How to use the Kindle Fire as an awesome WeDo tablet

Why would you want to do this? Because Kindle Fires are incredibly cheap, for a good quality tablet backed by a major manufacturer. The only problem is that they only have the Amazon App store available, and the selection doesn’t include Lego robot apps, except for BOOST. These directions will tell you how to install the LEGO apps (and anything else) you need to make your Kindle a great asset for FLL Jr teams, basic EV3 programming, and more.

These directions were written for 2017 Kindle Fire HDs, which are 7th generation, and current generation (2018) Kindle Fire HDs. I’ve used them with HD7 and HD8, and believe them to work for HD10 too. (Please let me know if you confirm.) While I have used these directions for multiple Kindles, I can’t guarantee that they’ll work for you, and it’s possible that you’d have trouble getting help from LEGO because you’re installing their app on a device they don’t officially support. (On the other hand, a Kindle is basically an Android tablet, and so trouble-shooting will mostly be similar to any other Android tablet.)

Very old Kindles do not work with these directions. Early editions needed to be rooted and have a separate bootloader. It was a pain, required special software on the PC, and it was irreversible. These directions require no other device and you can still factory reset your kindle if something goes wrong. Ready? Let’s go!

Note to FLL Teams:
You can use these directions to install the EV3 education app on your Kindle, identical to the iOS app, but much less functional than the PC or Mac program. I believe using the app running on a Kindle to program the EV3 to be FLL legal (so long as you turn the Bluetooth off before competing), but you won’t have access to MyBlocks, or data wires, which is an absolute deal-breaker for advanced programmers. The EV3 app is fine for outreach or for first year teams who are novice programmers, but you’ll eventually want a computer.
Note to FLL Jr teams:

The WeDo app has the same functionality on Kindles as on iOS or a computer. There’s no reason to pay more.
How to get really cheap Kindle Fires:

Shop for returned Kindle Fires with “Special Offers” sold by Amazon Warehouse. These are devices that were returned to Amazon, and regardless of what it says about condition, they’re often pristine, aside from not having the original packaging. I’ve struggled to find a scratch even on “acceptable” condition Kindles. They’ll be factory reset and ready to use. If you ever get one that isn’t, Amazon has a great return policy that covers them. When Fires go on sale (several times a year), the returned ones are even cheaper. I’ve repeatedly managed $37 for HD8s on sale, and $54 is very possible even when they’re not on sale.

I don’t recommend the HD7. The screen is just too small. The HD8 is only marginally more expensive, and that extra inch makes a big difference in usability.

About “Special Offers” – Kindles with advertising on the lock screen (and only on the lock screen – no popups) are $15 cheaper than Kindles without it. However, in my experience (3 out of 3), returned Kindles don’t come with Special Offers turned on. Now at 8 out of 8 Kindles received without Special Offers turned on, be advised that about half of the Kindles I’ve bought have subsequently had Special Offers reappear after an OS update. Still a good deal. If you want Special Offers gone later, you can pay Amazon $15 to remove it.

Here’s where you find returned Kindles (or returned Legos, or anything else that might interest you):

I’m showing the 32GB HD 8 in the picture, but the 16 GBs are perfectly adequate unless you’re going to take and store a LOT of photos.

Be sure you pick one shipped from Amazon Warehouse – those are the returns. Sometimes there are also “used” Kindles listed. I’ve never seen a good deal, and I won’t want to deal with a 3rd party seller on this.

Strangely, the “Certified Refurbished” Kindles are not a good deal – you can often find a new but returned one for cheaper.

Recommended cheap options:

New links for 2019: HD8 new edition 16GB - be sure to scroll down to the purple-circled link (image above) to find the used one, and check all available colors and offer status. HD10 new edition 32GB (see above!)


I prefer to use a separate Amazon and Gmail account for the Kindles I’m going to use with students. You’ll need a Gmail and Amazon account for this process, so go ahead and make one if you don’t have one you’re willing to share it with the kids. Make the new Gmail address first, then use it to make an Amazon address. Be sure to write these passwords down!

Once you’re ready to go:

When you power up the Kindle, you’ll be prompted to register it to your Amazon account. If you haven’t already done step 2, you can always come back to do this later.

Get the Kindle onto your local network. (Use the settings button if not prompted during Kindle set-up.) NOTE: If you can’t get the Kindle onto the network (for example, because you’re me and have to jump hoops at work involving its mac address and network registration) immediately, hit “Add network” when prompted, then hit cancel. Then you’ll get a “not now” option for signing on to the network.

Go to Settings > Security > Allow apps from unknown sources. (See below.)

Open the Silk browser, and point it at this file (otherwise you’re going to have to type more URLs).

Kindle-only solution (see PC option below also, especially if setting up multiple Kindles at once): Download each of these four files on the kindle, by clicking the links in the Silk browser. Install them in order. See below for how!

