Technology time has been a battle with my kids since day one. I was great about keeping them away from all things tech for their first years of life and I loosened the strings on occasion until they were 2. After their second birthdays, it became much, much harder to limit “screen time.” They became more aware of the screens around them and shows their peers enjoy (Paw Patrol, anyone?)
We tried very hard to stick to one half-hour of screen time a day, but at this point, we let them have about an hour. Usually, the kids split it before and after school. They watch one TV show snuggled in bed while we sleep-in and either another show or the iPad after school. The iPad’s educational games are good but often cost $$ that really adds up quickly when the kids begin to outgrow their favorite apps. Also, the initial outlay of a new iPad is a little overwhelming (as we learned when we bought the boys Osmo for Hannukah, only to have the iPad break immediately and need to be replaced – not an expense we were planning on during the already expensive holiday season.)
When a family member recently offered to get each of my kids a Kindle for the holidays, I decided to try it out. If only for the fact that they would each have a device for our upcoming travels and I could limit fighting over the single iPad. I was thrilled with how quickly the Kindles became the go-to device around here. I want to explain why I think every parent should have one in their educational arsenal.
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Ease of Use
Right out of the box, the kids were able to jump into their new kindles. I set up accounts for each of them with their age and gender and FreeTime takes care of the rest. With photo prompts at the ready, kids can search app, book and video recommendations. They can also click on the character search to see all the things available from their favorite characters. Based on your child’s age and gender, the app even streamlines the choices so a toddler isn’t accidentally downloading Harry Potter or your tween’s browsing experience can be Mickey Mouse free. Downloading is quick and easy and navigating between apps is a breeze for even a 3-year-old.
What sets the Kindle Fire for Kids apart from the iPad is the parental controls. First, you can essentially lock your kids into the FreeTime app giving them access to great features that are all age appropriate. My kids have stumbled on YouTube videos that are so inappropriate, but the videos on Freetime are worry free!
Additionally, there are controls that can lock your kids’ kindle during certain hours of the day. Ours are locked from bedtime until after breakfast. You can also set a time limit – 1 hour a day on weekdays, 1.5 on weekends in our house – and the Freetime app will lock your kids out. I love that either at the end of screen time or during prohibited hours, the device is the bad guy.
Further settings allow you to insist on educational activities before entertainment time. You can set reading goals and demand they meet them before having access to Fruit Ninja or the latest Lego Ninjago video.
As an aside, when your kid outgrows FreeTime OR when you want to use it as a kindle or web browser for yourself, just enter your passcode to exit the App and you have access to a regular Kindle Fire.
I’ve mentioned Freetime a few time already so let me explain how the service works. Basically, much like prime, you subscribe for a yearly (or monthly) service that gives you access to TONS of content for no additional cost. I’m still exploring but here’s what we’ve used so far:
TONS of Apps – apps that I’ve paid $5-$10 dollars for on my iPad are free on Unlimited. Think Toca Boca, Endless Reader and interactive books like Busytown Mysteries, Moo, Baa, La La La and Goodnight, Moon.
Thousands and Thousands of free books. If you are like me, you buy A LOT of kid’s books every year. With toddler and preschool aged kids, each book can cost $5-$20 bucks! But classics and favorites are free to check out and read over and over again. Pete the Cat, The Bernstein Bears, Eric Carle, Sandra Boyton, Harry Potter and National Geographic are some of the classics. You can find new favorites like Mustache Baby, Hooray for Hat, Little Blue Truck, and Sheep in a Jeep too!
Loads of videos that can be downloaded and watched offline – KEY for traveling.
Freetime Unlimited is designed for kids ages 2-12. It separates apps and books by age brackets, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12. I have one kid in each age bracket and the recommendations are totally different for each kiddo!
At $99-$129 a piece depending on storage size, the Amazon Kindle for Kids is 1/3 of the cost of an iPad. At no additional cost, it also includes a kid-proof case, a 2-year warranty and 1 year of Freetime Unlimited. The warranty isn’t a typical warranty either. If your child drops it in the toilet, spills spaghetti sauce on it or runs it over with a tricycle, don’t worry. They will still return it – no questions asked. I dropped my original iPad straight out of the box, cracked the screen and had to live with it until it died. Trust me when I tell you, this warranty is incredibly appealing. The one-year subscription to Freetime Unlimited normally costs 2.99 a month for prime members per child (4.99 for non-prime members). In yearly terms that’s $35.88 or $59.88, respectively. That price is per account, but there’s a family account as well for up to 4 kids. The price on that is $83 for prime members and $110 for non-prime members.
The biggest plus for me? No Ads and NO IN-APP Purchases! Goodbye to my days trying to explain to apple that no, I didn’t authorize the purchase of extra lives for 6.99. I’m really happy with this gift and I would recommend the Kids Kindle to anyone!