As the holidays are fast approaching, and parents are trying to figure out the perfect gift for their kids, I thought this would be a great time to talk about children and technology. Should young children have laptop computers, iphones,androids and/or kindles? By young, I am talking about preschool-aged kiddos. And apparently there are are some thoughtful parents who understand that technology should not br the centerpiece of early childhood.
Every year the organization Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood takes a poll as to which toy should be named WORST TOY OF THE YEAR. And the winner of the 2011 TOADY award …..drumroll please…..Capturing 43% of the vote, the Vinci Touchscreen Mobile Learning Tablet has won the2011 TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for Worst Toy of the Year. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/
I cannot contain my delight to know that parents saw through the hype of this “toy.” Meander over to the product’s website http://www.vincigenius.com/ and you will discover that this system (i.e. toy) was developed by a mom and designed (i.e. targeted ) for toddlers and preschoolers. It even has objectives and sites constructive play(their definition: play to have fun, play to be happy, yet play with a structure and objectives)as the driving motivation for parents, grandparents, and others to purchase this “toy.” They even drag Dr. George Forman into the fray,citing his well-respected work, “Constructive Play: Applying Piaget in the Preschool” (http://www.videatives.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=1&products_id=99) on their website as to give credibility to their “system.” No where in this tome does Dr. Forman condone or condemn technology in the preschool setting, and it is deplorable, and unethical to use such tactics to sell an “educational” toy. The first level, called “Curious” leads consumers to believe that babies need to be exposed to such ideas as:
Words and short sentences
Understanding the idea of 1 vs. more, single vs. plural
Foods, animals and people as categories
Aren’t children from birth exposed to these concepts in natural ways? A mother holding her baby models emotions. As the brain matures it starts to understand about numeracy and classification. Piaget would be appalled at how his ideas are being twisted in order to sell an “educational” product. What children need is human interaction.
Want some ideas about what to buy your child for the holidays?
Take a page from Geekdad – a regular dad who writes about technology for wired.com – says these are the best toys of all time:
2. a box
I would like to add a couple of other “musts” that you should consider purchasing for your preschooler –
-blocks- all shapes, sizes, and textures (why? here’s the answer http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/Topics/Toys/Building+Blocks+and+Toys.html)
-books – all shapes, sizes, and topics (check out this link for ideas on books for toddlers: http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-learning/best-books-for-toddlers.aspx)
-a beanbag chair, a big pillow, and a soft rug to put them on.
-a worm farm, ant farm, sea monkeys
-toy cars, dump trucks – promotes large muscle activity and imagination
-pull toys – promotes large muscle activity
If you really feel the need to include some sort of technology under the tree or bush- cameras and tape recorders are good options. Kids like to take pictures (and videos)of their creations and talk about their creations. It encourages literacy and language development. It also allows parents to clean up when the kids know that there is a record of what they did and they can show it to others.
Take it from a veteran early child care professional and not a marketing guru. Like I shared with a colleague recently – computers will always be around, and what we think is important computer education today for children will be obsolete by the time they grow up. Give your kids the gift of human interaction this holiday season. Build a tower. Buy a copy of your favorite childhood book and share it with your child. Purchase a sea monkey tank and watch their movements, especially when you shine a light on them when it gets dark. These kind of gifts yield so much more than a overpriced piece of plastic that they will outgrow in a couple of years. The memories your make with your child with my suggestions will last a lifetime.