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Software (and Appropriate Input Device) For a Toddler?

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the please-see-spoon-icon dept.

Software 417

An anonymous reader writes "I have an 18-month-old who loves bright screens (TV and computer), loves loud noises, and loves to mash buttons. He targets my laptop with the button-mashing, and I sort of hate having to tell him 'no' when he wants to explore a computer. I was wondering if anyone knows of some fun (and maybe educational) age-specific PC software that also comes with an age-appropriate input device. I've seen those big-button devices in retail stores that seem to just hook up to the TV, and I've also seen some PC software that requires keyboard/mouse input, which does not seem like the right input device for a toddler."

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create a livecd (0, Troll)

ifeelswine (1546221) | about 4 years ago | (#33471142)

booting ubuntu with firefox's homepage set to goatse

iPad is a great device for kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471154)

My 18 month old loves the iPad. Touchscreens are a great intuitive interface and there is a lot of great educational software. She's also able to get around on using the touchpad on a laptop.

Anonymous Coward (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471158)

Just buy, beg or borrow an old electronic keyboard. Much more fun for an 18 month old. (Was for mine)

Re:Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471684)

Diapers and a baby-bottle

There can be only one (1)

dezent (952982) | about 4 years ago | (#33471174)


Protip (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33471270)

While toddler drool can eventually corrode copper fire button contacts, and food particles may become lodged in the joystck boot, the TAC-2 is easy to disassemble and clean.

Hmmm, sounds like dead electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471186)

A friend gave a semi useful (1.2GHz) laptop to his toddler to entice him to stay off his gaming rig, and his wife's work laptop. It worked, almost too good. He could navigate to, and watch his toddler vids...don't ask me how when he can't quite read! He had no problem with the touchpad after about a weeks learning curve. He even picked up techie habits, like drinking his sippie-juice while on the laptop. Long story short, I'm showing daddy how to try to dissolve grape something off the system board insides in 90% alcohol.

I don't think adult hardware is up to toddler work habits. Maybe a Toughbook? As for the software, they pretty much figure it out. Anyone would if they want to make something happen enough. PLus they don't have any hangups about bad UI design.

Fisher-Price (3, Informative)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about 4 years ago | (#33471190)

Check out your local Wal*Mart like store for stuff like this Fisher-Price [] edu-toy. My nephew has something a little less complex (and more appropriate, possibly, for your situation) but I cannot remember the name of it, only that it's from Fisher-Price. (:

This might be helpful [] , too.

Re:Fisher-Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471276)

Definitely iPad. My 16-month old is a pro on the iPad.

She launches apps that she recognizes (Farm Flip, etc), swipes back and forth between pages on the Home screen, knows that the Home button closes what's currently on the screen. She taps on the Videos app and then knows that when she presses something from the list on the left it shows her a Sesame Street video. She's a huge Elmo fan.

She also taps that Twitter bird icon a lot but gets upset when it doesn't load anything to do with birdies :)

Seriously. This thing is a computer that a baby can use. It's unbelievable.

Or like someone below said, a cardboard box. Kids are just as happy with a cardboard box as the toys that come inside them.

Re:Fisher-Price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471554)

Since you trust your toddler with your iPad you obviously have too much money.. pls remit all your excess money to me, i will take good care of anything I buy with it.

iPad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471196)

Wasn't it designed for toddlers initially? Like a crib with bars?

Normal (1, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 4 years ago | (#33471204)

Regular Keyboard, Mouse. Normal computer, just not your "top of the line gaming rig". I come from a philosophy that if they are old enough to use something, they are old enough to use the adult version, just under close supervision, and specific direction. If you just want them to be babysat by the computer, might as well put them in front of Elmo on Sesame street on the tv.

Perhaps if you want to keep it simple, iPad.

Re:Normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471242)

Eh, that applies to automobiles and chainsaws too?

Re:Normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471334)

Eh, that applies to automobiles and chainsaws too?

Baby you can drive my car.

Re:Normal (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 4 years ago | (#33471562)

When they're old enough, why not? Or did you miss the part about "old enough" or "under close supervision, and specific direction."?

