In today’s post we’ll discuss and compare the Nintendo Switch to children’s tablets so you can decide which one is better-suited for your child. It’s mostly a matter of age categories. Younger children will need a tablet that is more tailored for them such as the Leapfrog, while older children might want a more full-fledged tablet.
For now, Nintendo mentioned that they have no plans of adding a web browser to the Nintendo Switch and no streaming apps such as Netflix at the time of launch. There have recently been talks of adding a Netflix app but nothing has come to fruition yet.
Since its beginning and probably for the near future as well, the Switch will continue to focus on one thing: playing games.
The Nintendo Switch is aimed at gaming
However, children tend to want other functions as well such as streaming YouTube or surfing the internet. So for some, not having these features might be a deal breaker. In my opinion, if Nintendo added these features to the switch, it would easily replace every child’s desire for a tablet.
Coming from Nintendo, it’s completely understandable that they want to focus on gaming. The Switch is, first and foremost, a very powerful gaming device so anything that distracts the consumer from the idea that “this is the best gaming device for your child” is probably not a good move.
There has already been a deep mistrust issue after the Wii U debacle between both heavy and casual games so it’s clearly a good idea not to drift apart from the main message of the device.
Relive the success of the Nintendo Wii
Nintendo is aiming to recreate the success it had with the original Nintendo Wii by having a relatively low price that offers innovative game features that are beyond what the market is
currently offering for hardcore gamers.
The Wii was incredibly successful in that aspect, but for a tablet-type device to reach that larger crowd, you usually need more than simply video games. The Switch’s Netflix absence is a clear step in the gaming direction.
Nintendo Switch sells out fast
As you might have already heard, the tablet functionality hasn’t damaged sales at all. Nintendo has acquired a bottomless and justified reputation for being unable to keep the hardware in stock after they make it available for purchase. This makes it a bit harder to acquire the special bundles people are going after.
However, from Nintendo’s point of view, it’s great that it’s already sold out in almost all stores both as preorders and during flash bundle sales.
More than just gaming
The good thing is that it doesn’t really need to beat the iPad by becoming a super comprehensive tech gadget. Instead, it only needs a few aspects in favor: the things most people tend to think of when they think of tablets: surfing the web, watching video and reading.
Whether your children are younger or older, you probably want to have an added benefit out of the device, like surfing the web, especially at the price point. However, if gaming is enough for your family, then this device will be the right fit for you.
Most families will probably need a tablet that can be used for other things aside from just gaming. Some people have stated that since the Nintendo Switch is basically a tablet that can play Nintendo games, it should also include basic tablet functions. We’d like to clarify that this is not the case since the Switch is basically a fixed and portable gaming console, not a tablet.
The Nintendo Switch is a great choice for you if you can respond “yes” to any of the following:
- You have younger children and consider the fun aspect of playing games together to be the main objective over educational content.
- Your children are already using your smartphone to play games and your aim for electronic devices isn’t towards education or watching videos
- You already have older children, already have a tablet or a laptop at home, then the Switch would be a nice addition to the gaming collection
If you didn’t say yes to any of these, I believe a tablet would be the best choice for you. Eventually, you could get both.
A parent’s point of view
“When does our Nintendo Switch get here, when does our Nintendo Switch get here, when does our Nintendo Switch get here?”
My six-year-old son started with this little chant every hour since the Switch was announced. So I wanted to take the time to mention what I think about the console until now and whether or not a Nintendo Switch should be added to your family.
I’ll mention the family-friendly nature of the Nintendo Switch and what my thoughts are after giving a test-ride for a week.
We will look into important aspects such as parental controls, different ways of playing, child-friendly games, online safety and other things that Nintendo has done to make the switch a good choice for children and older players alike.
It’s important to mention that this is already pretty much a Nintendo-friendly home since my son and I regularly play on our GameCube, 2DS, 3DS XL and Wii U. Gaming is a very common activity for us, with Mario Kart and Splatoon being the most played games, recently.
And when his friends stop by our house, we make sure to pick fun party games like Mario Party or Nintendo Land, the kind of titles that “real” gamers frown upon.
The Nintendo Switch Hardware
The Nintendo Switch has much better hardware than the Wii U. That “Fisher Price” look is gone and now we have a very premium looking device. The part with the touch screen tablet is very sturdy, and just to avoid the risk of scratching, we bought and applied a screen protector shortly after taking it out of the box.
