Boise, (ID) - It’s full of colors and upbeat music, and now the Smarty Ants program is open to all of Idaho’s four year olds as well as children who have already turned 5 but are not yet in kindergarten.
“From what my understanding is it is a computer program that would be offered to four year olds in Idaho that would help them learn their ABC’s,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.
The free interactive learning program is intended to take children on a journey of games and challenges leading to kindergarten readiness.
"Smarty Ants and other online programs like it are a nice resource for families,” said Dr. Noreen Womack, a pediatrician with St. Luke’s.
But many said the program is by no means a substitute for quality preschool programing.
“Studies show that children, especially young children learn best through relationships,” said Dr. Womack.
They said the best experiences come with reading a book with parents, learning how to transition from one activity to another with a teacher, or learning how to share and take turns with others, experiences you can’t have on a computer screen.
“Many would argue that these sort of learning experiences are just an important if not more important then just learning your ABC’s,” said Dr. Womack.
Not to mention the American Institute of Pediatrics has recommended that children under the age of five should be limited to an hour or less of screen time per day.
While many said it’s a set in the right direction, it’s by no means the solution to pre-school education.
“Technology can be a great tool as long as it is in addition to a healthy enriched learning environment that would support young children’s growth and development,” said Oppenheimer.