Did no one else get to sit on their parents lap and steer the car?

Re:Normal (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 4 years ago | (#33471670)

Eh, that applies to automobiles and chainsaws too?

No. Got another brain-damaged question to ask?

Re:Normal (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471312)

I second this. I grew up looking at a VT100 emulator, keyboard and all. By the time I was three-ish the video terminal became a full-blown 386. I wasn't exactly allowed to play with both as I wanted, but I did figure out pretty quickly that the 386's screen saver lock could easily be bypassed by hitting the reset button and waiting for the system to boot back up, and at that rate my dad didn't see fit to find alternative ways to keep me off those. Now I'm a computer engineer. YMMV but I'd say it's best to let your kid play around in the environment he's going to be using when he grows up.

Re:Normal (1)

MaximumFrost (1156629) | about 4 years ago | (#33471318)

This. I was on my dad's 486 as soon as I saw him boot up snipe and rogue. Which would have put me at about 20 months. I couldn't program, but I sure as hell could get pwnt by 2nd level dungeon monsters. Huh...I just realized I learned to read playing Rogue too....imagine that.

Re:Normal (1)

ld a,b (1207022) | about 4 years ago | (#33471340)

In any case, make it a cheap computer. I don't think the ipad would work for a toddler.

I used the "adult" version of the ZX Spectrum 48k when I was ~18 months old. I even learned enough SINCLAIR BASIC to LOAD "" :). However, the only program I ran was an invaders-like BASIC game and the keyboard membrane didn't survive my space spider smashing for long.

Re:Normal (1)

Serenissima (1210562) | about 4 years ago | (#33471378)

I agree, my son is 2 years old now and he's been infatuated with gadgets for as long as he's been able to see them. Cell phones, remote controls, computers, anything that turns on. Since he loves the laptops, the best thing we could do was sit with him and show him how to play with it carefully. I suggest Knee Bouncers [] for a free site that had content for toddlers and younger.
Also, for christmas last year, may parents got him a learning "laptop" for older kids. It was plastic, and looked exactly like a laptop with a keyboard and mouse except it had a cheap LCD screen in the center of the "monitor" section. It's really for older kids so we only let him play with it while we're around because (while they normally shoudln't) it's possible the keys can pop off and a child could swallow it. It's a Blue Hat Teach and Talk Laptop. It was like 15 bucks.


spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33471426)

While I agree with your philosophy in general, a computer isn't one thing, there is no specific 'adult version.' It (and input devices for it) are infinitely adaptable. We have input devices and software for special needs adults, we have input devices and software that adapts to the user, we have educational software for all ages, and we know a great deal, thanks to science, about early childhood development. Toddlers are all little scientists, making and testing hypothesis about the world. Giving them adult equipment to test and hypothesize about is certainly a good idea, but with computers, we can do so much more.

I would think that an ideal keyboard for a toddler might be arranged like a simplified adult keyboard, with as many keys, but larger and laid out in a rectangular grid, not offset. They would be color coded with perhaps six colors. Groups of adjacent keys would have the same color. There should also be flexible overlays with pictures on them, again, perhaps six per overlay. When the kid was young, you'd use simple software and the colors on the keys or the pictures on the overlays. Have little game like what's the same, what's different, match the picture or color on the screen, stuff like that. As they got older, you'd introduce them to letters and numbers using the keyboard as an actual keyboard. The whole thing would have to be sturdy and dishwasher safe. Are there such things out there? A quick Google search [] says, yeah, there are.


Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471508)

Maybe a 15 dollar membrane keyboard? Won't help if the kid yanks on it, but it would allow them to spill to their hearts content, and if you keep the computer sufficiently far away it could reduce the chances of them damaging it. Additionally, although I haven't seen one in quite a few years, NEC put out a line of 15 and 17" laptops back in the early 2000's that actually had a sheet of clear plastic over the front of the screen. While it WAS still possible to damage some pixels here and there with a firm hit to the screen (like say the corver of a table when you knocked the LCD over.) it basically eliminated the possibility of breaking the screen by touching it, and greatly reduced the chances of the screen cracking even under abuse. Mine, while having been removed from day to day usage to make room for higher res displays still works, and only has one small cluster of occasionally blue pixels to show for it, which can usually be made to work normally with a small bit of firm pressure on the cover above them.

