July 13, 2020

As kids began the abrupt transition from learning in the classroom to virtual learning this spring, many families quickly found out how difficult it was for their child to navigate and type on the computer.

As the school year and online learning came to an end, parents had so many questions about keyboarding. When should my child learn how to type? How fast should they be typing? What is the best program to use to learn keyboarding? 

One of the most important components when teaching keyboarding is to ensure proper positioning of your child’s body and hands. The elbows, knees, and hips should be comfortable and ergonomically correct at 90 degree angles.  The computer screen may need to be placed on an elevated surface for it to be at eye level, to keep the neck in a neutral position, and avoid looking down.   

First Steps 

Before your child begins keyboarding, have them learn where the “bumps” are on the “F” and “J” keys. Many kids will not be able to discriminate and feel these bumps without looking at them.  If your child is having difficulty feeling the bumps on the F and J keys try adding some sticky black velcro to provide tactile feedback for the fingers to improve motor memory of correct placement. Have your child practice placing their index fingers on those keys with their eyes closed.

Once they are able to do that, then have them place their remaining fingers on the other keys in the “home row.” Teach your child this is where their fingers will live; they will travel and visit the other keys, but they always return home. 

Another fundamental skill is reinforcing that they not look down at their fingers when keyboarding. One strategy to achieve this is to place a low profile cardboard box over the keyboard with a cut out for hand placement. Another strategy is to place small dot stickers on each of the keys, or on a silicone keyboard protector to cover each letter, as an easy removable option.  

Finding the Right Keyboarding Program 

Once all of these strategies have been implemented, your child is now ready to learn how to type.

The next step is to find a keyboarding program that meets these criteria: 

  • Web-based program for portability that can be done anywhere and on any computer 
  • Account login and registration to monitor and measure progress 
  • Begins with emphasis on home row instruction 
  • Scaffolding instruction approach and builds on previous keys mastered 
  • Accounts for accuracy (real and corrective) and words per minute (wpm) 
  • Lessons that allow practice on home row letters only 

Your child should be proficient and demonstrate a fair amount accuracy with home row letters before moving onto the top row. The bottom row contains some of the most difficult movements to master, but it also contains keys that are used much less frequently.  If your child is not quite accurate on home row, they are not ready to move on. Have them continue to practice home row lessons until they are more proficient.  

With children being exposed earlier and earlier to technology, it is crucial that they learn how to type early and correctly. And as children of all ages unexpectedly catapulted to online learning, we all learned that acquiring proper keyboarding skills is of the utmost importance. Following these useful and simple strategies can greatly aid your child in achieving success and confidence with keyboarding skills and mastering new technologies as they evolve.  

Kimberly Bradley, MS, LOTR, is a pediatric occupational therapist. She writes the "Wiggle Room" column and owns Kim4Kids in Metairie. She can be reached at 504.517.5437; kim4kidsnola.com.

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