So, screen time. Ken and I have continuous disagreements in this department.
He: I owe my entire childhood imagination to TV! Where would I be without cereal and cartoons? Do you not remember the joy of Sofa Saturday mornings?
She: I owe my entire childhood imagination to books! Where would I be without Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do you not remember the joy of FROLICKING THROUGH NATURE?!
The odd thing here, the really odd thing here, is that Ken grew up with TV and I grew up with books, and Ken is decidedly smarter than I am. BY FAR. Long shot. No question about it. Ask anyone.
(Why yes, now that you mention it, that is annoying! You’re so right!)
The other odd thing here, the other really odd thing here, is that Ken grew up with Spiderman and I grew up with Laura Ingalls, and do you want to guess who frolics through nature now? Who is more up for adventure, for outdoor exploration, for running in waist high grass and tumbling down the hills below?
Hint: It’s not me.
So, I’m not faring particularly well in the screen time debate, currently.
I’m not anti screen time. But I don’t know, I am a little bit. I rarely answer texts within any sort of traditional time frame. I keep my phone on silent. I work strict early morning hours when Bee is asleep and then? Then, the technology goes awayyyyyyyy. It’s gone. Out of sight, out of mind, out of ether, unless I’m using my phone to play The Jackson Five for a rousing kitchen dance party.
I just, I prefer it gone. It makes me anxious, all of that stimulation, so much distraction. I was not gifted with mulit-tasking, and I certainly don’t need the help of a device zzzzzzzzing at me to interrupt my already muddied thoughts.
There are perks, of course. Technology stretches kids, bends their minds and imaginations, offers immense learning opportunities, provides access to ideas new and old, big and small, ordinary and mind-boggling. And when Ken and I started making homeschool plans for Bee’s preschool and kindergarten years, we each chose one clear path to lead her toward.
I knowwwwwwwww. #WhoAmI?
There are a slew of reasons I love the idea of teaching kids to code. I love focusing a toddler’s energy on creating what they love to consume. (Love iPad games? Let’s make one!) I love introducing new ways to solidify the importance of cause and effect – in play, and in life. I love offering critical thinking challenges at a young age. And I love the opportunities a valuable skill like coding might offer in her later years.
But what I didn’t love was more screen time. I didn’t love how programming games were geared toward older children with larger attention spans and more mature thought patterns. And I thought about putting the coding efforts on hold until she was older (even though man, these years are like language sponges – it’s the perfect time!!!!!!).
I found Cubetto.
It’s no Candyland (boring). It’s certainly no Chutes & Ladders (suuuuuper boring). You get to help a tiny little wooden robot find his way home, and it’s the one game Bee asks to play that I offer an emphatic “Yes!!!” — and not because I’m feeling merciful.
It’s fun, that’s all.
It’s coding, minus the screen.
It’s learning, minus the drills.
It’s technology, minus the technology.
Yesterday, Bee and I are finishing a lunch of turkey, carrots, a pickle. Wanna play the robot game? she says.
So we do. We fit our colored pieces into the wooden keyboard to send the robot left, left again, now go three squares to the oak tree!
We both watch, mesmerized, as the robot understands where we’re guiding it with only a few patterns, a function, a plan.
After we’re finished, after the robot has gone home to his palace, after we’ve crossed the sea, stopped at the boat, journeyed through the mountains, after the map has been folded and the wooden parts are stored, Bee sneaks away to her room where I find her – fifteen minutes later – building her own robot game with blocks, a blanket, her stuffed bunny.
Go left, bunny. Now, right! Watch out! Don’t crash at the oak tree! she calls.
What’s she doing? Ken asks, passing through the hallway.
She’s programming, I say.
This is an essay written for my friends at Primo Toys, who have successfully funded the Montessori approved Cubetto with still 21 more days to go on Kickstarter. Join here to order yours ($195), if you’d like!