Tony Chen, founder of savvydaddy.com, lays out the best strategies to engage kids with the coolest Apple gadget
If you ask me, the iPad is one of the greatest gadgets that Apple ever created. Whether that is true or not, the iPad is a great tool for many purposes. As a dad, you can let your kids use your iPad to their advantage. Here are seven ways that your kids can get the most of the iPad.
- Make them earn their time. Kids love the iPad almost as much as their dads do. Many kids enjoy playing games on the iPad and doing other fun things. They are absolutely amazed by the touch screen and other capabilities of this Apple tablet. (The younger kids will grow up believing that every screen is a touchscreen.) But you can’t let your children hog the iPad or else you may never get to use it. You can help them appreciate their time with this great tool by making them earn the time they spend on it. You can make rules that say they get 10 or 20 minutes for every chore they do or for every time they get their homework done. Many dads allow their children to earn “play time” on their iPad by playing educational games first. You can do an even trade—one minute of playtime for every minute of educational games played—or however you choose to do it. Either way, your kids will have a good balance of fun and education.
- Play games together on the iPad. If you want your kids to get the most from the iPad, don’t use it as a virtual babysitter like many parents do with the TV. Instead, use the iPad alongside your kids. Play some interactive games with them that they will enjoy. You will enjoy the quality time and your kids will learn and practice some new skills. Some head-to-head games for kids probably five and up would be Fruit Ninja and Tap Tap Revenge.
- Download Educational Apps. In addition to learning about money and playing games that enhance your child’s skills, the iPad is a great resource for using educational apps. There are apps that will help teach your kids how to add, subtract, multiply, divide and so much more. And since they are doing it on the iPad, your kids will look forward to doing these educational things. Apps like AceWriter help teach ABCs in a fun way, but that’s just one of the thousands of educational apps designed for kids. Create a personalized folder for each of your children that uses you iPad with their very own apps, games and videos so they feel like it is partly their iPad, too. Besides, you don’t want all of their things cluttering up your iPad’s main screen. (Editor’s note: check out iGame Mom for age-based reviews of fun educational apps.)
- Let Them Read. Reading can be a lot of fun on the iPad. You can find a long list of children’s books online that you can download complete with full-color pictures and more. You can even find a variety of interactive books from Dr. Seuss to Alice in Wonderland and more to help make reading much more fun for the kids.
- Download and Stream Videos. There are few things that will hold a child’s attention more than an interesting or funny video. With the iPad, there are endless possibilities when it comes to video entertainment. If you have a Netflix account, you can stream movies that your children will love from the company’s online database. There are dozens of cartoons and children’s movies streaming on Netflix which is ideal for those long car rides with your kids. You can even download your family’s home movies onto the iPad and also movies from websites like Youtube and others that you children can enjoy anytime. Learn a New Language. One of the most beneficial things you can do for your children when they are young is to encourage them to learn a new language. Studies show that learning a new language is much easier when a child is young compared to adolescents and even adults. The iPad can help make it fun and you can work together on learning a new language like German, Spanish or even Chinese. There are many different apps to choose from if you want to do this. For example, if you want your child to learn to speak Chinese, the Chinese for Kids app by 321Speak offers vocabulary and listening programs designed for children of various ages. For more in-depth study of the Chinese language, the iLearn Chinese Characters Lite app teaches children (and their fathers, for that matter) how to write various numbers and other characters in Chinese. You can find several apps (many of them free or very inexpensive) for the iPad based on the language you and your child want to learn.
- Get Them Interested in an Instrument. Music is a great way to keep children entertained and it’s even better when the children are interacting to make the music themselves. There are apps that allow kids to mimic playing music with instruments ranging from the piano to drums and many in between. This may create an interest in music that will last a lifetime, or at least though their toddler years and beyond.
- Download Coloring Book Apps. Are you going on a long trip and going to spend hours in the car? If your kids are coming along, you should bring the iPad complete with a couple coloring book apps. Kids can color virtually so you don’t have to bring along several books and boxes of crayons along with all the other things you need for a trip. And if your kid messes up on a picture, they can erase the colors or start over on the same page.
Letting your kids use your iPad from time to time is a great way to teach them how to use technology and how to be careful with fragile things. But it can also have educational benefits. Video game developers in recent years have created games that are both fun and educational for children. These days, playing video games isn’t as mindless as it was when we were kids 10 or 20 years ago. They aren’t all about shooting zombies or jumping over mushrooms like they were in our day. If you choose the right games and activities that your children can participate in on your iPad, you can use this tool to enhance their life skills and have some fun at the same time.
—Photo by p_a_h/Flickr