It’s also much more compact than the old Wii U gamepad. It’s important to note that it’s not that easy to disconnect the joy cons from the screen, though. So I recommend that young children only remove the controllers under adult supervision since this can easily result in the tablet dropping.
The Joy-con controllers
Some users have complained that the small joy-con controllers aren’t the most comfortable ones out there. However, they are ideal for young children and those out there with smaller hands. My son noticed they were much easier to hold and also use, when compared to a Wii Remote. Just remember to attach the included wrist straps if a game requires a lot of swinging around.
He also enjoys the fact the right joy-con can be used with his Amiibo collection that just seems to keep growing.
The Nintendo Switch has the nice feature of being able to connect to the TV to play games. Other child-oriented features include the rear kickstand that felt somewhat shaky at the beginning but so far hasn’t had any issues and appears to be pretty sturdy.
My son tried at first but didn’t pull the kickstand all the way so that’s why it felt shaky. After I tried securing it, I noticed there’s a click when you’ve pulled it enough and another one when you put it back in place. The process is incredibly smooth in adult hands.
And a nice little tidbit that might sound strange is that Nintendo made the game cartridges taste horrible. This is to prevent children from chewing on them which greatly decreases this risk. I had to give it a try, and confirmed that they taste horrible.
On the other hand, if you prefer digital games, the device has 32GB of storage built in and can be expanded via microSD cards. Digital games can be a good way to keep kids from having to move the docked switch around just to exchange a game cartridge. They’re just much easier to access and switch between games.
Games that you can play now
The joy-con on the Nintendo Switch can be used to play motion-controlled games. When we finished setting up the tablet-like device and the docking station to our TV (which took less than
five minutes), we were ready to start playing.
Unfortunately, we only had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch which is aimed more towards younger children. Nowadays, you have a larger array of big titles and an
even larger array of indie games worth a try.
During the preview event, we were able to test a couple of mini-games which included Quick Draw and Milk, so we knew what to expect. However, some of the mini-games in the full game weren’t as good as those, but they were still pretty fun to play in groups.
I see 1-2-Switch on the same level as Nintendo land and Mario Party 10, perfect for when you want a group or party game experience.
Tabletop mode with SnipperClips
The Zelda title we just mentioned is easily one of the best games ever to launch with a new console and it’s a great game for older kids (it’s rate for 12+) but aside from that, you have few game options. Especially if you’re looking for something aimed towards younger gamers.
I hoped there were some classic Nintendo games so I could teach my son some of the retro games. That’s why I was very excited when the retro games were made available on the Switch.
After taking a waltz around the eShop in the beginning, I downloaded an interesting cooperative puzzle game SnipperClips and the F-Zero-like racer Fast RMX, just to play something else that didn’t involve dairy cows.
Ways to play
The two joy-cons can be used together by using the provided handle/controller support. The most interesting thing about the Switch are all the different ways in which it can be used. For parents, this means that the device can fit into your family the way previous systems couldn’t.
In the dock, the Switch works like a traditional gaming device where you can play on the TV using the included joy-con controllers, which can also be connected and use with the handle. Depending on the games you play, you can also use motion controls just like the Wii, but much more accurate, or simple standard controls.
On the TV, the games will display at 1080p and pretty much look like an improved version of what the Wii U had to offer. This means that there’s not a huge leap in graphics but the Switch isn’t really trying to compete with the PS4 or XBOX One.
You also have two other ways to use the Switch away from the TV. Compared to other consoles, this is the advantage and step towards a tablet design. You can watch TV while your child plays on his tablet, which is one of the biggest advantages of tablets over consoles.
When you connect the joy-cons to the tablet, you can use it in handheld mode and it works like a traditional portable console. The main plus is that if you compare it to the 3DS (which is also
portable) you’ll be blown away by the graphics.
Since they’re at 720p, they look much more clean and detailed than Nintendo’s previous portable gaming devices, or even the Wii U’s gamepad. In tabletop mode, the joy-cons are disconnected and used separately from the screen but you don’t need a TV so it’s like having a mini TV around with you.
These portable modes are not only important for families but also for gamers who might want to play Zelda or Skyrim on the move. For starters, it can free the family television without children being banished to their rooms or anywhere else with a second TV just to be able to play.
For us, however, the tabletop mode is what impressed us the most since it makes multiplayer gaming possible everywhere. Sitting and playing together around the small screen feels much more social than everyone playing with their own device like a 3DS XL multiplayer session. And if there are multiple devices, you can still get local and online multiplayer so everyone plays in their own console.
