For the Kids

March 23, 2012 by Gabe | [mmd] |

My daughter is enjoying her hand-me-down iPad 1. But there were a couple of things I did to make it a better experience for her and I.

It's Glass Dummy

Kids are naturally drawn to the iPad for two reasons.

  1. It is playful by design, with it's vivid animated graphics and shallow learning curve.
  2. It is 30% fragile glass.

I knew I didn't want her carrying around a sheet of glass so I bought a protective cover. I chose the Speck iGuy case.


The iGuy case is thick foam in a child friendly design. I immediately noticed a difference in how my daughter interacted with the iPad after I introduced the case. It became a toy rather than a screen. She carries it around by its "hand" and stands it up on her table. Now she casually grabs the iPad as if she owns it. It stopped being mommy and daddy's iPad and became hers. While we still get final say over how often she uses it, so far she uses it like any other toy. She plays with it for a few minutes and then moves on to something else.

Making the UI Kid Safe

Something that I highly recommend for parents is to become familiar with the iOS restrictions in the Settings app. I had never bothered to learn these settings before. Now I appreciate the care that went into the OS design and the depth of these settings.

I turned on all restrictions for the device except for YouTube and PhotoStream. That means that there is no Internet access, no AppStore, no notification center. If you think notifications are annoying for an adult, just wait until you see a three year old's reaction to one in the middle of Miss Spider.

I also turned off automatic downloads and all email, calendars and notes. I did keep location services on so that I could potentially use Find my iPhone and Find My Friends. However, I restricted all apps from use location services.

All push services are disabled expect for PhotoStream. My daughter's favorite "game" is the one that is a continuous stream of our family photos. It's mine too.

I rounded up all of the Apple default apps into a folder and hid them away on the last screen by itself. This is a gap in an otherwise good implementation of parental controls. It would be better if I could hide the default apps with the settings app. She still occasionally taps the Newsstand folder and get confused, much like I do.

I still perform some app curation. Whenever an app pops up and asks to be rated or tries to suggest purchases, that app is deleted. All apps from that developer get deleted. I'd like to see Apple include these features as part of the app age ratings. Anything rated for toddlers should not have popup ads or hobo signs asking for five stars.

Safe Exploration

I enjoy watching my daughter make her way through the experience. She now plays with her iPad like she does her coloring book. It's just a thing she plays with. It's not a piece of technology to her. It's not a tablet or a PC. It's her iPad.