Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Developmental Milestones

Developing the competence and confidence to use computers effectively and independently requires skills necessary for handling the hardware and software. Hardware issues generally involve physical aspects of development such as the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination but also some cognitive skills to support problem solving.

Software issues are specific to the software applications so that the underlying cognitive skills required for reading, spelling, writing, and math found in other areas of the handbook/roadmap also apply to computers. There are also social/emotional milestones involved in working with others around the computer and relating and understanding avatars and characters’ roles in computer games. For a full review of all of the skills related to software issues please refer to the different areas of the roadmap for each domain. Below are a few selected highlights to show how these skills map in the technology domain.

Age Skills
0-12 months

Physical and Motor Skills

The development of the use of monocular depth cues to understand three- dimensional representations in pictorial images. Such cues are often used in software programs to simulate depth/distance.

Development of intermodal perception. Infants develop a preference for intermodal matching in what they hear and what they see. For example, they prefer to see a clip of a train moving into the distances as they hear the sound of a train engine becoming softer.

The ability to sit without support and stand without support allows children to be at the computer and focus on the activities in front of them.

Development of voluntary reaching skills allows child to reach toward interesting objects (such as what is found on a computer screen/useful for touch screen interactions)

Cognitive and Social Skills

Between 6 and 10 months, babies develop a rudimentary understanding of simple physical cause and effect

13-24 months

Physical and Motor Skills

Fine motor skills necessary to hold the input device, direct the input device or touch using only one finger instead of the whole hand are beginning to develop.

 Around 13 months of age, the ability to use his or her thumb in opposition to the forefinger is developing. This development and skill makes it easier to operate a mouse or stylus.

Between 18 and 24 months of age, hand-eye coordination becomes more refined which allows the child to track on-screen activities with the input device or finger. This skill continues to develop over the coming years

Cognitive and Social Skills

Construction and development of simple scripts for routine events begins to occur. This development allows the toddler to expect outcomes for familiar series of events

25-60 Months

Physical and Motor Skills

Refinements in fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination allow for more flexible and efficient use of devices.

Cognitive (e.g., Reading)

Develops an understanding of cause and effect which is necessary to engage in trial and error discovery learning.

Develops sight words or automatic recognition of print words based on visual cues and recognizes some environmental print (logos, labels, signs). These are precursors for the child to be able to select their preferred software and advance through games

Begins to learn letter names. Recognizes his or her own name and a few other familiar printed words. This skill allows children to recognize and select their name as a player in a particular game (if letters rather than an icon is used)

Social Skills

Children begin to develop their ability to engage in pretend or imaginative play which allows them to enjoy and engage in settings, stories, characters, and themes in software.

Children begin to develop the ability to engage in co-operative play which is necessary for turn-taking and collaborative problem-solving when using software and web games.

Wood. E. (2008). Children and Computer: Developmental Milestones. In L.M. Phillips (Ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 – 60 Months. [online], pp. 1 - 3. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Available at: Handbook of language and literacy development