I don’t exactly wonder what life was like before we had an XBox. But I do wonder if the parents who don’t have one realize what they’re missing. I’m not going to tell you to go plop your kid on a couch with a video game so they can get fat and lazy, I promise.
But in the year and a half since I picked up a Kinect for my husband for Father’s Day, this thing has become one of many fallback plans when I just need a little “me” time and it’s so rainy and miserable out (or cold — I do live in the Northeast), that I can’t open the door and shoo her out with the dog.
I can set my kid up in front of it, and she actually moves around instead of sitting like a big whining lump of bored.
So why am I telling you this? One because, well, parents always ask how I manage to find time to actually read a book and well … there you go.
The other because I have a find worth investigating. What if I told you that the Kinect could make your kid a better TV watcher? And by better at watching TV, I mean they actually got something out of staring at the idiot box?
I need to be really open and honest here. I was recently contacted by Microsoft and asked if I wanted to check out something new that they have for kids. What caught my eye was that they weren’t just talking about games. The PR rep made sure she pointed that out specifically.
While they still have all the games kids love to play (my kid is a Kinectimals nut), they’re moving into interactive products that are more closely aligned with TV. To me it sounded like they were saying they had something that would make TV watching better for kids. Considering I’m the “bad” mom who once let her kid watch 6 hours of TV (and admitted to it in an essay criticized ’round the world!!), I was intrigued but sort of doubtful.
The truth is, my kid has her ups and downs with TV. Sometimes she watches, and I do mean WATCHES. Then we’ll go weeks with no TV. And other times it’s on, but it’s really background.
And despite using it as the occasional crutch, I have always had mixed feelings about it. I grew up in a TV-free house. Part of me wishes we were TV-free too, but part of me realizes that there are benefits to having the TV in the house with kids.
So this is where this whole Kinect deal comes in. I said, sure, send me the “products” (not games, y’all, not games).
Several times this week my daughter has set up in front of the TV to “play” (can you play when it’s not a game?) Kinect Sesame Street TV, and, well, it’s what I expected, only it’s better.
At 7, she’s in that strange stage where Sesame Street is a bit baby for her, but she still loves the characters. She actually asked for the Once Upon a Monster game for Kinect when we were at a Microsoft store a few months ago (buying me a new wireless mouse), but we were worried she’d be bored.
With the new Kinect product, however, she’s working her way through the series of Sesame Street episodes on the disc because the interactive portion is engaging her in ways that the show doesn’t.
In each episode, a mirror shows up onscreen beside one of the Muppets. Using the Kinect, the mirror is able to show an actual reflection of the kid watcher (beware, you need good lighting … the first night my daughter tried this she was a big ol’ blob in the mirror because the lamps we had turned on were clear across the room). That alone makes for good fun as your kid bounces around in the mirror. But then the monster uses their image to don a shirt that’s the same color as your kid’s. I think that’s when she really got interested … because she felt like she was a “part” of the show.
The audience participation component just ramps up from there, requiring kids to pay close attention as they’re about to be called on to move their bodies, shout at the Kinect, actually think about what they’re watching.
It seems to strike at what worries me most about TV: if it’s educational TV, how do you get a child to actually key in on the educational components? And if your kids are paying attention to a TV show, how do you get them to actually move around, not sit like bumps on a log?
She didn’t move as much as she does playing, say, Fruit Ninja, so this is no replacement for going outside and running around. But in terms of making kids more excited about learning, the Kinect TV relationship provides solid results for parents and their kids so far.
Do you have an XBox? Are you be up for a TV meets game console experience?
Have you “liked” Inside Out Motherhood on Facebook yet?
Kinect Sesame Street TV is available on Amazon for $29.96.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Kinect Sesame Street TV from Microsoft for free. I was not in any other way compensated for this blog post. All opinions are my own.