How to help kids with the keyboard. (Compute's Getting Started With: Kids & Computers)
Kids and keyboards don't need a formal introduction. Children take to computers like they take to the knobs on a TV set or the buttons on a VCR controller. As with those devices, young children do need a little adult intervention to learn how to use the equipment properly. A few adult-supervised orientation sessions are in order for young children. Older kids usually can be turned loose on the keyboard, since they've probably been exposed to computers in school. You'll still want to introduce them to keyboarding skills, and there's no shortage of software to help you do that.
Even the youngest children need to master the keyboard, understand its layout, and get the hang of mouse and typing skills--even if it is only the hunt-and-peck method.
Of course, mice are a godsend to young children who are often confused by the B, not the S, should be beside the A!"). And it's often easier to introduce children to computers by using a mouse. Simply show them how to maneuver the pointer by sliding the mouse across a mouse pad. Work on clicking and dragging items on the screen. Then let them practice on one of their favorate games, and they'll become master mouse maneuverers in minutes.
Typing is another matter. It's a skill older children will have to master to become proficient at the keyboard. Unless you consider yourself a typing teacher, it's wise to let the computer itself take care of the chore of teaching typing. Equip your machine with one of the many typing programs on the market. Nintendo's charming little hero, Mario, comes to the PC keyboard in Mario Teaches Typing, to do the job for the youngest computer mavens. It's a program from which even adults can learn.
Any child who's old enough to have mastered the ABCs and is interested in video games will enjoy games will enjoy Mario's introduction to the keyboard. Just as in the video game, Mario must dodge dangers and leap many hurdles. To guide him through the adventure, you must type letters correctly as they flash on the screen. The game keeps score of typing speed and errors. It also features. a straight practice mode that switches off the game elements for Mom and Dad and older children who are turned off by the child-like play.
Mario Teachers Typing offers sound typing instruction, but if you want something a little more grown-up in its approach, consider Broderbund's Typel, Interplay's Dvorak Teachers Typing, The Software Toolworks' Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Parsons' Typing 101, or Que Software's Typing Tutor 5+. These programs are a bit more intimidating for young children who are graduating from hunts-and peck, but they're ideal for kids from about the sixth grade on up.
And just because they're a little more straight-forward doesn't mean they can't be fun. These programs offer a number of typing exercises. Most of these programs feature a game that puts you typing skills to work in an arcade-like setting.