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The internet explained for 4 year old kids

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Yesterday, after receiving the question that every parent is afraid of, I spent 40 minutes explaining the answer to my 4 year old daughter Nathalie, the answer to the fateful question: Hey Dad, what’s the internet?.

Through many drawings and simple explanations, I was able to make her understand (and I asked her several questions to double check it), once I told about my success on Google Plus, many people asked me to share both the explanation and the drawings and so, here they are.

Before I started discussing computers, digital content and data transfer, I began with a simple example.

The connected houses example

Imagine that Nathalie wants to play with the wooden horse of her friend Malu, who lives at 45 minutes of our house, and that there is a underground tunnel that allow us to reach far places rapidly. She will only have to enter the tunnel and she will almost instantly in Malu’s house to play with the horse, then she will be able to come back at any moment.

Now let’s imagine the houses of all the children around the world connected through this tunnel, allowing us to enjoy the toys of every kid at any time, as long as the kid allows it, of course.

Each kid will be able to decide whether he wants to share or not his toys at the tunnel’s entrance, or indicate which ones he wants to share and which ones not.

The example ended here, though I’d probably be able to extend a little bit by telling here that not every house has a tunnel and that is possible that many kids want to play with the same toy at the same time and that it’s not possible to break other kids’ toys (well in fact you can, but that will only make things complicated)

Once she understood the metaphor and I asked all the necessary questions to make sure she have understood all the advantages of having a tunnel like that, we began with the Internet, but not before I show you the drawing I conceived as I was explaining the topic.

children01

Computers, telephones and TV in the magic tube

To explain the internet, I used the world of film-making process as an example. She is acquainted to see online movies as well as on TV. Sometimes we watch cartoons together on YouTube, therefore the word Internet showed up with a certain frequency day after day.

Imagine that we’re watching cartoons on the computer and we want that our friend Malu can watch them as well. One way will be lending her the DVD and wait to have it back the next day, but what if there is a very long tube that can carry the image and sound to Malu’s PC?, that would be much better.

We build the magic tube and then we ask Malu to hook it to her PC (or her TV, which can also be done). Once the tube is fully operating, we can see the movie with Malu at the same time.

Now connect more computers to the tube and let’s take a glance at what we can observe in them. We see that a child in China has put a new cartoon on the tube, while another kid in Argentina has put some pictures of his latest trip and another boy in France has put his coloring book.

If all the computers were connected between each other, we would be able to see what others see, play the things they play and even talk through the tube so others can listen to us … that’s how she talks with her grandparents, through the magic tube that in this case connects our computer with theirs.

On the same way that the tunnel connects houses, every kid in the world can decide which movies he wants to share, which pictures he want us to see, what games is he going to leave on the tube, etc.

If one day the tube is not functioning, then you will only be able to see what’s inside your computer, therefore you won’t be able to look for videos in other kids’ computers, you will not be able to talk with your grandparents and you will be also unable to find new video games … which is exactly what happens when Daddy says that the internet is down.

You can find many things in those cables, jungle books, underwater photos … anything that other people have created and then put on the tube to share with the rest of the world.

At this point, Nathalie asked me if it was possible to put on the tube the drawing she made yesterday so other kids can see it. I answered yes and that she could even receive opinions and comments about the color she chose for the sky or the style she gave to the flowers.

Just like before, I skipped the fact that the Internet is not only a P2P network, that there are servers and access filters, though once the idea of interconnected computers around the world matures, it will be easy, within a few months, to explain the concept of servers (at the end it’s just adding the concept of big computers with lots of tubes connected to them and a gatekeeper watching over the tubes.

The second drawing is similar to the first one:

children02

Problems found:

  1. Now she want us to buy a TV with internet connection, just like Malu’s, that way she will be able to see the Argentinian kid photos on a big screen while sitting on the couch.
  2. When I drew grandpa’s telephone, I made a drawing similar to the ones we make during our childhood, with the earpiece and the little numbers’ wheel … I had to erase it when she told me that she had no clue about what that drawing meant.
  3. I had to explain her why she cannot put the Snow White DVD on the magic tube, though that explanation was worse than the previous one.

