Beware the 2-year-old with a Game Boy.
August 26, 2008 7:20 PM   Subscribe

My nephew is 2 and a half years old. What simple electronic toys should we buy for him?

He lives in Bulgaria, and is pretty much a typical toddler going through his stubborn tantrum phase. My parents gave him the Fisher-Price® Fun 2 Learn™ Laughtop™ earlier this summer, and he is absolutely in love with one of the games it came with. For anyone who knows the tyke, to see him play his console game is amazing--no other activity gets him so concentrated, enthusiastic and determined!

He is not quite verbal yet, and he doesn't speak or understand English--but I remember from my childhood that foreign languages never posed a problem as far as toys or video games were concerned. Shipping the gifts to Bulgaria is not an issue, however, games that plug into the TV will not work due to the different color encoding (PAL).

My mom has decided that a Game Boy would be pretty much perfect for him, and showed me this video in support of her opinion. Still, I would like to ask if there are other toys along those lines that are more appropriate for a toddler (I'm probably just bitter because I've been wanting one for myself for the past, oh, 10 years or so). What electronic toys did your kid like at his age? Is it too early to get him hooked on video games?
posted by halogen to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think electronic noise machines are evil. Having worked in a day care center for 2 years, I can't stand pretty much any electronic toy.

But... if you insist... this god-awful racket and these destroyers of silence were very, very popular with the kids.

The sound books come in a variety of annoyances as well, like Old MacDonald, farm animal and vehicles.

As for the Game Boy, I wouldn't really recommend it, mainly because to really enjoy most games, you have to be able to read and problem solve. Heck, I couldn't solve 1/2 the puzzles in Professor Layton and I'm 34.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:37 PM on August 26, 2008

Response by poster: He has a playroom full of non-electronic stuff. Plenty of cubes, Lego Duplos, a bunch of train sets, loads of children's books, a balance bike, riding toys, stuffed animals, Magna Doodle, Aqua Doodle, crayons and pencils--you name it, the kid already has it. But he doesn't pay attention to any of those toys for longer than a minute or so; the video game really is the first thing that he appears to genuinely love--he's already mastered all the levels and is no longer challenged by it, but he still enjoys showing off how good he is.
posted by halogen at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2008

Totally not too early for video games, if his parents don't object. Get a Wii. He'll probably suck until he develops some more fine motor control, but it's still fun (for the parents too).
posted by jacalata at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2008

Nthing anything but electronics.

The kid might be drawn to it, but that's because it flashes and beeps at him. I strongly disagree with jacalata--it's superduper way too early for vidgames. Little kids should spend their time in meatspace. I'm begging you. You will not find many experts who disagree with this.
posted by Camofrog at 10:06 PM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I want to explain why I feel that way.

I was involved in a toy testing program for many years and things like robots always got rave reviews from the kids. But only at first, and then they got bored with them, because robots have a limited skill set. You see all their moves, and you're done with it, and you've learned nothing, except what that particular robot can do.

"Open-ended" toys, on the other hand, let kids figure out--and develop!!--what THEY can do. No force-fed storyline or gameplay flowchart. No prepackaged storyline. Play is kids' work. Don't make it too easy for them.
posted by Camofrog at 10:29 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would disagree with people saying it's too early. I was playing video games on my older brother's Apple IIgs from the time I was two, and have played them very constantly (and what most people would consider excessively) since, and I'd like to think I turned out well.

I got mostly A's all through k-12 school, had lots of friends out in the real world, played lots of sports growing up... etc. Even today I have better problem-solving skill, better hand-eye coordination, and faster reflexes then most of my (just graduated from UC Berkeley) friends. Video games will not make or break the kid, that really does come down to how the parents raise him.

I'm seconding the gameboy suggestion.
posted by meowN at 10:36 PM on August 26, 2008

The fact that he likes the bells and whistles of electronic toys doesn't automatically mean they're best for him. Like every other toddler, I bet he'd probably pick candy over carrot sticks when offered to him, too, but it doesn't mean he should be put on a steady diet of chocolate.

