Fisher-Price

Is this tablet-equipped Fisher-Price exercise bike genius or terrible?

January 05, 2017

Are you a parent who depends on the judicious use of screen time to get through the day (*raises hand*) but feels guilty at the sight of your precious offspring slouched glassy-eyed on the couch, mouths hanging open as the blue light flickers across their adorable faces (me too)? Fisher-Price believes they have the solution with their new Think & Learn Smart Cycle, which debuted at CES 2017 in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The kid-sized stationary bike has a tablet holder attached and is Bluetooth enabled; according to CNN, it’s aimed at 3 to 6 year olds and allows kids to control gaming apps with the pace of their pedaling. (The previous version used cartridges and plugged into your TV via an old-school cable.) So yeah, it’s like your favorite spin class…but for preschoolers.

The idea is that kids will “learn” via the apps—all designed to be educational, of course—while getting more active in the process. But it’s certainly not the ideal way for children to get in either learning or physical activity, says pediatrician Dina DiMaggio, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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“Spending hours in front of a television or iPad, instead of engaging in physical activity, has been associated with obesity, so this activity would be better than no activity at all,” Dr. DiMaggio wrote in an email to Health. “With that said, this is still media use, and if a child is on the bike it could limit how much a parent can also co-view and interact with the child, which helps them learn better.”

For kids, play time is also about way more than just burning calories. “Free play outside helps develop motor skills, coordination, and social skills like sharing and cooperating with other children,” Dr. DiMaggio pointed out. “Unstructured play is how children explore and learn and is important to every aspect of a child’s development—both physically and emotionally. By sitting on a stationary bike alone, these benefits may be missed.”

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Look, I get it. I have a very active 4-year-old; we live in an apartment building with no backyard and have a downstairs neighbor who does not appreciate it when the kids decide to play indoor leapfrog. I can see how a contraption like this could help children safely burn off energy (especially during the winter months) while giving parents some much-coveted downtime.

But do you really need to spend $150 to prepare your child for their future SoulCycle membership? Here’s a suggestion: Go ahead and let your kids watch a video or play a game once in a while, bike free. Then lace up your shoes and all head outside—together. Maybe even with a real bike.