In the past, if you wanted to get your children reading books on a Kindle, you’d have to make do with simply setting up a child’s profile and then choosing which books you want to add to their library.
Now, however, Amazon has released the all-new Kindle Kids Edition. Following in the footsteps of the Fire Kids Edition tablets, it comes with a year’s subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited content plus the peace of mind of a protective case and a two-year guarantee against accidental damage.
Otherwise, this is exactly the same device as the regular Kindle first released in early 2019. That means it has the same 6in 167ppi E Ink touch-sensitive display, which is easier on the eye than the bright screens of tablets. It also has a front light that means you can keep on reading in dimly lit environments.
The main benefits of it over a regular Kindle are that you don’t have to fret about it getting broken – Amazon will replace it free of charge without asking any questions anytime in the first two years if it does – and that Fire for Kids subscription.
The latter gives your little ones access to thousands of children’s books at no additional cost, including the entire Harry Potter catalogue, but there’s no way to access the audiobooks, educational apps, films and TV that you also get with the same subscription on a Fire Kids tablet.
Design and setup
Since it has the same hardware as the regular Kindle, there are no surprises as far as the Kindle Kids Edition’s design is concerned. As with its stablemate, it has just one button on the bottom edge for powering it on and off and there’s also a single micro USB port for charging and data transfer
Just like the regular model, the Kindle Kids Edition’s 6in 167ppi E Ink touch-sensitive display is easy to read in all light conditions, although it is worth pointing out that it has no ambient light sensor, meaning you’ll need to manually adjust its illumination according to your preference. What’s more, there are no physical buttons for turning pages or exiting menus – you have to use the touchscreen for everything.
The only real difference in terms of design, then, is that it comes with a choice of either a pink or blue protective case included. This feels well constructed and suitably protective if not made with easy cleaning in mind: the soft-touch texture on the inside of the front cover, in particular, looks like it’ll quickly gather dirt from grubby hands. In a rather nice touch, though, it contains a magnet that not only keeps it firmly shut but also wakes and puts the Kindle to sleep when opened and closed.
When you first use the Kindle Kids Edition, it invites you to set up your child’s profile and activate the Fire for Kids Unlimited subscription. After this, kids can start browsing books right away from the subscription service using categories that include “Characters & Themes”, “New Books” and “Popular Books”.
Fire for Kids Unlimited and other features
With the Harry Potter books included, you can make the case that alone justifies the cost of the Fire for Kids Unlimited. Otherwise, not many titles jump out besides a couple of David Walliams novels and a smattering of literary classics including Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and Oliver Twist. All of these, by the way, are out of copyright and available for free to anyone.
Alas, there’s no easy way to browse the full Fire for Kids Unlimited catalogue on the web. The most effective way to find books was to use the “Characters & Themes” section on the Kindle itself. Otherwise, you can check if a book is available by simply searching directly for it by keyword. Sadly, when I did this hoping to find Philips Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, Roald Dahl’s The Twits or JR Tolkein’s The Hobbit, my hunt proved fruitless.
Moreover, many of the titles that are included – the Beano Annual, Ninja (Legendary Warriors) and Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior to name but a small selection – are simply better suited to the bright, colourful screen of the Fire 7. There’s nothing to stop you buying any title from the Kindle store and adding it to your child’s library, of course, but it’s a shame that Amazon hasn’t made it easier to see what the subscription includes before you part with your hard-earned cash.
As a reading device, however, the Kindle Kids Edition works very well. In the same way as the regular Kindle, you can easily customise the size of the font and the handy Word Wise feature lets you show hints for difficult words on the page, which can help your child to build their vocabulary without having to constantly look up words up individually.
If a word isn’t flagged via Word Wise, however, they can still long-press it to check its definition and any words looked up in this way are added to the Vocabulary Builder. From here, words can be revisited at any time and marked when mastered. It’s these kinds of features that make the Kindle Kids Edition arguably better suited than any printed book to helping children develop their reading skills, especially when there are none of the distractions you’ll find on a tablet.
That isn’t the only interactive benefit of using a Kindle Kids Edition. It’s also possible to check in on your children’s progress both on the device and via the Parents Dashboard on your smartphone or a web browser. Doing this via the Kindle offers more in-depth stats, letting you check the total time spent reading each book as well as the number of pages read per day. And if motivation can be a struggle, there are also options to set daily targets in addition to the achievements your child can unlock as they read more – these include Super-Bookworm, which is awarded when your child hits their daily goal seven days in a row and Unstoppable, which denotes that they've read 10,000 pages.
Should you want to use the Kindle yourself after your little ones have gone to bed, you’ll be pleased to discover the Kindle for Kids works just like any other Kindle when you’ve quite the Amazon Fire for Kids mode. This means you can access the Kindle Store, Goodreads and even download and listen to Audible Audiobooks, which are sadly missing from the children’s app.
As an e-reader to share with an older child, then, it’s a solid option. The only problem is practically all its features can also be found on the regular Kindle. Whether it’s worth paying extra for, then, depends on how much you value the two-year accidental damage cover, protective case and year’s content subscription – in particular those Harry Potter books.
If you have no intention of sharing an e-reader with your children, it’s worth highlighting again that a Fire for Kids Unlimited subscription entitles your child to far more content on a Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet at the very same price. Unless you’re desperate to keep your children away from the bright blue light of a tablet, my hunch is that the latter will be the more appealing device. You’ll almost certainly be more popular with your kids if you buy them one, too.