The Little Red Laptop

When I was five years old, I got a red laptop for Christmas. It did not connect to the world wide web, but it was preprogrammed with games that met core knowledge requirements for kindergarten thru fifth grade. Naturally, I did not engage with all of the games right away. Back then, I could not read. I could write letters and numbers, but I didn’t understand how they worked together. Although the laptop had audio explaining what it wanted me to do, I didn’t comprehend it. I distinctly remember writing random numbers on a math worksheet in Kindergarten. Telling other people I knew the answers. Had them copy my work and turned it in for credit. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well. I also remember doing an audio letter quiz in First Grade. My teacher said a letter and asked us to write it out. I struggled with it. If you showed me the letter and asked me to identify, I could. If you asked me to write out a letter, I drew a blank. So, I learned through praise and mistakes.

“A man is not what he is because of the teachers he had, but because of what he has done.”

Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, 2008, Pg 124

Even at an early age children learn postive and negative through sounds and symbols. Trying to avoid the negative sound led to memorization. Mastery of one game led to another. I brought this learning toy up, because I was one of those children that needed more than lectures and worksheets. At the same time, drilling things over and over with an instructor wasn’t ideal either. I needed space to make mistakes on my own. For a child struggling to grasp a concept, one person can feel like a full studio audience.

VTech Smart Start Laptop

As I mentioned earlier, the toy didn’t hold back when I was wrong. So it’s not like it coddled me. The visual, audio, and physical aspects of the toy helped me grasp early elementary core knowledge. Plus, the letters are formatted to encourage early typing too. Amazingly, a toy I got in 1995 still works today. Truthfully, I haven’t found a kids laptop that comes close to it. They either look to cartoonish or the content is limited. I get it.

Apps have an education genre geared towards children, educators, and parents. Some like the convenience of the all in one tablet or smartphone. Many are free with ads, have one time fees, or monthly subscriptions. They are designed to hold a child’s attention. Sometimes the entertainment takes priority over learning.I’m not saying they aren’t useful. I just prefer an eclectic approach to learning.

  Variety is the spice of life. Break up the tablet time with simple machines, arts and crafts, outdoor play, books, and conversation. Reflect on your own academic experience. Were there tools that finally turned the light bulb on for you? Was there a person that broke things down in a way that made sense to you? My VTech Smart Start Laptop was helpful, but it is wasn’t the only resource available to me. I won’t deny it had a big impact on my development either.

Did you have a device or toy that helped you learn growing up?

Did you struggle keeping up with your peers? If so, how did you overcome it?


5 thoughts on “The Little Red Laptop

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      1. Later in life when math got harder did you start drawing or making diagrams cause you needed a some kind of visual? Cause I had to do that to make sense of word problems that did not have a visual.


      2. I did with maths: drawing endless gates (representing four slats and then a cross bar for 5e value of five) but never with words. Was great at words but not necessarily the order of the letters or I might miss out little words like ‘an’ or ‘in’ or repeat them.


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