As a parent, it’s often difficult to match my love of gadgets with raising children. I can’t help but fall in love with video games and the newest iPad. Children always like to follow and copy their parents, so, naturally, I have a family of technology geeks! The trouble is, I know that this isn’t always best for their development. Kids need to spend time outdoors and socialise with real people. As a dad, it’s my job to find the right balance.
Technology sometimes gets a bad reputation when it comes to kids. But, it’s not all about games and chatting online. There are some truly powerful and beneficial things out there for children. Today I’d like to share some of my favourite things about the iPad. I’ll show you how your children can use it and improve all their vital skills. Of course, everything in moderation. I certainly don’t advise letting an iPad take over your kid’s life! But, used well, there are so many benefits. Here’s what they can do with it.
The iPad is a fantastic learning tool across the board. The sheer number of educational apps available is astonishing. I’ve found it particularly useful when teaching the kids maths. Even for a grown up, maths is tough! The apps are great because they break it down into easy, understandable language. Apps like 123 Tracing, Number Monster and Wee Kids Math are great for the early days. They teach children how to recognise and draw numbers. As they get older, there are loads of options for learning equations, mental maths and complex sums.
Those bed-time stories don’t read themselves! Well, actually they do. The iPad has a few lovely reading apps, not least the Kindle function. They’ll read the audio version out loud and also encourage kids to read themselves. We’re obsessed with books in our house; we still have bookcases full of them. But, as any parent knows, you blast through them quickly with young children. The iPad gives us instant access to new children’s books every single day.
Again, this should never be a substitute for sitting down and teaching children to write. However, the iPad can come in handy as a teaching assistant. App developers have created nifty new ways to recognise handwriting. Your child can use a screen pen to draw out letters and words. The app will recognise it and praise them for a job well done! It can improve handwriting, sentence structure, spelling and grammar.
This writing function can also be used to draw and sketch images on the iPad. We all know how creative our children can be. Drawing and colouring is one of the best ways to let them express themselves. Their imagination will run wild and you can join in the fun. There’s a brilliant little app called Squiggle Fish. Your little one can draw a picture on paper. Then they’ll take a picture of it with the iPad camera. The app will then turn it into a moving animation! It’s hours of fun, trust me.
Now we come to my obsession: gaming! The iPad has so many games available; it’s difficult to know where to start. The children are currently devouring Minecraft. They’re not alone either, it’s one of the best-selling games of all time. You use blocks to build fun and imaginative structures. You can also get together with other players to create wonderful things. So simple, but so brilliant.
There’s a big movement towards teaching children programming. It’s a smart initiative because the future is rooted in technology. Building apps and websites will be an essential part of life as our children grow. I’m teaching my children the basics now and I think it’s a good way to set up their future. Apps like Tynker are great for helping simplify the process. It takes a difficult subject and makes it super teachable.
For all the negative talk about technology, there are plenty of positives. Yes, some children spend far too much time on Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp. But, if you monitor it correctly and encourage other forms of communication, there’s no harm. Our children regularly use Skype and Facetime to chat to our family on the other side of the world. Without the iPad, they’d never have the chance to see their faces and speak in real time.
I’m a firm believer in games as art forms. The iPad is helping bring more awe and wonder into children’s lives and I’m all for that. Take Monument Valley, for instance. It’s a truly beautiful game, inspired by MC Escher’s artwork. I downloaded it for the kids and their faces were a sight to behold! You play the entire game with your mouth wide open, it’s just so pretty.
As a parent, there’s nothing more important than capturing as much of your child’s life as possible. With the iPad, we’re capturing perfect family moments every single day. There are very few photos of me growing up, and certainly no video footage. With this generation, we get to remember it all.
Keep things safe
We’ve all read the scare stories about children discovering unpleasant things on the internet. Yes, the digital world allows access to all sorts of things you don’t want your children viewing. And yes, they could accidently spend thousands on your credit card playing Candy Crush! But, if you’re smart about it, you can eliminate these problems. On the iPad, you can lock down certain apps so the kids can’t access them. You can remove in-app purchases so they don’t spend a fortune without your consent. Finally, you can set filters and parental locks on internet browsers.
I firmly believe the iPad is a force for good in our children’s lives. They can learn, play and communicate in a way they’ve never been able to before. Of course, it’s important to balance this with real-world experience and socialising. But, get the balance right and you open up new worlds to your kids!