[Wk 1 Activity] Childhood Objects


Welcome to our first activity!

This week we invite you to share a childhood object with the community.

Read Seymour Papert’s essay on Gears of My Childhood and think about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you.

Reply to this post to share a photo and short description of your childhood object.
What was special about it? How did it affect the way you think and learn?

We are excited to learn about your childhood objects!

LCL Team

This post is also available in Italiano, Português, Español, 日本語, Français

unlisted #2



I grew up on the northeast coast of the US, and spent a whole lot of time, in all seasons, at the beach. I loved the beach: the wide-open sky, the sun-warmed sand, and floating in the waves. And there was so much potential for creation: my family and I would spend hours making things with the sand - cities, creatures, and sculptures. I have vivid memories of my grandfather running urgently to and from the water with buckets of water to make the sand damp enough to hold shapes.

Today, I see this sand building as part of a lifelong love of making with my hands, outside, with people I care about. I learned about coming up with ideas with other people, and about creating from materials, and learning about the affordances of the medium. Now, I often collaborate with my family and friends to make art (not as often at the beach, but sometimes in other outdoor spaces)!

listed #4



I’ve been reflecting on different objects in past editions of LCL, this time I’m going to share my love for kites.

As a child, I used to make kites every spring, using the paper of the chocolate eggs that I got for Easter, and collecting the sticks for the structure in the countryside. I used to make and play with them with my cousins and other children from my neighborhood. The construction involved a lot of tinkering, especially in trying to balance the weight, and also an aesthetic dimension - I really liked to make very long tails. Seeing a thing that I made going up in the sky was a wonderful mix of joy and proudness.

Learning how to make kites was very important for me. I was a good student at school, but I didn’t see myself as someone capable of making physical things. I believe that building kites helped me develop confidence in my manual, practical skills. I could be a good student and also be able to use paper, sticks and wire to make beautiful things that fly.

The image below is a kite that I made recently, here in the Lifelong Kindergarten, as part of our Friday “recess” playtime. It is a reminder of how lucky I am to work in a place where I still have the freedom to play, and to feel the joy and proudness of making something that flies.


Growing up I was more in love with making up worlds than understanding the one in front of me.

My most favorite toys were things that were beyond my understanding and full of gaps I could fill with my imagination.

I, at first, wanted to use synthesizers and electronics repair equipment as my item. My father’s room was full of them and I never knew what they did, so I had to make up what crazy contraptions and gizmos they could be.

However, the thing that gripped my wonder, absolutely, was old school pen and paper RPG monster manuals. It would be many years before I played a game of D&D but boy did I spend so much of my adolescent time face down in books of rules and imagination.

The dance of lore, design, and logic that took place, to make an arena for play, delighted my young mind.

It wasn’t just that you drew a crazy creature, you also gave it a place in a made up world, and then gave it rules of interaction that would make it cleanly fit into a set of other rules. All for some stranger to pick up and use and share in your delight while using your ideas in ways you couldn’t imagine.

My love for this medium is no doubt a tremendous contributor to me loving Computer Science and all of it’s crazy rule-stacking, designing, and communal creativity.


When I was very young, my mom was studying to be a teacher. She used to take me with her to the university’s education library. There, they had colorful tangram blocks and other math manipulatives, and I loved arranging and seeing patterns emerge. I was only three or four, and I’m actually not great with building blocks, but something about the bright colors and clear shapes fascinated me as a young child, the way they fit, or didn’t, and could be placed together to make new and familiar designs. Oddly enough, I think my lifelong love of books came from that early captivation with learning toys in the library. I decided that libraries were a wonderful, fanciful place, and anything found within would make me feel, as those tangram blocks did, effervescent with delight!


I was born in a neighborhood known as Serviluz, and my house was right on the sea, and I remember the sea coming through the front door when it was the season of hangovers, usually in December and January. My garden was the beach, just opening a small gate to be in front of a wonderful sea and a beach surrounded by reefs and natural pools.
There was an old abandoned lighthouse, which I used to visit and climb to the top of it, imagining it to be a castle, from where I watched over much of the city. Today this lighthouse was transformed into a museum, the Fisherman’s Museum, but I stopped going there for some time and, even though I still lived in the same city, the neighborhood deteriorated and I never visited it again.

The best memories of my childhood are from this place, where I learned to love the sea and the things that came from it. The photo shows the old lighthouse and the beach where I used to play.


My object is Lego. I was never terribly creative with Lego, but I would try to build little rooms with furniture and other household objects. I was always frustrated that I couldn’t design something amazing right away, but would build something very crude, and then I would have an idea to swap out one of the bricks with a different piece or come up with new ideas because I couldn’t find the piece I had in mind, and very slowly over time I would improve upon it.


