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"Educational" toys

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
My DD is close to 3YO and I am planning to homeschool her in a more unschooling style. I'm a newbie at all this -- I've only just begun to read and am starting to slightly understand what some of this might mean.

Yesterday my MIL gave DD a Leapfrog Scribble and Write (I never heard of it but here is a link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ima...toys-and-games). I am generally one to avoid electronics. We don't even watch TV; just our family lifestyle.

Basically, it is a small computerized toy that has LED lights beneath a magnadoodle-type screen. A voice tells you to draw a line from "here to here" while the lights blink and form a line, etc. and the kid is supposed to trace it. It also tells the kid to draw shapes, etc.

I really can't stand the rote tracing it encourages. DD has been spelling out words with fridge magnets of her own accord for a month or two now and had started asking me to show her how to write letters just a few weeks ago. And I was happy with this. So naturally, she loves this thing. I just have a problem with computerized toys -- especially like this one that are so... IDK, demanding maybe is the word? But if I don't let her enjoy something she likes, especially something that encourages learning, am I controlling in a bad way?

Thoughts please!!! And please, any advice on how to proceed with a potentially unschooled preschooler who shows tendencies of WANTING to be "schooled."
post #2 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsCCM View Post

But if I don't let her enjoy something she likes, especially something that encourages learning, am I controlling in a bad way?
Well, obviously, our kids are not always going to like the same things we do. There have been times when I've joined in with what my kids liked, not because I had any interest at all in the activity, but because THEY loved it and I wanted to join THEM and to get a better understanding of what they liked about the thing.

Sometimes, it led to me developing a new interest of my own, other times the activity just wasn't for me but I could still be supportive of them engaging in it.

So, I don't think you have to like everything she does, but I think being open is important--especially as they get older.

Quote:
And please, any advice on how to proceed with a potentially unschooled preschooler who shows tendencies of WANTING to be "schooled."
I'd hesitate to label her as wanting to be schooled at this point. I think she wants to LEARN and this gadget has caught her attention. Maybe she will end up following a more traditional, schoolish, academic path--or maybe the novelty of this will wear off quickly and she'll move on. When my kids were young, often the electronic-flashing light-talking things looked very interesting at first, but the spoon-feeding that these "educational toys" provided soon proved to be less than they hoped for and they got shelved.

I'd just continue to answer your dd's questions, show her how to do things when she asks, and let her play with the toy as she wants.
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice.

I guess it is the blinking lights, the demanding voice, and the annoying music that really just turns me off. For her, I think a lot of it is that she loves her magnadoodle and this toy reminds her of it but with a lot of bells and whistles attached -- with the added fun of her new interest in writing letters. Part of me feels scared of her learning such a big skill as writing letters from some flashy toy that I don't like. Maybe a little bit of feeling like she is too young to be writing yet -- she has a very long attention span and will really stick with something she likes until she gets it, so I imagine she won't be putting this toy down anytime soon.

True, some of the electronic toys she's been given in the past lost their luster within days or weeks (there is only one other she likes but I keep it in the car for long rides).
This is the first time I'm really struggling with something like this. I think I need to just let go. What is the worst that can happen? She can learn to write letters....
post #4 of 31
I had one child who didn't care for electronic toys, and then a child who loved anything that would make noise / make lights if you pressed a button. They have different learning styles, but neither is into "schoolish" things, not even close.

I don't even think that in your case the toy encourages "rot" tracing--she's following directions and figuring out a new toy. She's only 2, not even a "preschooler!" (in my books, just a baby ). I also wouldn't jump to conclusions about tendencies.

I kind of think the toy is pretty cool If she likes it, I'd let her play, without overanalysing. Chances are, she'll forget about it pretty soon and move into new things!

Edit: I didn't see your second post as I posted mine. I can see this toy being annoying to me as well And you seem already more at ease with the toy.

Do you feel uncomfortable with her being so young and learning writing letters, or with the fact that your "job" of teaching her writing is being taken away by a toy?
post #5 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsCCM View Post

This is the first time I'm really struggling with something like this. I think I need to just let go. What is the worst that can happen? She can learn to write letters....
I think you are on the right track. Sure it's not a toy you would have bought, but her grandmother gave it to her and she's enjoying it. That's really a nice thing. You are probably seeing for the first time how unschooling (and all homeschooling, really) doesn't always go according to plan! That's OK, lots of times it ends up even better, but in any case you can't really go wrong letting your child play with a toy she's having a good time with.
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Do you feel uncomfortable with her being so young and learning writing letters, or with the fact that your "job" of teaching her writing is being taken away by a toy?[/QUOTE]

Both.

