Best Handheld Device for 3 Yr Old

Updated on August 06, 2012
J.K. asks from Kalamazoo, MI
16 answers

We are thinking of getting some sort of handheld device like a portable dvd player or kindle color or leapster. We want it for long car rides and doctors office waiting rooms, and also so she can watch movies when she relaxes un her room at bedtime. I dont know much about any of these devices, what do you have for your kids, what all does it do, are you happy with it and what was the approximate price? TIA

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So What Happened?

We have plenty of books, I dont like giving them to my dd in bed because she rips them up. I cant spend an hour reading to her as I have a 7 month old as well that I nurse to sleep at night. If you feel electronics are evil, congrats on being the only perfect mother out there, and feel free not to respond to my post as I am asking for recommendations on what device to buy.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't think electronics are evil, but I think you will VERY quickly regret tying them to bed time. A three year old should not be tearing up books. I think you need to start with correcting that, and perhaps you will find you don't have to be desperate for an electronic.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I wouldn't buy a 3 yr old ANY handheld gaming device or dvd player. How about books that you read to her, pre-school workbooks, color books/drawing tablets, washable crayons or washable markers. Let her use her imagination and entertain herself instead of being entertained.

Why does she need a movie to relax before going to bed? Studies have show that this is not a good thing for adults, let alone a child. Read books to her and snuggle before bedtime. It's good for both of you.


2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I agree with Dana. Have your own device and let her use it when appropriate.

Listen, no one here is perfect-- however, some of us have made mistakes or experienced problems with some aspects of what you are suggesting. Would it be better to just suggest a product and not say anything else at all? Personally, I'd feel like a crappy friend if I did that to someone I know. That would be like giving someone directions to a particular road but not telling them it's in a bad neighborhood...

And I'll step over the line and say this: do the research on electronics and media before bedtime. If she's ripping up books, I would be highly cautious of giving her a more fragile device.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sioux City on

I don't think electronics are evil but I don't think a three year old needs them, especially in their bedroom. I would definitely not buy one for the three year old. I would however purchase one for myself and let the three year old watch an occasional movie on it while on a trip. My preference for myself was a Kindle Fire. I love to read and I really don't require the color, but I can also download books for my 3 year old for long trips. I can even play a movie if the trip is going to be extremely long.

As a teacher I see a huge difference in the kids that are allowed to watch TV all the time and those that have very limited TV watching. You may want to reconsider what you are planning to do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi - Not sure on the price because a new version came out, but my daughter has the leap pad and loves it. She also loves stories on my Nook Color - most stories have a read to me option and some have fun activities built into them

I am not sure that any device that plays games is a good thing to do before bed, only becuase you get so involved and lose track of time. But overall I am happy she has the leap pad. SHe can play games, play stories etc. all while learing reading writing and math.

Because I do not want her to have to much electronics time (and believe me I know how useful, TV / electronics can be) in the car we stick with a magna -doodle toy, and a Melissa and Doug Magnetic dress up set - which is a metal container with pictures of princesses on both sides. Inside is the clothing to dress them. We also sing a lot.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I wouldn't! Early childhood experts will tell you that kids who spend too much time on these solitary devices never learn to interact, to enjoy reading, or to really enjoy quiet time. We always kept a box of special toys in the car for restaurants and doctors' offices - age appropriate games of course, and they never came into the house so they were always "fresh" when waiting. Getting them in the TV/movie habit before bed will come back to bite you, I fear - they never want to turn it off but always finish the movie. You can get any number of car aids - a storage net with different pockets that hooks to the seat in front of her, a tray that fits across her carseat or that hooks into the door in the window slot - she can read, color, play with small manipulatives (helps fine motor skills), and so on. Play CDs and sing along with her - not just kiddie tunes but American classics (I've been working on the railroad, take me out to the ball game, all that stuff). I teach music and it's astounding what kids DON'T know because they never heard it at home. You can get a portable DVD player for any car and use it very occasionally on long trips. Get books without long story lines - perhaps those that have a different puzzle on each page (find the hidden objects, I Spy books, etc.). They are easier to put down when you get to your destination, when the restaurant food arrives, or when the doctor calls you in for the appointment.

Technology is a good thing but we over-use it to the detriment of our kids. Teachers see it and you will be hearing about it at parent-teacher conferences, and wishing you could do things over. Kids get so dependent on screens and iPhones and iPads that they cannot take in what's around them. A friend of mine was on a beautiful ferry ride, and there was a family of 3 kids (about 7, 10 and 12, maybe), and not one kid was focusing on the water or the history or the narrative over the PA. Totally into video games. This isn't a once in a lifetime occurrence - we see it all the time and the poor results in education.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

The earlier you give her this "crutch", the earlier she will not be willing to use something else to pass the time. You could give her easy puzzles, books, as Ally suggests, or get her a cassette player with children's music to listen to or children's books on tape.

