Computers do have some benefit in the child care setting. Preschool and elementary children can create, collaborate, and share information through computers (with adult help) and can learn valuable computer skills such as manipulating a mouse and loading a program. Using a mouse and keyboard is also a way for children to practice fine motor skills.
It's important to be sure computers are not overused in child care. A computer is one learning material, and should be used only when it is the best material for the learning experience. Computer programs that encourage creativity, problem solving, and working together can be effective learning tools. For example, a class of preschoolers may practice real-world literacy skills by posting updates to a class blog (with teacher help) and reading the comments their families leave in response to the posts.
For preschoolers, computer use should be developmentally appropriate. Two scales have been developed by early childhood researchers and are commonly used to assess child care program quality. According to the Early Childhood Rating Scales - Revised (ECERS-R), computers may be used with children aged three and older, but usage should be limited to 20 minutes a day. Computer software for preschoolers should be interactive, allow children to save and print their work, and allow for open-ended or child-directed activities. Strict drill-and-practice software is not developmentally appropriate for most young children.
Computer use is not generally appropriate in infant/toddler care because these children do not have the cognitive, social, or motor skills to make appropriate use of computers. According to the Infant and Toddler Environment Rating Scales - Revised (ITERS-R),computers should not be used with children under the age of two.
To read more about the ITERS and ECERS-R, go to Environment Rating Scales