I have three nephews and lots of friends with kids. Totally anecdotal, but the ones who can sit still long enough to read a book or play a game at ages 5 and beyond are the ones who weren't being inundated with flashing lights and endless beeping at 2.
posted by scody at 10:45 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, kids might like electric toys, but that doesn't mean they're a good idea.
He's already got Duplo? good for him. The 'open-ended' toys were the ones that did me the most as a kid.

Seriously. Get the kid power tools before you get him a frigging Gameboy.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:52 PM on August 26, 2008

Duplos, transitioning to Legos. nthing that electronics aren't necessarily the best choice for a kid. Not that having some exposure is bad, but just because he gets into them doesn't mean he should be given lots of them.
posted by Alterscape at 3:31 AM on August 27, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - please do not turn this into a referendum on electronic games for kids - you can take it up in MeTa if you need to, thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2008

Best answer: This is, ultimately, his parents' decision. How do they feel about getting him a GameBoy? Before I go any further, let me state that I'm not categorically against video games. Both of my children have GBs and they have a Wii. However, I don't agree that getting a two-year-old a GB is a good idea. A game system specifically designed for young children has a recommended earliest age of five. Not two.

But he doesn't pay attention to any of those toys for longer than a minute or so

Of course he doesn't; he's two. And the reason he pays attention to the video game is because it does all the work for him. It flashes and makes noise and the screen changes. He doesn't have to do any of the work. At two, he's just begun to be capable of imaginative play, and he won't be able to sit still and play by himself for hours until he's at the older end of three, going on four.

Now, to specifically answer your questions:

What electronic toys did your kid like at his age?

My kids didn't have electronic toys like GBs at age two, but my daughter got a Leapster when she was four and she played with that until she got a GB for Christmas when she was seven.

Is it too early to get him hooked on video games?

In my opinion, yes. He's got a lifetime ahead of him to get hooked on video games. I'd rather see the two-year-olds I know play with things like Duplo, trains, PlayDough, and Playmobil (and if they're not capable of playing by themselves, with a parent or other caregiver). Outside play is also fantastic.
posted by cooker girl at 6:50 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At two and a half a GameBoy is too advanced, and far too likely to end up broken. It's not durable enough for the antics of a preschooler. Nor is it designed to be used by someone with tiny hands who has barely begun developing fine motor skills.

The skills that a 2.5 year old needs to build and the spheres of learning and cognitive processes that need to be encouraged right now are pretty strongly not going to be facilitated via a video game or electronic doodad, no matter how interested he may be. Go to a toy store. There are suggested ages on every toy. lets you search by age group as well. There is a good reason why toys for this age are geared toward imaginative play, sense/texture/experience play, energy release and entertainment. That's where the focus should lie.
posted by Dreama at 7:17 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm agreeing with cooker girl, a two-year-old will very rarely play with anything for more than a few minutes. This is the whole point of being a two-year-old: unlimited energy and curiosity leads to lots and lots of learning and new skills. It's way too early for a video game.

I'd suggest expanding on the train set (bridges and mountains that he can arrange with simple pieces, if possible), some of the floor mats that can be re-arranged like puzzle pieces to form tracks for cars, plastic miniature food sets (pretend play is awesome) and also these - they may be too young for him, but check them out anyway: 1, 2, and 3. (The cupcake one had shapes on the bottom of the actual cupcakes that matched the cupcake sprinkles and fit into the cupcake holders.) You may also want to try one of the stuffed figures that has the shoelace to be tied, the buckle to be buckled, etc, especially if he's only just begun to dress himself.

He sounds like an intelligent little guy, and you want to encourage puzzle-solving, math and social skills as much possible, as well as self-confidence. Also, that gameboy will break. Go for sturdy toys with more options than a video game at a lower price tag.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2008

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