My son is very excited in using technical devices like our printer, our tablet or our wireless phone. I'm thinking of buying him a classic, black an white GameBoy (the grey one with big nobs), so that he can play with his own device and cannot acidentially make phone calls, etc.

Do you think a GameBoy or similar can be too much for him? Is it appropriate for his age?

I'm thinking of one or two games (Tetris, etc), so that pressing a button will do something on the screen. Of course he will not be able to "play" Tetris, but he likes pressing button on the printer so much.

  • 4
    My gut feeling: Wait another three to five years....
    – Stephie
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 10:54
  • Welcome to Parenting.SE! Thanks for editing to clarify :)
    – Acire
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 12:00
  • 1
    I've tried such things with my son, even around that age, by giving him functional devices that he can interact with. The appeal never stuck, and he did and does prefer to press buttons on whatever I'm currently using. Sigh. I've had a lot of unexpected reboots.
    – user11394
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 19:27

4 Answers 4


Appropriate? I'd say it's safe, has no small elements, isn't a choking hazard, is made of plastic and powered by low-voltage batteries, so even tasting it won't hurt. But should you buy one for your toddler? I'd say no.

Consult these two articles from babycenter:

While I understand what you want to do seems harmless (and actually I have myself considered introducing my toddler to some kind of games), I think that it is still too early.

First of all, I think a child should spend as much quality time experiencing the real world as possible. I would argue that games or tv are actually factors that interfere and disturb with that process.

Secondly, I suspect that between 1 to 3 years a lot of character and personality is built. I don't want my child to be a couch potato/computer games addict. Yes, these are extremes, used to make a point, and at this age nothing's decided - but let's push our kids towards the "good" activities. They'll have enough computer games when they grow up some more.

If by any chance you are getting bored and have no new ideas what to do with your kid just take out your toolset (supervise!) and see what happens :) Or an old bicicle inner tube. Just take look around your closets and shelves and find something your LO hasn't discovered yet.

  • Electronic devices and doing about everything with them, including gaming, are part of the real world. Therefore, playing with such a device does not interfere with or even disturb experiencing the real world. However, electronic devices are (meant to be) very mind and time consuming. The "supervise!" advice is very valid in this case! Commented May 25, 2015 at 19:26
  • @User1129682 you're missing the point. The gameboy is a part of the world, but the world presented inside games is not. Physics is different and unrealistic, to start with. Secondly, time spent, let's say, exploring mazes in Zelda is time not spent exploring the real world. I'm not saying that computer games are bad, I'm saying that it's to early to be introducing them.
    – Dariusz
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 7:56
  • @Dariuz: You're not making that point. Instead your point is/was very clearly that little children+video games will most likely result in couch potatoes and computer games addicts. This is an unreasonably biased view. As far as I can observe, the people who spend the most time on Facebook and/or with their (for instance) PlayStation today, are those you had hardly any contact with electronic devices in their pre-teen years. While I concur with every single one of your statements, I highly doubt the correlations you imply. Commented May 26, 2015 at 22:18
  • @user1129682 yeah, I was afraid that using those two keyphrases would make such impression. My intended point was: there are many more much better activities for a toddler than computer games or tv, so let's try to encourage real-world exploration and limit and supervise those two. Do you have links to or titles of any studies which prove/disapprove correlation between early exposure to facebook/playstation and their usage further in life? I'd really like to see them.
    – Dariusz
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 5:13


A Game Boy or similar is likely too much for a child of that age to handle on its own and therefore not an appriate toy for a toddler.


Consider firing up a game of Tetris: (If I recall correctly) You have to

  1. wait for the Nintendo Logo to move across the screen
  2. press any key
  3. select 1/2 players
  4. select mode a/b
  5. select a level

All games require a similar sequence to get going. At age 1 this seuence is too much for a child to handle, I think. This will cause nothing but frustration.

Side note: modern devices, especially smart phones, do not have this problem. Every touch will almost instantly result in a reproducible result and action sequences are short.

To keep this answer short: I am not aware of any electronic device that is actually "safe" (i.e. makes all of you happy) to give to such a young child. You will have to play together with him for at least another year. And from your question I gather you don't need to buy anything to keep doing that.

For every approach worth discussing there is one issue I'd like to point out: Our eyes grow to be most efficient at what we do most. If your child spends a lot of time focusing on close displays, he/she has a (dramatically) increased chance of becoming short sighted.

  • Does the eye focusing issue also apply to picture books?
    – slartidan
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 5:18
  • 1
    @slartidan: Yes, it does. However, as you never have to move your eyes away from the screen and a game has the potential to keep you and your eyes focused much much longer than a picture book, the effect is more extreme with screens as with books. Yet, ebook readers are as bad as video games. Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:49
  • There are electronic games (eg. tetris) in standalone cases (ie. you have a machine with just a single game). That would be better than a full-fledged GameBoy. I still consider a 1 year old too young, though.
    – Ángel
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 20:54

As the others already said, it's maybe too much...(and the fact that he probably will not know how to really play until he is 3/4/5)
Nothing more to say...

Beside that, here's a suggestion:
When he really likes to press buttons/keys, maybe consider something like this:
(only an example [it's an keyboard which can make animal noises and regular musical notes]) enter image description here

(it can also be used by adults to improve their piano skills)


Kids that age just like pressing buttons. Buy them a fake phone or computer and that will keep them busy for a while.

A Gameboy is not only generally considered as unsafe for a 1-year old, but also your kid will get tired of it quickly like any other toy. (Let alone if he actually can operate it)

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