Parents looking at expensive tablet computers and gaming systems for their preschool children should reconsider their choices. That money could buy an abundance of puzzles, shape-sorting toys, building blocks, and art supplies. Could children be better off spending time with traditional childhood toys and games instead of a touch screen or joy stick? Many early childhood educators who teach young children think so.
Parents might also be interested to know that many computer engineer parents in Silicon Valley send their own children to a Waldorf school. Waldorf schools do not use computers. Instead, children engage in nature study outdoors, creative play indoors, and traditional crafts such as knitting and weaving. Writing is done with pen and paper. Technology professionals know their children can easily pick up computer skills later, after developing important skills through traditional means.
A child with a wooden tray puzzle is learning that objects take up space and that solid objects keep their shape. Children playing with blocks learn that a structure is more stable if the base is larger than the top. These hands-on spatial skills are the skills engineers use every day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time (television, computer, or game system) for children ages two and younger. Research has suggested that young children who spent too much time watching a screen are more likely to develop poor concentration and have difficulties with communication.
Young children learn with their whole bodies: eyes, ears and hands. A computer screen primarily engages the eyes. While a parent might not decide to ban screen time altogether, it does seem prudent to provide children with a variety of activities to help develop motor skills and social skills. Face-to-face interaction while playing blocks with a friend is different from the virtual interaction in a video game. Likewise, feeling a puzzle piece in one’s hand is different from manipulating a puzzle on a computer screen.