What a fun question!

I owe my appreciation of design to my mother. My mother wasn’t educated but she had such a creative eye and filled our home with beautiful objects. I put a few images in an album:


As I child I was fascinated by maps. I would draw and try to recreate the world around me. I had a particular fascination with bridges and highways - and complex high way and road systems - drawing these, re-creating but also inventing my own configurations. When I would read fiction, I would often create maps of the worlds I read about, a cartographer capturing an imaginary world. I also happened to be “good” with directions. Friends and family would describe me as being bright in that particular way - but it wasn’t quite that as Papert explains - it was that I fell in love with exploring the world around me, of visualizing it, and of imaging how it was organized and configured.


Really enjoyed looking through the pictures that you posted Xanthe - and the different things you noticed. From the baby carriage and your mom’s merchant marine inspired window to the balls she designed. How do you feel those early experiences might have shaped your own design aesthetic? Or appreciation for design? Were there things that your brother fell in love with that were different from what you fell in love? This last question always strikes me when I think about my childhood - I grew up in a large extended family setting - where many of us fell in love with very different things, each adopting our own “gears” despite a common setting/context in which we were brought up.


This Book

I received as a gift a Commodore C64, almost new. with 2 1541 floppy readers, a 1525 vic printer, an atari josytick and a green on green monitor. It included like a hundred of floppys with lots and lots of programs and specally games.
The only problem: nobody knew how to use it.

It was 1987 in Mexico. Computers were seen as stuff from the future. A distant future like 2001 space oddissey. So it wasn’t easy to find a techie friend that thaught you how to use it.
I could barely read basic english due to being in a bilingual school. My mother and father understood some english but got really confused with what back-then was uber-technical jargon: RAM, ROM, Varialbes, BASIC, Resolution.

The user guide didn’t include what to do with floppy disks, floppy reader was an option, and the user guide assumed you were reading and saving data on audio tapes.

Basically I was left on my own. There was no GUI, there was no inline help and even reading the contents of a disk recquired a not so easy command for a 7 year old kid. (LOAD"$",8 was the needed command then followed by a LIST command, but I didn’t know that)

Nobody at home found it funny. And became basically my toy.

Since user manual was almost useless I used to read the programming guide and became amused with the idea of telling the computer what to do and the computer doing it!!.

Oh man how many nights (and scolds) spent with that green monitor. understanding what a variable was, an array, how I had to plan because variables names only took account 2 characters. And what happened if i didnt left lines in between to add a new functionality. And the worst: Everything was gone when rebooting.

Remember? I still didn’t know how to use the Disk unit and I didn’t have the datasette audio tape reader/writer

It was like building sand castles and every time I turned off the computer a typhoon took away everything and had to start again. It was a little disappointing that I could not keep my creations, but it was the way it was.

Then I got permmissions to hook the computer once a week in the house’s only color tv (only tv for the matter) And the color and the sound attracted me even more

I spent several sundays at the swap meet with my dad buying everything I could for that computer (back then you could buy TANDYs and Zinclairs in the flea market, trust me) and once finally found in the flea market a floppy with some game that included a brochure indicating how to load it from the disk.

I remember the game but can’t remember the title. It was about firefighting. But it was not relevant the good thing is that said HOW TO READ DATA FROM DISKS!

And there I could play a lot of games like Summer Games and view spreadsheets, word processors, even more games.

And then I knew how to save to disk my own creations. And found it more motivating. I could keep what I was doing. I started making useful things like a program that could keep accounting for my father’s business and a program that could calculate the caliber of the pipes and metal jackets that my father needed to build industrial boilers.

It was 1989 I was 9 years old and my school bought brand-new IBM PS/2 and created a computer-lab that I found boring. When we were learning some useless stuff in a monochromatic MS-DOS prompt at school. I created my own equally useless stuff but in a lot of colors and with funny sounds.

I LOLed hard when the school praised their modern computer laboratory with what looked not-so-modern to me. I mean, I had colors and 3 voice sound and them a buzzer and a green on black display and we weren’t allowed to play because computers were for “serious” stuff.

When they were teaching us how to “dir” or start MS-WORKS from a floppy (come on! Who thinks that 3rd-graders need or want to learn how to use MS-WORKS) I could make bitwise operations and knew the truth-table for AND,OR,XOR and their negations. And even made some ASSY.

