Best tablets for kids: LeapFrog LeapPad, Arnova ChildPad, Fisher Price iPad case

22 Feb 2013

We round-up a handful of tablet devices aimed at young children, including the LeapFrog LeapPad, Arnova ChildPad, and the Fisher Price iPad case

LeapFrog LeapPad

LeapPad

The LeapPad was one of the most in-demand toys of Christmas 2011, and its successor, the LeapPad 2, inevitably builds on that. From the start, it’s very clear that the manufacturer knows its audience. As this isn’t an iOS or Android device, LeapFrog has full control over what it allows its users to do.

It’s packaged in a bright case, with mounted controls, and it will run off AA batteries (it chews through them surprisingly quickly). There’s a built-in camera on the LeapPad, with a pair of them on the LeapPad 2. The price is modest – now under £50 for the first-generation device. There are also excellent educational programs available for the LeapPad range, which you purchase via an app download or a cartridge.

The sting is the cost of that software. Cartridges retail for £20 apiece, with apps from £3.50 to much more than £10. You may save money on the hardware, but if you’re planning on using a tablet in the long term, LeapFrog stands a sporting chance of parting you from much more money than that £50. That said, it’s one of the few devices designed from the ground up with very young children in mind, and it ties hardware and software together particularly well as a welcome consequence of that.

Arnova ChildPad

ChildPad

Selling for just under £100 and preloaded with Android 4, the Arnova ChildPad announces itself as a "tablet for kids" on the front of its fairly basic box. Its specification isn’t much to get excited about – a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage – but the software it’s looking to run is relatively modest too.

We had a mixed experience with the ChildPad. Setting it up for the first time, it’s clear that it’s little more than a standard Android tablet with some brightly coloured backgrounds and bundled apps to appeal to its intended audience. Be aware that the home button is active, and the Google logo at the top brings up a web-facing search screen; no attempt has been made to lock down the device.

The apps are middling. A picture-matching game kept our four-year-old volunteer content, although it kept crashing. Further titles were keen to direct us to the app’s Facebook page, or try to sell additional content. A free cartoon was bundled, too, although we suspect the star attraction – and the product boasts this on the box – is the inclusion of Angry Birds.

The ChildPad isn’t terrible. The biggest problem, outside of the low-quality screen, is the navigation buttons being permanently onscreen and active. Our young volunteer frequently found herself looking at puzzling menus when she just wanted to sort her pictures. Furthermore, selling something as a tablet for kids when it still needs work from the parent to make it child-friendly is a questionable approach.

The Fisher Price iPad option

FisherPrice Apptivity Case

There’s an element of "if you can’t beat ’em...", but accepting that many parents have resigned themselves to their youngsters using their iPad, Fisher Price has targeted them with a cunning product. Entitled the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case, it both protects an iPad, and, through use of suitably garish colours, makes it even more attractive to a toddler.

There’s a range of free apps, and they’re recommended for users six months and older. Apple will be pleased...

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