Best iPad accessories for toddlers and preschoolers to help them learn and play

Child with iPod touch
Child with iPod touch (Image credit: Rene Ritchie)

You've probably told your kids that your iPad is "not a toy" more times than you care to count. But it is a toy — a toy that can help them learn. Whether your child is just getting ready for potty training or you're already getting them ready for the first day of school, there are accessories that will let them use your iPad for fun and education and let you relax a little more when they ask to pretty please play with it.

Updated December 2016: We've added the TFY Headrest Mount so you can keep your kids entertained in the car.

Digital Kids adjustable activity table

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Teach your little one that the iPad has to be used in a very particular place with the Digital Kids adjustable activity table. If they know they have to be sitting at their special table (which you can use for other activities and games, of course) in order to play with your iPad, you'll be forming good habits before they even get their hands on it.

Your iPad will lock into place in the center of the table and can be adjusted to lay flat or tilt up. In either case your kids don't have to hold the iPad at all, so there's no risk of it being dropped and they can't wander out of the room with it. The table legs are adjustable so that it will grow with your kids, and it's lightweight so that you can easily move it from one room to another.

See at Amazon

Digital 2-in-1 iPotty

Digital 2-in-1 iPotty

Potty training isn't easy. You know it, we know it, and you'll do just about anything to convince your toddler that it's time to get out of those diapers. The Digital 2-in-1 iPotty might be just the thing you need and haven't tried yet. It's a basic training toilet with a removable inner bin, lid, and an iPad holder.

The iPad holder has a screen protector for those unavoidable mishaps. The arm of the holder is also completely adjustable so that your kiddo doesn't have to be sitting on the potty to watch or play with the iPad, they can sit in front of it. This colorful set up could be an enticing way to get your toddler into potty training mode without the frustration or additional bribery.

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Edwin the Duck Learning Toy

This rubber ducky does all kinds of tricks and he's adorable to boot. The "real" and BPA-free Edwin is a controller for his on-screen persona; he's also a wireless speaker, a nightlight, and he's waterproof.

SQUACK technology provides your child with iPad games, stories, and sing-a-long songs that are consistently updated so that the software grows with your child. Edwin (the controller) has a battery life of up to eight hours and he charges by plugging into his little nest. Using a controller for the iPad activities means that your little one doesn't have to touch the screen, either.

See at Apple

KaZoo Stylus

Drawing and writing on an iPad is a great way for kids to get creative without going through sheet after sheet of paper. If they've seen you use a stylus to do work (or play your own games) they're going to want to use one just like yours. The KaZoo Stylus is designed with little hands in mind, but we think you'll find yourself using it, too.

You can order it with a monkey or turtle stylus topper; the colorful little guys make it easy to find the stylus if it ever gets dropped and they stop the stylus from rolling off of the table. KaZoo is thick enough for little hands to grip but slender enough for them to learn to hold it like a real pencil or pen. The soft tip means no more scratches or fingerprints on your screen and more accuracy when learning to write and draw.

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iTikes Canvas

Remember MagnaDoodle? iTikes Canvas is MagnaDoodle reinvented for the iPad generation. Insert your iPad into the case and it becomes an artistic adventure that will last for hours.

Digital stamps appear on the screen when the shapes are pressed and they can be moved around and adjusted with the tethered stylus. Your kids can doodle and draw freehand or use the Canvas app to play games and work with templates. They can create sound effects, play music, and start fresh by erasing with the crank at the bottom of the case. Your MagnaDoodle wasn't quite this cool.

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Crayola Trace & Draw

Your iPad can produce awesome coloring pages, no printer needed. The Crayola Trace & Draw comes with a clip, an app, and a marker. All you need is blank paper and you'll be churning out coloring sheets in no time.

The Trace & Draw app is loaded with coloring templates, or you can dive in and create your own. Once you've selected your coloring outline, clip a blank piece of paper over the screen and use the Crayola marker to trace the outline. Some of the designs are simple enough to let your kids do the tracing for themselves or for their siblings. It's perfect for quiet concentration time at the dining room table while you're getting dinner ready.

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Tiggly Words interactive toy for tablets

The earlier you can expose your kids to the written word, the better their reading and writing skills will be when they get to school. Some of the trickiest letters to learn are vowels and Tiggly Words aims to help. Many a preschool teacher has given this accessory two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The purchase includes five vowel toys and four apps. The manipulatives won't damage your iPad screen and take up virtually no space. The apps include educational games from Sesame Street Alphabet Kitchen and focus on teaching children vowel-consonant-vowel patterns, which can be the toughest to learn. This toy is best suited to children four and up but if you have an early bloomer in the reading department, they'll benefit as well.

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Disney AppMATes Cars 2

Bring a beloved Disney cartoon to life on your iPad with Disney AppMATes. Your iPad surface becomes an interactive mat with hours of racing and gameplay based on the movie Cars 2. AppMATes comes with two character playing pieces from the cartoon so all the sibling-versus-sibling and parent-versus-child racing action can be shared.

The playing pieces physically touch the screen of your iPad without causing scratches or damage. As your child moves the character on the screen surface they zoom through races, obstacle courses, and landscapes from the movie. Additional characters can be purchased to grow your AppMATes collection and they make great little collector items. Your kids need a little dexterity to play and keep their characters on the game interface, so best to buy this toy for kids three and up.

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TFY Headrest Mount

While it may not be an accessory your toddler can actually use, the TFY Car Headrest Mount for iPad will allow you to keep the kids entertained in the backseat during car trips.

The strap is adustable so it should fasten nice and tight to almost any headrest in whatever vehicle you may have, plus the leather is padded on the inside to prevent scratches to your iPad no matter how many times your slide it in and out.

Allowing you to get some quiet time to focus on the road ahead and your kid to stay engaged and learning with wonderful kids programming, the TFY Headrest Mount is a serious consideration for any parent.

See at Amazon

Play on, kids!

Have you come across some excellent iPad accessories for your little ones? We'd love to hear about them and add them to our list! Tell us about them in the comments and make sure to let us know why they're keeping your kids entertained and your iPad safe.

Christine Lachance