In the digital age, kids are familiar with advanced technology as soon as they leap from the womb. Kindergartners are using computers as part of their learning curriculum. Some schools even recommend that children should enter school with some knowledge of PC use. Let’s face it. Computer literacy is a must in this day and age. And there are benefits to learning computer skills like hand/eye coordination. So you’re probably asking yourself, “When should I teach my child how to use the computer?” Well, you could go online and read all sorts of articles — or you can continue reading this particular article by someone who went through the process of learning the computer at a young age.
That’s what I thought.
The thing to remember is that there are different methods of introducing PC use to your little one. My father pretty much let me do whatever I chose, so I experimented with all the different keys and programs (mainly Paint and Pinball). My dad also taught me how to search for my programs that he installed for me using the Run command, and from then on I knew what to do. Keep in mind, this was during a time when parents didn’t have to worry about kids finding skeezy things on the Internet, because the Web was not as pervasive then as it is now. There were no freak sites, and people didn’t worry about Trojans or viruses. Nowadays, there’s a lot more that parents have to worry about and monitor, but introduction to the computer doesn’t have to be difficult (or scary). With the right tools, parents can teach their little ones basic computer skills.
There are products that parents can use to help young toddlers ease their way into using the computer. The Comfy Easy PC System is a kid-friendly “keyboard” that hooks up directly to your computer, and it’s made especially for children ages 1 to 5.
The keyboard comes with interactive programs that are fun and educational, and parental assistance isn’t necessary. This would be perfect for parents who want their youngsters to get used to the computer as soon as possible, although I would recommend it more for ages 1 to 3.
For parents who would rather have their little ones use the regular keyboard right away, it’s all about finding the perfect software. It just takes a little searching to find something good. A lot of programs that are on Top 10 lists for toddlers and babies are outdated (Windows 98, 2000, or XP), but if you’re willing to take the time to install them using Compatibility Mode, then I’d say go ahead and try them.
The Jumpstart and Reader Rabbit programs were some of the best educational programs available for babies and toddlers. The programs allow little ones to explore everything on the screen, and it’s good for their age range. The activities are brief and fun, good for a kid’s short attention span, all while teaching keyboard and mouse skills as they get older. However, if you’d prefer something more recent, Mickey Mouse Toddler is available for Windows 7 and is targeted for kids ages 18 months to 3 years old. The software teaches shapes, colors, listening, and other fundamental skills along with computer mouse use.
By age 3, try weaning them off their current programs and introduce them to new ones that are a little more challenging. If they used a kid-friendly keyboard, then introduce them to the mouse and teach them how to use it. At this age, children can learn to recognize letters and numbers, so use programs that support this type of learning. If they’re already familiar with their ABCs, get programs that can further advance their learning.
Computer software with storylines or puzzles is pretty good for ages 3 and older. Again, the JumpStart Preschool and Reader Rabbit Preschool software are great for kids between ages 2 and 4, reinforcing the skills that children learned in the previous programs along with learning new skills and concepts. Some good storyline PC programs include Stellaluna, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham or anything similar.
JumpStart Kindergarten is great, well, for kindergartners. Many of these programs are easy to master and a lot of fun once you get the hang of using the mouse and keyboard to complete the activities. In the long run, it is up to you to decide what computer programs you want your youngster to use. To get a glimpse of the kind of activities you can expect in the JumpStart programs, check out this video from the Kindergarten edition (which was my personal favorite program growing up):
As your little one matures, you can slowly introduce him/her to the wonderful world of …
You can take your kid to sites like nickjr.com, noggin.com, disneyjr.com. pbs.org or any other similar sites that are kid-friendly and parent-approved. There your child will find games and downloadable activities that he or she can engage in with their favorite TV characters. Just make sure you look through the site yourself before handing the reigns over to your child, and always supervise them when online. One wrong click, and blammo! Years of therapy.
Typing is another skill that can be mastered through the use of computer software. You can also have them type up stories using any word editing program in order to continue practicing their typing skills after they outgrow the simpler programs. Once they have that skill down pat, set them up with an email account and add relatives as contacts.
If you want your child to learn more about the inner workings of a computer, you can hook them up with a Raspberry Pi or have them learn some coding. Either way, if your kid knows their way around the computer by elementary school, he or she is already one step ahead of the learning curve.