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How Young Is Too Young to Begin Computer Learning Games?

I know parents wonder what’s the appropriate age for their children to begin learning to use the computer. Common sense dictates that there’s probably an age at which it’s too early to begin exposing children to computers, even though children are often attracted to it quite young because they see family members using it; and many parents quite naturally see the computer as an opportunity to make learning fun for their children.

I recently came across a great resource for answers to this question, published by the Illinois Early Learning Project. They begin with the premise that children under 3 are better off interacting with adults, other children, and toys. But they go on to suggest some ways that computers can benefit children ages 3-5, and some excellent guidelines.

Tips for Young Kids and Computer Games

  • Use computers for short periods of time, about 10-20 minutes at a time.
  • Choose software and web sites that are age-appropriate and “open-ended,” that encourage creativity and problem solving, language and early reading skills.
  • Apply the lessons learned on the computer to other activities and games, like identifying shapes, letters, and numbers; writing and acting out stories; or everyday household activities.
  • Sitting with your child or encouraging children to work in pairs means computer time can also improve social and language skills.
  • Put the computer in a public area of your home.
  • And of course be sure you’re familiar with the content of the software or Web site before your child uses it.
  • This site also suggests a number of other resources for learning more about young children and computer use. Check it out!

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