His and hers laptop/tablet computers, complete with keyboards, some type of video messaging system that only works between the two units, and games such as ‘Oxygen Battle’ and ‘Pyramid’. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Creativity, and smoke, yields two new ‘computers’

My son opted to empty the recycling bin of all its boxes and create stuff.

Anybody else spend the weekend with a raging headache, trapped inside their increasingly messy house with a frustrated husband, and kids that refuse to get fully dressed, all while looking longingly out the window at the smoky place where the mountain they wanted to hike used to be?

It can’t just be me.

I should start by saying this whole wildfire situation along the west coast of the United States is devastating and we’re really lucky to only be afflicted by a few days of smoke. It could just as easily have been Vancouver Island burning.

We woke up Saturday morning, though, and it felt somewhat like we were prisoners to health and safety, trapped in our own home for our own good.

The air quality was so poor, there was no way we were going to go for one of our typical weekend hikes. Play parks were kiboshed, too. Backyard play? Sorry kids. Chalk on the driveway? Probably not a good idea either.

OK, well what about indoor things outside of the house? Oh right. COVID-19. With the air quality what it was, we figured there’d be even more people flocking to public indoor spots, so we wanted to avoid those as well.

We were stuck at home for the duration.

A few columns ago I wrote about technology and screens and how useful and educational they can be. I did touch on the negative aspects of screens as well but I don’t remember if I mentioned what epic fights one iPad can cause when wanting to be used by two children at the same time and what a time sink screens are if no limits are imposed.

At some point mid Saturday, with the screens off, my son opted to empty the recycling bin of all its boxes and create stuff. What a mess.

Ultimately it was just one of those creations that ended up captivating him — and his sister — for the rest of the day and into the days that followed.

With no access to the iPad, my son quite simply made his own computer. He spent hours on it. I’m not sure if I should be proud of his ingenuity or mortified that technology was all he could think about?

His computer was so cool his little sister wanted one too so he helped her make it. They cut a piece of cardboard to the right size and then they glued a white piece of paper on it to make a clean canvas and then they got to work downloading their apps.

For the rest of the day, they played with these creations more than any store-bought toy we had in the house.

Features included some type of video chat system that linked their two devices together. When one declared they were calling the other, the other knew to answer and vice versa. They had little chats, played two-player games they both had installed on their units and then hung up to do their own things.

They also had key pads where they had to punch in a special code before the machine would unlock. Talk about attention to the details!

Games included the likes of “Oxygen Fight” where you move a jet-pack and press a button to shoot. Nobody ever explained what they were shooting but I think it was aliens.

“Facky Fan” is another one, installed only on my daughter’s machine as it comes from just her imagination.

“You just press this button to blow the bad guys away with a fan,” she said. She went on to explain it’s actually a Chinese zhe shan, or folding hand fan.

“Wacky Waving Arm” is another game, my son made and I guess it was so popular both kids downloaded it onto their machines. It’s a game where you try to keep those wavy arm guys you see at the car dealerships out of the rain.

Each of these games has its own set of buttons that need to be pressed to make the game work. Sometimes they win, but to my surprise, they also lose quite a bit.

My son made one called “What’s Inside the Top Hat” in which you press a button and something pops out of the hat.

“I always get a ball,” my son told me, somewhat defeated. It cracked me up given he’s the one who drew the ball.

“Race Car Rally” is a game where you can “jump over the newspapers and drinks or go under them and bump into the other cars so they can get out of your way,” explained my daughter before asking if I would like to see the ninja game.

Heck yeah I would.

“I’m not really good at that one,” she admitted. “But you can’t delete stuff on my computer. Maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”

Oh the positivity!

I feel like I’m going to need to keep an eye on these kids because they’ve added the App Store to their computers and they seem to be downloading some suspect apps.

“Zombie Monster Takedown” and a pizzy delivery app are now present.

Their new “computers” are so wildly popular I was even able to sneak away for a bath and I wasn’t disturbed once. If that’s not a victory thanks to a little screen time, I don’t know what is.


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