Kids want an iPad? Make sure you pick the right one
iPads are great, especially for kids, as not only are they light and easy to use, but there’s a huge number of apps that make them impressively versatile. Whether it’s educational games, entertainment apps, using them to create art with an Apple Pencil or just something to stop them getting bored on car journeys, iPads can be a godsend.
Choosing the right one is a somewhat daunting task for a parent though, as there are a fair few models and configurations in the current catalogue. Fear not, we’re here to help make things clearer with a quick guide on the best kinds of iPads for younger users.
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, here’s a few compelling reasons:
- 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:
Each iPad come with various storage options, plus the iPad Pro is available in two sizes: 11in and 12.9in. In all honesty, we wouldn’t recommend the iPad Pros for children, as you’d just be paying quite sizeable amounts for performance and compatibility features that they just won’t need. The non-Pro range already offers plenty of scope and power for younger users, so our advice is to stick with those and ignore the Pros for now. When it comes to students though, it’s a different matter. But the good news is you can put that off for a few years and save up for the iPad Pro in the meantime.
Speaking of saving, check out our round up of the best iPad deals you can get on the whole range of iPads here: The best iPad deals.
Here’s our advice on which iPad to choose when buying for a child.
Best Overall – iPad 10.2in (2021)
- Apple Pencil Support (1st Gen)
- A13 Bionic Processor, Headphone Jack
- Lower quality screen than other models
- Older design.
Apple’s cheapest iPad received a significant upgrade in 2021, with a powerful A13 Bionic chip (the same as in the iPhone 11 range), and a new front-facing camera that supports cool features such as Centre-Stage, which keep you in the middle of the screen on video-calls even if you move around.
This makes it the easy choice for those who want to introduce their progeny to an iPad for the first time. It’s got plenty of power for games, streaming, capturing photos and videos, not to mention pretty much any app you want to throw at it. The, admittedly, older design has useful bezels that make it easy for small hands to hold onto without accidentally triggering things on the screen, plus the 10.2in size also makes it an ideal screen for watching on long car journeys. Support for Apple Pencil (1st Gen) also means your junior Picasso can create their masterpieces without leaving smudges on the furniture.
Yes, you don’t get the fancier Liquid Retina Displays like on the iPad mini or iPad Air, but we can’t see many kids complaining about the panel in the iPad as it’s bright, colourful and pleasant to use.
One thing to note, it’s now the only current iPad that features a headphone jack. So, if you don’t want to be driven insane by the high-pitched noises that often explode from child-focused content, this alone might make it worth the purchase.
The iPad comes in these storage options, priced as follows:
If you want to add cellular capabilities then those are also available:
- 64GB (cellular): £439/$459
- 256GB (cellular): £579/$609
Best Compact iPad – iPad mini (2021)
- Apple Pencil support (2nd Gen)
- More expensive than previous iPad Mini
- No Smart Keyboard Support
While the iPad mini (2021) might be the smallest member of the family, don’t let that fool you, there’s plenty of power and features packed into the diminutive frame. In fact, the previous generation mini used to top this list, but when Apple gave its little tablet a serious makeover last year not only did the specs and capabilities increase but also the price. It’s still brilliant, but not quite as much of a bargain for kids as its bigger brother.
The 8.3in Liquid Retina display is gorgeous and the surrounding bezels are now quite small as Apple has removed the Home button and instead put a Touch ID sensor in the Power button on the side.
Under the hood there’s an A15 Bionic driving things, so there’s no lack of power in this smaller iPad, ensuring the latest games and apps will absolutely fly on this device. It also has support for the second generation Apple Pencil, meaning your child can use if for doodling, creating art or note-taking at school when they get a bit older.
The compact dimensions of 195.4mm x 134.8mm x 6.3mm; 297g make it small and lightweight, which can be easier for little ones to hold. There’s also four different colours to choose from, including Purple and Pink. Oh, and there are 5G versions if you want to add a fast data connection for streaming and messaging on the go.
The iPad mini (2021) is available in these configurations:
- iPad mini (2021, Wi-Fi) 64GB: £479/$499/€559
- iPad mini (2021, Wi-Fi) 256GB: £619/$639/€729
- iPad mini (2021, Wi-Fi + Cellular) 64GB: £619/$649/€729
- iPad mini (2021, Wi-Fi + Cellular) 256GB: £759/$799/€899
Best for older kids – iPad Air (2022)
- Large screen
- Up-to-date design
- Various colours
- Not cheap
- No headphone jack
The newest iPad on this list is also the most expensive non-Pro model Apple makes. Launched in March 2022, the updated iPad Air features a fantastic design, with a 10.9in Liquid Retina display, several colour options for the chassis, and has a hugely powerful M1 chip at its heart.
In many ways, this is the iPad Pro for normal people, and as such it’s probably too much for a child, but if your young one is starting secondary school and needs a computer for homework, but you don’t want to buy an iPad as well, then this could probably act as both without any issues. Of course, you’d need to buy a Bluetooth keyboard for the full laptop transition, but as the Air supports pretty much all of them, you won’t need to blow the obscene £300/$300/€300 that Apple demands for its own Magic Keyboard.
The iPad Air (2022) comes with decent cameras that can be used for video projects or keeping in touch with friends online, plus the support for Apple Pencil (2nd Gen) opens up further creative possibilities.
It might have the biggest display, but with its 247.6mm x 178.5mm x 6.1mm dimensions it’s shorter and thinner than the standard iPad, plus it also tips the scales at 462g, making it a fair bit lighter too.
You can pick up the iPad Air in the following configurations:
- iPad Air (2022, Wi-Fi) 64GB: £569/$599/€699
- iPad Air (2022, Wi-Fi) 256GB: £719/$749/€869
- iPad Air (2022, Wi-Fi + Cellular) 64GB: £719/$749/€869
- iPad Air (2022, Wi-Fi + Cellular) 256GB: £869/$899/€1,039
Be sure to read our roundup of the best iPad Air deals too, so you don’t miss out on any great offers.
Best for performance – iPad Pro
- Incredibly powerful
- Incredibly expensive
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.
iPad Pros are amazing, but probably best saved for spoiling yourself rather than your child.