There have been some complaints about the battery life but this seems to depend on the game being played. It only lasted about three hours when we were playing Zelda but SnipperClips was still active, even after four hours of use throughout the weekend. However, that is still much shorter than a children’s tablet.
Parental and online controls
You might feel like Bowser while setting the time limits on the Nintendo Switch. Just like most modern game consoles, the Switch can also connect to the internet which means parents will
naturally want to set this clearly when leaving a child unattended. Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch offers pretty good parental and online controls.
However, even if you can set limits for the kind of games that can be played by age level and which online purchases can be made directly on the Switch, the best control is available through the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app available for Android or iOS.
Parental controls on the console can be deactivated with a PIN code. You’re able to set limits, not only in terms of age restriction for games, but also whether users can communicate with others and use screenshots on social networks.
You can also limit the time the switch can be played every day and at what times, complete with a bedtime alarm. When the set time has elapsed, the switch may display a note on the screen or you can abruptly interrupt playback but you won’t make any friends if the device turns off during an unsaved game.
Given that I can remember that sometimes I went to bed to play Donkey Kong with the volume on low, this feels a bit cruel. Parental controls can be temporarily disabled by entering a pin code if you want to play something more mature yourself. The app also records how long the switch has been used every day and which games are the most popular.
More recent Switch games
Mario Kart 8 is one of those games that you’ll definitely want on the collection. The game library has grown but it’s still relatively small when compared to other consoles. And the list of games that are suitable for the whole family is even smaller.
Entertaining games include the Deluxe version of Mario Kart 8, Arms (a headstrong cartoon hunter with motion control) and Splatoon 2 (the successor to the ink-injecting multiplayer shooter). Given how much time we have spent playing Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon on the Wii U, we just had to get them for the Switch as well.
The sandbox-style Mario Odyssey game is another must-have on the list. Other games include Minecraft, LEGO Worlds, LEGO City Undercover, FIFA 18, NBA2J18 and Puyo Puyo Tetris. This means that in the meantime there are a couple of games to keep your little ones busy, and to play with them.
Final Thoughts on the Switch
On the surface, the Switch doesn’t seem to be as child-focused as the previous Nintendo consoles, but it seems that this will be the new console for families who want something where they can play games together, or for children to play alone on.
For roughly $300 without games games or accessories, it’s not particularly cheap and for that amount you could get a pretty good tablet. But when has a good console ever been cheap? If you want to save up a bit you can wait for the bundle sales where you can get the console plus one game.
The concept for hybrid game console makes the Switch a suitable console for families who are looking for the flexibility that it allows. You’ll be able to use the TV while the children play, keep them entertained during a long drive or simply enjoy having a high quality console to play with family and friends when stopping by their homes.
In any case, this takes away the fights for the TV so some can enjoy Netflix while others enjoy playing on a high-end console. However, other functions you would like to use a tablet for are missing.
The combination of parental control and the number of child-friendly games that are out there and being announced are making the Switch a more attractive console than a PS4 or XBOX One. I do suggest buying the Pro controller since it’s much better suited for adult hands.
This is why I think the Nintendo Switch is the best game console for families. To see if a dedicated children’s tablet might be a better choice for your family, I will discuss the Leapfrog children’s tablet below.
Leapfrog Epic children’s tablet
This is really one for younger children. An educational and accessible alternative to the Nintendo Switch. And one that you would probably rather choose for your really young children if you don’t really like tech and gaming.
We have already reviewed the Leapfrog before. It has a 7-inch touch screen and internet connection to give your children access to technology in a safe and child-friendly way.
If you look at the back of the box, you’ll see that the VTech tablet is made for ages 3 to 9 and offers many different types of games and apps that are suitable for the right age. However, I have experienced that it is rather fun to just 6, then you better switch to the Nintendo Switch if you go for gaming, or the Samsung Galaxy Tab if you go for child-friendly tablet use.
Our little one has played in the Art Studio for centuries while painting, drawing and even enjoying the stickers.
Before you turn on the tablet, make sure that the sample cartridge for the software is placed in the right place. You will find this slot in the lower left corner. You get 18 apps pre-installed, some need to be updated or downloaded, so this gives children enough to get started right away, including playing with the 2-MP camera using the special effects app.
After a small installation that you should handle yourself, regardless of the age of your child, your little one can figure out everything and you’ll just have to occasionally jump in.
- First, set the date and time, you can use the stylus or simply press the screen with your finger.
