Friday, March 11, 2011

Technology for Lily

I found this neat newsletter online called Children's Technology Review, and they have a huge database going back more than 10 years that you have access to once you subscribe, and I've found it really useful and interesting, too.  We're a very tech-savvy family, and I wanted to start Lily out right with software she can learn from and have fun with, just like her parents. 

After looking through the database for preschool software for the PC (you can choose these variables on the database, as well as how far back to look, and how high of a rating you want), I got Lily some new computer games.  She likes Clifford the Big Red Dog, and I found there are several titles for preschoolers.  I chose Clifford's Learning Activities and Thinking Adventures.  You get to do things like jigsaw puzzles, matching, listening and finding things on a map ("I live in the blue house next to three apples trees"), moving a figure (dog) through a maze to collect objects, and number recognition.  They've really gotten so much better at making software for kids (since I was a Big Sister and bought computer games for my Little Sister fifteen years ago).  For instance, kids are not singularly focused on completing the main goal of the game: they'll go clicking on things that aren't part of the task given, just out of curiosity, and I remember my Little Sister getting really bored with games when there was no exploring built into them.  Also, kids will naturally click on the same object over and over again, and I see in these Clifford games that some objects may respond the same way each time, but other objects respond differently each time you click on them. 

It's hard to talk about this in the abstract, so I'll just give an example.  In one of the Clifford games, there's a street scene with a pet store.  In the windows of the store there are a parrot and a cat.  If you click on the parrot, he answers the phone and says one of several different things, like "where are my crackers? I ordered them three weeks ago!"  If you click on the cat, the same thing always happens, which is that the parrot bites his tail and he meows in protest.  In another scene, there's a beach, and although your main task is to find Clifford's collar, if you click on the beach umbrella, it shoots into the air like a rocket.  Now that's just fun!  There's not any specific skill this teaches you, but it does reward you for curiosity, and Lily loves it that it does the same thing each time. 

I also bought  this really cool game called ItzaZoo, where you draw things with the mouse and the program makes them interactive.  Like you draw a house for the lion, and then he goes inside it!  You get challenges like drawing a door and windows for the house.  I love this game because I think it encourages her to draw and be happy with what she created, instead of wanting us to draw it "the right way."  Her house can be all squiggly and it's still good: the lion is happy with it!  She really likes that. 

So Miss Lily is pretty much a whiz with the mouse now.  She can not only click, but drag and drop.  Yesterday we played my Plants vs. Zombies game together, and she picked it up so fast!  Then when John got home, she wanted to play it with him so she could be the teacher and show him how everything worked, like "You have to protect your sunflowers with the pea-shooters." 

She just amazes me. I just don't ever get over the feeling of gratitude I have for being her Mom.  I mean, like both for being a Mom, which I wanted so bad for so long, and for being HER mom, because she's so amazing and smart and funny and sweet.

And then she said

"My butt didn't get enough sleep last night."

To Daddy while he was shampooing his hair: "You look like a lady."

"My foot is giving you a kiss."

"Mom, you're all mine." (accompanied by snuggle)