I was browsing the Daily Mail online this past week (yes, yes, I know… but it’s only the online version and even then I only read read the femail section and the celebrity gossip, give me a break!), when I came across this photo of Wayne Rooney’s toddler son Kai pictured on a family holiday iPad in hand as his parents sunbathed. The heading read: “Use an iPad to pacify your toddler? Don’t be a dummy!”. I’m certainly not about to stand here in judgement of the Rooneys (not on the issue of iPads and children anyway, but inappropriate visits to granny brothels and dubious fashion choices I might…) but it did get me thinking about our own use of Apple technology and Allegra in the Richmond household.
At present, we are a three iPad household. And there are three of us living here. This may seem excessive, but allow me to explain. The first iPad was a birthday present from me to Richmond Daddy quite soonish after they first came out. I was then issued with an iPad at work – as part of a drive to encourage more flexible and paperless working – and then Richmond Daddy also got given a work one, so the first one we bought then became “Allegra’s iPad”. Allegra is 22 months old, and yes, she has “her own” iPad.
But, as a 22 month old girl about Richmond, Allegra also has a book collection that could rival Waterstones, a soft-toy selection that could give Hamley’s a run for its money, and a repertoire of assorted Peppa items, creative play toys, and puzzles that could stock a pop-up shop in my front room and that’s before we even get onto the growing number of craft and painting goodies she’s also started to accumulate.
If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have proactively planned to introduce her to the iPad at such a young age, but given the fact that she regularly sees both Richmond Daddy and I on our iPads or laptops, she is naturally curious about what we’re doing and wants to get involved. What started out as a tool to view photos on, which she LOVES browsing on the iPad – watching slideshows of family holidays and pointing out friends and relatives as she swooshes through the pics is one of her favourite things to do on the iPad – has, as she’s got that little bit older, evolved into her using “Allegra’s iPad” to watch nursery rhyme music videos (and the occasional spot of Beyonce’s Single Ladies – I kid you not) on YouTube. And in one corner of my mind, this does slightly worry me.
Look, I know it’s all about balance and don’t think for one minute that I throw Allegra the iPad and leave her to it for hours and hours on end, not at all. In fact, usually it’s tucked away on a shelf somewhere and we might get it out for a half-an-hour of watching The Finger Family – Daddy Finger (that isn’t at all as obscene as all you with your minds in the gutter might think) or Three Bears, or my favourite The Duck Song (you MUST check this one out!) videos on YouTube. Oh and over Christmas, it was ALL about watching and dancing along to Frosty the Snowman, as well as the aforementioned Ms Knowles and her leotard-clad posse. But, we spend far far more time having carpet-picnics with her teddies and dolls, drinking endless cups of pretend tea and eating pretend-cake, and doing puzzles, and singing/dancing/shaking maracas to music, and more recently doing hand painting and modelling with Play Doh. Far far more time – more time than I’d like to spend on the Play Doh front (it really gets under your nails doesn’t it?!), but you get the picture: we spend more time off the iPad than on it, by a long-shot.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t woken up to the uses of the iPad when it comes to entertaining a toddler and I’m not going to get all serious on you now and wax lyrical about the myriad of educational apps we have downloaded for Ms Allegra to enjoy to further her learning journey. Nah. Basically, she has a few favourite things on “Allegra’s iPad” and they are: Peppa Pig – Royal Compilation, 10 episodes of her favourite TV programme that have over the past year been watched to death; Bizzy Bear on the Farm, which she’s now really good at doing, sliding her finger around the screen to feed the pigs their apples and round-up the sheep, it’s quite impressive!; Colour Drops, an animated draw and paint interactive game, which she’s dabbled with but so far hasn’t really got into in a big way; and an In the Night Garden app, her favourite bit of which is making Upsy Daisy, Iggle Piggle or Makka Pakka dance and dancing along with them.
I don’t think we have much in common with the Rooneys, in fact, I suspect barely anything, and I don’t know how much time little Kai spends on his iPad, but I will say this – they are, like us, not alone in recognising that sometimes technology and toddlers are a good mix. You can call it lazy parenting (I think some of the commentators of that Daily Mail article do), but let’s face it, used in moderation, there are times when the iPad can really be a force for harmonious family good: I’m thinking long car journeys; entertaining the little one while mummy or daddy has a shower/gets ready for work in the morning; and sometimes, yes sometimes, even while out for a meal (yes, I never thought I’d be one of THOSE parents, but when on holiday last year in Italy, Peppa on the iPad meant Allegra was entertained, calm, and quiet while we had dinner – don’t judge!).
I can’t say it doesn’t worry me a bit when my 22 month old little girl says “iPad mummy, Allegra iPad” and wants to get her YouTube fix, but as I said before, I believe in the mantra “everything in moderation” and while she’s still choosing books and puzzles, Play Doh and painting, make-believe picnics and musical instruments over apps, then I’m just not going to sweat it.
What’s your view on technology and toddlers? Does your little one play with an iPad or are you strictly a no TV before they’re two years old and crafting mamma?