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His Own Computer

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Giving a toddler a computer

Baby G, 18 months old, is obsessed with our computers to the point where we’ve had to super baby proof our desks to keep him from using drawers and other items to climb up onto the desk to get the computer mouse and keyboard. When we go to the library, he happily “uses” the computers, tapping away on the keyboards. I think he mostly just likes all the sounds.

Needless to say, we’ve been avoiding getting him his own computer because we had some concerns (discussed below). The woman we’re working with through Infants and Toddlers, however, suggested that we allow him his own computer/computer time with some age appropriate programs to help encourage his development. His motivation level is fairly low on ANY other learning activity… he will do them, but he’s got a MUCH greater attention span for anything electronic. It’s definitely worth a shot, but obviously we need to get him something “adult” because we weren’t fooling him with those small kid computers. He throws them to the ground and climbs up on our desks. Sigh.

Some Concerns

  • Screen Time: I know a lot of parents aren’t big on letting their kids play on computers or have any screen time at all, but Baby G gets a ton of exercise and play time with the non mechanical stuff. We spend most of our time outdoors or down in the basement where most of the toys aren’t really particularly high tech. Also, he’s growing up during a time when knowing how to use computers is a major skill necessary for school and jobs, and he’s growing up in a family where using computers is a common activity. We don’t turn the television on much… my husband and I usually stick to media that’s more interactive (the exception has been a few tv shows that we squeeze in when we can’t move to do anything else)… and Baby G really isn’t particularly engaged by the television. The only show that captures his interest for longer than maybe 5 minutes (if we’re lucky) is Laurie Berkner… she’s only got two DVDs… I’m SO sick of those DVDs (which I love as much as I can love something that has played a BILLION TIMES)! As such, allowing him computer time isn’t a huge issue for our family, although I know it would be for some.
  • Access: We’re keeping it in our office area, right near our computers. This gives us an opportunity to use our computers at the same time, while also keeping an eye out to make sure he’s not using the keyboard as a sword in an epic battle with the dogs. I also don’t believe kids or teens should have a computer to use in their rooms:
    1) they never get off when they say they will
    2) the screen time so close to bed time can disturb sleep
    3) obviously, there’s a lot to “get into” on the internet
    4) teens (and kids) have bad judgement and an equally notorious inability to predict possible consequences to their behaviors.

    Computers are in a public area so everyone can be super nosey without “invading personal space” and so that everyone can also be super careful about what they pull up in front of their parents. Life skill. Eventually you need to know when to hide your Solitaire game from your boss. I know I’m getting ahead of myself, he’s only 18 months old, but I like to be consistent. It seems a bad standard to put the computer in his room now and then move it out when he gets older.

  • Computer Durability: I have an old iMac we’ll be “giving him” to use. The mouse is an optic, not a laser mouse. The mouse and keyboard are both wireless… not my preference because we’ll need to keep an eye on things to make sure he doesn’t get the batteries out, but if we have any issues then we’ll probably “downgrade” to the old fashioned “ball” mouse.The nice thing about the iMac as his computer is that he’s not likely to discover the CD drive (which is built into the side of the iMac and doesn’t eject a case out like PCs do) and there’s not a lot to break. The iMac is computer enclosed as a screen with no apparent way to open it up to get to the “guts” (something that drives me a little nuts in terms of upgrading). The only cord is the power cord.

    My iMac was just sitting in our basement because it’s essentially junk- it’s got pixel issues in the form of a line across the top of the screen. It WORKS and it’ll be fine for a toddler, but it wouldn’t have been something I could trade in/sell/give away. I see a lot of older models of computers being tossed or given away, I think that’s the way to go. It’s a way to upcycle old computers.

  • Also, he gets sippy cups now so I don’t anticipate issues with him spilling things on the keyboard, but we’ll likely begin to teach him immediately not to drink/eat over the computer. Nothing bothers me more than crumbs in the computer keyboard. NOTHING.

  • To EXTRA baby proof, Daddy B mounted the desk to the wall using Mommy’s Helper Tip Resistant Furniture Safety 8 Brackets to a stud in the wall so Baby G can’t tip it over on himself (left). He also used the bracket to mount the computer to the wall (right).

Toddler Computer Desk

Daddy B whipped this together with some leftover lumber and an extra shelf we had.

We did end up eventually picking up a free keyboard and mouse used off Freecycle that had a USB connector cord… not thrilled with the cord, but the wireless doesn’t work when we duel booted the iMac to windows and we got Baby G a game that didn’t run on the iMac so we wanted to be able to use both.

It’s ridiculously hard to find software that runs on the iMac as there’s now a lot of websites with games to play… unfortunately, those games don’t block the kids from doing other things on the computer like the software does. Not that Baby G is going to do something inappropriate, but I want him playing a learning game. I think it’s important to be extra watchful if you use a keyboard or mouse with a cord, however. I think we may try to find a way to keep all the excess cord held in place behind the desk.

Now all I need to do is put the vacuum next to the computer and see what he wants to play with more… haha.

UPDATE (3/10/14): We originally purchased READER RABBIT TODDLER 2 CD which didn’t end up working on our iMac so we had to setup the iMac to dual boot to a Windows Operating System so he could play it. He did like the game, but it’s very basic- like what I used to play as a kid. It’ll likely work fine on a PC.

Now we’re using ABC to play games which he really enjoys. He’s 29 months old and we started this a few months ago… he picked up on how to use the mouse in just a day which was awesome.

If you want a free 30-day trial, you can click here to start (this is a referral code and if you do a 30-day trial then we get an extra month added to our account).  It’s a bit expensive, but they run a lot of discounts if you’re patient and there’s a TON of games on there. I do find it frustrating that there’s not a lot of modern options for games that run without the internet connection, but I suppose our internet is up and running most of the time our electricity is so it’s not a huge problem.

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Sunday 9th of March 2014

Hello,Was wondering what games you have him play? My son is 19 months and want to give him some computer time.


Monday 10th of March 2014

I ended up getting a Reader Rabbit game from Amazon that's wicked old. It only works on Windows operating system so if you're using a mac then it may not work... we had to dual boot our mac to windows operating system which is a bit complex, I think, if you're not computer savvy. It is cute. But old... lol. Recently we got which has been a good purchase and he really likes that.


Friday 24th of May 2013

good article. very thought provoking and brave.

i agree completely. a personal computer for small children is wonderful. just as we've never had plastic cups, our children have learned how to use and care for usual objects in the adult world. they are very careful but also very comfortable using a computer.

i also agree with restricted and fully monitored usage at any age. we do not allow the children tech devices (their ipods too) behind closed doors. we all, as a family, set a good example of being open about what we're browsing and make it a non-issue. we all show interest in each others work and leisure. it's fun this way and i feel much better about the safety of my children.


Wednesday 1st of May 2013

He already knows how... it's called standing on our swivley chairs and leaning over to grab the keyboards... :) We may need to password protect them... not that this will stop him. ;) He really just likes to press the keys.

Elisabeth (Beth)

Wednesday 1st of May 2013

Wow! You make a very compelling case for toddlers having computer. I think it's a great idea! Have you made a plan for when he figures out how to hack into your computers? :-)