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Preschoolers Learning the Computer

How To Teach Your Preschooler About Using A Computer

Today's preschoolers like to jump rope, play hide-and-seek and mold clay into colorful, imaginable figures, as we did decades ago. However, in some ways, today's little people are experiencing a different life than we did when we were 3 feet tall. They know that homemade bread can be made with just a tad more effort than pressing a button. Phone calls can be received in the car or at the mall. Favorite movies can be watched at any time and on any day. Mail arrives in the mailbox and online. And, many are computer literate by the time they start kindergarten.

They've Got Mail

Vanessa Mullins watched her 3-year-old daughter sit herself down at the family computer and turn it on. When asked what she was doing, her response was, "I'm going to check my e-mail."

"My daughter has watched me start up the computer so many times she can now sit down and navigate through about four screens to get onto the Internet," says Mullins. "Soon I think she will probably have her own e-mail address."

"I set up an e-mail address for my 4-year-old son last year," says Bill Walters, of California. "We sit down and check his email together. I keep a list of familiar email addresses by the computer. When we open his mailbox, he points out the familiar names before we open the emails." Walters taught his son not to open e-mail from senders not on their list.

Never Too Young To Learn

Michelle Smith of Chico, Calif. is the mother of a 2-year-old girl who is learning some basics, such as using the space bar. "She frequently sits on my lap as I answer e-mail," says Smith.

Smith's daughter is becoming familiar with the mouse. "She moves it all over the place, but she hasn't made the connection between mouse movement and the computer screen," Smith says. This young computer operator has an interest in using the computer without her mother's help. "Occasionally, she will sneak into my office and I'll find that I no longer have any sound," Smith says.

Children's software programs that work with the touch of any key or click are great learning tools for 2-year-olds and older beginners. These programs can help build confidence at the keyboard while educating and entertaining a child simultaneously.

Software programs designed with your preschooler in mind!

My Turn, Please

"When I am on the computer doing some work, my sons go nuts waiting for their turn," says Susan Attiyah of California. Attiyah couldn't be happier! "I am one person who believes that computers will be taking over the world, so I want them to learn everything about it."

Attiyah's sons go on the computer every day, a few times a day. She limits each session to 20 to 30 minutes to avoid damage to their eyesight. "If I don't limit their time, they will live on it," says Attiyah.

Attiyah prefers her children to play educational games. "I taught my youngest child his colors on the computer," she says.

School and Computers

"I'm very surprised by the way many preschoolers already know how to manipulate the mouse on our school computers," says Odyssey Wofford, a preschool director and teacher in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. "It takes a great deal of eye-hand coordination and I have seen 2 ½-year-olds very capable of moving the mouse and clicking on a specific icon," she says.

Wofford says that the older children in her preschool, ages 4 and up, have surprised her by being able to follow directions on a game they have never played before. "They are able to pick up concepts on the computer quickly and the children who are just watching are able to sit down and start a game with no problem when it is their turn. It's just amazing watching today's children work on computers. They know more than I do at times!"

Internet Safety

Exploring fingers can easily wander into an online world inappropriate for children. There are ways to keep children in a child-friendly Web environment:

  • Familiarize yourself with the links provided by your child's favorite Web sites.
  • Surf the Web with your child.
  • Allow Internet access only when you are in the room with your child.
  • Teach your child not to open e-mail sent by unfamiliar email addresses.
  • Take advantage of any parental block features provided by your ISP.
  • Tell your child to let you know immediately if a message flashes on the screen.

Ready, Set, Click!

Many preschoolers of the new millennium are computer literate and the word "mouse" means more to them than a little furry friend with long whiskers. While learning their ABCs and 1,2,3s, they are clicking and dragging and having a great time!

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