To be clear: No matter how much they’re begging for one, your kid probably doesn’t need a smartphone. The official policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that young children need hands-on social interaction and exploration with peers and caregivers to learn—a standard that may or may not be difficult to uphold right now during a global pandemic.
But if you’re looking for a digital device to entertain or distract them while you get some work done, let me be the second, or fourth, or tenth person to tell you: That’s perfectly OK. Here are some of the devices that have worked for me and my children, ages 3 and 5. Many of these gifts don’t require any parental supervision, and the ones that do have solid parental controls that let you limit your kids’ use to fewer than, say, 35 hours per day. If you’d like to see more options, check out our gift ideas for new parents or our guide to the best tablets for kids.
Updated November 2021: We added new picks, like the Facebook Portal Go, removed older picks, and added new information.