September 9, 2021

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Turn your old iPad into a new smart home hub for your kids. Here’s how

4 min read
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You can turn your old iPad into a smart home hub that works like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. 


Karisa Langlo/CNET

Rumor has it that the new iPad Mini 6 may be coming this fall, just in time for the holiday season. You can expect it to have a USB-C port, a Smart Connector for keyboard attachments and other features similar to an iPad Air’s. It’s bound to be on your kid’s wish list (and maybe yours, too) but what does that mean for the old Apple tablet stuffed away in the drawer? Maybe sell it for some extra cash? (If you do decide to sell, we have a handy guide on the best places to sell your old electronics.) 

Or you can keep it around a little while longer for your kids. Even though the new iPad sounds way better, you can turn that old tablet into a hub, similar to an Echo Show or Google Nest Hub. Repurposing it may be a good way to upgrade your kid’s room with voice commands and automated routines. Interested? We’ll show you how.

We also have ideas for what you can do with your old Android phone (maybe turn it into a security camera). And here are some ideas for your kids heading back to school.

A kid-friendly smart home hub 

You don’t need to buy Apple’s HomePod or HomePod Mini to put an Apple smarter speaker in your kids’ room.

You can turn your old iPad into a smart home hub that lets your kids play music, turn on and off the lights and even control the temperature in their room with the tablet. 

To turn your iPad into a smart home hub for your kids’ room:

1. On your iPad, go to Settings.

2. Scroll down, tap Home and then toggle on Use this iPad as a Home Hub.

If you want to give your kids control just over the smart-home devices in their room and not everywhere in the house, you can set limits on what they have access to in the Home app.

A soothing night-light and sound machine

If your kids are starting to sleep on their own and you want to create a serene sleep haven for them, your old iPad is up to the task. With an app like Baby Night Lite, you can set up a night-light for the kids’ room with a variety of small animals and colors along with a sound machine that comes with a variety of songs and white noise and ambient background sounds. And you can set a timer and create a playlist of peaceful, soothing music or lullabies. For older kids who are beyond lullabies and dancing sheep, an app like Night Light Lite lets you pick from a variety of sounds, such as beach waves and running water, and night-light colors to help them get to sleep. 

An extra gaming console for siblings or friends 

Sony’s PS5 or the Nintendo Switch might be on your kids’ shortlist for holiday gifts, but for fun and variety, it’s hard to beat an iPad paired with Apple Arcade games, such as NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition or The Oregon Trail. And if you have more kids in the home than gaming devices, converting that old iPad into a gaming device may be just the ticket. 

Plus, the iPad gives your kids a bigger screen to play multiplayer games on. And you can even add a PlayStation or Xbox wireless controller to the iPad for your kids to play without hogging the TV or your phone.

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You can download learning apps for your kid to use your old tablet as an educational tool. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

A learning tool with educational games and apps

With the new school year here, if your kids are going to start needing the home computer for their schoolwork, turning an iPad into a dedicated educational tool may be the perfect use for your older Apple tablet. You can even pair it up with a keyboard and a mouse to make the iPad feel more like a computer.

If you’re worried about your kid becoming distracted by messages, games, alerts and social media, you can use Apple’s parental controls to set limits and what they can and can’t do on the device.

To get a running start on the school year, here are a few apps that can help your kids study, keep track of their day and take notes. 

A baby monitor to check on your little one 

Most baby monitor devices make it easy to check on your little one from your phone or computer. But they aren’t cheap. Turning your old iPad into a baby monitor can be a more affordable way to keep track of your baby. 

Baby monitor apps like Cloud Baby Monitor can let you check in on your kid. You can also get motion and noise alerts, just like from popular baby monitors — the Owlet Smart Sock Plus is a popular one. Note that if you’re looking for a monitor that keeps an eye on your baby’s oxygen levels, temperature and sleep quality, an iPad won’t do that for you. 

If you’re still leaning toward getting a new iPad, here’s our guide to the best iPads available right now and the big differences between them. And here’s what we know about the next big Apple event if you’re shopping for more gadgets. Or if you’re thinking about keeping your old iPad, here’s what iOS 15 has in store.