Feeling Good about iPad Time

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The Palsson family is on a 125 day trek across Europe, exploring the world and learning as they go. This week, while in France, Kimberly reflects on her time away and discusses how she approaches technology use with her kids.

I’m willing to admit that iPad time sometimes feels like it saves my life, especially when traveling. My kids get so excited to spend time on their devices that they are much more manageable on travel days. As soon as we settle into our seats on the train, in the car, or on an airplane, they get set up with their tablets. The addition of headphones makes this even more calming for me.

It’s both magical and scary how they can both zone out for hours on end. While I choose not to overthink things like this usually, I gave a lot more thought to my kids’ iPad time as we prepared for our 125 day road trip across Europe. They would be in the car a lot, and I didn’t want all of that time devoted to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

In addition to planning an assortment of fun car activities, which I’d love to share with you in detail in another post, I revamped their iPads. I decided that no matter how much effort I put into entertaining the kids in the car, we’d still be relying heavily on their tablets this summer. So I removed the guilt.

I took all videos off of their iPads and populated the screen with educational apps. Homer helped a lot with this. The app is filled with stories to engage the kids, but the kids are also super excited to conquer new letters, expand their vocabulary, and move through different lands. My daughter is especially competitive with herself and excited to see how much she can accomplish. With Homer, I would be in control of what they could access. I downloaded a lot onto the iPad before we set out, but I purposefully didn’t let them access everything. I want there to be new surprises along the way. So I updated Homer regularly on stops so they’d always have new content to explore.

Now, when I hand them the iPads in the backseat of the car, I don’t feel the usual twinge of guilt. I am confident that this screen time is engaging learning time for them. The best part is the kids are so engrossed with this interesting content that they don’t seem to miss the videos they once watched with zombie dedication.

In addition to limiting the iPad content to educational apps, I made both iPads look exactly the same. This may sounds like a small thing, but it is a game changer! I no longer hear, “She has something special on her iPad that I don’t have!” And my daughter can easily show Olaf where certain apps are on his tablet.

Headphones are also key to my iPad-use happiness. I don’t have to hear two different apps going at the same time, which makes me a bit crazy. A bonus to the headphones is that Stefan and I can now listen to Audible or a favorite podcast without worrying too much about the content being kid-friendly.

Store the iPads, with their headphones, in a bag together. We used a small travel bag from Ikea. They’re opaque and just the right size to keep everything together. This makes them easy to add to the backpack, but it also helps keep the devices out of sight so the kids aren’t constantly reaching for them.

If you’re planning a trip this summer, I hope you’ll find these tips helpful in balancing the pull of the screens with your desire to keep your children from turning into zombies.
I’d also love to hear your tips and tricks!

So happy to #TravelwithHomer this summer.