Best 250 bucks I ever spent, and while not enviromentally sealed, certainly likely to survive toddler usage much more easily than a regular TFT screen (The fact that it uses a 12 volt external power supply also means it's less likely to kill them even if they DO dump a drink into the back of the screen :))

Re:Normal (1)

maotx (765127) | about 4 years ago | (#33471532)

But it still doesn't hurt to install you're favorite flavor of Edubuntu [] so you don't have to worry about keeping them breaking anything important. Sure they're old enough to use the adult version under close supervision, but with this they have more options to explore without risking damage.

Re:Normal (1)

Kooty-Sentinel (1291050) | about 4 years ago | (#33471600)

I can't speak for the iPad, but whenever I see toddlers try and play with the iPhone, they seen to always gravitate to the home button, and never seem to get anywhere useful.

Re:Normal (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 4 years ago | (#33471644)

Regular Keyboard, Mouse. Normal computer, just not your "top of the line gaming rig". I come from a philosophy that if they are old enough to use something, they are old enough to use the adult version, just under close supervision, and specific direction.

That sparked a memory of mine... my Dad let me play with his Vic 20 when I was 4 years old. I couldn't even read but I was able to tell it to start loading software off of tapes etc.

A friend of mine described kids' brains as being sponges, I'm inclined to agree.

Well... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471206)

Your son is obviously autistic.
His actions are highly unusual, get him in to an autism specialist immediately.

With early treatment he has a chance of leading a semi-normal life. Good luck!

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471262)

And he has ADD, get him on meds ASAP!

Re:Well... (4, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | about 4 years ago | (#33471310)

And by the way, how the HELL have you let him live 18 months without making him a Slashdot account?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471376)

Because they want grandkids?

Re:Well... (1)

spazdor (902907) | about 4 years ago | (#33471410)

Already a lost cause. See above.

Re:Well... (5, Interesting)

grub (11606) | about 4 years ago | (#33471456)

Heheh, I set up an account for my daughter in the UID 700k range. She's 4 now...

Re:Well... (1)

socceroos (1374367) | about 4 years ago | (#33471578)

That has to be one of the funnies things I've read this month.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471700)

Thank you for your post, Ms McCarthy

Leapster (2, Informative)

PerformanceDude (1798324) | about 4 years ago | (#33471212)

Try the Leapster system. My 2 year old figured out the Dora game on that pretty quickly. Needed some help to get started initially, but great for learning numbers and letters before the age of 3 and it can handle the rough treatment from a little one.

Re:Leapster 2 or new one (1)

Joe U (443617) | about 4 years ago | (#33471252)

I'll second this, leapster is fun and it's somewhat educational. I know 4 kids with em, they love the games and it's all math and letters.

Please reconsider (5, Insightful)

ascari (1400977) | about 4 years ago | (#33471214)

The best toy for a kid that age is a good sized cardboard box. Nothing else comes close when it comes to stimulating their imagination, curiosity and social development. If you for some reason are opposed to cardboard boxes: How about some real world open ended interactive toys like blocks, teddybears, a tricycle, a pail and a shovel, some toy cars or a ... gasp... big red ball?

Re:Please reconsider (2, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | about 4 years ago | (#33471238)

I second this. But when my (much) younger brother was little we got him an old used Nintendo 64 with Mario and Lego Racers, and he played that happily for the better part of 6 years. Old video game consoles are pretty cheap to come by and much harder to break than a computer.

Re:Please reconsider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471258)


Re:Please reconsider (4, Insightful)

mapuche (41699) | about 4 years ago | (#33471374)

I second this. Kids that age need to learn how to play with phisical things, computers can come later. As a father of two I know what I'm talking about.

