There’s no need to search through dozens of online sites to find video games that your 3 year old can play, pay an expensive monthly subscription fee or invest in DVD versions that may be too hard for them anyway, not when there are so many video game options available for free online.
First a few tips for successful gaming:
Play with your child. Children learn the most with live interaction. Sit with your child as he plays video games. Use a booster chair for your child if he’s too big to sit with you. This will help him navigate successfully through any games that are a bit more challenging.
With video games as with any experience, repetition is key. The more a new subject is repeated, the more chances he has to learn about it. An example of video games using repetition to teach your child can be found with many of the counting games. It is likely that the computer narrator will be counting, but your child is more tuned into your voice because he hears it all the time, so it’s best to count along a long with the game. Plus, you don’t want to plop a 3 year old child in front of the computer so that you can go take a shower and come back to find he has opened 10 browser windows and clicked on all sorts of things that you weren’t expecting.
Keep it short. Don’t feel the need to keep playing video games after you get bored. Your child is likely to pick up on your feelings and begin to think the games are boring as well. If children start feeling discouraged or not following your directions, it is time to turn off the computer. Even interactive online video games aren’t as effective a teaching tool as one-on-one interaction for children, so limit games to no more than an hour a day.
Use advanced technology. Touch pads and screens are much easier for little hands to navigate than a traditional mouse attached to the computer. Young children feel more empowered because they are able to play more of the video games themselves. They improve their hand-eye dexterity and get a jump using the computer tools that they will be exposed to once they enter into school.
Choose With Your Gut. Since computers and video games are entertainment, we get to choose what and who will entertain us online. Be conscious of the content of video games and observe how a child acts before, during and after playing games of all sorts.
Online video game sites you and your 3 year-old might like:
http://disney.go.com: Your 3 year-old will be able to play along with some of his favorite characters from television and the movies with these age appropriate games. With a large assortment of games to choose from, the ones that are the most fun for a 3 year old child are the same as the cartoons that he most enjoys. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Special Agent Oso and Handy Manny games are all easy to understand by 3 year-olds. Jake and the Never land Pirates, a cartoon that my 3 year-old loves however, has games that are just a bit too advanced for him right now.
http://www.nickjr.com/games: With much loved characters Dora and Diego, my 3 year-old delights in playing these games…at first. After just a few minutes, he pushes away from the computer and has me finish the games. Although they are a bit too challenging for him to complete by himself, he enjoys them and they are a good way to measure how much his skills are progressing as each time we go back to them, he is able to get further and further along.
http://www.starfall.com: With reading curriculum that is barely disguised as a video game, you’ll feel good about letting your 3 year-old play at this free online resource. Learning to read with activities teaching A, B, C’s, stories, rhymes and others, Starfall is a great jumping off point for young children just starting to learn to read. There are printable pages to go along with the online games as well, but even with all the free content, if you want all of the lessons, there is a fee charged.
http://pbskids.org: Again, your 3 year-old will love playing with all their favorite characters from TV. Curious George, Elmo, the Cat in the Hat and more are all here. The games are simple and fun and provide for continuous enjoyment and learning. A little too simple, you may find, and without the higher budgets of some of the other networks, PBS Kids delivers solid online video game experience for children.