back to school mobile banner

The best tablet to buy for your kid

All of the fun stuff to get kids hyped, all of the guardrails to chill parents out.
By Leah Stodart and Haley Henschel  on 
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers. If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Overview

Best combo of specs and kid content

Fire HD 10 Kids Pro

Jump to Details
Best 2-in-1 Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3

Jump to Details
Best for older teens

Apple iPad (2021)

Jump to Details
Best for little bookworms

Kindle Kids

Jump to Details
Best for preschoolers

Amazon Fire 7 Kids

Jump to Details
Best option with an included stylus

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Jump to Details
Best IOS tablet for families to share

Apple iPad Air

Jump to Details
See 2 More

Technology has changed a lot since you were small. Your kids have probably mastered the features on your iPhone better than you have. So it's fine to admit it: It'd be kinda sweet if they had something of their own so that your phone wasn't perpetually doused in mystery slime. But too many restrictions or a hard "no" to devices at all could do more harm than good.

With the right balance of screen time, parental controls, and learning content versus just for fun content, a tablet could go much further for your kid than keeping them occupied during a long car ride. (But also, sorry, kid-less people on Twitter who vow to never give their future kid a tablet — we can't hear you over the sound of our uninterrupted Zoom meeting.)

The latest on screen time recommendations for kids

Screen time — a big component of the ever-evolving mastery of internet safety for kids — is an increasingly popular point of study, especially after 2020 made it a prominent hurdle in households across the globe. Parents' questions often boil down to "how much is too much?" Though this is rarely met with a definitive answer, recent research can at least shine a light on some best practices.

In April 2019, the World Health Organization issued much-anticipated guidelines around screen time for preschool-aged kids: One hour a day is the recommended maximum for children between two and five. This lines up with recent research done at Vanderbilt University that suggests toddlers probably won't learn much from a screen, anyway.

But that learning disconnect often fades by age three. Just as they're mastering talking, kids are also grasping that the character on the screen represents a real person — and that that person is teaching them something.

The impacts of being online as an adolescent

There is even less official screen time guidance for adolescents when video games, texting, and social media are thrown into the mix. But one prominent area of interest regarding older kids is being online as socialization.

Your kid who constantly wants to FaceTime a friend or squad up on multiplayer Fortnite might be onto something: A 2021 analysis by researchers at The University of Colorado Boulder uncovered some revealing relationships between social screen time and stronger peer relationships for kids between 9 and 10. When not relied on as the only means of bonding, they can be legitimate socialization tools.

This is comforting news for anyone holding the antiquated "gaming turns kids into zombies" mindset. However, it certainly doesn't relieve the hard need for monitoring social media usage, especially among teens. The American Psychological Association's (APA) guidelines for adolescents on social media received an update in May 2023 that largely revolved around mental health, particularly stressing the minimization of access to harmful or hateful content as well as misinformation. While the APA notes that social media isn't inherently good or bad, the experience can be cushioned through solid social media literacy skills.

Some social media platforms like TikTok are taking parental filters upon themselves to provide precautions more specific to the app than generalized software can provide.

Can kids learn from a tablet?

One project by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (a non-profit run by the people behind Sesame Street) compared literary assessments of kindergarten through third-grade students who had used tablets at school. The students who used tablets saw higher test scores than those who didn't use tablets, and they were able to recognize 20% more vocabulary words due to an improved ability to recognize sounds and represent sounds as letters. A 2018 meta-analysis published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal found that the touchscreen learning effect was particularly beneficial for STEM through the memorable real-life experiments that physical swiping can mimic.

Can we blame them? Interacting with content makes for a richer and more memorable experience. It just feels more like playing, and it's not surprising that kids may be more willing to learn when it doesn't feel forced. Besides, playing and imagination are the building blocks for creativity and empathy — so playing Toca Boca instead of doing multiplication is still building real-world skills.

Dr. Michael Levine, founder of the Cooney Center, stands by the idea that there is a difference between "learning time" and "mindless time: "Instead of pushing screens away, it’s time to put them to use in a thoroughly modern way."

So yes, tablets are a great learning tool as long as they're not a kid's main source of learning. Kids will always need to be comfortable reading print books and doing math by hand. No arguing there. But tablets provide some real opportunities for self-sufficient, interactive learning that kids will definitely utilize in the future of education revolving around laptops.

