We have been round the new nursery and it was great, lots of things to do, different play areas and the food looks like I’d want to stay and eat it. One thing I’ve noticed is the lack of technology in the play rooms. I’m not sure if that’s just the nursery we have chosen? Given the world we live in is this a good thing? They’ve already learnt from an early age that they want to play with our iPhones, remote controls and keys, why? Because we spend most of our time on them.
So should nursery introduce them also to technology? It’s going to be a massive part of their life at home or work. When was the last time you had a electrical or tech free day. If you haven’t been camping then the answer is probably never. So why think your kids should have no technology? Guilt? idealism? Sofia already has fake electrical tech toys from keys to a talking Elmo to a toy computer. She watches some television also. Is that our parenting bad?
Reading around opinion is polarised around whether technology improves or constrains children’s literacy development. This article from daynurseries show a 50:50 split between yes and no with regards to tech in nurseries. I’ve definitely seen studies which show it improves children’s reaction time, can promote literacy and creativity. Where you shouldn’t be using technology as a babysitter and a subsititute for play as discussed in firstdiscoveries. A lot of government advice on the matter is to promote but also to ensure that safety is key and not to expose children to online abuse or grooming.
One piece advice from Offsted was to say that not all tech is computers. One of my friends was looking at toys similar to those in the report for their children. Coding Caterpillar for example is a great way of teaching basic programming and sequencing to kids. Another toy the chameleon changes colour based on the surrounding it is in. I was at Silverstone this week and most of the kids were enthralled by the light wall which tested reaction time by getting you to press buttons as they lit.
CDs and digital music through Spotify is another bit of technology we use without really thinking of it as technology. We don’t all sit in nursery playing real instruments. Songs and bands played over radio play a part in introducing children to the world. We definitely tried this as a way of getting Sofia to sleep. We didn’t sit there singing and playing our own instruments. Times move on. The world is changing, just check out the trailer for Ready Player One by Steven Speilberg and think about what Virtual Reality and AI will mean for kids in the future.
As kids grow older then there are lots of things out there to help them code and to develop what is now a core requirement of thinking about a job in technology or engineering in the future and probably many other industries as robotics starts to play a bigger role. Scratch From MIT is a example of a visual coding tool I learnt about from a colleague at work demonstrating what his child had been doing as part of a school project. There are also basic computers which are helping kids get started in programming, Kano is an example and powered by a Rasberry Pi a cheap computer redeveloped in Cambridge is leading the revolution in making tech affordable to everyone. So backgrounds shouldn’t always matter.
So you can probably tell I am largely in favour of technology in the nursery. Our nursery does use it to tell use how our children are doing. Tappestry is an example of an app which records children’s progress at nursery and helps keep you in touch through your work day. However I do really value basic play and interaction. One thing that has held me back at times has been nervousness in group situations and also when having to present to others. Play and direct interaction helps here although it is very early days at nursery.
I also love old school toys such as lego, toy trains and anything that keeps you active and creative in thinking. Technology definitely can’t replace these and I’d hate Minecraft to replace Lego in this world. So like everything a healthy balance is key.
So like Star Wars I guess I want a balance of technology where appropriate, used to help develop skills and creativity rather than create mindless zombies. I think it’s important that you don’t block babies interest in technology and harness that to teach them and you new skills. Maybe in the future she can help me learn to code as part of her homework.