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Have Your Kid Fall Asleep to a Boombox
November 15, 2023

Have Your Kid Fall Asleep to a Boombox

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We Banished Alexa From Our Six Year Old’s Bedroom. We’re All Thrilled With the Replacement., We had concerns about Amazon’s Alexa Bedtime Stories. CDs are so much better anyway., My kid was scared to go to sleep. So I bought her a boombox.

This is One Thing, a column with tips on how to live.

Last year, our 6-year-old, who as a toddler was scared of nothing, started to get afraid while going to sleep. Because I also had bedtime panic in elementary school, I am sympathetic—and had a trick up my sleeve. I remembered how my siblings and I used to listen to cassette audiobooks of James Herriot’s gentle Yorkshire veterinarian stories while we went to sleep, to give our brains something soothing to focus on. So I did the modern version of this, and allowed J. to ask the Amazon Alexa device we have in her room for bedtime stories. She was permitted to listen between the time we shut the door and the time she shut her eyes.

This worked for a short time, before we actually heard some of the stories Alexa would offer when she asked: ‘Alexa, tell me a story?’ They were so boring, and stupidly silly. They were also full of the kind of canned kid-culture sass (asides like ‘seriously?’ or ‘bo-ring!’) that we can’t help but dislike. And we always wondered whether some request she might make, out of our earshot, might end up with her listening to something even worse. We had put parental controls on there, but who knows? That thing is, literally, a black box.

My husband, something of a purist when it comes to the consumption of culture, banished Alexa from her room. My child, told this news, panicked and mourned. ‘How will I ever go to sleep now?’ she wailed.

We fixed this by doing a little bit of technological time travel, not quite back to my cassette-based childhood, but close. We bought her a boombox to play CDs. We ended up with this one, from Magnavox, because it’s hot pink and we wanted to let her pick, to get her on board. We got her some ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (the kind of clever-silly we approve of!) and a few audiobooks on CD: Frog and Toad (read by Arnold Lobel himself!) and Beezus and Ramona. And I scrounged up several options from my old, long-stored CD collection for her to use.

Now, between the time we say good night and the time she actually goes to sleep, J. happily does art projects and flips through her CD booklet, picking out a story to listen to. She’s confined to a set of options we approve of, and she can practice a little bit of reading while making her pick. The disc, as is in its nature, shuts off automatically when it’s done, after she’s asleep.

There are other bedtime audio options out there for kids who need to be weaned off Alexa—our friends swear by the Toniebox, for example, which also limits a kid’s options and uses fun little figurine story cartridges. But the boombox lets you tap back into an existing ecosystem—one that’s dying but still out there. The fact that I could give J. some of my own CDs made me feel very circle-of-life. And when Beezus became a favorite, we took Ramona the Pest out from the library. They didn’t have it in-house (their ‘audiobooks on CD’ selection is, understandably, getting slim), but they were more than willing to order it for us via interlibrary loan. Now bedtime is something we can all be excited about, rather than fear. Ramona Quimby, Age 8, here we come.


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