iReview: iPad

iReview: iPad — Post by Nicole Grant

ipad games reviewI knew I needed an iPad as soon as I saw them. I am not usually one to embrace new technology so quickly, however these were exceptional circumstances. This device was like my much-loved iPhone. But bigger! Little did I realise how much a part of our every day life this new toy would become.

I’m going to give you an overview of the iPad, that will hopefully be a little different to the gazillion other articles that exist on this topic.

I initially had no intention of allowing my children anywhere near my iPad. They already had fairly open access to my iPhone, and this new device was to be mine, all mine. I think this rule lasted about 5 minutes after I loaded the first app.

I am an Occupational Therapist working with children with special needs. Some of the children I work with, particularly those on the autism spectrum, respond extremely well to visual stimuli and learn a great deal from information delivered in this format. I therefore downloaded applications that targeted developing specific skills such as identifying colours and shapes, letter formation, letter recognition, spelling, and visual processing (e.g. puzzles, mazes). My kids were perfect testers, and shortly their adoration of the iPad equalled mine.

My initial reservations about giving my children access to the iPad were based on the fact that I really couldn’t see any benefit for them. My two aren’t school-aged and I believe that everything they need to learn, they can do so through play, their daily experiences, and interactions with the people in their world. What I hadn’t realized (and obviously do now), is that the iPad does not replace any of these things, but can be a fun way to further explore and explain my children’s world.

Here’s an example:

Each night my husband reads a bedtime story to the children. One particular book they have, has pictures of animals from Canada. One night, the kids were particularly attentive, so their father grabbed the iPad and searched for North American animal images and videos to show the girls. They loved it!

ipad apps for kids

Now think of all the benefits of that experience –

  • Greater understanding of different animals, how they look and behave, and where they are located geographically.
  • Opportunity to open discussion about nature and the environment.
  • Opportunity to practice good attention and concentration.
  • Bonding time between a father and his children.

I have many, many educational apps on my iPad, all organized into neat little folders categorised by skill area – e.g. handwriting, literacy, problem-solving, sensory processing, communication skills, etc. Now brace yourselves for a slightly controversial statement. Not all apps need to be educational or have a purpose or be particularly meaningful. I have apps installed that I just think are fun. Usually we end up learning something anyway, but I want my kids to be kids most of the time and do fun kid stuff. Kids need their downtime too!

10 Tips for Using an iPad with Children

So in summary, here are my Top 10 tips for using an iPad with children (typically developing or with special needs):

  1. Choose a time limit that you feel is appropriate for your child’s age and abilities. For my kids (aged 3 and 4), 15 minutes is about my preference.
  2. Buy a case and screen protector. Your children will drop your iPad and spill juice or dribble all over it. It will happen. Be prepared for it. A Griffin iPad case is very sturdy and waterproof.
  3. Enable Airplane Mode (under Settings) if you would rather your child not send their latest doodle to your tax accountant via email.
  4. Turn ON Restrictions (also under Settings). Select Deleting Apps and in-App purchases to be turned off. Set the ratings for Movies and TV Shows to G if preferred, and you may wish to disable You Tube if you don’t want your children to stumble across inappropriate material.
  5. Try out any apps that you have purchased before allowing your children to use them. Some apps aren’t always what they advertise to be.
  6. Choose apps that do not contain advertising or links to web pages. Kids that are pre-reading will get frustrated when they accidentally click on these as usually they can’t get back into their game.
  7. Download a ‘lite’ or free version of an app before paying for it. Some apps cost quite a bit and you don’t always know what you’re paying for. If a free version is not on offer, do a Google search for a review to see what others are saying about it.
  8. Delete any apps you or your kids no longer use. They just take up space. You can always download them again at a later date if you change your mind. You shouldn’t be charged again.
  9. To save your kids’ latest brilliant artwork or picture, or anything they have on screen worth saving for posterity, hold down home and on/off buttons briefly to save the screen to the photo app.
  10. Don’t forget to check for updates through the app store as many apps are being constantly revised and improved.

iPad App Recommendations

My favourite apps for kids:

Interactive Story

Pretend Play







Literacy Skills

Letter Formation











What are your favourite iPad apps? Leave them in the comments below.

App Recommendations and Reviews

Appitic: – a directory of apps for education, apparently tested for a variety of different grade levels, instructional strategies and classroom settings.

 iPads for Education: – an Australian-based site for educators to learn about using iPads in education.

About Nicole

Nicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland. She is mother to 2 beautiful girls aged two and four. More information about Nicole can be found here:    www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Follow Nicole: Facebook

Other Relevant Links

Read other posts by Nicole

10 iPhone Apps for Kids

Storio Review

TV: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

You Might Also Like...


  • Reply
    Deb @ Home life simplified
    January 3, 2012 at 10:50 am

    fabulous review – i bought one a month ago as i had been dreaming of it for ages – the whole family loves it including my husband (who hopefully now feels the money was well spent)

    some of our favourite apps (my kids are almost 7 + 8 1/2) so far are: Art Maker from Playschool (the kids create their own digital storyboards and then they come to life as animated movies including their own narrations they record – amazing stuff!), Doodle Buddy (great drawing app), drum Kit (amongst several drum apps since my 6yo takes drum lessons) and “piano free” and “guitar free” – exploring music digitally has been huge for my family. games and activity ones: Cupcake Chef, Align Four (like connect 4) and temple run which hubby plays and the kids picked up with no lesson from him

  • Reply
    Ai Sakura
    January 3, 2012 at 11:26 am

    thanks for this post! I do find iPad and iPhones to be fun and educational, if used correctly and of course in moderation 🙂 didn’t know we can turn off settings for deleting apps too!! great tip 🙂

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  • Reply
    January 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    My boys ( 5 and 3) love all the apps by toca boca, especially the ones they can play together like tea party and the shop. It’s lovely to watch them play together making up stories etc about the game they are playing. Best apps I have bought 🙂

  • Reply
    Trish Jones
    January 3, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    As per usual Nicole, you’ve written a terrific article. There are a couple of apps that I think should be on your list.
    Bugs and Buttons -hitting all the top app lists and under $3
    Dyxteria – for fine motor skills
    I Hear Ewe – for communication
    Alpha Tots – a great and fun alphabet app

  • Reply
    January 3, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    We love The Monster At The End Of This Book and the new version with Elmo.

