Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

March 11, 2010

7 Stages of Computer Literacy for Toddlers

Filed under: Family Activities,Technology in the Home — Erin @ 7:10 pm

Coupled with developing motor skills, the thought of introducing your young one to a computer can be daunting.  Where do you start?  What are most kids able to do, and by what age?

In this post we thought we’d share our take on the stages you can expect your child to move through on their path to Computer Whizdom.  As with most things, their progress down this path will depend a lot on how much time they’re able to spend online playing, learning, and exploring.

1. Toys

baby-toyMost of the first toys your child handles are bulky, colorful, and safe.  As your child learns to grasp these objects, they also learn how to wrangle fun sights and sounds out of them.  In this early stage of motor skill development, your child is just starting to understand that what they do physically can make something else in the world behave a certain way.

2. Screens

Zippity_Learning_System-lifestyle_shotSoon after, your child will start to understand that screens – be they on the phone, TV, or computer – are places where things happen too.  Not only that, but they’ll quickly realize that they can make things happen there!  Depending on how developed their motor skills are, this is a great time to introduce toddlers to hand-banging keyboards like Fisher Price’s Laugh & Learn Keyboard Topper or full-body systems like the Wii or Leapster Zippity.

3. Touch

ipod_touch_gamesTouch is the third physical interaction usually mastered by tots.  Their little fingers do particularly well with touch screens, so the iPhone and iPad are great (though expensive!) interfaces for them to start with. With apps like My First Puzzles, the interaction between finger and screen can be so immediate that children can easily get caught thinking that the manipulatives on screen are real!

4. Pen

MagnadoodleAfter touch, the next interfaces to learn are ones that involve pens.  No need to run out and get a tablet – you just need something interactive that will continue to develop your child’s fine motor skills without losing the feedback and immediacy of touch interfaces.  Whether your child spends time with crayons, Magna-Doodles, or Tag Readers, learning to grasp and use a pen tool will pave the way for mouse success.

5. Keyboard

Picture 18The keyboard – mentioned previously in Screens – is a tool that can be mastered to varying degrees.  The first thing to learn is that banging on the keyboard causes things to happen on the screen.  That’s pretty much all your toddler needs to know to explore their powers on sites like Kneebouncers or Fisher-Price.  The next thing to learn is that different parts of the keyboard do different things, starting with the spacebar and arrow keys, and then the letter and number keys.  After the hunt and peck typing has begun, your child is well on their way towards 120 WPM typing!

6. Mouse

The mouse is a perplexing tool for kids.  The first thing they do – and easily too! – is start clicking away!  What you’ll quickly find is that clicking the mouse isn’t the hard part, it’s clicking the right thing on the screen that proves difficult.  To do this, your child has to understand conceptually that the small rounded device in their hand controls another small graphical image on the screen – the cursor.  Once they see that their hand and mouse movements map to the cursor’s movement, then they’re clicking really means something!   From there, they need to learn how to “click just one time,” do some clicking and dragging, and finally hit those double-clicks and right-clicks!

After watching lots of little ones struggle with their mouse at home or in our office, here are some recommendations:

Chester Mouse

Get a mouse they can grip. They’ve got tiny hands!

Get a mouse with one button. Left click vs. right click means nothing to them, and disaster to you!

Adjust the mouse speed. The cursor’s tiny as it is!  Why not slow down the speed, so they can actually watch it move!

7. Explore!

With these skills under their belt, your child will be well on their way to computer bliss and freedom.  As they explore, they’ll quickly pick up other important abilities like scrolling, searching, and navigation.

At that point, it’s not a question of “can they go,” but “where they go” that really matters.

3yo-ToyboxAnd that’s where Zoodles comes in.  With Zoodles, you can trust that your little keybanger will not only be contained, but engaged, and educated, all from within the safety of our browser.  Our interface protects your computer, and our content safeguards your kids.  We feature content providers who are passionate about designing games, activities, and videos specifically for young developing users.

Truth be told, your little one will probably move through these stages faster than you can say “antivirus,” and you won’t have to do a thing.   They just need time to explore.

With Zoodles, you can trust that your child’s road to computer literacy will be a smooth one.  So let them drive.  You just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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