It's never too early or too late to teach children the basics of the computers we use every day. Computer skills go beyond knowing how to create a Facebook account. With young children, it begins with learning what a mouse does when they click on it. As your children learn how the computer works, you can advance their knowledge to the mechanics beneath the surface and even begin introducing them to the computer code used to create software programs.
Games for Young Children
There's no reason to wait until preschool to begin introducing children to your family computer. When a child is old enough to push a button, you can introduce her to many of the games designed for infants and toddlers. These games use large colorful graphics, music and sound effects to teach the child to move and click a mouse. Animal games, memory games and digital coloring books are particularly popular with young children. You may be surprised at how quickly a toddler learns to interact with a computer because of such games.
Teaching Computer Basics
Many websites offer interactive lessons for teaching children keyboard skills and how to use word processing programs. Spending time with your children using these programs or showing them the programs you use--and why you use them--enhances their understanding of what the computer is used for beyond games. When it comes time to upgrade your computer software or hardware or open the case to clean out the fan, invite your children to watch while you explain what you are doing and why.
Advanced Computer Skills
After your children are comfortable using a keyboard and mouse, they are ready to learn some advanced skills. Consider setting your children up with their own email accounts. You can send them emails from work and use email to ask them what they want for dinner or to discuss plans for the weekend. Some free games can give children an understanding of the graphics behind the computer games they play. They are essentially games they can play by themselves—creating buildings, vehicles and characters—without any objectives other than creating their own worlds.
Establish clear rules for using the Internet and discuss them with your children. For example, you may want your children not to communicate with anyone without your presence. For older children, you could establish rules about communicating only with people they know in person, such as friends from school and relatives. If your children play online games, discuss the importance of anonymity and not sharing their real names or personal information like the city they live in with anyone they don't know.