Games consoles for children

Buying tips for parents

The internet and smart toys have changed the world of gaming. As well as being able to play against people in other locations, today’s consoles enable you to do a multitude of online activities as well as use toys to interact and unlock the game’s levels.

When choosing a console to purchase, it’s important to think about who in the family will be using it, where it will be used, what it offers over existing technology you already have and the type of content you’re happy for your children to have access to.

Expert Parent Tips For Buying a Device

Here are the things to consider before investing in a games console for your family.

Which games are a must have for your family?

Although there is a lot of crossover between different consoles, there are some key games that you need particular hardware to play. If your child wants to play Roblox on a console then you need to go for an Xbox One. If you want to play Mario Kart or Zelda games than the Nintendo Switch is the way to go. Or if you want to enjoy PlayLink games or Spider-Man together then you need the PlayStation 4.

Consider starting with older consoles

The drive to the newest and fastest experiences means that many gamers only want the latest technology to play on. However, particularly when you are starting out with gaming, the previous generation of consoles can still work brilliantly for families and at a fraction of the price. If you don’t need to play the latest games, then check out Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii U for cheaper options that each have amazing games.

Setting Parental Controls and Time Limits

Before letting children lose with a console it’s important to spend an evening setting up accounts, parental controls and time limits. This not only enables you to restrict access automatically to older rated PEGI games, but you can agree a daily time limit with your child that is then automatically enforced. Although it is achieved in different ways, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch all have controls and apps to help you keep track of how your child is using the system.

Check PEGI ratings to make sure games are age-appropriate

The most important piece of information to understand about a game, before your child plays it, is the PEGI rating. This appears on the box or in the online store to ensure a game is suitable for your child. You can get more information about this via the industry website

Expert advice from Andy Robertson, read his book, Taming Gaming book for tips on specific games.

What technology do you already have?

There is an increasing crossover between consoles and tablet games. Many games are available on iPad and Android devices as well as Xbox, PlayStation or Switch. If you have a new tablet device it’s worth trying out games on that system before buying a console. You can even purchase a Bluetooth Gamepad to use with a tablet and connect it to the TV to get a console experience without spending much money.

Find out about online and controller costs

Along with the initial costs of purchasing a console, you need to factor in how much extra controllers will cost as well as required subscriptions to play with others online. Investigating third-party controllers can save money but it’s important they are officially compatible with the system you own. Also, it’s worth noting that Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch online subscriptions also provide free or discounted access to a wide catalogue of games.

Online pocket money purchases

All consoles connect to each platform’s online app or game store, which can be used to buy and download games. Each, therefore, has an option to prevent a child from accidentally buying a game or spending money through in-game purchasing. Some have this on as a default but you can adjust this when you set parental controls.

Consoles to consider for your child

See reviews of games consoles currently available with advice on the age they’re appropriate for, what online activities they allow, and the types of games that can be played on them.

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is the latest console that plays Mario and Zelda games. It’s unique because when plugged into its dock you can play on the TV. When removed from the dock it works as a stand-alone portable gaming device.

That means you can play the same games on the remote screen when out and about as on your TV. The Joy-Con controllers are also detachable, so two children can play games at the same time without additional accessories.

It plays all the important games like Fortnite, Minecraft and FIFA, although it doesn’t have Call of Duty games or Roblox. It’s also the best way to play Mario Kart and Zelda games. There is also a growing library of affordable indie games that are great fun for families.

It costs around £280 without a game.

The parent controls on the Switch are excellent and use a separate app for iOS and Android to adjust the options. This makes it really easy to keep track of how your child is playing. Also, there is no internet browser and playing games with others online is restricted to approved friends only.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to setting up parental controls on the Nintendo Switch

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Nintendo 2dS / 3DS

Nintendo has been making its 3DS series of handheld games consoles for more than six years. You can access this huge library of games with a wide range of hardware. The original 3DS, the new 3DS the 3DS XL all feature a 3D display that doesn’t need glasses. The original 2DS, new 2DS and 2DS XL play all the 3DS games but don’t offer the special 3D screen. The games look the same, although they don’t pop off the screen quite so much.

