Video and Photos for Entertainment
The portable DVD player, the stalwart ally of parents, can officially be retired and be replaced by the iPad. With at least 16GB of storage, long battery life, and a nice IPS LCD screen, the trick isn’t so much as getting the iPad to play your child’s favourite movie, it’s getting the movies onto the iPad that’s going to be tricky. In my house, I have a collection of DVDs and media files on my computer – none of which are compatible with MPEG4.

Converting DVDs and Video Files for iPad

To convert your discs and movies files into a format supported by iTunes, you will need the following free tools:

  • DVD Shrink to rip your DVDs. (Windows only)
  • Handbrake to convert ripped DVDs and other media files into MPEG4 (Mac, Windows, and Linux)

I will not be going into a lot of detail into using these applications as you may be able to figure it out on your own, and there are guides already published around the web. There may be friendlier tools out there, but I have chosen Handbrake and DVD Shrink because they are free software.

iPad for Toddlers - Fad or Learning Tool - Mobile 9
DVD Shrink will back up your DVDs to your hard drive.

To convert your DVDs to MP4, you first need to rip your DVDs into a folder on your local drive using DVD Shrink. Once that is complete, you will then use Handbrake to convert the DVD folders into an MP4 file. Repeat this process for each DVD you want to convert.

If your video files are already in another digital format (i.e. AVI or MKV), you just need to use Handbrake to convert to MP4.

Once your movies are in MP4 format, you can now import them into iTunes and Sync them with your iPad.

  • In Handbrake, I use the Apple:Universal preset. This will generate a 1.5 GB file for a 2 hour DVD. If space is a concern, then reduce the resolution more or use the iPhone preset.
  • File conversion in Handbrake is CPU intensive – this is where a nice fast machine will help immensely. To convert a 1.5 hour DVD into MP4, it took 15 minutes on my Intel Core i7-860 with 8GB of RAM.

The iPad’s battery is very good with video playback. After 2 hours of watching Cars and Monsters Inc., the battery was still at 92%. So load up your iPad with movies before heading on that long road trip with your kids and don’t worry about the battery draining before your first pit stop.

Photos for Fun

Kids can have so much fun with the simplest things. A simple, but effective game you can play with your kids is to load up some random funny images in an album and play games like “I Spy” where you can ask them to look for an object in all the photos in that album, or create a funny story using the images as visuals. What you’ll find is that kids will just have fun flipping through the images using the iPad’s gesture controls and all you need is give them an excuse to do that.

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