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How to Use the iPad as an Educational Tool for Kids

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In this article, Jason R. Rich helps parents discover how the Apple iPad, iPad 2, and iPad 3 can be used as an educational tool for a young child. He explains how to find the most appropriate eBooks, apps, and iPad educational content suitable for your child.
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Thanks to its touch screen and capability to showcase detailed graphics, the Apple iPad can easily be transformed into an educational tool for kids of almost any age simply by adding the appropriate eBooks, apps, or content.

Before turning your tablet over to your young kids, however, it's a good idea to activate the Restrictions options (found within Settings) to prevent a child from accidentally accessing your personal data or inappropriate content. You should also consider reinforcing the iPad's durability by adding a protective padded case or cover that can remain on the tablet while it's in use and also apply a thin protective film over the screen to help prevent scratches.

Once your iPad has been "child-proofed," visit Apple's iBookstore (via the iBooks app), the App Store (via the App Store app), and iTunes (via the iTunes app) in order to acquire age-appropriate educational apps, interactive children's books, TV show episodes and movies that can reinforce lessons from school.

As you and your child will discover, different types of content for the iPad provide for vastly different educational experiences[md]some are passive, while others are more immersive and interactive. The eBooks, apps, and content described in this article will work on the original iPad, iPad 2, or new iPad 3. Any of it can be acquired directly from an iPad; or when using a PC or Mac via the iTunes software (and/or iCloud), it can then be transferred to your tablet.

Discover Interactive Children's Books for the iPad

Many established children's book authors and publishers, as well as self-published authors and educational institutions, have begun adapting some of the all-time bestselling children's books into interactive eBooks for the iPad. You'll also find interactive eBooks based on original stories and characters.

In addition to featuring illustrations that utilize the entire iPad screen, the difference between a traditional eBook and an interactive one is that the latter also takes advantage of the tablet's touch screen, and can simultaneously offer multimedia content (audio and/or video) with text and illustrations.

So, if you or your child touches a certain area of an illustration within a children's interactive eBook, the page could come to life through animations. Or, you might hear appropriate sound effects and/or narration. Some interactive eBooks actually read the story to your child through audio narration, in addition to simply displaying the words on each virtual page.

Some of the popular interactive children's eBooks can be acquired from the Apple iBookstore and can be read and experienced using the free Apple iBooks app. Others, however, require their own proprietary app that can be acquired from the App Store and installed on your iPad.

Just like traditionally printed books, interactive eBooks are designed to appeal to specific age groups and genders, so it's important to carefully read eBook or app descriptions to determine whether a specific eBook or app is appropriate for and will appeal to your child.

To begin shopping for interactive children's eBooks, launch the iBooks app when your iPad has access to the Internet. From the main Library screen of iBooks (which looks like a virtual bookshelf), tap the Store icon that's displayed in the upper-left corner of the screen.

When iBookstore launches on your tablet, tap the Categories icon that's displayed along the bottom of the screen, and select the Children & Teens category. If you're looking for interactive eBooks suitable for toddlers and preschoolers, for example, look for what Apple refers to as "Multi-Touch Books" in the Children's Fiction category, as well as "Children's Picture Books."

Once you pinpoint one or more age- and gender-appropriate eBooks for your child, you can preview its contents before making a purchase, first by carefully reading the book's description and reviews within iBookstore, and also by looking at the sample screen shots. Plus, in many instances, you can tap the Get Sample icon (displayed just below the price icon) to download a sample of the eBook.

Especially with interactive eBooks designed for young kids, you'll discover that most are intended to be experienced as part of story time with a parent. So, instead of reading a traditionally printed book to your child (or having the child read to you), you can read and explore an interactive eBook's elements together.

If you were to compare a traditionally printed children's book with a children's eBook designed and published for the iPad, what you'll typically discover is that the iPad edition offers vivid and colorful graphics and additional interactive elements, plus they're often considerable less expensive than their printed counterparts.

The average children's eBook available from iBookstore will range in price from $2.99 to $5.99, although some are priced as high as $12.99. Whether the eBook is designed to teach a lesson, reinforce basic skills (like reading or math), or is simply an age-appropriate story, having your young child experience eBooks on the iPad, either alone or as part of parent/child story time, will help them develop a passion for reading, while teaching them to interact with an iPad.

To preview what's possible in terms of children's eBooks on the iPad, as you're visiting iBookstore, tap the Top Charts icon that's displayed at the bottom of the screen. Then, in the upper-left corner of the screen, tap the Categories icon in order to select the Children & Teen category.

Next, on the right side of the screen will be a listing of Top Free Books, which include popular children's titles that can be downloaded for free, including The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Engine That Could, and a "read aloud" edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Read Aloud eBooks combine illustrated eBooks with elements of an audiobook, so the text from each page is displayed on the screen, but a narrator also reads the book aloud. As the narrator reads each word, the corresponding word is highlighted on the virtual page. The Real Aloud feature can easily be turned off by parents, who might want to take over by reading the book to their children.

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