This week’s cool thing on the internet: A couple set toy dinosaurs up into little vignettes to give their kids a nice surprise in the morning. And I love it. I do. It’s quirky and fun and awesome – it’s dinosaurs being cute, it would be pretty hard to mess that up. Way to engage little minds. I do similar stuff by dressing up as a tiger and letting my fat tummy be a racetrack, I just thought that it was the fun bit of parenting, when you’re not clearing up shit and doing all the washing in the world. I didn’t realise that playing with my kids was a new frontier of creativity.
What really annoyed me about this post, however, was the implication, made at the end of their blog post, that technology is somehow responsible for a loss of imagination, creativity, wonder or intelligence in children. Quite apart from being demonstrably false, it proper grates me to see technology denigrated to the role of attention-stealer, actively making our children passive consumers of media, when in fact, used engagingly, it can form an important pillar of their development.
As the parent of a kid who is firmly on some kind of autistic spectrum, the computer, tablet, phone and dvd player have all been as vital in our child’s development as all the wooden toys, books and music that we have been ensuring he has. Seeing him watch YouTube videos of his particular favourite model of jet turbine engine (no, seriously, he has one) on an iPad and then spend an entire afternoon drawing pictures of it, both on paper and on the PC, looking up information about it and being excited when we go to the museum to see it has been a part of his play. This transmedia world is the world our children are growing up in and I do not subscribe to the idea that only carefully art-directed setups of plastic toys count as ‘creative’.
For one thing, this is not the child’s imagination at play. This is the creative ingenuity of the parents (who presumably have some form of artistic aptitude or profession if the beautiful finish of the DSLR photography is any measure) and the imposition of their ideas onto their unsuspecting children. The cynic in me wonders that, whilst the activity itself might be delightful for the kids, the self-congratulatory blog post and subsequent internet karma reaping isn’t being firmly engineered by parents who know exactly the value of this kind of activity, and I wonder if bemoaning the “age of iPads and Netflix’ isn’t just another button push for it’s target audience.
I really don’t like the suggestion that technology and media is somehow anti-wonder. It’s easy to forget sometimes when we’re immersed in maximising ROI and leveraging our synergies that actually we are working in a creative medium and, like my so oft used it’s cliché favourite quote states, advanced technology can appear to be nothing short of magic, instilling precisely that sense of wonder and imagination in adults and children alike.
It annoys me intensely when people, from old ladies on the bus to government ministers criticise technology as a damaging force in children’s lives, particularly since these children are growing up in a technology driven information economy. Furthermore technology can be a huge aid to development, particularly in children with developmental difficulties – check out Hellicar and Lewis’ amazing Somantics project for instance which is not only beautiful and imaginative but provided as a disruptive open source project to be extended and enhanced. It can provide new frontiers for children to be engaged in the principles of STEM – step forward Goldieblox and Kano to name but two exciting new projects. Finally, it can, at it’s best engage children in whole new worlds to imagine, educate and explore. If you think that creativity can only be expressed with traditional tools, well perhaps you just lack imagination…
This month in the new adventures of the Quinny Zapp Xtra, we have been asked to capture a very rare event – the boy sleeping in his Quinny Zapp. This has been the toughest assignment yet for me since, when Theo’s out and about, he basically doesn’t sleep. If it was in the car seat….not a problem, but in the buggy – that’s a challenge.
I think it’s something to do with the lack of sides, and the better exposure to the world, but he’s really curious in the Zapp – always looking around him and taking everything in. As our de facto shopping buggy, mostly thanks to the aforementioned ultra-manoeuvrability, this probably means that he’ll be more au fait with famous brand names than the names of farmyard animals. I’m not sure I’ll be able to contain my embarrassment in the North London father’s playgroup if his first word is “Baby Gap”.
Anyway, we went to Brent Cross (my commercial nemesis) this weekend and found, much to our delight, that a sleepy Theo could quickly be coaxed into his nap by gradually reclining the Zapp, until it was completely supine. Basically…result:
This, I can assure you, is rare enough…but add to it the joy of his brother sleeping at the same time and it’s pretty much a cosmic event on the scale of which the LHC engineers would be interested to hear about:
A short post before bedtime. Time has been, naturally, pretty thin on the ground. The combination of a new baby and the sudden cold snap has not been good for getting out and about, but we did manage to get a quick trip to the local shopping centre a few days ago. The Zapp Xtra is really, really beginning to make itself invaluble now that we have two kids to shift around. My initial reservations have been largely surpassed by the sheer ease of getting it around the demanding environment of Brent Cross on a Saturday afternoon, 5 weeks before Christmas.
Theo is, basically, really, really happy in the Zapp…although it’s been kind of hard this month to get the requisite photographic evidence for this month’s task:
In the end, we had to resort to playing Theo’s favourite game….ESCAPE!
…thank the lord for the three point harness )
Very few updates lately, and this is the reason why:
Rohan Ian Dobson was born last Wednesday, a little premature, but very well. He’s sleeping next to me as I type in fact. Pregnancy is never kind to my Mrs and so we had kept things fairly quiet so as not to make too much fuss, but we’re very happy to have him home. So that’s 2 kids and a Citroen Xsara Picasso…not quite sure if I could be more ‘dad’ if I tried. I’ll have to start drinking real ale and making bad jokes next. Unlike our first kid, Theo, we didn’t have a name for this one up front. Alexander and Finlay were both contenders but we were never really that convinced. I came up with Rohan on flicking through a babynames book a couple of days after he was born. It means ‘little red-headed one’ and I thought this was suitably apt.
This has also meant that I have fallen behind on my quinnycasters assignment so in the meantime, here’s a quick video we shot as we brought Rohan home from hospital in the Zapp. I’ll write another post about this soon, but suffice to say that my initial doubts about this pushchair have been eased somewhat – it’s really found it’s niche in our life now.
I am, as a quick scan of the contents of this blog will attest, a bit of a geek. Now the popular image of the geek is obsessed with computers, sci-fi, gaming and toys – the boy that never grew up. This is largely true (the bit about social skills and personal hygiene usually isn’t in my experience but ymmv). However there is another part that is often missed: our ability to geek out on *anything*.
When geeks become dads there is a whole subculture that is suddenly available to us. A brave new world of gadgets and processes (a good geek *loves* a new process). Whereas my wife is ever the pragmatist – an instinctual, empathic, thoughtful and very careful mother – I am more a ball of excitement, overwhelmed by the wonder of the responsibility and how cool the little dude is. I am also a total, total pram geek. Continue reading »
Andrew Dobson has been building websites and interactive applications since 1996 and is Technical Director at Grand Union.
Andy regularly lectures on creative technology and other geek matters and writes, records and performs as Digitonal
He lives in North London with his family, the world of cat, and a righteous collection of classic electronica records.
The opinions expressed on this site are the authors own and do not state or reflect the views of his employer or clients.
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