How to choose the right tablet for your kid

Most tablets made specifically for kids will already be equipped with built-in parent accounts, timers, and pre-selected websites or apps that fall under appropriate age groups. Easy enough.

General-purpose tablets aren't a bad choice at all — many sites name the iPad as one of the best tablets for kids even though it's technically for everyone. You'll just need to get creative to build a similar safety net similar to those ones that come built-in on a just-for-kids tablet.

If your household already has an iPad or Fire tablet, you can see how your kid would do with a tablet of their own by trying a tablet add-on like Osmo.

Here are the best tablets to get for your kids in 2023:

Two children participating in video call on Fire tablet in purple case

Fire HD 10 Kids Pro

Best combo of specs and kid content

Read our full review of the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet.

Amazon's kid-friendly tablets are more than a regular Fire tablet costumed in a cutesy case. The new HD 10 Kids Pro is the ultimate model to consider.

Kid stuff: A year-long Amazon Kids+ subscription comes free, and it's what makes the Fire experience so spot-on. School-aged kids will have a field day with the library of over 20,000 books, games, and educational apps from favorites Nat like Geo, plus access to apps like Disney+ if a parent gives the green light. (The Youtube app isn't available.) After the first year, you'll pay $2.99 a month if you're an Amazon Prime member, or $4.99 a month as a non-member.

Parent stuff: Parents don't have to jump through hoops to set boundaries on their kid's Fire Tablet. Amazon has baked its intuitive parental controls right into the system, making screen time limits, age filters, limited access to specific apps, and schedules easy to find and customize. Amazon knows 12-year-olds don't want to see the baby stuff, and that 3-year-olds don't want to see the reading stuff. 

Durability and specs: The rubbery cases (slimmer and cooler for older kids on the 10 Pro) were made to withstand drops, spills, or sharing-turned tugging. If a boo-boo does happen within the first two years, Amazon will send a new one without being nosey. A 12-hour battery, HD display, and Dolby Atmos speakers allow for multiple learning, playing, and streaming sessions without being tethered to the wall.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Read our full review of the (previous gen) Lenovo Chromebook Duet.

There are a ton of affordable, reliable Chromebooks out there. But tech brands have been less successful at harnessing the Chromebook way of life into tablet form — let alone at a price point that's justifiable for most parents. Lenovo's release of the convertible Chromebook Duet was groundbreaking in the age-old choice between Chrome OS and the convenience of a tablet, and the 2022 version of the Duet pushes the value even further.

Kid stuff: Leveling up a grade at school typically means more schoolwork online — and more lugging around a personal computer. The Duet's ability to act as a portable laptop replacement really expands its shelf life for those older students. A thin-and-light design is also a must for little hands and little backpacks to carry comfortably. The Duet weighs less than a pound to about two pounds (depending on whether the keyboard is attached). Connecting the keyboard is as easy as matching up a few magnets.

Parent stuff: As long as Kids Mode is on, parents can comfortably cut kids loose to play and learn without worry of them landing on something less-than-appropriate. Each kid gets their own profile, which parents can customize by choosing which apps and websites are allowed, blocking the concerning ones, and setting time limits. Chromebooks are also some of the least likely devices to get a virus, as each web page and app runs its own sandbox and most malware is designed for Windows or Mac.

Durability and specs:  Barring picks like the Google Pixelbook, Chromebooks aren't exactly known for their power. However, the Duet holds its own with anything an elementary, middle, or high school student might need to do. The updated and fanless octa-core processor handles word processing and other schoolwork-related apps as well as video calls like a pro. The screen itself is also improved, seeing a boost to 2K.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Older kids need a tablet that can keep up with more advanced school-related programs, double as a laptop, and entertain past educational games. The 2021 version of Apple's most affordable iPad (just called iPad) is that reliable powerhouse with a cool factor.

Educational stuff: General-purpose tablets leave downloaded content up to the user, but the App Store has every educational alley a kid may need to take. Find apps for core skills like math, reading, and science, or hone in on more specific interests with apps for biology, language learning, or test prep. Kids will be psyched about the iPad's augmented reality capabilities, allowing them to immerse themselves in the world (or solar system) around them.

Parental controls: There's no kid stuff pre-installed on tablets not designed specifically for a younger age group, but Apple has multiple kid-proofing settings that can be lifted as they're grown out of. 

