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Mommy Land: Mobile Devices for the preschool set.

So a few folks had asked me for a female point of view on mobile tech, and I finally obliged with a few, largely opinion, pieces.  Now here’s a point of view from Mommy Land, read on.

After my son was born, it didn’t take long for my mother to start making “battery-operated baby” jokes.  Certainly compared to my own childhood, she’s absolutely right.  My son, at 3, received his first console game – the Vtech Vsmile.  There was some initial frustration at first, but by his 4th birthday not only was he manipulating the joystick with ease, but he was also a master mouse-user thanks to Noggin (now NickJr.) online games.  Now, at 5, he’s quite good at the NickJr games and has even started straying into some of my casual games (which he plays, but doesn’t quite have the reflexes or reading abilities for.  But he really, really, tries).

I’m not quite ready to sink money into a Nintendo or Gameboy, and I certainly am not going to get him an iPod or iPod  Touch for several reasons, but believe me, there are plenty of times when I would love to give him something to occupy himself with.   And Gizmodo has been posting teasers from a Toy Fair.  There are two that really caught my eye.

Jump After The Break for more!

First up is the Fisher-Price iXL.  Giz calls it “an iPad for the Kindergarten crowd.”  And how.  It’s a clunky bit of plastic that’s maybe a little larger than an adult hand, and quite thick compared to our adult pieces of tech.  It has six pre-loaded applications: music player (eh… only if it’ll take headphones), interactive story book (reads aloud and lights up the words – where we are right now with him, so good), an art studio (cartoon backgrounds on which Junior can use different brush strokes or stamps), a game player (no mention of what the games are/may be, but as this is a stylus-based system for 3-6 year olds, they can’t be too complicated), photo album (I don’t see a need for this, personally) and notebook (where Junior can practice writing by “tracing upper case letters”.  Perfect! But what about lower case letters?  No mention there).  Downloadable content will be available after the official launch.  At $79.99 (USD), however, I’m not sure that’s a good value.

Next up is the Vtech FLiP, an ebook reader.  It will be cartridge-based (with direct download possible in the future), and finger-touch.  The stories seem to be fully animated.  Like the iXL, it highlights words while reading.  The child can touch any word and it will animate as well as say just that word.  Each story will also have games and even dictionaries for new words.  Very cool.  Vtech uses franchised characters (Disney, Pixar, Nickelodeon, etc) so your kids will be very familiar with the characters, and possibly even the stories themselves.  At $59.99 (USD), available in the Fall, this has high Christmas-gift potential to me.

Now for the footnote, disclaimer and author’s defense:  It occurs to me that some readers may think why should there be an article about children’s devices on the site: these are toys.  But aren’t our devices <strong>our</strong> toys?  Children’s toys mimic their parents.  And except for direct Internet access, these are just as definable as “mobile devices” as our Kindles and Touch Pros, just substitute Vtech and Fisher-Price for Amazon and HTC.  Like it or not, our children are already growing up in a digital world.

Now are these substitutions for paper books and active play?  Absolutely not.  Even though my son has the Vsmile and computer games, we read to him every night before bed, he has an easel for drawing, blocks, legos and enough stuffed toys to cover his bed 2 feet deep.  Since he’s almost certainly ADHD, anything that can keep his <strong>engaged</strong> attention has my full attention (approval comes later).  The more it stimulates learning, the happier I am with it.  I’ll leave the question of whether or not this is good for kids for others to answer.  For myself, and my son, these are good, cool, toys.

Footnote 2: A co-worker has his 7-year old here, and I showed him the video for the FLiP.  He was more interested in my Fuze.  Go figure.