September 22, 2006

Caitlyn seems to have discovered buttons, the kind you push and get some sort of response from. She has a small collection of such toys, from a dancing bear with excerpts of five classical works to a key chain with sounds for a doorbell, a car horn, and a UFO launching (although it's just as common for her to hold the keys to her ear and say "Ahlo?"). Thinking that maybe more buttons might be interesting, we went looking for our ideal buttoned toy.

Only to find that it apparently doesn't exist. There are lots of toys with buttons and lots of toys that make noise. But they are static. Here's what we were looking for:
  • Something (closed) laptop sized, that has a touch screen that fills a side
  • Color display
  • Water resistant enough to survive repeated wipe-downs after jam-covered fingers get a hold of it
  • A wireless stylus that can be attached or removed depending on activity and/or age of user
  • An USB connection for temporary hook-ups to a parental computer for installation of programs and activities
  • An open architecture (or whatever the proper term is) so that lots of programs/activities could be available. I don't want to be limited to just a single publisher for content. A thriving open-source community that was constantly coming up with new stuff would be fantastic. Also, it would be cool if programming for it was simple enough that the kids/users could get involved.
This devise could be a sketchpad for one user (for use with stylus or fingers), for artistic creations. It could be a "teach me how to write my letters" toy, first with printing and later with cursive. It could display a keyboard and be a "teach me how to type" toy. There could be letter/word games, math/number games, matching games, ebooks (how cool would it be to have a familiar story but with the opportunity to draw the pictures yourself?), and probably all sorts of other things I haven't thought of.

The idea here is to make top (or near-top) technology available to kids, not call a red and blue plastic thing with 5 activities and 20 buttons "My First Laptop". I want a device that's durable enough to survive repeated maulings by toddlers and adaptable enough that it is neat now and still cool and usable when Caitlyn is 3 and 7 and 10. The whole thing should be available for less than $100 (it's a slimmer $100 laptop after all) and new material for it should always be available for $5-$30.

That's not unreasonable, is it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So every once in awhile I check out your site. There are never any comments. Is that disappointing? Otherwise why put things out there? But, then I am just your closest maternal ancestor and don't understand these things. I was thinking of the toy you envision. How about a plastic (durable and washable) box in which you place paper and crayons. Caitlyn could practice letters, illustrate a story, or any number of creative things. As for the USB--Unusually Smart Biological inputter--that's you kiddo. Oh well, just another perspective from the nontechie set. Heck, I can't even get the damn cell phone to work!!!

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the comment of your maternal ancestor, that is just the best solution and I am talking as a mom who's son knew how to use a mouse before he could talk (I am not particularly proud of this). as for learning how to read and write, i now prefer the montessori way, one thing at a time with lots of sensory input! and although i am a fan of kidpix, i prefer the limitations and sensorial aspects of crayons, watercolors, finger paints, scissors and glue. the results look much better on the fridge or in a frame than the printouts from a computer drawing:), besides all the other positive experiences your kid gets. but to not bee entirely negative, i work after all in the computer industry, your idea is way better than any of the existing products in the market!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Ian Gilman said...

Still waiting for the ultimate device, but the Chumby and the ModBook are a couple of interesting steps in the right direction.

9:00 PM  

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