The 2DS XL is the final version of the handheld that you will see most often in store. With many 1,000s of compatible games already available – many of which heavily discounted – the 2DS XL is the finest portable games console of its generation.

It costs around £130.

There are online capabilities of the 2DS XL – much like the 3DS variants before it – but as with the Switch, the parental controls are excellent. You can restrict online purchases and internet browsing to age-specific guidelines and PIN protect content you don’t wish your child to access.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to setting up parental controls on the 3DS/2DS.

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Xbox One S / Xbox One X

Although there is now a more advanced version in the 4K-enabled Xbox One X, the One S is a great option for the budget conscious family who want an all-round entertainment machine. It plays games in up to Full HD (1080p) but can also be used as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

And with many entertainment apps, including Netflix and Amazon Video, it works as a smart streaming device too. There are also 1000s of games available for Xbox One and you can also play hundreds of older Xbox 360 games on the console too, which is great for those looking to upgrade.

It is available for around £230.

As with any connected device, the Xbox One S gives access to the internet and online apps. Many of the games are also playable online, so you need to supervise when children are playing them to ensure they do so safely. Thankfully, there are also plenty of parental controls to restrict access to online activities and age-inappropriate games.

It also has a novel dual-control feature so that two people can control the same game. This is ideal for taking the frustration very young players can have while learning a game. It’s also a fun way to collaborate on more advanced experiences for all ages.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to setting up parental controls on the Xbox One.

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PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 4 Pro

There are two versions of the PlayStation 4 available today, a standard model and a PS4 Pro, with 4K graphics and more power under the hood. However, all PS4 games will run on either machine and look great no matter which version you opt for.

As with the Xbox One, you get apps for streaming videos, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, but this console is more geared for gaming than all-around entertainment. It is also the biggest selling console in the world right now, so games support is mighty.

You can get one for around £230.

There are two versions of the PlayStation 4 available today, a standard model and a PS4 Pro, with 4K graphics and more power under the hood. However, all PS4 games will run on either machine and look great no matter which version you opt for.

The PlayStation has a range of “PlayLink” games for families that you can play with a Smartphone as a controller. This means that 6 people can play together without needing to purchase lots of controllers. They are also really varied in how they’re played. Using the touchscreen, camera and tilt controls makes for some unique family gaming experiences not possible on other systems.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to setting up parental controls on the PS4.

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Nintendo Classic Mini / SNES Classic Mini

The original Super Nintendo (SNES) original came out in the UK in 1992, so many parents have fond memories of it. Nintendo understands that yearning for retro thrills and has, therefore, re-released a smaller, modern reworking of the original console.

It contains 21 classic games from the 90s, including Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and Star Fox, and comes with two controllers modelled on the originals. If you want your kids to experience the same great games you remember, you can’t get much better than this.

It is priced from £70.

The console is an all-in-one unit with no access to the internet. The games are included and locked to the machine, so you cannot add any more. However, this also comes with the safety of knowing that a child will not encounter any untoward behaviour. Multiplayer is still available through good, old-fashioned, same-room two-player action. Great for all the family.

There is also a more basic Nintendo Classic Mini Entertainment System that provides games from the previous generation of Nintendo hardware. This is a little cheaper, but because of its age the games can be hard for very young players to master.

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Sony PlayStation Classic Console

This is a re-release of the original 1994 PlayStation console in miniature form. It comes preloaded with 20 of the best PlayStation games, including Final Fantasy VII, Jumping Flash!, Ride Racer Type 4, Tekken 3 and Wild Arms.

You can plug it straight into a screen with the included HDMI cable. It also incorporates a virtual memory card so you can save your adventures as you switch between games. Two controllers are included in the box as well which makes it a cost-effective way to access some great classics.

It is priced £89.99

Although the box states PEGI 18 because of the games included, there are plenty of titles that the whole family can enjoy. It’s just worth ensuring that younger children don’t stray onto the other games.

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