Little Hands Need Little Mice

Does your child have trouble using the mouse? There are a number of things you can do that can greatly reduce the frustration and significantly raise the chances of mousing success for your little ones.

A parent wrote to us recently that her four year old daughter was new at using the mouse and was having trouble precisely placing objects on the screen. I had a similar experience with my then 4 year old while we were developing DreamBox, so we already knew that some drag-and-drop operations can initially be frustrating for little ones learning to use the mouse. There are good educational reasons why we do things the way we do, and we don’t simply snap the counters to the correct locations when the student gets things “sort of in the general vicinity”. But the way a program responds is only one of a number of factors that can affect the experience for early mousers.

While some young children take to the mouse really quickly — mine was initially as adept using it turned 180 degrees as he was when it was “normal” (try that for yourself right now!) — their small motor skills are often still developing and lack the fine control we adults usually take for granted. Luckily, there are a number of things we can do to reduce this impact while they learn.

Setting Your Kindergarten through 2nd Grade Child Up With the Right Mouse Can Make All The Difference

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First of all, if you haven’t done so yet, it is well worth investing in a small inexpensive mouse, either one designed for children or a “travel” version. (At home we use a corded one simply because there is less chance of it “wandering off” to have other adventures around the house.) I would avoid the super tiny ones. I found a reasonable selection, many in bright colors, for less than $15 at a local electronics store. So he and I made a special trip to choose HIS mouse and he chose one that fit his hand well (and just happened to be blue, his favorite color).

Once you have a suitable mouse, check the mouse settings to make certain they aren’t too sensitive (i.e. you don’t want a small movement of the physical mouse to move the cursor half way across the screen). Often the main problem with little ones is that when they press down to click (or they are releasing after a drag) they also move the mouse body without meaning to. A very sensitive mouse magnifies this movement. So if you haven’t done so already, you may want to create an individual login for your child so you can set the mouse up just for them.

Finally, make sure their fingers go as far towards the front of the button as seems comfortable. Many mice still work pushing WAY from the back, but it takes a lot more effort for little fingers, and the extra force tends to move the mouse around at the same time.

With His Own(!) less twitchy mouse and a revised grip, my son quickly mastered ‘drag and drop’ and soon left those frustrations behind. I hope these suggestions help provide your budding mathematicians with a similar level of success.

Nigel Green

Director of Personalization @DreamBox_Learn | Developer of Continuous Assessment and Adaptation | Former Teacher | Professional Musician | Bellevue, WA