I've just begun to discover that my "natural" way of homeschooling seems to fit in more with an unschooling approach. We do tons of outdoor activities; I focus on having her experience lots of different environments but mainly from an outdoors/artistic/natural-type perspective. I guess in that respect I need to stop "guiding" her so much. She does love everything we do. I just wasn't ready or wanting her to be doing such academic-related stuff as she is. (i.e., she's spelling and sounding out words and so on and I've tried to not focus on that stuff). That was part of the draw for me to homeschooling and unschooling; I thought we would get to focus more on her being a kid (partly b/c she IS very serious and more of a bookworm) and this stuff feels to advanced for a 2YO IMO. Her interests are her interests, period. It's going to be hard for me to get past it but I am going to try!!

And yes... I was looking forward to showing her how to draw the lines for letters!

ETA: I don't know how to post on here. The first part was supposed to be someone's quote, and the unhappy face was supposed to be at the end of my post. ahhhh...
post #7 of 31
Quote:
I just wasn't ready or wanting her to be doing such academic-related stuff as she is...That was part of the draw for me to homeschooling and unschooling; I thought we would get to focus more on her being a kid...

By homeschooling you'll get to focus more on her being the kid she is--whether that means writing letters or painting and singing or looking through a microscope or splashing in a puddle or whatever, at whatever age. Maybe it would help to try and stop catagorizing things as "academic" or "non-academic." Could her interests and activities just be things she wants to do?

Unschooling isn't about slowing the process down (although I hear you about having more time to be a kid--really!) I think it's more about throwing out our ideas about what and when a kid "should" be doing something and helping them to do what they need to do when they feel ready, regardless if that means writing at 2 or 5 or 8, and regardless if they want to learn algebra or the art of puppetry.

School takes a lot of time away from kids by telling them what to do and what to think about. Unschooling will give her more time--time to do what she feels is important, not so much what someone else thinks she should think is important.

Quote:
Her interests are her interests, period. It's going to be hard for me to get past it but I am going to try!!
The good news is, she's still so very little--you'll have lots of time to get used to this!

Oh, and on the quotations thing: type a left bracket [ then the word QUOTE in caps, then a right bracket ] to begin a quote. To end a quote, type a left bracket [ slash / then the word QUOTE and a right bracket ] (No spaces in between.)
post #8 of 31
I hear ya on the "educational toys" - this was a hill I opted to die on with my mother. I did not want to foster a dependance on or addiction to this stuff. My mom even said, "this is one toy, it's hardly going to change her life" and I said "oh yeah? What happens when she outgrows this program? Aren't you going to buy another one? And another one? Or are we just going to go back to paper and pencil?"

In your situation, where your DD already discovered and likes the toy (I didn't even give my DD a chance with the one my mom bought) - is it possible to limit it to one program only? So when she's bored with tracing lines, for example, it will just get set aside and then go bye-bye?

If you can't limit it, then I might just let her play with it but be sure no additional programs are added, and no new devices are introduced. She will eventually put it aside.

As for her wanting to be "schooled" - like a PP said, I think she just wants to learn. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion with the term unschooling, because it runs the gamut from "child-led interests but traditional methods such as books, phonics and so on - all without pressure and based on the child's interests and not a schedule" to "limit nothing and introduce nothing." I'm the former sort, so if I saw my kid wanting to learn letters, I'd paste a letter chart to the wall, start pointing out letters when I'm reading to her, and see if she's interested in learning to write the letters. In other words, I'd just start!

It doesn't have to be like a "but she needs to be a child and just play!" thing. My unschooling with my 4 year old doesn't look anything like "school" - we don't sit at the table at 9am and start doing workbooks. But what it does look like is that she'll ask me a question and it will lead to her wanting to write a word. And we'll sit and we'll write words until she's ready to do something else. Do we do workbooks? Yup! Because she wants to She'll bring a workbook to me and say "can we do this?" This is child-led and part of her play. She loves it. I do not ever say "now it's time to learn your letters, put your toys away now and start with this page."
post #9 of 31
Quote:
Oh, and on the quotations thing: type a left bracket [ then the word QUOTE in caps, then a right bracket ] to begin a quote. To end a quote, type a left bracket [ slash / then the word QUOTE and a right bracket ] (No spaces in between.)
[/QUOTE]

Or you select the text you want to quote, and then click on Wrap [Quote] icon, which is the third from the right (yellowish quote bubble), above your text window.