- After you have entered the date and time, you have the choice to set up parental controls. I think this is always a good idea to give your child access only to what you want and what they can do
- When you have completed all the steps, you will be taken to the homepage where you will see all apps. The photos are not too small and can therefore be viewed by everyone.
With the sturdy carrying handle and cover, the tablet is well protected and better than the Switch tablet, and also better than that of Samsung. The average battery life is not super, but certainly a whole lot more than the Switch.
We also wanted to mention the web browser because it is an important part of every tablet nowadays, especially when it comes to protecting children from online content. But also to highlight the possibilities that you want with your tablet, when compared to the Switch.
The Leapfrog has a great web browser that restricts access to certain content very well, you can also adjust this as desired to add more websites that you want to give your child access to with quick links. You will find a selection of games, videos, and websites already pre-selected by Leapfrog.
Regarding the specifications of the Academy tablet: you will find a display of 1024 x 600 pixels on 7-inch, 8 GB internal memory (expandable with a microSD card), built-in Wi-Fi with which you can play games / apps / or download videos directly to the tablet at a price, 2MP 180° rotating camera and video recorder, weighs 1.4 kg.
It has a 1.4 GHz dual-core CPU, child-friendly version of Android OS, micro HDMI port, and micro USB port, headphone jack. It measures 382 x 284 x 67 mm, and is equipped with a lithium-ion battery that lasted a little more than 6 hours during our test
Final Thoughts on the Leapfrog
Younger children will love this tablet, but parents who are looking for the best specifications may think its performance is lacking. During our meeting and after spending hours on a 3-year-old game, we love the Academy and the security functions to protect the little ones.
Other Android tablets and an iPad can deliver more, but they are not designed for children like the Leapfrog tablet. The sound quality is average, but can sometimes be noisy, invest in some good headphones for your child and, of course, to get some rest.
You should choose this if you have younger children and you don’t want to do much with it yourself. Children will be more involved with it outside the family and will be able to use it independently more quickly.
The Leapfrog can be used more as an educational learning tool if you wish and the content is more focused on apps and video viewing than the Nintendo is.
The Kids mode of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A
Then the last alternative, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A, is a full tablet with a kids mode that you can set to restrict access to content for your children. A completely different approach than the previous two.
Games you play on it will usually be a bit simpler than on the Nintendo Switch, with more of those candy crush-like games that you might recognize from your own apps on your phone. It does, however, offer more opportunities for both your aging child and yourself to explore the internet.
The security functions in the child mode are very good. If you want to leave this mode, you need a password with a parent item set up so that children cannot open another app that is in this tab without parental permission.
This application turns the “regular” tablet into a device that is safe for children. The user interface is made very attractive with bright colors and a home screen full of cute characters that is loved by children.
You can also use educational apps here, although there is not such an extensive library as in Vtech.
But as a parent, I would not like it if children could play without paying attention to the time. You can therefore set how long the child can use the gadget. When the time is up, the tablet falls asleep and the children stop playing.
If they want to add time to play, children must ask their parents for permission. These apps also train children to the discipline of the time.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab A is a compact tablet with a huge battery, expandable storage and a corresponding price tag. It is equipped with an 8-inch 1200 x 800 display that can achieve up to 480 nits of brightness. It comes with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage space that is expandable to 256 GB via a micro SD card.
The specifications are completed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, an 8 MP camera at the rear, a 5 MP camera at the front and a 5000 mAh battery. And although Android Oreo has been on the road for a few months, the Galaxy Tab A comes with Android 7.1.1. Nougat.
It includes the Kids mode that offers children games and videos from content providers with which Samsung collaborates. Kid’s mode includes 5,000 exclusive game and video titles from the LEGO group, including the popular LEGO Batman: Beyond Gotham and LEGO NINJAGO: Shadow or RONI apps.
Samsung Kids is a subscription service that is offered by Samsung, but you don’t have to sign up when you buy the Galaxy Tab A.
Final thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy Tab
It is one of the most powerful Android tablets on the market with such child-friendly settings. A good choice if you want to buy something for older children that they can also use a little more, and even move to a tablet that is not controlled by parents. And that you’re also able to surf on it yourself and maybe work.
Less educational than the Vtech, less gaming than the Switch. But surfing a lot, watching videos and being social on all platforms that your child could want. If they don’t have their own laptop and maybe don’t have their own phone, since the Switch is not really a replacement for a tablet.
We have already mentioned it above, of course, a summary of what you could base your choice on.
There is something to be said for each product, but ultimately it is about the age of your children and what you want them to spend their time on. And possibly whether they have an alternative to some functions of a tablet.