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Playing Baby Computer Games – The New Parent-Child Tradition?
Imagine cuddling up with your little one to look at a picture book together that is interactive, musical, responsive and talking to you?
This is the experience that people have who engage in that relatively new hobby – playing computer games with babies.
JumpStart’s Knowledge Adventure calls it “lapware,” Kiddies Games’ logo is “Jump on the lap and tap,” and Sesame Street’s “Baby and Me” opens with an animation of a baby monster hopping on Daddy monster’s lap to play the . a computer Playing computer games with your baby is promoted as a fun activity that a child and their caregiver can share together. And rightly so, because whatever the activity, physical, loving closeness is an important ingredient that babies need for healthy intellectual, emotional and physical development.
Reading a bedtime story to a small eager child is a tradition in many homes. As the children get older, this can be replaced by watching TV together. Our parents’ families listened to the radio together. Playing on the computer with a small child can become a new kind of family tradition. Home computers and the Internet are entering more and more homes. Some parents use the computer in their work and are happy to share the computer for a fun activity with their children. Other parents want to make sure their children become computer literate. Well-designed, interactive, educational computer games engage young children as much as television and are more educational than television because they encourage the child to interact and think, rather than passively watch and listen. These are the reasons for the growing popularity of children’s computer software. Although a relatively small industry, software for babies has been cited as a very fast growing industry.
What computer software is available for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? There are free games on websites and there is downloadable and CDROM software that you can buy. Most programs for this age group are games, but there are also computer story books. Great sites that offer free games, many of which are suitable for preschoolers (preschoolers can do directional clicking with the mouse) are:
Great free websites for babies (whose skills tend to be more limited to tapping on the keyboard) are:
A CDROM or downloadable software that you buy is usually better than free online games. The games are usually superior (more graphics, more music, more involved games for older kids) and the software takes over the entire screen, which is more suitable for very young children who click anywhere and everywhere on the screen. Some of the known producers are:
Reader Rabbit software from http://www.learningcompany.com
JumpStart software from http://www.knowledgeadventure.com
Fisher-Price software from http://www.knowledgeadventure.com
Sesame Street software from http://www.encoresoftware.com or http://www.amazon.com
Computer game software for this age group makes a conscious effort to be appropriately educational. To judge their effectiveness for your child, try them with your child. If your child finds it fun, then it’s probably educational. For a baby, fun usually means that the game responds in some way to random keystrokes and mouse clicks, and that the game continues positively even when no input is coming from the baby. A preschooler will need more challenge or more educational content, but the game should be designed to be always fun, reactive in a positive way and self-solving when the child doesn’t get the right answer. At this age, it is more important that computer games contribute positively to self-esteem, rather than conscientiously correcting wrong answers about educational concepts that the child will master when they are older anyway. The KiddiesGames.com software is responsible for adhering to these rules.
What skills do you learn by playing children’s computer games? Obviously, computer software is not suitable for practicing gross motor or even fine motor skills. However, there are many types of educational concepts that computer games can help a child master, including shapes, sounds, cause and effect, identifying and naming things (such as objects and colors), increasing vocabulary, language concepts, the shapes of letters and numbers , counting, pattern recognition, detailed observation and word building. At KiddiesGames, we strive to offer games for small children that are extraordinary, such as foreign language exposure and practicing the positions on the phone to mark emergencies. The reactivity and interactivity of computer software is, of course, superior to that of books, and may be superior to that of toys, especially in the area of language. Children’s computer games are also cited as excellent resources for children with special educational needs, because such games are simple, happy, brightly-colored, patient, controlled by the child and allow the child to make things happen.
An official recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics%3B107/2/423 is “Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities.” which will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing and reading together.” This was taken as advice to avoid exposing those young children to the computer. However, well-designed children’s software actually encourages those great activities of “talking, playing, singing and reading together”. By carrying out the play activities proposed by the computer game, the caregiver is actually motivated by a frame or script to carry out those “talk, play, sing and read” activities with the child. Experts now say that while computer games for babies should not replace toys and blocks and books and should not be used as an electronic babysitter, they are yet another valid toy resource. For example, a summer 2004 bulletin from the Hawaii State Health Department at [http://www.hawaii.gov/health/family-child-health/eis/summer2004] encourages playing with lapware. The emphasis is not on acquiring measurable skills or getting correct answers, but is on open exploration on the part of the child – which is another way of saying “having fun”. Children are programmed to learn and practice what they have learned by playing and having fun.
Playing computer games with your little one is still not a family tradition. However, it is an enjoyable, sharing activity that is becoming more and more popular.
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