Sep 16, 2007

iPod Accessories for Parents, or How to get a full nap

My brother-in-law generously gave us an iPod last year, and we've gotten great use out of it with Alex. We've greatly expanded our children's music selection in the car (no more Wiggles! - at least not a daily basis). We regularly expose Alex to our kind of music (usually we strike a deal: Mommy and Daddy's music on the way to our destination, Alex's music on the way home). And, thanks to our latest acquisition, Alex can also watch videos in the car without a DVD player now.

What does all of this have to do with naptime?

One of our biggest weekend challenges is to get the family out of the house for morning activities and yet make it home before Alex falls asleep on the way (since both our children would go bonkers if we simply stayed home - they don't care that it's football season now). Tyler is still too young to keep awake in the car (he's still rear-facing, too), but Alex will stay up if properly entertained. This is absolutely crucial because if he falls asleep, he will wake up when we get home and not go back to sleep, no matter how short his nap. And then we're in for a long afternoon because he'll be cranky but refuse to sleep, and by the time he's willing to take a nap, it's too close to bedtime.

Given how imperative it is to keep Alex awake on the car ride home, we are always looking for ways to make that happen. We have used snacks with great success, doling out individual pieces of pretzels or cut-up grapes on the drive back from the beach, for example. But sometimes food just doesn't cut it, like if we've gone to visit a friend and eaten at her house.

Enter the iPod. Unlike a portable DVD player, it doesn't just sit there for Alex to stare at until his eyes start droop. For one thing, it's a novel, usually forbidden electronic device, and the thought of being able to actually hold it and touch it is incredibly exciting to a toddler. But, being a bright and clever child, holding the darn thing just isn't enough for Alex. So we've added a few accessories that make it child-friendly (and buy us 30 minutes for the drive home).
  • First things first: If a child is going to handle this, it definitely needs a good case. After some research, Marc settled on this case. It looks okay and protects the iPod pretty well, although the clear plastic face bears some scratches despite its claim to be "scratch-resistant."
  • For video viewing, you'll need a speaker. We just acquired this one, whicht turns the iPod into a mini-video player. We've loaded our iPod with free Nick Jr. downloads and other kid-friendly content. Many of the videos are short, but that actually works to our advantage because it keeps Alex alert. He tells us when the video has ended and hands the iPod back for a new one.
  • For music listening, we have an adapter that works with our car's cigarette lighter. We tried out a couple of other adapters before finding this one, which works quite well. The first adapter we got was almost twice the cost and interfered with the gear shift. The other adapter was a cassette adapter for our older car that doesn't work well at all. One caveat regarding adapters: always unplug them or they may kill your car battery (yes, I'm speaking from personal experience).
Not surprisingly, Alex gets a kick out of pressing the buttons, and he actually seems to have more skill with the scroll wheel than I do. We should be able to use the iPod in this manner until Alex outgrows his nap, which will probably be in a year or so - at which point we'll give him a Gameboy. :)

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