Anyway, we have been more lax about iPads and iPhones. I'm not a huge fan of videos and TV shows because they are so very, very one-sided and use so many quick scene-switches that I can't help but think that it might affect Little L's budding attention span. This is why we don't use the devices to watch full-length shows, or any shows, really.
But when my dear blogger friend Elena posted this, it got me thinking, since her situation in many ways mirrors mine. Little L sees us on our laptops and iPhones all day long (well, not so much now that I try to keep mine out of sight/mind when I'm playing with her) and naturally, she is curious and wants to get in on the action too. In the past, we've allowed her to (on occasion, in emergency situations) play on the free Fisher Price apps, and she has loved the little songs and letters and numbers and animal sounds that play when she touches the screen. There was some give-and-take interaction because each screen change was triggered by her touch.
I found that I didn't want her to be on the apps for too long, however, because she would get grumpy, and also she would play for long stretches of time, which I just wasn't comfortable with.
However, in recent weeks Little L has begun to explode in her language development. She is ahead of the curve when it comes to forming sentences and using pronouns and expanding her vocab; just minutes ago, I changed my shirt and she said, "Mommy is wearing a pink shirt." Wha...!?! "I want to brush my teeth!" is another common refrain heard in our home. So is, "Are you sad? Are you mad? Are you excited? Mommy is a teacher, Auntie Cat is a teacher, Auntie Sharon is a teacher too! I want to hold the puppies!"... You get my point. At 20 months, she is highly aware and keen to learn, and as her language develops, so too is her ability to be understood and to understand.
Though she still loves to read, I think Little L is looking for new challenges. She knows her letters and most of her numbers (well, the numerals at any rate), so she is at a readiness for some of the "toddler apps" out there. We have been allowing her some "unfettered" access to the FP apps as well as some other drag-and-drop spelling apps, and here have been the benefits of her newfound tech freedom:
Letter Recognition (upper and lower case)
Since playing with these apps, Little L has become even better at identifying/naming the letters of the alphabet. She can sing the alphabet song fully now, too.
Her hand-eye coordination for dragging letters across the screen and matching them to their "shadows" has gone from frustration-levels to confident and proficient. I suspect that she has spelled "cat" so many times, too, that she probably can read the word now.
Learning Kiddie Songs
Little L used to just listen to the words of kid songs (like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) on CD. Now that she has read-along animation to follow, she is better able to sing the words without jumbling them. She does often sing the songs in the absence of the iPad, too, and knows most (if not all) of the words.
Some of the apps, instead of naming letters, will make the sound of the letters as she drags them to their proper positions. This is helping her learn the sounds that the letters make, which is supremely useful for when she does learn to spell.
Navigating a Touch Screen
This one is more of a tech skill, but Little L has learned how to use the "Home" button, and load up her favourite apps. I feel that, as technology shifts toward a touch-screen trend, this will be a skill that she needs to have. I've noticed that older folks (my generation and older) sometimes shy away from exploring and learning how to navigate computers and tablets because they are fearful of breaking something or clicking their ways into dead ends and rabbit holes. Little L has no fear, which is a good thing; it will allow her to take risks and discover through a more hands-on approach. On her own, she learned how to load new apps and choose from menus.
Transitions (or Too Much iTime)
Little L used to always throw a fit when we tried to take the media away. I suspect that it was the lure of forbidden fruit. Well, we now allow her to have access when she requests it (within limits), and when she has played with it for a while, we try to entice her away with other interesting toys/books, or we practice transitions with her. We let her know how much time is left, and then we go over what will happen (e.g. "We're going to turn the iPad off, and then we will charge up the battery so that you can play later. We will go have supper, and then after supper, and after we've cleaned up, if you want, you can go back to playing on the iPad again.") We also use the 5-count. Usually, Little L will turn off the app by pressing the Home button, and then she will walk away.
I'm not saying that our approach is perfect. It isn't, and sometimes I still think Little L is on tech too long or too frequently. And Little L is unique too, so what works for her may not work for another kid. I am conscious of the fact that we are living in a digital age, and we want to create a balance whereby we don't produce kids who are addicted to video games and Instagram and FB, but we also don't produce technophobes / Luddites who can't figure out how to navigate an iPad or tablet. I want to give Little L freedom within limits, so that she can have a guided means of learning how to safely use technology as another one of her learning tools.