Believe It Or Not, this is Not an Onion Photo-Shopping Project...

Hat tip to Rod Dreher for pointing out what he deems the most depressing toy ever - yes, your little one can have his or her own cubicle! Has your two year old been falling down on the hard, tedious job of being a child - here's a way of ensuring that she's ready for a life of dismal monotony!

child cubicle.jpg

Now you can make home more like the office, enhance the number of hours of screen time (children between 2 and 5 years old only get a measly 32.5 hours of screen time per day on average, gotta get those numbers up!) and bring Dilbert to life for your child.

It is every parent's dream!


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Checked the date, not April 1...

...Holy crap!

Hmmm.... but a similar little tykes cooking set, or laundry or toy vacuum cleaner doesn't send a "don't have a career, stay at home and live a fulfilled life as a housewife" message?

I mean. Really. I have worked in a cubicle and in an office, and my jobs on the computer have been exciting, creative and financially and emotionally rewarding.

It's not at all depressing imagining my daughter playing that she has my job. In fact, it's a dream job of many children, though it takes place at a desk in front of a computer.

But nobody dreams of being a professional vacuum cleaner operator, or a laundress.

Funny - Eiley's first response when she saw this picture, "CMOST!" - which is the Children's Museum here in Troy, NY. They totally have 3 of these consoles set up as you come towards the "Make a Shadow" wall. Kids love 'em.

But at home. Pretty creepy.

It is indeed horrifying. But clicking through to Rod Dreher, I didn't find any mention of it on the main page. Maybe you could link to the actual posting.
Not sure what you see in Mr. Dreher. To me he seems as dippy as David Brooks.

By Mike Cagle (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

As far as I can tell, it isn't meant for at home. It is meant for institutional use (museums, daycares, preschools.) It also isn't meant to suck children into a horrible life in a cubicle. For one thing, not all jobs with cubicles involve dismal monotony.

32.5 hours/day - you mean hours/week or min/day?

By Christina (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

My oldest son got so sick of turning compost, weeding the garden, bringing firewood up from the river in a wheelbarrow, tending rabbits, mending leaks in irrigation pipe, etc., etc., that he moved to the city & got a job in a cubicle. To be fair, though, he enjoyed being home for a week in March, and doing chores around the place. I think that a week was enough for him, until next time..

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

After years of getting burned and cut while working in kitchens, or getting hit by cars as a bike messenger, sometimes there is something to be said for the mindless tedium of cubicle work.

By Treespeed (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

They've got a couple of those at our library. They seemed to be getting a lot of use during our last visit. It was hard to keep my little guy away from them, but I think that was because he was so interested in the older kids (when I sat him over by it later he wasn't so interested). It struck me as rather neat, actually. I'm inclined to think that the whole view of "computer = work" is an obsolete generationally biased view anyway.

what I want to know is -- who has a house big enough for one of those anyway???

Yes, strange and creepy. But we also have given our children, as toys .... toy axes, toy ovens, toy guns, toy babies, toy saws ... In fact, it's kind of a human universal ... kids get toy X where X is related to the adult work.

Of course, you should see the FAO schwarz version of this toy! It's a penthouse executive suite with a big wide glass desk with nothing on it but a 2000 pen set and an intercom. Administrative assistant upgrade kit available.

Nothing new! I wish I had pictures of my grade school. We were on the A.C.E. system:
At the time, roughly 30 years ago, students in this program were confined to cubicles in an attempt to squelch the inconvenient childhood out of us so that we would be more productive in our unrewarded, pointless efforts.

(happy ending!) Fortunately, a consequential uncle unwittingly gave this astronomy-curious child a copy of the book, "Cosmos". Carl Sagan became my savior in that fundamentalist cubicle farm.

The two "wings" on this toy cubicle remind me of blinders you put on a horse. The layout of an office cube is usually to have the worker's back to the door to easily expose the computer's screen and maximize productivity. The height of cubicles is such that someone's head will stick out when they stand up. Cubicles are intended to take away your privacy and discourage the desire to congregate.

I checked, and an administrative assistant upgrade kit is an urban myth.


By Beanie_Baby (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

Oh yeah, please notice the angle of the little boy's left wrist where the inflammation of carpal tunnel would set in with overuse.

Dad, let's go to the park and play ball.

Please Dad.

The Baby Beanster

By Beanie_Baby (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

Playing in the backyard seems more appropriate - fresh air, sun, imagination.....

viv in nz

By knutty knitter (not verified) on 16 Apr 2010 #permalink

"Cubicles are intended to take away your privacy and discourage the desire to congregate."

There is a time and place for interaction with others. There can often be a lot of cacophony in the office which is not good for concentration. Not everyone can have their own enclosed office. Cubicles are more space-efficient.

You know, if you don't want to work in the office, don't. But I'm not going to claim everybody feels like Dilbert, Office Space, or the guy in Brazil.

Too often we extrapolate our feelings onto others when in fact people are different. It's kind of the "moral majority" phenomenon. We must not make such assumptions.

