Computer Learning System v 2.0 (9 mos & Up)
My mother just sent me
a Fisher-Price Baby Smartronics! Computer Learning System for my son, who
just turned 16 months old (that’s 1yr 4 months in people years). She’s
an elementary school teacher and thought this would be great for his intellectual
development, and right up my alley since I’m a big time computer user.
My son was eager to open
the box once he saw the brightly colored alphabet and number buttons on
the keyboard. The unit is also adorned with a smiling puppy dog’s face,
a monkey cell phone, a happy cat, and three shapes buttons (circle, triangle,
and square). There were only two additional parts to assemble requiring
a small screwdriver and a few minutes of patience. The keyboard fits snugly
over any standard keyboard, and has simple adjustment legs and levers to
ensure it fits where it should. A software CD comes with the system, so
it will run on both PCs and MACs. Installing the software was a snap, and
it even offered the option to begin running the program immediately. No
mouse is needed to use the Smartronics! System—the keyboard and software
does it all.
As a multi-tasker, I’m
constantly running several programs at once when I’m working on my computer.
And though I like to keep my monitor resolution set at 1280 x 1024, the
Baby Smartronics software forces it into 800 x 600 while the software is
running (don’t worry, it automatically puts it back when you quit the program).
Though this may take a little getting used to, it will allow you to fully
pay attention to your child while playing with the keyboard!
Running the program
Once the start screen
appears there are a few options to choose from.
- Auto-tips (ON) (OFF)
default set to ON
- Background Music (ON)
(OFF) default set to ON
- Fisher-Price web connection
- Parent Content Guide
The Parent Content Guide
tells parents how to gauge when your child is ready to begin computer learning.
I agree that if your kid can press buttons and can interact with you, then
On every page at the
top left of the screen is a Home button in the shape of a house, which
brings you back to the start screen, should you decide you want to start
over or change the level you’re working in. On the top right of the screen
will appear either a green forward / red backward arrow as you scroll through
a section or story, or an exclamation mark, which shows tips to enhance
your child’s experience, such as “Make up stories about the characters
on the screen”, and “Sing along with the music”.
There are three levels
designed to grow as your baby learns and plays. Start with Level I, which
is based on simple input and response interaction. Any key works at this
level to control the action, giving baby instant gratification and encouragement.
Once your baby seems to press buttons more purposefully, switch to Level
II, which teachs number, letters, words and counting. Peekaboo, telephone
calls, and familiar animals and foods make Level II exciting for your child.
The keyboard buttons now have specific functions. Number buttons go from
1 to 10, while alphabet buttons are grouped in twos or threes such as ABC,
DEF, GHI, etc. Level III ups the interactivity by offering options to your
child. There are no wrong answers—only opportunities for exploring ideas
and making decisions on how to play.
Kyle loved pressing the
buttons on the keyboard, even before I hooked it onto the regular keyboard,
so I was hoping he’d begin pressing them again while seated on my lap in
front of our comptuer monitor. To start, though, all Kyle wanted to do
was press the keys with his toes! Using the helpful parent tips on the
screen, I was able to point Kyle’s attention to the animation on the monitor
and describe for him what he was seeing. When familiar objects appeared,
like a yellow square and red triangle, he seemed like he was able to understand
that pressing the matching buttons caused those images to appear on the
screen. He also seemed to like the gentle encouragement from the main puppy
dog’s animation character, who sweetly coached my son to press more buttons
or spin the rollerball. Anyway, all that only lasted a few minutes before
he was squirming to get down so for a first run on the toy I’m not sure
how successful it was. The second time I sat down with my son to play with
the keyboard the same thing happened. He wasn’t interested in pressing
the buttons and barely paid attention to the animation. I didn’t know if
this was a reflection of the quality of the toy or of my son’s development,
but my husband and I decided we would put it away for a few months and
try again later.
The jury is still out.
I want my son to be computer literate and to have a leg up on things faster
than I did as a child. The Fisher-Price Baby Smartronics! Computer Learning
System seems like a really fun and age-appropriate challenging place
to start. My son’s just not ready yet.
Sue Jenkins is a freelance web designer, graphic designer and illustrator,
and also offers private training to companies in the New York area.
If your company needs a logo, website, or a website redesign, see Sue’s Consulting
more information, or go directly to her website learn more
about her design services: http://www.luckychair.com.