Is your family getting an iPad for Christmas, Hanukkah, Birthday, fill-in-the-blank? Great! Here are some do’s and dont’s from the Picky Kids on how to make the most of it!
Do: Have a plan for “loading up.” Think about what kind of apps you want before you start shopping for them. And if it’s educational apps, consider what each app is teaching. This can help you avoid purchasing too many apps that are similar. Also consider how many kids apps you want to purchase at any one time. The more you get at once, the less exciting they are. We started ours with 7 apps, but after that we haven’t loaded more than 2 at a time.
Do: Expect to pay for apps. Especially educational apps for kids. If the app is free, the developers are trying to make money in other ways, and the app will likely have advertising or in-app purchases. These are disconcerting to kids and annoying for parents.
Do: Preview all apps. You’ll probably want to know what the content is, and want to be able to help your kid if they get stuck. You’ll also know if the music is too annoying, or if the voiceover is not available in your language before your kid gets hooked on it. And, on that note…
Don’t: Be afraid to delete! If an app isn’t age-appropriate for your kid, or you just don’t like it, remove it from the iPad. It’s easy to do, and you can always reinstall it later (by going to the “Purchased” area in the App Store).
Do: Play iPad apps and games with your kid. They’ll learn a lot more if you’re interacting with them. (If you’re interested in some of the science surrounding electronic early learning, check out the book Screen Time by Lisa Guernsey, available on Amazon here.)
Do: Set rules for when, where and how the iPad gets used. In our house, we try to limit iPad sessions to 30 minutes or less, and there are times (like right before bed) when it isn’t allowed. We also have consciously kept the iPad as an interactive media device, rather than a passive one — we don’t use it to watch videos, instead that’s what we use the TV for. (That’s mainly to encourage sharing of the iPad. It would be hard for a 3-year-old to give up half-way through an episode of Dora the Explorer.)
Do: Invest in a protective case. Unless you will always handle the iPad with/for your kid (or your home is completely padded). We speak from experience.
Don’t: Shop for apps with your kid. It’s too easy to cater to their whims when they’re attracted to something for the wrong reasons (often just the app icon!). You’re likely to pick up some duds. We get around this by keeping a Pinterest board of the apps we’re considering buying. Then we’ve got a subset to choose from that I’ve already prequalified to some degree. Though if you really want to preview all apps (see above), you’ll have to do all the shopping yourself.
Do: Use your iPad’s settings to your advantage! You can turn on Restrictions to keep you kid from installing or deleting apps accidentally (and lots of other things). I also recommend turning Multitasking Gestures OFF for kids. (Their tendency to touch the iPad with several fingers makes it too easy to switch apps.) Both of these are available in the iPad’s general settings.
Do: Keep things straight with a single iTunes account. We have three different accounts in our house and it’s a pain to constantly log in and out of different accounts to make purchases and update apps.
Most Importantly: Enjoy! The iPad offers diverse learning experiences for kids and parents, and can augment your collection of traditional toys. Our home is small, so we appreciate the fact that at least some of B’s peg puzzles, books, art supplies, paper dolls and musical instruments are virtual!