iPod For Third Birthday?

Updated on August 25, 2010
P.C. asks from Portland, OR
30 answers

My son, about to turn three years of age, loves Irish songs, God bless him.

We listen to the Dubliners a lot, since he loves singing more than the tunes.

When I call him to say good night, he asks me to play some of the Dubliners' songs over the phone, so I know that he is really missing that music.

My question: Because he lives with his mother, and I can only see him once a week for a few hours, and only have overnights every two weeks, can I get him an iPod or iPod-like device so that he can listen to his beloved songs when he is away from me?

I know that I would have to coordinate this with his mother.

I am concerned about a couple things:

1. Volume. I would need a device that I could control, so that it would only go to a certain level, whether he has ear buds in or not.

2. Obsession. I am concerned that he might just listen to it non-stop, and that it might become a struggle to get him to interact with me (or his mother).

Any thoughts?



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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the comments.

I am going to talk to his mother about possibly getting a kid-safe device.

I could only find one on the web: Carry-a-Tune MP3 Player with Kidz-Safe Headphones, from the Music For Little People web site.


Featured Answers



answers from Seattle on

There are some kid friendly cd players on the market that are probably a better option. He'll be able to press play and stop on his own and it can be put away when he should be interacting with his parents. You can make a mixed cd together with the songs he loves.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have a CD player that I use for my son for quiet time. Works like a charm. I think as long as you set limits (like two songs at bedtime and a CD at quiet time or something like that), it would be fine. My son is also three...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Could you put it on a cd instead and get him a cd player? That way, his mother or you could control the volume and he'll can have it on and still hear you. By the way, that's really cute. lol.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I know you've already gotten a lot of suggestions, and I'm going to have to agree with Betty O. (who also has an early childhood educators background...don't think she mentioned it, but she knows thereof she speaks.) As a mom/former nanny/preschool teachers I have experienced a lot of problems around situations like this.

I noticed many parents cautioning that you should impress the 'value' of this object upon your child. Uphill battle, that. Three year olds do not have the ability to cognitively understand 'value' in the way that we adults do, and this sort of responsibility isn't appropriate to your son's age of development.

If you want to teach 'taking care of' an object, a child-friendly CD player with NO headphones is recommended. CD players are bigger, harder to lose, are less likely to be washed, dunked into a toilet, or squirreled away in a small place. As a parent or adult-in-charge, I want to hear what the kids are listening to. You just never know. (It's the same reason we feel that the kid's computer is better-kept in the kitchen or common areas, where *everyone* can see it, than in a bedroom, right?:))

Or even better, if his mom has a cd player, just make him a couple cds. And let her use her own discretion at what she wants to hear. Your son may have special music he likes at her house too. This is part of the give and take that coparenting with another person requires.

Perhaps his mom *hates* Irish music? MIght be a reason to consider this, but still..My father had to deal with those very real situations when my folks divorced. The result was that we had some special music and toys at dad's house and some stuff that was more relevant to mom at her house. Kids adapt. If this is something special he shares with you, do not force his mom to facilitate it.

I have also noticed children at this age becoming very directive about listening to music. They sometimes want to hear the same song...again and again and again. While the easy answer would be to allow headphones, there are many great reasons for waiting on those. One, your son doesn't have the capacity to understand 'safe' volume control. I'd also be wary of having him off in his own little world where he cannot hear what's happening around him as well as he should. If you think a kid can tune you out with 'selective hearing', just wait until they have limited their hearing to the few millimeters beyond their ears. This just teaches disconnection, which is turning into a sad lifelong habit, if you have read studies on children and media. Scary.

I liked the idea of making a memory for a gift and taking him to see music. See if you can make a video of your going together (Where your son is the star instead of the music) or take lots of pictures and make a book. Far more meaningful and he can recall the story of that time, this good time he had with you.

One last thing: if you give a child headphones and a listening device, very sophisticated for his age, what is there for later? I was 8 when I received an a.m. transistor radio with an earphone (a single one, not both ears) and loved it. It would have been sad if I'd been 'gadgeted out' at a young age--the radio probably wouldn't have been as valuable to me. I took very good care of that radio and when my younger brother was old enough, passed it down to him. (I was given a Radio Shack stereo at 12 or so, and this fit the bill for my age.) The point is, you have plenty of time in his life to give him fancy things--right now, the most important thing you can give him is time with you.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You've expressed some good concerns. Good to be considering mom's side too. Before doing anything, I urge that you discuss this with his mother and make her a part of the decision. She will be able to accept it better if she's a part of the decision. Otherwise she may have valid reasons to not want him to have what you've purchased and feel offended.

