3-year-old grandson discovered the computer last weekend and life is never going
to be the same at my house. He received a preschool computer game as a gift, and
we finally got around to opening it. It was from one of those themed sets that
also have a series of cartoon videos, all with same topic -- dinosaurs. These
are not fierce, scary dinosaurs, but cute, friendly ones that talk about love
and basic values.
I put the disk in my CD ROM and held him on my lap, figuring he
would play with it for a few minutes and then go back to his blocks, toy cars,
and battery operated musical toys. I showed him the computer mouse and how to
left-click the mouse button. Picking right up on the idea, he was soon pointing
and clicking like a pro. He quickly learned to select the different games and
click to open them. It was somewhat frustrating as he kept playing the one he
liked best instead of my favorite, but I tried not to argue about it.
As it turned out, I was the one that soon became tired. I
slipped him off of my numb legs, letting him work on his own while I just
supervised. He didnít need much assistance. He looked so small sitting there
in that big chair gazing into the computer screen with his little feet dangling.
I have created a 3-year-old nerd. All he wants to do now is play with the
computer. What can compete with that?
He drags virtual puzzle pieces and drops them in the right
place. He catches falling leaves with the cursor and matches them to the right
shape. He sorts bright colored animals into categories: flying, swimming,
insects, and four-legged animals, while being reinforced with music and exciting
sound effects. All of the time he is playing, he is also learning colors,
letters, shapes, logic and thinking skills. But doesnít it seem as if a kid
should be potty trained before learning to use a computer?
My computer mouse grew warm and sticky from his hot little hand
and my monitor screen was soon covered with fingerprints as he pointed to
particular accomplishments, or tried to assist the cursor arrow with a grubby
"Can grandma use the computer to work for a while?" I
"But I have to do MY work!" he explained.
So now itís a competition to see who gets to use the computer
and whether I can check my email before the dinosaurs take over.
We try to limit his computer time and allow for active play.
Kids need to run, ride wheeled vehicles, and bounce balls. Maybe he will tire of
the computer after a while. I sorta doubt it, though. There is always the next
level, the next challenge, the next game. With computers, there is always more
to learn. Iím afraid I have a wee geek in training pants.
Itís a New World now, a different world than the one we grew
up in. When a three-year-old kid is learning computer skills already, what will
he be doing at eight Ė or eighteen? Why is this so shocking to me? Kids master
the use of language between the ages of two and three, a very complex skill.
They are capable of learning even at a very young age and much of a childís
learning takes place prior to ever starting school.
I want him to grow up informed and able to meet the challenges
of a technological society, donít I? But it seems as if it was only last week
when he was a mere baby. Now with each click of the mouse, we both become a bit
older and a bit wiser.
Youíll have to excuse me now. My turn at the computer is over
and I can't write anymore.