True confessions: While I was recuperating last week, I allowed my grandson excess screen time. I allowed him to use the me-pad for more than two hours at a stretch. My justification was that the me-pad was more interactive than television and I really needed to rest (read my Stephen King novel). Admittedly, swiping a screen is not as interactive as building unique penguin houses with Duplo or drawing fish with crayons but it was a quiet activity and I was in pain. So after naptime, I handed over the me-pad. This worked well the first two afternoons. Delighted he played “Endless Numbers,” “Endless Alphabet,” and “Little Builders.” The third afternoon he grew bored and wanted something new so he went app shopping. One of my favorite children’s interactive game makers has a link to their products on the opening page of each product. Normally this is not a problem. When my grandson goes into the app store, I take the me-pad and open a program I already bought. This time he fixated on a new game: “Pony Style Shop.”
My grandson loves horses. He likes it when I drive by the horse guard and the horses are in the pasture. He has two little horses that he plays with. Horses rank next to penguins in his collection of animals. One of his favorite apps is “Busy Bear On the Farm,” where he likes to make Busy Bear ride the farmer’s horse back and forth for long periods of time. He finds this hilarious. So he saw the horses and wanted to open the app.
I did not want to buy the app. It wasn’t the cost. I quickly downloaded another app: “Brazil,” which featured 3 Brazilian landscapes complete with native animals and soccer balls. That lasted a few minutes before he was back to the ponies.
I did not want to download the pony app. It was clearly a program designed for girls and the suggested age range was 4-8. In this game, one washed and groomed a pony in her stall and then took her photo, changing the background and adding color overlays. The market was obviously the same as My Little Pony (of which I still have a full box).
I was rather irritated, slightly frustrated, lying on the sofa, listening to my grandson say ‘that, that that. Neigh. Neigh.” when the bolt of lightning struck. If this was a granddaughter and she wanted “Little Builders,” I would download it in a flash.
Oddly enough for a stay at home mom, I was a true eighties feminist. I dressed my oldest two daughters in boy’s Oshkosh overalls. I bought trucks, Duplo and Brio train sets. Both of my older daughters had train birthday parties. I bought games and puzzles to encourage math skills. Access to the same type of play was supposed to help girls be more assertive and help boys be more empathetic. By the time my daughters and her friends were three, the differences between the friends who were boys and those who were girls was obvious. For the girls, the baby dolls and strollers, plastic tea sets and play food were favorites. Then one day Barbie’s little sister Skipper showed up at a birthday party. The house was soon overrun by woodland creatures wearing clothes, my Little Ponies, My Little Pet Shop , American Girl dolls and Breyer horses. We got out the Lego once in a while. My husband put his childhood electrical train up around the holidays, but my daughters’ interest in the train was fleeting.
My grandson has no interest in dolls. He prefers plastic animals to stuffed animals (although he has quite a collection of stuffed animals in his bed). He cannot watch football without grabbing a ball, running around the room and throwing himself down—CRASH! Just like the football players. He has his own version of basketball—a combination of soccer and basketball. He’ll watch any sport on television—even golf. He can identify various types of balls: football, baseball, golf and basketball. And trucks and construction vehicles are the best. (And every thing crashes.) When the weather was nicer, we had to walk over to a nearby construction site just to watch the workers. Today he was yelling excitedly: “Deer, deer, deer!” When I asked him where the deer was, he pointed to a yellow John Deere digger.
I downloaded the pony app. For a while, my grandson washed the ponies, one after another. He took a few photos. Then he closed the app and opened “Little Builders.” After a few minutes of making one construction guy spill his coffee and opening the door to the porta potty a couple of times, he abandoned the me-pad to go build a Duplo dump truck and fill it with penguins. Then he needed to cook for the animals in a Duplo oven he had built. Of course, the dump truck crashed while dinner was cooking . . .