Original link: Explicando Internet a una niña de 4 años

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112 Responses to “The internet explained for 4 year old kids”

  1. Its a very nice way of explaining the internet to a 4 year old kid. Kids understand it well if something is taught to them through drawings and sketches. I would show this to my kids and try make them understand the concept of internet.

    • Hey thanks a lot Samantha!, we’re glad you’re starting to enjoy our articles, let us know how it goes with your children :)…

    • That’s a very adult perspective

          Kids learn and understand best when they’re given open, basic skeletons they can piece together with their own ideas, not because something is a picture.
          Don’t “talk kid” to a kid; using extra words and ideas like “magic” opens up “relevances of meaning” that throw buckets of possibilities you might not have meant to include, and its demeaning – to most little kids, any grown-up being demeaning usually ends up as “grown-up with a speech impediment looking foolish.”

          Adults like ideas and details. What teens do with a few choice innuendos adults feel the need to exacting and explicit.
          What if you stepped back to 4 years old? 

           I like the approach of showing connections between things, but you need to be more carefully aware about all the properties of the ideas you might use.
          Use simple imagery phrasing.
          A “tube” doesn’t care what goes through it for example, but a “road” (information highway :D) has stop lights, gates, and more options.

          What if you tried saying “The internet is a way of connecting idea machines around the world. Ideas come from people, so they’re like people too. Some ideas are silly, and some are so scary grown-ups get hurt too. 
         Every idea machine belongs to someone, and they can do different things, take pictures, webcam, tell stories, (Kid jumps, “Daddy’s book!” :D) play video games, spend money, and more. They even have their own names and addresses so you know where the machine is and what its been doing.
         It’s another place between the real world and imagination, and like going outside its fun and just as scary.

  2. hannamay
    August 18th

    I agree with you Samantha, if everything well explained even a 4 year old child can do understand…

  3. Really nice explanation. Those stumper questions are tough but it sounds like you did a good job of explaining. I’ll have to remember this for my little guy.

  4. haha Nice, You explained it well :D I understood internet when i was hope so 10 :D too late i know :P at present em 16 :P :D

  5. Explaining things to kids is a great test for how well we really understand them!

  6. The way we explain it is that the computer helps us to find things out (give examples that s/he would understand!) and that the internet is something on the computer that we use to find the information. Then we show the children an example on the whiteboard or computer. They can understand the rest up when they’re older!

  7. This was really great! An article that actually helped me! I try to talk to kids on their level but it never dawned on me to draw pictures! Oh wow….i’m laughing to myself because after reading this it seems a little obvious…well I’m on my way to go buy a pack of crayons and lots of paper!! (By the way, never really understood the internet myself! Thanks for your drawings!)

  8. This is cute…I never thought to try and illustrate it this way for my daughter. She just asks, where is the internet? Is it in the sky? Is it in space? I’ll have to draw it out like this to show her.

  9. I love to read this type of stuff. Good and attractive information I take from it..Thank you for posting such a nice article.

  10. Dina Jones
    December 16th

    Such a great information and I’ve been looking for this..  

  11. I am very enjoyed for this side. Its a nice topic. It help me very much to solve some problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. I think it may be help all of you. Thanks.

  12. maria@joint flex
    January 19th

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    January 27th

    enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful. 

  15. Oh wow. That’s a really great explanation. I must say it is often much more difficult tryin to answer a child’s question than an “adult” question. However, I think it is really a good opportunity for us to discover exactly how good we have grasped the fundamentals of any topics.

