I gifted a computer to my son on his 9th birthday and tried to guide him on what all he can do with it. After a few months, I made an interesting observation – he obviously loves playing games and he does that often, but he has also developed genuine interest in doing other stuff with computer because he finds it equally exciting as well. This helped me realise that if kids are encouraged and taught to use computers productively, they won’t be really using them only for thing s like gaming, social-networking and other things any parent won’t like them doing.
I thought this can help everybody having young kids or grand-kids at home so I am sharing a few tips from my experience here:
Learning to Type – The first thing I told my son was that he should know how to properly type using all his fingers from both hands and not just use 2 fingers to type. I told him to visit - www.typeonline.co.uk and take typing lessons there. It’s a free website and very useful for anybody who wants to learn proper typing sitting at home. So after a month he was able to type properly and you know what kept him interested in doing it – Speed Test. Website offers a speed test to know your typing speed and he loved to regularly test himself and do better everyday. He is doing 25 WPM right now which I think is a pretty good start.
DIY Projects – One day son asked me how he can learn juggling and I searched and showed him a video on Youtube which teaches juggling step-by-step. He tried doing that but lost interest after a few days. But he remembered how to use youtube after that. One day when I came home from office, he was making paper aeroplanes and other origami stuff watching their videos on Youtube. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) videos for practically everything on web and you can learn anything watching them. Recently I am trying to get him interested in a very good website dedicated to Kids DIY and it is called www.diy.org.
This site is a community for children where they can learn to make various things like cardboard birdhouses, soda bottle safety glasses, duct tape wallets and toothbrush robots that scurry across a desk like alien life-forms. All these projects allow children to earn virtual badges, which will appear on the site. Kid’s account is also linked with parent’s account so that you can monitor your kid’s activities on the website.
Learn Programming - What I love about programming is that even kids can learn and do it effectively, that’s why we keep reading about so many 10-13 yr old programming wiz kids and now there are various websites which teach programming in very effective manner. My son learned HTML, CSS and basic website development on www.codecademy.com which is a free website and teaches you programming like a game. You have to progress through various stages and while doing so you earn points and badges to show off on your profile. Contrary to what many of you think, programming can actually be quite fun. Check out video on www.code.org to see why rock stars and athletes are learning to program these days. Check out this, this, this & this for more resources on teaching kids to program.
I hope you find these suggestions useful and practical with kids in your homes. Let me know what do you think in comments.