Oct. 13, 2011 -- Come on, you know you've done it. Handed that uber-expensive iPad off to your toddler, in exchange for just a few minutes of peace and quiet. Except to your kids, that expensive tablet is just a toy, made to be dropped and banged around a little while those awesome apps are being played.
It may be time to get them a tablet of their own. Here are some tablets made just for kids, designed to hold up to the toughest tyke, while still entertaining and educating.
Leapfrog's LeapPad Explorer w/ Camera $99
When your kids are old enough to want a tablet of their own, but way too young to walk around with yours, or you're just not into sharing your $500 iPad, there's the LeapPad Explorer.
It's a 5-inch tablet in kid-friendly green or pink, with a color touch screen, a built-in camera, microphone, stylus and 2GB of onboard storage. Kids ages 4-9 will have hours of fun reading e-books, or having them read aloud to them, watching videos, creating artwork, or playing educational games.
The tablet takes full advantage of the accelerometer for games like Roly Poly Picnic, in which you tilt the screen left and right to navigate a maze and spell out a word. The games automatically adjust to a child's grade level. There are over 100 games, digital books and apps available for download for $5-25, and the unit will work with games developed for Leapster Explorer.
Parents can follow their child's progress by connecting the LeapPad to the computer and seeing where extra help might be needed.
VTech InnoTab 4-9 $79
For those with Kidizoom cameras or other VTech products, the VTech InnoTab is a great choice for a kid tablet. It's loaded with apps, games, videos and books, and you can watch videos or look at pictures from the Kidizoom camera on your tablet.
The interactive E-Reader lets you choose whether to read books, have them read to you, or simply click on individual words to hear them read. Games use the built-in accelerometer to teach math and letters and the art studio lets you paint, draw or color with your fingers or the included stylus.
The screen is a 5-inch color LCD surrounded by kid-tough plastic, so its rugged enough to last a few years. The tablet comes pre-loaded with some apps, and others can be purchased online, or game cartridges can be bought for $25.
This may save your patience and sanity during long car rides, and let you keep your tablet for looking up restaurants and directions, but I'd recommend a pair of headphones to plug in … the game music can get very annoying.
Vinci Tablet $389
The Vinci Tablet moves away from the kid toy look and delivers a real tablet with educational content. It runs on the Android 2.2 OS, something parents might be familiar with, has a 7-inch screen, 512 MB of RAM and a real camera -- a 3MP camera in back.
It's encased in a soft non-toxic, rugged casing, and there's no WiFi, just in case those health hazard rumors are true.
All this for a kid? Yes, say Vinci's developers. In fact, it comes pre-loaded with educational games, videos, music and animated storybooks, designed by the founder, who happens to be a mom as well. She says just like play time, there should be learning time, and instead of passively watching a screen, a child using Vinci is exploring and intuitively learning.
The screen is beautiful and there is a lot of interaction in story books like The Ugly Duckling.
The lullabies feature crisp, sharp images that flow with the music.
The cost for all this learning is more in line with a grown-up tablet than the competition's. The Vinci starts at $389, with a $479 version that offers double the battery life and comes pre-loaded with more content.
Crayola ColorStudio HD $29.99
If you do decide to share your iPad with your kids, here's an app that's perfect for some family creativity time:
The thought of letting your kids draw on your tablet? No way! But with Crayola ColorStudio they can because they're using a virtual stylus. So this may be the one time you can let them use your tablet and not worry.
The free app puts over 100 Crayola crayon colors literally at your fingertips, with tools like markers, pencils and paintbrushes. Works with the Crayola iMarker to make virtual coloring book masterpieces. There are new pictures available through app store updates. Proud parents can either print their kids' artwork or save and post it on Facebook.
Who needs a fridge door anymore?
Coming soon, the Crayola Paint and Create app, which is more like finger-painting, along with puzzles, mazes dot-to-dot and color by number.