Although there's little debate that too much screen time can take away from time better spent by a toddler -- such as hands-on activities or more physical pursuits -- technology is here to stay. That said, if you keep tech time within reason, computers are viable tools to help your little learner grow new skills and develop.
Mom's Old Computer
If you think that investing in a new computer for a 2-year-old is a bit outlandish, you probably aren't alone. Taking a look at your toddler's toys, you can see what a mess he easily makes of his playthings. Instead of heading out to the local tech super-store to buy the latest laptop, consider giving your old one to your toddler. Your child most likely doesn't care that it lacks the latest version of Windows or doesn't have the fastest processor available.
The slim design and easy mobility of a tablet is ideal for your on-the-go toddler. While your pricey iPad isn't exactly the best option for a 2-year-old, less expensive tablets and specially designed kids' versions are options that toddlers can use. The LeapPad2 by Leap Frog has front and back cameras, a library that comes with more than 325 games and downloadable apps. Another option is the Kidz Delight Smooth Touch tablets. These inexpensive basic tablets have touch-sensitive icons that lead to interactive learning games.
Before your toddler takes on a real PC, introduce her to the world of tech toys through a kids-only laptop. These basic electronics are modified versions of the real thing. Although these toy-like pieces of technology don't necessarily let your toddler do everything that she could do on a regular computer, she can use one of these brightly-colored kid-friendly devices to develop new skills such as counting or naming colors. The Vtech Tote & Go Laptop has web connectivity and 20 different learning activities built in. The bright buttons and small display are pint-sized enough for little ones to handle and use. The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Screen Laptop is a tyke-sized version that allows toddlers to bang on the keys while learning their ABCs and 123s.
Moms who are looking for a computer that will help the young child to learn, and not just play games, may need to invest in an educational version of the real thing. Some educational, tech and kids' companies make learning PCs that feature child-friendly advantages such as a touch screen, pre-loaded educational software and a child-safe operating system. The Kids Cybernet Station is a real PC that comes with a color-coded keyboard, Windows 7 and the manufacturer's own "Peanut Butter Software" that serves as a security tool. Likewise, the Kids Learning Station Educational Slim Line Computer is also a real PC that has educational applications for even the youngest of learners. While educational PCs are easy enough for your toddler to use, they will also grow with your child as he ages and has more complex learning needs.