SHARED by: Karyn Smith, Assistant Director at Early Learning Foundations Preschool

Many researchers feel children should be introduced to technology after the age of 3 years. Before then, children are developmentally within Piaget’s Preoperational Stage: children acquire representational skills in the area of mental imagery, and especially language. They are very self-oriented, and have an egocentric view; that is, preoperational children can use these representational skills only to view the world from their own perspective. During this stage children are usually extremely active and mobile, as they are learning through their bodies: eyes, ears, mouths, hands and legs. According to research conducted by F.Wardle (2002), preoperational children are concrete learners who are very interested in using newly learned symbolic representation speaking, writing, drawing (including maps and geometric figures) and using numbers. They also are continuing their mastery of language and exploring various facets of social behavior. Computers are not a good choice for the developmental skills these children are learning to master: crawling, walking, talking and making friends.

However, several educators believe children between the ages of 3-4 are developmentally ready for the introduction of technology. Technology centers (computer centers) are a valuable learning tool, while good software encourages children to talk about their work as well as engage in more advanced cognitive types of play. Some researchers suggest that, “to become productive adults in an increasingly computer-oriented society, children should have the opportunity to become comfortable with computers early in their lives.”

How to choose Developmentally Appropriate Software for Early Childhood
The major concern is finding developmentally appropriate software that caters to the individual needs of each child. Educators and families must adequately consider and plan, so that time spent on resources are not misused and are appropriate for the needs of the child. There are several steps educators and families can utilize when choosing developmentally appropriate software, they include the following:

  • The child’s ability on the computer itself must be taken into consideration when choosing software.
  • Developmental software must provide enough flexibility to “match the child’s current level of understanding and skills, while growing with the child.”
  • Select software programs that are open-ended, providing children a sense of control over their environment, as well as a sense of pride of accomplishment.
  • Programs in which the child drives the program, such as those that allow the child to draw or paint with various size and colors of brushes, can provide vast learning experiences.
  • Choose software that is not racial, sexist, stereotypical and nonviolent.
  • Evaluate software.
To read more about technology and children, read Karyn’s earlier post Technology at the Early Childhood Level.