Here’s the article I was hoping to write about the new Fisher-Price stationary bike that tots are supposed to ride while watching “educational” videos. But since Naomi Schaefer Riley actually got around to putting her thoughts on paper and pixel, all the words are actually hers. How do you like that? This is from her column in the New York Post:
Exercise Bikes for Toddlers are a Terrible Idea, by Naomi Schaefer Riley
Parents, repeat after me: Children are not just shorter versions of adults.
This is the important message that seems to have been missed by the geniuses at Fisher-Price, who have just announced the release this fall of the “Think Learn Smart Cycle.” The $150 toy is designed to let children age 3-6 peddle on a stationary bicycle while watching a tablet….What could be wrong with that?
Starting with the “smart” part of the Smart Cycle. Fisher-Price says the apps on the built-in tablet are going to focus on science, technology, engineering and math. But there’s no evidence that more and earlier exposure to these subjects on screens is going to help our children.
Pause — in fact, there’s no evidence that we should be trying to teach toddlers academics, period.
But the problem with the Smart Cycle goes far beyond the ways its creators claim to exercise a child’s brain…. [I]f your goal is to make a child enjoy physical activity and want to do it more, why would you want to put him on a bicycle that goes nowhere?
Ages 3 to 6 are exactly when a child most needs to be exploring the people and the world around him or her. Whether it’s stacking blocks to see when they’ll tumble over, playing with paint or glue or going outside to observe plants and animals or the clouds and the stars, children at this age have the opportunity and the ability to take it all in, perhaps in ways that adults are trained not to.
Schaefer goes on to explain that there’s the kind of school-room attention parents and teachers can DEMAND — attention that is often short-lived — and then there’s the attention that develops naturally, when kids (or any of us) are surrounded by sights, smells, sounds, things to touch and explore.
In other words, things beyond the exercycle screen. And she concludes (as I would have, too, I swear!):
If most adults (from my small sample size) use their stationary bikes as hangers for dirty clothes, imagine how little the Smart Cycle will do to inspire children.
I’m imagining! I’m with you every word of the way, Naomi! Thanks for writing this! – L.