6 months with an iPad & its my daughter's favorite companion
Last November, when I was away to be part of the Founder Institute, my wife and daughter went to stay with the in-laws in our hometown - Manipur, a north-eastern state of India. My daughter have a very fuzzy eating habit and have to be watching something while she eats her breakfast, lunch and dinner. With no Internet in that part of the country and frequent power-outages, she was having a hard-time. I sent them an iPad (3G) and had a BSNL SIM carved out to fit into the MicroSIM Slot of the iPad.
Luckily during those days, Manipur was one of the testing ground for 3G internet in India and the speed was very good. With the internet working flawlessly, my wife was able to get my daughter to watch her favorite YouTube videos and she fell in love with the iPad. Few Barbie apps were the early apps downloaded to the iPad and she loves them. She even begin to called the iPad, "Barbie". Even today she would ask me to put the "Barbie" to charge and sleep at night so she won't die. These days she does say iPad but mixes it quite often with "Barbie", "iPad Barbie", "Barbie iPad".
I would not really say that my daughter needed an iPad or that the iPad have really catapulted her study and thinking. Nonetheless, I can say that the iPad have been a good companion for her for the last 6 months or so. I can work hours without her seeking my attention because she is either talking to Ben or Tom or Gina.
My daughter have been playing with my iPhone ever since she was one and so the transition to the iPad was not much of a new thing, it just became better for her. I'm not surprised when she tries to swipe on everything glassy to interact with it. She swipes my Laptop screen while watching YouTube Videos, swipes on the TV screen, swipes on the Camera to browse through the pictures.
She spends her time listening to rhymes and other videos on the curated list at iTubeList. She learnt to asked us to "Search" for her favorite videos on "YouTube". Once we gave her one video, she can then flick and swipe across related videos and can go on enjoying the videos. "History" button is also her go-to whenever she opens up the YouTube app. She knows that her videos are there and go around from there.
It is a fun fact that English is not her primary language. Besides the terms used, "Apple", "Banana", "Food", "Go", "Come", she cannot really compose an English phrase. However, she know what happens with the iPad, she would tell us that "Youtube" videos needs a click on "Play" to start right away. She would exclaimed, I'm "Unlocking" the iPad or sometimes comes to us to "unlock" the iPad for her.
These days, when she returns from school, she would flick open the rhymes on the iPad which she sang at school and continues it here at home. We no longer need to "unlock" the iPad for her nor search videos for her. She is at ease and the iPad have become a very faithful companion for her. I won't be too exaggerating to say the iPad have helped us help us learn faster, using visual and interaction as a means. Many a times, we have been pleasantly surprised when she asked us for new terms, sings rhymes that have never taught to her.
Enable Restriction on an iPad for Kids
While leaving an iPad with your kid, always remember to Enable Restriction and set your desired settings. I usually disable YouTube, Safari, App Delete, App Download and in-app Purchase. I've found In-App Purchases always asked for my password but who knows when that'll change.
Warning: If you allow YouTube with your kid, be present with her while she plays around.
I'd say these kids are of the Gen-Z, where everything is connected and very soon, they might not even know that Internet is needed to stay connected. The connection has to be there like water and electricity, and they just want things to work across with no entanglement of wires and cables.
I've not really set a specific time or period for her iPad interaction but I guess one should if a kid is with it all the time. My daughter loves to dance, sing and go out a lot in the park, shopping with her mom. So, as of now, I'm not really concerned about her time spent with the iPad.
Am I advocating that kids should be given such a 'pricey toy'? Not really, but if given a chance, try it out and that might give you a lot of means to help your kid learn and interact. I will also give yourself your own time, specially if you work from home. I actually bought the iPad to communicate with my wife but it went to become my daughter's when she drop it accidentaly, breaking it. My wife snatched my iPad 2 that I bought to try my hands on iOS Development. She won't let go of it. Well both the ladies won't let go off their iPads.
For the last 6 months, my daughter who is now 2 and half year old, have come a long way from -- shown videos and photos, to unlocking the iPad for her, to herself unlocking, flicking through the apps, watching YouTube Videos, scanning through the related Videos, "bookmarking" them for future, browsing back to her "History", to playing Angry Birds (killing the birds instead), to Solipskier, to racing the Penguins. The iPad has no language barriers for your kid. Try it and you may be pleasantly surprised.