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Q: I’ve introduced my 22-month-old son to a computer program designed for babies that makes shapes and plays a sound every time a button is pushed. Lately, I’ve noticed that he is becoming more thoughtful about it. He used to just bang at the keys, but now he pushes one button at a time and watches what happens on the screen. For his birthday, I’ve been looking for an age-appropriate game that involves more thought. I have found a few games that are marked for 2 years and up, but they seem mostly targeted at kids closer to age 3 than 2. Do you have any suggestions?
Craving Computers in New York, NY

A: Dear Craving Computers,

I applaud you for how closely you’ve been watching your son’s reaction to the games and how much investigation you’ve done into software designed for kids.

Your child going from random banging on the keyboard to touching a single key and watching to see what happens shows the important development of both better fine motor skills and the beginning of his understanding of cause and effect. However, there’s nothing unique that the computer contributes to this. This development could be equally well done with, say, an electronic piano keyboard that makes certain sounds by pressing certain keys, or by dropping a ball on the floor and seeing it bounce, or by pouring water into a sand box and seeing it turn to mud. The computer is just one kind of environment where your son can learn these skills.

The reason that the software geared toward two year olds seems better for three year olds is that it is better for three year olds. The most important developmental task of two-year-old children is not to learn fact (which is what computers teach) but to learn
how to learn. Computers really only provide tasks with right and wrong answers and thus don’t encourage the kind of problem solving and logical thinking necessary to build flexible learners. Instead, they teach kids to memorize and to be afraid of being wrong.  That fear is a problem because you want your son to take risks in learning. You want him to try things out, say new words, and play with toys in new ways. He needs to build that creativity and love of learning far more than he needs to learn his ABCs two months earlier than another child.

For a birthday gift that encourages him to learn how to learn, I recommend open-ended, creative play options. Try modeling clay, markers, paper, books, musical instruments (like maracas or tambourines), a sandbox, or a building set that allows him to build free form things. From what we know about brain development at this age, these toys will help build stronger, more flexible brains than any electronic toy will.  Computers are wonderful teaching tools for kids or 3 and older. You will want to introduce them to your son at the time when they will do the most good and not run the risk of him being bored and uninterested at 3 because he was frustrated at 2.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

6 Responses to “Which computer games are good for my 2 year old?”

  1. Anonymous

    Loved your answer, I must say. Though I support the use of computers for education, and realize their importance, our children are going to spend many years in front of computer screens. Let’s give them one more year of play-dough! :)

    Reply
  2. Brad Fallon

    The fear of being wrong is what leads to child to lie to its parents so that they cannot be scolded for their wrongdoing. I discourage the use of computers especially to two year old kids. At these stage of the child, he or she must be exposed to the more natural things rather than to electronic software that may hinder his brain development.

    Reply
  3. Victor

    I just wanted to add that while I mostly agree with the given answer, you don’t want a game that cam defeat or dissapoint such a young child, there are exceptions and sometimes playdoh, harmonicas and sandboxes just aren’t appropriate for the situation. Just not necessarily on a PC (or Mac). My child (a 2yr girl) has a iPod Touch and has several match the shape and find the color\number games as well as things like learn the animals, vehicles and food and thing types of activities. At 27 months my girl can say her ABC’s sing several songs, count to 20, match sounds to animals, objects to shapes, identify colors and several other activities (many of these in English and Chinese, we are a dual language family). AND the device has several books (interactive) songs and other activities that help keep her from being bored on car\airplane trips. The only real problem we have had has been that we really need two of the devices. My 1 year old is getting interested in it and wants to use it herself. She already likes to play some of the tap to play a song and coloring programs.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Good post, really good info. I’ve get a friend that I am going to forward this info and this blog to. Keep writing.

    Reply
  5. best zombie games ever

    I Spy is a visual game wherein a person chooses a visible object and uses one color to describe it without giving away its identity. The chooser then says, “I spy with my little eye…something that is…” and the color.

    Reply

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