An Essential Productivity Skill For Kids. And it has street cred.

Give your kids a massive headstart

If I had to name one particular skill that's opened up a world of productivity doors it would be easy to choose.  It's a skill I've used virtually everyday for the last 25 years.  Touch typing.  I can't imagine doing without it.  Sure it might become obsolete in the future but I can't see that happening anytime soon. It's a skill that's sadly been categorized over time as a feminine skill.  And it's a skill that arguably should be integrated into every school curriculum. 

While it may traditionally have a slightly old-fashioned and daggy stigma about it, touch typing is fast gaining street cred.  Online entrepreneurs working remotely with standing desks and virtual teams are fans.  They want to do fun jobs and do them fast so they have time to pursue other interests.   In the virtual team, flexible hours, digital world of the future it's an essential hipster skill. A skill you might want to encourage your 8 years plus child to develop.

A Touch Typing Challenge.  {Or a Bribe?}

Touch typing is a productivity skill I'm convinced is so important that I recently set my kids a challenge.   To be fair, you could quite easily call it a bribe.  But you know what?  Even if it is a bribe I don't really care.  The thought of seeing them hunched over computers and hunting and pecking on keyboards for the next 10 years makes my own neck ache.  It never ceases to irritate me when I watch my husband pounding away on a keyboard with 2 fingers - head down, eyes down madly trying to find the correct keys.

So here's the thing.  My two eldest kids can bring their own device to school.  But as yet neither of them do.  We haven't bought them their own laptops yet.  Right now they're in a grade where it's optional.  It might seem stingy, but I kind of think they might as well use the free communal devices while they can.

40 Words Per Minute. Minimum. 

But next year my son is going to high school and it'll be pretty hard to get by without a laptop (I think it's actually compulsory).  So we've had a chat and explained that we're not just breezing into a store to buy him one.  There's a hoop he needs to jump through first.  The deal is this.  He'll get a shiny new MacBook Air on one condition - that he learns to touch type at a minimum speed of 40 words a minute.  That's 40 words a minute including numbers and symbols.

It may seem harsh, but I reckon there's so much to be gained that I'm determined to stick to my guns.  

7 Perks for Kids Who Can Touch Type {Not just hunt & peck}

Here's just some of the perks for touch typing students:

1. Take notes and listen  When you touch type your hands are in automatic mode.  You don't actually think about what your hands are doing.  Kids who can touch type will have no problem listening to teachers and typing notes.  With their hands on autopilot, they'll be able to type and also watch their teachers facial expressions and gestures.  For them, it'll be easy to continue to take notes and observe what's happening on the screen or the white board.  The icing on the cake - they'll take more away from lessons.

2. Free flow of ideas  When students are asked to do creative writing or take a test online, the ability to touch type will allow their ideas to flow more freely.  Instead of losing focus while trying to find the letter 'Q'' on the keyboard they can completely focus on idea generation or recall.

3. More relaxed in exams  In most countries students still handwrite exam papers but it probably won't be long for this to change.   Students who touch type will be a step ahead of those who can't.  They'll be able to write more, edit with ease, and focus on ideas and recall rather than thinking about the keyboard.

4. It's fun My kids are completely pumped about learning to type.  They scramble to get to my laptop first so they can do their next module. And it's funny listening to them competing with each other about their highest word count. Recently my daughter lost her voice and had to rest it so she could sing in a musical.  She 'talked' to us through the keyboard.  She was pretty chuffed with herself showing us how she could touch type what she wanted to say.  It stopped her from being grumpy about not being alble to speak.

5. Faster time to complete assignments  I have to admit that some non-typists are pretty impressive. But generally someone that can't touch type will achieve an absolute maximum speed of 20 to 30 words a minute.  Contrast that to someone who can.  It doesn't take long to get to a speed of 40wpm.  With practice that can escalate to 70+ words a minute.  The end result - students can half the time required to complete assignments.

6. Helps to reduce back and neck strain It's not good for your body to be hunched over a keyboard. It's bound to give you a  sore neck and back and postural problems.  If you can touch type you can more easily achieve a straight spine.  

7. Increases future job prospects  The ability to touch type will open up a range of part time jobs for your kids as they get older.  Call centre operators, bloggers, writers, social media managers.  Even if they end up working in a job that doesn't require a minimum typing speed, it will be a bonus to be able to type quickly.  They'll accomplish work more productively when they do need to type. 

Goodbye hunt and peck. Learn to touch type online.

To be perfectly honest, I'm blown away at how easy it is to learn to touch type now. It seems obvious really now I think about it.  I don't know why I hadn't looked up an online program sooner.  If there's an app to find your car in a parking lot,  there has to be typing apps.  And yes, there are a bundle of them out there.

If you're like me and went to classes to learn to touch type you'll remember what a fiasco it was. Boy, was it a production.  I think I was in second-year uni and I was fed up with paying a typist to type up my assignments from handwritten notes.  So I enrolled in a night time adult education course held at a local school.  I bought a textbook I could barely carry it was so massive.  The book had hundreds of pages of 'exercises' to complete. The classroom had rows of old-fashioned typewriters with ink tape and returns.  And the thing that really sticks in my mind, the thing I still cannot get over is this - we had to type with this huge piece of black fabric draped over our hands so we didn't peek at the keys. 

Anyway, the world of touch typing has totally changed.  My 10 and 12-year-old kids have probably done in a few days what took me 8 weeks of face-to-face classes.  And the real bonus is that they love it.  For them, it's kind of like completing levels in a video game.   They're already up to around 30 words a minute - that's with the lower case alphabet.  

Don't get me wrong, they've got a way to go.  Right now they're on about level 37 out of around 100.  There remains a whole world of capitals, numbers, and symbols to conquer. 

The best free online typing program for kids {and adults}

As I mentioned earlier there's a stack of programs available to learn to touch type.  My kids have really got into Typing Club.  It's web-based, free and easy to use.  My 10-year-old daughter told me to make sure I mention that it's important to create a login so you can save your progress.  Apparently she spent hours working through levels and getting 4 & 5-star ratings (out of 5). She was so proud of herself.   The next time she practiced she'd lost all her history.  She'd done the work without logging on. Gutted.  

Final Thoughts

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of kids and teens spending hours a day on devices and laptops.  But I do accept that they're here to stay.  If we can help make digital life easier for our kids by helping them use keyboards more efficiently, we might as well get on and do it.   

We can whinge about pencil grip and handwriting, but that's not going to get anyone far. Those skills are covered in schools.   If we can encourage them to develop a productivity skill at home that they're likely to use daily, touch typing is a great place to start. 

Resources

TypingClub The free online program my kids have been working through.  They each have a separate login so they can save their progress.  It's become a bit of a competition as to who has the fastest speed and highest accuracy.   

Question:  What are your thoughts on touch typing? Have your kids given it a try? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.