I bought Amazon Fire Tablets for my kids. Would I do it again?

The short answer to that question is
NO.

My kids are 5, 3, and 2 years old. My older children received their tablets last year for Christmas and slowly came to love and understand them. We recently added a third tablet for my youngest, again purchasing a Fire Tablet only for the sake of consistency between siblings. But if I could start over, I would have chosen to give my kids an iPad.

Prior to purchasing the tablets, I loaded up an old iPhone with educational games, put it on airplane mode, and gave it to my 3-year-old. It was perfect. I didn’t have to worry about him getting into anything inappropriate, he had age-appropriate games, and the communication between his old iPhone and my iPhone was flawless because I used the same Apple ID for both. Unfortunately, only hindsight is 20/20.

That year we were moving cross country with our whole family. My kids were 4, 2, and 1 year old. We were desperate for a source of easy entertainment that would keep my older kids occupied for as much of the driving as possible. The Fire Tablets were our solution to that problem. They received them as early Christmas gifts and a week later we were driving.

The Fire Tablets use a system called Amazon Kids+ on their fire tablets. It’s essentially an app that contains the entire kid’s profile. It is free for the fire year after tablet purchase, then after that, it costs monthly to keep. Without the Amazon Kids+ app, the tablet basically becomes a normal tablet with a super protective case.

What the kid’s screen looks like depends on if it is connected to wifi or not. They do a pretty good job of separating games that need wifi and those that don’t, but not always. And once your kid is exposed to the wifi-enabled screen, they’re going to demand it anyway. So that’s a source of frustration.

My three biggest issues with the Fire Tablets are as follows:

  1. The communication between devices
    • All three of these tablets are connected to my Amazon account. Like my iPhones being linked by my Apple ID, I thought this would be simple. I was wrong.
    • Within the Amazon Kids+ app, I downloaded Wonster Words for my kids. I was so impressed by the game that I decided to purchase the full version and use it across all three devices. It seemed foolproof. So I downloaded the full version on our purple tablet inside of the Amazon Kids+ app. I tried to restore the purchase on our blue and pink tablets only to learn that there was nothing to restore. I tried to open the full version in the parent screen only to realize that not only did the blue and pink tablets not have access but that the purple tablet also did not have the full version I had just paid for available on the parent screen. I had just paid to unlock a game I could only use on one tablet, and only within the Amazon Kids+ app, despite buying it through my Amazon account.
    • So I contacted customer service for the app and the only thing they could do was to give me override codes so I could put the game on my other devices. If we choose to no longer use these tablets, we will lose access to the game I paid a lifetime membership for.
    • Despite that situation, Wonster Words is a fantastic kids app and I recommend it!
  2. The storage sucks and seems to be getting worse as the device ages
    • This device seems to have a fair amount of storage, but you have to consider that everything your child touches will be downloaded.
      The app they touched then decided not to play? Downloaded.
      The app they touched when they were scrolling? Downloaded.
      The app they put their snack on and didn’t realize their tablet was still on? Yep!
    • It adds up quickly! The Kids+ app notifies you when space is low and gives you the choice to archive things that haven’t been opened in a while.
    • This is a nice feature. However, I find that after an archive, many of the apps I just archived automatically start to redownload themselves without being told to. So what happens is, my child will get mad because they can’t play the game they’ve selected. They hand the tablet to me and I discover that there are 20 separate apps competing to be downloaded. You can attempt to stop them, but it’s a pain and doesn’t always work.
    • This didn’t happen when we first purchased the tablets, but it happens frequently now after a year of ownership.
  3. There is very little control over the content the app suggests
    • Inside the Amazon Kids+ app, the first row of icons/apps the screen will show are the recent games/videos/books/items that your child has clicked on. There is no way to hide any of these items. So if your child downloaded something they shouldn’t have (ie something that frustrates them because they can’t figure it out) and you “delete” the game from the device, it is still going to show up in the recently viewed things.
      • If your child is like mine, they will continually click that app, redownloading it each time, and you’ll be stuck in a circle of pain until you take more drastic measures.
      • DRASTIC MEASURES: It is possible to log into your parent account, search the name of the game, then permanently block it from your child’s account. If you do that it will no longer show up. But it involves a bit of detective work because the only way to figure out the name of the game is to download it, open it, and read it in the credits. No games in the Amazon Kids+ app have written labels, just a vague and attractive picture for your child to click on.
        • I have permanently banned several apps from my kid’s tablets because they were so annoying.
    • When connected to the internet, the Amazon Kids+ app likes to suggest videos for kids to watch. These are typically standard “kid’s” videos that are popular on YouTube: Ryan, Blippi, nursery rhymes, unboxing videos, kids playing with toys, etc.
      • Currently, this is the third row on my child’s screen. The second and third rows on the screen are labeled as “Featured” and “Special to Amazon Kids+” This is typically where the videos show up.
    • The app allows parents to add content to their children’s screens. However, those items show up on the fourth and fifth rows of the screen. Your kid has to scroll down to find them, meanwhile, there are two lines of “recommended” flashy videos for them to be distracted by. I wish that I could put the apps I download for them at the top of the screen so they’d stand a chance of being seen. But as far as I’ve determined, there is very little I can do to influence the appearance of the screen.

So what do I like about the Fire Tablets?

The Amazon Kids+ app has a ton of books to choose from! There are many popular books like The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and the Bedtime Math series by Laura Overdeck. Within the app, you will have full access to all of these books at any time. There are also a lot of Audible options, read-along books, and Spanish stories! I honestly feel like I could teach myself Spanish by utilizing Amazon Kids (if only I had the time).

I do like the protective case and the two year guarantee that comes with the purchase of the tablet. I’m going to have to use it at some point because my kids have managed to smash the screens. I’m hoping that exchange policy won’t be a headache, but that’s a blog post for another day.

We have both a 10.1″ screen and an 8″ screen and both work well. My kids actually prefer their little brother’s smaller tablet because they think it’s cute. I chose the larger screen for my older kids because I thought they’d like the extra screen size, but as usual as a parent, I was wrong.

Final Thoughts

As an unschooling family, I appreciate that my kids are able to pursue their interests and “fall down the rabbit hole” a little. This tablet and its Amazon Kids+ platform allow them that opportunity. But the lack of customization and control combined with the obvious push towards video content is very frustrating as a parent, and frankly, it is frustrating for my kids, too. Things that should be simple to do, are not. If I had the option to go back and change my mind, I would have purchased iPads for my children in lieu of the Fire Tablets.

However, regardless of my feelings now, the tablets are here to stay. My kids enjoy playing the games and have learned a ton from the random information they can access. They have served their ultimate purpose and entertain my kids on long car rides, thus saving my sanity. It is my hope that they will continue to develop the Kids+ app and make it more user friendly and customizable.

Thanks for visiting and
have a wonderful day!

❤ Jordan LB Lawrence

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