5 best macbook for kids in 2020

5 Best Macbook for Kids in 2021 [Buyers Guide]

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When searching for the best Macbook for kids, there’s a few specific key features to keep in mind. It’s important to note that the Macbook laptops do have the parental controls built-in that many parents require.

This includes, but not limited to monitoring and what the child can access and when.

The best Macbook for kids is the MacBook Air due to its lightweight design and a shockproof case is also ideal for kids. There are also additional parental control apps that enable restricted controls depending on what the parent sets them to. 

With the restriction features of these apps on a Mac; parents can monitor and limit the type of usage a child spends on the Macbook or set screen time limits. They can also block kids from visiting certain sites and disable social media features. 

I’m going to cover the best MacBook for children ages 6 -14 as well as the limitations parents can set on the device. I’ll also cover how well these parental controls work and the overall pros and cons of getting a Macbook for kids.

Related: Is a MacBook Air Good for Video Editing (The Truth)

At a Glance – Best Macbook For kids

  1. MacBook Air: Best MacBook for Kids
  2. MacBook Pro 16”: Best Pro Macbook for kids (gaming)
  3. MacBook Pro 13”: Best premium laptop for kids
  4. iMac: Desktop alternative to Macbook for children
  5. Mac Mini: best budget desktop alternative for kids

Benefits of a Macbook for Children

Benefits of a Macbook for Children

The one advantage that the macOS has over other operating systems is its ecosystem which is closed and controlled by Apple. For parents, this works well because a regulated ecosystem means both the hardware and software are designed with security and seamless integration in mind. 

In fact, when it comes to a computer for children, the MacBook stands out as a top contender as a great laptops for kids or more reasons than you’d might think. The average life of a MacBook is between 5-7 years… stretching your dollar much longer than average laptops. I know people who use 10-year old Macs!  

Related: How long does a MacBook Air Last

The Apple MacBook is known for its robust macOS. The operating system is not only highly intuitive for kids with it’s lively interface, but it handles files more efficiently than the Windows laptops that require to undergo defragmentation every so often. This is a time saver! 

The Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro is nothing short of awesome. Function keys are gone; instead you have a retina multi-touch display where commands change depending on what you are doing and what apps you are using.

Mac vs Windows for Kids

Mac vs Windows for Kids

You can even run Windows on a MacBook if you needed to, but the opposite can not be done on windows. On Mac, this is accomplished by using Bootcamp or a virtual machine software such as Parallels. On the flip side, Windows cannot run macOS apps.

Macs come with extended parental control functions that can be customized according to the age of the children. Several children can use the same laptop since different user profiles can be created with varying levels of restrictions.

Last but not least, accidents happen. Kids can be careless and knock their laptops off a table or bump them against a wall.

A huge relief for parents is knowing that Apple has one of the best after-sales support systems. Every Mac comes with 1-year limited warranty (AppleCare) and can be extended beyond the one-year period by purchasing AppleCare+ (AppleCare plus).

See our post: Is AppleCare for iMac Really Worth it? (The Truth)

Unlocking your child’s creativity

Unlocking your child’s creativity

It’s just more fun and engaging for kids to use a Mac. Macs come factory-installed with apps that tickle the creativity and imagination of children. GarageBand, for example, is an app that allows the budding musician in your home to create simple music. Younger children can have hours of pure fun taking selfies with the Photo Booth app’s fun effects. They can turn themselves into space aliens, chipmunks, frogs, or distort their facial features and exchange goofy photos with their friends.

Apple devices work seamlessly — something Windows laptops are hard-pressed to duplicate.

Homework is so much easier with Apple devices, knowing that they all work so well together: For example, Apple’s Sidecar allows your child to use an iPad and Apple Pencil as input devices; then it takes the notes or drawings he or she makes on the iPad and syncs them to the MacBook.

How to choose the correct MacBook for kids

How to choose the correct MacBook for kids

There is no one best MacBook. The best MacBook is always the one that addresses the particular situation of the child.

Consider your child’s age, tech specs for school requirements, degree of parental control you want to exercise, other activities he will use the laptop for, and price point. For very young kids, you will want to go for the simpler Macs like the Mac Mini and the Macbook Air. The specs will be more than enough for their simple activities and you really do not want an expensive laptop for their age. Older kids who compose or edit/master music, work with graphics and videos a lot, or play resource-hungry games will do better with a MacBook Pro.

