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Computers for Learning

Dear Debi,
My 4-year-old daughter loves to use the computer. Will this prepare her for kindergarten?
Erica Irvin,
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Computers offer kids learning opportunities
  • Encourage kids to use computers with others & talk about what they’re doing
  • Choose interactive software programs
  • Computers can’t replace your interactions
Expert Advice
Mike Salas
Mike Salas
Preschool teacher
Your computer can be a great learning tool for children. A few years ago, teachers didn’t think the computer should have a place in the classroom, but with the availability of a lot of different software, it can be a complete learning tool as anything else. With computers, kids learn cause and effect, like what happens when you click the mouse or put a disk in, they’re exercising hand-eye coordination when moving the cursor around.

There are two different types of computer software programs. One is a task-oriented program while there are others that are open-ended, which means there’s really no right or wrong way to do them. Learning takes place in both types of programs. With a task-oriented program you’re working a lot with letters or numbers, whereas with open-ended programs, you’re free to create and explore more – that’s where problem solving and critical thinking comes in.

When you’re using computers with young children, you want to use age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate software. As an adult, you can use the computer with your child and let them explore the program as you guide them along. Ideally what you want them to do is to become independent and be able to use the program by themselves. By them learning to use it themselves, they’ll be able to do the steps themselves, such as take the CD-Rom out, put it in, and start it themselves.

In my classroom, we have a computer center with two chairs at the computer. It’s designed to accommodate two children because one of the things that happens especially when you’re dealing with task-oriented or open-ended programs is that you’ll get a lot of discussion between the children about what to click on, what will happen next. So it can become a very social activity with children.

When choosing software programs for kids, you want to make sure that it is age and developmentally appropriate for young children. Look at the recommended age criteria on the packaging. Look at what kinds of activities you can do with it. Open-ended programs are great to use because there is no right or wrong answer. They include art programs where they can explore their creative side, and music programs where they can explore putting together notes to make their own songs.

Task-oriented programs are like the Jump Start Preschool, Reader Rabbit Preschool. It generally is for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Activities on those programs include filling in the first letter of a small word, counting certain objects on a screen and clicking on the appropriate number, working with different colors and shapes, and sorting and arranging. No matter what type of software, there are many lessons and tools learned from using the computer.

If there is no computer at home, then you can go to the library because most of them have computers available for free. You can use their programs or go online to a children’s educational website. Also, many preschools now have computers and it’s OK if they use it at school and not at home. In my class I keep a chart so that everybody has a chance to use the computer for a 20-25 minute block of time. Each week they are all guaranteed to have a chance to get on the computer. d
Child Care Provider Comments
Denise Hamilton
Denise Hamilton
Mother of 4-year-old
Computers will absolutely help prepare Erica’s daughter for kindergarten. My 4-year-old uses the computer all the time. The fact that she is understanding categories, knows which program files open which games, and can recognize letters and colors and shapes – I think that helps her with her critical thinking and how to get from step A to B. She knows how to manipulate colors, fonts, shapes, and how to use the mouse to draw with it. I think that this certainly helps prepare her early for kindergarten. It teaches her hand-eye coordination and helps her practice writing and spelling while expanding her vocabulary.
Rosa Rios
Rosa Rios
Grandmother of three
My grandson is four and he already has his own computer! When he was three, he began sitting at the computer – clicking and clacking away, imitating his father, who’s a computer engineer. Now that he’s four, he’s become quite advanced. He knows how to do things on the computer that I don’t even understand. He can identify many things on the keyboard, and can really work the mouse.
Elizabeth Fox
Elizabeth Fox
Child care provider for 5 years
I think the computer can really prepare a child for kindergarten, but it really depends on what the child is doing on it. The computer can prepare her in terms of her hand-eye coordination, and the basics like letters, numbers, colors and shapes, depending on the program she’s using. I think what will help her most is educational programs that teach about numbers, shapes, colors and basic things. Even if you don’t have access to an educational program or the internet to play games, just working on the keyboard itself teaches letters and numbers, and can expand your vocabulary. It’s important to always use the computer with the child because it promotes social interaction between the child and the adult.

Computer Readiness Featured Activity:
Computer Readiness
Computers for Learning Featured Video:
Computers for Learning
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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