What's a good video game controller for a toddler?
August 27, 2014 6:06 PM   Subscribe

What's a good video game controller for a toddler? Absolutely required: A reliable way of connecting it to a Windows 7 or 8 laptop. I don't mind using JoyToKey or 3rd-party drivers if necessary. Preferred: Wireless, so it can't be used to pull the laptop off the desk; Durable and/or cheap, in case it gets thrown or dropped; Simple, few inputs.

I'm mainly thinking of gamepads and joysticks, but a pointing device or keyboard that fit the criteria would be just as good. Note that a keyboard would have to include the ability to disable keys like Esc and Ctrl, to prevent the child from, say, minimizing the game.

I've tried a Wii remote in the past, but have found it a frustrating process that doesn't work more often than it does. I've only ever gotten it to work consistently with Dolphin, but of course that limits me to only games that run on Dolphin. The main other program I've tried is GlovePIE. I'm open to the possibility that there are more reliable ways to get a Wii remote to work on Windows, but my general experience using Bluetooth devices with Windows makes me skeptical.
posted by CustooFintel to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
iPads work great. Joysticks seem to work much less well with a young child than a touch screen.
posted by MythMaker at 7:00 PM on August 27, 2014

Wireless Xbox 360 controller, with a wireless dongle. PM me if you go this route and have trouble getting it working, there's a trick with installing the drivers.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:58 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding an Xbox 360 controller. I got one to play Skyrim and it works like a dream. And since it can only do the commands that are mapped to the controller in the various games, I'm pretty sure there's no way for your kid to use it to accidentally reformat your hard drive.

In addition to a wireless controller, something else you might consider doing is hooking your laptop up to a TV screen or monitor via a long HDMI cable and then changing your laptop's settings so that it doesn't go to sleep when you close the lid. That would allow you to close the laptop (so nothing enticing is dancing on the screen and nothing can be spilled on the keyboard) and/or put the computer itself out of reach.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:36 PM on August 27, 2014

It might help if we knew what your toddler will be doing in windows? What kind of games? Or is this for paint programs or something?

Honestly my experience with my kids is that controllers are really hard for toddlers to cope with, because they require you to do multiple things at one time, with both hands - most toddlers do not have this level of control yet, and can only do one thing at a time - push the stick or press a button. If you have any touchpad devices, I agree with MythMaker that this is a much more natural interface at toddler age.
posted by Joh at 10:42 PM on August 27, 2014

Response by poster: Playing some kind of game. I'm not sure what, yet. But I know that if I can give my kid reliable control of a single button, I can find or make a game that will interest him. If I end up using something like a 360 controller, I'll probably map all of the buttons to 1-4 total inputs.

I am of the philosophy that even an enormously simple interactive game is likely to be more mentally stimulating than most non-interactive videos.

I do agree that a touch interface is more natural. I simply don't think there's any tablet cheap/durable enough for me to trust him with yet.
posted by CustooFintel at 11:08 PM on August 27, 2014

if I can give my kid reliable control of a single button, I can find or make a game that will interest him.

Have you considered making a set of painted wooden blocks? Endlessly entertaining for a toddler and no battery required.

Training a toddler to seek a screen when in want of entertainment is totally making a rod for your own back.
posted by flabdablet at 5:29 AM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about Kinect for Windows?
posted by freezer cake at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2014

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