Some things to consider:

Storage – Text-based schoolwork does not occupy much space but a lot of pictures and graphics could. Do they have many video games or movies that they always want on their laptop? What about apps that they plan to install? Ordinary apps like social media platforms, chat apps, and multimedia apps will not demand too much storage but video/music editing apps or graphics design software will.

Battery life – Frequent charging of laptops can be disruptive to school work. Consider laptops with longer life between charging. 

Weight and size – Being the lightest of all the MacBooks, the MacBook Air will be the least taxing on the back and shoulders of younger children.

Display – There is more distance learning these days and that also means more screen time for children. You will want laptops with displays that are easy on your kids’ eyes and can be set to adjust brightness depending on ambient light.

Related: Is the MacBook Air Good for Programming? (The Truth)

1. MacBook Air: Best MacBook for Kids

MacBook Air_ Best MacBook for Kids

The latest MacBook Air is one of the best MacBook models for children and is a much improved version of the previous models.

It still sports a 13-inch retina display but the latest version now comes with more internal storage, 10th-generation processors (or the most recent, M1 chip), and the return of the more reliable scissor-switch keyboard.

The Air can now be opened with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. A T2 chip brings an always on “Hey Siri” functionality to the Mac. 

For kids, the MacBook Air, in general, will be good enough. It is the lightest of all the MacBooks and much easier to lug around if they have to bring it to class for presentations. It also has the longest battery life.

One downside I found is that MacBook Air models lack the Magic keyboard Touchbar, which can be fun for kids and is only on the MacBook Pro models.The difference in price is significant compared to the Pro models.

Storage has increased. The base model now comes with 256GB and can be upgraded to as much as 2TB. Base RAM is 8GB but can be doubled to 16GB.

What We Love

  • It’s so light at 2.8 pounds. You won’t have to worry about it breaking your children’s backs.
  • It’s a “green” Mac. This Air is made from 100% recycled aluminum!
  • Bored with the usual laptop colors? The Air has a Gold version!
  • Lightweight
  • Its price has been cut by Apple by $100, making it even more affordable.

2. MacBook Pro 16”: Best Pro Macbook for kids (gaming)

MacBook Pro 16”_ Best Pro Macbook for kids (gaming)

Older children who do more complicated school and off-school work will absolutely love the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

This premium laptop comes at a price but is best for serious gamers or those who work on 3D models, heavy graphics, advanced applications requiring programming, or complex music compositions. 

The 16-inch screen gives more screen real estate. This is very helpful with multiple spreadsheets or graphics or for splitting the screen to show two windows.

Older kids with complex school projects who game on the side typically love the MacBook Pro since it has the capability to also run windows school apps and windows based games if needed.

The Pro is a workhorse — its base model comes with an i7 processor that can be upgraded to i9. RAM begins at 16GB but can be increased to 32 or 64GB.

How Long does a MacBook Pro Last (The Truth)

This combination spells speed, power, smooth, seamless work. Multitasking works like a dream on the Pro. You can stream a movie or game, open multiple browsers and tabs, or run resource-heavy apps like graphics design software or digital audio workstations and you won’t even feel the bump.

Storage starts at 512GB, upgradeable up to 8GB. School projects, as well as favorite music playlists, movies and games, can easily fit on this laptop with room for more.

What We Love

  • Stunning 16 inches of retina display screen is easy on the eyes while providing lots of screen space
  • The Magic Keyboard has replaced the butterfly keyboard that many users disliked. It’s much easier to use, has a deeper feel when you type on the keys, and feels more like the keyboard keys of desktop Macs.
  • It’s got 6 speakers with force-cancelling woofers to boot! Stereo sound on this Mac will be like no other. Bring on those Spotify playlists!
  • The Touch Bar, an OLED touch-enabled strip along the top of the keyboard, gives access to the most used functions of the apps you currently use. We love how these functions change according to what we are doing at the moment.
  • It’s got FOUR Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, enough for peripherals your child would want to attach to.

For more on battery life, see our post: How Long Does a MacBook Pro Battery Last? 

