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It’s never hard to sell time on our iPhones to our kids, but it's not always that we do so and feel like we are star parents. In fact, more often than we'd care to admit, we offer the phone when we need to buy instant quiet and/or compliance. But, when our friend handed our oldest his iPhone and challenged her to “take a picture of something yellow,” we saw just that kind of a rare chance to please her desire for technology and our need to parent. Give her a camera, some categories of things to capture, and you turn the iPhone into a powerful tool she can use to classify the world around her and to express herself.
And so it has continued, the categories getting more varied and abstract as we’ve played. She is thrilled to command the coveted device and we, both as parents and educators, feel gratified to see her use loads of language and make connections between words, objects and ideas. We also just love getting a glimpse into her thought process and see evidence that real learning is taking place—for example, we saw her set up for one shot, rethink the category and decide to take another, more appropriate shot, all at 3.5 years old. Mobile technology may neither be the panacea nor the devil, but it is powerful stuff, and it is really nice to find times when it’s unquestionably good for everyone.
In addition to learning how to take a picture, kids stand to learn a lot from this simple techie twist on I Spy. By matching objects to categories, even our three year olds are working towards the ability to make connections, a skill that will prove essential as kids attempt to understand complicated subjects and navigate the world. As you generate categories, you'll expose them to rich language, developing their vocabularies and setting them up to be better communicators, readers and thinkers. If you decide to share the collection together or online with friends and family, your kids can get a powerful boost to self esteem when they see their own work published and even get feedback from treasured adults and peers.