  16. Electrician Brisbane
    January 29th

    Awesome way to explain to your kids, and the diagrams do ok too :) my oldest is 3 so not quite at the age where ill expect those questions, but ill have to do my best too remember this article, or you make sure your blog is still around for me :) thanks for this

    • Thank you for the recognition to our work. Be on the lookout for upcoming posts on the matter. Best regards ….

  17. It is very interesting for me to read that article. Thank author for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

  18. buy curcumin
    January 31st

    information on the fit is good enough to increase my knowledge further

    • You’re welcome, always glad to see that our pieces are of great use to visitors’ projects. Best regards

  19. Como de costumbre, estoy buscando alguna información útil, inmediatamente me encontré con este post y ganar un poco de trabajo de información muy útil como un gran cerebro para su uso.

  20. maquinas de coser
    February 1st

    Thanks to a brilliant effort in publishing your article. One can be more informative as this. There are many things I can know only after reading your wonderful article.

    • Thank you for the recognition to our work. Be on the lookout for upcoming posts on the matter. Best regards

  21. maquinas de coser
    February 1st

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come back.

  22. Explaining it like in this article to a 4 year old (or older) makes more sense than covering all the technical jargon in the telecommunications industry and the IP networking world. e.g. numbers’ wheel instead of talking about pulse dialing for the rotary dial telephone in the analog world which was later to be improved upon with digital pulse-coded modulation and time-division multiplex schemes …

  23. Just like any safety issue, it’s wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities.

  24. hey sir .Its a very nice to way to explained internet to a 4 year kids .your way of explaining with drawing is very nice .provide very useful info with us .

  25. Children at age four on the Internet. The world is changing ….. quickly.

  26. Oh man, you are genius! I would never even know where to start on explaining how Internet works. It is definitely an amazing and quite complicated thing at the same time. Thanks for sharing. It was quite entertaining!

  27. graphics play magic when one wants to explain stuff to children.though one has to be prepared for subsequent questions upon finishing up the drawing

  28. Nice, one of the best explanation to do for the youngster, good to hear that your daughter is asking you questions, whether about the technology or not, it help the kids to understand the world at very young age. :) I have a five year old cousin, she doesn’t ask about internet, instead she ask if we have plants vs zombies installed whenever she sees computers or cellphones. :)

    Enjoyed reading it. :)

  29. wow.. this is what i am searching for.. nice post, i need something like this :D thanks., Bookmarked your fantastic website. Really good work, unique writing style!…

  30. Hehe – it wont be long before your kids are explaining the Internet to YOU!.. Cute :)

  31. I really think that graphics play magic when dealing with children. The illustrations trigger something in the minds of little children, which makes the lessons more interactive.

  32. I just started out blogging and I’m looking for good resources in the internet. Your blog seems good, might be going down my bookmarks. Thanks and pay my blog a visit sometime. :)

    • editorial
      March 26th

      Hello Matt! Feel free to bookmark this blog, for I’ll be making as much entries as I can, and there’s already a lot of content on it that you’ll be able to review. Regards!

  33. This will really going to help for teaching internet to small kids as it is required very commonly among kids..

    • editorial
      March 26th

      Hey there!, good to see you’re enjoying this article, thanks for your comment, regards!

  34. Great post. thanks for sharing.

  35. rakehs
    April 14th

    This is very interesting post, I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely come back. Thanks for sharing this

  36. Nice idea Samantha it will be amazing to introduce internet to a prep level kid .

  37. I do love the pictures. I think the visual approach is a great way to explain this to children. I’m not sure if my son understands the internet, but I think I might come back to your site and talk him through the pictures.

    • Brilliant!, that’s a great idea, once you have done it, fell free to tell us about your experience.

  38. fast
    April 21st

    The way 4 year olds figure out how to play the latest video games and operate the ipod and wii is beyond comprehension. Understanding internet would be a piece of cake

  39. Lavoie
    April 22nd

    It’s amazing. I think.

  40. Great ^^Thanks for this article

  41. It was quite interesting to go through your blog as the way you explained to your child about what internet is quite innovative. It seems to be the best way through which you can explain to a 4 yr child.

