Typing. It used to be something secretaries learned as adults. In fact, typing was a course I took in high school as an elective for fun. Now days though, we can hardly get by without typing. It’s one of those essential life skills. So when is the best time to have your kids learn to type? Are there any milestones we should consider before they begin typing? How often should they practice typing? Can typing help them in other academic areas? Today, we are going to talk about all of this and more as we discuss 5 things to know before your kids start to type.
5 Things to Know Before Your Kids Start to Type
1. Students can start learning to type early.
While I wouldn’t recommend teaching your child to type in kindergarten, there is evidence that learning to type beginning in third grade, when a child is 8 or 9, is ideal. A couple of reasons for this is the fact that finger dexterity and independence is more developed, and students are usually able to focus on finite tasks longer at this age. Besides, as most of us know by now, the less screen time kids are exposed to early on, the better their health and well-being so we don’t want to introduce them to the computer too soon.
That said, it is important to take advantage of a child’s cognitive growth with their newly refined muscle movement. In addition, students of this age still have a strong ability to change their nerve cells through new experiences like typing.
A good test to see if your child is ready to type is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Can your child wiggle his or her fingers independently? For example, can they play Where is Thumbkin? and wiggle their left-hand ring finger fairly independently when they do it?
- Is your child’s hand big enough to feasibly rest his or her fingers on the home keys and reach the number keys?
- Can your child read on a first-grade level?
As students start learning to type, remember to make your expectations realistic. To figure out what speed you can expect your child to type, multiply their grade by 5. For example, a child in third grade should be able to reach 85-100% accuracy typing at 15 words per minute (WPM) with a year of practice.
You might be thinking–Why is typing speed so important? Well, in short, many jobs require an efficiency typing speed of 40 WPM with 65 WPM considered productive. Some professions that involve a lot of typing even require a typing speed of 80 WPM or more. (Scream) So learning typing early and increasing speed over time can make those numbers appear much less daunting as they approach an occupational age.
2. Learning proper posture is just as important as learning key location.
I am a pianist, and I learned early on how important posture was to my success at the piano and my health. Having proper posture when typing, not only reduces long-term back pain but it also increases typing speed and accuracy.
- Your child’s feet should be flat on the ground. If this is not possible, place a box underneath your child’s feet so that they can have added support on their lower extremities.
- Your child’s arms should be at a 90-degree angle with the keyboard. This may mean that they need to raise or lower their chair height or keyboard height so that their arms are close to their sides as they type. They shouldn’t have to hunch over or reach up to the keys.
- The wrists and hands should remain level. You do not want your child’s wrists to arch or rest on the wrist pad when typing as this can cause wrist injuries. With this wrist placement, their fingers should naturally curve to the home keys.
- Your child’s belly button should be centered in front of the “H” key and their body should have the feeling “standing” from the waist up.
Standing up and taking a break after 15 to 30 minutes on the computer can also be beneficial to preventing a repetitive stress injury. So as they start to learn to type, really encourage proper posture as bad habits are hard to break later.
3. Learning to type can help other subjects.
I have seen the results of this firsthand this year with my middle daughter. While I knew typing was an important skill to have, I didn’t realize how much learning to type could positively impact other subjects.
At the beginning of the year, my 5th grade daughter was spelling roughly on a 2nd grade level. However, with one semester of typing alongside her usual spelling curriculum she has jumped two grade levels and is now starting to feel confident in spelling for the first time. I’ll share a link to her current typing program in today’s show notes should any of you want to look at it for your own child.
That said, typing can help solidify phonics sounds for those struggling with reading or spelling as students are often say the words they are typing over and over as they type. Students with dyslexia and dysgraphia often find that typing is easier than handwriting when spelling or writing difficult words. And, in turn, typing also increases the muscle tone and dexterity needed for improving handwriting.
It can make writing easier in other ways as well as it saves time drafting and editing papers in history, science, and language arts classes. Learning 10-key can also help speed up productivity in math and business classes. And, as a child learns to type, they are learning to develop their concentration, which will increase productivity and focus across all subjects.
Finally, many high school and college exams are now fully computerized. Learning how to type early and increasing speed over time can save your child valuable minutes down the road when they are taking a timed test.
4. It’s never to early to talk about cybersecurity and screentime.
Computers can be so helpful and so hurtful at the same time. Once your child is introduced to the keyboard, there is no turning back so it is important that you have the “safety talk” prior to regular screen time. Things you may want to discuss during this conversation include:
- What programs do they have permission to use?
- Where can they use their tech gadgets?
- How long can they spend on their tech gadgets each day?
- How should they to respond to cyberbullying, explicit content, and/or security breaches?
I highly recommend reading the Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch prior to having this conversation with your children as it provides a good framework for you to consider when setting technology boundaries in your home. While I think some of the technology rules found in this book are a bit extreme, he does discusses the occasions that make technology useful as well as the occasions that it is unnecessary.
You may also want to consider adding some child-protective filters to your browsers. As much as we hope our children will never see pornography or experience other explicit content, taking certain precautions to make access to these kinds of media more difficult, is worth considering. Although often unintentional, these accidental views can lead to lifelong addictions. Believe it or not, more than half of 11-year olds have already seen pornography online. So plan early so your children don’t become part of that statistic.
Personally, we have found Bark’s parental monitoring to be effective for our family as it covers a variety of devices and services. However, you may feel just as comfortable setting something up with your Wi-Fi router or even Google. Whatever you choose, consider implementing it sooner rather than later so that your child can have a safer online experience.
5. Learning to type doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming.
Just like learning a new language, consistent daily practice for 10 or 15 minutes is all that is needed to see substantial growth over time.
There are several online programs that offer free typing lessons. While we are currently using a paid typing program for my middle daughter because of its spelling emphasis, both of my older children actually learned to type using several different FREE online typing programs. A few of ours favorites were Typing.com, Dance Mat Typing, and Power Typing. In fact, I combined all of those together for a 90-day typing course for my daughters that can now download on Cornerstone Confessions for free. I’ll provide a link in the show notes.
In conclusion, typing can be a lot of fun and open up a whole new world to your child. Most children in third grade and up are ready to begin some type of typing course once parental boundaries have been set. By typing as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day, children develop skills that will not only increase their typing speed but also help other subjects such as spelling, writing, and math.