July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7
Preschoolers: Sharing Rides
Cub Cadet Teaches Driving Skills and Encourages Turn-Taking
Participants were World Bank policy advisor Gail Richardson, with Jessica (5) and Alexander (6); finance executive Shannon Harris, with Tripp (5); stay-at-home mother Heather Jones, with Meg (4), Cameron (6) and Reece (7); program manager for Near Eastern affairs Owen Kirby, with Emma (5) and Sarah (6); and writer/editor Elise Yousoufian and federal prosecutor Jay Bratt, with Aaron (5) and Hanna (5).
Cub Cadet by Peg Perego
What It Is: A battery-operated tractor and wagon that children can ride, controlling its speed and direction.
What the Parents Thought
The Jones and Yousoufian-Bratt families, who live in the same neighborhood, said they would never buy a toy like this. Federal Prosecutor Bratt stated he found “little to like about the toy.” Jones wrote, “I would be hard pressed to…justify this toy as one that ‘teaches’ my children a particular skill.”
These reactions suggest the manufacturer might benefit from targeted marketing and the inclusion of educational material for the parents and, for the children, activities and ideas for group play, to encourage the learning of motor and social skills.
Richardson, who was happy to receive it, said she had never purchased a toy like this one because “I want to encourage the kids to be active.”
Kirby, in contrast, articulated how being active on the tractor helped his daughters "manage the speed and steering, as well as reverse and forward. [The tractor] helps develop hand-eye coordination skills [and] speed and distance perceptiveness.”
How the Kids Reacted
All the children loved the tractor and reacted with pure enthusiasm; even their disappointment at having to wait for the battery to charge did not mitigate this. Harris’s son, Tripp, registered “lots of giggling and lots of ‘Oh, yeah!'s’”
But sometimes the enthusiasm took an ugly turn, bringing out what Yousoufian called “aggression” in Aaron, who could be loud about not giving up the tractor before finally saying he would “park it” so his sister could have a turn.
On the second night, the Yousoufian-Bratt children rode the tractor in the neighborhood playground, and the children who’d seen it the first night asked to ride it. After protest and persuasion, Aaron agreed to share, perhaps understanding that he’d be seen in a better light if he did. Aaron’s dealing with this friction illustrates what Richardson wrote: the tractor teaches sharing and negotiating.
“Kids just love the idea that they can ‘drive’ a vehicle,” continued Richardson. “They love to pretend they are running errands, that they can go ‘fast,’ and it makes them feel like a grown up.”
Richardson’s son, Alex, said, “I am going to drive to California to see Betsy — see you in an hour.”
Jones wrote that her children “enjoyed having a car for themselves.”
How to Improve It
Assembly: Richardson said the directions could be “more helpful if they featured more diagrams in addition to the text, and if the text was in a larger font.” Yousoufian was “frustrated by how [the pictures] didn’t match” the pieces in the box.
Durability and Mechanics: The Jones parents reported that the pin connecting the wagon to the tractor broke out after the first few rides ... in reverse. And after five days of use by three children, the reverse gear stopped working. Kirby found that the armrest did not sit “firmly or permanently in place” and that unscrewing the hood to recharge the battery is “cumbersome.”
Roundtable parents were leery of a toy that was, as Bratt put it, “the sort of thing that spoiled kids have and that indulgent parents buy.” Nonetheless, most felt that their children learned eye-hand coordination and how to negotiate taking turns with a toy that excited all the kids who saw it.
Photos of Aaron, Hanna and Cameron by ELISE YOUSOUFIAN
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Writer's Bio: Elise Yousoufian engages in paid work as a writer/editor on complex negotiations for airplane maker Airbus. Her two children completed four years at a Montessori school and enter first grade this year at the local elementary school. She finds watching Aaron and Hanna one of her life’s highlights. Read more articles by this author
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