    Thanks for sharing.

  42. Hello my friend! I wish to say that this article is amazing, nice written and include almost all important infos. I would like to see more posts like this .

  43. If we had only had those tunnels. That would have been awesome to be able to play with all the other kids toys! :)

  44. Uncovered your article extremely fascinating certainly. I truly really enjoyed studying it and you simply make very some excellent details. I will bookmark this web site with the long run! Relly great report.

  45. mohit pokhriyal
    May 13th

    thanx for sharing your knowledge with us.amazing blog 

  46. Hahah! That’s one great way to explain kids! For kids, these drawings are more easier to understand than those photoshopped and illustrated ones!

    • Blog1
      May 31st

      Thanks for your comment Raaj, be in the lookout for incoming post. Best!

  47. Love the post, kids are amazing and i am surprised at how young kids actually are working out the internet these days. Back in my day even though i am not that old, most kids only over 13 or 14 knew about computers and mostly that was gaming. Now kids around 6 or 7 can be adept in the basic understandings.. Love the pictures depicting the internet for the young ones. Will tweet..

    • Blog1
      May 31st

      Hi Timon, nowadays kids surely know a lot of computers. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get great content! Take it easy

  48. Very informative post. Tweeted :)

  49. internet is another greatest invention after printing press.  if there is no internet the world will still be reading books and i don’t like reading books at all ..  

    • Designer
      January 21st

      Oh well, just in case: you can still read books on your screen (on almost every device screen nowadays).

  50. Thanks for your article. This was really great! Its a nice topic. It help me very much to solve some of my problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. That’s one great way to explain kids! I think it may be help all of us.

  51. User
    May 7th

    I am impressed as to the ways in which the author delivered the message to us readers. I am curious as to the details and have read and got my answers to my query. It is nice to know that this one here really exist. I would love to track your future posts.

  52. Loved the illustrations!

  53. awesome!!! Your blog is very Informative. Thanks man Thanks alot for helping me as i had already spend my more then 24 hours finding these blogs i am really thankful to you that you have shared them. Appreciated your efforts.

  54. Is it possible that kids will do this type of creativity and research. I wonder this is a great example of brilliant child. But I can’t believe that a child can do this.

    • Designer
      July 23rd

      It’s more like an explanation to a kid than something a kid would do.

  55. this is so cute and latest update. i like this post

    • Designer
      April 2nd

      Thank you for taking the time to check

  56. Great thinking! That rlelay breaks the mold!

  57. Jesse
    October 3rd

    Mold? Like bread germs? :D

      The idea of massproduced-originality-limiting-dimensions is probably going to be a lot less “real” to anyone who’s 4-years-old right now. The “real world” is where you wish customizing your hair and clothes is as easy as making a facebook page, but is more special because its easier to take away.
       The “internet” is where you can be anyone and do anything and you can keep your own stuff without losing it – losing all your ‘net-tech would be like losing your own room and your car at the same time to a Gen-X.
       The current group of 5-and-unders is a generation fueled hard by the cash of their parents with Photoshop, touch phones, and anything as customizable as tech can provide. 
       And most kids will think and feel its normal to be part of groups, travel in packs (even if alone in the real world), have sleepovers of 10+ kids (some brought online), and that stuff like ethnic and racist boundaries are so weird (or for the isolationist kids, make sense) that Martin Luther King Jr. is as strange as their parents telling them their New Zealand buddy isn’t really their friend. 

        I say give it 20-40 years and if things go ok, there’s going to be worlds full of micro-HD and holographic projectors so the internet and the real world blur, all running on greener sources of electricity.
        I even envision DIY clothing you can wirelessly change the graphics on with a phone someday.

         Hopefully however, no matter how much the lines blur, we’ll never have a time when tech is nearly as good as actually going somewhere or hugging your net friend in person for the first time.

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