When you’re exploring technology options for younger children, look for games and toys and gadgets that have the following characteristics:
- Are “Active, Hands-On, Engaging, and Empowering” (1) – The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center recommend choosing technology and media that can be integrated into other activities. For example, you might take a trip to a museum and download their interactive app as you walk through the exhibits. Especially for younger children, these activities should be done with parents or other adults who can help guide the experience while still allowing the children to have some control.
- “Enhance Children’s Cognitive And Social Abilities” (2) – We still have access to manipulatives like blocks, art, books, pencils or crayons, and paper — and those should still be used. However, don’t be afraid to add instructional or educational programs that allow children (over two years of age) to experience animals, objects, places, or people normally unavailable to them. There’s a whole world out there to be explored. Your children need not miss out because of geographic location.
- Are “Playful And Support Creativity, Exploration, Pretend Play, Active Play, And Outdoor Activities” (3) – Not everything needs to be dry to be educational. Technology can and should be fun, and part of the fun is learning what you did wrong and how to make it right. Choose games and programs that allow for “self-correcting learning activities.” (4)
- Can Help Educators Make And Strengthen Home-School Connections” (5) – Schools are increasingly turning to technology to present and augment instruction. Teachers are also using technology to remain connected to students and their families.
All of these suggestions put you in control of the technology and the media you bring into the home. Do your homework before you run out and buy the latest game or toy or gadget. Read up on the product over the Internet. Ask other parents. Ask other kids. Be involved in how your children use what you’ve provided. Stay involved and active. Technology is a powerful tool that requires parental monitoring.
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(1) The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8,” NAEYC (January 2012): 5, http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PS_technology_WEB2.pdf (accessed December 3, 2015).
(2) Ibid., 6.
(3) Ibid., 7.