My husband, G, and I debated a lot before purchasing a tablet for our daughter, L, last Christmas. She was only two and we were a bit concerned about encouraging screen-time.
I read up on the various different options available but we decided to go for the ‘kindle fire for kids’ as it seemed to offer the most control over what she could access.
I was very apprehensive, but it has been one of the best things that we’ve ever got for her and I will definitely be getting one for baby J when he is older.
Please read on for my ‘kindle fire for kids‘ review and to find out why I’m now such a fan!
Why allow screen-time?
I’m a big believer in kids playing outside, I think it’s so important that they have a chance to get out in the fresh air. I also think using their imaginations and learning to entertain themselves is crucial – L is at a really great age where she is having fun acting things out with her toys. I love to watch her play and it gives me a great insight in to what she’s thinking!
I was worried that giving her a tablet would distract her from ‘proper’ playing. However, L isn’t yet at the stage where she will play independently for a long time, her limit is about twenty minutes or so and then she wants someone to play with. Normally this is fine, I love playing with her and I try to invite friends over when I can, but sometimes I just need to get things done!
L was watching TV for about an hour on weeknights and a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, whilst G and I did chores, made meals or (on the occasions when she suddenly decided to get up at 5am) dozed on the couch. Despite my best efforts to encourage her to watch more educational shows, her favourites were things like ‘Paw Patrol’ and ‘Peppa Pig’.
These shows are fine and I didn’t mind her watching them, but I felt like she was spending too long watching rubbish and it couldn’t be doing her much good.
So I started looking in to tablets as a way to encourage her to do something other than just stare blankly at a screen. If we were going to have some screen-time then I wanted it to be a better sort of screen-time!
Why the ‘kindle fire for kids’? Safety first!
The most important thing to me was safety and I couldn’t find another tablet that matched the ‘kindle fire for kids’ in this area. L occasionally used my i-pad, but I was paranoid about her inadvertently accessing something that wasn’t appropriate (or breaking it!) so I felt that I had to be looking over her shoulder all the time.
The ‘kindle fire for kids’ is the only tablet that I’ve come across that I’m completely confident to let L use unsupervised, due to its extensive parental controls.
L’s profile on her ‘kindle fire for kids‘ is set so that she has no access to the Internet, purchases, Alexa, e-mail, contacts, camera or social sharing. I have also disabled location sharing on her tablet.
You can also choose to disable access to Amazon video streaming, but I haven’t as I’ve set up an age filter, so she can only access videos suitable for her age range.
The ‘Fire for kids unlimited‘ subscription (your first year is free when you purchase the kindle fire) allows you to set an age range for content your child can view. It’s a simple slider between age 2 and 13+. I currently have L’s set to 3-5 and will change it as she grows, so she doesn’t access anything inappropriate for her age but equally doesn’t get frustrated with being presented with ‘baby’ content that she’s outgrown.
Between this and disabling the web browser and purchases, I can’t see how she could access anything I don’t want her to. She’s been using her ‘kindle fire for kids’ regularly for six months now and I’ve never seen anything appear on it that I’m not happy with.
I initially had it set so she couldn’t download any content from Amazon herself (she can see everything available in ‘Fire for Kids Unlimited’ that falls within her age category) so I had to approve every app or book she wanted to access. I’ve since removed this as I’m confident in the age filter, but it can provide an extra layer of protection if you want to use it.
Avoiding excessive screen-time
Another feature that I love in the ‘kindle fire for kids’ is the ability to set limits on its use. You can set a ‘bedtime’ so it knows when to turn off by and when to stay off until, meaning that I know she’s not playing it in the middle of the night and there’s no issue trying to get her off it at dinner-time.
It even allows a different bedtime and getting-up time to be set for weekday/weekend use so I don’t need to alter it depending on the day of the week.
It’s also easy to set either a total screen time limit or a limit for specific activities, for example I’ve limited L to thirty minutes a day of watching videos but she can read as many books on it as she wants to.
She knows how long she is allowed to play on it each day so she is learning to self-regulate, playing less in the morning so she can play a bit in the evening.
Encouraging ‘good’ screen-time
My absolute favourite thing about the ‘kindle fire for kids’ is the ability to set educational goals and to block access to ‘fun-only’ content until they’re achieved.
We have downloaded some absolutely brilliant educational apps which L loves and this feature encourages her to play them, rather than get distracted by the fun but pointless ones. When she first turns her ‘kindle fire for kids‘ on each day it only displays content that has an educational component and only once she has reached the ‘goal’ I’ve set (e.g. 30 minutes) does the ‘entertainment only’ content reappear.
Interestingly, often after it has reappeared L is too caught up playing the apps with an educational component to notice!
We haven’t really used it for reading books much, as I want her to learn to read ‘proper’ books first but Kindle has a huge selection so there should be plenty of choice for kids of all ages!
The case is unbreakable
Giving a kid a tablet feels a bit like asking for trouble, but the case the kids’ edition comes with is sturdy and, as far as I can tell, very difficult to break. L’s has been knocked off tables, dropped down the stairs and has fallen out when the car door was opened and so far it’s unmarked!
It will grow with your child
L obviously is a long way from outgrowing her ‘kindle fire for kids’, but if your child is older then you will still get plenty of use out of it. You can extend the age-range up to ’13+’ and once your child passes that, simply remove the kids case and cancel your subscription to ‘Fire for kids unlimited’ and it’s a normal kindle-fire.
Is it worth it?
If you’ve read my previous post then you know that I had a really tough pregnancy and as a result L had more screen-time than normal. I feel guilty about that, but it doesn’t seem to have done her much harm. Thanks to the incredible educational apps on offer, she has learned to recognise and trace the numbers 1-20, progressed with her phonics and is learning to write the letters of the alphabet.
I doubt that she would have learned all of that from simply watching TV! If you don’t want your kid to have any screen-time then that’s fair enough, it’s not necessary and you can teach them all they need to know yourself. However, if they’re going to have screen-time anyway, then I think the ‘kindle fire for kids’ is worth the investment. At least you know they’re using their tablet safely and you can help them to get the most out of their screen-time.
I hope that you found my ‘kindle fire for kids’ review helpful. Please leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts, any other tablets you’d recommend and whether you’ll let your kids get a kindle-fire!
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