Babies at the keyboard
February 26, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

My 18 month old baby loves to pound on the computer keyboard in imitation of her mom and dad. Does anyone have any experience with programs that would both prevent her from deleting all of our files while providing an entertaining experience?

She has already gotten bored with the "disconnected keyboard" trick, and has succeeding in hitting key combinations that have turned on some previously unknown Windows features, so I am looking for an application that might be of help.

For the record, I am not expecting it to be educational, to be used unsupervised, or to be a replacement for honest-to-goodness parenting, but simply a way to let her play with the computer a bit.

The only program I have seen is called Giggles, does anyone have any experience with it? Or any freeware alternatives or other good suggestions for those baby-meets-computer moments?
posted by blahblahblah to Human Relations (26 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Baby Splat is kinda neat. It won't protect your files, but your toddler might like it. I brought home a cheap keyboard from work so that our kid wouldn't rip the keys off our laptop.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:55 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

AlphaBaby is fun, if you have a Mac around.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:55 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Pixelwhimsy makes sounds and colors when keys are pressed and takes over the computer until you hit a special key combination.
posted by shothotbot at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2008

Here's how to turn off StickyKeys, as I bet she's found out how to turn that on (press Shift 5x).
posted by ALongDecember at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2008

PawSense is designed for kitties who like walking on keyboards, after locking the keyboard, and stating the error "cat like typing detected" it will play noises to scare off said kitty.

I suspect that you could probably change out the sounds to something more baby human friendly.
posted by quin at 1:19 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

a screensaver?
posted by matteo at 1:35 PM on February 26, 2008

You should check out the Knoppix, a Linux LiveCD. It runs and boots right off of the CD, without you having to install anything, has a friendly interface, and comes loaded with software for kids like Tux Paint. Because it doesn't touch your hard drive at all by default, your toddler could get freak out endangering your files. I don't know if they have a lot of programs for babies, but it's free, so it's worth a check.
posted by limon at 1:49 PM on February 26, 2008

Just throw an old keyboard on the ground in front of the TV.
posted by rhizome at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kneebouncers is kind of a fun little flash website that is good to let the little ones just pound on the keyboard. (Unfortunately, our 23-month-old now thinks that every time daddy is using the laptop, it's time to pound on the keyboard.)
posted by jferg at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2008

Ah, nevermind.
posted by rhizome at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2008

Pick up an old computer for $50 and you can keep her busy while you get some work done on your computer.
posted by yohko at 2:20 PM on February 26, 2008

how about just unplugging the keyboard and putting it on the floor.
posted by parmanparman at 2:48 PM on February 26, 2008

She has already gotten bored with the "disconnected keyboard" trick
posted by limon at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2008

My keyboard-obsessed son enjoyed Giggles from about 14 months to well over the age of two; you can get sample downloads from the Giggles site.

There's also an interactive version of Dr. Suess' "ABC" book at the local science museum, and he loves that too. I've seen it for sale online. That might be best for kids over two, though, unless you want to help her with the mouse.

(Beware, though ... my boy mastered the mouse at around 2.5 years, and now can call up his favorite Youtube videos by himself ... mostly Sesame Street alphabets, but still.)
posted by lisa g at 3:08 PM on February 26, 2008

I tried this with my son when he was that age and he almost busted the keyboard on my MacIIsi. No way was I gonna risk that. They don't really have a lot of finesse at that age and banging is fun! We got him a Vtech of his own instead and I kept him away from my computer.

My granddaughter, who just turned 2 in December, also wants to try and use Mommy and Daddy's computers. I bought her a Vtech laptop for the holidays and I think she has a Fisher Price as well because there was some story of her trying to stack them together (toddler networking?). Amazon has tons of really inexpensive toddler laptops, $20 to $30.

When my son was about 2 1/2 or 3, I let him back on my computer with Reader Rabbit and he did fine.

There was another great program that let him pop numbered balloons with darts but I'll be danged if I can remember what it was.

To me it's like giving them a toy phone to play with instead of letting them pick up yours and dial Singapore. Safe distraction, and something you can sit on the floor and teach them while protecting your own equipment. Plus it makes them feel grown up to have their own computer.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:11 PM on February 26, 2008

Keyboard Pounder by Little Bits is what my girls love.
posted by tdischino at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

How about KidPix? (That's more mouse oriented, and she might be a little young to really appreciate it. About another year, I think.)
posted by Class Goat at 4:27 PM on February 26, 2008

Babylooba is similar to AlphaBaby but with shapes rather than letters.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:03 PM on February 26, 2008

Keep it off and let the the kid pound away.
posted by Lucy2Times at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2008

She has already gotten bored with the "disconnected keyboard" trick
posted by jejune at 7:08 PM on February 26, 2008

To derail slightly, I once consumer-tested Mac OS X and Linux with our toddler. Linux is definitely better. Why? Because Mac dialogs are modal: they take over the screen until you click a button or hit a key which makes them go away.

Linux dialogs don't do that, so he would sit there for hours pounding on the keyboard, enjoying the beeps, as hundreds and hundreds of dialog boxes filled up the screen.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:12 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Last time I was in a toystore, there were several kinds of toy "laptop". They didn't actually do anything except make noises, flash lights etc. If the problem with the disconnected keyboard is the lack of any action, that might help.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:25 PM on February 26, 2008

Not to be a bastard or anything, but when my 15 month old tries to pound on my laptop keyboard, I tell her no. If she won't read her books and play with her blocks happily, I put my laptop away and sit down on the floor and read with her.

As she gets older I will certain introduce her to computer use and get kids programs etc. But if the computer use is entirely banging on a keyboard...well, that's not computer use. I think that she mostly tries to get at my laptop because I pay attention to the laptop. That's not her wanting to use the computer, that's her wanting my attention.

That being said, Flickr is awesome for doing a search on puppies and kittens and setting it up as a slideshow. Lots of kid friendly entertainment there. Pandora is wonderful for making kid interesting streaming radio stations too.
posted by afflatus at 8:48 PM on February 26, 2008

Reading further, I guess I'm just a luddite. I'm a software engineer but I still think that wood blocks and books are best for little kids. We don't have much that lights up or plays a bunch of sounds. For that we have instruments. Get your kid a drum, they are awesome fun, there is plenty of time later on to learn electronics
posted by afflatus at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2008

Ooh man this is frightening, I'm 21 and of the age that my parents had me playing with this program called baby bash or smash when i was 3, it was hell of a lotta fun for me as a kid and I remember just seeing an update for the mac somewhere.

Another fond memory is that I learned my first keyboard shortcut, command Q, when I finally got bored of it, ooh the memories.
posted by Del Far at 12:11 AM on February 27, 2008

Kneebouncers is pretty good for this, as road-tested by my 18 month old nephew.
posted by patricio at 1:56 AM on February 27, 2008

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