As a parent of three kids who all already have their own iPads there are a few things I would do BEFORE giving one to them that will make their experience more fun (and safe) and avoid you having to 'take' it from them for a while to set it up properly. DO THIS BEFORE you give them an iPad, if you can!
I would open the iPad, SET IT UP, THEN wrap it up for a Birthday or Christmas Gift. There are several reasons for this, and taking the plastic off of the new iPad box is a nice thing, having an iPad already set up and available to enjoy is, in my opinion, a MUCH better thing. It takes a little while to set the iPad up, and amidst all the other celebratory things it is easy to make mistakes or be distracted, or not get to it at all. If it's all set, it's ready to go!
Note: All the links in this post will open in a new window or tab on your computer or device, so don't worry about losing this page. Alternatively just add this to your bookmarks or favourites and come back and read it again!
1. Start up the iPad and go through the basic setup including setting the language, location, name of the iPad (they can change this later), and Apple ID. If you want your children to be able to download and install Apps with the same account you are using for your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, then read: How to Set Up App Purchases with on iTunes Account otherwise you can set up a new iTunes Store account for your child. If you set up their own account, they will not be able to purchase Apps unless you add a Credit Card to to their account or purchase an iTunes Store gift card for them, but they WILL be able to install free apps. I recommend the first option.
2. Set the age restrictions and remove basic Apps by following this guide: iPad Settings & Restrictions for Children This includes simple things like turning Safari (the internet) off, the ability to buy IN APP PURCHASES (important!!!) and locking the Age Restrictions of apps that can be installed. Doing these few simple things will save you LOTS of hassle, and possibly lots of money on in-app purchases as well as making the iPad internet-safe.
You can also make a few changes to YOUR iOS device (iPhone/iPad/iPod) which will allow you to see what Apps they're installing on THEIR iPad from your device using Automatic Downloads. Yes, this is cool. You'll also want to make sure you set THEIR iPad to not have this feature - as their device will install any apps YOU download. Not a good idea. This blog post shares all about how to do that: Settings & Restrictions to set on your child's iPad
3. Add yourself and other family members (like siblings and relatives) to your child's Contacts. Tap on the Contacts App, click on the PLUS + symbol on the bottom of the left hand column, and add yourself. Remember to add your eMail address and Phone Number, and while your at it you can tap on the PHOTO, and choose TAKE PHOTO and take a pic of you as the photo. If you or other family members are using FaceTime and Messages (below) then make sure you add the eMail address you have used to set up these Apps on your device, so your child can FaceTime or Message you.
4. Set up FaceTime and iMessages. FaceTime is an amazing video-calling app from Apple which enables them to call you face-to-face from anywhere they're connected to the internet directly onto YOUR iPad or iPhone (assuming you've set it up on yours too!).
iMessages is text, photo and video messaging which is also free if they're connected to the net. They can send text, photos or videos directly to YOUR device from anywhere (assuming again that you've set yours up!). If you've got other family members that have iOS devices you can also encourage them to set up iMessages and set up Facetime so your children can contact them too. Our children are in regular contact with Grampa and Nannie in the UK, Grandma in the USA and their Great-grandparents in Philadelphia who are all on FaceTime and Messages. This connects family like nothing else ever has.
A three year old is happy to FaceTime, but who knows any 3 year olds who like to chat on the phone??? Not me! Follow these steps to: Set up FaceTime on your Child's iPad AND Set up Messages on your Child's iPad
5. Sync their new iPad to your Mac / PC or Laptop straight away. Really, if you've got LOTS of Apps on your device already DO THIS FIRST to avoid installing all those apps onto their device by accident. Read this post: Sync Kids iPad to your Computer before Installing Apps
6. Get a few Apps for them. I would get a few apps onto their iPad before you give it to them. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND installing a few interesting iPad Books, at least one Children's Numeracy App and at least one Literacy App, definitely a Drawing App, a Music App or two, a Movie Making and Animation App (definitely), and perhaps a Craft App and then a few Games: Educational Puzzle Games, 3-in-a Row Games, and Strategy Games are a great start.
If you give them multiple options from a wide range of disciplines they are, FROM THE START, going to relate to the iPad as a multi-use device. If you only install games, they're going to relate to it as a gaming device. DON'T DO THAT!
In fact you may want to leave games off the iPad and let them find a few once they've explored the Educational Games, Arts Apps and Creative Tools. Remember they've also got a Camera and Video Camera built into the iPad so they're most likely going to want to take movies and videos of their Christmas to send to family straight away!!
Get them iMovie so they can make and edit their own movies with titles and transitions... get them going with this and they'll never automatically think of their iPad as a games device.
HERE are a few recommended Apps for Christmas to help:
And, after they open it...
7. Take the time to sit with them and read the instructions and directions of the Apps to them, and get to know the iPad yourself, if you don't already have one. They will probably overtake your knowledge of the device very quickly, but try to keep up!
It's important to them that you know (or pretend to know) all about the iPad as they will come to you for support when they reach their limit of knowledge. If you've gone through the above steps and read the posts we linked to, you WILL KNOW a lot more about the iPad than they do. Share with them what you know and they will be impressed.
Finally, I acknowledge you as one of the parents who has given their child THE best tech device on the planet. For a young digital native like your child it is one of the best things you could have done for them, equivalent to teaching them good hygiene, good manners, and how to be safe in the world. The opportunity to fully integrate with modern technology that you've just given them will last a lifetime and will take them powerfully into the future.
Enjoy your child, and help them enjoy their iPad. The skills they will learn will serve them for years and years to come.