A Necessary Book for Techie Kids and Parents

Eliza Clark
September 22, 2010

What does it really mean for a child to be a "techie"? Loving computers and gadgets may be part of the story, but there's a lot more to it than that. The main thing that sets a techie kid apart is an intense curiosity about how things work. That includes computers and hand-helds, but also cameras, toasters and elevators. Our world is jam-packed with mechanical and digital devices, and a techie kid wants to figure how they do the amazing things they do.

The great news is that there's a lot of that techie spirit of inquiry in most young children. It's a mindset that parents want to do their best to encourage, and the trick is to figure out how.

Probably the most important way to encourage our preschoolers' inner techie is to take their questions seriously. When our little ones ask, "how does a light bulb work?" (and they will ask) we need to do better than give a vague answer about electricity and filaments. And when they start asking about remote controls, radios and, yes, the internet, that's when we really need help.

Fortunately, help is not so hard to find. You don't even need to get online, unless it's to order a copy of the indispensable book by David Macaulay, The New Way Things Work. Parents, do you remember when the first version of this runaway bestseller came out, way back in 1988? With its awesomely clear and detailed yet humorous pictures, not to mention its authoritative yet quirky write-ups, that book explained everything from magnetism to musical instruments, sonar to seismographs. In the new version, Macaulay does all that and also brings us up to speed on computers and the digital age. It's not for nothing that this guy was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" Award in 2006.

With the help of this book and its riveting illustrations, any parent can give good and satisfying answers to a child's questions about the way all of the things around them work. The little ones might even think, for a brief while, that their parents are geniuses... hey, we'll take it! More importantly, this book and others like it (we also adore Bill Bryson's A Really Brief History of Almost Everything) open up the world for inquisitive kids, and literally show them how to take it apart and put it back together. And that's what being a techie kid is all about.

From the Parents

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