This Zoom Call Kids Toy Is Either Smart or Soul-Crushing

Donna Freydkin
·4 min read

working from homeZoomstressed-outworktoypreschoolerssmartphone headset that “lets kids take all their important business calls,” while slugging back coffee.

Now, so-called real-world toys like this do serve a purpose: They help kids make sense of what they see adults around them doing, by engaging in similar behavior. Think play kitchens, pretend tools, or that old comb that a 3-year-old makes into a phone.

The question is: Does the My Home Office set represent the cynical sacrifice of childhood magic in favor of corporate striving? Or is it, rather, another way for children to gain insight into the lives of their parents, a tool for practicing being humans in the world? Fatherly’s parenting editor Patrick Coleman and gear editor Donna Freydkin slug it out.

Fisher-Price My Home Office

The home office kit in question, which retailers can't keep in stock.

Buy Now $24.99

Donna Freydkin:Patrick Coleman:DF:PC:DF:

Playing with a laptop, headset, and to-go coffee cup doesn’t need to be the drudgery it is for you. Why? Because you aren’t sending Slack messages to unicorns.

PC: I’m not suggesting every kid should have this toy. But if kids are seeing parents work like this and are interested in trying on the role, I think the set is innocuous. Besides, I think there’s an opportunity in this toy. If anything, parents might be reminded of the roles that they are presenting and start to moderate or reinforce their own boundaries around work and home. There’s nothing like a mini-me hollering into a headset about TPS reports to give one a moment of clarity.

DF: Remember when Dwight Schrute got schooled on The Office by having his prized stapler encased in Jell-O? That’s a kid prank I can get behind. That’s weird and playful and interesting. Typing away at a plastic laptop, while mumbling into a headset, just seems soul-deadening to me. Mostly, it’s because our kids will have their whole lives to learn about the dubious joys of work, of what it means to be tethered to a job that gets tiresome and all-consuming. Must they figure it out before they’re even in pre-K?

PC: No. Obviously childhood should be a damn good time. And playing with a laptop, headset, and to-go coffee cup doesn’t need to be the drudgery it is for you. Why? Because you aren’t sending Slack messages to unicorns. You aren’t working with Elsa to make sure the ice elves have enough syrup for their sno-cones (is that the plot of Frozen? I literally never paid attention). But kids? Their imagination is tuned to have these kinds of “work” interactions. Will they be crushed when they grow up to find that the only trolls you can talk to on a laptop have neckbeards and live in their parents’ basement? Maybe. But believe me: The public education system will attune them to tiresome drudgery long before they ever consider employment. So, why not let them play? What is the difference between this toy and that pull along telephone with he swivel eyes from back in the day?

DF: Well, Patrick, I know when to retreat to my cubicle (wait, what are those again?). And clearly, since this thing sold out everywhere right after it launched, maybe I dialed into the wrong Zoom meeting. I see your point. A toy is just a vessel, and it’s imagination that turns it into something special. I just hope that something special isn’t a Bluetooth headset.

PC: Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand your disgust. From a less-than-oblique angle this toy pretty much looks like late-stage capitalism planting the next crop of proletariate suckers. That said, I believe a child’s imagination is far more powerful than the rotting foundations of corporate America. Besides, we’d be naive to think our kids will be using Bluetooth by the time they are employable. It’s far more likely that Elon Musk will have found a way to suck content straight from their brains via an ad-supported nueral interface. Just imagine the kind of toys they’ll make for that!

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