It's hard to imagine a child just one to two years old meaningfully interacting with a computer from the PC era. But the rise of smartphones and tablets, mobile computers with a touchscreen interface, has changed all that. My son has been using an iPad since he was a little over one, and now, at two and a half, he is capable of using dozens of apps with ease. I've been amazed at how much it has taught him about letters, numbers, and shapes. But perhaps more impressive is just how durable Apple's original iPad is.
Apple is known for the quality of its hardware, but they aren't considered particularly durable. We've all experienced a shattered iPhone screen, or know someone who has. And as Apple's mobile devices have gotten progressively thinner, some have been known to bend under pressure. But the first iteration of the iPad is an incredibly rugged device. Mine has been dropped, kicked, stepped on, and thrown. It has no visible injuries or performance issues.
I don't think the iPad is waterproof, but the one we have has been covered in every bodily excretion known to man. It's served as an impromptu plate and an occasional chew toy. With just a little water and clean rag, you can wipe it down and it's good as new.
There have been some good essays written on the anorexic design culture of today's mobile devices. While consumers consistently rate longer battery life as a feature they desire, most flagship phones continue to strive for ever thinner bodies. I feel the same way, but with an eye to something that can take the kind of beating my kids dish out on a daily basis.
Since I doubt Apple is suddenly going to start selling a rugged model of its tablet computer, my plan is to stick with the original until it kicks, then maybe buy another, or one generation later. Sure, it won't run the latest software, but a three-year-old won't know that. It will be cheap, and best of all, toddler proof. There are a few nice children's apps that require a front-facing camera, but I'm happy to delay the onset of navel-gazing "selfie" culture for a few more years.