Most learning laptops have tiny grayscale screens that are hard to see amidst the colorful surrounding plastic display. The small screens help keep cost down, but many children will become bored and frustrated if the graphics are too basic or are difficult to see. A laptop that has a larger, well-lit LCD screen and displays color graphics will cost more, but may keep your child engaged for longer periods. If your child is going to spend hours concentrating on a small screen while studying for school or riding in the car, you'll want a display that's as big and bright as possible. Check the visibility of the LCD screen in low light as well as bright sunlight.
Learning laptops are good choices for pre-school-age children. Look for a product with buttons and controls that are easy for your child to manipulate. Some laptops also have QWERTY keyboards that prepare children to work on real computers when they start school. Keep your child's current development level in mind, and don't necessarily let the suggested age range deter you from a product. Many parents find that their 2-year-olds, for example, are capable of playing and learning with a laptop recommended for ages 3 and up.
For school-age kids (5 to 9 years old), look for learning laptops that cover subjects including English, Spanish, math and science. They come preloaded with dozens of activities (usually 40 to 100), and some have bonus cartridges for more variety. Built-in customization technology helps keep the questions from being too easy or too hard as your child progresses through levels of expertise.