Buying Guide: Toddler PC Keyboards

When my daughter began dabbling with a computer at age 3, it was with a real one with software of my choosing, not a toy laptop with toddler games.

As indicated in A Home Computer’s Role in Your Family, I’ll never buy a toy computer. I’m introducing computers as tools in the toddler years. Toy and game-based learning will remain in the real world, requiring social interaction.

The Problem

Each parent wants something different out of a child keyboard. I want no CTRL, ALT, Windows or Application keys because they throw up menus that waylay my 4-year-old. You might want an adult keyboard your child learns to use, but that is slightly tweaked to be kid-friendly. It’s these differing viewpoints that add up to a lack of consensus among keyboard manufacturers, with each one producing something a little different.

Crayola USB EZ Type Keyboard by Crayola

Photo of a Crayola keyboard

Profile:

  • Color scheme clearly distinguishes letters, numbers, punctuation and other keys.
  • Arrow keys oriented correctly.
  • No Windows or Application key.
  • Child-size mouse also available.
  • Compatible for Windows 98 to Vista, Mac OS X 10.1 or higher.
  • $24 keyboard, or $40 with mouse.

Concerns?

  • Got any?

BigKeys Plus Color/QWERTY by Greystone Digital

Profile:

  • A few command keys retained outside a toddler’s finger field, presented in gray on gray in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Vowels highlighted in yellow
  • Arrow keys oriented correctly (bottom arrow is below the left and right arrows)
  • Pressing a key causes only one character to be sent to the PC, no run-on
  • Based on the product name, I assume the keys are extra large. This helps kids who lack fine hand motor control.
  • Press and hold “F” key to convert number keys to Function keys.
  • Company sells trackballs for kids with disabilities.
  • Also available with all white keys.
  • $159. Linked page has sale as of this writing for $130. Be sure you’re ordering the QWERTY/COLOR version.

Concerns:

  • Other keys are inexplicably colorized. GNSZ, DJLRVX, BFQMT. Anyone see a pattern? Unless used in teaching, they negate the future value of having colorized vowels.
  • PS2 connector plug, Mac compatible with USB adapter. No OS version-specific information available, but is commonly cited as compatible with 386 PCs  (ancient) and thus probably forward compatible.

My First Keyboard by Califone

Profile:

  • Color-coding for vowels, consonants, function keys and numbers.
  • A kid-size mouse is also available.
  • $33

Concerns:

  • Oriented toward schoolroom use
  • Has Microsoft Office hot keys that are not Mac compatible
  • Includes key that shuts your computer off (but not on)
  • Detailed online view of key placement not available
  • OS compatibility information not found

MyBoard-lc by Chester Creek

Profile:

  • Letters are in lowercase (how they are taught in preschool)
  • 1-inch keys. Keyboard is 19″x7″
  • Color coding of consonants, vowels, numbers, punctuation and commands.
  • Compatibility: Windows 98SE, 2000, ME, XP, Vista, MAC OS 10.1.5 and higher. USB.
  • Arrow keys properly oriented.
  • Company has several variations for other keyboard needs.
  • $90

Concerns:

  • Got any?

MyPC by Targeted Technology Solutions

  • Vastly simplified.
  • No punctuation or command keys, definitely oriented as a first keyboard.
  • Unusual keyboard shape, in white, pink, green or blue
  • Spill-proof, washable, removable cover
  • Color coding for consonants, vowels, numbers and arrow keys.
  • Child-size mouse included
  • $70

Concerns:

  • Arrow keys oriented like an adult keyboard
  • Mac and Windows compatible, no further details on specific OS versions.

My Take:

MyPC is ideal for toddlers because of its extremely simplified keyboard. Its spill-proof cover is neat, but irrelevant unless you’re a careless parent who lets your toddler snack at the keyboard (this product is aimed at 1-to-4-year-olds).

MyBoard-lc rocks for older toddlers because of its lowercase labeled keys. I wish all of the keyboards used lowercase.

But really, all of these keyboards are pretty good. I didn’t show you the ones that don’t have a QWERTY key layout and other ill-conceived ideas. For most parents the decision probably comes down to price, and that means Crayola.

Comments

4 Responses to “Buying Guide: Toddler PC Keyboards”

  1. Jenni says:

    The myboard wins handsdown for one reason: LOWER CASE LETTERS!

    Children should be introduced to lowercase letters long before the capital letters. I hadn’t seen this one before and will be making some purchases for the preschools I work in.

    I don’t like computers in the classrooms, but I work for an agency that does and is willing to make adjustments to make it as appropriate as possible; but like you, I don’t think that children need to be introduced to computers until well into school age. Keep fighting the good fight…

    November 17th, 2008 at 3:28 pm

  2. CallMeKelly says:

    Just a thought to save a bit of money, if you are interested in lower case keys why not make your own stickers to place over existing keys and seal in place with a tiny bit of clear, non-toxic sealant/glue/varnish. Other options include http://www.4keyboard.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=89&products_id=148

    actually this might be faster http://www.google.com/search?q=keyboard+stickers&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-US&ie=utf8&oe=utf8

    It’s a shame that outside of the Crayola one they are all so pricey!

    November 17th, 2008 at 6:09 pm

  3. Cathy @ Chief Family Officer says:

    Hm, I hadn’t thought of this but it might make a nice holiday gift. I’m with you, the CTL and ALT keys really throw my 3-year-old off (as does the right-click mouse button). Thanks for the reviews.

    November 17th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

  4. Paul says:

    My kids seem happy to use a real keyboard, but the potential for chaos (spills, damage, etc). So I got the “Virtually Indestructible Keyboard” and I use that whenever I think I might be doing something with the kids.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00006B70R/

    November 19th, 2008 at 1:24 am

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