I also suggest a CD. He or his mother may already have a CD player that he can use. My grandchildren listen to stories and music on a shelf sized CD. I urge you to not have your 3 yo use ear phones. There is evidence that their use can damage hearing. There is no way to control the volume for him.

I also suggest that you not give him an iPod. When you start out with an iPod what will you have to give him when he's 6 or 10. An iPod is something to work up to in the way of gifts. Also and iPod is so small it's really a personal device and should be reserved as an instrument for allowing increased independence and responsibility. Then there is the problem of losing it or breaking it because it is so small.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think the idea is nice, but I think he's way too young. If he gets an ipod at 3, what will he want at 4 or 5? Plus, if this is something his mom would disagree with or could not afford to purchase, it could put a strain on whatever relationship you have. Since Mom would be with him when he uses this, she would have to manage his "relationship" with the ipod, and for a 3 year old that would be hard work. I think you should leave things as they are with you playing the song on the phone when you call. That could be part of your special Daddy time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

i think that age 3 is too young for an ipod, you can get an inexpensive mp3, that is easy for him to work, they have fisher price ones or i just got a $15 for my daughter, the controlls are easy & it is only 2gig but holds plenty of songs for her. plus if she loses it or breaks it there is no major loss, they have kids headphones so that they cant turn up the volume too much. (little kids ears are too small for earbuds to fit right anyway)

but a cd player for his room might be better if you are worried about him listening to an mp3 constantly, then he could just listen to it at night when he's going to sleep

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We got our kids cheap $20 MP3 players from Kmart...and got a plan for $2.99 on them so if they break them within a year, we can get them replaced. TOTALLY a great idea :). Good djob daddy!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Keep it as a sweet 'thing' between you and him. If he can listen to it anytime he wants, you two won't have this special time where you let him hear it over the phone. SWEET btw.

I am 30 and don't own an iPod. Why won't someone buy me one? :( Just kidding. You actually have valid concerns. I hear all sorts of bad things about the volume. I see kids at restaurants, too (teens) that don't even have a conversation with their parents. They put in their headphones or play with their phones. What happned to a family meal and polite conversation?

My opinion - don't do it. Wait 10 years or 20. LOL

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't think a device with ear plugs is developmentally appropriate for a three year old. I think it could interfere with his physical development for one, and ipods are really for tuning others out so you don't have to interact with them.

Those songs are not beloved because they are great songs, they are beloved to him because of his interaction with you while listening to them during your parenting time.

I would make his birthday present a gift or event that you can do on your own parenting time...like go to see a kid friendly live show etc...I would not get a gift that will affect the quality of the other parents time. Put it in perspective...how would you react if the mom got him an ipod to listen to their songs while he was on your parenting time?

I think you need to be careful about the things you want to buy to "remind" him of you....material objects are not what relationships are built from, it is the consistent interactions during his time with you that are important. The interaction of him asking you to play the song during your bedtime call is priceless, would he still ask you for that if he had an ipod?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

I would rather get a character CD player for his bedroom all 3 of my kids have 1.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

How about a childrens CD player, that way you won't have to worry about ear buds and the volume hurting his ears. Also, do you really want a 3 yo with cords hanging out of his ears not having a clue what's going around him because he's so into his music? Don't we have enough teens and adults like this, lol? :) I would save the ipod until he's quite a bit older.

BTW, that is so cute that he already likes Irish music...there's a lot of good Irish tunes to listen to! My 4 yo loves grown up music too and it is so cute!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Well... I have to respectfully disagree with his being too young.

We're a techie family. We've have lots of gadgetry. I've found that with my own son, as long as he knows X isn't a toy, he treats his own gadgets very very carefully (ditto musical instruments). ALSO that "big" things don't matter this young. It doesn't become a "more more more, bigger, better, faster" thing. His "OMG, what I want THIS year!" kind of thing after his Flip we got him last year at 7, was squirt guns. Kids are like that. They want a thing because of what it can do, not because of status, or keeping up with the jones', or their friends have this or that, or because this other thing over here is "cooler". Tweens and teens and adults are the ones who get whirlies in their eyes. Same token they don't care about NEW, so hand-me-down electronics are just as sparkly. In fact, if you look at our "list" below, it kind of goes backwards.

My own son has:

- hand me down laptops (since 3)
- digital camera, nikon coolPix (since 3)
- hand me down ipod (since he was 4)
- cell phone (his own since 5)
- flip camera (since 7)

None of these things did we pay more than $50/$60 dollars for with tax, except for the ipod and laptops which were free. On sale and previous generation are *fantastic*. And lets face it, 1/2 the kid toys out there (fisher price, leap pads, hotwheels tracks, etc.. are $50+.

