Placed in the hands of kids, the iPad can be a valuable learning tool. But with its $500 price tag and likelihood of being tossed around, drooled upon, or otherwise destroyed, the iPad probably doesn't make for the safest thing to give your budding technophile. What is a parent to do? Start by taking a look at these five alternatives to everyone's favorite handheld babysitter.
The LeapPad tablet
For a product that hasn't actually been released yet, the LeapPad tablet has a lot going for it. Capable of running over a hundred apps, games and interactive books the LeapPad is the de facto learning tablet. Kids can interact with the tablet 's five-inch screen using either their fingers or the device's stylus. The tablet also features its own camera, allowing kids to take ether video or still shots. LeapFrog also built the tablet to be durable, which any parent can appreciate.
$99, for ages 4-9. Available in late August.
Etch A Sketch Doodle Sketch
Slightly less tech-heavy is the Etch A Sketch Doodle Sketch, a product steeped in history and almost entirely kid-proof. While likely not as initially flashy to kids, the Doodle Sketch's biggest strength likely lies in its affordability, and, to be sure, replaceability in the even that it gets lost. Draw, erase, draw again. A classic formula.
Ages 3+, $6.99. Available in both pink and blue. (Fisher Price's Doodle Pro is a similar product.)
For parents eager to place an iPad in the hands of their kids, but notably less eager to give them a real iPad, Etsy inventors twigcreative have created the anaPad. One part iPad, and two parts whiteboard, the anaPad “promotes analog learning and creativity in a digital world.” Or so say its inventors. Basically, it’s a whiteboard with iOS-themed magnets. Ages 3+, $35.
The VINCI tablet
Conscious of the faint possibility that WiFi signals might actually be killing us, manufacturer Rullingnet built the tablet without a WiFi radio. It’s also non-toxic and advertising free.Encased in a durable, soft-edged chassis, and featuring a tempered glass screen cover, the Vinci is clearly built with accident-prone kids in mind.
Probably less important for (most) parents are the device’s specifications. Running Android 2.2, the Vinici features a 7-inch screen, 512MB of RAM, and a 3MP camera on its back.
Now comes the dicey matter of its price: For $389, parents can nab the less expensive version, which offers three hours of battery life. On the other hand, the $479 version of the tablet can run for 6 hours and comes equipped with a slew of pre-installed software.
Griffin LightBoard for iPad
For parents still willing to place their iPads in the hands of their young ones, Griffin has created the LightBoard, an iPad case that doubles as an art activity center. Featuring a shatter-resistant polycarbonate shell and protective screen, the case protects the iPad against all sorts of child-borne abuse. Griffin has also created a special LightBoard app, which offers a variety of coloring activities for kids to play around with. The case includes a washable marker and pre-sized drawing paper. $29.95.