SandboxTablets
Out of the Sandbox

Keeping Tabs(lets) on the Kid(lets)

Claire Green, Sandbox Summit co-founder and president of Parents' Choice Foundation, plays with toys and tools every single day. Although she often admits we've "crossed the digital Rubicon" when it comes to play, she never stops believing in creating balance. Here's her take on the explosion of tablets.
November 21, 2012

Claire Green, Sandbox Summit co-founder and president of Parents’ Choice Foundation, plays with toys and tools every single day. Although she often admits we’ve “crossed the digital Rubicon” when it comes to play, she never stops believing in creating balance. Here’s her take on the explosion of tablets.

Tablets are all the rage. That may not be news to the initiated, the converted, or the dependent. But it certainly seems newsworthy as we jump feet first into holiday shopping for kids.  Parents have to  consider whether to buy a “kids’ tablet” or go for broke (sometimes literally) and spring for the iPad Mini, new iPad, Microsoft Surface, Nexus7, or Kindle Fire HD .New to this year’s Santa lists are the Lexibook, Meep, Kurio, and Tabeo – vying for a spot on the kids’ aisle shelves and on anybody’s hot list.

From all indications, kids love tablets. And I’m willing to bet millions will not be disappointed if they find one covered in gift wrap. I’ve often said that the reason kids intuitively understand the touch screen is that the swiping motion so closely mimics swiping a finger across the icing on a cupcake. It’s that tempting, and the results can be that delicious. There can be enormous power in a tiny index finger. When a child swipes the screen, she’s chosen an elective course.  And that’s potent stuff. Putting the child in the driver’s seat of playful learning encourages curiosity, propels discovery, and fuels learning.

Many parents can’t seem to get enough of their tablets, so it’s not surprising they want their kids to embrace them. You can tell a lot about a person from her home screen. It’s easy to spot an iPad loving parent of young children. Familiar icons of Duck, Duck, Moose and Toca Bocca apps pepper the page.  A bit older and Nosy Crow delights. Then it’s onto the sizzle of Vito Technology’s Sky and Solar Walk apps and DIY Nano. There is, quite literally, something for everyone.

But let’s face it. Digital tablets are not like the originals created on the top of a mountain. (Oops, are there mountains in Cupertino?) Tablets are a tool, and a toy. They’re not something by which we should define our lives, or our children’s. A tablet is an accessory, not an appendage. A tablet is a vehicle, not a value.

Study after study says what kids want most is to spend time playing with a parent.  Playing with your children and using a tablet is part, but not all of the fun. Pillow fights, blowing bubbles, making and eating Thanksgiving leftovers are best done in 3D -  aka in person and unplugged. This week, use your tablets to scout out Black Friday specials. Then free up your fingers to hold hands with your kids.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Let me know your thoughts at Claire@SandboxSummit.org

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