In your iPad's settings in the Restrictions tab, you can put a virtual lock on any app or make functions off-limits (Safari, iMessage, and Facebook are a few you may consider hiding). The "Allowed Content" tab has options for movies or websites, where you can disable specific URLs or allow only G-rated movies to play. Installing parental control software like Kaspersky Safe Kids or Qustodio is a quick fix for an extra pair of eyes.

Durability and specs: The 9th generation isn't the newest entry-level iPad anymore as the 10th generation succeeded it in fall 2022. But those improvements were accompanied by a price hike to $449 — the most Apple has ever asked for an entry-level iPad. Compared to the 8th generation, however, the one we're suggesting still features a zippier A13 Bionic Chip and crispier graphics. Artistic kids or habitual pencil-and-paper notetakers will appreciate that the first-gen Apple Pencil is also supported.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Child choosing book on screen of Kindle with watercolor paint supplies in background

Kindle Kids

Best for little bookworms

In fall 2022, Amazon announced yet another iteration of its kid-ified e-reader: The Kindle Kids is just the beloved baseline Kindle, but cuter: the bundle includes one of three cases (choose from Space Whale, Ocean Explorer, or Unicorn Valley) and a free year of Amazon Kids+. Taking the e-reader route avoids distraction concerns that other true tablets may pose while making that reading list feel more immersive.

Education stuff: Amazon Kids+ includes tons of popular books and Audible titles for kids — everything from new favorites, to history lessons made fun, to classics like the entire Harry Potter series. They'll also get access to two valuable reading tools: "Vocabulary Builder" creates flashcards out of any words they look up in the device's built-in dictionary, and "Word Wise" puts simple definitions above tricky words to keep comprehension chugging along.

Parental controls: Parents can hit up the Parent Dashboard to set a bedtime, check reading progress, or adjust age filters to prevent kids from accessing content they shouldn't. (Not that there's much to see to begin with — it can't access games, apps, videos, or an internet browser.)

Durability and specs: Amazon did a bit of consolidating to knock $40 off of the $159 price tag of the previous flagship kids' Kindle, the Kids Paperwhite. While the newest version isn't waterproof anymore, the Paperwhite's kid case wasn't any more durable. The cheaper Kindle Kids doesn't skimp on screen quality, however — it features a crisp 300 ppi glare-free e-ink display that sports quadruple the number of LEDs in the backlight as the older kids' Kindle, plus an adjustable warm light.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Nobody does kids' tablets as well as Amazon does, and the 2022 version of the Fire 7 Kids tablet is an excellent recent example of that expertise. While Amazon's Pro kids' tablets target older elementary school kids, the Fire 7 and its durable kickstand case are ideal for ages three to seven.

Kid stuff: Like the other Fire Kids tablets, the 7 comes with a free year of Amazon Kids+: Amazon's subscription service made specifically for kids ages 3-12. Over 20,000 kid-appropriate apps with characters from Disney, Nickelodeon, and more are at your fingertips — saving parents from having to comb through an entire App Store.

Parent stuff: Everything mentioned about parental controls and Amazon Kids+ with the aforementioned Fire HD 8 is the same with the Fire 7 — same age filters and time restrictions, same optional blocking of apps like YouTube or Minecraft, and same easy switch between kids' profiles.

Durability and specs: One main difference between the Fire 7, 8, and 10 tablets lies in their titles: The Fire 8 and 10 HD have HD displays, while the 7 offers slightly lower resolution (and skips Dolby Atmos speakers). The 2022 version of the Kids' 7 does see other boosts like a 30% faster quadcore processor than the previous generation.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Person coloring flower on tablet with stylus

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Best option with an included stylus

The purchase becomes infinitely more justifiable if it's a tablet the whole family will use, but that means landing specs up to par for adults without surpassing ease of use for a kid. The lite version of one of Samsung's premium tablets works for everyone in your Android household.

Educational stuff: The Samsung Kids interface is designed specifically to morph fun and learning while easing kids into computer literacy and the habit of using a touchscreen. A subscription to Samsung Kids+ opens up even more parent-approved games like Toca Boca and TV Shows like Lego Batman. Kids who like to draw or take notes by hand will dig the S-Pen, which is included.

Parent stuff: A simple PIN saves parents from having to use a tablet loaded with kid controls. In Parental Control Mode, parents can set limits on their child's usage and customize the content they see. Of course, parent mode has a completely different interface (the default one for all Galaxy tablets). Different family members can add profiles and have their own ~adult~ account.

