When I was a child, my classmate once asked me if my parents were hippies. Yes, I was a child of the 70’s but we weren’t really hippies. The kids asked that because we didn’t have t.v. I mean the homemade bread in my lunch box sandwiches might not have helped either. We weren’t hippies, my parents just didn’t really believe that television was necessary. I was hooked on the radio instead of the tv and would lie on the floor listening to story hours on end. My parents just weren’t very pro-commercialism and so things like tv and the latest toys were not their jam. Here I am a parent myself and I still hold some of those truths. I don’t love commercialism. I do love TV (the junkier the better). But, like my parents, I want my own children to spend less time in front of a screen and more time exploring, making, manipulating tangible things, and inputting their creative powers. So this funny dance from Nintendo Switch to Nintendo Labo is a sort of full circle moment for me.
To Be Screen Free Or Not To Be
We are not a screen free family, in fact there is probably one screen in any room in this house at any given time. Some of us read our books on screens. We listen to stories and music too (although not looking at the screen just listening to them). Our “Wake up!” alarms are attached to screens. The schedules that keep track of our days are on screens. Games are played on screens. The struggle, as a parent, is to ensure that we balance the kids’ and the adults’ time on screen and off. Screens are not going anywhere, and if they are there will be a similar next best thing anyway. Keeping the screens from my children won’t help them learn how to manage them. We have all kinds of necessary evils in our lives and screens are just one of them. The best defense is to practice moderation and teach the kids to do the same.
We have avoided any video gaming system until recently. None of them felt quite right for us. Until this year. This year the Nintendo Switch entered our play room and so far it has been a very happy addition to the family. We are able to play games as a family in person and even online with cousins and uncles who live a few states over. Just like every other screen there are limits to play time. The Nintendo Switch also goes on the road with us on occasion. It is the right size for long car trips. Like always, game time is broken up with story times and non-screen old school car games as well. If we’re lucky a little nap time sneaks up on the back seat passengers too.
Nintendo Switches It Up
Coming this spring, Nintendo introduces Nintendo Labo. Getting back to my sort of hippie-ish roots, the Nintendo Labo feels like old school childhood again. Remember the days when the kids were just as excited about the box their toy came in as the toy itself. Okay those toddlers were always more excited about the box than the toy. Nintendo Labo bridges the screen time and the creative play time. It gives the kids a bit more space for the imagination and some tactile experiences beyond joysticks and buttons. Of course this isn’t the magic bridge between screen play and imaginative play. There is always going to be a draw towards the easy joys of the screen. A parent with the right toolkit can use the draw of the Nintendo Labo to encourage the kids to try something new and different or revisit some of those old school toys in the toy chest.
Now what I really want to know is who comes up with these designs? I do not have a mind that can think from flat to 3D. Don’t even ask me to do origami because it is not in my skillset. I want to know the process of how the engineers? architects? designers? think of these things? Don’t you ever wonder who the minds behind these toys are sometimes? From the video games themselves to the other design elements there’s a lot of talent there. I wonder what their skillsets are. I want to be able to teach my kids what skills lead to the kinds of jobs that we never hear about.
Save the Date
The Nintendo Labo launches on April 20th and can be purchased then, or you can get all your ducks in a row and pre-order now. Available Nintendo Labo Toy-Con kids will be the: Toy-Con RC Car, Toy-Con Fishing Rod, Toy-Con House, Toy-Con Motorbike, Toy-Con Piano, and Toy-Con Robot.
Author: Leah Klein
Leah is a writer, recipe developer, amateur photographer and city living expert. She raises her family in Boston and travels with them as often as they can.