It’s amazing how young kids can be when they begin to develop the ability to use computer/tablet devices. Using a mouse or touchpad and keyboard is typically a bit too complicated for the youngest ones, but they all sure can use touch screens.
These digital natives, as young as about 1.5 years old, can interact successfully and happily with quite a variety of applications on tablets and smart phones. At first, they can watch and tap which lets them have fun with bubble pop and tap-and-see-what-happens games. Then they can start to slide, drag, and manipulate objects. This enables them to now manipulate puzzles, dress-up games, etc. There is an impressive progression of computing skills just as there is of real world/physical environment skills. The Nabi Jr. excels at harnessing and developing many of these skills while also allowing for a near-ideal tablet experience for the youngest kids/toddlers.
There are many other tablets on the market that are available specifically for use by kids. What sets the Nabi Jr. apart is that it is basically a full-featured, ruggedized $99 Android tablet that is in its own toddler-friendly kid mode by default (but can be switched to mommy/daddy mode for a more traditional Android experience). Here are some of its key features:
- $99 price point is on the cheap side for any Android-based tablet and very competitive with much simpler and limited kids-only tablets from other brands
- Hardware features a 5″ screen, 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra Dual-Core Mobile processor, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, rotating camera, microphone, built-in speakers, headphone jack, 4GB memory (some of which gets taken up by the OS, pre-installed software, etc.), rubber shell for durability, a stylus, and microSD card slot to allow for expanding memory.
- Educational software pre-installed that is appropriate for ages 2+. This includes the Wings learning system which is correlated to the Common Core State Standards (which match up to what your child will be learning in most US schools). As of this writing (March 10, 2013), the Wings system is not yet ready to be used which is disappointing.
- The default mode is a kid mode which features an ideal user experience for kids. The user interface features huge, colorful tile buttons. There are no advertisements or popups or in-app purchases for your kid to accidentally click on (at least not with anything that comes pre-installed).
- The device can be used by multiple children – each with his/her own account.
- There is a Mommy/daddy mode which offers a more traditional Android experience with access to a web browser, app store, widgets, etc. It also allows parents to install new apps for their kids to use in kid mode. Additionally, users can download and install the Amazon app store for access to tons of apps. There is no ability to use the Google Play store, but the Amazon app store is nearly just as good.
The Nabi Jr. performs pretty well. It is responsive and performs sufficiently. Sometimes there is about a 1-second delay after tapping to open an app, but it shouldn’t be too annoying or distracting (neither for adults nor toddlers). Unfortunately, we are all a bit spoiled by the performance of technology in 2013, so it may be more annoying for some folks who might have inexplicably high expectations of a $99 tablet.
My only legitimate quibble with the system is the raised edges next to the screen. The edges are higher than the screen itself which can make it difficult to tap on-screen items located in corners and near edges with your finger. It is less of an issue with the little fingers that the system was designed for, but it should be noted.
There are some additional features to the Nabi Jr. that you may or may not find worthwhile. These include the “Nabi Sync” (helpful for backing up/restoring the system if ever needed), chore chart, and the currency/payment model of Nabi coins. If losing all your apps will become a big issue, definitely hook up the Nabi Sync feature so that you can get everything back (hopefully). If you assign your kids chores and want a cool system for managing it, then check out the chore chart. If you are the type who is open to buying apps (as opposed to just getting the tons of free apps out there), then you might want to buy some Nabi coins to buy them from the Nabi system.
Before I purchased a Nabi Jr., I was letting my oldest daughter (2 years old) use my Android phone while my wife let her user her iPhone. She has done so much learning about letters, shapes, numbers, colors, etc. The drawback of letting her use our phones was the worry that she might accidentally make a phone call, delete emails, freeze up the device, drop it in the toilet or dog water bowl, etc. The Nabi Jr. solves this problem by giving her access to all the great apps and games on a device designed for her.
All in all, as a father of 2 young girls, I highly recommend the Nabi Jr. It is an amazing tool with which kids can develop their skills, have fun, and learn. Additionally, since it is Android-based, the device can grow up with them. Parents can download apps and games that match their children’s growing and expanding needs and interests. $99 is a low price of admission for what this device offers.
The Nabi Jr. is listed for sale at Amazon.com for $99 and some other retailers.