Thursday, 21 June 2018

Teach Kids to Type with Games and Apps

Typing is an essential skill for modern life. Young kids are very good at using a touchscreen tablet or smartphone, but the ease at which they use computers when a keyboard is introduced diminishes significantly.

There are lots of fun ways to learn to type. I remember learning to type on an old-style typewriter in secondary school. These days my kids are learning the skill whilst playing a Pokemon game!

At Tech Age Kids we think typing is a really useful skill for kids to learn and will enable them to access technology in a more productive way. Before children start school, there is little need for typing skills. However, from the start of school, many children use desktop computers or laptops and need the skill to do the work.

Having taught at primary school level it's alarming to see how poor children's typing skills are and also how little time is given to practice the skill. Afterall who doesn't use a computer or typing skills in their adult life?

Learning to type doesn't have to be boring and you also don't have to wait until your children are in school to start practicing the skill. Basic recognition of keyboard layout and finger placements can be practiced before children can read or write.

We've come up with a list of ideas, apps, games and tech tools that can help children master the skill. Our list is in no particular order and the activity you select will depend on the age and interest of your child.

  1. Type a Story

    Encourage children to use a keyboard to type a story. You can use an online word processing editor like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. It's useful to let young kids start using a computer with a touchscreen. It helps eliminate the frustration of navigation whilst they learning how to use a trackpad or mouse and keyboard. See our review of the Dell Inspiron touchscreen laptop
  2.  Play a Typing Game

    Nitro Type allows you to race cars against other people. You race your car by typing prescribed text. Nitro Type is more suitable for older children around 7 or 8 and over. You don't need an account to start playing, but it's advisable if you want to save your progress.
    Dance Mat Typing from BBC Bitesize is a popular typing learning tool for schools. It's a great tool to help children learn correct finger placements and learn in a step-by-step method.
    The Kano computer also have some typing apps that are age appropriate and really fun to play.
    Play a typing game - BBC Bite size, nitro type
  3. Use a Smaller Keyboard

    The keyboards on laptops are often smaller and easier to use for children. You can also get smaller bluetooth keyboard to connect with a desktop computer to help kids master the skill.
    The keyboard that comes with the Kano Computer, for example, is a great size for small hands. Read our review about the Kano Computer.
    External keyboards for tablets are also a good idea to help kids learn typing skills. Although you can type on a touchscreen, it's a different experience and it's worth learning to type on an actual keyboard.
  4. Mouse & Trackpad Skills

    Don't forget that once kids use a laptop or desktop computer they will also need to learn how to use a mouse or trackpad.
    Trackpads can be tricky to master, and so if you're using a laptop, it may be easier to start with an external mouse.
    My son is also left handed, and it was only when he started using a laptop that I realised the set up caters more for right-handed people. He has his own workarounds, but finds using a trackpad and mouse more tricky than his right-handed brother!
  5. Make a Paper Keyboard

    One fun way to learn where the keys are located on a keyboard is to make your own paper keyboard. Kids can then pretend to type and learn the finger placements.
    Why not practice spelling on a paper keyboard and get them to 'type' the letter and say it out loud. Check out the paper computer from Hello Ruby to make your own paper laptop with keyboard. 

Time to Practice

Like any other skill, our children will not become good at typing if they don't get an opportunity to practice. Allocate some of your children's screen time to learning to type.

If you're child only uses a tablet or touchscreen device, create opportunities to use a computer with a keyboard too. If you don't have a computer or laptop at home, visit your local library or make a paper keyboard!

Adults can improve their typing skills too! Make learning to type a family activity and as children get older you could record your words per minute and have a friendly competition on who types the fastest in a given week.

When my kids use a laptop or computer, I encourage them to use the proper finger placements and discourage single finger typing. Initially, this can be very frustrating and make typing slow, but your kids will reap the benefits with practice.

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