I've found avoiding the cheap/ off brand/ kid-specific things is best... because these guys last for YEARS, while the cheap ones have to be replaced year after year. Plus namebrand (like apple, nikon, etc.) can actually get sent in to be repaired or are replaced by the company if they can't be repaired.

As far as the whole obsession thing, that's another thing that I've found works well young. They have no choice but to follow your rules. It's time to brush your teeth, get out of the tub, get into the car, hold hands while crossing the street, don't hit your friends, go outside for awhile, etc. are all just things that HAVE to be done when we say. I mean, toddlers throw fits. Period. They throw fits about socks. So did mine throw fits about turning off the tv/computer/ipod/etc.? Sure. And house rule is that if you throw a fit about it, or have a lousy attitude, you lose the use of said item or activity for awhile. Which has been GREAT to teach young. My 8yo son looks at his 10-12 year old friends who are JUST getting something he's had for ages and is BAFFLED as to why they don't *know* that you can't use it all the time. And more that they actually get UPSET and sulk about having to turn it off. He learned that lesson years ago (with occasional boundary testing since)... so he doesn't understand why his big friends are acting like toddlers.

I'd definitely either confab with mum, OR keep the iPod at your house so it doesn't become a battle. Even though the intent is so he can listen to them at mums, unless you two agreed that 10minutes a day for daddy's music would work, I can see this becoming a MAJOR battle.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

i think he is too young for that kind of device. children that age break things easily! sometimes i swear they ust look at somethings and they break lol. maybe you can see if they have a leap frog quality cd player, something more durable then an IPOD. i think it;s nice that your are encouraging his love for music but find something less expensive and durable for a three year old. good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I agree with a cd player. 3 is WAY too young.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dayton on

You can get refurbished ipods at the apple store online for $25. It's not like you said you were going to get the itouch for him. Another thing to consider is the CD's for before bed or in the car on rides. That way he is listening for a finite ammount of time.

If the relationship with his mom is such that you can communicate and negotiate with her, tell her what you would like to get for him and that it is so you can have connection with him even when he is not with you. See if there is a way you can do it that she can live with. For instance the ipod with a docking station (as cheap as $20) or the CD's and an inexpensive CD player. If the relationship with his mom is not that way, try anyway. It only gets better with the effort, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and she will be more inclined to agree if she feels consulted.

I guess that means I agree with Riley. Kids only start keeping up with the Joneses if parents encourage the idea that the Joneses are important.

Hope this helps.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Medford on

I think that giving him a means to listen to his favorite music is a wonderful idea. Although, I am not sure that the ipod is the right choice. I don't think its good for little ears to have head phones at this age.

I would suggest making him a mixed CD or buying a couple CDs of the misuc that you guys love and getting him a CD player. He can listen to it in his room for a few minutes before bed or some time that is appropriate and alright with mom as well.

I wouldn't worry about the obsession part, most kids run through their phases, but it sounds like this music, he loves it and it makes him feel close to dad even when you are a part. I think its sweet. Just talk with his mom and set boundries as you would with any other "toy".

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My son who is 4 has been using my ipod for plane rides only for over a year - he has special headphones that only allow a certain volume level...but, for your situation, it seems like buying a cd (or making one) and giving him a CD player that is less portable might make more sense...or an ipod with a docking station and with speakers, not headphones.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Hi Paul, a 3 year old will, eventually, break an iPod (or similar device), even if they are careful and gentle.

My boys have a CD player, got it at Target for $70, that they do not get to pick up, and have learned how to press "on" and "play" to listen to music and stories while playing in their playroom.

No supervision required :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cheyenne on

They make "kid' MP3 players. My son received one for Christmas and the volume does not go very high and it is designed for toddlers. Maybe check Toys R Us?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My daughter's Uncle bought her a MP3 player as a gift last year and this player is the absolutely favorite even when all her friends come over for a playdate. You can import your own personal playlist which is one of the reason this item so cool. It has easy controls and well made for small hands and dancing 3 year olds. It has a great volume control and is easily removed from the playroom if needed.

She has given each family member a "theme" song and it has turned out to be so much fun. The MP3 player also has arrows to forward or replay or skip to another song. When ever she just misses her Uncle in AZ she can skip to his "theme" song. Here is the name of the player and the link:


Sorry Paul,


THIS is the one we have and has the THE CHANGEABLE PLAYLIST!:

Discovery Kids 256MB Kids MP3 Player


Sorry about the confusion.

