Friday, March 02, 2007

Toddler Computer Time

TechLearning newsletter has a great article about young children and the Internet. Buddy Boy hardly ever goes on the computer and doesn't own any video games, believe it or not, even though I am a computer teacher/library media specialist. In my job I teach kids to use computers and the Internet, but I am in no hurry to put him in front of a screen. I think young children need to interact with the physical world before they learn with the magic box. I think they need to use their bodies, their physical senses and other people to orient themselves in the universe before they spend a lot of time absorbing the virtual, abstract world on the screen. I want my boys to build with blocks, play with sand and water, draw, paint and mess around with play dough and use their bodies to learn and explore before they learn from a mouse and keyboard. I want them to learn to negotiate, play, create worlds, argue, problem-solve, pretend, initiate conversations and laugh with other people in real life before they start chatting with friends online. I think kindergartners and first graders are too young to spend much time on the computer. I know they have plenty of time to learn computer skills, they'll pick them up fast (faster than we did) and by the time they get to second grade it will be a whole new world anyway. Who knows what technology they will master by the time they get to fourth grade, when current nine year olds need to learn to keyboard.

So, with all that said, I am reviewing some really fun and amazing websites designed for young children. This article in TechLearning has a list of important Online Safety Rules to teach children before they get online. (Don't skip that or assume someone else is teaching your child those rules) Then it gives links to nine really well done websites full of games, learning activities, reading lessons, math explorations, and science experiments. If you have young children or teach them you will want to plan to spend some time trying these sites out. I have only looked at the first three in the list and I am very impressed. I might even put Buddy Boy on these sites to see what he thinks.

Here are the three that I have looked at so far: (description and links copied from TechLearning)

Chateau Meddybemps
Created to help parents and teachers strengthen the learning and playing skills of young children, Chateau Meddybemps explains how children learn, how to help develop a variety of skills, and how to make learning enjoyable for children. With its colorful images, games, and stories, children will find learning fun at this site!
Primarily designed for pre-kindergarten through second grade and approved by CyberSitter, Starfall contains resources for parents and teachers to help children with letter sounds and learning to read. This site is one of the best resources for early childhood education.
Lil Fingers
Developed for toddlers, Lil' Fingers is a computer storybook, game, activity and coloring site. This wonderful site has color animations, stories, and activities to keep young children edutained for hours.

There are six other sites listed that I haven't had time to look at yet. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Leave a comment and tell me which site you liked the best and why. I'd love to hear what you think about kids and computers too!


HipWriterMama said...

This is such a well thought out post. I agree children need to discover the joy of playing with other things before getting into the computer. The stimulus of the computer, while it opens up their world, can prove somewhat addicting just like TV, if not properly monitored. I liked the sites you linked to and have a few to share.

My second grader started on the computers in kindergarten at school. She is not as savvy as my kindergartner, who wants to catch up to her sister. My 3 year old is also becoming quite familiar on the computer. She can play easy games on

I did give in to letting 3 year old start early. It all started out because she would sit with her siblings as they were on the computer. One day, when the sisters took off, she started playing on the computer. I was in total shock that she was confidently playing a game on All from watching her sisters. Which proves that children are incredibly fast learners and we really need to be the watchdogs on what goes in their brains.

The computer is set up in the kitchen so I can watch the site they're on. I'm working on setting up time limits and am trying to figure out what's fair. 3 year old usually gets less than 10 minutes. Kindergartner gets 15 minutes. Second grader gets 20 minutes. I'm not sure if these times are appropriate and would appreciate any feedback you have as a computer teacher.

A great site for new readers: Then there is the site my second grader used often in school:

Your public school websites might have links set up to reading and math sites used in school.

Paul said...

Great post. We have a 2.5 year old who is very interested in using the computer. At her daycare, they have Dr. Seuss ABC on the computer and the children all love it. I don't think they use it much but we asked them to minimize the use because it is really just a fancy TV with some interaction. (We used to show our daughter Barney but stopped all TV when she started demanding it all the time. Now she has forgotten about it enough not to ask for it).

I'm torn about whether it is good or bad for her to use this program, which is clearly designed to be educational. She has shown a lot more interest in the real Seuss ABC book, I think as a result of the program. But I'm concerned, like you, that the program provides too much stimulation. It is much better if she plays with blocks, playdough and sits in my lap to read the Dr. Seuss books. There is a lot of debate out there and sounds like there is no consensus about educational TV and even less of a consensus about educational software.

I think one of the biggest problems for learning (as both children and adults) is that we are exposed to lots of stimulation that doesn't require much concentration. Excessive exposure to TV and the Internet make it more difficult to do things like read Moby Dick, practice the saxophone, paint pictures, etc. because the former are instantly gratifying and the latter take a lot more patience.