Preschoolers: iPad tips

The use of iPads, tablets and phone apps can be hugely beneficial to young children with brain injuries. The team at The Children’s Trust has helped create this guide for parents of preschool age children who use iPads or similar technology.


Getting started

  • Use iPad in short intervals, for some children and young people 5mins is enough.  For others you may need to limit the time!
  • Check out: internetmatters for guides on screen time and internet safety PDF guidance for 0-5 years
  • Consider the time of day. Using an iPad or tablet can affect sleep if used too close to bedtime
  • Build on familiarity – apps with familiar sights or sounds
  • When introducing a new app / game – support the correct use of the app.  Some children will move on too quickly due to poor attention or understanding and need adult support to learn how to use the app and progress skills within the app.

Sound and getting the best out of your device

  • Bluetooth speakers are available to purchase from a range of retailers
  • You can make sound from a phone louder by making your own speaker at home; simply put your phone in an empty cup or bowl. You can even make your own speaker using toilet paper roll and paper cups. If you look this up online you'll find lots of images showing how this is done. 
  • Child friendly headphones with volume limiting controls can be purchased, for example Snuggly Rascals, which are comfortable, cosy headphones for children. 

Do they like to watch?

Choose an app that suits your child’s visual skills. So think about the following questions:
  • Can your child see still images or moving images more easily?
  • Can they focus better if the background graphics are plain?
  • Can they visually see better if the images are in high contrast?
  • Are they more attracted to images with faces?
Make looking at the screen easier by:
  • Reducing glare from the screen – use a matte (non-shiny) screen protector
  • Avoid overhead lighting / glare from windows and tilt the screen if needed
  • Position the screen with a plain background, avoiding curtains / walls that are ‘busy’.
  • Consider the iPad case and the room you are in.  For instance, is the lime green case distracting?
  • Is your child distracted by people moving around the room?

Do they like to touch? 

Apps require attention. However some children and young people need guidance to stay in the activity. If your child is using an app that requires a lot of touching the screen, you can set up Guided Access (a type of parental control). It lets users lock one app to the screen of their device so other apps can't be accessed.  An adult can also use Guided Access to restrict time on a device.  You can control guided access using a passcode, triple click home button or touch ID.
  • Go to Settings
  • Accessibility
  • Guided Access – switch it on and select method of control
  • Go to the app you want to use, once open, triple tap the home button to start guided access.
  • When the child has finished using the app you can triple tap home button again to end guided access.
Carefully position the iPad so that it is stable and within reach.  Be careful that the position doesn’t encourage worsening of posture. Certain apps encourage your child to learn Cause and Effect.  By touching the screen to either activate a sound or change a visual image/colour, the child will learn they can impact the environment around them whilst learning early communication skills. Use screen protectors and robust casing to prevent breakages. Here is a list of some of our  [suggested apps for preschoolers] (1332k) The Home learning environment early years apps: parent guidance gives further guidance on apps and tablet use for younger children. And CBEEBIES is another useful resource that we recommend. 
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