Opinion seems divided so far on the just-released Young Explorer PC Workstation from Little Tikes, with some American Moms and Dads suggesting it is preparing their wee ones for a life of office-based slavedom in a cubicle. However, I’ve read plenty of posts from users in school, nurseries and libraries, who have nothing but praise.
The Young Explorer is a joint project between Little Tikes (best known for plastic playhouses, garden slides and the Cozy Coupe cars) and IBM (best known for, um, the PC).
The technical specs include a Think Centre PC, 16GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, 19in widescreen Flat Panel LCD monitor, speakers, internal DVD player. Little Tikes has provided the workstation, including a flat desk area, built in mouse pads (left and right), bench seat for two children, locking cabinet doors and space for computer wires inside the cabinet.
Targeting children aged three to seven, the aim is to provide an attractive, durable introduction to computing. However, with a price tag of just under £2,000, I wonder how attractive it will be. Sure, the workstation itself is made the durable Little Tikes way, and the lockable tower cabinet is a great idea (I am speaking as the mother whose child pulled hard on her laptop’s screen and snapped its hinges). But as the price is nudging towards that of a speedy Mac, I think even larger institutions may think twice.
While there will definitely be a few nurseries who purchase one to make their IT corner look more attractive to prospective parents, for those of us wishing to create a similar effect at home it would be cheaper to simply buy a net book and a kids’ desk and chair to create the same effect.
In my experience, children don’t need any particular encouragement to use computers, but if you fancy buying your little one their own piece of technology, so that they keep their hands off your work machine, here’s a couple of more affordable suggestions:
Zoostorm Fizzbook Notebook
A tough armoured plastic body, with integral handle surrounds this notebook, with its 9in screen. The keyboard has been scaled down to suit little hands, but tougher than your usual netbook’s. While this is aimed at older children (6-14 year-olds) I think most people, whose kids have played on their own computer, will find it is just as suitable for littlies.
Price: around £290
The Generics Children’s Lower Case Colour coded keyboard
Add this child-friendly keyboard to your existing computer. This features lower case letters and colour coding for vowels, consonants and numbers and costs £15.22.
The BigKeys Plus Large Key keyboard has a simplified keyboard, with, surprise surprise, big keys. At £119, it might be a bit pricey for the average parent – it’s really aimed at nurseries and special schools.