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Explore the Great Indoors

Toy manufacturer Fisher Price recently introduced a stationary bike for kids, 3 to 6 years old. My first reaction was, “Does this mean children have abandoned the Great Outdoors completely?” There are those who will argue that some children live in apartments with nowhere to play outside, so isn’t it better to at least get some exercise indoors?

But exercise for a child is not just physical, the mental aspect is tremendously important. A child’s imagination is pure creativity. It is through games, imaginary situations, a child’s mind develops in preparation for a life ahead.

A real bicycle, or tricycle is often a child’s first taste of independence, and freedom. A chance to venture forth alone and unsupervised, if only to the end of the street. With a group of children, a bicycle becomes a horse to play cowboys and Indians, or a car to play cops and robbers.

Before the bicycle was invented I’m sure children used a broom or a stick to represent the horse, but the games were similar. Games that involve chasing each other, friendly competition. However, a stationary bike is already a pretend bicycle, so a pretend bike can hardly become a pretend horse. And how do you chase someone on a stationary bike?

To me the other thing this stationary bike represents is the ‘Fear Factor.’ It has completely taken over our way of life, and that is the real reason children no longer play outside. When I was a kid my mother told me, “Look both ways before crossing the road, and don’t talk to strangers.” Then she sent me out to play, and I was not expected home until it got dark.

I believe there have always been child predators and other dangers, but the problem is because of television and the media in general constantly dwelling on the negative, people are in perpetuity made aware of the dangers.

The actual danger becomes blown out of all proportion. It has even reached the stage where in some areas, parents who allow their children to walk to school unsupervised, are charged with neglect.

When 9/11 happened, people were fond of saying, “If we allow ourselves to live in fear, the terrorists have won.” I believe the ‘Fear’ had crept into our lives long before 9/11. I was reminded of this recently when Charles Manson was back in the news because of his health issues.

It was at the end of the 1960s, about the time of the Manson murders, that everything changed. Prior to that people left their doors unlocked at night, teenage kids climbed into cars with strangers, as they hitch-hiked across the country. After Manson, doors were locked, and people stopped picking up hitch-hikers. The “Bad Guys” had won. Long before there were Terrorists.

Today they have classes in High School to teach Social Skills. Social skills should be learned in pre-school, playing with other kids. It is where a child learns to share, and to fit in with others. Bullying is rife in schools, because kids have spent their early years with mommy, and are suddenly thrown in with a mix of other children, with no clue how to deal with the situation.

Whether a stationary bike for kids is a good or bad thing is a matter of individual opinion. To me it symbolizes the isolation that our children suffer from an early age. Pre-school should be the years to start learning social skills by playing, (Preferably unsupervised) with other kids.

School years are for book learning and strengthening social skills. By High School and into the teen years the individual should be honing social skills and learning how meaningful relationships work. However, if a child is a misfit from an early age, one who finds it difficult to socialize with others , it will be a burden he or she will carry the rest of their life.

Social skills cannot be learned from a book, only by experience. Real experiences that is, like riding a real bicycle.


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Reader Comments (6)

After WWII, during the Cold War era, it was a fear of “Them” that was ingrained in society. But that isn’t the same as a fear of “Us” that is pervasive today. Besides the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, “Them” were in their own country, and only things that wanted to remain unseen, satellites and spys, allowed a view of our intentions, all things that allowed us to go on living without being overly concerned.

Today, it is unseen threats that shackle parents. Experts, Civil Leaders, preachers, teachers, administrators and so on promote how we live in uncertain times, therefore we never know who, or when, nor where terror will strike. “Paranoia will destroy ya…”

Plus, you have social leaders and demographic experts telling Millenneals to live downtown, where they live in tall buildings, where the busy city streets have mass transportation but is no place for children. So they don’t have children; most times they don’t marry. But they have a job, and money.

As far as children growing up today: A man at work has a 14-year old daughter who last week put a bag of microwave popcorn in the toaster oven. It caught fire and filled the house with choking smoke. She didn’t know what to do. If this event were written in a screenplay, it would be tossed out for being unrealistic. But that is the reality of teens, and many adults. They don’t mature, much less learn much.

And yes, I’m only echoing what certain of us already know. It is probably best to keep them all in front of screens.

January 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

You raise some good points here, Dave.

I wrote about this on The Retrogrouch Blog too. I noticed that Fisher Price cites research that shows kids learn more and retain more when they are active - which is probably true, but as a teacher, I'm quite certain that it's stretching things to equate that with playing an "educational" computer game while pedaling a stationary tricycle. I'm also certain that kids learn and retain far more when they are active and interacting with an actual human being - such as their parents - instead of a computer screen.

About kids' safety, and fear of abductions, etc. - the fact is that kids are far more likely to be assaulted, molested, or abducted by someone known to them (a relative, or a family friend) than a scary stranger. But the stories about the scary stranger are the ones that get all the news coverage, so of course that's what people worry about.

January 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Brooks

Issac Asimov opined the following:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

And that was before the World Wide Web, or “Smart” Phones, Fit Bits and Virtual Reality becoming the preferred conduit to life.
Imagine his opinion today…

January 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Yes! I am agree with you "But exercise for a child is not just physical, the mental aspect is tremendously important." This stationary bike is a perfect one for kids. Thanks for your review. Keep it up.

January 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMartha A. Powers

There was a big story a few years back about a woman who dared to teach her son to navigate NYC via subways, and let him do it by himself at age ~ 11 I think. You are right, fearmongering is at an all-time high. (And did I just monger more fear about the prevalence of fearmongering?)

Surely kids need to get out and play more. But apart from that, if the kid has to pedal to power the attached tablet he wants to play on, maybe it's not such a bad idea.

January 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

As a nipper in England, I am sure you Dave did the same, I got out of the house and played outside when I could of course the English weather controlled this, Climbing trees digging holes, kicking stone cans balls you name it. Inside my favorite was the Mecanno set,building whatever. I think the kids indoor trainer you show is just another way for them to make money, Something new, but at least it is some kind of exercise.I guess.My Grand kids I have to admit do spend far to much time indoors playing on PC and games etc, They do have play areas with swings etc. Wierdos have always been there, even in my youth, Sad but true.

January 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn Crump

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