Fisher-Price makes some great products, and some terrible ones. One of their new ones is sure to be a bit polarizing, because the new Think & Learn Smart Cycle is basically a tiny SoulCycle bike for toddlers, with an iPad stuck to it, because that’s how we raise babies these days.
As an aside, has anyone recreated the famous “cuddly monkey” study with an iPad? That’s the study where a baby monkey is given a choice between a wire statue of a monkey that gives milk, and a statue of a monkey covered in fur so it’s snuggly, but does not give milk. The baby monkey prefers the cuddly “mom” to the food-giving “mom.” We should add a third “mom,” but this one is just an iPad.
“Fresh air? Sunlight? Who needs that mess when your kid can get all the exercise they need while exploring the Great Indoors?” writes Engadget’s Andrew Tarantola, who was reporting on new products from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when he found the Fisher-Price stationary bike for kids.
At first I was with him. As a professional cynic, my first instinct was to mock the shit out of this toy. It does bear a strong resemblance to the infamous “Fisher-Price iPad Apptivity Seat,” aka the “Circle of Neglect.” And there’s something disconcerting about popping a small child into what looks like a tiny SoulCycle bike, mainly because I associate having to spend an hour at the gym on a stationary bike having a soul-grinding, middle-class desk job. But I’m definitely projecting when I look at this toy and find myself thinking, “I don’t want that life for my baby!” because my toddler does not have a desk job. My toddler plays all day and thinks jumping-jacks are fun and plays with a toy vacuum. If I gave this to her, she would just think it was a toy, not a necessary accessory for a professional life that involves no physical activity.
I was firmly opposed to the stationary bike for toddlers, until I turned around and looked out my own damn window.
My weather app says it’s 11 degrees and falling outside, and it’s going to be snowing until at least 9 p.m. My kid can go out in the snow, but I know the parks are empty right now. And sometimes it rains, and sometimes it’s gross, and sometimes you’re trying to make dinner without a toddler jumping into the oven. This toy suddenly seems like it might be great, especially if it helps an energetic toddler get some exercise and burn off some of that boundless winter energy they all seem to have.
Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski describes it as “a ride-on video game controller,” because the way the thing works is that the bicycle is used to control a tablet mounted to its handlebars, where it can be used to control one of four different educational games. (One is free, the others are $5 apiece and must be downloaded.) The games have the kids pedal faster, slower, forwards, and backwards to control the different games, which are designed to help teach reading, math, science, and social studies. The bicycle can also be connected to a TV to run the apps that way.
It looks pretty sizeable and is expected to cost around $150 when it comes out, but it seems like it could actually be a really useful toy in a lot of situations.