New devices abound this time of year, and it seems like kids are receiving iPhones and iPads even younger and younger. I know two-year-olds who are better on an iPad than I'll ever be. And these are awesome tools to help kids have fun and to learn and discover a whole world of tech. But there's also the bad stuff, like what's lurking on the internet, as well as your kids just spending way too much time on these devices.

Here are the best ways to set up your new iPhone or iPad so that kids get the most out of their devices without getting too much.

Best parental controls to set up right away

There are many parental controls you can put in place on an iOS device, but these are the ones you should set up right away.

Restrict apps

Restrictions in iOS let you restrict certain apps, types of content, ratings, and device functions (such as deleting apps), as well as a lot more. Here's how to get started with apps:

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Restrictions.

    Launch Settings, tap General, tap Restrictions

  4. Tap on Enable Restrictions at the top if you don't already have them turned on. If you do, skip down to step 6.
  5. Enter a passcode that you'll use to enable and disable apps.
  6. Tap the switch next to each app.

    Tap Enable Restrictions, enter a passcode, tap the switches to disable apps

Restrict content

You can restrict a lot of different types of content, such as movies and TV shows based on rating, adult websites, explicit language in Safari and Siri, sexually explicit material from iBooks, and much more.

For everything you need to know on restricting content, check out our full guide that'll walk you through each step:

How to restrict content by age ratings, block websites, and hide explicit language with restrictions for iPhone or iPad

Restrict settings

Certain privacy settings, like location services especially, can leave your kids vulnerable. It's also a good idea to disable account switching so that your kids can't muck about if you use the iPhone or iPad for email, iMessage, or other account-based services.

Restrict data usage

This might be one of the most important things you can do on your iPhone or your cellular-enabled iPad. If you don't want to incur hefty overage charges for data, then make sure you kids are only using your device on Wi-Fi and that they aren't able to turn on your cellular data.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Restrictions.

    launch settings app then tap general, and then restrictions

  4. Tap on Enable Restrictions at the top if they aren't already. If they are, skip to step 7.
  5. Type a 4-digit password that only you will know. Your child should never know this password.
  6. Type the password again to confirm it.

    tap enable restrictions, then type in a password and confirm it

  7. Swipe up to scroll down to the bottom of the screen.
  8. Tap on Cellular Data Usage.
  9. Tap on Don't Allow Changes.

    swipe up to scroll to bottom of screen, then tap each category and tap don't allow changes for each one

Best starter apps for kids

There are thousands upon thousands of wonderful apps that kids can use to have fun, learn, and discover. Check these ones out to get your kids started on their new iPhone or iPad!

Ages 3 to 5

For the youngest of the bunch, it's best not to download apps that require too much in terms of motor skills or logic and reasoning. These simple apps can help them ease into the world of iOS.


This sound-based app was developed by ambient/electronic pioneer Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers. It's not just for young kids, but it's the perfect way to help the start associating touch with sound and get them interested in music and creating patterns. There are various mood settings, a sleep timer, and simply beautiful colors that dance as you play or as you watch it play.

Lego Duplo Train

Just like it sounds, this app lets you and your child build a train out of Duplo blocks. You can then play with the animals that board the train and watch it speed down the track. Your kid can control the trains speed by number and build bridges and more. It's a great way to start them learning about reasoning, numbers, and more.

Peek-a-Zoo: Peekaboo at the Zoo

You can file this one under the "cuteness overload" category. Peek-a-Zoo is an app for your young child, which teaches them animals' names and the sounds they make. This beautifully drawn app lets your child tap each animal to hear it roar, ribbit, hoot, and more. It's an absolutely lovely app with cute animations and it's a great way to start that love of animals early.

Ages 6 to 9

Toca Nature (or any of the Toca apps, really

Toca Nature is just one of a large line of wonderful apps for kids, made by Toca Boca AB. In Nature, you child gets to shape nature and watch it grow. They can plant trees to grow a forest or raise mountains. They can even collect berries, mushrooms, and nuts to feed wildlife (learning what each animals needs as they go along). This is an awesome learning tool that can help your child appreciate and discover nature. I also highly recommend checking out the rest of Toca's lineup.

Monument Valley

This 2014 Apple Game of the Year and Apple Design Award winner is absolutely stunning. The colors, the sound effects, the puzzles — it's just great. Gameplay is simple enough for a 6-year-old, but puzzles get challenging enough to vex all ages. The basic goal in each level is to move the buildings in order to guide the silent princess to the end. You'll encounter some whacky and astounding architecture, all the while exploring and enchanted world of wonder.

Once you're finished, Monument Valley 2 is out now!

Math Bingo

Hey, it's not all fun and games, but you can totally make it seem that way! Math Bingo is just that: bingo with a mathematical twist! There are five modes to choose from — addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed — in which your child must get five bingo bugs in a row by correctly answering math problems. This is a fun entry to math and a great way to improve on the math skills your kids are already building.

Ages 10 and up

Alto's Adventure

This absolutely stunning game can really be played at any age, but the beauty in its art and soundtrack probably won't be truly appreciated by anyone under 10. This is an endless runner where you play as Alto, a boy just trying to get his llamas back. This is one of the most tranquil and perhaps least frustrating endless runners around and it's wonderful fun for the whole family.

