ABC 2.0: Why It's Never Too Early to Teach Your Kids to Type

Family Matters on 02.09.12
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Photo: Laura St. John / Discovery Kids Puterbugs

As parents, we're proud when our kids learn to sing "A B C D E F G..." But in today's digital world, we need the Alphabet Song version 2.0. It goes something like this: A S D F G H J K L ; ..." What? Semicolon? Yes! It's part of the home row on your keyboard -- which means it's part of ABC 2.0.

Although we're trying our best to unplug and balance our kids, we know they're still absorbing technology: The latest national study compiled from Common Sense Media shows kids 8 and younger are accumulating record amounts of digital media per day. More than half of kids between ages 5 and 8 use mobile devices, and 9 out of 10 use a computer. (The stats on our 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds are not too far behind.) But what are they doing besides playing apps and games?

With all this screen time, young kids are easily picking up all kinds of unhealthy tech habits -- and inefficient ones, too, like hunting and pecking at the keyboard. Believe me, it's way harder to teach a child to break bad keyboarding habits later on -- which is why teaching your kids to type is more important than you think.

Your Toddler Can Type

Think about it: whether your child is working on a tablet, laptop, smartphone, or traditional computer, all devices today still use a QWERTY keyboard. In the same way learning letters and their sounds is the gateway to literacy, proper keyboarding is the gateway to digital literacy. So the simple answer is: You should start introducing your child to the keyboard at the same time your child starts to show an interest in technology.

Now mix learning letters while learning keyboarding together, and you've got a recipe to prepare your child for school and the digital world. Kids as young as 2 years old can learn both letters and the keyboard, and quickly move on to proper techniques, such as curling their fingers like a "kitty-cat" and meeting F and J, the "line leaders" of home row. (Discovery Kids Puterbugs was designed to help with exactly these skills.)

Image: Discovery Kids Puterbugs

But What's Too Young?

Although all of us computer experts agree that keyboarding must be taught the right way, some claim that expecting kindergarten kids to touch-type or learn finger placement would be absurd. Wrong! I've got thousands of typing five-years-olds (and even younger -- oh, the horror!) to prove that the only thing holding kids back is an adult who thinks they're incapable.

Experts also argue that kids need to build gross motor skills (running, jumping) before fine motor skills. But when our kids come inside from the playground, do we hold back from putting a crayons or a pencil in our kids' hands if they're not in fourth grade yet? No way! Keyboarding builds fine motor skills in kids' fingers that will actually help with the dexterity needed for coloring and writing.

Today's media is occupying such a substantial place in our children's lives. It's time we pay attention to what they're doing on it, and teach them healthy habits -- including proper keyboarding -- early on. Now I can guarantee it will be cute when your preschooler pronounces the word, "semicolon," but it's even sweeter when she can locate it on your keyboard.

Laura St. John is co-creator of Discovery Kids Puterbugs, a revolutionary way to introduce the keyboard -- along with 100 top tech skills -- to today's tech-savvy kids. Discovery Kids Puterbugs is the largest network of computer classes for kids 8 years old and younger, offered in over 700 US locations and quickly growing through a network of entrepreneurs who bring the classes to their area. For more information on licensing the program, check out Laura's latest webinar.

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