Our children always exceed expectations in ICT at school. They were adept at using a mouse long before they could write their names and I do often wonder if the teachers think we leave our children playing computers all the time. The reality is that we don’t but like many parents we set times for access and wring our hands worrying whether or not we’re damaging the poor souls by exposing them to a world of overstimulation which could stop them appreciating their toys and using their imagination.
As I childminder I also have to be aware of the feelings of parents about computers and the internet. Recently I told a new parent that she needed to read my internet usage policy despite her baby being less than a year old. I explained to her how I use the internet and she was very supportive. I have found that Youtube has been a very valuable asset in enriching understanding of themes and literature. Recently we read ‘The Snail and The Whale and I set up a playlist of images of whales swimming in the sea, penguins jumping off icebergs, flying fish and volcanoes. The children were fascinated. When we drew pictures afterwards one of our young childmindees drew several lines to show a penguin jumping off an iceberg, he enjoyed the motion of the penguins, something you couldn’t learn from a book. When I was younger I relied on the library for images. Even as an illustration degree student I had to potter to the library to hunt through books for images that I needed. If I sound as though I’m anti-book I’m absolutely not. Our walls are covered in books and I enjoy extending internet research by pulling large encylopedias off the shelves. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house equally wallpapered in books and blessed with the freedom to touch, hold and study them whenever I wanted and it made me grow up with a real passion for books.
I encourage my children and childmindees to have the same passion for books and literature but also to value the information that they can find under supervision on the internet. I want them to understand that there is more to using computers than sitting glued to the latest must-have game. We often search for writing or art competitions and enter them. When the children occasionally win something they are over the moon. It’s a lovely way to prepare them for working on creative commissions in later life. The children also look for research materials to support their maths, science experiments, literacy and artwork. When I was selling painted glasses in the past I set up a few Youtube videos and the children understand the creation of these videos and understand that anyone can set one up. They are very aware about the risks of clicking onto unknown videos and reading comments. I am careful to supervise the videos, the side-videos and comments onscreen when they do make their selections.
Today the children asked to go onto Youtube and showed me a channel set up to teach simple chibi drawing (small cute characters). This style of drawing is all the rage at our children’s primary school, I’m not sure if it’s as big elsewhere but I really enjoyed watching all the children take turns. The channel is called fun2draw and the artist continually adds simple pictures. There are plenty to choose from. She has the finished image on one side of the screen so the children can use this for guidance then on the right hand side of the screen she uses a sharpie to draw the outline to be copied. I was impressed that my 11-year-old daughter drew several pictures for the younger children to colour. They all loved colouring these in but eventually they wanted a turn as well and eventually even our five-year-old was having a go, as shown in this picture:
I was happy sitting back and observing the children with this activity, they were having such a lovely time that I only needed to join in occasionally when they wanted a little help with a more tricky line. Once the pictures were finished they decided jointly that they would cut the pictures out and play with them. Our younger children and mindee built lego houses and used our farm set as a stage set for the characters. They were so proud to be using their own creations and the game naturally led onto a puppet show. It was a lovely end to the day to sit on a cosy sofa with our excited two-year-old mindee laughing at various charaters popping out from behind a lego-table stage. Childminding is never predictable and I love that sometimes you can plan and the children will join in with gusto and other times they completely take things in an entirely different direction. I woke up planning a ‘mixing’ day engaging the children in baking or mixing different liquids for a small science experiment but I think it was simply too hot today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to send our mindee home with the planned cheese scones but today I think that the children had a far better idea, supported by some creative ICT.