First and foremost, COMCAST/XFINITY "high speed internet" is rubbish. This is my second time trying to publish this article because our internet connection keeps failing.
But to stay on the road of customer satisfaction, Lego Kids Fest is at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend. Sara and I won't be taking Liam because for the three of us it will cost 58 dollars just to enter; then transportation [MAX or parking], food [they won't let you take outside food into the Center], and then the various things that parents pay for because their child is pretty awesome. Calculating that, it got me thinking about what places and events like this charge their customers, so I did a little investigation. Several places around the Port-Couver area have a very similar price range:
0 – 2 = FREE
3 – 11 = ADULT or near-ADULT Price
Tween and up = ADULT FEE
It got me thinking from a child developmentalist perspective: What is it about 3 year olds making them so daunting that businesses need to charge full or almost full price for admission. Let’s take a look:
Jean Piaget was a developmental psychologist and professor whose research helped shape the cognitive structuring school of psychology and set the foundation for constructivist beliefs in education and learning. The observations he made of his own children as they grew up became the core of his future research. He believed that individuals constructed their understanding of the world through experience and processing of that experience. He also created a stage theory of cognitive development from infancy to adulthood. For centuries, children were thought of as “little adults,” Piaget’s research helped re-shape the way we viewed children as he taught us that children and adults have completely different ways of seeing and processing the world around them.
Here is the way I see Piaget explaining why a 3 year old is charged $18.50 by the people in charge of Lego Fest. From infancy to age 2, children are in the sensorimotor period. They perceive and process the world primarily through their senses and not necessarily by actively participating in their environment. An infant in a crib may hit the rattle lying beside her but she doesn’t understand that it was her own actions that caused the rattle to make a noise. By the end of infancy (various times for all children), the child can act on their environment including hitting the rattle repeatedly to observe the result. Thus the reason why your 1 year old will drop the spoon from their high chair, watch you pick it up and then drop it again. It isn’t to frustrate you, but to watch the cause and effect process and feel a sense of empowerment and recognition that their actions result in an effect on their environment. By the end of two years of age, children are generally in the preoperational period and begin to act on their environment in a much more purposeful way. So cognitively they are much more engaging, experimental and exploratory; physically, they can walk, ask “why,” and get into all kinds of trouble.
Well there it is! The organizers for Lego Kids Fest understand that 3 year olds get into many more shenanigans so they need to charge as much as they do for an 11 year old because they have to pay more insurance and provide engaging activities that can be much more expensive for a 3 year old than for an infant; evidently, $18.50 more. Aren’t they both just as likely to break stuff? 11 year olds have difficulty controlling their newly pubescent-onset bodies and so do 3 year olds as they explore and try stuff. This conclusion brings me to another researcher who might take up the explanation from this point, Erik Erikson.
You might remember I just wrote an article on October 5th on how Erikson might help parents prepare children to be bully proof. In it I wrote that Erikson created a psychosocial model of development that has stages of development in which crises are resolved to a positive outcome or a negative one.
For the 3 year old, the crisis is Autonomy versus Self-Doubt. It is a crucial time in young children because they develop a sense of what they can and cannot do – but do so through discovery learning, experimentation and risk taking. So there it is! Lego Fest is aware that 3 year olds will be as risky as tweens, clumsy and have no understanding of boundaries like a two year old so we have to charge as much to cover insurance and walls of padding. That must be the reason.
My dad told me stories of growing up on a farm in Nebraska and driving a tractor when he was 12 and how he joined the Army as a young man. Nowadays, the debate stands at, how can we ask our soldiers to go off to war but not let them drink? 18 is the age of consent in most states and the age at which one is eligible to vote. But why 18? Some people think it is developmental – you are a logical thinking “adult” at 18 because your cerebral cortex has fully developed and you can reason. But now we know that the prefrontal cortex of the brain doesn’t really fully develop in some adults until as late as 25 to 30 years of age. So, like my thoughts on the development of the 3 year old as requiring more price of admission than a 2 year old – it seems the science doesn’t follow.
So then it becomes relatively arbitrary. Someone in the logistics office was told to delineate when a person was of age to require a higher charge of admission and said person came up with…..wait for it…..3. 36 months. 1,872 weeks. Can we still measure it that way or does that end at 2? That makes it a business decision then.
Excluding a large number of families from becoming interested in and addicted to Legos because you wanted to make as much as you could in as short amount of time as possible doesn’t seem like a good long term business model but my doctorate isn’t in business, it’s in educational leadership and I would tell a teacher, get your students to just play, discover and experiment with the new toy in the classroom and they won’t be as surprised when you use it to teach them math later on and they might just be hooked on it for a while.
In conclusion, the 80 or so dollars it would have taken to get into the Lego Kids Fest at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend will be better spent buying a nice lunch, boxes of Legos [my adoration is free] and watch my son go bat-s*** crazy with all the new blocks. Thanks Lego Kids Fest – I didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve brought us even closer together.