Kids and computers are an incredible combination. I remember the old Commodore 64 I had when I was a kid–I was just fascinated by it, and used to type in these pages and pages of number code to get some clunky, worthless game, and I just adored it. Remember those commercials with Bach Invention No. 13? I still feel excited about computers when I play that song.

I am so glad my mom never chose to put stupid limits on when or how much I was on the computer (or watching tv). But what I hear, over and over, in the mommy circles, is parents thinking they need to limit ‘screen time,’ by which they mean, reading, writing, making art, communicating with friends, watching stories, listening to music, making music, playing games, looking something up, being entertained, studying something, etc etc…if and when any of these activities includes a monitor. Which strikes me as about as idiotic as lumping all, similar, paper-related activities together and putting limits on ‘page time.’ How condescending to one’s kid is that?

Anyway, a month ago or so my 2 and a half year old, Luc, just *poof* started drawing images. It was so cool, like his little brain just flipped a switch. The same hand-eye-connection switch also gave him access to the computer because suddenly, he grokked how to use the mouse. Magic. He couldn’t–and then he could.

RIght now, one of his favorites is Poisson Rouge (french for ‘red fish’) or “Red Fiss,” as Luc calls it. This is about the coolest site, ever, with a bazillion little games, elegantly designed, all accessible and interesting to a very small person, partially because there is no reading involved. Smash glass bottles, light up constellations on a star map, take a submarine around an ocean full of creatures and games, move posable dolls around, play with optical illusions, find bugs in the leaves, it goes on and on.

His other favorite is Tux Paint , an open source, free, drawing program, that is incredibly intuitive. Just sit the kid down in front of it and a few minutes later they are engrossed in creating art. Luc calls it “Penguin” due to the Linux-inspired program mascot. “Mommy, can you set me up with Penguin?” he says. Only it sounds like ‘peen-dwin.’ One cool thing Peen-dwin can do is ‘stamps’ where you can choose from hundreds of images and stamp them anywhere in your drawing, in any size, making these cool collage-like pictures. Luc adores this, and has been working, lately on his frogs series, piles and piles of pictures of frogs in of all sizes, and colors, go figure.

The resources, fun, tools, and information available in our yurt, due to the computer/internet combo, is astonishing to me. I would sooner limit library access or ‘yard time’ then limit their time using such an amazing tool. Yesterday, I said, “I wonder what time Paul is coming home,” and Sophie said, “Let’s google it!” What we did, instead, was google-maps his office. And there it was, in satellite image. We waved. “Hi Daddy!”

Here is two year old Sophie playing “Moon Match.” Luc has just figured this game out. We walk around singing the song from it, which, oddly enough, goes, “I’m the maaaaan that you need, I’m the maaaaan that you need.” I think it is a Man in the Moon reference, but I could be wrong.

And, MAN, that old monitor was SO SMALL!  How did we ever stand it?  I say, don’t limit screen time–get a bigger monitor.

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3 Responses to screen time for fun and profit

  1. Mom says:

    Sophie is so cute, need some pictures of Luc. Interesting to hear your impression of growing up with computers. Remember the pong game.

  2. Glad you guys are enjoying Tux Paint! 2yo is pretty young, but even my son (now 19 months) has been enjoying using it as a typewriter lately. I think he’s trying to be like us ‘grown ups’ and typing away at the keyboard. Now and then he hands me a popped-off “Fn” or “H” key, though. D’oh! :)

  3. T. Kosmatka says:

    I love that light coming right through the wall. Beautiful. Why doesn’t everyone live in a yurt?

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