3. MacBook Pro 13”: Best premium laptop for kids

MacBook Pro 13”_ Best premium laptop for kids

If power and speed are important to your child’s work but you want to get a less expensive premium laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a great compromise.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro previous ran on an i5 processor, however now the M1 chip makes it capable of even better performance. The MacBook Pro 13 is powerful enough to run almost every app needed for school.

Since Macbook can run parallels app or bootcamp- it can even run windows (In the reverse, windows can’t do this)

RAM maxes out at 16GB, unlike the 64GB max RAM in the 16-inch MacBook Pro but 16GB of memory should be more than enough for school work, basic coding, games, Netflix, YouTube videos, and Spotify music

What We Love

  • The weight of the 13-inch, at 3.1 pounds, is just slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, making it ideal for smaller children. 
  • Like its older brother, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has the Touch Bar and Touch ID.
  • The 13 inch has many of the same features as the pro, but at a lower price and a display size that is large enough for most.

4. iMac: Desktop alternative to Macbook for children

iMac_ Desktop alternative to Macbook for children

Are your children studying from home? Then consider the iMac, a great desktop alternative to a laptop. Desktops are normally cheaper than laptops with the same configuration. This is also true with an iMac versus a MacBook Air or Pro.

The iMac is basically a desktop computer but beyond that, it is aesthetically elegant and slim on the outside and amazingly powerful on the inside. 

The smaller version (21.5 inches) is already a powerful 6-core, i7 processor with a floor RAM of 4GB upgradeable to 32GB. Its base storage capacity is now a huge 256GB SSD. 

The larger, 27-inch iMac is a beast. The base model starts with a 6-core i5 processor but at the high end, it is an 8-core i7 processor. You can run almost any resource-heavy apps on these! Photoshop, video editing, music editing and more will have no problems running smoothly on the iMac.

See our post: 7 Best Stylus for Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator

What We Love

  • This is an ideal computer if your children do not need a portable computer. You get almost as much power, speed, and storage as a MacBook Pro for less.
  • The screen is also retina display and on the 27-inch iMac, you can opt for a screen made of nano-texture glass option that reduces glare. 
  • Because it is a powerful desktop, it can serve as the family computer. The screen is large enough for games or watching movies.
  • FaceTime is more fun on the iMac’s wide screen. Imagine, you can all fit easily on its screen for online conversations with family and friends! The front camera of the 27-inch iMac has been upgraded to a 1080p HD camera. That spells clearer, sharper images for online class meetings.

5. Mac Mini: best budget desktop alternative for kids

Mac Mini_ best budget desktop alternative for kids

The Mac Mini is Apple’s desktop computer without a monitor, keyboard or mouse. It is a solid choice for children if you already have those peripherals and are looking to saving a bit. 

This new Mac Mini was refreshed in 2018 after four years without updates and improved on recently. The form factor is so tiny that its width is just slightly wider than two iPhones placed side by side.

Not much has changed in the Mac Mini configuration but Apple has thrown in a few more things. The base storage is now 256GB SSD, double its 2018 version. It is also upgradeable to 512GB SSD. 

The base version still runs on a quad-core i3 processor. That could work for basic tasks but if you want a computer that is future-proofed for heavier requirements and more resource-hungry apps, I suggest that you go for the 6-core i5 processor or even the 6-core i7 processor.

One caveat: its graphics card is its weakest link. That may be a downer if your children play games or work with graphics so this is something to take into consideration when making your choice.

What We Love

  • It’s so compact! The Mac Mini can easily fit anywhere — beside a desktop, near the TV, under your desk, on the floor, or even in the kitchen (as long as you can hook up a monitor to it). When you are not using it, it can easily be hidden away.
  • It’s the cheapest desktop computer in the Apple line. 
  • All the other MacBooks have soldered parts, making upgrades nearly impossible but not the Mac Mini. This one’s RAM can be easily upgraded.
  • Four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, and an Ethernet port gives you so many ways to attach peripherals.
  • Several Mac Minis can be turned into servers.

How to set up a MacBook for kids

Digital-native children are naturally attracted to computers; that makes control over screen time a challenge. We want to give them the resources they need to accomplish work together with some light entertainment. But we also want them to be safe when they are online.

