We live in a technological age and many kids are using electronic devices as readily as they are building with blocks (perhaps even a little more readily). It can be hard to get dibs on the tablet when your little munchkin is playing a logic game. It can also be nerve racking when she runs into the next room with it---tablets just aren’t built for little hands---and troublesome when she logs into your email and deletes your important messages.
What about a learning tablet built just for kids (ages 3-9) with a sturdy case, rubberized corners, long battery life, no access to mom’s email or sensitive passwords, and but has plenty of creative opportunities? Our family recently received VTech’s Innotab 3S for review…let’s see if it rises to the challenge.
The Wi-Fi ready InnoTab 3S sells for just under $100 comes with everything you need to get started:
- a kid-safe web browser
- “Magic Beans” resource and time management game
- picture-taking app
- video-taking app
- and more
- coloring book
- H2O learning game (about water, of course)
- an ebook
Additional accessories can be purchased including protective cases, headphones, cartridges, and more from brick and mortar stores or online.
When we registered the InnoTab 3S on VTech’s Learning Lodge™, we also received a credit to download an additional app.
How kid friendly is it really?
Set up was easy peasy. After charging it for 4-1/2 hours, the InnoTab 3S was ready to go. The tablet can support 4 different profiles (there’s also a “guest” option).
Each of my kids set up their own profile---the 4-year-old had a little help, but the 8 and 9-year-olds were able to do it themselves. My 13-year-old also got into the act (just to prove it was too babyish for him, ahem).
Kids can use the built-in camera to snap a photo of themselves to use as their profile avatar or they can use one of the cartoon selections. Some of the apps also allow them to snap an avatar to use in the game.
They can also customize their welcome message with text and audio---My 8-year-son Peter’s audio message says “EXTERMINATE” in my 13-year-old’s best Dalek voice.
The InnoTab 3S is very kid friendly. Every app has audio instructions, so even non-readers will have no trouble figuring out what to do.
Has it been dropped? Yep. And it still works as good as new. The plastic case seems very sturdy and the rubberized, rounded corners are a nice touch.
What about the controls?
Just like a grown-up tablet it has an on-screen keyboard. It’s not easy to type on, although the stylus helps. The kids very quickly figured out which apps work best with the stylus and which work best with fingers on the screen. Some of the apps also use the 4-way arrows you see at the left.
There’s a “home” button and buttons for changing the volume up or down. One frustration we had is that all the game apps have loudish background music and for most of them you don’t seem to be able to turn it off. I’d like to see a simple way to mute the music.
Some of the games use motion(you shake the tablet to release water droplets in H2O for example), which my 4-year-old loves.
For the most part, the controls are very easy to use (even my 4-year-old uses them unassisted).
Are there parental controls?
Yes! There is a web-browser, but the sites are preset educational sites. You can add more sites, but that requires logging in with your parent password and actually typing in an url---no aimless google wandering and stumbling into mischief.
You can also set whether or not the Wi-Fi is on at all, permissions for things like deleting pictures and so on (all of these settings require the parent’s password).
You cannot purchase new apps through the tablet itself, but there is a “Wishlist” app your child can use to browse age appropriate offerings.
What about the apps?
New apps can be purchased and added through VTech’s Learning Lodge™ app store. You just plug your InnoTab 3S into your computer using the included cable, turn it on and you are connected (you can also access the tablet’s directory this way and transfer photos and videos taken on the tablet to your computer).
Apps are proprietary---you will not be able to put the same apps on here that you have on your Android or iPad. There are a lot of different apps available, many with licensed characters, if you go for that sort of thing (we don’t, but many of the apps are also free of licensed characters ;).
Pre-installed apps have icons on the screen. As far as I can tell, you cannot uninstall a pre-installed app.
Apps you download will be in the “Games” icon. There’s also an icon to access games on a cartridge if you have one plugged in.
What could be improved?
Maybe we missed it (we’ve looked and looked), but you can’t switch between profiles. You have to shut down and restart.
It’s slow to start up and apps are slow to load. Once an app does load, though, there doesn’t seem to be any lag in the app itself. My kids have been pretty patient with it, but they don’t have iPhones or other instantaneous devices.
The screen is not as responsive as it could be and it’s pretty small (it’s a 5” screen).
I’ve already mentioned that I’d like an easy way to turn off the background music. Honestly, the music can be annoying.
Four profiles is perfect for us, but I can see larger families (I know many larger families) wanting more than four profiles.
What do we love?
I’ll be honest, there are a lot of things the InnoTab 3S does that my kids haven’t tried, yet. There is a way to connect it to an adults tablet or email, for example, so they you can send messages back and forth---my kids are with me most of the time, so they generally just say: “Look, Mom!”
I’m going to focus primarily on their favorite bits---we all have favorite bits we use most, right?
They love the games. The H2O game has been a hit, as has the Magic Beans game. Emma (age 4) also loves the art app and the coloring book on the cartridge.
The art app has lots of different “media” including stamps and other fun stuff.
But the app on the InnoTab 3S that has gotten THE MOST mileage is the photo app. This is more than just a low res camera. It does magic.
This alien cyclops affect was created by one of my kids using one of the features in the app---no Photoshopping!
They never get tired of this feature.
There are also preset frames and doodads you can add to your pictures when you snap them.
Unlike a tablet that might have 2 cameras (one on the front and one on the back so you can take selfies or photos of other things), the InnoTab 3S only has one camera.
But, it’s actually pretty brilliant in its designed---you can rotate it around to the front or back (or some angle in between) to snap your picture.
I don’t know how many hundreds of pictures they have snapped. It’s so easy to use that my 4-year-old is becoming a regular photographer.
My 13-year-old also used the video function (there’s a built-in microphone, too) to create a video tour in Minecraft. I think since the screen is much larger than a regular camera, it makes it much easier for them to get things lined up they way they want. Pretty cool.
I’d say that the camera and video functions alone make the InnoTab 3S a great tool for kids and worth the investment.
Now, how would YOU like to win one?!
Thanks to the generosity of VTech, one of my readers is going to win an InnoTab 3S just like the one I reviewed here.
Here’s the nitty gritty:
This giveaway will end on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at midnight EST.
Must be 18 or older to enter and a resident of the US.
Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond, after which another winner will be selected.
Entries will be made in the Rafflecopter widget below.
VTech is responsible for prize fulfillment.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: I received the InnoTabs 3S from VTech for free to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed here are my own. Product information was supplied by the manufacturer and the product packaging. I am disclosing this information in accordance with FTC guidelines.