iPads are one of the most user-friendly devices you can buy. Kids take to them like ducks to water and they are a great way to let them take their first steps with technology. Also, they can be fantastic tools for learning as well as having fun. 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 challenge at the moment though, as there are plenty of models in the current catalog, all with their unique charms. Fear not, we’re here to help make things clearer with a quick guide on the best kinds of iPads for younger users.
Be sure to also read our best iPhone and iPad apps for kids guide to get them off to a good start, plus we also have a roundup of the best iPhone for kids.
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. Some parents might argue that kids shouldn’t be exposed to screens at such a young age, 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 environment, hence the introduction of an iPad is good for their education.
That said, just sticking them in front of an iPad rather than interacting with them probably isn’t great: Disney+ 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, most 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 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:
The standard iPad currently has two offerings – the 10.2-inch 9th Generation and 10.9-inch 10th Generation – while the iPad Pro is available in two sizes: 11-inch and 12.9-inch. 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 potentially different argument, 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 savings, check out our round-up of the best iPad deals you can get on the whole range of iPads here: The best iPad deals.
Is 64GB enough?
We recommend that you get as much storage as you can afford with this iPad – although 512GB would probably be excessive. If you want the kids to be able to watch downloaded movies, listen to music and access other content when you are in the car, for example, then you will want plenty of space for that. If you don’t mind having a bit of a clear out from time to time 64GB might be enough, but anything less that that (which you might find if you are looking at refurbished models) certainly wouldn’t be.
This is a particularly important consideration if you are buying a refurbished or used iPad. It’s been a long time since Apple sold any iPads with less than 64GB storage, but there are plenty of iPads with 32GB or even a paltry 16GB available in the second-hand market. We strongly advise that you do not consider a second hand iPad unless it has more than 64GB storage, any less will not be adequate.
For more advice regarding buying a used or refurbished iPad read: Why a refurbished iPad could be the best tablet for you.
Do I need cellular?
If you want to add cellular capabilities to the iPhone then those are available, although we recommend that when you are outside the house you hotspot from your own iPhone rather than spend money on a contract for your child.
Best iPad for kids and toddlers
Here’s our advice on which iPad to choose when buying for a child.
iPad (9th-gen, 2021) – Best iPad for kids
- 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 the recently introduced iPad 10.9-inch (10th-gen), but we can’t see many kids complaining about the panel in the iPad as it’s bright, colorful, 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.
It’s true that Apple has released a newer iPad, in the form of the iPad 10.9-inch (10th-gen), but the higher price of that (especially outside the US) means that the 9th-Gen remains our top pick for little ones.
Read our roundup of the best iPad 10.2 deals.
iPad mini (2021) – Best for small hands
- Apple Pencil support (2nd Gen)
- More expensive than the 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 in 2021, 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 8.3-inch 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 2nd-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 colors 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: $499/£569
- iPad mini (2021, Wi-Fi) 256GB: $649/£749
Check our guide to the best iPad mini deals to see if you can get one for a lower price.
iPad 10.9-inch (2022) – Best for older Kids
- New buttonless design
- 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display
- A14 Bionic processor
- USB-C port
- Various colors
- Higher price (especially outside U.S.)
- Only supports Apple Pencil (Gen 1)
- 64GB of storage might be too small
Apple has recently given its standard iPad a makeover, replacing the classic Home button design with the mini/Air approach of gesture-based controls. There is still Touch ID available, but now you’ll find the sensor embedded in the power button on the top edge. This means there’s more space for the display, which increases from the 10.2-inch panel in the 9th generation iPad to 10.9-inch in this 10th generation model.
As with the previous standard iPad models, the display isn’t laminated, meaning there is a slight air gap between the glass and the display beneath. This is a minor thing and probably won’t even be something you notice, unless you use an Apple Pencil often, in which case you’ll probably experience a slight lag as you write. It’s all good though, and after no time at all, you’ll be able to incorporate that into your technique and scribble away with the best of them. One thing to note (pardon the pun), is that this model only supports the 1st generation Apple Pencil and requires a $9/£9 adapter to recharge it, unless you buy a brand new one (as Apple includes the adapter in the box).
Apple fits the new iPad with an A14 Bionic processor, which is the same tech that powers the iPhone 12 range (including the Pros), so there’s plenty of performance on tap for playing games, streaming content, and running educational apps. Another notable feature is the inclusion of a USB-C port rather than Lightning. This opens up a world of peripherals that you can use with the iPad, and you can even connect it to a compatible monitor if your child needs a desktop-style experience.
Of course, you can always pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to create the perfect, compact laptop for homework and any creative endeavors your child wants to try.
The only reason that we haven’t put this top of the list is the price rise that Apple applied when updating from the 9th Generation iPad, which is presumably why it left the older model in its catalog.
As with the other iPads on this list, you might want to consider opting for the 256GB storage variants, as 64GB can fill up pretty quickly if you’re downloading games, large apps, or TV/movie content. Apple also offers a bespoke two-part keyboard case called the Magic Keyboard Folio, which is nice but costs a whopping $249/£279, so we’d advise looking for cheaper (and often just as good) third-party products instead.
The iPad comes in four lovely colors (Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Silver), so your child can pick one that reflects their personality or just the one with the hues they like the most.
Check our guide to the best iPad 10th gen deals to see if you can get one for a lower price.
iPad Air (2022) – Best for performance
- Large screen
- Modern design
- Various colors
- Not cheap
- No headphone jack
Launched in March 2022, the iPad Air features a fantastic design, with a 10.9in Liquid Retina display, several color options for the chassis, and 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, and 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 the Air supports pretty much all of them, you won’t need to spend the pricey $299/£319 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 frame, it’s shorter and thinner than the standard iPads, plus it also tips the scales at 462g, making it a fair bit lighter too.
Be sure to read our roundup of the best iPad Air deals too, so you don’t miss out on any great offers.