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Plugged in/Turned off

by mamamonster — last modified Jan 15, 2008 10:35 AM

I'm having second thoughts about my kids' array of electronic toys. They're fun and educational-- but that's just the problem.

The holidays brought us many blessings including a large pile of gifts, many of which are electonic gadgets.  And though, I bought some of them myself,  I'm having second thoughts about my kids' array of electronic toys.

While they have and enjoy plenty of non-electronic/non-high tech play things-- dirt, for example, most of their new, and therefore most exciting toys are electro-gizmos.

We have the remote controlled toys, for example. Some monster trucks and a flying dragon fly. Ok. Those are cool. You can take them outside and drive them around.

There's the mini-game player. There's the talking Solar System board. There's the Smart Cycle which is like a videogame/bicycle. They're all pretty fun and they're supposed to be educational.

Actually, that's where the problem comes in. What are these toys really for? I think parents buy them for two reasons:

1. to occupy their kids
2. to feel like their kids are learning something useful

While I can't argue that kids don't need to be occupied sometimes-- after all, parents can't and shouldn't be 24/7 entertainment machines-- I do wonder if plugging them in is the best way to do that.

And if they're supposed to be learning something, can't they learn things without being plugged in? Really, just learning how to occupy yourself without flashing lights and beeping sounds is one of the most important things a person can learn.

As for academics, while I have heard stories of people who claim that their children learned to read with video games, my kids are getting that elsewhere. I mean, if the only way your kids are interested in reading or numbers is in a video game, go for it. Whatever works. But 100 years ago, 7 year olds were expected to learn Latin and French in addition to English grammar and mathematics with nary a video game in sight, so I feel certain that it's possible.

I'm not going to run out and get my kids a stuffy classical tutor. In fact, rather than all of that fancy Latin or even English grammar, I hope my kids learn creativity and curiosity. I want them to learn to explore the world with wonder and to be excited about what they discover.

That's exactly what the Smartcycle and other electronic toys can't give them.

I'm not going to take their toys away. But I am going to make sure to give them plenty of my attention, play dates and time outside connecting with nature-- which is what they really want anyway.


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