You'd need to click 'QUOTE' / reply with quote when you are replying to a post.

There's also the multiple quote option, but I haven't tried it yet.
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 

"Educational" Toys

Quote:
By homeschooling you'll get to focus more on her being the kid she is--whether that means writing letters or painting and singing or looking through a microscope or splashing in a puddle or whatever, at whatever age. Maybe it would help to try and stop catagorizing things as "academic" or "non-academic." Could her interests and activities just be things she wants to do?

Unschooling isn't about slowing the process down
Yes, I guess I was getting too hung up on making sure she is only "playing."

I'm so thankful for the advice here. It helps me put things in perspective!

Now if I could only learn how to quote/reply, etc. Thanks for the help!
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
If you can't limit it, then I might just let her play with it but be sure no additional programs are added, and no new devices are introduced. She will eventually put it aside.
Definitely. Fortunately, DH seems to be onboard about these "educational" games too. I just feel like they are like "brain-drain." I'll probably limit the amount of time she spends on it. Like, it's perfect for when I need to go do a load of laundry!


Quote:
Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion with the term unschooling, because it runs the gamut from "child-led interests but traditional methods such as books, phonics and so on - all without pressure and based on the child's interests and not a schedule" to "limit nothing and introduce nothing." I'm the former sort, so if I saw my kid wanting to learn letters, I'd paste a letter chart to the wall, start pointing out letters when I'm reading to her, and see if she's interested in learning to write the letters. In other words, I'd just start!
I'm just starting out learning about unschooling. DH is on the fence about homeschooling (but definitely very open to), and I haven't even mentioned unschooling to him. But whenever I talk about how DD will able to take horseback riding lessons during the day if she wants, or have private lessons during the day to pursue her interests and skills (when she gets older), or how we'll be able to spend a day learning at the beach instead of something more formal, he gets excited about it. So I think he is unwittingly agreeing to a more unschooling style. I agree that I will likely be more of the former style as well. Although at almost 3YO nothing is for sure yet! I definitely don't want to rule anything out.
post #12 of 31
My son seems to only get interested in and able to do things when he's ready for them. I could try now and then to get him to copy letters, or another example to count things, or anything else through games or lessons. If he's not ready he wouldn't do it. Eventually, without any prompting beyond the availability of a toy or just doing stuff himself, he'll suddenly be able to do it. I just got him some write on and wipe off letter tracing things because last week he could suddenly draw letters and liked to practice. I guess what I mean is, if she's not ready for it she won't like it and will lose interest or play with it "wrong" instead. No harm done.
post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I guess what I mean is, if she's not ready for it she won't like it and will lose interest or play with it "wrong" instead. No harm done.
Oh, she is interested in it for sure. She does get a little frustrated though, and she wants me to help her (by holding her hand with the "pen" in it). I guess this is the age a lot of kids start getting interested in writing letters and drawing shapes, as their drawings also start to become a little more realistic.

I think part of it too, is that DD is just starting to really express her interests. Up until now she was perfectly happy playing outside, going to the horse stables, swimming in the river, etc. (all things I like to do) and I was caught off-guard by her more "grown-up" interest that required me to "help" her to write and draw on that annoying toy.

I'm sincerely glad for this board b/c I don't know where else to go for this kind of feedback. Thanks again everyone!

