Originally Posted by DustyDisks
Looks like the nexus 7 is going to be it.
Because so many people in this thread recommended that????
You aren't buying a tablet for yourself, you are buying (or helping to buy) one for a little girl whose friend is using an iPad. She's going to want to copy her friend and run all the same apps, which might not be possible if you go for another ecosystem.
Since neither you or her mother are techies, her friend's dad might be willing to help with the setup and troubleshooting of her tablet if you go for an iPad. That alone is worth a few extra bucks up front on the purchase. As others have said, look for a used iPad 2 or even a refurbished one from Apple, if the cost of new is prohibitive.
If cost is the most important factor, then consider what others here have recommended and check out the cheapest Amazon Fire.