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Getting an iPod or iPad is a big deal. For children with disabilities, it can open up a whole new world. In some ways, it’s a portable, accessible, engaging therapeutic device. For some children, it becomes a way to communicate, getting needs and wants met. For others, it can mean access to educational apps (did you know the app store has over 80,000 educational apps?!) or therapeutic games that can help with academics or even activities for daily living skills. Of course, many children become overly enthralled with the iPad and that’s when parents start searching for ways to limit a child’s access or time on a device. Here are 20 great hacks, tips, and tricks to not only childproof an iPad or iPod, but to be sure your child is getting the most out of its use.

1. Get a case to protect the device from the inevitable times it’ll get dropped.

Yeah, it’ll probably get dropped! There are several different cases on the market, some have handles, some have straps to be carried over a shoulder, some even have characters on them. Check out Friendship Circle’s post on all kinds of different cases.

2. Increase the font size so it’s easier to read

Not only will this make words easier to read for some people, when fonts take up more space on a screen, there’s less room for other, distracting graphics, helping a child focus better on the words. Read from Apple how to do it, or follow the steps below:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Display and Brightness
  3. Select Text size
  4. Toggle to your desired size

3. Disable the wifi, making the device unable to access the internet

Many apps and games do not require wifi and can be operated without it. Of course, this also makes it more difficult for someone to watch videos on YouTube… or the same video over and over and over again! It’s also a great way to save the battery! Here’s a tutorial on disabling wifi, or follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Network
  4. Select Wifi
  5. Toggle to OFF

4. Reduce Motion

Reducing “motion” disables the depth perception (or parallax, as Apple refers to it) feature that makes it seem like the apps or other images on a screen are moving or floating over other elements when you physically move your device. Read from Apple how to do it, or follow the steps below:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Accessibility
  4. Toggle off Reduce Motion

5. Protect sensitive ears by limiting the maximum volume level on the device

As How-To Geek puts it, “Kids just don’t understand how dangerous the maximum volume is and it’s the job of the adults to make adjustments to the device so they don’t hurt themselves.” Here’s a guide to setting a maximum volume setting, or follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Music
  3. Select Volume Limit

6. Use the iPad’s photobooth app to teach emotions

Using the forward facing camera, a child can see himself while taking a photo. Make different faces corresponding to different moods or emotions and talk about them together. A child could even use the rear facing camera to snap pics of family members making faces, too!

7. Enable restrictions to limit the apps allowed on the device

This lets you limit the apps that you allow on the device. You’ll need to set up a passcode that will need to be entered to make changes. For example, if you want to keep your child from accessing the internet, you can disable Safari, the device’s internet browser, which is how your child is getting to YouTube and watching that same video over and over and over. Read Apple’s explanation, and follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Restrictions

8. Get a screen protector

This thin film covers your iPad’s screen and protects it from scratches or the inevitable sticky stuff that seems to come with kids! They can range from $6 to $50, but they’re all made of the same basic stuff and thrifty’s the way to go here. We like this one for $6.99, which has an average rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon.

9. Text message with your kiddo.

Some people feel more comfortable to communicate via typing, and some children with Autism or other disabilities aren’t able to write well on paper. You can help your child develop communication skills through text in a safe way. Plus, she’ll love reading messages from you! (Yes, you can restrict who your child texts with!)

10. Disable Multitasking Gestures

This will keep someone from easily switching between apps without completely disabling the ability to switch from one app to another. So, a person could still close one app and move on to another, but cannot move as swiftly between apps. This article explains multitasking gestures and here is how to access it on your device:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Multitasking Gestures

11. Disable the Erase Data Feature

Your device allows you to erase all the data on it if an incorrect passcode is entered too many times. Why would you want this? If your iPad was stolen, and someone repeatedly attempted to get into it, all the data would be erased after 10 attempts at unlocking it. Why do you want this feature disabled? Your child could make many attempts to get into the device and boom! everything is erased. Oops! Here’s a tutorial, and here are the steps to take:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Passcode Lock
  4. Select Erase Data

12. Disable Both Installing and Deleting Apps

This keeps your child from being able to download new apps or deleting apps you have already downloaded to the device. Read instructions from Apple, or follow the steps below:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Restrictions
  4. Select Installing/Deleting Apps

13. Disable In-App Purchases Settings

Maybe there’s no such thing as a “free” app! Even though you may have installed a free app, it’s still possible for your child to purchase things within an app. Read this quick tutorial and follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Restrictions
  4. Select In-App Purchases

14. Disable Notifications to remove unecessary distractions

Not only will this increase battery life, it will cut down on sometimes annoying messages from certain apps. You can disable the “show on lock screen” notifications AND those in the “Today” screen. Apple discusses what each one does in this article. Both are accessible and modifiable here:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Notifications

15. Use Sugru to make the device more accessible for anyone struggling with fine motor tasks.

We are big fans of Sugru here and have even been known to look for projects to give us an excuse to use it! It’s a silicone product that starts out like play-doh, can be molded into just about anything, and when it cures, it transforms your everyday household items. Here are some great ways to use Sugru for different gadgets, and even some ideas for just Apple products.


Our favorite tips!

16. Use OurPact to encourage healthy iPad habits

OurPact is an app that you install on your own device to set schedules for internet and app use on your kids’ devices. It’s free, easy to set up, and used by countless parents all over the U.S. Using OurPact is a great way to set clear, reliable schedules for screen time, and gives parents a direct avenue for involvement in device habits. For example, you can set a schedule that automatically locks their device every night during bedtime hours of 8pm to 6am, you can limit their phone to iMessage and phone capabilities during school hours, or reward them with 15 minutes access after they finish chores. We use it in our own home too!

OurPact is available for iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Get it on the App Store or check out their website.

17. Create a passcode to protect access to the device.

These passcodes can be a combination of letters and numbers. I admit, we invented this one ourselves. My family took this opportunity to teach my daughter our home address. That’s right, we made her iPad passcode our address! We started with just the house number and worked up to the street name. Next up: our phone number!

Did you know you can make passcodes from numbers AND letters too? The default is a 4-digit numeric passcode, but you can actually create passcodes of any length and any combination of numbers and letters. Read from Apple how to do it or follow the simple steps below:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Passcode
  3. Select Turn Passcode On

18. Use Guided Access to keep your child using one app at a time

You know how you open up a nice math game app on your iPad, hand it over to your little one, and ten seconds later, she’s on YouTube? This feature makes it tough for a kiddo to switch from whatever program or app you’ve selected for your child. This is sometimes called the “triple click” because once it’s set up, you open the app you want to select and then click the home button three times to keep the device on that app. Read Apple’s explanation and follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select General
  3. Select Accessibility
  4. Select Guided Access

19. FaceTime with Friends and Family

My children and I live far from our family and other loved ones. This is a great way to connect, and stay connected despite the miles between us. Truth be told, we use FaceTime with our family that lives just a few miles away, too!

20. Use Siri to promote communication

In our home, we’ve found that getting answers from Siri has actually made our daughter want to communicate with “her” more. Further, it seems to encourage her to articulate more so she can be better understood by the device!


I hope you’ve found some (or all!) of these hacks, tips, and tricks helpful. If there’s something that you’ve discovered to help your child get the most out of his or her time with an iPad, iPod touch or other device, don’t keep it to yourself, please share it in the comments!