Considering that children are our future – and our future tech consumers – the computer industry hardly caters to tykes. Just a handful of computers and tablets are specifically designed for kids and their little hands.
Maybe computer manufacturers don't have to do anything special for children, though. Services that are geared toward kids – like Amazon's Kindle FreeTime, or Netflix's kid-specific interface – may be all that's necessary when those services can be accessed on all sorts of devices.
So when it comes to devices, which do you pick? The natural choice is a tablet; the screens are bigger than the smartphone you don't want your kid to answer. Also, your kid will take to a touchscreen faster than a duck to water – it's the most intuitive thing you will ever see.
There's a wide range of tablet options for youngsters, from kid-friendly units that can take abuse yet don't insult their intelligence, up to the standard adult-oriented tablets that really are easy enough for any age to master.
In a couple of cases the prices on even the best tablets for youngsters are so reasonable that you won't feel too bad should the device end up being submerged in the bathtub, stepped on, or otherwise broken.
Okay, so you might feel a little bad…
It doesn't matter if you prefer Google's Android, Apple's iOS, or some limited, proprietary operating system built just for nerds-in-training. Check out our picks for the seven best tablets for your kids in this roundup so you can keep your own tablet all to yourself.
Also, while you’re here, you might want to have a look at our 10 best Christmas tech gifts for kids – in case you’re last-minute panic shopping for the little mites!
VTech InnoTab 3S (£70)
VTech's forays into the kids tablet market are never quiet perfect – this one has some performance issues – but for the price, the InnoTab 3S is worth it, especially if you've invested in InnoTab games. Plus it has more storage than previous versions, improved controls, a rechargeable battery, a microSD card slot for storage expansion, and let's say it again: It’s very nicely priced.
LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra (£90)
Bigger than its predecessor (the LeapPad2 Explorer – see below), the LeapPad Ultra has a beautiful 7in touchscreen, and also adds Wi-Fi support and a rechargeable battery. It is more expensive than the LeapPad2 Explorer, but then the aforementioned upgrades are obviously going to come at a price. It’s also true that the Ultra is a bit pricier than the InnoTab 3S, but LeapFrog has built a great ecosystem around its hardware, and this is a sterling toy tablet for the littlest kids.
LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer (£50)
For youngsters aged four to nine, this tablet encourages learning in addition to the fun stuff – gaming and media consumption. It's inexpensive – particularly now the price has come down as this is now the older model compared to the above LeapPad Ultra – and rugged. The LeapPad2 has 4GB of memory, a camera to record video and stills, and plenty of applets for download. Think of it as the perfect compromise for the ankle-biter coveting your iPad before their time.
Fuhu Nabi 2 Tablet (£150)
The Nabi 2 comes with a protective bumper and is customisable with silicone letters. Solid educational content comes preloaded, and it features a sandboxed kids-only mode. Kids can complete household chores in exchange for rewards in the app store, which is a clever touch. This kid-centric tablet is more expensive than the above offerings, but it’s remarkably fully-featured in comparison.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 (£169)
Moving on from the tablets specifically designed for ankle-biters, we have a slate from Amazon. The Kindle Fire HDX's stereo speakers and sharp IPS LCD screen are great for videos. Kindle FreeTime is a solid parental control mode that lets you set separate time limits for different kinds of content; similarly, the new Mayday remote video tech support means you can get help whenever the child messes up the tablet’s settings. Amazon's store reigns supreme with a superb selection of eBooks and media, and its simplified interface is also easier for kids to use than standard Android.
Google Nexus 7 (£199)
For older kids, the Nexus 7 is a no-compromise Android tablet. The key here is the multiple users feature in Android, as this lets you set up a kid's profile. You can download parental control apps from the Google Play marketplace to complete the experience – then when your child goes to bed, you can switch it back to grown-up mode to enjoy all Android has to offer. This is a versatile and well-built tablet with a superb display and a nippy CPU.
Apple iPad mini (£249)
Apple's App Store still has the best selection of kid-centric and educational content, and last year’s iPad mini is the perfect way to enjoy it, being priced and sized for smaller hands. If you want access to those iPad apps, the non-Retina iPad mini will run them all, and it’s £60 cheaper than the new iPad mini. This is the iPad to get for anyone under 14. In iOS 6 or higher, "Guided Access" locks down your device, allowing your kids to play without deleting important docs. "Single-app mode," for example, will let your kid play Angry Birds and only Angry Birds.