Nicole's Nook Occupational Therapy Technology as Therapy

Nicole’s Nook: Age Appropriate Apps for Children 0 – 5 Years

In this month’s blog, I thought that I would take a moment to showcase the technology currently available for younger children (birth to 5 years old). Today’s technology-saturated world has made it difficult to determine how much is too much and how young is too young. For children under 2, the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 stated that “we discourage the use of media by children under the age of two.” Being the huge technology proponent I am, I have often been asked about my response to this recommendation.
First, I think it is important to understand that this recommendation of “zero screen time” generally refers to the passive viewing of television or devices. Using such media as a “babysitter” is highly discouraged, and I could not agree more. Parents are urged to develop a balanced view of technology, making sure that any and all screen time is spent with their children in an engaging and interactive way. This shared experience provides an excellent opportunity for communication, social interaction, learning, stimulation and bonding. In addition to utilizing technology, parents must also provide a variety of sensory-rich and motor-based activities, integrating them into their daily lives. Ultimately, technology requires a balance between productive, educational technology and fun, gaming technology.
For children under 2 years of age, my app recommendations include cause/effect, music, and storybook apps.  Some of my favorites are:  Duck Duck Moose, Pocket Pond, Peekaboo Barn, Glow Coloring, aXylophone, R-Tap Drums, Eensy Harp, Toddler Puzzle Shapes, and PicABoo.
For children ages 3 to 5 years old, the Toca Boca and TeachMe apps are great, as well as Interactive Alphabet, Preschool Monkey Lunchbox, Toy Story Read Along, The Great Cookie Thief and Storybots.
The iPad, like any other device or piece of technology, requires responsible use. There are many settings and restrictions that can be engaged to optimize its use. For example, if you go to Settings>General>Restrictions, you can prevent the installation and deletion of apps, in app purchases, and/or prevent access to built-in apps, such as Safari, the Camera or iTunes. You can also control the content of music, movies, television shows, books or apps that appear on the iPad. Another exciting feature is Guided Access, which allows you to “lock” a child into an app. This is especially useful when you want a child to maintain focus and attention to complete a task vs. moving in or out of apps or doing something non-productive or non-educational. To set this up:

  • Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Guided Access.
  • Turn On and set Passcode.
  • Go to any app, triple click home button, select Guided Access. Options include: Turning Off Hardware Buttons, Turning Off Touch or Turning Off Motion.
  • If you want to select a certain area, use your finger to circle the area. It will gray out the designated area. You can also turn off sleep/wake and/or volume buttons.
  • When finished, press Start, and Guided Access is now enabled.
  • To exit Guided Access, triple click the home button, which will prompt the passcode keypad and enter the passcode to exit.

Advances in technology have had a dramatic impact on society, as well as the development of our youth. However, with the right guidance, settings and apps, the iPad can be a powerful tool for learning, communication and productivity. While it does provide entertainment in the form of fun and games, it can also be a very purposeful and effective device.
Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist