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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Computer Time with Sid

Leo and I have spent some time this week playing the new math-based science games on the Sid the Science Kid website. Or perhaps I should say that Leo has been playing the games while I fold laundry and clean out the boys’ closet. I listen from the floor as he sits on a big chair in front of the computer and plays with Sid and his friends. And let me tell you, I like what I am hearing. These games are COOL!
The nine new games, collectively called “Sid’s Science Fair,” can be found on the first game screen (they are marked with a small math symbols bar). In a nutshell, these math games cover various skills, including matching, sorting, measuring, weighing and patterns. These are not easy concepts for a preschooler who has little or no background knowledge. But the games are “hosted” by Sid and his friends, who explain the tasks in kid-friendly language, and during the game the host provides tips and encouragement.
That said the games do need parental support as children navigate the site and learn the rules and goals of each game. Most of the important instruction is available through audio cues, but Leo still needed help with navigation. I was in the same room so it was easy for me to help him along. Then, I found myself leaving my laundry in the pile so I could participate with him. As I have found in the past with Sid investigations, Leo was capable of completing activities and mastering concepts that I would not have thought possible.
For example, there is a game called Pan Balance. In the game Leo had to click on weight and move them to onto the pan to balance the object on the other side. He had never seen this kind of tool before, but through trial and error he got the hang of it. Amazingly, I was able to actually watch him learn the concepts of weights and balances. Leo liked the clicking and he also enjoyed seeing what the object on the other side of the balance would be.
I also watched Leo gain proficiency in basic computer motor skills. We have a tricky wireless mouse (I often want to throw it against the wall) but Leo managed to work through the frustrating moments. I showed him some tips and we worked with the mouse together and he did fine. He also asked me to show him how to get to the game from the main Sid page. I was able to teach him about icons and show him how to navigate the site. In those moments I am reminded how I never touched a computer until I was in college and how my children will never use a rotary phone. Am I dating myself?
I also appreciated the “Tell Me More” feature in each game (found in the lower right corner of every game on the site). Each one provided extra facts I could share with Leo, or a way to think about the math concept more offline.
These Sid’s Science Fair games provide a moment of peace for me in the midst of a media gaming storm that is raging in our house. My parents generously gifted our family a gaming system last year for the holidays and it has been tough going. Henry, especially, has had a hard time managing his emotions, competitiveness, impulsiveness, and patience when it comes to video games. We tried many different strategies and rules with the rated E games to help the boys negotiate the charged emotions that came along with the gaming system. However, more often than not, the strictly monitored sessions would end in monumental tantrums. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself: “Why are we letting them play these games?”
Why indeed. Last week after a particularly terrible tantrum involving both Leo and Henry, the gaming system was put away for good. Surprisingly both boys took the news with a wise nod of the head. They are hoping to get it back when Henry is 8 years old. We’ll see about that.
That is why the Sid games are a welcome oasis for us. The games do not cause any of the aforementioned tantrums and I feel like they boys are learning valuable computer skills while being exposed to important educational concepts. That’s a win-win, in my book. I can participate without feeling like a mean referee and that is how it should be with a family activity.
Please go check out the new games and let us know what you think. What is your philosophy about computers in the home with preschoolers? I’d love to hear from you!

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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