How to organise apps and set restrictions for a primary or early years iPad

Please note that images on this blog reflect iOS 5, however the processes remain the same.

For the Summer Term I am planning to support staff at the primary school I work at with understanding the basics of using an iPad in a primary classroom. This blog post is going to act as a base for all of my advice, so it will probably change over the coming weeks.

For information on managing multiple devices and purchasing app licenses, see my blog post here:

I saw a blog post at this Easter holiday which gave a huge bank of recommended Apps for Early Years and Primary Education. The blog post also provided information on how to group these Apps into folders to make the iPad more accessible for primary aged pupils. This reminded me of a very early blog post I wrote when I first launched ‘Enabling Environments’. I shared the challenges and solutions to using 1 iPad in a class of 30 children, and now I feel I have so much more to say about it. If you want to read about deploying multiple iPads in a classroom or school, read this blog post about the Volume Purchase Program and mobile device management.

When I supported the staff at Tiny Tots Day Nursery with the setting up of their iPad, I offered similar advice to them. However, we also discussed the effectiveness of giving an iPad to a learner with hundreds of Apps installed on it. Even when we have grouped these in to files, we still wouldn’t give the children in our classes access to every single resource in the cupboard. Therefore, I think iPads should be managed in a similar way. Yes, it is a necessity to browse AppStore and download many apps and try them out (I did the same) but I also think you need to revisit your apps after a few weeks and select the ones that are most effective for learning. You can always install apps you have deleted if you decide to use them again. This will help to keep the iPad fresh and relevant to your learner’s needs. If you are using several apps in a classroom or school, a mobile device management tool will assist you in wirelessly removing and installing apps on an iPad. Read about mobile device management here.

Here is how I set up the iPad in my class:

Installing, grouping and managing Apps and Folders

Browse AppStore’s ‘education’ category or search for apps using the search function.
Install apps for art, music, geography, language, phonics, maths…

You will find that your iPad Home screen is full of various Apps and it ‘looks messy’. This is when you can start to create folders and group your apps. I’ve grouped my apps by topics,  curriculum areas and children’s interests.

To create a folder, press and hold on any app on the home screen. This will make everything on the screen wobble! You are now able to move Apps around the screen and re-order them. To create a folder, simply press, hold and drag an app on top of another app. They will combine inside a folder which you can edit the name of.


I also think that you need to group the app which children would not need to use in to a folder as well. I call this folder “Mr Faulder” and it has E-Mail, Photos, Music, Settings, Messages, Calendar, Game Center, Contacts, Reminders, iBooks and Posterous in it. Most of these Apps are not connected to any of my accounts so if children do click on to them, they don’t ‘see’ anything. It just keeps them out of their way and I explain ‘these are the apps which make the iPad work, they’re not games, you won’t like them’. It seems to do the trick!



I also place apps that I would use in teaching groups or as planned for activities in a folder called Projects. Originally, Puppet Pals was in the Projects folder until I had demonstrated it and used it with the class. Now I have moved it into the Language folder as the children can use it independently.

This idea of moving apps around your iPad and into different folders seems like an unnecessary process. I always link this back to your classroom and the resources which you would alternate and change throughout the term.

The next step I took when organising the class iPad was making use of the Dock on the Home screen. I started to think ‘do children need to be flicking through the screens on the iPad Home screen?’. I don’t think it is necessary, and by using the Dock I could refine the apps and folders I had created even further.


By placing folders on the Dock, this means children understand that the apps they can use ‘are on the bottom of the screen’ and the apps which we use together ‘are at the top of the screen’.  To this, simply press a folder on the Home screen, hold it and release. This will make everything wobbly again. You can then press, hold and drag apps and folders on to the Dock. The Dock holds 6 apps or folders so you will need to pull off any of the  apps which Apple have placed on your Dock by default. You may have already placed these into a folder like mine called ‘Mr Faulder’ and you will have an empty Dock.

Applying settings and restrictions

This part of iPad management is crucial. I always get asked ‘can children spend my money on AppStore?’ and I see these kinds of complaints on AppStore all the time. It is so easy to set up restrictions on your iPad so that this is impossible! Here’s how..

1. Open the Settings App on your iPad
2. Select General from the left hand side
3. Scroll down and select Restrictions
4. Enter a Passcode
5. In the Allow column
you can choose to ‘switch off’ apps. This depends on the age of your children and how your classroom is set up. I decided to ‘switch off’ all apps apart from the Camera.
6. Scroll down to the Allowed Content section and switch off ‘In-App Purchases’. This will disable the facility to make purchases from inside Apps you have downloaded (some Free Apps will have content you have to pay for, this is called InApp purchases).
7. There are some other features in the restrictions you may want to alter as well, such as age restrictions for search results.


By turning off ‘iTunes’ and ‘Installing Apps’ you are restricting access to AppStore so children will not be able to browse downloads. You will need to remember how to switch these on again when you want to access AppStore and download new Apps or previously deleted Apps.

I would also suggest that you turn off Multitasking Gestures that are built in to iOS 5. This feature is great for adults and experienced iPad users. The Multitasking Gestures allow you to navigate through apps which are running and use several kinds of ‘swipes’ to open and close Apps. When working collaboratively on iPad, sometimes I have found that children’s multitouch have been mistaken for Multitasking Gestures and means that apps have been closed or switched to another screen.

This is how to turn Multitasking Gestures off. In the General screen in Settings, scroll down to Multitasking Gestures and toggle it to ‘off’. Simples!


Guided Access is a feature built in to iOS 7 and can be found in Settings > Accessibility > Learning. This feature will lock an iPad app that is open on the device so that the user cannot exit it.

4 thoughts on “How to organise apps and set restrictions for a primary or early years iPad

  1. Really useful blog – thanks! This blog has given me a few ideas to share with the Staff at my school (Spring Cottage Primary, Hull) and on my blog. I’m going to be giving a staff training session on iPads and some of the apps. Which have been installed on them. I created a blog on useful apps and iPads v PC which I hope the other teachers will find useful.

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