A great deal of the learning
in using a computer at an early age comes from the interaction between
the child and the adult, not from the interaction with the computer.
By the age of three, a child can begin to use a computer and discovery-based
software meaningfully, with the help of an adult or older child. Remember
to plan for the important tasks of the early years before allowing children
to be distracted by too much electronic stimulation.
Conversations with children
increase their social and language skills. Nurturing and attention provided
by an adult increase the child's feelings of worth and self-esteem.
For social development, plan for plenty of interactions.
- Place 2 or 3 chairs
at each computer and plan activities that require the help of peers
- Ask open-ended questions
about children's work and offer suggestions and comments about what
you see them doing
- Display children's work
- Encourage parents to
use computer time to talk with their children asking questions,
exploring programs together, and sharing experiences with one another
Children can be successful
in school in many ways. Curiosity, creativity, independence, cooperativeness,
and persistence are some of the approaches that enhance early learning
- Plan for using all
the senses when working on the computer. For example, if you use
musical software, make sure children can experience a variety of
instruments in the "real world" along with their experiences in
the "electronic world." Let them hear music from a real instrument,
smell and feel the wood, strings and keys, and feel the shape and
weight of different instruments.
- Provide plenty of interactions
with things in their environment.
- Balance time on the
computer with greater time with physical objects, such as building
blocks, modeling clay, paints, dolls, or toy cars.
- Increase attention and
build memory and visualization skills. Children need time to develop
memory and imagery before the images are provided for them.
- Limit screen time (television,
computer or VCR) and temper it with activities requiring sustained
attention. Flashing images or constantly moving graphics on television
and computer screens make it harder for children to pay attention
for sustained periods. Young children's attention naturally jumps
from thing to thing, but some forms of electronic media may prolong
At this age language development
is best supported through
- conversations with adults
and other children
- reading books to children
- sharing stories
- dramatic play
- singing and poetry.
Experiences with three-dimensional
manipulatives provide the connection between letter and number symbols
and concepts in the real world. Most alphabet or number software programs
do not build this connection needed for language development. These
programs should be used sparingly. See Software
Selection for more information.
and General Knowledge
During the preschool years,
children’s intellectual knowledge can be developed with the use of some
software programs. Mathematics programs can help provide practice with
patterning, classification, seriation, and numerical relationships.
Other programs can give them practice with time (clocks) and dates (calendars).
- Provide information
to help young children understand the "if-then" sequences of computer
- Talk with children while
they are at the computer and explain what is happening; "If you
move the mouse, the arrow on the screen will move like this."
- Pay attention to social
interactions and to social situations in software programs in order
to help teach social-causal reasoning
- Ask questions such as,
"When you took the mouse away from Jimmy, how do you think that
made him feel?"