October 16, 2004

On Kids On Laptops

DT reader Nick has a problem: his 1-year old has gotten very good at removing laptop keys. And when we put babysmash software on one of our Powerbooks, the kid popped off several keys within minutes. Don't know if that says more about the kids or the quality of Macs, but I don't know a solution for this, except maybe those thin rubber skins they put on keyboards in Japan. Thoughts?

Related: Infant software (and hardware) [DT]


Our son has done the same thing. He has ripped the keys off our iBook several times. (It takes a long time to put those keys back on.) What I resorted to do was plug a cheap USB keyboard into the computer, and let him bang on that.

I also wonder if some third party company would make a replacement keyboard where the keys are not removable.

My daughter has yet to discover this, but likes to smash whatever she's chewing on at the time when she walks over to check me out at the desk. It's a tad frustrating to have a nice wooden childrens toys smash down on my powerbook, but better than losing keys - though the screen has had too many near misses for my taste.

I actually have the whole desk / computer area gated off since it's in our main room and accessible otherwise at will. Just way too many cables to have child-proofed in another way.

I have Alpha-Baby running on my iBook so i just let 11 mos. old Jack have a go at it. He pulls the keys off all the time but I've found this thing to be pretty resiliant. The only way to get the keys back on is to just press really hard. No trick to it, just press really hard.

The only thing I worry about now is when he grabs the screen, that would be bad if he broke it.

Oh, and just today I found out that if you put the end of the power adapter cord that goes in to the laptop in your mouth when plugged in apparently only tastes bad but won't kill you. Don't tell my wife I told you.

The running total is 3 keys from my wife's Toshiba, and only one from my iBook. He hasn't eaten any yet.

I found a used iMac at an auction for $300, and gave that to my 4 year old son to use. He has a habit of banging HEAVILY on the keyboard and/or mouse when it doesn't work the way he expects it to.

So far no lost keys, but I sometimes have to unplug the mouse and re-plug it to get it to work (I think it may have been stepped on) and the USB port seems a bit loose (possibly from having something un-USB poked in it). He also has a habit of walking away from the computer with his headphones on - I lost a very expensive pair of headphones this way before I picked him up a pair at the dollar store. Since that incident, the iMac seems to think that the headphones are always plugged in, and won't make any sound from the speakers. I think this may be a blessing.

In my experience, PCs in general and Macs in particular are pretty rugged, but 4 year olds have a way of being able to break just about anything that comes into their sight (which is why we keep the 1 year old duct-taped between pilows).

Needless to say, he doesn't get anywhere near my computers.

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