The New Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition Tablet, Tested by 3 Tech-Savvy Toddlers (& 1 Mom Who Needs a Break)
- Value: 17/20
- Functionality: 19/20
- Ease of Use: 16/20
- Aesthetics: 17/20
- Ability to Entertain/Educate Kids: 19/20
- TOTAL: 88/100
For months, I resisted. Even when a friend would cheerily suggest that I’d get so much more done in a day if I gave in. Or when my mom would insist that there’s “so much a kid can learn from those things.” My own mom was pro-kids’ tablet! Why couldn’t I get on board? But all I could picture was my daughter’s neck craned over a screen like a wilted poppy, eyes transfixed on the warm glow of Cocomelon, Blippi or the 25 other YouTube channels she begs to watch daily. We’ve heard all of the warnings about limiting screen time, and after 90-plus days spent homeschooling, crafternooning and trying to get work done while my daughter crawled up my body, I remembered a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou: “Moderation in all things. And even moderation in moderation.” I was ready to test out Amazon’s new Fire HB 8 Kids Edition tablet—and I have absolutely zero mom guilt about it.
It Comes Fully Loaded.
At $139, it’s cheaper than an iPad and most new smartphones (which, if I’m being totally honest, my daughter was already filching from me daily to get in her regular doses of Sesame Street). What really got me, though, was that the tablet is housed in a thick, squishy protective case, comes with a two-year guarantee that they’ll return it if it breaks and—best of all—one year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited. It gives you full access to more than 20,000 games, books, videos and apps—many of which are genuinely educational!—that have been vetted by Amazon to ensure they’re kid-friendly.
If you’ve ever attempted to download an app for your kids, you know how frustratingly common it is to get hit with all kinds of in-app purchase requests or hidden upcharges (oh, that alphabet-learning app lets you trace the letter “A” for free—want the other 25? That’ll be $6.). It was like gaining access to a whole new library, which has been particularly helpful while actual libraries have been closed. Once the year is up, that service will set you back $2.99 a month, which…worth it, considering I was ready to drop $6 on a single app.
It’s Easy to Limit Screen Time.
The parental controls allow you to set a total amount of screen time per day—and once that time is allotted, the tablet shuts down—restrict the screen time by category (say, 30 minutes a day of apps and games but 2 hours for reading), or set a bedtime, when the app goes to “sleep” until the next morning, at a time you set. It made it easier to set and enforce boundaries.
It’s Intuitive—for Kids, Anyway.
The Fire 8 Kids Edition was quickly stress-tested by my daughter and my niece and nephew. (My daughter’s a bit young for the tablet, so I decided to extend the testing pool to three participants for science…and for my sister’s sanity.) At three and four years old, my niece and nephew took to the device quickly, immediately opening and following along with their favorite Peppa Pig and Daniel Tiger stories. They showed me how to download drawing and puzzle apps, including how to save them for offline use. To be honest, it was a blessing and curse they couldn’t figure out the parental controls, because at first, I accidentally set “bed time” to 8 a.m. instead of 8 p.m. and spent a solid 15 minutes trying to figure out how to undo it. I’m positive they could’ve figured that out faster.
It Passes the Drop (and Slobber) Test.
Within, oh, hours of unboxing, the tablet endured its first fall. Then another. Then a tug-of-war, only to be followed up with my daughter squeezing the rubbery edge of the tablet, smiling, and promptly chomping into it like it was a ketchup-covered chicken nugget. (To be fair, the case is roughly the same texture as a dino nugget.) The tablet didn’t crack, the case didn’t tear—or even show signs of teeth marks, despite my little Vampirina’s valiant efforts.
It’s Stealthily Educational.
My biggest concern about succumbing to a kids’ tablet was that my daughter and her cousins would become addicted to staring off into mindless shows, but I guess Dr. Angelou was right—even if she never meant for her quote to be interpreted quite as I have. When given the choice, all three kids wanted to play Sesame Street Art Maker (essentially, a painting app without the mess of an actual paint set), practice their ABCs with Elmo or explore Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (which is a lot like playing with a dollhouse, minus me tripping on discarded tiny desks and beds and dolls hours afterward). They’d play for a solid 20 to 25 minutes, then move on to something else—no kicking, screaming or fighting for more time—giving their parents the chance to fold laundry, make dinner or even, dare I say it, hold an uninterrupted conversation. The tablet doesn’t take the place of actually painting or going for a walk through the neighborhood or playing pretend, but it has been a nice new creative outlet. And a respite for this weary parent.