Teaching preschoolers to use computers requires patience and supervision.

How to Teach Children to Use a Computer

by Jennifer Brozak

Today's kids seem to be hard-wired for technology. From the moment they are born, they are exposed to everything from flat screen TVs to smart phones. It's no surprise, then, that you'll sometimes find your tot banging away on your computer's keyboard or click, click, clicking its mouse as if he's sending out a distress code. Still, most experts, like those from Education Week, indicate that parents should wait until their children are at least 3 before teaching them to use computers. While teaching a preschooler to use a computer might seem about as fun as washing the family dog, with a little patience and a lot of supervision, you can do it.

Sit your child on your lap and teach him the fundamental parts of using the computer. Over the course of several days or longer, and with your hand over his, show him what the mouse does and let him play with it a little; pull up a blank text document and let him type to illustrate what the keyboard does. Don't rush these lessons or try to show him too many things at once; if he seems satisfied playing with the keyboard and typing "alsfjalsdfiuaoljsdfljsdf" repeatedly for 20 minutes, leave it be and try another lesson later. Let him have fun with it, and he'll learn at his own pace.

Show him an age-appropriate website or game. Once your child understands how the keyboard and mouse function, pull up an age-appropriate website, like pbskids.org. Another option is to download or purchase educational software for his age group. Keeping your hand over his, help him move the mouse around the website, clicking on the interactive areas. Tell him, "Do you see how clicking on this cartoon launches the game? Now you try to do it."

Set him loose. Well, not really. After you've sat with your child a few times and modeled how the computer works, let him try to use it on his own. Since he probably can't read yet (kudos to you if he can!), you might need to load the game for him. Then, leave him alone and let him try to manipulate the game on his own, keeping him in your line of sight at all times.

Remain calm and play it safe. Yes, the speed at which some preschoolers learn how to use a computer can put you to shame. Still, as parents know, young children are unpredictable and sometimes temperamental. Therefore, although your gut reaction will be to scream "Oh no!", try to remain patient if they accidentally drop the mouse or knock the keyboard off the desk. Don't fret over pint-sized finger smears on your monitor, and don't let them eat or drink near the computer. And don't be surprised if, a few years from now, your kindergartner is programming your DVR from your smart phone.

Items you will need

  • Educational software


  • You know those parental controls that come with your ISP (Internet service provider)? Now might be a good time to learn how to use them. The last thing you want is for your little angel to accidentally pull up that gory trailer for "Slasher Hotel 6" you just watched on YouTube.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images