Amy Dunkin

Savita Iyer is a freelance financial journalist who lives with her family in Mysore, India. This is her fifth guest blog for Working Parents.


Two years ago, when my son was four, he asked us to buy him a Gameboy. Many of his friends had Gameboys, and he wanted one, too.

My husband and I immediately said no. We thought Sasha was way too young, and that there was zero educational value in a Gameboy. However, we didn’t want him to feel left out if other boys his age were clicking away on a handheld
device. So after much research, we decided to get Sasha a Leapster, a wonderful gadget made by Leapfrog. Similar to a Gameboy in that you hold it in your hand and click, the Leapster was, in our opinion, a far better bet. It comes with character games (Batman, Spiderman, and Dora the Explorer, to name a few), which teach reading, writing, and numbers in progressively different levels.

My son was thrilled: Where we lived, a number of his peers had Gameboys but no one had a Leapster. He was the envy of his friends and I believe he learned a great deal from the toy.

Then a couple of months ago a family member gave Sasha a Gameboy as a gift. As expected, the Leapster was cast away in one fell swoop, relegated to the back of the toy cupboard where it will likely sit till my daughter comes of age.

My son eats, sleeps, and dreams Gameboy, and I could go on saying “put it down” until I am blue in the face. So it has forced me to think up creative ways to make sure it doesn’t hold my son in its thrall 24/7.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about spending a half hour a day with each of my kids, doing something specific with each one. I have upped that time for my son and we now spend an hour together. This is
strictly non-Gameboy time, and it’s divided into physical activity (badminton or bike-riding, weather permitting) and something more academic in nature.

I’ve found a host of worksheets online at sites like Enchanted Learning, abcteach, and Artists Helping Children, and I print out a couple to do with my son.

It isn’t much, but as a working parent who’s alone with the children (my husband works in another country) for the foreseeable future, it is the best I can do – even if my son gets right back on his Gameboy
after we’re done.

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