Re:Please reconsider (4, Informative)

maotx (765127) | about 4 years ago | (#33471596)

As a father of five, I can testify that as long as you don't abuse it, computers are just as healthy and stimulating as a block of legos. My two year old spends most of his time with cars, blocks, and books; but he enjoys getting on the computer as well. We password protect it so he can only get on with our permission, but he has his own account configured with links to youtube videos of planes [] and bugs [] , toddler friendly websites [] , and games such as Minesweeper and Portal. We fully supervise when he is on the computer and limit how much time he can be on it, but overall it's quite beneficial. He no longer has a paranoia of bugs and he's improved quite a bit with identifying different types of colors and shapes. We credit his ability to recite his ABCs to his Vtech [] and the games we play with him, but the reinforcement from the computer certainly helps.

Regardless, no matter how a child is raised, it is mostly important to be involved with their day to day actions. Watching them soak up information and apply it is a huge testament to how incredible they are, which is also why it's important to remain involved and direct them.

Re:Please reconsider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471406)

Where in the question does it say he prohibits boxes and balls? Those things are all good but are decidedly off topic. You're underestimating just how many different things a small child can play with during a single day.

Re:Please reconsider (3, Insightful)

cj_nologic (1649427) | about 4 years ago | (#33471586)

The best toy for a kid that age is a good sized cardboard box. Nothing else comes close when it comes to stimulating their imagination, curiosity and social development. If you for some reason are opposed to cardboard boxes: How about some real world open ended interactive toys like blocks, teddybears, a tricycle, a pail and a shovel, some toy cars or a ... gasp... big red ball?


And don't forget - turn off the TV, put down the laptop, and interact as a human. Toddlers don't need computers, they need messy tactile 3D objects and people to interact with. Computers (and TV) should come later, when social and physical skills are developed.

Re:Please reconsider (2, Insightful)

asc99c (938635) | about 4 years ago | (#33471630)

Another mod up for this; an 18-month old has no need to be using a computer! My 22 month old likes building with plastic bricks - I help her out suggesting and starting a structure e.g. a house for her duck teddy and she carries on working out where stuff fits. Being a girl she also likes throwing tea parties for the teddies and changing and feeding a doll.

She also likes the bright screens of laptops and TVs, but when she does watch TV like Peppa Pig and Something Special (not sure if you get those in USA), she just kind of glazes over and clearly isn't really thinking anywhere near as much as she does at other times. A PC is a bit more interactive, but I think she would just watch the moving lights, rather than learning. We let her watch a bit of TV, partly because we've also got a newborn needing attention, which is very difficult to deal with particularly while I'm at work. But ideally we'd keep her occupied with other toys the whole day.

Re:Please reconsider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471682)

Why does it have to be a big red ball? Why can't it be a blue ball? Is there some sort of discrimination against blue balls going on here?

Keywhack.. (4, Informative)

droopus (33472) | about 4 years ago | (#33471218)

Both my kids started out with a great little app called Keywack. []
I took an old Mac Classic [] sitting in my basement, ran Keywack and the kids loved it. Never trashed the computer either, which I was sure they would do.

Keywack runs on anything, Win/Mac/Lin, and helped me get my kids learning about tech at around 18 months. The fact they are both capable programmers (one a senior in high school, another im middle school) might have something to do with their early comfort level, or it might not. But give it a try...

Re:Keywhack.. (laptop not advised) (5, Funny)

belphegore (66832) | about 4 years ago | (#33471656)


If you leave this [] unattended... may get this [] result.

Try a (1)

Stumbles (602007) | about 4 years ago | (#33471222)

One Laptop Per Child; []

Re:Try a (-1, Offtopic)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#33471618)

I don't give a rats butt about Slashdot karma. What a joke.

You obviously care enough about it to mention it in your sig. That shows a relatively high level of concern.

Local charity shop, junker laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471224)

It'll get destroyed at some point, but you can pick up some chunky old crap they'll have just as much fun on. Don't waste money on kids' laptop like fisherprice. Kids know they're crap and tend not to want to use them.

