My latest Guardian column, "Jack and the interstalk: why the computer is not a scary monster," explains the way my 2.5-year-old daughter and I use my computer as part of our imaginative play and storytelling, using YouTube searches, Flickr image searches, paper story books, toys, and trips around town to play and explore.
Now that she's more active, she usually requests something – often something from YouTube (we also download her favourite YouTube clips to our laptops, using deturl.com), or she'll start feeding me keywords to search on, like "doggy and bunny" and we'll have a look at what comes up. It's nice sharing a screen with her. She points at things in her video she likes and asks me about them (pausable video is great for this!), or I notice stuff I want to point out to her. At the same time, she also looks at my screen – browser windows, email attachments, etc – and asks me about them, too.
But the fun comes when we incorporate all this into our storytelling play. It started with Jack and the Beanstalk. I told her the story one morning while we were on summer vacation. She loved the booming FEE FI FOE FUM! but she was puzzled by unfamiliar ideas like beanstalks, castles, harps and golden eggs. So I pulled up some images of them (using Flickr image search). Later, I found two or three different animated versions of Jack's story on YouTube, including the absolutely smashing Max Fleischer 1933 version. These really interested Poesy (especially the differences between all the adaptations), so one evening we made a Lego beanstalk and had an amazing time running around the house, play-acting Jack and the Beanstalk with various stuffed animals and such as characters. We made a golden egg out of wadded up aluminium foil, and a harp out of a coat-hanger, tape and string, and chased up and down the stairs bellowing giant-noises at one another.
Then we went back to YouTube and watched more harps, made sure to look at the geese the next Saturday at Hackney City Farm, and now every time we serve something small and bean-like with a meal at home, there's inevitably a grabbing up of two or three of them and tossing them out the window while shouting, "Magic beans! Magic beans! You were supposed to sell the cow for money!" Great fun.