My Son’s Favorite Toy That’s Not a Toy

by Barrett

Where do all of these pictures come from? From the mind of my six year old. And how does he create them? Sometimes the most complex questions have the easiest answers…

Where do all of these pictures come from? From the mind of my six year old. And how does he create them? Sometimes the most complex questions have the easiest answers…

“Please put that down. That’s not a toy!”

As a parent of a six-year-old-boy, I think it’s fair to say the best (or most desired) toy is often something that’s not a toy. And I’ve found it’s often been a piece of my home tech he wants to test drive.

I must report that most unlikely piece of home tech that my son really likes to spend time with is… my home printer.

Yup… he likes to print.

No, he’s not quite jumping onto my computer yet to print out complex Excel spreadsheets. But let me explain…

Good Morning
For the last two to three years, my boy has often enjoyed starting his day by walking over to me while I’m tapping away at my iMac.

I don’t know about other parents out there, but I’ve intentionally carved out about 65 minutes of uninterrupted ‘alone’ time in the morning while the rest of my family sleeps. Yes, I’m giving up some Z’s, but I usually set my alarm early and use these extra minutes to catch up at my desk and sometimes to write my blog.

My mind is fresh, and I often find the creativity flows during this ‘magic time.’ People ask me where I find the time to write as a busy parent… now you know.

Time to Print
So my son likes to greet me every morning and knows to find me downstairs at my Mac. Once we go through our good-morning ritual, he has often made me a little ask…

“Will you print me something, Dada?”

I’ve had a variety of requests over the years… animals, dinosaurs, sea creatures, insects, Lego sets, planets, spaceships, cartoon characters… or whatever he’s been thinking about or playing with the day before.

So I Google the particular ‘thing’ and then click on ‘Images,’ and suddenly there are about a hundred for him to choose from. He sits on my lap, and we go through all of the options. He chooses his favorite picture…sometimes two or three. And I print them all out.

He then runs over to my Canon Pixma iP2820 printer to collect his images and voilà!
Instant gratification.

  • His brain picks something.
  • I Google it.
  • My printer makes it appear.

I’d say that’s quite a toy!

Collaboration
I think the other obvious dynamic is this has become a fun father/son activity that my boy can call up most any morning he desires.
(If I were painting a white fence every morning when he wakes up, that fence would probably become a favorite object too.)

But that printer is also pretty cool. I’m sure it’s like magic to my boy…

That you can think of anything and then immediately print an image of it out… that’s got to an amazing feat for any child. Yes, I know it’s a no brainer today… but if you back just a little bit in time, it was also impossible for most adults.

I can only imagine what the future might look like when 3-D printers become more affordable for home use…

Don’t Run Out of Ink
Technically, my home printer has distinguished itself as my son’s favorite adult tech tool.
(His favorite adult tech toy is my iPad… but that’s a different conversation for another day.)

So does my lowly Pixma printer get more of a workout that I originally expected? It certainly does…

I’m careful to make sure it’s printing in ‘draft’ mode to save on ink costs. My boy isn’t that particular on the quality of the image… although he does point out when the color cartridge runs out and the colors skew horribly in one direction.
Then, it’s a do-over.

So yes, I’m sure to have an extra set of ink cartridges at the ready.
And yes, those cartridges are expensive… so I’m always looking for whatever deal is available.

The Big Picture
I’m sure some of you might be thinking… The kid likes to have his daddy print out a few images on his printer. Big deal.

True… but I don’t know… I kind of like it. And dare I say, it can fall into the category of learning… as he explores his world.

My little printer: Toy and learning device.

That’s one dad’s story, and I’m sticking to it.

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