    I use The Grace App and Time Timer App fairly frequently.

    My 8yo used iCommunicate to create her own picture schedules.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    My five year twins love using my ipad 2 – I can’t wait to download some of these suggestions tomorrow.

  • Reply
    Nicole Grant
    January 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Thanks for all your comments and feedback. A good friend of mine has pointed out to me that you can find many ways to provide your kids with a multi-media learning experience without the use of an iPad. This is absolutely true, and a point I should probably have made in this article. I do love the variety of applications available though. Thanks Trish J for your suggestions. We have been playing Bugs and Buttons this morning and it is fantastic! I don’t know how I managed to miss this one. There are some very clever app developers out there!

  • Reply
    bonnie h
    January 5, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I second the Toca Boca apps. They are so well designed and engage the child’s imagination and often social interaction.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2012 at 12:25 am

    To see apps in action before you spend money on them, may I suggest checking out the video demos of hundreds of apps at http://www.A4cwns.com so you can decide if it’s right for your child before you spend the money. Sure, some apps are only 99 cents, so if you buy one that’s not appropriate, you haven’t lost much, but many apps cost much more!

    Great article, thanks!

    • Reply
      June 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      great tip!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Great post. Tons of great apps on iPad, and my 3yr old daughter loves the iPad. We recently bought a Kindle Fire, and Barnes and Noble Nook (for development purpose, else you really don’t need anything beyond iPad). And she calls it the ‘Kindle iPad’ 🙂

  • Reply
    Nicole Grant
    January 19, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Thanks for your suggestions. I’ve now added the Toca Boca kitchen and hairdressing apps. Brilliant! I found myself playing hairdresser after the kids went to bed last night!

  • Reply
    Kerry Paxton
    February 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    Rogue Mobile has recently released a handwriting app called rED Writing that may be of interest to you. You may like to check it out. The application’s best feature is that it uses the font approved and used in schools in your state so that children learn the correct letter formation from the start. You can also set up multiple users so that each of your children can play and achieve at their own pace.

    • Reply
      Nicole Grant
      February 6, 2012 at 11:55 am

      That’s fantastic!! Thanks Kerry.

    • Reply
      June 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      I was just wondering today about handwriting apps and if I’d be able to find something in Qld style…. Thanks for the tip! Love the ability to have multiple users!

  • Reply
    A Bump
    March 18, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    […] we read about each type of shark, we looked up YouTube for a video about the same shark on the iPad. It was a lovely, engaging time.  In these sorts of periods, it’s especially nice to put […]

  • Reply
    Play Products I RAVE About
    March 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    […] The iPad is a bit of luxury item but it’s proven to be such a useful tool during reading time. I usually have it nearby when we are relaxed and often couple the reading experience with looking up relevant videos and pictures on the iPad.  It’s really fun! This guest post from Nicole has heaps of helpful ideas about using the iPad with kids: iReview; iPad. […]

  • Reply
    June 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Dr panda apps; yes yes yes to toca boca; bugs and bubbles; firstwords deluxe.
    Don’t miss the Mr and Mrs Potato Head create & play. Free!!! Very small selection of my faves!

  • Reply
    June 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Letter school is pretty cool for letter tracing too!

  • Reply
    June 17, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    I haven’t tried too many apps on my android tablet yet (google nexus) but am starting to explore what’s available for my ADHD/ASD/SPD 7yo. He hates homework, although he does ok with spelling if practiced verbally (will NOT write it out). However, I found some squeebles apps (from the UK) the other day where you can input your own spelling words, record your own voice saying the words (my husband and I had great fun putting in a ‘test’ list). You can do separate lists for each child in the family, select ‘random’ to go over words from previous lists, set it to show them the word for 2 seconds, or as long as they need, they can hear your voice repeat it as many times as they like, even half way through typing the word. It’s awesome. I’m going to input every spelling list from this past term for my son to play in the holidays – and as it’s on the tablet, I know he’ll do it!!!
    Oh and I should mention that you can record praise for the child in your own voice (eg. Well done Jack, you’re doing great!) and when they get a certain number of points, they get to play a little game with the squeebles. They also do other apps for maths, but we have yet to try these.
    Looking forward to testing out some of the other apps listed above for my 7yo and also for my 4yo daughter.

  • Reply
    Play Baking: An Experiment
    August 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    […] iReview: iPad: Using an iPad with kids and recommended apps […]

  • Reply
    January 28, 2014 at 6:23 am

    I really want to download the Art maker app but can’t find it?

  • Reply
    Disney and Pixar are Raising my Kids! | Social bookmarking
    June 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    […] iReview: iPad: Using an iPad with kids and recommended apps […]

  • Reply
    Disney and Pixar are Raising my Kids!
    June 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    […] iReview: iPad: Using an iPad with kids and recommended apps […]

Leave a Reply