Online Gaming (1)

DaleHarris (1328785) | about 4 years ago | (#33471230)

I would be interested in the same thing. My daughter is 9 months right now, but I don't want her touching my computer. I got my nephew a "my first laptop" kind of thing from the store and it has word puzzles and things, but he's also 6 and knows letters and words pretty well. What I'm going to do for my daughter is probably get her a cheap laptop and let her have at it. Online they have some pretty good games too for kids. I think one of them is Nick Jr. With just a mouse, they can interface with many games, which is doable for an 18 month old I would assume. Maybe online is your answer. []

ipad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471240)

seems intuitive enough for them to mess around with ... just make sure the ipad is drool friendly! :)

alphababy (1)

jbigboote (1544809) | about 4 years ago | (#33471266)

I used AlphaBaby on an old discarded G3 Mac back in the day.

Re:alphababy (1)

wagonlips (306377) | about 4 years ago | (#33471704)

Seconded! Alpha baby is very neat if you own a Mac.
You're on your own with protecting the computer from the toddler, however. Little fingers can pry up keys easily. You will definitely need to supervise.

Don't (5, Insightful)

VonSkippy (892467) | about 4 years ago | (#33471280)

18 months is waaaaaaaaaay to early to introduce stuff like that.

Let the toddler be a toddler. All that baby Einstein-esque crap has been proven to be nothing but trouble for your child's NORMAL development.

Re:Don't (1)

d3jake (1335521) | about 4 years ago | (#33471390)

I was wondering if I was going to have to say that.
If your child is a toddler, then let them play with blocks, and read books that have on sentence on each page with a HUGE picture. He should have time to learn to enjoy life without it being connected to a wall outlet or battery power.
Although I have never had kids of my own, it is my humble assumption that toddlers are wowed by anything that is bright, shiny, and has any part that can be manipulated. Let the child be a child. Worry about teaching them how to glue their eyes to LCD\OLED\CRT\ETC after they have plenty of time to marvel at the world before they migrate towards staying inside and only socializing via letters on an electronic screen.

Re:Don't (1)

exley (221867) | about 4 years ago | (#33471524)

Agreed. This kid isn't trying to "explore a computer" he's just doing the kinds of things an 18-month-old kid does -- bang on some stuff, make some noise, etc. This father is really just engaging in some wishful thinking if he thinks it's more than that. Then again, isn't everyone's child a prodigy?.

Keyboard Overlays (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 4 years ago | (#33471288)

Several years ago we had 3 or 4 different pieces of software that each came with a keyboard overlay. The overlay was a big, fancy plastic "toy" that strapped over the keyboard. Interacting with the toy would press specific keys that the software would react to.

One of them was Thomas & Friends Railway Adventures Playset [] . I must admit it was pretty cool. It requires a standard external PC keyboard, so it won't work on a laptop keyboard or any funky ergonomic ones. Just your plain jane keyboard.

Speaking of laptop, I have 4 kids, the youngest still being a toddler, and every single one of them loved to rip keys off of my laptops at that age. I'm an expert at reassembling those little hinges and keys now, unfortunately. Their little fingers pop those suckers off with ease.

is a keyboard entirely out? (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | about 4 years ago | (#33471294)

Do you just mean you don't want them mashing the keys on a normal keyboard?

You can get giant-key kids keyboards like this [] , you can also get trackballs like this [] . Of course, if you go for a more unusual input device you may run into the problem of not being easily able to find software that will play nice with it (unless you also want to fiddle with key mappers).

seconding the giant trackball, software.. (1)

wurp (51446) | about 4 years ago | (#33471602)

No one has recommended gcompris [] ?

Free software is made of win.


Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471296)

Check out the research on the matter then do your child a favor and Think again


Kooty-Sentinel (1291050) | about 4 years ago | (#33471626)

That wasn't the question wasn't it? Keep your opinions to yourself, and help the poor dad out.

BabySmash! (4, Informative)

Heph (148903) | about 4 years ago | (#33471298)

I've been using BabySmash! from [] with my 7 month old since she was around 2 months old.

She can press any key on the keyboard to get sounds and shapes/letters. She absolutely loves it.

