Little Clickers: Darien Library's Innovative Tech Program for Children and Parents

Parents of young children often struggle with knowing how to help their child interact with technology and media in a healthy way. Librarians can play a role in helping parents understand both the potential and the challenges. The Darien Library (CT), for example, offers Little Clickers, a computer class for preschool age children and their parent or caregiver.

Kiera Parrott, Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library, generously shared her experiences and insights with us in a recent interview about the Little Clickers classes.

Who teaches the classes?

“For the Little Clickers classes (ages 4-5) as well as Techsplorers (ages 6-8) and iKids (ages 9-12), a full-time children’s librarian plans the lessons and teaches. We make it a priority as part of our training that all full-time staff members are comfortable and interested in emerging technology. One of our missions is to help our community discover and use technology to help them learn and grow. So for us, we have to be sure that our own staff are constantly playing with new technology and sharing their experiences. The classes are fun to teach. Little Clickers in particular is adorable, but challenging. Because the kids are so young, they are still developing their fine motor skills. So you have to be patient. You may have a lesson about clicking and manipulating objects on screen, but you may first have to practice the “click and release” motion all on its own. Same thing goes for “drag and drop.” We play with beanbags on the floor before we ever pick up an actual mouse. These fine motor skills are new to the kids and they need to be taught how to do it.”

What do the children like about the classes?

“The kids seem to really enjoy exploring fun new websites and apps. As we’ve adjusted the lesson plans each year, we try to keep the pace of the class active. We want to make sure that we are giving the parents or caregivers good, solid information, but we don’t want the kids to get bored. So we try to have them play with neat sites and apps that demonstrate a skill and while they are engaged talk to the grown-ups about the skill and what they can do at home to keep practicing. The kids love mastering these skills- such as “dragging and dropping” on a mouse. They get super excited when they are successful!”

 What do the parents like about the classes?

“The parents like learning about technology skills and they appreciate how we break up the various skills into simple steps. A lot of parents are still new to technology themselves- they may use Facebook and surf the web- but they don’t have a lot of experience with other web tools or with iPads and apps. They particularly love our app recommendations.”

 How has Little Clickers changed over the years?

“LC began in 2009 and since then we’ve made a lot of changes to the lessons. Mostly we have begun using iPads, which we did not do initially. We also have more conversations about screentime and what is appropriate, how to set limits or institute a “media diet.” We want kids and parents to be using technology in fun, appropriate, enriching ways. And we think it’s a big part of our job to help communicate to parents how they can balance that. We talk about book sharing and sensory learning experiences and the importance of balancing a child’s daily activities. Children need a variety of experiences to help grown their brains. Tech is one of those tools and we want to be sure that parents are confident in how to use those tools effectively and appropriately.”

What advice do you have for a library that is thinking about getting started with providing training like this?

“Imagine that you are a preschooler and look at the technology you have in your library. How do you approach it? What is confusing, what things are you immediately drawn to? That will help provide a starting point. I would also talk to parents and caregivers in your library and community. What kinds of technology do they have at home and how do they use it with their kids? What questions do they have? What do they wish they knew more about? I’d also suggest reading Born Digital by John Palfrey.”

Anything else you would like to mention about the program or about technology literacy for children and parents?

“Have fun and don’t feel that you need to be a tech expert to get started. You can learn alongside the kids and parents- it’s okay not to know everything!”

Resources for Learning More

Other Cool Things Happening with Tech and Young Children and/or Parents at Darien Library

Thank you, Kiera, for sharing this story with us!