LeapPad Platinum
A solid construction makes it great for younger kids
Weight: 1360g | Dimensions: 230 x 149.4 x 25mm | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1024x600 | CPU: 1GHz | Storage: 8GB | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: 2MP
The LeapPad Platinum is the only tablet here using its own locked down, proprietary operating system. Leapfrog regularly advertises towards early years’ kids and preschoolers (think Nick Jr or Disney Jr), a clear indication of the target audience.
It is ideal as a first device for younger children (LeapFrog recommends the LeapPad Platinum for kids up to nine), with programs that help with learning the alphabet and numbers and a range of familiar characters such as Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Team Umizoomi, Blaze and the Monster Machines.
The 7-inch tablet is available in bright green or purple and is solidly built; the casing should survive an accidental fall on solid floor from a few feet.
It also packs a stylus – the only tab here to do so - along with front and rear cameras. Annoyingly though the LeapPad Platinum uses a mini USB port for charging, the one found on old phones and digital cameras.
This means you will need a dedicated charger, although you can use the bundled cable in any USB socket (just make sure you don’t lose it).
The LeapPad Platinum comes with 10 apps pre-installed and six Imagicards (which introduces the child to augmented reality) in the box.
There are a wide range of Imagicards you can purchase separately too, either as a digital download to the device or as physical cartridges.
Amazon Fire Kids Edition
The best package out there, ideal for those on Amazon Prime
Weight: 405g | Dimensions: 219 x 138 x 25.5mm | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1024 x 600 | CPU: 1.3Ghz quad-core | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: up to 7 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: VGA
The Fire Kids edition tablet is certainly not cheap, but it does provide an all-round solution for busy parents rather than just a tablet.
Amazon went the extra mile for parents, bundling a one-year subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited, (a package worth £3.99 per month for non-Prime users), a kid-proof case and a no-nonsense, two-year worry-free guarantee.
Should the tablet break for any reason (coverage for anything that happens, says Amazon), then they will replace it for free. No one else does this on the market for any tablets.
The device’s real hook has to be Fire for Kids Unlimited, which offers thousands of applications with no ads and no-in app purchases. And unlike some of the competition, Amazon has roped in big partners like Nickelodeon and Disney with children up to 12 years old catered for.
If you are already a Prime user, then the Kindle Fire is a bit of a surefire deal as Fire for Kids Unlimited costs as little as £1.25 per month per child for a family with four kids.
The tablet performs superbly under test with good loading times. Given that this runs on Fire OS, there is a shallow learning curve, compared to, say the Leapfrog LeapPad.
Just bear in mind though that you will be tied to Amazon’s ecosystem once you bite in. That still leaves you with more than 6,000 games.
4G connected and a great case that doubles as a stand
Weight: 257g | Dimensions: 191 x 109.4 x 9.25mm | Screen size: 7-inch | CPU: 1.1GHz quad-core | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: 2820mAh | Rear camera: Yes | Front camera: Yes
There’s a lot to like about the EE Robin, one of two own-brand tablets from mobile network operators in this list, with it sporting fast 4G LTE internet connectivity.
The lightest in the group, the EE Robin also has a case that comes with an integrated handle which doubles as a very useful stand; great if you want to encourage your kid to stop slouching.
It is based on an Alcatel One Touch Android tablet, the POP 7S, and we found it to be reasonably fast and snappy.
In line with the rest of the competition, you can set up different accounts to cater for more than one children and you can also limit how long the tablet can be used.
There are 40 apps pre-loaded including six motion games and Hopster TV; the latter usually costs £3.99 per month and provides access to 800 episodes of some of your kids’ favourite shows although there aren’t any from Disney or Nickelodeon; these can be watched offline and come without any ads.
You get three months free on the standard plan and two years free on the Extra plan. The EE Robin is available both on PAYG or on at two-year contract with 2GB, 10GB or 20GB data. At £129 on PAYG, it is the most expensive tablet without a plan.
Alcatel Family Bundle
Great if you want an all-inclusive bundle for the kids
Weight: 340g | Dimensions: 209 x 124.9 x 8.3mm | Screen size: 8-inch | Storage: 8GB | microSD slot: Yes | Battery: Up to 17 hours | Rear camera: 5MP | Front camera: 2MP
The Alcatel Family bundle is not the most elegant way of describing a tablet but it does convey the fact that, well, there’s more to it than just at a tablet.
O2 took an Alcatel One Touch Pixi3 8 tablet, bundled it with a case and screen protector and wrapped it up with a data package.
The tablet with 500MB of data over two years will cost you a whopping £250. You cannot pay for the tablet bundle on PAYG although the device is available on its own on PAYG from O2.
The Pixi3 8 has the best camera of group – a 5MP snapper – the highest screen resolution and the biggest display at 8 inches.
We’d have preferred a far higher storage capacity; 8GB isn't much although there is a 32GB microSD slot as well.
What sets it apart from the competition is the two-year voucher for the Azoomee subscription that comes free with the tablet and is worth £4.99 per month or nearly £120 over the two years.
Think of it as an integrated platform for young children with curated content available; that includes an Art Studio, audio books, a number of games and shows.
There are no ads or in-app purchases required and a small donation goes to the NSPCC for each subscription.
Another sweet trick is the fact that you can actually make calls from that tablet. Yep, voice calls.