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Mastering the Mouse: Tips and Tricks

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Introducing the computer mouse to young children should be a fun activity—there's absolutely no rush getting your little one into the computer seat. Keep in mind that although using the computer can be a rewarding and educational experience for children, the under-3 crowd might just be better off with more traditional play activities. However, if your toddler is showing signs that he/she wants to master the mouse, here are some tips to get started.

Children develop at different rates. Depending on a toddler's unique perspective of the world, some will pick up computer mouse skills faster than others. Most of the time, this early skill is simply a reflection of interest and desire, not of advanced intelligence, though sometimes it is due to more advanced coordination. In any case, it is important to avoid putting any kind of pressure on your child to master the mouse! 

Mouse Pointer Speed

Probably the very first and most important tip for making this introduction a successful one is the adjustment of your mouse pointer speed. 

With Windows XP, click on Start, Control Panel, Printers and Other Hardware, and then Mouse will take you to a Mouse Properties screen. Click on the Pointer Options tab and adjust the speed with the slider (slower). (With Windows 98, clicking on My Computer, Control Panel, then Mouse will take you to the Mouse Properties screen.)

On the Mouse Properties screen, pointer speed can be adjusted from slow to fast. Slowing down your mouse is crucial for helping toddlers, whose motor skills are still developing, attain control and accuracy. 

Software

Though it is entirely conceivable that toddlers can acquire mouse skills with many different software titles, selecting software specifically designed for toddlers will help. 

Our favorite introductory program is Reader Rabbit Toddler. Runner-ups include Disney's Mickey Mouse Toddler and Disney's Winnie the Pooh Toddler (both of these latter titles are now available in one package, entitled Disney Learning Toddler). All of these titles feature "clickless" activities—little ones need only allow their mouse to hover over "clickables" for a few moments in order to select them. The mouse responds normally if children also are able to click on hotspots.

Another feature of these introductory programs is the ability to swipe the mouse and view reactions on-screen. For example, a coloring activity in Reader Rabbit Toddler involves rolling the mouse left, right, up, and down, and the screen fills with color in every direction that kids move the mouse. This simple activity very effectively lets young children know that moving the mouse has specific responses.

Choose a Mouse

You might consider investing in a mouse that is scaled down for use by little hands. This will be particularly appealing for families with more than one child. 

We love the Logitech Ladybug Kids Optical Mouse. It's two-thirds the size of a standard mouse and fits comfortably in a young child's hands—not to mention it's cute! Similar is the Logitech Optical Football Mouse. Both are optical, which means no fussing with mouse balls that get dirty all too easily with kids, and no need for a mouse pad. Both fit more easily and comfortably in children's hands.

Alternatively, you might consider purchasing a smaller mouse that is designed for laptops because of its size, but can be used with desktops as well. Pictured here is a Logitech 930732-0403 Mini Optical Mouse, which is both Windows and Mac compatible. 

 

Important: If your toddler is showing any signs of frustration, simply wait until a better time. However, if he/she is determined to play on the computer, you might consider showing him/her the keyboard options of any of the toddler software programs mentioned here. 

 

 

 

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