Specs and durability: The price hike from Samsung's bottom-line budget tablets (the A and A7) can mostly be attributed to the addition of stylus support and inclusion of the S-Pen with purchase. But, as the "lite" version of the regular S6, it still sees a lot of nice specs for the price of the most basic iPad. The 2000 x 1200 display dazzles, the Dolby Atmos stereo speakers boom, and the processor handles Adobe and Microsoft OneNote with ease.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

iPad Air with swirl screensaver and Apple Pencil on rug

Apple iPad Air

Best IOS tablet for families to share

Read our full review of the 2022 iPad Air.

The iPad Air sits between the entry-level iPad and the big, bad iPad Pros, but "middle child syndrome" isn't in its vocabulary. The home button-less design and lightning fast M1 chip make the Air way more pro than it lets on. Even older kids won't feel lame having to share this with their parents.

Kid stuff: All iPads are general purpose, so parents (or kids, if they're old enough) will choose which apps to download. Conveniently, the App Store is home to thousands of education-related apps for all age groups and interests, from simple math and reading to biology with augmented reality or college test prep. FaceTime calls with friends and family or video lessons on Zoom are as close to real life as possible on the new 12MP UltraWide front camera.

Parent stuff: Apple doesn't offer an official all-encompassing "kid mode," but its Family Sharing feature allows parents to remotely manage screen time (probably major for a tablet with so many time-sucking entertainment possibilities), share iCloud photo libraries, or turn on Ask to Buy. A third-party parental control software can obviously also be installed.

Durability and specs: Schoolwork may actually be enjoyable with these crisp visuals and no-lag screen. The 2022 Air's rapid responsiveness is significantly faster now that it's powered by the M1 chip: the same processor as the Pro. Hold it up to the traditional iPad or a Fire HD tablet and see the difference in visuals on the Liquid Retina display.

Buying Options

The Good

The Bad

Details

Frequently Asked Questions


Tablets designed specifically for kids almost always have age filters, screen time limits, and more ready to customize in a parent dashboard.

Apple and Android general-purpose tablets typically have less-involved parental control settings that can filter content or prevent purchases, but play-by-play supervision can be better achieved through a legit parental control app for iPads or Android tablets.


  • Screen resolution: Deciding whether HD or FHD will suffice depends on the number of movies they'll watch or games they'll play. 4K is probably unnecessary fluff.

  • Storage: They'll probably have more apps than you do, and may need space for downloads like offline Disney+ movies, music, or some books for school.

  • The intensity of parental controls: It's less panic-inducing to send your kid off with a tablet when you don't have to guess what content they're absorbing.

  • Rugged-ness: Because kids are as destructive as they are adorable and you'll definitely feel better with a case that can handle a drop or three.

Leah Stodart
Leah Stodart
Senior Shopping Reporter

Leah Stodart is a Senior Shopping Reporter at Mashable. She covers shopping trends, gift ideas, and products that make life easier, specializing in vacuums, TVs, and sustainable swaps. She graduated from Penn State University in 2016 and is watching horror movies or "The Office" when she’s not shopping online herself. You can follow her on Twitter at @notleah.


More from Back to School
The best portable Bluetooth speakers for 2023
By Jennifer Allen and Dylan Haas

Best laptops for kids in 2023
By Leah Stodart and Haley Henschel

The best headphones for 2023 (and why they've made our list)
By Bethany Allard and Jennifer Allen

The best 2-in-1 laptops for 2023
By Simone Scully

Best headphones for kids: Comfort, safety, and durability win every time
By Jennifer Allen

Recommended For You
Apple confirms Screen Time bug in Parental Controls

5 tips to help manage your back-to-school mental health

The best dating sites and apps for serious relationships

AdultFriendFinder is essentially a porn hookup site that needs a makeover

'Trolls Band Together' trailer teases some borderline illegal boy band puns

More in Tech
Best gifts under $50: 30+ ideas for absolutely everyone
By Mashable Shopping

The Shark FlexStyle is better than the Dyson Airwrap

Oru's lightest foldable kayak is worth every penny


The 7 best filtered water bottles for travel, according to hydration experts

Trending on Mashable
Wordle today: Here's the answer and hints for September 26

NASA rover finds place where extraordinary events occurred on Mars

NYT Connections today: See hints and answers for September 25

Webb telescope just made tantalizing find on ocean world Europa

The biggest stories of the day delivered to your inbox.
This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.
Thanks for signing up. See you at your inbox!