When Apple’s market research team defined the iPad demographic, I am sure that toddlers were the farthest things from their minds. I mean, really. What parent in this economy would consider shelling out that much money for a toy? Especially, for a toddler.
But, you know, many of the classic early-adopters (men between the ages of 35 and 44) also happen to have kids. Children that grew up surrounded by the latest techno-gadgets. Kids orphaned by i devices with glowing screens and tantalizing interfaces. At some point, one of these children will get their hands on an iPad and nothing will ever be the same.
Perhaps it will happen by accident. Mommy or Daddy sets the iPad down on the table to go and get a drink. Little Mary is drawn to the device like a moth to a light bulb. The intuitive interface makes even a novice look like an iPad expert and the parent returns to see their little girl navigating like a professional. After calling their friends and putting a video on youtube.com, Mommy and Daddy go on a hunt for toddler apps.
It might happen sweetly. Imagine Daddy, sitting on the couch, deeply enthralled with his iPad. 2 year-old Johnny climbs up next to him, places his little head on Daddy’s shoulder, and watches intently. There is hardly a father in existence that could resist the urge to take his child’s little finger and introduce him to the wonders of the iPad.
Maybe, it will happen out of boredom. After spending twenty minutes listening to the annoying electronic voice of Tommy’s alphabet robot, Mom catches a glimpse of the iPad in her peripheral vision. She wonders…Within five minutes, she has found and downloaded ten free preschooler apps, designed to teach her son numbers, letters, sight words, and more. Mom couldn’t be happier, and the stupid robot is retired to the garage sale box.
In our house, it was completely pre-meditated. At the ripe old age of one, we introduced our little boy to the iTouch. He learned his animals and cause and effect by playing Peekaboo Barn and other simple games. He practiced his fine motor skills by dragging, sliding, drawing, and tracing. We took to referring to it as “the Ultimate Toy.”
When we heard rumors about Apple’s new device, we followed along with baited breath. From what we read, the iPad would take everything we loved about the iTouch and make it bigger and better. And, we were not disappointed.
The large screen opened the door to new apps where our toddler could trace alphabet letters, color full-sized pictures, and complete puzzles. It still makes us smile to watch him deftly slide the bar to unlock the device, navigate to his screen of apps, and thoughtfully decide which game to play.
Just by using the interface, he can read common navigational terms like “start”, “menu”, and “done”. When he watches movies, he has no problem fastforwarding through boring scenes, finding other chapters to watch, and pausing them politely when we talk to him. He is two years old, and he is not a genius. The iPad is just so intuitive that it is as if it was made by a toy designer.
While passers-by may still gawk at our toddler’s adept use of the iPad, we don’t think it will be long before kids and iPads become a common sight. Once the devices come down in price, we may even start seeing iPads used as educational tools in preschools and high-end daycare centers.
Although Apple may not have considered children in their original marketing analysis, I expect they have caught on by now. Certainly, the iPad app developers have.