Why Getting Our 3 Year Old An iPad Was A Mistake

Last Christmas we tried to come up with gift ideas for our son who had everything. Like, literally everything a toddler could ever want. He already had a ton of toys, a full wardrobe, a beautiful bed, a custom made solid wood train/play table. What else was there to get?

One thing he did not have was a tablet. I'll admit, we're an Apple fan family, and I had been itching to add an iPad to our line up of devices. Moms on mom groups told me that iPads were great educational tools. 

So, I called our service provider and discovered that we could get a $0 ipad for $10/month, and I went for it. I ordered a child proof iPad case from amazon, and some cute headphones for him, and we were all set. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I felt like some kind of super mom for being able to provide this "amazing, luxurious" gift to my toddler.

On Christmas morning, he opened the iPad, set the box on the floor and moved on to a more exciting toy.

"But Mason!" I said, "It's an iPad! Look, an iPad!"

He walked away. A bit anti climactic for a gift I was so excited to give. Once the excitement of the other new toys wore off, he returned to the iPad. We had it all set up for him at this point, with some educational games waiting to be explored, and his favorite shows on Netflix waiting to be watched.

He tried out a game for 5 minutes, got bored of it, and went to something else. Then, when he was bored of that one, he somehow navigated himself to the app store and downloaded another game. He learned his way around that iPad in 10 minutes or less, but no one game was ever enough for him. When we banned him from going to the app store, he would come to us every 15 minutes or so begging us to download another game. He would beg, barter and plead with us, "Just ONE more mama, I promise!"

It was never the "educational" games that he wanted either. It was racing games, and Ninja Turtle games, and "bad guy, good guy" games, and the dreaded Angry Birds. 

We quickly decided that the iPad was only going to be used for travel. On a trip to Halifax, we loved having it for Netflix, but his attention was always going back to wanting new games.

We sent the iPad with him when he visited his grandparents, and he came back with casino games that he had somehow downloaded, or convinced them to download, I'm not sure. I was losing my mind. Thankfully my credit card wasn't attached to his account.

Every time he came back from visiting his grandparents, we would have to "detox" him from the iPad. It would start with him begging for it constantly all day every day, to remembering it suddenly in the middle of playing with something else and asking for it, to finally not asking for it at all.

We tried to limit him to small amounts of time on it, but it always ended in some kind of tantrum or crying to have it back. I couldn't stand seeing my bright, adventurous, imaginative child addicted to this device. He was a zombie, except instead of brains, he wanted mooore gamess, mooore gamesss!

After we limited the iPad use, he still occasionally asked me the dreaded "do you have any games on your phone?"

So, on a shelf the iPad has sat for most of this year. Over the past year, our son has learned SO much, and all without the help of those "educational" apps. He is 4.5 and constantly having some sort of adventure in his room. His bed is often a pirate ship, or a refuge from hot lava. His custom made train table (which is the best purchase we've ever made fyi) gets used constantly for board games, puzzles, lego, hot wheels, and sometimes trains.

We also have adventures, and learn together constantly. We visit parks, play soccer in our yard, go on road trips, play board games together every week, read books, have family movie nights, practice our letters and numbers, do crafts together, and so much more. We never needed the iPad.

I've since learned that you can lock the app store so they can't access it, thank God. He will be 5 years old in a few short months, and we are considering slowly introducing it back for when we travel, but you better believe I'll be locking the app store, and at the first sign of zombie Mason, it's being put away.

I don't think iPads are the enemy. I think they are extremely useful and with the way technology is progressing, it's important for our kids to learn how to use theses devices. After our experience, I do think 3 years old is too young. We need to let our kids be kids without a tablet in their face constantly.

This year for Christmas, he got LEGO, Magnatiles, and other toys that he can use his imagination with. He also got his first pedal bike (he grew out of his balance bike), and we can't wait for Spring to roll around so we can tear up the sidewalks with it.

For his birthday this Spring, we will be ALL about experience gifts (and his Summer wardrobe). We plan to get him a movie theater gift card since he can finally sit through a movie now, pay for another year of Soccer fees, maybe do Clay Cafe, plan a trip to the zoo, etc. We've learned that even when a child has all the toys they could ever want, the next step shouldn't automatically be a tablet. Even though we all want the best for our kids, it's okay to leave some things for when they're older.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts on iPads. Do your kids have one?

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