I Grew up, and went to College and graduated in “Informatics” (whatever it means) and there I hated programming. Data structures that never were thaught to apply, programming crash-course with lots of boilerplate just because teachers were pursuing some JAVA certifications. I made my grades and never found almost any computer-related stuff challenging, but my partners? Many graduated knowing a lot of math but can’t open-apart their own PCs and replace the HDD even if their life depended on it.

I still do some code and I’m very involved with IT, I would like to learn a new way to teach the youngsters and the elders. Teaching has always been one of my strenghts and I hope that I can relate this good ol’ programming manual with good new persons and memories to make IT more accesible to new generations.


Childhood is such a long span of time and so many different things fascinated me then! How things are build (later to be known as “engineering” :smiley:), geography, history, creating things with my hands, music, books, sports. I find it hard to choose one object. The only thing I’m really glad (and sort of proud of) is that growing up hasn’t ruined my curiosity about the world, and I hope it never fades away!


What great questions, Yusuf. Thank you.

Yes, my brother and I gravitated toward different objects influenced by gender roles that my family unconsciously played out. He followed in my father’s footsteps and is an audio engineer like my father and an expert in vintage, analog equipment. I am a great cook, like my mother (though not professionally). I wish I had some pictures of her kitchen utensils. She had this incredible poppy-colored ladle from the 60s that was the smoothest melamine with a matte finish. I think it was Italian or Danish. Sigh

The objects around me shaped my aesthetic in at least two ways:

  1. I love the combination of materials in many of these objects - especially the leather-wood-metal combo in the carriage. How each material affords different functionality and how they all work in concert toward delivering a whole object
  2. I love design details. The carriage, for example, had an opera window on the back of the hood so my parents could peek inside while they were walking. The AV equipment had great knobs, some of them weighted like the tuner knob on the amp/radio. I can still feel it in my fingers


Caterpillar Toy

There was a caterpillar toy that I really loved as a child. It’s still here now.

It was the different shapes that inspired me, to match them to objects in the world around me, they inspired me to enjoy mathematics (geometry) as I grew up. Also, the way I saw it - a morph between a caterpillar and a butterfly - inspired me with science, at school, thinking about nature and enjoying going on walks.


A question to Lily and the LCL team:
Why childhood objects?
I understand that it might mean something about where your interest lay but interests change throughout life. I mean, at the age of 6 I wanted to be a policewoman, at the age of 9 - a teacher, at the age of 15 - a performer and if you could ask me at 18 what I want to be when I grow up I would have answered I have no idea… :smile: now I’m sort of all of them together (doing research is like following clues as a detective, I’m a teacher and a teacher is also a little bit like a performer… :smile:)
So… why childhood objects?


The broken classical alarm clock companied me during my free time when I was very little. I was inspired by my mom who did a lot of handyman work at our house. One day she tried to fixed the broken alarm clock, and that fascinated me. Since then, I copied what she was doing to take parts off the clock and put it back one by one. It helps me to build up patient when doing tedious work. I also loved to solve some mechanical problem, even though I didn’t end up as a engineer :grinning:
I end up doing plant genetics studying corn.

ps. don’t have picture of the alarm clock to share here.


I loved My Little Ponies when I was in kindergarten. They were magical and colorful and in the cartoon they were kind, helpful friends to each other. They even were different scents! More importantly, they were “horses” I could actually play with at 5 years old. Playing make-believe with these toys encouraged my love of horses, which I have realized greatly influenced how I learned. Unlike the cartoon, real horses cannot speak, so in order to have a real partnership with my horse, I had to me an amazing listener. I discovered later that because of this finely tuned skill, I understand, learn and synthesize ideas best when I “hear” them. I learn best from lectures especially live ones where I can read the body language too; I proofread my writing best when I read it aloud and hear my errors in grammar and punctuation; I study best in groups as I am used to having a partner to help we work through problems. Working with horses greatly influenced my teaching style too. Empathy, relationships and differentiation are all part of my classroom that I developed basic skills in for horse training.

Even though I gave my ponies to Good Will years ago, the retro trend has brought these ponies back to stores. I might have to go and pick some up for nostalgia’s sake.


As I was reading the essay, all I kept thinking was how computers ARE my object. When I was 6, my dad brought home a TI-99 for us. I remember pouring through the book of BASIC coding and excitedly trying out different lines of code to make things happen. It was this input-output that I fell in love with. Over time, in just a few years we had AppleIIE and TRS-80 in our classrooms at school. I fell in love with printing creations on a dot matrix printer-- I can still hear that sound of it running. In relating these experience to being my “gears” they are the things that have provided the foundation for my love of tinkering with technology, figuring things out, and input to creative output.