I'm now looking for software that is slightly more advanced, but there seems to be a lack of games in this age range...

Every parents' problem (2, Interesting)

gox (1595435) | about 4 years ago | (#33471302)

I was thinking about getting a used rugged laptop and putting a very simple console editor on it, since my 18-month-old does seem to like what comes out when he bashes the keyboard, and there's enough to do with ASCII.

OTOH, he also likes to play simple games, like tux racer. The main problem is that the software is designed to receive precise input. Any program that can't be quit, paused or otherwise disabled would do the job of letting him explore. I was planning to put together a couple of simple games for him in Blender but haven't got to it yet.

Morse straight key (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471306)

Morse straight key hooked up to a PC for the visual output. Maybe someone could write a cool children's game for it.

Playtime (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471308)

We used to let my son use the computer a lot. He seemed to enjoy it, but we noticed that that was all he did. For the past few months we have completely banned him from the computer. Since the banning (and getting over the initial withdrawal) he has been much happier most of the time. I would recommend giving your kids toys (blocks are the best thing in the WORLD no matter the age of the child) and let them play with them.

Re:Playtime (5, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | about 4 years ago | (#33471592)

If only there was some middle ground between letting him play with it all the time and completely prohibiting him...

iPod touch/iPad (2, Informative)

tool462 (677306) | about 4 years ago | (#33471320)

An iPod touch or an iPad aren't bad options.

The interface is about as intuitive as you can get, and there are child-friendly apps available. My 21mo daughter loves to play with the touch screen, and can figure out that she needs to touch the icons to get it to do stuff. A friend's slightly older daughter does about the same with their iPad. Both are also synced with a computer, so it's difficult for them to do irreparable damage. Purchasing music/video from the device requires you to enter your iTunes password, so it's not likely they'll be able to buy stuff either.

The downside is that they're fairly expensive, so if your kid is big on jelly-fingers or throwing things, it might require keeping a very close on them.

Duke Nukem Forever (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471326)

Just buy him a copy of Duke Nukem Forever. It'll be age appropriate.

Try using the PC with your kid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471332)

I had the same problem with my kids. I contributed to the OLPC and got my daughter one. She loved dragging it around and danced in front of the webcam. But what is really a hit is when I use the PC with my kids. We search youtube for some things they are interested in such as bears or dragons. My older kid (5) likes to see videos on how things work. About 30mins a week is all they seem to want and it is something we do together. They now know the computer is off limits unless dad is with them.

Keep children under 3 from all tv (5, Informative)

canadian_right (410687) | about 4 years ago | (#33471336)

Numerous studies indicate that is is best to keep children under 3 away from all tv's, including dvd's, normal tv programming, movies, video games,etc... and to limit video exposure only increasing allowed hours per day gradually as the child gets older.

No tv under 2, limit to under 2 hours for 3 year []
No tv under 2 []

Re:Keep children under 3 from all tv (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471400)

Humans older than 3 benefit similarly from no TV, too.

Get Him a Job (1)

fullback (968784) | about 4 years ago | (#33471346)

He sounds like he's ready for a Fortune 500 CEO position...

A little bit of both... (1)

dasdrewid (653176) | about 4 years ago | (#33471382)

First, as a couple people have said: A cardboard box. Maybe 3 or 4 of different sizes. And some wood blocks.

Second, I'll stop insulting your intelligence and assume you already have that covered. An iPad. I don't have children (I hate them), but my cousin has 1, another on the way, and he's mormon so he's got 2 dozen nephews and nieces. He's also way more tech-savvy than I am, and the iPad serves him great for this. Load it up with educational cartoons (Barney, Sesame Street, Bob the Builder) and 2 or 3 educational games that involve some button mashing, and you're golden. Maybe throw on some soothing music or one of those white-noise generators to help him nap, and just keep it in the diaper bag (do they still wear diapers at 18 months?) and anytime you need a down moment or to distract him or whatever, pull it out, give it to him, and take five. Also, a heavy-, heavy-duty case. Maybe waterproof. Just in case...