Pokémon Go (iPhone-only)

If you're just bought your kid a new iPhone or want them to enjoy your new device, then there's nary a better game than Pokémon Go. For one, I'm 100% for fostering an early love of all things Pokémon. For another, this isn't just a game you sit on the couch and play for hours on end. Pokémon Go makes you go outside, hunt for Pokémon, fight gym battles, take part in raids, and more. It's the perfect techy way to spend a day outside with your kid or for your kids to spend with their friends.

Smashing Grammar

As a writer and editor, I can never stress the importance of proper grammar enough, and Smashing Grammer hits that home in a fun and exciting way that's akin to Fruit Ninja. There are six categories to choose from wherein words pop up in the various stages and you have to tap the correct words that go along with the category, like nouns, verbs, number of syllables, and more. The music is exciting, the in-game announcer is well-voiced, and the stages get more challenging as you go.

Check out more of our roundups for the best kids app on iPhone and iPad:

Best kids accessories

Whether you're buying a device to share with your kids or buying your kids their own devices, these accessories are sure to help them last!

For iPhone

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro

Supcase's rugged iPhone cases are perfect for kids, since they're incredibly protective (thanks to a dual-layer, shock-absorbent design) and they look really cool. They feature cutouts for the camera and ports, a grippy texture around the edges so that tiny hands can hold onto them tightly, and an included screen protector, so your iPhone is covered on all sides. There are five colors to choose from and pricing starts around $14, depending on which iPhone model you have.

See at Amazon

Anker PowerLine+ braided nylon Lightning cable

Yes, your iPhone comes with a Lightning cable, but Apple's cables suck for longevity (especially if your kids have anything to say about it). A braided nylon cable is durable, won't tangle, and will certainly stand the test of wear, tear, and time. Anker's PowerLine+ come with a velcro strap for quick cleanup, they're 3 feet long, and have a tested 6000+ bend lifespan. At $12, they're a hell of a deal and you get Anker's 18-month warranty if any of that's not true.

See at Amazon

amFilm tempered glass screen protector

The most important part of the iPhone is (arguably) the screen, and if your kids scratch and scuff it up, then that can affect touch sensitivity and really just make for a bad time all around. Plus, screen replacement is costly. So invest in a great tempered glass screen protector, like those from amFilm. They come in pack of two and pricing starts at only $7. If they break, they don't break off into sharp shards, rather just into dull bits

See at Amazon

For iPad

OtterBox Defender case

These cases may be lackluster in appearance, but what they're missing in style, they more than make up for in protection. OtterBox has been one of the biggest names in protective cases since smartphones first appeared in everyday life, and that tradition continues. These cases are substantial, feature a shock-absorbent inner layer, and have a hard outer shell to protect your iPad from scratches, bumps, and falls. For around $35 to start, they're a little pricy for cases (depending on your model), but they're more than worth it, especially when we're talking about a $300+ iPad.

See at Amazon

Lamicall adjustable tablet stand

Some little hands just can't handle the iPad, and it can make it especially hard to play games, even for adults. Lamicall's tablet stand keeps the iPad stationary and it adjusts to support for horizontal and vertical orientation, depending on the game or app you're using. This is a sturdy stand and the perfect alternative to a bulky case if you don't want to kids holding onto the iPad. Comes in black, gray, or silver, starting at $17.

See at Amazon

Sparin tempered glass screen protector

For a screen even larger than that of an iPhone, a good tempered glass screen protector is even more important. Sparin's scratch-resistant protector is compatible with the Apple Pencil and protects your iPad's screen from getting scuffed and scratched up by less-than-careful kids. Priced at $12, this is a sound investment. Just make sure you choose the version that fits the iPad model you have before you check out.

See at Amazon

External parental control options

Apple's iOS restrictions are quite thorough, but if you want to take device and content management even further, then consider an external parental control option like these.

Circle with Disney

Circle pairs with your home Wi-fi network to give you control over the parental settings of all devices in the house. You can set time limits, filter content based on age or rating, and even reward your kids based on their good usage habits. You can even set limits for specific content, like Netflix, to make sure they're not just using the device purely for entertainment. Circle is $71 at Amazon and a great investment if you want to be able to remotely monitor all the devices in your home.

See at Amazon


Qustodio is a parental control software that lets you fully manage each device in your house by filtering web content, blocking access to specific apps, and maintaining an activity log to track your kids' usage habits. Yearly plans star for as little as $55 for five devices, and you can go with medium and large plans for 10 and 15 devices, respectively.

See at Qustodio

Net Nanny

Net Nanny minds your kids while they're online by letting you filter websites for course language and lewd material — it even has a flatout porn blocker. You can set it up to receive usage alerts for your kids, and you can remotely manage device to set time limits for certain content and apps. Pricing starts at $12 per device, per year for a family pass for five devices. You can up it to 10 devices for $90 per year in total ($9/device).

See at Net Nanny

Any questions?

Hopefully this gives you a good start on kid-proofing your child's new iPhone or iPad. If you have any questions, hit us up on Twitter, via email, or in the comments below!



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