I was perfectly happy to work in an office as a programmer at the height of the dot com boom. Not quote as much now, having done it for 13 years straight and having kind of been obsoleted by the economy, but I can think of far more unpleasant work environments for me than sitting at a computer.

Different strokes for different folks.

TW, Sharon, don't you make your livelihood staring at a computer monitor, blogging and writing books? Is that okay because you work from home?

I don't really think criticizing the idea of "buy your kid a freakin' expensive faux cubicle so they can get more screen time" is in itself an indictment of every job involving a cubicle. The average American child between two and five gets 32+ hours a week (not a day) in front of a screen - is there anything good or healthy about that? I'm not anti-tv/computer - we own both and sometimes let the kids use them, but 32 hours?!?!?

No reason your kid can't play office at home with an etch-a-sketch or paper and stapler - without wing blinders to prevent him from accidentally having eye contact with a person. The point isn't "all jobs involving cubicles are dilbert jobs" but "we're teaching our kids to stare blankly at screens all day."

I don't see this as fundamentally like giving them toy adult tools of other kinds - this isn't a play office, it is a computer. As far as I know, there's no pediatrician on the planet out there saying "yes, give your kids more screen time to help prepare them for adulthood."


And Ed, no it isn't ok because I do it at home, it is ok because I'm 37 years old, not four, and my brain is probably about as fully developed as it probably ever will be (pity that ;-)). And even then, I don't think life in the cubicle or in front of my computer at home in my bedroom is the healthiest model in the whole world - I can feel the consequences of sitting in my body, from the repetetive strain to the stiffness of inadequate motion, which is why I'm trying to do it a lot less. And again, I'm 37, not four. I don't really see why this is so complicated.

The thing about most of the toys we use to train kids in adult ways is that they also involve imaginative play, using your body, and pretend. Playing a computer game on a screen that is predesigned and managed for you is not the same thing. Even if they grow up to love their cubicles, that's not what they are supposed to be doing with either brain or body when they are four.

I guess I'm kind of mystified that this needs explaining.


"In this age of technology we think it is essential that children learn about computers as early as possible. This technology can enhance critical and cognitive thinking skills, problem-solving abilities and analytical thinking. Having child-appropriate computers and software in your facility shows parents that you understand the important role technology plays in providing an enriched learning environment for their child's growth. It's a hallmark way to set you apart from other childcare facilities."

From the description of the toy Nadine linked to. It is true, it is for daycare centers - ooh, so much better! Because this is the classy kind of time your kid spends staring at the screen. And look, the company provides a lot of total bullshit about the importance of having technology in your facility.

Because, of course, we know that no people who didn't have computers as babies ever become fluent in them, right? And we certainly know that pediatricians and developmental experts overwhelmingly believe your two year old will have better critical thinking skills if they get some cube time.


I'm pretty sure that kids will pick up on computers without a creepy, expensive toy. From my own experience, the kids know enough by age 10 to be teaching their parents how to use the computer.

By DerelictHat (not verified) on 17 Apr 2010 #permalink

When I was a little girl, I loved to play "office," which involved sitting on a chair in the living room and filling out rows of numbers, which symbolized whatever I wanted, on graph paper, accounting paper, and other types of paper my dad brought home for me to use. I would make pretend phone calls to people and write important memos. A special treat was when my mom let me borrow her tape recorder and microphone, and I pretended to dictate, then interviewed my visiting grandparents. This was all so GOOD because it combined imitation, imagination, and invention. I just don't see today's toys doing much of that... for the most part, as you point out, they teach button-pushing, direction-following, and screen-watching. What are we doing to our kids?!

Sharon - I disagree to an extent with the idea that exposure to computers early won't increase fluency with them - I work in an environment full of ludicrously intelligent people, most of whom are 10-30 years older than me, I can run circles around any of them when it comes to using computers - I (and they) put this down to the fact that I was exposed to computers as a kid (still have awesome memories of almost, but not quite, programming a home made space invaders game with my dad - which IMO beats the hell out of playing catch, if only because playing catch would have involved a long walk to the local park and the very real threat of stepping in poop) whereas for the most part none of them were (either because computers weren't yet readily available, or because they grew up in areas of the world where they probably still aren't)

Although I'd agree that this is maybe a tad silly for a 2 year old (what's wrong with an xbox!) I'd much prefer to have kids doing something interactive and thought provoking with a computer (my brother learned to play chess age ~4 on a beat up old 286 PC - yay battle chess (apparently even a 4 year old can be motivated by the desire to see little animated characters brutally murder each other)- and not just the rules, he could give adults a run for their money) rather than being plonked in front of a TV to watch drivel - so long as they also get to do like, other, real world stuff, too. (perhaps we should give recycled real computers to kids, rather than these nonsensical parodies... even the text to speech function of older versions of windows would have held me fascinated for hours as a kid "hur hur the computer said poop!" - plus recyling is good! (and when they get older you can give them other recycled parts and let them figure out how to build it... thanks dad!)

