Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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parent tips

Children and Computers (30-60 Months)click to print Print

Written by: Eileen Wood, Wilfrid Laurier University

What a child can do with a computer depends upon the child’s age, what you have taught them, and the amount of time the child has had to use the computer. Here are some elements of successful preschool computer experiences:

Selecting a Computer

Most children’s software requires fairly basic specifications. If you are purchasing a new computer, don’t hesitate to ask about whether the machine you are selecting has the

capability to run the software you wish to use.

Selecting Hardware

There are numerous options to choose from when selecting a mouse, monitor, or keyboard. When selecting for young children, you should choose simple designs, such as a two-button mouse (no scroll, small and basic in design). There are technologies designed specifically for children (for example, enlarged stationary mouse or keyboard) but these may not be necessary. Try starting with the simple basic components to see if these can work for your child.


Supervision is key to successful and safe implementation of computers. You need to monitor what children do while they are on the computer as well as what they access.

Learning Together

Get actively involved with children while they use computers. You can point out important things on the screen, help the child to move to the next step and generally enjoy the excitement, discovery and enthusiasm that your child experiences while using software. Think of the computer as providing another opportunity for learning through social interaction.


Young children will need help with using computers. Even as they begin to master skills, they will be limited in their ability to problem solve when things do not work. An adult needs to be available to guide the child and trouble-shoot problems. Young children also cannot read instructions so adults should be prepared to be available to help - for example installing and moving through software, especially new software.

Integrating Computers

Computers provide many learning opportunities for children. Encourage your child to explore these opportunities, but also continue to encourage him or her to explore other ways of learning through playing, reading, making art, counting, singing, learning rhymes, telling stories, and exercising. 

You can help your child match the activities they encounter on computers with other activities. For example, a parent could refer back to a computer letter identification activity when the same letters are encountered while reading an alphabet book. This type of comparison between computer activities and those encountered elsewhere allows children to more readily integrate and learn the similar concepts.


Although there is no set rule regarding optimal exposure to computers, a maximum of 30 minutes per day has been suggested for other screen media and may be a good limit to follow for computers as well.

Eileen Wood (2008). Parent/Caregiver Tips: Children and Computers 30 -60 Months. In L.M. Phillips (Ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 – 60 Months. [online], pp. 1 - 2. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Available at: Handbook of language and literacy development