ETA: I have decided to let her play with it but only for limited time sessions, b/c she gets frustrated after awhile. I also have to be semi-available to help her out. But I'm going to tell DH to talk to MIL about not getting anymore electronic educational toys without talking to us first.
post #14 of 31
My SIL works for Leapfrog and we're inundated with their toys
And the one you have mentioned too.
Both my 3 yo and almost 6 yo spent the first week or so doing the drawing and they found it quite entertaining. Then they put the thing down and start doing water colors instead, (and to my happy surprise) the electronic toy did not diminish them or their abilities whatsoever. In fact they found it entertaining and fun, plus they learned new geometric shapes, often showing off what they did. It also saves on paper while they learn to do all kinds of shapes. See it for what is is, just fun, an addition to other art work.
Oh, and I should mention that when my first dd was little (around 1-2 yo) I was appalled by educational/plastic/video/talking games and toys and preferred wooden toys, things that would intrigue them and were better for our planet/health/eyes/hands, etc. Now after seeing how they play with some of these "educational toys" I notice that they are in fact enriching them in ways that I couldn't predict. As I write this, my 5yo is on youtube watching cheetahs hunting gazelles, and I have learned to trust her that she is getting exactly what she needs. This has inspired her so much that she wears her cheetah outfits when she races, and a few weeks ago won her first race, a 1/2 run, and she got a gold medal as well as a picture and story in the newspaper about how she runs as a cheetah. What I'm saying is, trust your child and also know that even we as adults can get frustrated with electronic toys when they don't behave to our liking. Maybe focus on showing her how to let go and do something else when she gets frustrated.
post #15 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
As I write this, my 5yo is on youtube watching cheetahs hunting gazelles, and I have learned to trust her that she is getting exactly what she needs. This has inspired her so much that she wears her cheetah outfits when she races, and a few weeks ago won her first race, a 1/2 run, and she got a gold medal as well as a picture and story in the newspaper about how she runs as a cheetah.
That is so awesome!! We don't watch TV but have Netflix. I was originally thinking "NO TV" but tried out a documentary with her occasionally. DD's favorite is March of the Penguins. She also watches some coral reef documentaries and a couple nature things. I limit it to once a week (and that's if she asks -- sometimes a few weeks go by without a "movie"). But you're right -- it is amazing what they pick up and learn. You're right about having a balance. I couldn't imagine our life without some popcorn and March of the Penguins on a rainy day!

Quote:
Maybe focus on showing her how to let go and do something else when she gets frustrated.
Thanks for this. It seems so obvious and simple but I overlooked that opportunity.
post #16 of 31
I don't know about the merits of the toy, but the ones I've seen like that were to use. I'm an adult, I've done calligraphy, used touch screen computers, I'm pretty darn confident of where I'm putting a stylus. Could NOT get those learning toy things to accept my input more than half the time.

And they've often got a ton of extraneous talking for the families that worship praise. More time on condescending feedback than on letting the kid actually work on the skill that's supposedly being taught.

My inclination would be to exchange it, thrift it, or trash it. You can try it out yourself first and see if it sucks less than other ones.
post #17 of 31
Such toys may be harmless entertainment, but you need not feel obligated by the idea that they are "educational."

And yes, I would limit them.
post #18 of 31
I struggle with this too. My MIL just gave my dd a toy laptop that teaches shapes and colors for her first birthday. I really dislike these kinds of educational toys, partly because I swear they make these things just so grandparents and others can give them to the kids to annoy the parents But also because of the idea that a 6month old baby (the toy is labelled 6m+) should be trying to learn shapes and colors.

In reality I know that she'll really just bang around on it, and if anything my 4 year old will play with it more than she does just because he loves anything with buttons and beeping annoying sounds It may be labelled educational, but unless I'm intentionally trying to use it to teach them I doubt it will do any harm.

Still, we are getting rid of it because of the annoyance factor. If it was just this one toy I'd probably keep it around for a while until the kids got tired of it, but we got a whole box of beeping flashing toys and I'm just done with it right now. It's easier to just shuffle it out the door before the kids see it if at all possible.
post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I really dislike these kinds of educational toys, partly because I swear they make these things just so grandparents and others can give them to the kids to annoy the parents
Seriously! Marketers definitely know what they are doing. Slap "educational" on any blinking, beeping thing with letters, shapes, etc. on it and almost every 65-year-old woman thinks it's worth it's weight in gold. Of course I'm being sarcastic. My MIL thinks that b/c my daughter is so "smart" (her words) she needs to constantly "encourage" her with all this so-called educational stimuli. Annoying!

But you did kind of hit the nail on the head here for me. Part of why I so disliked the toy was b/c it was from MIL -- whom I can't even mention homeschooling in front of without her getting a totally frightened look and shaking her head back and forth while trying to formulate sentences. Aghhhh.
post #20 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsCCM View Post
But you did kind of hit the nail on the head here for me. Part of why I so disliked the toy was b/c it was from MIL -- whom I can't even mention homeschooling in front of without her getting a totally frightened look and shaking her head back and forth while trying to formulate sentences. Aghhhh.
I feel your pain! My MIL thinks we are nuts, and no matter how we try to explain our approach, or how incredible she knows my kids are, she just. doesn't. get. it. And *never* will -- her brain just isn't wired to understand it! (She's a waaaaay old school teacher, all about the worksheets!)
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