Windows PC - Software and Settings for Young Child
August 9, 2015 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for re-purposing a Windows laptop into a child-friendly PC (for a 6-year-old), for entertainment and development of computer skills. Suggestions for Windows settings and/or child-friendly shells, parental controls, age-appropriate software, and any other ideas for getting the most out of a young child's first computer.

The PC is a small laptop/tablet with a broken/disabled touch-screen (so I'd keep it in laptop mode at all times -- which is fine because I want her to learn to use a mouse and keyboard). I may upgrade to Windows 10.

I would like her to learn Windows and use Windows software -- at this point I'm not interested in Linux or an Android/IOS/Chromebook OS. (I would be willing to install a kid-friendly shell/environment but I'd prefer one that will prepare her for eventual Windows use).

I'm looking for:

1. Suggestions for settings or software to make Windows kid-friendly and somewhat foolproof (so she can use it on her own without constantly needing help because she clicked the wrong thing).

2. Suggestions for software and websites to include in her "suite."

Some ideas I have in mind (I welcome additional ideas, as well as specific suggestions for the ideas listed below)

-Age-appropriate software/websites/games for learning to type
-Age-appropriate software/websites/games for learning basic programming skills (MIT's Scratch looks promising)
-Kid-friendly "office" suites and creative software (i.e. a user-friendly word-processor, desktop publisher, and drawing app)
-Kid-friendly media software (playback of local MP3s and videos that we pre-load for her)
-Age-appropriate games (just for fun, not necessarily educational)
-Suggestions for drastically limiting which websites are accessible
-Suggestions for providing her limited access to our Netflix/Hulu/Kindle/Amazon Prime Video accounts (and maybe very limited YouTube access?)

Any other ideas for creating a kid-friendly Windows PC with everything she'll need to learn computer skills and have fun!

I'm computer savvy and can handle anything you throw at me, but I'd rather not spend several days installing and configuring stuff, especially stuff my wife will not be able to manage/troubleshoot when I'm away -- any suggestions that are all-inclusive or come as a "suite" would be very useful.
posted by Alabaster to Computers & Internet (1 answer total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Some of what you're looking for is handled by the Family Safety setting in Windows 8.1 onward.

It lets you limit when and how long selected accounts can log on, what apps and programs they can use, limit them to preconfigured safe website lists, and allows you to create custom white- and black-lists of websites. It also allows you to monitor their computer use and web searches (Bing, Google and others) through auto-generated reports that you can either view at your leisure or have sent to you by email.

As far as the office suites go, you're probably best of letting them use your Microsoft Office suite. It's fairly intuitive and it's more than likely what they'll be using at school, so it'll be good to have the practise at home.

Windows Media Player is probably good enough for video and MP3 playback, since you're already limiting them to pre-loaded media. You can choose a custom skin too, if you want it to look more fun. Depending on the videos, you might need to install a codec pack - most people use either K-Lite or CCCP (I prefer the latter).

Netflix gives you options to set up user profiles, which in turn enables you to set up parental controls.

Enabling YouTube parental controls on a PC requires a per-browser workaround, and assumes your kids don't have their own accounts. As the link says, it's not 100% accurate, but it's better than nothing.
posted by timd at 9:15 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

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