The best iPads for kids are versatile enough to keep up with a child's imagination and affordable enough that repairing or replacing one won't wreck your budget. Finding the right one for your needs can be tricky because every kid is different, and there's more iPads to choose from than ever.
Once upon a time, if you wanted an Apple tablet you bought the iPad, in whatever color and storage allotment looked good to you. But these days there's a smorgasbord of iPad models available, from the pint-sized iPad mini to the svelte iPad Air.
We've outlined the differences between the different types of iPad in our dedicated Which iPad should you buy? iPad vs. iPad mini vs. iPad Air vs. iPad Pro guide, but what if you're looking to buy specifically for a child?
Well, the 2021 iPad and iPad mini are two of the latest additions to this list, and we really love the former as a kid's first iPad because it's the cheapest iPad you can buy, yet still delivers the full iPad experience.
With that in mind, here's our roundup of the best iPads you can buy for kids right now, based on our hands-on testing and reviews of all the latest models.
The best iPads for kids you can buy today
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The 9th Gen iPad 2021 offers minor but meaningful improvements over its predecessors, and despite being the cheapest iPad it's just as well-built and versatile as its pricier siblings. The iPad 2021 offers a great screen, good sound and battery life, and even faster performance than before. If the kid you're buying this for participates in a lot of video calls, you'll be impressed by how much clearer they look on this iPad vs the previous models, as Apple's upgraded the 1.2MP front-facing camera to a 12MP sensor. And that lens is smarter than ever thanks to Center Stage, Apple's new trick to keep you in the frame when you move around on video calls.
The iPad 2021's A13 Bionic chip delivers excellent performance, which is great since iPadOS 15 is getting smarter and features like LiveText (which lets you copy and paste text out of images) are improved with a faster processor. Aside from that, the new iPad is very similar to the previous model, meaning it doesn't support the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil or Apple's Magic Keyboard, and it still charges via Lightning cable. However, it's also the only iPad to still sport a wired headphone jack, which gives a child the option of plugging in a pair of headphones for private listening — and that sounds ideal for long plane trips or car rides.
Read our full iPad 2021 review.
The iPad mini 2021 offers the full iPad experience in a lightweight, portable design that's small enough to fit comfortably in even the tiniest hands. Unlike the base iPad, the iPad mini 2021 sports the thin bezels and flat-edged design of the iPad Air, and it also offers support for the second gen Apple Pencil. Plus, its A15 Bionic processor is remarkably fast and its battery life is shockingly good for a tablet this small.
But, yes, we like the iPad mini 6 most for its size. Even young kids should have no trouble holding and carrying it around, but the screen is still big enough and bright enough to let you comfortably watch videos or read books. However, if you're buying an iPad so a kid can get some schoolwork done, you might want to consider a different model — none of Apple's detachable iPad keyboards are compatible with the iPad mini 6, so if you want a more comfortable typing experience than tapping on the on-screen keyboard you'll have to dive into the world of third-party Bluetooth keyboards. Plus, Best Buy just knocked $100 off all iPad mini 6 tablets.
Read our full Apple iPad mini 6 (2021) review.
Apple's Pad Air 2022 is basically an upgraded version of the base iPad that's more ideal for consuming and creating content, and its $599 starting price might be worth it if you want to give a child a premium tablet that you can trust them to take care of for years to come.
Thanks to the addition of Apple's M1 chip, the iPad Air 2022 is almost on par with the iPad Pro. That isn't to say the Air is now a Pro replacement, but the gap in power is considerably smaller. This, along with its relatively affordable starting price, could make this new iPad Air more compelling than the iPad Pro for budget-minded shoppers who still want the best iPad their money can buy.
Overall, the latest iPad Air is an almost perfect tablet. While there's still some room for improvement, it's hard to put this sleek, powerful slate down. This is arguably the best tablet for most families, if you want something a bit better than the base iPad.
See our full iPad Air (2022) review.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 may have the bigger, brighter screen, but with a starting price of $1,099 its far too expensive to recommend buying for any but the oldest and most responsible kids. The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 is still expensive ($799), but its a reasonable iPad to give an older kid who can be trusted to use it for creative work without abusing (or losing) it.
It's worth the money, too, with a gorgeous screen and epic battery life (13 hours) as well as all the power of Apple's remarkable M1 chip, which is powerful enough to handle even the most demanding video and image editing apps.
The 11-inch iPad Pro 2021 is a great gift for kids who want to practice their digital art and video editing skills, but it also excels as an entertainment device. Its bright and colorful display is sharp, its four speakers provide much larger sound than you might expect from such a thin device, and if you're willing to pay extra the amazing (and optional) Magic Keyboard offers the simplest, smoothest iPad typing experience ever, making this a great device for typing up notes and papers.
Read our full iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review.
How to choose the best iPad for your kid
Still unsure which iPad is right for the kid(s) in question? Here are some important things to consider.
Screen size: Apple sells iPads in a variety of screen sizes ranging from 8 to 11 inches. If you expect your kid to be watching a lot of videos or playing games mostly at home, you'll want one of the larger models like the base iPad 2021 or the iPad Air. But if the kid in question will be toting the iPad around a fair bit, or has smaller hands, consider the iPad mini 6 — it has a screen that's just as good as its bigger siblings, but it's a bit smaller and easier to hold.
Budget: You can spend anywhere between $330 - $800+ on an iPad for kids, or more if you splurge on extras like an Apple Pencil or Magic Keyboard. If you can afford the higher end of that spectrum, the $599 iPad Air or the $799 iPad Pro 11-inch are excellent tablets that will serve an older child well for years. If you have a smaller budget or don't want to trust a younger kid with such an expensive tablet, the base iPad ($329, or $299 with educator's discount) is a better choice because it offers all the capabilities of an iPad without the higher price tag of its siblings.
Age: How old is the kid you're buying this iPad for? Obviously if it's for you and your family, buy whatever you like, but if you're getting a tablet for a specific child, we recommend you don't shell out for the high-end options unless the lucky kid you're giving it to can be trusted not to break or lose a $500+ tablet. The entry-level iPad 2021 is plenty good enough for kids ages 5-12, though if you want something smaller the iPad mini 2021 is also quite good — though it does cost $499. If this is for an older kid who can be trusted with an expensive device, the $599 iPad Air and $799 iPad Pro 11-inch should serve them well for years.
How we test iPads
First, we run as many benchmarks as that iPad will allow, to see how fast they are in ways that can be compared directly against competitors. We then use colorimeters and light meters to measure how colorful and bright these tablets’ screens can get. After that, we put them through our in-house battery test, which times how long it takes — while surfing the web with brightness at 150 nits — to drain a tablet of a charge.
After that, we do the same things you do — browse the web, watch YouTube, play games, compose emails — and then a lot more. We try and write some (or all) of our tablet reviews on the tablets we're testing, on an attachable keyboard if possible.
For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.