Hope this Helps,

P.S. My theme song is: "Hey Mama, Hey Mama"

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We got my daughter a refurbished iPod when she was around 3 for her music and we found we could also get podcats of seseme street etc. It was purchased for th ecar. She did have some trouble with the controls however. I believe the headphones we got had a sound limiter on it. I forget if the iPod itself does.

The only safety thing I ever worried about was having a cord at a young age and her putting it around her neck. As well making sure she can charge it safely.

I think it is a nice idea with supervision and moderation. You coauld also get a docking station with speakers so you all can enjjoy together.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Nah--get him a CD player for his room and a few CDs. I don't think it's a good idea for a kid that young to listen to music through earbuds--hearing damage, etc.....

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Well, its an expensive gift for a 3 year old... and they won't know how to care for it... and they will drop it, by accident too.
My Hubby has an iPod, iTouch, iPhone and even he drops it.
our kids can and do play with it. My kids being 4 and 7 years old.

Perhaps, there are also MP3 players... which may cost less, I don't know.

Or, you keep it at your house... and it will be something that he can use only when at your home/with you. You can make that the "rule" about it.
Otherwise, his Mom, will need to be a referee about it, too, at her house.... but yes, talk about it with her. Get her approval or not about it.

And the volume cannot be 'fixed' on an iPod.

Or, get him a little cassette/CD player... and he can use THAT to listen to his songs. Easier.

good luck,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

My son just turned 3 on Saturday, but we got him an I-Touch months ago. (He is autistic and there are many apps designed with that in mind that he loves.)

We got a protective case for it and limit his use, but I think it's a fabulous tool to use for a variety of purposes. (I can put a digital movie on it for him to watch when we are stuck in really long lines at the grocery store, for instance.)

The case I got actually covers the speakers and keeps it from ever getting too loud. So volume control has never really been an issue for us.

I would talk to the mother and say, though it is a gift from you, you understand that she will have to monitor its use and make sure it does not become an obsession or distraction to other things, but I find it is a fine present. Good dad.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Huntsville on

My daughter is 4 1/2, and also has an Irish song she loves, because Daddy sings it to her :) ("Far Away Boys")

Like others have said, I wouldn't get him an actual iPod, too expensive!! I would go with a smaller, cheaper mp3 player, or a CD player like others have mentioned.

I recently attempted to win a Creative Zen 1 GB mp3 player with the intent of letting my daughter use it (limited times). I didn't win, but a coworker did, so she's actually going to just give it to my daughter! haha I have no idea anything about these specific players, so I'm hoping it will be fairly easy to just put a few songs on it & show her how to stop/play. Daddy is going to be deploying in a little over a month, so we are planning to record him singing that song and put it on the mp3 player :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

We bought our son an ITouch for his 3rd birthday.. We downloaded appropriate songs and also some fun, free game applications so while we're out at the stores all goes well :0) (benefits both of us)....I LOVED him having it (he had Curious George Games, Memory Match games, shape games, etc).. UNFORTUNATELY 4 months ago while we were at BJ's someone stole it out of our cart when we weren't looking.. If you do buy him something like that make sure you stress to him how important it is to not loose it or leave it behind in a shopping cart, etc

1 mom found this helpful


answers from McAllen on

I gave my 3 yo an ipod touch (with a good protecting case and screen protector) and he absolutely loves it!! and knows how to use it perfectly!!
I only download apps he can use theres one for coloring and one where you have to cross cars through an intersection, really cool!
About your concerns:
1. Volume, I dont let him use ear buds, just the volume, which is pretty good.
2. Obsession I limit his time to no more than 4 hours a day, not consecutively meaning, I let him play for a little while then take it away and have him help me cook and give it back to him for another little while and like that.
A lot of people are against it, but our children are technology children and we need to get used to that, and of course parenting is really very important and we need to monitor them!.
Good Luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

IPod might be a little much for a three year old. How about an old fashioned tape player and tape songs he loves to hear on that. It is really inexpensive and little boys being little boys if they hurt it or damage it in anyway will be inexpensive to replace.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I think music is great for kids. Maybe a CD clock radio for his room might be a better idea. You can make a cd of the favorite tunes and then send it with him. You can even get one that you can plug your ipod into. They also make a lot of kid MP3 players that are kiddo friendly.
Ear buds are not a good idea. First, it is hard to find ones that will stay in little ones ears and the kids just fiddle with them more than leave them in. Plus, they are small enough that your kid could accidentally swallow them. My daughter was so over putting things in her mouth and then I saw her playing with my ear buds and they were in her mouth.She is almost 4! UGH.
They do make volume controlled headphones for little tikes.

1 mom found this helpful
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