Best New Tablets for Kids and Families

Tabeo kids tablet from Toys R Us

Mini iPad? Kindle Fire HD? A tablet from Toys ‘R Us?  And Microsoft is in on the action too.  Yes, the tablet wars have begun.  You can bet there will be plenty of holiday advertising geared towards children for the new crop of tablets.   And you can expect to see many a tech toy on the kids’ letters to Santa.  So what should parents keep in mind when shopping for tablets?

I read up on five of the new tablet offerings – iPad mini, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Toys ‘R Us Tabeo, and Microsoft Surface – along with the iPad.  The good news is that they all offer parental control options.

How do I choose the best tablet for my family?

Consider the following questions when deciding which tablet is the best fit.  Check out the quick comparison chart at the end of the page as well.

Who will be using the tablet?

Think about who will be using the device (one child, more than one, the entire family).  If the tablet will be shared by family members, take a look at the new Kindle Fire and Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. Both offer the ability to set up accounts for each member of the family, and then add restrictions individually on each account.  They both offer the ability to set up time limits.  I like how the Kindle FreeTime parental controls let you specify reading time.  So you can allow unlimited time in the Books app but restrict the time per day on games, video and web.

How old are your kids? For young children the Tabeo by Toys ‘R Us might be worth taking a look.  Already installed with popular games and educational apps, it could save you money as you won’t have to buy apps to start.  It also sports a bright green bumper to prevent damage if dropped.  This might be an option if you are getting tired of the kids hijacking your iPad and want to give them something of their own!

Also the 7” inch screens and dimensions of the iPad mini, Kindle 7” and Tabeo might be better suited for kids’ smaller hands.

What technologies does your family already use?

Consider your existing devices, phones, and computers – if you’re using a Mac and have iPhones, you may feel more comfortable with an interface you already use.  Maybe an iPad or the new iPad mini would be a good fit. If you are a Windows phone user, or the kids love Xbox, you might take a look at the new Windows Surface tablet. It will run a tablet-only version of the new Windows 8 operating system, complete with a new streaming service called Xbox Music. Sometimes staying within the same “ecosystem” can allow you to share data – music downloads, apps, settings – easily between devices.

When and Where will the family use the tablet?

Will you use the device mostly at home or on the road? Consider internet access from the tablet.  Is Wi-Fi-only okay?  Some tablets, like iPad and Kindle Fire, have versions that allow you to connect to the Internet over a 3G or 4G connection.  So you don’t have to be within the range of a Wi-Fi connection.  These come at a higher cost than the Wi-Fi-only models so you’ll want to read the fine print.  If most tablet use will be at home using your existing home Wi-Fi, you may not need the extra expense.

How much are you willing to spend on a Kid’s tablet?

The 6 tablets I reviewed range in price from $150 to $899.  If you are planning to give each child their own tablet you might want to look at the lower end of the price range.  For younger kids who might outgrow a device in a few years the Tabeo might make sense at its lower price point.  For serious business use for parents or college students, the new Surface tablet from Microsoft, while pricier, is already loaded with a version of the Office suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).  It could even become a laptop replacement if all you need are those programs, web and e-mail.  While the new iPad mini is the most expensive of the 7” inch screen tablets, you might want to spend the extra money for the selection of apps available, high-quality camera and video, and proven experience in the tablet marketplace.

Here’s a quick comparison of the features on these six tablets.  More information can be found on each company’s website (and all over the internet).  This information should get you started in researching the best new tablet for your kids.

iPad iPad Mini Kindle Fire HD Kindle Fire 2nd Gen Toys R ‘Us Tabeo Microsoft Surface
Parental Control Options Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Set Screen Time limits No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi User option No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Camera Y (front/back) Y (front/back) Front Front Front Y (front/back)
Wi-Fi Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
3G or 4G available Yes Yes Yes No No No
Screen size 9.7″ 7.9″ 7″ or 8.9″ 7″ 7″ 10.6″
Web Browser Safari Safari Silk Silk Android browser Internet Explorer
Apps/Store Yes/iTunes Yes/iTunes Yes/Kindle store Yes/Kindle Store Yes/Tabeo store Yes/Windows Store
Price $499-$899 $329-$659 $199-$499 $159 149.99 $499-$699
Operating System iOS iOS Android Android Android Windows RT


And yes there are other tablets available beyond those covered in this article, including the Nook tablet from Barnes and Noble.   Competition is a good thing!  Here’s another tablet comparison from Wall Street Journal’s Personal Technology section.

Will you be doing any tablet shopping this holiday season? Let me know in the comments what you decide to purchase and why.  We’ll track the most popular choices among Be Web Smart readers!


About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.