Diaper (i)Pad

Wow, so many great comments from my Stroller Strides entry! I’m thrilled to have joined, even if my thighs are beyond deeply sore and actually screaming Puccini in their pain. Everyone is super-sweet and supportive. Hope you stuck around to read this–getting back to travel-ish issues today.

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Though it’s clear from its name* that Steve Jobs did not heed the opinion of any X chromosomes anywhere in his engineering or marketing departments (nor does he watch Mad TV), I’m rather jazzed about the iPad.

“Why?” says the peanut gallery. “You don’t have a job, plus you’re too busy chasing down a munchkin sprat to read. Also, you can’t multitask well on it, you can’t take photos with it, and you need a bag full of adapters and a monthly data plan to make it worthwhile for work projects, if you had any. And you don’t.” Well, peanuts, because I see everything through the lens of my own needs as a mother first, I’m here to tell you that the iPad is possibly one of the greatest inventions for hard-traveling parents to hit the market.

Do I want an iPad for myself? Ehhhh…meh. Now that I’ve spent some of today reading about it, not as much. My daughter is still really too young for me to commit to a book (or even a magazine) on a flight. Everything that I’d actually have time to do in an airport or airplane (email, music), I could accomplish with my existing devices. Penny saved, etc. (That said, throw a few memory card drive slots on the side of future iPads, particularly a built-in CF reader, and I will break ankles to get to the head of the line for one.) I’m a stay at home mom with an active child and the attention span of a…hey, Alec Baldwin’s pores are HUGE in HD…what was I saying? Ah, yes: I personally am not the iPad’s consumer target.

But tangentially, Maggie is. Oh yes. Yesssss. Let me ‘splain. Maggie has flown a lot already for a nine month old, and is going to add up to ten flights to her count in the next year. It’s only going to get harder to keep her happy on a plane. Tie that into the following bullets:

* The reported battery life works for up to six hours of video playback, which includes movies. Grab a $5 headphone jack splitter for dual headphones and bam, multi-child movie viewer with a sizeable screen.
* The full-color display on iPad, which will do justice to illustrations, is large enough to make the kids’ e-book publishing market more lucrative. There are some out there (I believe you can read them with an app on iPhone) but this can only mean more will follow.
* Most of the nifty games and apps for iPhone run on the iPad.
* It’s getting more and more ridiculous to take carry-on bags onto planes.

Conventional wisdom says to have a new toy or distraction at the ready per child per hour of your flight. By the time Maggie is going to need the heavy artillery on long flights/train rides, a next-generation iPad will be a smooth all-in-one device for as many children’s stories, $1 apps or games, and episodes of Handy-freakin’-Manny as I can store, and it’s gonna slip perfectly into the side pocket of my favorite storage tote. Yeah, we don’t allow TV or video at home but airplane law is above house law. Airplane law dictates that you gain a child’s silence and cooperation by any means necessary. Friends, the promise of enough silence to quell the dirty looks from other passengers and give Mama enough time to flip through Skymall is something I would gladly drop $500 on for the base model. If it turns out that I like it enough for my own purposes and they make some changes to the existing system, I’ll pick a 3G one up for me, but the existing system is perfect for what I need to meet Maggie’s travel needs.

Incidentally, once you arrive at your destination, you have the stories, pictures, or videos you need to maintain bedtime routines. If you’re traveling single parent-style, you can throw videos of your partner on there reading favorite stories for the kiddo. And if you have a kid with anxiety issues, a few photos of home cycling through when iPad is in the digital frame mode could be enormously comforting. Not that you couldn’t do that with an iPod Touch or an iPhone, but the larger screen is so much more attractive for those purposes and frankly, when I get an iPhone I’m not sharing.

I would love it if any homeschoolers could weigh in with how the iPad can help them do lessons on the road, because my God, a reader plus some net capability? There is enormous potential here for so many parental needs.

Yeah, the iPad was designed for road warriors and business travelers. But I am going to predict now that this is going to really take off with parents who do a lot of travel with their children, if only because it means Mama can have her iPhone back.

*I would have named it iScreen and done an ad campaign revolving around the slogan “I scream, you scream, we all scream for iScreen.” Dorky? Perhaps. But also potentially awesome. You’re missing an important voice, Steve! Call me!