Thankfully, Apple is big on security; the macOS is also less of a magnet for viruses and malware compared to Windows-based computers.

Related: How to Write on a Computer Screen with a Pen

Consider these when setting up the MacBook for your kids.

Users

Macs let you create user profiles for each child, with a separate password. As the parent, you retain all administrator privileges. Creating these “compartments” increases security because your children will not have administrator access to hidden or system files or change system settings. Several children can use one MacBook with each one having access only to their own files.

Parental Controls

Once individual user accounts have been created, you can go into each child’s profile account and define the extent of parental control you want to exercise.

On a MacBook, there are 6 different tabs under Parental Controls where you can define the extent of restrictions for each child.

For very young kids, you will want to set the strictest parental controls so that they do not accidentally get into adult sites or inadvertently disclose their personal data to strangers. Their screen time will also be the shortest – just for schoolwork and maybe a little more for supervised entertainment.

Kids will also favor a tablet: 17 Best Budget Tablets for Watching Netflix

Older kids may be allowed more screen time but you can tweak the ‘Time setting’ so that they have less screen time on the weekends to force them to do physical activities and socialize with friends.

Here’s one hidden, neat trick for you that younger kids will never find (older ones are tech savvy so this may not work for them). If you have another Mac on the same network, you can access Parental Controls on your computer and remotely modify your child’s parental controls.

Security and Privacy

A good practice is to require a password after a computer has been left idle for some time. It prevents unauthorized access by others. The amount of time before a password is required can be defined here. We also suggest activation of the firewall. 

Related: Is CleanMyMac Safe?

Passwords

Kids can get impatient and may feel that they don’t need passwords. They just want to get an app or game working without having to enter some complicated password. This can be a great teaching moment to stress the importance of having passwords, making sure these are strong, AND, more importantly, keeping them secret.

See our post: Mackeeper vs CleanMyMac: Buyers Guide

Separate Apple IDs for each child

In the past, minors had to use the Apple IDs of their parents for purchases. Apple now allows children under the age of 18 to have separate Apple accounts that can still be monitored and controlled by the parents. Parents can set up separate Apple IDs for younger kids; the older kids can set up their own Apple ID.

There are two useful features when creating their Apple IDs:

  • Activate Ask To Buy so you can approve or deny a purchase from iTunes or the App Store. 
  • Agree with your child that his Apple ID will be sharing his location with you. This is an important safety feature. You can use his location to send him directions through iMessage, locate him through Find My Friends, or in the event something happens to his laptop, to locate it using Find My Mac.

What is a good MacBook for a 10 year old

The MacBook Air is a good for a 10 year old because it has all the features you want in a high performing laptop, but also has parental control if needed. It’s also capable of parental control apps.

This is a powerful machine that will not only play many of the latest games but also run multiple programs at the same time. You may also want to consider an anti-virus: See our post: Is CleanMyMac worth it? Everything you need to know.

Though, If your child is playing very modern games, a MacBook Pro will almost always be the better choice.

Should a 12 year old have a MacBook

Yes, a 12 year old can have a Macbook if the Childs parents are okay with him having a laptop in general. This is because a Macbook has many of the same privacy and controls a windows based laptop would provide (and more).

Related: iPad vs Laptop Pros and Cons: Replacing a Laptop with iPad

It is also very durable and lightweight, so it won’t get too heavy for kids to carry around.

Alternatives to a Macbook for Kids

If a device is needed, it is recommended that a 12 year old get an iPad if the child is in school. This is because iPads have no Internet access and are more suited for kids in school where they cant access the Internet.

A 12 year old can also have a Mac Air or Macbook Pro if they are responsible enough to have a computer at that age and the parents are okay with them being able to access the power of this device.

Related: Best Macbook for music production | In-depth review

It is also important to know that you could give your child a time allowance and set limits on their devices if needed using parental monitoring apps for Macs.

Conclusion

The Best MacBook for kids will have a few key features. The first is a durable, lightweight shockproof body that protects the computer from drops and everyday hazards.

Second, the keyboard should be spill-resistant, as little ones would eat or drink near it at some point (trust me). Insurance (AppleCare) is also ideal as the MacBook will be more prone to damage in most cases.

Lastly, a the best MacBook for kids will provide security, privacy, and make using it easy and fun.