So you know I turn to you guys every time I have a question where I am out of my league. My 3-year-old is getting an iPad mini from his great-grandmother. I can’t win this war, so I’m embracing it. But I need help with a case! He is 3, so it needs to be bulletproof. –Jennifer

Wow! You’ve got one lucky son. And he’s lucky to have a mother who is thinking ahead about how to protect such a gift.

Where it comes to the best protective cases, we have two tried-and-true favorites: Lifeproof and OtterBox. We know our readers love them too, based on how many people still check out our Lifeproof vs. OtterBox smackdown post, where we evaluated the pros and cons of each one. Plus I’ve got both Lifeproof and OtterBox cases in rotation at my house, on gadgets used by both kids and adults, so I see them in action every day.

For a 3-year-old, I have to go with the OtterBox, and here are a few reasons why.

Screen protection
Sadly, I can tell you from experience how easily a screen can be cracked or scratched, so this feature is definitely important. The OtterBox Defender series case (the top of their protective line) includes a clear screen protector that’s built into the case. It won’t crack or peel like some adhesive screen protectors do, and the display is as gorgeous as ever.

Sturdy stand
While of course we hope you’ll check out our recommendations for educational apps for kids when you’re loading up his new iPad mini, we expect he’ll probably spend some time watching shows and movies on it. The OtterBox Defender includes a super sturdy shield stand to hold the iPad at just the right angle for viewing. Made from the same tough material as the rest of the case, this kickstand is built to last.

The Otterbox Defender series has a sturdy kickstand, which helps make it the best protective case for kids

Extra coverage
The OtterBox Defender is certainly bulky. But I think that’s an advantage for kids, who can hang onto it better than they could with a sleeker, slimmer case. And all that bulk means lots of extra coverage for that precious iPad mini. The one drawback for OtterBox is that it’s not waterproof, so I’d recommend keeping it out of the bathroom.


The Otterbox Defender series is our recommendation for best protective case for kids


And even though the OtterBox is a protective case, I love that you can choose from a bunch of fun colors, which makes it even more kid-friendly.

Finally, remember that the case is just one step in protecting your new iPad mini. Be sure to check out our guide for how to make an iPod Touch safe for kids — these instructions are great for iPads too.