Sharon, your opening lines said "the most depressing toy ever - yes, your little one can have his or her own cubicle! Has your two year old been falling down on the hard, tedious job of being a child - here's a way of ensuring that she's ready for a life of dismal monotony!" Forgive us if we started off with the wrong impression that your were somehow making "an indictment of every job involving a cubicle." Your point about screen time was kind of hidden among all the Dilbert jokes.

I agree with you about kids not needing more screen time, but all the "office life sucks" comments make me feel really defensive - after all, I have and like an office job and it's hard hearing my life described as "dismal monotony."

A huge hunk of plastic designed to instill pretend play of sitting under ultra-violet lighting, staring at a computer screen, and pushing paper. Sad.

Is this all we want for our children?

I just pushed some paper from under a florescent light and on this computer at a lawyer under another florescent light at another computer that saved a small company and a family from bankruptcy.

I'll walk home and take the dog for a long walk.

I'll make a local strawberry cobbler.

I'll toss some morel mushrooms in black butter and shallots as a base for the Gruyere, shaved ham and baguettes I picked up over lunch and make Provence sandwiches to go with Saturday farmer's market asparagus and a nice burgundy.

I'll visit the gang at my local watering hole for a scotch or a brandy after dinner to discuss the news of the day with humans and avoid the vast wasteland of television (including the self congratulatory baby boomer crap-fest that is on the American Experience's very unspecial Earth Day episode).

I will return to my bride and pig/dog just as the laugh tracks are winding down on the sit-coms, do some dishes, read a chapter in the Ambrose Bierce biography and have a cuddle while she talks herself to sleep pouring out the horrors of a family law practice.

I'll be up in the middle of the night to circle the block while the dog has a pee, contemplate the fate of Bierce, miss my friend who died in the Murrow bombing and sleep.

Tomorrow I will make coffee and sit under my florescent lights banging out a revocable trust for a man whose English is so broken other lawyers lacked the patience to talk to him and knowing I wouldn't trade my "life of dismal monotony" for anything.

If The Bride is gestating then it will not be long before I pass on the big quarter sawn oak office chair where my father wrote his Phd dissertation, where I studied for the bar exam and where my kids can fulfill my grandfather's from bellhop to industrialist admonition.

"Anybody can figure out which is the business end of a shovel. It takes a special kind of nerve to bend your will around a pen for eight hours a day and make it do what you want."

By Prometheus (not verified) on 19 Apr 2010 #permalink

Emily, I guess I think that observing that certain kinds of play are dismal for children doesn't mean "all office jobs are dismal." I think structuring screen time and sitting still for very young children is manifestly different than adults doing it work - there are kinds of adult work we simply don't model in play, because they are adult, and the whole phenomenon of the cubicle - sit still for a long time, stare at the screen, don't make eye contact or interact with anyone else - is the exact opposite of what people believe is appropriate for children. Sorry if this offends people, but again, I don't think the idea that it is a depressing invention says anything about the utility of any particular job.

Ewan, I think if kids were programming and taking apart computers, that might be worth doing, but I don't think very young children should be staring at screens, even if moving the mouse makes the do something. I don't think a child could do much on that front with this.

But moreover, I think you have to deal with what we know about kids - the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 0 hours of screen time for kids under two, and minimal screen time, less than 10 hours per week for kids 2-5 - and we have so wildly exceeded this, with very predictable physical health consequences that you'd really need to make a compelling case that most kids, chess skills included, would be better off with more.


and the whole phenomenon of the cubicle - sit still for a long time, stare at the screen, don't make eye contact or interact with anyone else - is the exact opposite of what people believe is appropriate for children.

This is at best only what occurs in the worst cubicle based jobs, not to say that it doesn't occur, but I'm sure that one could equally make the claim for any sphere of employment that a percentage of the jobs are monotonous soul killers.

I started my present job in a cubicle, now moved to a rather spiffy window office, but will be back in a cubicle again in a few months (there is no heirarchical assignment of windows it appears, which was nice while it lasted) - if I spent any great length of time not making eye contact, interacting, or indeed sitting still for a great length of time (depending how one quantifies a great length of time I guess) then I'd likely be looking for another job, quite possibly one of the soul sucking cubicle jobs that are being painted as the norm here. However I honestly think my job is completely awesome, cubicle and all, and apparently others do too.

Do I advocate for more time for kids in front of a monitor? Not at all. I was merely pointing out that done right it isn't necessarily a bad thing, although I had hoped that I had made the point that a) this particular manifestation of sitting in front of a screen doesnt appear to be a good thing (I bet it doesnt even have scienceblogs access) and b) 2 is probably a tad bit too young for any significant time in front of a monitor (although should a 2 year old show the desire to plonk down in front of a computer and simulate Daddy spending waaaay too long arguing on the internet I'd be more than happy to either grab a crappy old monitor and keyboard out of storage and let em have at it until they got bored - I'll get back to you in 2 years to let you know how this goes down!)

By Ewan Ross (not verified) on 20 Apr 2010 #permalink