Friday, February 12, 2010

Product Rant

I have enough issues with the whole Wii phenomenon already, but I was willing to look the other way because I know that it's an argument I will never win. I know that it supposedly does people good and gets gamers up out of their chairs and what not. I know all this and understand why people like it. That said, it still smacks of wrongdoing to me. It just seems backward and all Brave New World-y.

I have played Wii games at a party, so I can speak from at least a little experience. I know people are more likely to play a game in their home than actually get out of the house to go play softball or whatever. I'm sure that this technology is doing wonders for the fitness video industry and don't really have any issues with it in that application. I think I just don't have a game personality. I actually enjoy going bowling in real life and have no desire to do it virtually. (Board games are excluded from this rant. I love them). The whole getting amusement/exercise/information/education/cultural experience etc. from the glowing box in the middle of your living room just can only go so far with me before I start to get really creeped out.

I have my mother to thank for never letting me go down this path in the first place. She would give us bags full of quarters to go to the arcade and play whatever we wanted, but would never purchase a game system for us and grumbled about the few computer games (King's Quest, Monkey Island etc.) that my Dad would bring home. I never got in the zone of sitting and playing games, squandering countless hours of valuable time. I also have my non-gamer husband to be thankful for. The only games he ever cared about are the super old Infocom text based games. He spends any free time he has drawing and playing with our daughter. I love him so much.

This new product, Splatster, officially marks my point of being totally creeped out/angered by this phenomenon. I won't have any kind of Wii in my own home, but that's my concern and my opinion only. It's a free country. The Splatster, however, crosses the line and makes things personal. This is where I have to step up on to my soapbox and say that I object.
Art is supposed to be messy. It is not about convenience. If you want your children to actually develop the motor skills required to become an artist, or the thoughtfulness to express themselves creatively, do not purchase this item. I can't say that I don't like computer art, or the programs therein. I use the computer for art stuff all the time. I learned how to use Deluxe Paint when I was fairly young, but I was already comfortable with tangible art-making, and was learning the computer as an additional tool. There's the rub, folks.

I have worked with children from birth to teens for 10+ years. I was a preschool assistant teacher in an accredited private school for 4 years with 4 yr olds and 3 yr olds. I am a mother. I am an artist.

This toy is not a tool that will help you to do art things that you couldn't otherwise do. This toy is not going to inspire a child to become an artist. This toy, to me, comes across as a no-fuss, no-muss REPLACEMENT for sitting down with actual paper and being CREATIVE. The manner in which this is marketed and the target audience (3-8 yrs.) seriously makes me so angry I start to well up. Children are in the prime of their motor skill development during these years. Actual art making is an amazing educational, developmental and emotional experience/opportunity for these young people who have so much to figure out in the world. A motor skill development expert told me once that a child's fine motor control is like cookie dough: you can keep adding ingredients and mushing it around for awhile, but once a child hits the age of 7 yrs; they're cooked when it comes to this area of development. Your fine motor abilities stop being able to really get better once you pass this point. A child's development (in all areas) is like building a pyramid. You may be able to get to the top and put that last block on, but if you are missing pieces along the way, your pyramid will have insurmountable weakness and problems. You only have one opportunity to build these pyramids. Why would you want this valuable, shrinking window of time to be filled with anything but the best?

Why anyone would want/encourage their 3-4 yr old to use a computer for fun/education is beyond me personally. I'm a believer in getting dirty and learning about tangible things (it's such an awfully big world to see!) while they're young and their sense of the world and themselves in it is still taking shape. We all spend so much time in front of the TV or the computer. I know our children want to do what they see us do, but "plugging your child in" is a huge missed opportunity for togetherness and learning.


  1. Good blog- very well written and thought out. I think the glowing box part is particularly striking.

  2. thanks! The saving grace of this product is that it doesn't work very well and it ends up frustrating the kids and they just want real paper and markers. Go figure!