They let older children do more, yet hold their hands until they're ready for unsupervised access. Although many of the tablets were originally conceived as educational toys for kids as old as middle scholars, they've been more popular with younger children. Older kids have been apt to reject them in favour of their parents' tablet or Smartphone. That shift has prompted companies to focus more on preschoolers and kindergarteners, as they create super-durable products that can withstand repeated abuse and develop games and apps that teach reading and math. But now, some of those companies are looking to take back some of the sales to older kids that they've lost over the years, offering premium products - most with price tags of over $100 - that look and perform less like toys and more like the ones adults use. Leap Frog, maker of the toy-like Leap Pad, released its first Android tablet this year. And Kurio is branching out to Windows 10 and includes a full version of Microsoft Office in a new tablet-laptop combination.
The use of Android and Windows software, in place of the more basic, custom-made systems used in toy tablets, allows for more sophisticated apps and games and a range of content from standard app stores. But parents still want educational content and safety features that come with a tablet designed purely for kids. LeapFrog's Epic, along with the other new tablets for kids, are attempts to bridge that gap. The Epic looks like a regular Android tablet, but comes with a removable bright-green bumper. It is much faster than a Leap Pad and can run versions of popular Android games such as "Fruit Ninja" and "Doodle Jump." There's access to the Internet, but it's limited to about 10,000 kid-safe websites (though parents can add others). Parents can also limit and track how much time a child spends watching videos, playing games or reading. Lynn Schofield Clark, a professor of media studies at the University of Denver, said kids tablets are a tough sell these days. "Kids are always inspirational in their ages, and they're always interested in what older kids are doing," Clark said, pointing to the fascination that many preteens have with smart phones as a prime example. Meanwhile, most parents won't spend money on kids-only gadgets unless they believe they offer significant educational benefits.