Re:A little bit of both... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471460)

Most children stop wearing diapers between their second and third birthday.

Easy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471408)

I sort of hate having to tell him 'no' when he wants to explore a computer. I was wondering if anyone knows of some fun (and maybe educational) age-specific PC software that also comes with an age-appropriate input device.

It's called "Microsoft Windows" and was designed for retards. I think an toddler could master it in no time.

When your toddler reaches 6 or 7 and if he hasn't taken to gawping at video games, you could even introduce him to a serious OS like unix.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471454)

It's called "Microsoft Windows" and was designed for retards

Yeah, this from someone who owns a Mac.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471692)

Yeah, this from someone who owns a Mac.

Yawn! Isn't it past your bedtime Mr Ballmer? Surely you need all the sleep you can get if you want to keep up with your "copy Apple... badly" schedule?

sesame street (1)

fadethepolice (689344) | about 4 years ago | (#33471436)

There are a bunch of sesame street flash games that I let my kids use. Just get them a cheap / resurrected desktop with a sacrificial lcd screen. You would be surprised at how fast they pick up 3d games. My middle child was playing ddo online at 30 months, pretty well. Best thing to do is let them use a real computer you don't care about.

I learned my alpabet from a commodore64 (2, Informative)

gagol (583737) | about 4 years ago | (#33471452)

starting age 2½, it was an expensive machine when I was young, but under supervision. What matters most is spending time with your child ad teach him/her LOVE, and yes, he should learn the meaning of "no", it's important, you know better than him/her, electronics (tv, computers) can wait a couple of years.

Well - back in the day (1)

cfryback (870729) | about 4 years ago | (#33471476)

lol, OK five years ago, my daughter was the same way. Took an old keyboard, removed the "guts" and cable - presto! Worked well with both girls. Now they have my old Asus W2VC laptop (locked down and parental supervision!) to play their flash games on. Leapster is also a huge hit with them.

Some classical music playing in the background (2, Informative)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 4 years ago | (#33471488)

That should be about the limit of technology your toddler should be exposed to. The American Academy of Piedeatricts actually discourages parents from letting kids under 2 watch television [] . I'm sure computers are the same.

Re:Some classical music playing in the background (3, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#33471686)

> I'm sure computers are the same.

No, because computers are interactive.

Antique! (1)

technos (73414) | about 4 years ago | (#33471492)

Why not just get him an antique? Kiddo can't hose the OS install on a Apple II or a Commodore 64, and they're pretty indestructible.

At $20-40 on eBay, they're cheap too.

Re:Antique! (1)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#33471678)

At $20-40 on eBay, they're cheap too.

I take it you haven't actually checked the prices that the Apple II goes for on eBay lately. They definitely aren't cheap. Sure, you can get an Apple IIe somewhat cheaper, but they still aren't in the $20-$40 range for working models. I don't think Commodore 64s are either.

VIdeo games and pinball fit loud noises / mash but (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33471512)

VIdeo games and pinball fit loud noises and mash buttons!

easy (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | about 4 years ago | (#33471528)

just teach him visual basic

Touch Screen (1)

machinelou (1119861) | about 4 years ago | (#33471530)

A touch screen is probably your best bet -- a good option would be a back-illuminated multi-touch setup so you can use thick acrylic or glass (unlikely to be broken or damaged by your toddler). If you want to go even younger, research with infants often make use to two that can be readily measures by machines: eye-gaze and suckling (on a pacifier with a sensor). Short of putting together some kind of home-brew eye-tracker, I'd suggesting hacking a pressure sensor into a pacifier. Even with that, I bet you could easily train different patterns of suckling (e.g., one pattern produces skips to the next song on the playlist, another pattern skips to the next artist).

Perfect solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471536)

I have an 18-month-old who loves bright screens (TV and computer), loves loud noises, and loves to mash buttons. []

Perception (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 years ago | (#33471582)

I sort of hate having to tell him 'no' when he wants to explore a computer.

