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Is Your Toddler Ready for a Computer?

It's not hard to see why your child can't stay away from your PC. A computer seems like the ultimate toy, with a big screen, tons of buttons to press, and a mouse that goes clickety-click. Plus, toddlers are always into stuff you like to use  -- so spend a lot of time on the computer and you can bet that your kid will want to as well.

And there's no reason why she should be left out. Entertaining educational games are now available for even the littlest techies. (Two free sites we like: NickJr.comStill, don't leave your child alone with the mouse just yet: "At this age, hand-eye coordination is just developing, so she may become frustrated easily," says Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist at Zero to Three in Washington, DC. Ways to help your toddler compute:

Place your hand over hers on the mouse to help her navigate more easily. Also, show her how to gently tap the keys, and steer her away from touching the screen.

Talk about the colors, numbers, and shapes on the screen to make sure she's not just clicking blindly. Point out the effect of her actions (pressing a button, say) on the game.

Set limits. Your child shouldn't use the computer for more than half an hour a day. If she becomes inconsolable when you turn it off, consider a ban until she's a little older and has better self-control.

Don't worry if she doesn't like it  -- or if you don't. Using a computer isn't necessary for a toddler's development.