I'm alarmed to report that Little Bear, Pufferfish, and Rafael have become addicted to the computer!
And its all my fault!
Way back when Little Bear was in preschool and kindergarten, I used to let her play on put Starfall.com to help her learn the ABC's. I would also let Pufferfish play on Kneebouncers.com, which is a site with very simple computer games for infants and toddlers. (Yep, you read that right... infants can play on the computer!) My old computer started to get annoyingly slow, though, and the kids lost interest in trying to play with it.
Until a few weeks ago.
One day Little Bear asked me to put on Starfall.com for her. This time, she was like a wild thing when let loose on the site! Instead of needing me to stand over her, she could navigate all over the site, and this time she loved "reading" all of the stories on the site instead of just playing the games. The stories on the site allow you to read the words you know, and you can click on any word you don't know to hear it read aloud to you. This seemed to give Little Bear a burst of confidence, since she could read to her sister and to everyone else!
And of course, when Pufferfish saw Little Bear on the computer, she wanted a turn too! So I put Kneebouncers.com on for her. And this time, Pufferfish was able to go all over the site by herself as well! Back in the day, I had to put on each game for her, and sit with her while she tapped at the keyboard. But now, she can maneuver the mouse and pick her own games, switching from one game to another like a maniac!
Of course, it wasn't long before both girlondrew tired of just one website each, and wanted to play more games. They asked me to put them on NickJr.com. I was happy to oblige, but I kind of wanted them to be able to explore the Internet beyond the world of Dora The Explorer! So I did a little research.
First of all, I downloaded KidZui for them. KidZui is a free web browser just for kids. Each user gets to create his or her own avatar and have his or her own name and password. KidZui has tons of kid-friendly sites already loaded into the site... like PBS Kids, Nick Jr, and a ton of other less well known sites. It also has pages of its own special games for kids to play. You can type in Preschool and get several pages of screenshots of sites for little kids. Or type in "girls" and get tons of sites with dress up games and Barbie games and stuff. Its loaded with things for kids to do! And you can pick favorites. For Pufferfish, I just went through and "favorited" a whole ton of easy sites, so now I can just open up her "Favorites" screen and let her knock herself out! All adult sites and most "iffy" sites are blocked from KidZui, but parents do have the choice of unblocking sites. For instance, lets say a site about mariijuana is blocked, but your kid needs to do a report on mariijuana. You could use your parental controls to unblock it. And if you wanted your kid to be blocked from a site that KidZui considers kid-friendly (like, for instance, you think Caillou is so annoying and you want to deny your kids access to him) you can block that site.
So now, as soon as Little Bear gets up in the morning, she's running to the computer. She gets on her games, turns down breakfast because she'd rather play the games, and won't listen to Jimmy telling her to get ready for school because... you guessed it... she's busy playing the games. Then Rafael comes over and starts asking, "When I get home from school can I be the first to play on the computer?" And they all start asking about who will go first. During the day, I have to force Pufferfish to get dressed, go out and do stuff, and play with toys and games, with me, because she wants to be on the computer. And after school, the kids right away start arguing about the computer, and then once they get their turn they can't listen to anything else anyone says! They live and breathe the computer!
I've tried to control it, at least after school, by not letting them get on the computer until four o'clock. Until then, they have to play outside or play with other toys, but no computer or TV. Then, at four, they draw straws, and take their computer turns according to who has the tallest straw. They each get fifteen or twenty minutes. I set the timer to be sure. It works pretty well! Of course, if at four o'clock, Monkeyboy or Sarah are using the computer already, my whole plan is blown.
I actually went and acquired a free laptop computer (Yep, free! But I did have to buy a wireless adapter for it) so that the adults and the kids could use the computer at the same time. (In fact, one might argue that I am addicted to the computer, myself! But it is different... I have this blog to contend with, plus I do all of my searching for activities and outings on the computer, and I also am living several very involved virtual lives on Facebook!) So now I can use the computer without any guilt. And, the kids are learning while they use the computer, right? So it could actually be considered an important part of life, right?
What do you think? Do your kids use the computer? What are your favorite sites for kids?