Please consider this instead of electronics or movies.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Wow... just scanned through the other responses...
My daughter is 3.5 and hubby just bought her an iPod touch (older generation for about $30--with a $20 giftcard for iTunes)! She has been playing on our iPhones for about 2 years (at first with strict supervision) and on the iPad for about 1 year (again, strict supervision at first). She also loves playing outside (and is currently fascinated with her new badmitton set), will "read" her books for hours on end, asks for her crayons, scissors, and paper every evening. So, I absolutely think electronics are appropriate toys and tools for a child to use! (Just think how far behind some kids are going to be when they start 1st grade and don't know how to use the school-provided iPads! *Yes, I am exaggerating, but not by much!*)

Okay, anyways, on to your actual question. For long car rides (and in my opinion, our previous commute of 45 min each morning & evening was a *LONG* ride), we bought a portable DVD player and some Dora, Diego, and Veggie Tales videos. Yes, we talk, and sing, and play games, and practice colors, numbers, etc... but sometimes mama just wants to drive from point a to point b without coming up with a constant stream of entertainment! That worked beautifully! Now that our commute is only 15 min, we don't even keep the player in the car. We now only use it when we do long-distance (>4hr) trips.
The iPad was a family gift, but dd very quickly learned how to play some games (started out with puzzles & noise makers), and is now into much more advanced games and learning apps (heck, this girl will point out where her lungs, gallbladder, liver, intestines, and heart are--thanks to an anatomy app). At bedtime, if we are watching a grown-up show, we will let her lay in our bed and watch her cartoons (recorded on our DVR) or a movie (downloaded from our DVD collection). Sometimes daddy lets her have the iPad in her bed to watch a movie, but that's usually on a weekend night and when we're watching a grown-up movie.
Now... the iPod. I didn't really agree with giving it *to her.* So, we told her that it's ours, but we will let her use it when she asks nicely and as long as she's been good. ("Good" means, no potty accidents, minding her manners, doing what we've asked her to do, keeping her room clean, etc.) It works. She loves playing games on it and figuring out all the tools. I've put blocks on it so no internet, downloading, or phone calls--but otherwise she has free reign! She loves taking pictures (of things & of herself), scrolling through the music library, and starting up whichever movie she wants to watch!

So, my vote is for an iProduct! You can find a cheap older-version iPod touch at many venues (we got ours at GameStop because hubby has a membership and gets great discounts).
Now, I would suggest teaching your dd that books are NOT to be torn up! We've only had 2 books torn and I took ALL of them away and gave a huge lecture! They were put away for a few weeks, and once returned, she never tore another page!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Unless you plan on supervising your daughter while she is in bed, I don't recommend getting her anything that isn't specifically designed for children. A good friend of mine has had three Ipad's destroyed by her kids.

I do not let my 2 year old go anywhere near my iphone or pad without me right there, and my 4.5 year old can only use the Ipad while sitting at the kitchen table.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

i agree with the book. i give my daughter my phone for VERY brief periods in very long drives (as in more than 2 hours) but I'd rather her read a book, color, look outside, and my favorite appreciate music and sing=), we play math games, reading , rhymig and so on, but times where my head hurts I cave and give my phone=)

Since you didnt ask for the above you can ignore it...i'd J. get a cheap tablet, or a used iphone and use it J. for games, and storing short shows=) I'm not opposed to watching tv to settle down or in the car if you feel you need it--I've asked in the past about watching tv at bedtime---all in all I feel whatever works for you is what you should do but beware as soon as you allow video games in movies in the car its going to be asked for all of the time. id put rules on it if you don't want that...if you do go for it=)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My kids love their LeapPads. They are kinda pricey at $100 each but you can load books, games and videos. It has a camera and a video recorder and keeps them entertained when they would otherwise be bored (car rides, dr offices, etc).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

My 3 year old can interact best with our iPad. So I would guess the Kindle Fire would be the best bet. On it he can play games, watch videos, & read. Plus, you can use it for lots of things too. A DVD player only does videos, I leapster only does games - Kindle does both.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

My kids enjoy playing with a tablet (like the ipad or epad by asus). I really like the epad because it has an attachable keyboard so I can respond to posts like this one easier. We put a bunch of age-appropriate games, music, videos and stories on it. I agree books are good too, but everything in moderation is key. At first, my kids wanted the ipad all the time so we had to limit their use, but now it's novelty has worn off so they just use it here and there. It is an awesome tool to have for the car, or appointments to keep the kids busy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I agree with everyone else. These things are appealing because they do your thinking and imagining FOR you. They're honestly really harmful to little children's development. For long car trips, I used to have a lot of children's music on my ipod -- I'd just hook that up to the speaker and my son and I would sing together. For everything else, I read to him, we played together and did projects together, or he made up his own imaginative games. You REALLY do not need a handheld for a child this young.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

We have a handheld V-Smile. I like it because the games are somewhat educational. My 6 year old got this for Christmas when he was 3 1/2. Honestly, he never used it too much, but once in awhile was fine with me. Little brother is now 3 1/2 and is mildly interested. It is just games (cartridges), but we bought them very cheap on e-bay.

I don't know much about the Leapser (or the V-Tech version), but the nice thing about those brands is that they are very durable. That's something to think about with a 3 year old.

I have a Nook Color, so they can play with that while supervised - doctor's offices and other waiting rooms. We have a DVD Player in our van, so we use that for long trips. We don't allow electronics in their room, so I can't help you there.

I don't think there is an easy answer. There are simply too many options, and you really have to compare and contrast and think about exactly what you would use it for and how much you want to spend.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

A book to read, a piece of paper to color, a Magnadoodle. No 3 year old is capable of caring for fancy gadgets, nor do they need their own. It's okay for kids to know how to entertain themselves & not expect to be entertained all the time.

1 mom found this helpful
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