Google Account Manager APK

Google Services Framework APK

Google Play Services APK

Google Play Store APKClick the link. Find the “download link marked below. Don’t fall for deceptive ads. It’s OK if it says a newer version is available. You can download this and let it update later.

Click ‘yes’ when asked if you really want to download it.

Click “Open” when the popup tells you it has finished the download, or pull down notifications from the top of the screen and click the file. If for some reason you downloaded out of order, make sure you OPEN the files in order.

Expect a bunch of warning messages. You basically have to let the Google apps own your device, if you want the Google Play store to work. This is normal, so click “INSTALL”

Repeat the steps above for each of the other three files. If everything goes well, you’ll have a screen like this one. For the first three files, after you install you can click “DONE”. For the Play store, click “OPEN”

PC/Mac option (especially good for multiple Kindles). Download the same four files above onto the PC. Connect the Kindle to the PC with the USB cable it came with. Get the Kindle to show up as a folder on the PC. (I clicked “tell Windows what to do with this device” and told it to open the folders. If it doesn’t work the first time, unplug and plug back in.) On the 2018 Fire, I also needed to pull down the notifications from the top of the Kindle screen and set up USB options to allow file transfer. Drag and drop those four files into the Internal Storage > Download folder. You may want to rename them so that it is easier to figure out which one to install first. Then browse on the Kindle to the “docs” app look in Local storage > Download. Click each file and follow steps 5c-d above.

If you’ve avoided putting the Kindle on the internet this long, now’s the time. Don’t forget that you need to register it, too. (Settings > my account > register)

When the Google Play store launches (and you can find it on the Kindle’s home screen if it didn’t launch at the end of step 5), you’ll need to log in with your Gmail account. Get logged in, answering “NO THANKS” when it asks for payment information. You don’t want the kids buying apps.

*note - I often have to log in twice on first deployment. I’m not sure why that is, but it seems to work fine on the second attempt, so don’t panic, just login again.

Use the ‘search’ button to find the apps you want. The WeDo app is the top link. You can also grab the EV3 education app. Click the app from the list, then click Install on the app-specific screen. Note that both should show “LEGO Education” as the publisher.

Google play will download and then install the app. Don’t be surprised if this is a little slow, since it may also be trying to update the four apks you installed, and it’s a beefy download. You can monitor progress within the Play store. Click the menu button at the top left of the screen, then choose “My apps & games”.

If it seems to hang and you’re definitely still on wireless, try going into the “Google Settings” app (also on the home screen) and confirm that you’re still logged in. Log in if not, then launch the Play store again.

While you’re waiting for the download, make sure Bluetooth is turned on, in Settings > Wireless.

Other apps you might want from the Play store (none required):

Chrome (because turning off advertisements on the starter screen in Silk does not seem to be possible) – but note that any browser access means you’re giving them access to a lot of internet. Choose carefully.

Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, etc <- my go-to solution for pushing lots of files out to lots of Kindles at once.

BOOST app (can also be had from the Amazon app store, but sometimes the Play store has a newer version)

Clean-up and security:

The suggestions below make the environment less cluttered which will reduce confusion for the little kids, and they make how to install games less obvious to the older kids, but you’ll still need to supervise. If you really need 100% control of what the kids can access, none of the suggestions below will be perfect, and you may want something other than a cheap kindle running software it isn’t really supposed to run.

Once you’ve installed everything you want, you probably have a big cluttered mess on the desktop, and most of it isn’t removable. If you touch and hold on an app you don’t want on the homescreen and drag it onto another app you don’t want on the homescreen, you’ll make a folder containing the apps. Drag additional unwanted apps there, too. This doesn’t prevent the kids from finding and running them, but at least it removes the clutter.

You can remove most of the clutter and keep the kids from getting into it by turning on parental controls. Go to Settings (which you might have put in that folder) and scroll down for Parental Controls. Set a password. The following settings made the most sense for my team, but you may have different needs. Turn off abilities you don’t want the kids to have, being sure to click into “Amazon Content and Apps”. Note that blocking “Apps and Games” will prevent you from running the WeDo or EV3 apps, so don’t do that, but you can make a number of unwanted apps disappear here.

You can turn on parental controls on the Google Play store, but unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to entirely block the kids from opening the Play store and looking for free E-rated apps.

If you really need the Play store blocked, you might remove the Play store. Unfortunately, doing this removes automatic updates of the apps you installed this way. Do you know a better way? Please tell me! To remove an app, click and hold on it for a couple seconds, then release. An “uninstall” option will appear at the top of the screen. (Reinstalling will be much simpler if you leave the rest of the Google APKs installed.)

Note: Although it looks tempting, you can’t run a child profile in FreeTime with apps from the Play store without additional (clunky-looking IMO) workarounds. I’m linking some discussion and directions below, but be warned that I have /not/ tested these and do not know if they continue to work in 2019:

That’s all I’ve got! I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions for this document! Happy LEGO-ing!