The iPad is the hottest item out there right now. It is both versatile and easy to use for people of all ages including children. Parents can use the family’s iPad to do a number of things, including educating their preschoolers. The ability to download books, learning apps and even something as fun as the “Doodle Buddy Pro” app can all be used to boost the knowledge that kids need to be successful as they enter kindergarten.
Any teacher will tell you that the ability of children of any age to listen and follow directions is critical to future academic success. I can agree that no one wants to hand $700 worth of iPad to their two year old so you should still provide rules and directions for any child using the iPad. In our family even our one and a half year old uses it with help from his brother or my husband and I. We have a clear set of rules however when using it. You must sit on the sofa, you must use one finger and you must keep it on your lap. Using the word “must” tells the kids we mean business and having a set of easy to understand rules makes it easier for our 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year old sons to understand and be successful. The first few times we allowed them to use it we also sat right with them and reminded them of the rules each time they “forgot” them. The repetition set us up for the environment of learning and properly understanding the rules. It also allowed them to gain confidence in using the iPad as a tool for learning. One thing you have to remember is that if the “rules” continue to be broken, then you need to say that you “are sorry but for right now you are going to put the iPad away” and that you will try again later. Don’t allow your child to keep violating the rules that you give them. It will only lead to more disrespect the of the opportunity to use this tool. I would also recommend that you never leave your child alone with the iPad. You don’t want it to be dropped while you are out of the room.
Finding the Right Apps
Start with a few free apps to get the kids understanding just how the iPad works. We chose a few games that allowed the kids to practice using their finger to turn pages and so on. Once they got that down, we introduced a couple of apps from Disney to use. Disney offers a few character books like Toy Story and CARS that are perfect for preschoolers. Start with the stories in these apps and then move on to other features like games and drawing that also come with the app. Also don’t discount apps like Doodle Buddy. One of the great features is that you can teach your children to write letter with their fingers or trace letter that you write. Also just having the ability to draw, follow directions or make choices will enhance learning and build critical skills preschoolers need.
Flash Cards and More
My children love some of the sets of flash cards that are available on both iPad and iPhone. Their current favorite is a free flash card app from Happy Baby. They love the flash cards, pictures and music on this app and our youngest has already learned four new fruits in just two “turns” with the app. The interactive, almost magical feeling that kids get from using the iPad makes them coming back for more over and over again.
On My Own
After only a week of play with the iPad, we have gotten to the point where our 3 year old can navigate the iPad (almost better than me) including switching apps. We allow him to sit on the sofa, while we are in the room and choose between six apps (three Disney books which also have games and art activities, the Happy Baby flash cards, Doodle Buddy and the Harry Potter Lego App. He will sit for hours and work on the iPad. It has boosted his self esteem in the fact that he feels like a big kid and his listening skills have improved. He also has increased his fine motor skills and has begun site recognition of many of his letter and a few words. I attribute this to the use of the iPad because during this time, we have not been actively working on these skills in any other way. We have also used iPad usage as a reward for good behavior. He gets more time if he has good behavior and less time if he has poor behavior.
With a little patience, the iPad can increase your child’s ability to follow directions, teach them new skills and create a passion for learning and technology. You must remember to give clear and simple directions and stick to your guns when it comes to violations in those directions. By remembering that, you can successfully use this great technology to teach your child new skills.