Easy on Set-up and the Budget
Not cheap – that sounds bad, but inexpensive. Our AWE machines are great, but at $3,000, we can’t afford too many at my library. If you’re looking for something more affordable, you can check out Amazon’s Kindle Fire Tablets. Look for them around Black Friday and Cyber Monday for bonus savings. These tablets can be loaded with a kids profile and Kindle Freetime. Kindle Freetime is a subscription service ($2.99 – $4.99 / month for 1 account which can be used across multiple Kindle devices) that effectively locks the Kindle into a kid-friendly tablet experience with a ton of games, videos, books, and interactive books. There is a ton of stuff in there. The games range from overtly educational to just plain rot-your-brain fun if there is such a thing. You can limit what’s available in there using the Parental Controls – if you really want to control the experience. The content in FreeTime is designed for kids 3 to 10, but, as always, there is not a one size fits all model for what families feel is appropriate for their children. Different people will have different standards for what media and content their children can consume. Everything on there seems okay enough, but I’m not the best parent. The Kindles are a big hit at my library, and I like to think of them as part of the playground for the mind that we provide. Real toys and puzzles are important too, but I like to expose kids to regular consumer technology that they will no doubt have to interact with to make a living and be part of society.
Kindle Fire Tablet
Get one with the most memory you can. They usually come with different options for memory, like 8gb or 16gb, and the price isn’t much different. Memory is important, because you have to download the games (or Apps as they’re called in FreeTime) to play them. Books are small, and videos are streamed, so they don’t take up any space, but if you download a bunch of games on a Kindle Fire without a lot of storage space, it’ll start to act up. It won’t break, but it’ll cut off it’s Wifi connection, and keep giving you a message about your device being full.
To remove or delete apps, go to the Apps screen in FreeTime, and look for apps that have a check mark in the lower right corner. The check mark means the game has been downloaded and saved to the device. Long tap, or press the app with the check mark, and a menu will come up, and you can choose to remove the app from the device. This is something you have to do once in a while. You can also opt to do a factory reset on the device and choose not to restore any content from a saved profile for a real deep-clean of your little machine.
As mentioned above, you can get some really good deals around Black Friday on Amazon Kindles. Get a case for it to give it a fighting chance at surviving some kids whaling on it.
Kindle FreeTime Unlimited
Here’s the full run-down of FreeTime from Amazon. FreeTime creates a Kids Profile on your device alongside a regular or adult profile. The adult profile is used to control settings that the Kids Profile doesn’t have access to, including settings for what’s in FreeTime. Mostly, the way it works is a kid swipes a cute profile icon, and Boom, they’re playing games or whatever. The content and space inside FreeTime is curated to be educational and fun for kids 3 to 10. As of this writing in 2016, FreeTime subscriptions are $2.99 / month for Amazon Prime members, and $4.99 / month for people without Prime.
FreeTime kid safe features:
No in-app purchases
No access to web browser
No access to social media
FreeTime kid fun features:
A ton of books, videos and games for kids ages 3 to 10 in various gradients of educational content
Content from Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, PBS Kids, Electronic Arts, and Amazon Originals Kids.
Tether / Theft Deterrent
We’re a small library in a small town. I did have one of my kids kindles stolen several weeks after their introduction. The thief is an every day library patron with a developmental disability, who made off with it and was quickly tracked down to his church group, where he admitted he took it, because he really liked it. Most reviews I’ve read about tethering and security devices suggest they are all there as a small deterrent, but not an actual security device. I favor a crazy clue and cable system.
To display and hold the kindles, I made stands using these iPad stand plans, and tweaked them to accommodate the cases I bought.
Any questions, let me know.