Does your toddler need an iPad?

Toddler need an iPadYou might have cooed over desperately cute pictures of little babies interacting with iPads, but does this mean that no nursery is complete without a few Apple accessories?

Is computer play a necessary part of children’s play in 2012 – even very tiny children?

These days, a toddler holding an iPad and using it to watch cartoons or play with an app is an increasingly common sight. Is this natural evolution of our age, or a sign that we have become too casual with how we treat expensive bits of tech?

Technology, screen time and the online world are issues that we parents today have to think about, in a way that no other generation of parents have.

I know of toddlers who have their own Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter feed and YouTube accounts. Obviously all of these are managed and produced by their parents, but they do so because they see a value in it. For the child whose family is spread out across the globe, it offers a way to share news, pictures and videos.

Skype can be invaluable for the pre-verbal child who lives far from their grandparents. They can wave, show their latest drawing or simply play whilst their extended family gets an insight into their life and personality, no matter how far away they are. That’s got to be good for long-term relationships and a big step up from trying to get a child who can barely form a sentence to speak to Grandma on the phone.

It’s all about balance

Whilst screen-based play can have benefits for the under fives, it needs to exist within a balance of other activities, particularly physical activity. No sense in knowing your way round the app store if you don’t have the energy to go to the real store.

So use your common sense – it’s great if a child has an aptitude for technology, but that should never edge out other forms of play, particularly playing with other children.

Simple is best

When you’re choosing toys for your child, remember that the simpler something is, the more a child has to bring their imagination to it. This is why something like a giant cardboard box can be one of the most fun things to play with, and why classic toys like building blocks and dolls have stood the test of time and will continue to endure. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your toddler to help them have a good time.

Give your child access to chunky crayons, but don’t be concerned if they’re not ready to pick them up yet. Any toy which encourages fine motor skills (small movements of the hands and fingers) will, eventually, help them to develop writing skills. Traditionally this might have included:

  • Sewing games – either a printed sewing card that you thread with a shoelace, or make your own by threading a cotton reel or some dried penne pasta and a piece of string
  • Painting – Use a big brush and stand well back to admire the most abstract creations you ever did see
  • Drawing in the sand – either with a finger, paintbrush or chopstick

And increasingly, nowadays we could also add tracing with your finger on an iPad app to the list.

All of these games will encourage your child to make a connection between what they’re doing with their hands and what they can see with their eyes, and this will one day lead them to be able to write.

So no, I don’t think an iPad is a must-have for any child under five. Can they benefit from it? Most definitely. But they’d also benefit from a cardboard box, a stick or a roll in the mud.

Some things in life work just fine without an added app.

Joanne is a journalist, life coach, Doctor Who nerd and all round internet supremo.

Her book “Toddlers: An Instruction Manual” is out now

[Top Image: umpcportal]


  1. says

    I have to say, despite being addicted to my iPad, I think I’d try and keep my future children away from tech as long as possible. I find it quite depressing when I see the kids on my street all sitting on their phones, rather than actually playing. 

    But I can see the benefits of an iPad from a learning point of view (as long as, like you mentioned, you balance it with non-tech activities). Plus you’re only a couple of taps away from a YouTube library of lullabies!

  2. MsMagic says

    I think iPads are great for kids to play on they can play games together, watch movies/tv shows on them on journeys, and they can learn stuff! I don’t think they need their own but it’s always worth having one knowing your kids will use it too. The downside may be just how fragile they are!

    • says

       We gave our toddler the iPad near the end of a long journey when she was dying of boredom. I managed to move it out the way just as she vomited all over the place. Carsickness and iPads don’t play nice.

  3. says

    Our kids are growing up in a world surrounded by tech. Whilst I agree an iPad isn’t essential, it is certainly a valuable learning tool, and I don’t think kids should be deliberately kept away from it.

  4. says

    My daughter loves the iPad and already works it faster than I could ever dream of. However, she gets totally addicted and throws a tantrum when you take it off her, so we limit her usage. What’s brilliant is how “broken” she thinks other technology is – she’s always trying to swipe the TV screen and my laptop screen.

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