It's probably not a computer he's excited about, just the bright light and the feel of the keyboard. Some have said "my son has always been interested in harvesters", while all the boy saw was just a nice big, colorful object.

iPad (1)

illumin8 (148082) | about 4 years ago | (#33471606)

The iPad is pretty much toddler safe. They can bang away on the screen, touch it and get a response, and play around in apps pretty easily. What's more, it wipes clean pretty easily after they get their drool infested hands all over it. The only thing you need to be careful of is the home screen... They will definitely hold their fingers down and put your icons into "jiggle mode," and if you're not careful they can easily delete apps. Just supervise them while they use it and make sure they don't do anything really crazy, like email your boss or delete an expensive app.

I wish Apple had a "safe mode" where you couldn't delete any apps, move any icons, or change any settings. It would be nice to hand it over to the kids and not worry about them doing anything to it.

being a Dad (1)

teknosapien (1012209) | about 4 years ago | (#33471612)

I have a 2 year old that has been on a computer about 6 months now ( and an 18 year old daughter that was the same way) The best thing I have found is old hardware. Spill proof keyboard and a wireless mouse and educational web sites most games dont hold their attention for that long (fwiw nickjr is pretty amazingly put together for kids of your child's age) Don't think that the 18 mo wont be able to use a mouse its amazing at how quick they pick up double click. click and drag, Etc FWIW let them start early the results will amaze you My eldest, at the age of 12 was coding java and comfortable with command line UNIX

My suggestion (1)

whobutdrew (889171) | about 4 years ago | (#33471614)

Perhaps not 100% what you are looking for, but it amuses my 2 year old: []

No special input devices needed, as all of the buttons on the keyboard will create a random swatch of color along with one of several sound effects. Pretty basic. Just beware of installing on a laptop, my kid began to pick the keys off!

Buy a sacrificial computer and rewire the mouse (1)

viking80 (697716) | about 4 years ago | (#33471652)

0. Buy a sacrificial computer. Keyboard and optical mouse can be $10 each.
1. Take a mouse and wire all buttons so they all are "left buttons".
2. Now open a browser to by default.
3. Also set your desktop up to accept a single click to "open" icons on desktop
4. And go from there

Your toddler will first have fun for days on pbskids. Will discover the desktop after that. You can sprinkle it with some icons of interest.

Notepad or some other text editor. (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | about 4 years ago | (#33471658)

Increase the font size a bit. Kids love typing and seeing the letters they press scroll across the screen. If you help them out a bit, they'll learn the letter names and sounds pretty young.

Little Tikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471662)

Saw one of these at our state fair and looked pretty cool. Pricey though.

The obvious choice: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471664)

Sesame Street First Steps (1)

TheNumberSix (580081) | about 4 years ago | (#33471666)

I bought this right here [] for my kiddo when he was around 14 months.

It has different sections, based on what you want the kid to do. So for example, you can enter the "Keyboard" activities section, and the adult would drive the mouse and control the activity while the kid would be able to mash the keyboard and make things happen on the screen. To give you a taste of what it's like, imagine hearing the song "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" and each key press causes a star to appear on the screen.

My kid loved it. And it's PC & Mac! (Sorry no Linux, I did spend five minutes trying to get it to work in WINE and gave up.)

blockhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33471696)

I agree on the block thing:

"When children play with blocks, they are practicing mathematical skills. In selecting blocks of different sizes and shapes and comparing surface volumes and areas, for example, they are unwittingly using classification and seriation (Hirsch, 1996). Cleaning up involves math too: sorting identical and dissimilar shapes, and organizing by size (Henniger, 1987)."

but in a year or two look at this:

I looked at it about two years ago but my kids were getting just out of range. Interface seemed good and they were thinking about a content subscription so you'd always get new interactive articles/activities. Don't know if that panned out or not.

Baby Smash! (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | about 4 years ago | (#33471702)

Baby Smash! []
It doesn't perform too well and it isn't exactly the most scintillating app in the word, but it prevents* your kiddo from deleting all your files with a random mash of the keys.

* Sometimes, despite the claims of the author, smashing the keyboard will minimize the app, leaving your computer vulnerable to infant shenanigans. Does not happen very often, though.
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