iPads are great for kids, thanks to the huge selection of games, educational apps, and creative tools they can use to entertain themselves and learn at the same time. But with several models in the current line-up, which one is the best option for parents who want to bestow upon their child the finest tablet around? Here’s our handy guide to the best iPad for kids.
Be sure to also read our Best iPhone and iPad apps for kids guide to get them off to a good start.
Should I get an iPad for my child?
There's been lots of research published about how much screen time our kids should be allowed. 'Perfect' parents might be able to claim that their kids haven't been exposed to screens before the age of 10, or whatever, but frankly in a world where everything is dominated by technology we think that we owe it to our kids to make sure they are comfortable in that world, hence the introduction of an iPad being good for their education.
That said, just sticking them in front of an iPad rather than interacting with them probably isn't great: Kids YouTube shouldn't really be babysitting your kids for hours on end, but if it allows you a few minutes of peace to make dinner then fair enough.
With that out of the way, there are many reasons why you should be confident about getting an iPad for your kids to use. There are, after all, many other tablets on the market, many of which are cheaper than the iPad. So, if you are looking for some reassurance on is whether the iPad is the best option for your child, read on for some reasons why the iPad is a popular choice for your family.
- The App Store is full of great apps designed specifically for kids.
- Many of those apps will be ideal for school children of various ages, or even toddlers.
- There is an ecosystem of great accessories designed to work with the iPad.
- Apple’s iOS is more stable, easy to use - especially if you already have an iPhone. And the bonus is your iPhone apps will be available on your iPad too and vice versa.
If you have older children, then take a look at our guide to the Best iPads for students for inspiration.
What iPads are there to choose from?
At the time of writing, Apple offers four categories of iPad, which are as follows;
Best overall – iPad Mini (2019)
- Pros: Lightweight, powerful, Apple Pencil support (1st Gen)
- Cons: Smaller screen, no Smart Keyboard support
While the iPad Mini (2019) might be the smallest member of the family, don’t let that fool you. Inside is the almost identical hardware as the iPad Air, making it a swift device that should happily cope with several years of use. Apple includes its A12 Bionic processor, which is not only the same as the Air but also the one that premiered in the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max.
The 7.9in display is big enough to enjoy movies, games, and reading, while the only area it might seem cramped is if your child intends to use it for writing school reports or putting together presentations. Even then, with a Bluetooth keyboard it can still deliver a quality experience thanks to its 2048x1536 resolution and high 326 pixels per inch ratio, plus it also boasts a fully laminated screen and Apple’s True Tone technology to make the display easier on the eyes.
Its diminutive size makes popping it into a school bag or backpack very easy and the 300g weight ensures it is the lightest iPad currently available. Cameras offer HD video recordings and support for Slo-Mo at 720p with 240fps; great for keeping the little ones entertained and even launching the odd YouTube career or two.
The entry-level WiFi model costs £399/$399 for 64GB, which should be enough for most kids, but if you want more then there’s also the 256GB version for £549/$549. This might seem expensive when compared to the iPad 9.7in model we’ll cover next, but with the Mini you’re getting a much better processor, display, and a few more years of iOS updates.
With the money you’ll save compared to the iPad Air you can also buy an Apple Pencil (1st Gen), as the Mini is compatible with that as well.
Read our full iPad Mini (2019) review
Best all-rounder - iPad Air
- Pros: Large screen, fast, Smart Keyboard compatible
- Cons: More expensive than iPad mini and 10.2in iPad
If you want a bigger screen then the iPad mini offers, then the iPad Air (2019) is a fantastic choice. The 10.5in display runs at a resolution of 2224x1688 (264ppi), features True Tone technology, Wide colour display (P3), is fully laminated and generally looks gorgeous. You can use the first-generation Apple Pencil too, which can turn this fine device into an artist’s sketchbook in one fell swoop.
Internally it has the same specs as the iPad Mini (2019), with Apple’s A12 Bionic processor and up to 256GB of storage. It goes one better than it’s diminutive sibling by also offering a smart connector that enables the use of Apple’s Smart Keyboard.
It’s an excellent device and would make anyone looking for an iPad happy. So, why isn’t it top of the list? Well, it’s a simple matter of finances - plus the fact that most kids are small, so a smaller iPad is probably more comfortable for them to hold.
The iPad Air starts at £479/$479 for the 64GB version and goes up to £629/$629 for 256GB. Add an extra £120/$120 if you want the cellular option and things start to get pricey. Remember there’s no Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard in the box, so it’s just the iPad itself you’ll be getting.
Compare that to the iPad Mini (2019) and you’ll be saving £80/$80 by opting for the smaller screen, but getting essentially the same device, which is enough for a good case or the Apple Pencil.
Read our full iPad Air (2019) review
Best budget – iPad 10.2in (2019)
- Pros: Inexpensive, Apple Pencil Support (1st Gen)
- Cons: Lower quality screen than other models, less storage on base model
When it comes to value for money the iPad 10.2in (2019) is the cheapest iPad, but not necessarily the best value. For a little over £300/$300 you get a 9.7in display, the same processors as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, with support for the first-generation Apple Pencil. It’s quite a package and one that would have topped the list if not for the arrival of the iPad Mini (2019).
Where it slips slightly is in the display, which is still perfectly acceptable and usable, but is less sharp than either the iPad Mini or Air. It’s also non-laminated, meaning there’s a small air gap between the glass and the digitiser beneath. In all honestly, this makes little difference to the device, but it is there. Kids shouldn't notice the difference if you simply need the cheapest iPad.
Starting at £349/$329 it looks a bargain, but that’s for the 32GB version which is just too small in 2019. Instead we’d recommend the 128GB version for £449/$429, at which point you might as well get the 64GB iPad Mini for £399/$399.
Read our iPad 9.7 (2018) review (the specs are the same as the 10.2in model)
Best for performance - iPad Pro
- Pros: Incredibly powerful, bang-up-to-date design
- Cons: Incredibly expensive, no headphone jack
Are you crazy? What kid needs an iPad Pro? While these are beautiful devices that offer the most powerful experience ever found in a tablet, they are complete overkill for most people, let alone children. Starting at £769/$769 for the 11in 64GB model and going up from there, they really are premium devices aimed more at those who want to supplant their laptop with an iPad.
Perhaps more importantly, they don’t come with headphone jacks, so plugging in earbuds while little Jimmy watches the same Peppa Pig episode for the 1,000th time isn’t an option unless you go down the dongle route which Apple has embraced so passionately, or wireless headphones which will no doubt run out of power at the wrong moment.
iPad Pros are amazing, but probably best saved for spoiling yourself rather than your child.