For long-suffering parents, the humble tablet has become something of a lifesaver. For young kids who aren't yet old enough to be given their own mobile phone but still possess the hand-to-eye coordination required to ace Candy Crush and blitz Angry Birds, a tablet is the perfect tech accessory – not only does it free up your own phone on those long journeys, it keeps them occupied for hours on end.
They can play games, watch films, read books and listen to music – all on a device which isn't anywhere near as expensive as a modern smartphone.
However, there are some key considerations to make when buying a tablet for your offspring. Given that children tend to be a little more clumsy than adults, you'll want to invest in a device which showcases particularly robust construction. You might also want to avoid expensive, top-of-the-line tablets as the kind of activities kids will want to indulge in don't require a cutting-edge iPad Pro.
Many tablets aimed at kids also come with custom software which has parental controls activated by default, making it easier for you to monitor what they're installing and looking at.
Also, it's worth considering what your child is most likely to use their device for – if they're a total bookworm then you might be better off investing in an Amazon Kindle Kids Edition, which comes in a child-friendly case and boasts a year of Amazon Fire for Kids Unlimited. If they love games above all else, then perhaps a dedicated console – like the New Nintendo 2DS XL or even the Switch Lite – might be more suitable.
1. Amazon Fire 7
Amazon's cheapest tablet is a winner for kids
Weight: 286g | Dimensions: 192 x 115 x 9.6mm | OS: Fire OS | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1,024 x 600 | CPU: 1.3GHz Quad-core | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: up to 7 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: VGA
Amazon's Fire line has been around for ages, and has quite rightly cornered the market when it comes to cheap and cheerful tablets. The Fire 7 is one of the cheapest tablets around and comes in a range of bright colors, which makes it the ideal choice for school kids and teenagers looking for their first smart device.
You'll want to get to grips with the parental controls before handing it over to very young children and don't expect cutting-edge performance or exceptional battery life for the price, but it really is hard to think of any other tablet which can match the Fire 7 when it comes to price and sheer volume of content; Amazon's app store is stocked to bursting point.
- Read our full Amazon Fire 7 review
2. Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition
A large, pin-sharp screen and bumper protection
Weight: 504g | Dimensions: 262 x 159 x 9.8mm | OS: Fire OS | Screen size: 10.1-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | CPU: octa-core | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: up to 12 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: 2MP
Amazon's latest kids tablet is this large-screen offering, which offers a crisp IPS 1080p screen that's great for playing games and watching movies on, and also provides plenty of display real estate for kids who are just starting to find their love of reading.
Like several of Amazon's other tablets, the Fire HD 10 is available in a 'Kids Edition' package which slaps a massive rubber bumper on for protection and allows you to enable controls which prevent your children from viewing questionable content. The catch is that the Fire HD 10 is quite expensive, and that massive screen means an equally massive footprint, which some younger users may find too unwieldy.
The Fire HD 8 might be a more palatable alternative for smaller hands. You also get a year of Fire For Kids Unlimited, which provides free age-appropriate content for your precious ones.
- Read our hands on Amazon Fire 10 (2019) review
3. Samsung Galaxy Tab A8
A grown-up tablet that is still suitable for kids
Weight: 345g | Dimensions: 210 x 124.4 x 8mm | OS: Android | Screen size: 8-inch | Resolution: 800 x 1280 | CPU: quad-core | Storage: 32GB | Battery: N/A | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP
If you've got an older child or fashion-conscious teen then they might not thank you for buying a tablet which comes with a brightly-colored bumper or crayon-like stylus.
If an iPad is still out of the question then Samsung's Galaxy Tab A8 could present the ideal middle ground; it's got a mature design and decent specifications but offers the option of adding parental controls so you can still have some peace of mind.
The best thing is that as your teenager gets older, they don't need to discard the Galaxy Tab 8 as you can remove the controls (assuming you trust them) and viola – it becomes a tablet for a grown-up (well, a grown-up child, at least). Samsung's reputation for quality and design shines through on this reasonably-priced slate, so it's well worth a look.
4. Kurio Tab Advance
This mid-range marvel hits the right balance
Weight: 318g | Dimensions: 189 x 108 x 10mm | OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: N/A | CPU: quad-core | Storage: 16GB | Battery: N/A | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: 0.3MP
Kurio's speciality in making tech for younger users so you'd expect the company to have a fairly assured grasp of what's required from such a device.
The Kurio Tab Advance has a protective bumper to prevent damage from accidental drops and a host of detailed controls which mean you have peace of mind at all times; the web filter, for example, automatically blocks inappropriate content.
However, this is still a pretty capable Android-based tablet which can access the Google Play Store so, as your child grows, they can download content which evolves at the same rate as their minds.
On the downside, the screen is a bit of a letdown and, like many tablets aimed at kiddies, the processor is quite weak compared to what's available elsewhere. The camera is also something of a disappointment, but it gets the job done regardless.
5. LeapFrog Epic
A child-friendly tablet with software that grows as your child does
Weight: N/A | Dimensions: N/A | OS: Android 4.4 | Screen size: 7-inch | Resolution: 1024 x 600 | CPU: quad-core | Storage: 16GB | Battery: Over 5 hours | Rear camera: 2MP | Front camera: 2MP
LeapFrog is a name that will be instantly familiar to many parents – the brand has been responsible for countless electronic devices aimed at very young children – and the Epic (which stands for 'Explore, Play, Imagine, Create', in case you were wondering) is the company's most advanced tablet yet.
While the tech is admittedly unimpressive – it has an average screen and a sluggish processor – the Epic's strength is that the whole experience is tailored for very young users. While it's running Google's Android OS, LeapFrog has customized the UI with bespoke features like daily gifts and the whole system is designed to 'grow' as your child does.
Stringent parental controls are a given, and the rubber bumper, shatter-proof display, MicroSD card slot and bundled stylus round off a package that's ideal for especially young users.
- Didn't find what you needed? Try our full best tablet list