Ayaan is allowed an hour's worth of TV time on weekends and school holidays. On school days, to compensate for the no-TV rule, he gets an hour’s worth of what he likes to call ‘Spot Games’, also known as games on the computer.
The origin of the name is as quirky as my little boy. When he was younger, he loved to watch ‘The Adventures of Spot’ on CBeebies. So naturally when we first logged on to the CBeebies website, he was most keen to play Spot Games. Alas, that was one character missing on the website. Undaunted by Spot's absence, the site was christened Spot Games by Ayaan and the name seems to have stuck and all computer games are now called Spot Games :)
Overall, I much prefer he spends time on online games (duly supervised, of course) than in front of the idiot box. For starters, these games are learning games and while some of the TV shows do try and build concepts into their stories as well, it is one-way communication after all. The online games are far more interactive and I have seen Ayaan learn a lot from them.
The other advantage is that over the past year, he has developed a huge comfort with computers. Once I have opened the browser, he is able to click on the bookmarks of the websites he frequents and find his favourite games, completely unassisted. Once my brother, trying to get out of
wasting playing an hour’s worth of games with him, told him he didn’t know how to find said Spot Games. Ayaan very coolly told him, “Mamu, you have to go to Google and type CBeebies”!!!! What’s more, he can use the touchpad mouse on my laptop almost as well as I can, can slowly and painstakingly type out words and numbers in MSWord (even using the BackSpace key when he gets it wrong) and knows what and where the SpaceBar is. While I am in no hurry for him to become computer literate, I think there is no harm is starting early, especially since he’s having fun and learning at the same time.
Anyway, in her comment on my last post, Preeti wanted to know what websites Ayaan frequents. So here goes.
We started with CBeebies and that continues to be his favourite website. This probably has to do with the fact that most of the TV shows he watches are on CBeebies, so he is familiar with the characters. At the start, he mostly spent his time with the simple games and stories on Teletubbies and Fimbles, but now he has graduated to the more evolved games over at Kerwhizz, Alphablocks, Poetry Pie and Big and Small. There is also some cool drawing stuff over at Mister Maker and Get Squiggling.
Starfall is a great site that helps to build reading skills. It’s also very simply designed - Ayaan can easily navigate it by himself. And though it is hard-core learning of the type he would do in school, it’s done in such a fun way that Ayaan hasn’t quite noticed that off-putting fact. At the last open house session, his teacher told us that he has one of the best vocabularies in class, and I do believe that this site (along with his love for being read to and the fact that English is our primary language at home unlike some of the other kids in his class) has something to do with it. It has also got him interested in trying to read simple words he comes across in books, signboards, etc even though they are not reading yet at school.
The people over at Kindersite have collated games from across different kids’ websites and provided a link to them so it has a pretty wide variety of games. But somehow Ayaan has never really taken to it, though he does pop over occasionally. I think it is because the site is not very well-designed for its given target audience. For starters, the icons are small and of poor image quality so it hard to get a sense of the games. And all the games are bundled together on one page with no attempt at classification (other than the Spanish games at the bottom – I shall tell you a funny story about that at the end) and for a 4-year old, it is hard to assimilate so much information and make a choice. Also, the links are sometimes outdated since the website of origin has removed the game or require an application that my computer does not have - which seriously tests Ayaan's virtually non-existent levels of patience.
In addition to this, there are two sites that have been recommended to me that we haven’t got around to checking out yet.
If those of you reading this post happen to know of any other good websites for kids, do let me know and I will update the post.
And now for the Spanish story. One day, Ayaan clicked on one of the Spanish games on Kindersite, so I told him he wouldn’t be able to play those since they were in Spanish. Some days later, at the same open house meeting I mentioned above, his teacher also happened to say that her only complaint was that Ayaan scribbled a lot on his school book (the one in which they practise writing the alphabet). I came home and told Ayaan about this feedback and he goes - “But Mama, that is Spanish!” :D
Edited to add: Here are some more recommendations from the commenters:
Storyline Online: Recommended by K - it is an 'online streaming video streaming program featuring SAG (The Screen Actors Guild) members reading childrens books aloud'