Toy sale season is at its earnest and our toddler is already drowning in new toys, so much so I have real grounds for worrying about spoiling him and worrying about storage space for all the toys he’s now playing with and all the toys awaiting him in the cupboards. The pinnacle of the toy sale crop, the Target toy sale, is coming up in less than a week's time, and it's giving me a headache.
My problem is with a specific category of toys, the "your child's first computer" one. It comes in the shape of a netbook sized package, with a keyboard, often a mouse like apparatus, and a tiny small black & white LCD screen of dubious quality. The more sophisticated ones can connect to a proper PC in order to act as its keyboard, allowing you to run specific software for the toy.
This toddler's laptop category is sold to parents under two premises. The first is the toy helping the child's education, as in helping them learn the ABC or do basic math. The second is in them being your child's introduction to the world of computing. Both of these premises, but especially the latter, are essentially trying to say that getting your child one of them laptops quickly will guarantee them not ending up behind their peers; and that's the notion that's troubling me.
We already have a full blown netbook just waiting for our son to use, only that it's obviously too advanced for him during the near future. Then again, is there really a chance of a child growing to be computer illiterate while sharing a house with me? Or, to be more specific: Does my child really need this crap of a toy laptop? Would he enjoy playing with it? Would he get any substantial educational benefit out of it? Or is that just a tool to make me, the parent, feel as if I was fortunate enough to save my child's future by spending money on this toy, as if working under the assumption that buying a shit toy now would guarantee my child's university graduation?
Obviously, the marketing machine is aiming towards that latter option. Parents are under great pressure not to let their children lag behind their peers, and the simple magic formula there is to open your wallet wide. But if a laptop now is the savior of my child, why should I stop there? Why shouldn't I send my child to a private school and feel really good about myself, allowing myself to think that this money I'm spending is the one true way to show my child how much I really love him?
One item we will definitely seek to buy at the Target toy sale is a children's booster seat, a Hipod Senator. The Hipod is unique in being a booster seat with a five way harness, which means it is legal for use on children less than 4 years old (but more than 8kg in weight). It's the perfect transition model from our son's current baby seat, which is getting too small for him even though the law says he still needs to use one for at least another year.
Why the Hipod model and not any of its rivals, especially those from Safe 'n' Sound and their Maxi Rider rival range? Simple: crash testing performed by RACV indicates mediocre performance from Safe 'n' Sound, while the Hipod is clearly the best booster seat around.
With all the hype around Safe 'n' Sound, we often forget the entire purpose of these seats is safety.