Y Combinator’s Garry Tan Goes to the MatRead more

Art by Clark Miller.
Art by Clark Miller.

Education Meets Insulation: Bento Boxes, Smartwatches and Other Back-to-School Buys

School’s back in session. Here’s what Silicon Valley is buying the kids.

Aug. 19, 2023 6:00 AM PDT

Janine Sickmeyer, the founding partner at seed and pre-seed firm Overlooked Ventures, was trying to find a low-tech way to occupy her four kids under age 8. She, like many of her Silicon Valley peers, aims to keep her young children off screens as much as possible. “Even though I’m a tech entrepreneur and investor in tech, I always try to keep my kids away from it,” she said with a laugh.

Her solution, which has quickly become a back-to-school tool, has been the Yoto Player ($120), a small cube that’s a clock, speaker and audio player in one. She uses it as an early-morning distraction, so her kids can do an educational activity before school in their rooms (that is, without waking up their parents). Her kids pick one of the Yoto’s small cards, insert it into the device and hear one of many audiobooks, from Junie B. Jones to “Stuart Little.” “It’s a good alternative to having a phone or a personal iPad,” she said.

With school starting in the coming weeks, we asked Silicon Valley parents for their must-have back-to-school purchases. Low-tech tech seems to be this year’s theme, from audio players to educational games.

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