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Apple Kids Hour: Playroom for your computer genius

When our firstborn was a toddler my husband and I made sure he had limited screen time (one cartoon per day), and we never let him use any electronic devices. We used our laptops, tablets and smartphones for work, but we made it very clear to our son that it was just that – for work. He wasn’t tempted to play with our gadgets. We were always able to engage him with developmental toys, puzzles, games and books. This was also a good motivation for us to spend quality time with our child rather than depend on the help from the screen.

…And then he went to Kindergarten. We were worried about so many different aspects: that he would miss home, that he would be tired without his nap, that he wouldn’t be able to open his lunch box or that he would need help in the bathroom, that he would be lonely, that he would struggle academically… But then we got a note from his teacher: “Dear parents, your son is doing so well academically! He has lots of friends and seems to be adjusting to school very well. But he gets a little sad during computer lab hour because he struggles with keyboard and mouse and has a hard time figuring out how computers work.” The teacher then encouraged us to download a few educational age-appropriate apps so he could play on our computer or tablet at home. It was one of those a-ha moments in parenthood for me. I thought we were making the more difficult but also the better choice for our son’s development when limiting his access to technology. Apparently, we made his first month at school a bit more challenging by not exposing him to any electronic devices.

(Now – I understand “kids and technology” is a very broad, and also a very controversial subject. It’s one of those things where you just can’t categorize it as good or bad. We are not going to start that discussion right now.) But we made some adjustments and we think we found a healthy balance. Our son is pretty comfortable with technology, but doesn’t own any devices of his own. When he tried to plead his case, and convince me to get him a phone, I told him I got my first phone (and it was a Sony Ericsson flip phone) when I was 17. I chose to omit the fact that cell phones also didn’t exist until I turned 17. But that’s a minor detail. He is content for now.

“For better or for worse, homework has gone online. Children these days conduct research on the Internet, post messages to classroom discussion boards or complete Web-based learning programs. The Federal Communications Commission warns that students who don’t have fast Internet connections “are at a disadvantage relative to their connected peers,” which is one reason the government recently decided to spend billions a year helping low-income households hook up to broadband.” (Washington Post)

With an array of possibilities in the digital world and technology developing increasingly quickly, it is important for young people to be well-equipped experienced users. It will help them keep up with technology’s progress, and succeed in school and future careers.

I recently found out about a variety of amazing educational programs Apple offers its customers for free. Having an Apple account (and remembering your login and password) is the only thing you need to sign up for their free classes.

Here are just a few of the activities Apple offers.

Kids Hour: Sphero Maze Challenge

Kids Hour is designed to spark imagination and creativity through fun hands-on projects. Kids explore coding with Sphero robots by programming simple movements and loops. Then each child designs a maze and navigates the robot through the obstacles. Kids can bring their own iPads and Sphero Sprk+ robots, or the store provides them. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.

My 6-year-old was a little overwhelmed in the beginning since he is new to robotics. The explanations were age-appropriate and he got the idea fairly quickly. The amazement on my son’s face when he connected with his Sphero robot was so incredible to witness. Yes, he paired the robot with the iPad, but he also established an emotional connection, when he put his hand on the robot, and Sphero lighted up with a soft blue glow. That was very special to see. Then there were a few failed attempts to get Sphero to do what he wanted him to do. The process of trials and errors was worth it, when my son got Sphero to get through the maze without any mistakes. It was an incredible experience for both me and my son. We cannot wait to go back and improve our robotics skills.


Kids Hour: Book Club

If you’ve ever been to a storytime event at a bookstore or a library, it’s sort of the same. Except the book is an iBook. And each child gets his or her own iPad to follow along and swipe to the next page. It certainly gets the listeners more involved and engaged in the process.

Book Club is recommended for ages 4-10. My 4-year-old had no difficulties following along and keeping up with the process. She pressed the right icons on the screen of her iPad and had a great time. After reading the story the kids got to illustrate the characters and scenes from the story and created their own book covers, using iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. I got to do it too. It was lots of fun. Now my son wants to be a children’s book illustrator when he grows up. I think I do, too.


Kids Hour: Creating Music with Garage Band

This Kids Hour celebrates music by teaching kids how to create exciting tunes and beats using GarageBand on iPad. First, the instructor covers rhythm basics, and then the kids get to create their own drum beats. Young musicians learn how to use Live Loops to make their very own rock, hip-hop or EDM tracks. It’s exciting to create something from scratch. Children get so inspired when they get to listen to their own tracks. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.


Kids Hour: Making Movies Together

This one is very fun and interactive. It starts with a discussion about movies and a brainstorming session. Each child comes up with an idea for a movie to make. We’re talking about a pretty short video clip – maybe 3 minutes long – but a lot of work and creativity goes into it! Then the kids practice basic camera techniques and shoot footage using iPad Pro. The young film directors get to edit their footage and add sound effects, and finally, finish by creating a professional movie trailer with iMovie. If you want, you can upload the movie trailer and share the link with friends or family via email, so everyone gets to appreciate it. Children can bring their own iPads or the store provides them. Recommended for ages 6-12.


Apple Camp. Creative creatures wanted

It keeps getting better, doesn’t it? There’s a summer camp offered, too! Dates are coming soon. You can sign up online to be notified about the beginning of registration.

Kids ages 8 to 12 can expand their digital creativity through hands-on projects with experts at Apple. Campers choose one of three tracks, then spend 90 minutes a day for three days at a local Apple Store immersed in the subject of their choice.

Camp Details

Age: 8 to 12
Cost: free
Length: three 90-minute sessions
Location: Apple Renaissance at Colony Park, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157

Where: Apple Renaissance at Colony Park, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157

When: check details and schedule of events here!

Cost: free (sign up online required)

Kids Hour: Sphero Maze Challenge

Saturday, March 31

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 7

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.


Kids Hour: Book Club

Thursday, March 29

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 31

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.


Kids Hour: Making Movies Together

Friday, March 30

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 31

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 7

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


About The Author

Dasha Peipon

Dasha is originally from Ukraine (it’s in the heart of Europe, look it up on the map if you want!) and moved to Mississippi with her family in September 2017. Before that she lived in Massachusetts and Maryland. She guesses they have a thing for “M” states. She is a writer, an editor, a teacher and the type of mom that never sits still. Being part of Parents & Kids has been helpful for her goal of finding places to explore with her kids, getting plugged in and her family becoming true Mississippians.

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