Computer for a Four-Year-Old
Computers Can Be So Vexing -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Computers Can Be So Vexing

Yesterday when Anthony got home from preschool, he runs in and says “Daddy, Daddy, I want to build a computer.” Now, I don't know where he got this idea about building a computer, but when Anthony says “I want to build...,” it really means “I want you to build for me...” He's fully capable of building things by himself, as evidenced by the highway construction project from the other day, but when he actually pre-announces that he wants to build something, he's really telling me to do it.

I sort of thought the request was a bit odd, since he doesn't really use the computer much. Once a month or so he plays some of the wonderful activities at the Nick Jr. UK site (which has activities appropriate for kids as young as two; a great resource). Other than that, his only interaction with the computer is to watch me.

Anyway, I didn't think he'd understand if I replied truthfully that “Daddy is a software guy, I'm not a hardware engineer,” so I put on my best MacGyver hat and built him a computer from random things lying around the house.

Anthony's New Computer -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Anthony's New Computer

It features a Lego block for the mouse, a piece of cardboard for the keyboard, yarn for the wires, and a plastic tool case for the monitor (the case being part of a Christmas present from his Aunt Chickee and Uncle Mikey). He can tape pictures to the monitor to change what he's working on. To get him started with that, I gave him a salad dressing advertisement and an old catalog of photographic equipment filled with random pictures.

Computers Can Be Fun! -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Computers Can Be Fun!

It's a pretty advanced system, comparable in may respects to my new Dell.

Its main feature is 4 gigabytes of quad-core imagination, which he puts to extensive use.

Staring Intently at Nothing but a Screen Full of Imagination

Not long after starting his “work,” we had this conversation:

Anthony:I'm going to send something.
me:To Mommy?
Anthony:No, to Shimada-san.
... slight pause...
I think we're going to need a printer!

I cut some slots in a used tissue box, and we had our printer.

Why Don't These Things Ever Work?

Hardware Upgrade

He found the initial configuration to be a bit lacking, so we had to make a few additions. Above, he's adding a button that automatically contacts the fire department. We also added a power button, and a delete key.

Below, he's using the delete key. Maybe he was reading email, and clearing out spam?

Exercising the “Delete” Key

More proof that his experience with computers is mostly from watching me.....

I fully expect him to come home some day soon with “Daddy, I want to build a camera!

All 7 comments so far, oldest first...

Well of COURSE he needed a computer. How else can the head of a construction company write up government bids and keep track of payroll?

— comment by Marcina on April 24th, 2007 at 11:01am JST (15 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

You might consider getting him a label maker (Brother makes these). My son loves typing in words on the little keyboard, seeing them on the LCD, and hitting print when he’s done. It didn’t take long for him to master the “backspace” key to repair spelling mistakes. As an added bonus, the labels can be stuck on things.

Somehow it has a lot of appeal, because it is a real “grown-up” toy.

“the labels can be stuck on things” And this, Bryn, is a good thing? 😀 —Jeffrey

— comment by Bryn D. on April 25th, 2007 at 8:02am JST (15 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Now THIS I can approve of. (I am adamantly against overuse of and training for using computers for little kids–they’ll learn fast when the right time comes, but this is really cool.)

My husband’s secretary brought her new baby to work with her in our home for his first 11 months. At around 8-9 months, one of his favorite pasttimes was “drive up” to a kid-height table (in his walker) and play with the old keyboard and old monitor my husband had rigged up for his “puter”.

You are the kind of Dad every kid needs. Foster those imaginations!!

— comment by Nana-B on April 25th, 2007 at 12:02pm JST (15 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I meant that sticky labels are good thing from the kids point of view. I have been known to walk around the house with the label “DADDY” on it. Just need to remember to remove it before leaving the house. 🙂

— comment by Bryn D. on April 26th, 2007 at 3:24am JST (15 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I stumbled across your blog through a google search. I loved these pictures of your son and his new computer. I sent the link to my boyfriend for inspiration. He is looking forward to the arduous task of building a computer this weekend! I like the idea that we could just adjust the hardware on the fly. Saves going to the computer shop for extra parts! 🙂

— comment by Huette on May 1st, 2008 at 1:34am JST (14 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Quote: “You are the kind of Dad every kid needs.”

I second that!

— comment by Anne on September 5th, 2012 at 3:44pm JST (10 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Love these pictures. Adorable kid!

— comment by Ben on December 19th, 2012 at 7:23am JST (10 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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