The Best Smart Devices To Give Your Kids
Kids are coming of age in a totally connected world. To get by, they’ll need to know how to navigate smart devices of all kinds. Reality is getting augmented and going virtual.
But too much technology can also be scary for parents—and understandably so. The unfiltered internet can be a pretty terrible place.
To start your children (or grandchildren) off on the right foot, you need to get them the right smart devices. The best smart gear for kids is educational and entertaining, but most important, it’s safe. It has powerful parental controls that don’t allow unfettered access to the web—and it lets you know what your kids do with their device. Everything listed here prepares your children for the future, but in a secure digital environment.
The best tablets for kids
Tablets are possibly the best smart device you can get kids of pretty much any age. Their big screens are perfect for reading, playing games and watching movies, TV shows and educational videos of all stripes. They generally have cameras, so they can video call family members and other approved contacts without concern that strangers can call them.
The Apple iPad Mini is the best tablet for kids. It’s about as affordable as Apple devices get—while still giving you access to the huge catalog of entertaining and educational apps. It’s also small enough for little hands to use and carry around, and there is a great third-party ecosystem of hard-wearing cases, video game controllers and everything else you can imagine. Apple’s Family Sharing options give the adults total control over what kids can do with it, so even though it’s a tablet for everyone, it’s easy to make it safer for child use.
For younger children (ages 3 to 7), the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids is another great option. The range of apps available isn’t as good as with the iPad, but the included case, strong parental controls and very reasonable price tag are hard to argue with. For slightly older kids (ages 6 to 12), there’s also the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Pro, which looks a little less childish and gives them more control over the home screen and installed apps—and at a great price point.
While not strictly tablets, two other smart devices of a similar size and shape are worth looking at: Amazon Kindle Kids Edition and Nintendo Switch Lite. The Kindle’s e-ink screen is best for any young bookworms, while the Switch is more a fun gaming device.
The best smartwatches for kids
If you don’t want to buy your kids a smartphone just yet, a smartwatch can be a good stand-in: They still get their own super cool smart device to bring everywhere, but you have a lot more control over how they use it.
The Verizon GizmoWatch 2 is one of the best kids smartwatches out there. The GPS tracking means you always know where your child is, and the two-way calling with a trusted list of contacts enables you (or, say, whoever is picking them up from school) to stay in touch.
The VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX2 is all about the kids. It’s got loads of fun watch faces, a built-in camera and some entertaining and educational games for them to play. It can’t connect to the internet, so you know they’ll stay safe, but it also means you can’t contact them or see where they are.
The best smart speakers for kids
Any smart speaker in your house should be pretty kid-safe, but there’s still a dedicated option if you want to make a smart kid’s bedroom: the Amazon Echo Dot Kids.
This Echo smart speaker comes in two fetching designs: a tiger and a panda. It also has stricter parental controls, but your kids will be able to use it to listen to music and audiobooks, control any smart lights and other smart home devices, ask it questions to help with homework and even play games. It also connects to the Echo Glow smart lamp, if you want to go all in on a smart home.
The best smart toys for kids
Smart toys are a great way to teach your kids about technology.
The Lego Coding for Kids line, for example, has them build a robot and then develop the software to control it. It’s perfect for older kids and teens that are interested in computers.
There’s also the Lego Hidden Side line that combines a traditional Lego set with an augmented reality (AR) app—so they can hunt ghosts. Honestly, it’s hard not to be incredibly jealous this wasn’t a thing 25 years ago.
And Lego isn’t the only company making these kinds of toys. Sphero makes some of the best smart toys for kids of all ages. The Specdrum ring is perfect for any child who’s into music, while the Mini Soccer is sure to be a hit with sports fans.
The best smartphones for kids
The best smartphone for your kids is whatever device you’re comfortable with them having. Dedicated smartphones for kids just aren’t very good, so you’re better off giving them a smartphone you know how to use and implement parental controls on it. If you have an old iPhone or Android smartphone you aren’t using, it can work well.
However, if you aren’t completely sold on giving your child a smartphone, there are some great alternatives.
The iPod Touch is an iPhone without the phone. Your children can use all the same great apps while you get the benefits of Apple’s great parental controls—without worrying about data charges.
The Jiobit Location Monitor is a GPS tracker. It clips onto your child’s clothes or bag and keeps you up to date on where they are—and shows you where they’ve been. You can even set it up to alert you if they go beyond a set area.
Finally, if you want to be able to call and check in with your kids as well as see where they are, you should check out Relay. It’s a screen-free, push-to-talk cellphone. Think of it like a walkie-talkie they can carry around that you can call from an app on your phone.
Product features and availability may have changed and are subject to change.