Today’s children are growing up knowing how to use keyboards-based devices to play and interact from an early age. Whether on their own tablet or smartphone or one a parent handed to them to keep them distracted and entertained, children no older than 2 or 3 years old are already engaging with touchscreen and physical keyboards. But just because their exposure to touch typing keyboards happens early, that doesn’t mean they’ll end up developing an efficient typing technique. There’s still a need for formal touch typing training for school-age children. Touch typing is neither time-consuming nor difficult to master, especially for children, who pick up new skills easily. The key to successfully teaching children to touch type is to offer them early and age-appropriate touch typing practice and guidance.
Make learning to touch type fun by taking advantage of the wide variety of games and activities that introduce touch typing to young children. Approaching touch typing through play increases a child’s willingness to engage with learning and makes them eager to come back for more lessons. Games and apps give young students a sense for touch typing within a context that’s friendly, informal and entertaining. Letting kids associate touch typing with fun and play builds the basis for introducing more learning-focused touch typing activities in their practice later on, when they have better motor skills and a longer attention span.
Take advantage of the fact that the child hasn’t yet developed their own hunt-and-peck touch typing habit and use this opportunity to introduce solid and efficient typing habits. First, take enough time to introduce the keyboard to the child. During the familiarization process you can introduce basic rules of ergonomics, regarding the ideal sitting position and wrist placement, monitor distance and height, as well as more to-the-point rules with regard to finger placement on the Home Row keys.
One basic element of successful touch typing for young learners is to reward progress and let the child know that touch typing is a skill that involves a lot of trial and error to get it right. Children are often disappointed by their initial lack of typing accuracy, resulting in them being no longer interested in learning to touch type. You can avoid this by motivating them through rewards and affirmative talk. This is essential for keeping them inspired to practice until they become good at it.
Even if you choose the best touch typing software out there, it’s still important that you allow ample time for breaks. Each typing training session should last no more than 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of practice, the child will most likely lose interest and get easily distracted. Rather than practicing 20 or 30 minutes straight, split the practice into three sessions and in between each session introduce “brain breaks” – a little dance to a song, walking outside for 3 minutes, anything to relax them and help their mind refocus.