Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tips for Using Ipads With Preschoolers

Using apps with Preschoolers can be tricky. Here are my (tried and tested) tips for making it easier.

iPhone Screenshot 1
Sandtimer App
Use a Timer
Nothing worse than a tantrum when the ipad has to go away or it is time for another child has a turn. I downloaded the Sandtimer app which you can set for different lengths of time to alert children when their time is up. Our kids simply hand the ipad over when the time is up and reset the timer themselves. Magic!

Make a List
In the classroom setting, an educator will help the children to write a list of the names of children who would like a turn. We usually put a child in charge of the list, explaining to them who is coming next and they can hold the list while people take turns on the ipad. This has to be monitored of course, but we found that a massive queue of children around the ipad for an hour was really eating into their play time. Now they know they will definitely get a turn at some point, they are happy to go and play elsewhere while they are waiting. 

Limit Screen Time
Current Australian Regulations recommend no screen time of any kind for children under 2 years. This is difficult and I know in home settings this is not always the case. Some great ideas for limiting screen time can be found here. For your interest, our centre has a TV that gets used between 5-10 times a year and only for 20 minutes at a time. The ipads are only available in the morning play session and children have 5-10 minute turns depending on the apps they are using. 

Pay for Quality Apps - and Check the Content!
If you are going to use an ipad for your child or in the classroom, make it worthwhile and only download quality apps that are actually going to benefit your child. I deleted some apps that looked cute but were useless once opened.

Turn Off the Wifi
Most free apps are lite versions of a game, meaning that you have to pay for the full version. If your itunes accesses your credit card, this can be a costly exercise as children will click on ads indiscriminately and charge your card ofr full versions and other apps. Turn off the wifi connection in your device's menu before you give it to your child. Most games do not need a connection to provide content, and those that do probably want your money anyway!

Don't Be Pressured
If you don't have a tablet device or smart phone that your child can use, don't fall into the trap that your child is somehow missing out on the techonology that they will grow up with. Most of us grew up without computers in our home as young children and coped just fine when they were introduced later in our lives in educational settings. Your kids will pick up the technology they need along the way without needing hours of screen time. Instead, teach yourself to feel smug that your kids are probably healthier than the 'ipad kids' anyway!

Just Say No
The devices in your life (and your children) shouldn't rule you. Set limits and stick to them. Take the device away and ignore the tantrum that follows. If it happens every time, then put the device away for a while until your child is older and more emotionally ready to handle the boundaries around it. Give your child time to run around after playing and burn off some of that pent up energy from the time spent in concentration.

The technology in our lives is there to help us, not to rule over us. If you feel enslaved by the devices - let the batteries run flat and "loose" the charger for a while. Take a walk together, have a picnic, read an actual book (don't have any? Visit the library together - they still exist, amazingly enough!). Enjoy life for what it is, and never think that an app - no matter how good it is - is a quality substitute for learning new concepts together. At best, it is a helpful addition. Your kids need time with  you too! 

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