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December 18, 2012

Tempted to buy your tot an iPad? As teaching tools, news is mixed

(Continued)

Allison Mistrett, the founder and director of Leaps and Bounds, a pediatric occupational therapy practice, says she has seen children master "Where's Waldo?" on an iPad but struggle to find their shoes in a crowded room.

Similarly, Rich says that many toddlers enjoy finger painting apps, but he questions whether the two-dimensional version trumps the real thing.

"The iPad does not give you that great feeling of paint squishing through your fingers," he says. "As much of a pain as that is for parents, think how much kids are learning about cause and effect. Not only can they draw pictures, they can make their hair all green and get a real reaction from Mom."

— — —

Bennett has seen some practical benefits to iPads, however. Some toddlers watch movies while receiving shots in his office, which is helpful because distraction is one of the best tactics for dealing with pain at that age.

He generally advises parents to follow the AAP's recommendation that children over 2 should limit screen time to less than one to two hours per day.

"[Screens] should be a position of last resort," he says. "It's okay to let a toddler use a screen for 15 to 30 minutes once a day if a parent has to make dinner and has no other way to keep the child occupied and safe."

Tonia Sanders, a stay-at-home mother and blogger in Fairfax County, Va., doesn't see the harm in young kids' using technology. Each of her daughters, ages 3 and 6, has an iPhone, and the older girl got an iPod Touch when she was 2. Both girls also play with Sanders' iPad.

Sanders says that apps initially helped her older daughter master counting, learn letters and identify shapes. Now that she's older, she is interested in apps that show the workings of the digestive and nervous systems.

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