Remote iPad Instruction with a Toddler: Luke

The pandemic changed traditional educational services for toddlers with visual impairments, but one dedicated mom and innovative preschool TVI created their own version of “flip the classroom” to successfully introduce an iPad to 22-month old Luke. Luke, the youngest of three boys, just happens to be visually impaired. TVI Heather provided ideas and teaching hints to Mom through a series of virtual meetings, emails and phone calls and mom did the hands-on instruction. During the home lessons, Mom took video clips of Luke interacting with the iPad to share and discuss with Heather, and together, next steps where developed.

Note: Heather participated in the ABC’s of iOS course, based on the ABC’s of iOS: VoiceOver Manual for Toddlers and Beyond! curriculum available at no cost through CNIB. This particular course began in October 13th and ran through February 9th

How much tech can a toddler learn in a few months? Let’s take a look at Luke’s iPad journey!

Introduction to iPad

Luke was first introduced to an iPad/iPhone at the beginning of November, with a simple balloon popping app while sitting in Mom’s lap. This app is an “Exploration” app meaning that the app does not require a specific gesture; rather, it allows Luke to use multiple fingers and to touch the screen as long as he wants. At this time, mom shared that Luke had a very short attention span when using the iPad.

Like many active toddlers, Luke was more attentive to the iPad when he could kneel or stand. Instead of sitting in Mom’s lap, the iPad was laid flat on the ottoman and Luke kneeled in front of the ottoman. In the picture below, Luke looked and touched – using multiple fingers - only the area in the very bottom of the iPad screen. In this position, Luke is bending over the iPad with his eyes inches away from the screen, making it physically challenging for him to look up to see the rest of the screen and to reach out to touch the rest of the screen.

Luke kneeling in front of the ottoman with the iPad flat, using multiple fingers to touch the balloon in the bottom right corner.

A variety of positions were tried, including having Luke sit with the iPad positioned at approximately shoulder height. Luke’s best position was when the iPad was raised on a sturdy slant board (placed on the waist-high ottoman or waist-high hearth) with Luke standing. In this position, Luke stood back from the iPad and was able to easily look up. 

In the picture below, Luke was standing in front of the ottoman with the iPad raised on the slant board. His right fist with extended index finger was touching the large purple Play button on the Peak-a-Boo Barn app. Note: Photo taken January 12th.

Luke standing by ottoman with iPad on a slant board with an extended index finger tapping the purple Play button.


In November, Luke:

  • Began actively engaging with the iPad
  • Touched the iPad with an open hand and multiple fingers
  • Looked and touched mostly in the lower part of the iPad screen
  • Independent with familiar “Exploration” apps
  • Required physical help to tap or swipe the screen to interact with “intentional cause and effect apps”*

*Intentional cause and effect apps are apps that require a specific gesture – often in a specific place on the screen.


In January, Luke:

  • More engaged with the iPad and attention span increased (lots of “happy dances” and giggles!)
  • Mix between whole hand/multiple fingers and closed fist, extended finger gestures
  • Mix of independent extended finger tap or when finger was extended, mom guided the finger tap to tap in a specific place
  • Intentionally visually looked around the screen – often looked for a specific item on the screen or visually tracked an item on the screen


In the beginning of February, Luke:

  • Frequently brought the iPad to Mom, ASKING for apps
  • With familiar apps, independently looking for and tapping on desired items
  • Intentional 1-finger swipe gesture
  • Introduced to teacher-created digital books (fully engaged)
  • Accessing & engaging with educational content (letters and counting)

Note: At this stage, the initial iPad apps used are all self-voicing and do not require VoiceOver. 

Would you like to see Luke in action? 

The video below is a mix of video clips taken from November to February. These clips provide a quick glimpse of Luke at a specific moment – they are truly snapshots in time that capture an interaction, gesture, happy dance, and more. These brief video clips are not intended to show the entire time that Luke spent on the iPad during a session.

Remote iPad Instruction with a Toddler Pinterest tag