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Friday, December 10, 2010

Embracing digital tools for early development - all in 45 minutes a day.

When I grew up, it was common for parents (including mine) to assume that making your child watch TV, or play video games at an early age was not the right thing to do. Anything to do with TV or video gaming was assumed to 'corrupt young minds' and the general thought process was to ensure your child grows up on traditional things (like real physical toys, pen and paper, chalk boards and educational books).There was a valid reason for this - in old days, content in such mediums was purely for entertainment and little was done for conscious education for children. Interestingly, that notion persists very strongly even today. I have lots of friends who have brought up their children pretty much devoid of TV and digital tools. When I say devoid, I don't mean a total ban. They let them use these objects once in a while, but not in a 'let it help you grow' mode. It is treated as pure entertainment and curtailed often to just one show, played over and over again, or just one game, played over and over again.

It is impossible to state what is right and what is wrong when it comes to bringing up a child, because the final decision is yours, as a parent. All  I can say is parents who are able access such new mediums should give it a serious look as times have changed. There is a slew of fantastic learning tools available that offer a level of interactivity and immersive-ness (is that a word?) that never existed before.

In general, I am a technologist. My work, my hobby and my passion all converge to one word: technology. I am totally for adopting digital tools where necessary if I feel it improves mental or physical growth as long as I am convinced that it is not also harming my child in any significant way. So in this post, I'd like to talk about how we  leveraged technology to help in our child's growth.

As a general rule, we as parents subscribe to the rule of limiting the time our son had his hands on these tools (we typically allow a 45 minute window at most each day for this, with weekends getting a little more digital time) and ensure that he mixes his digital tools with a lot of physical activity (the usual running, playing, reading books at night, board games, etc.), but the focus of this post is how we chose to maximize those 45 minutes each day in selecting the right digital/enterta

nment tools that help his mind grow.

Scope of this post

The rest of the post will talk about several key applications that I think have contributed greatly to reading, writing, music and social skills of our son at an early age. To you, I am not going to talk about  what is right/wrong, how much TV they should or should not watch, whether it is wise to let them play games or not (of the digital kind) etc. That is your choice. Should you choose to expose your little ones to the digital era at an early age, I will simply list tools and applications that we used and felt were of  significant help.

Each attribute mentioned later in the post are attributes that I've seen grow rapidly with him by the time he turned 3 and a half, so the results are obvious to me (i.e. ability for music, reading, writing, social skills, visual and problem solving skills)