Typewriters: obsolete but oh so fun


We have a new toy tool in the house. A typewriter! It's only been a week or so, but it's gotten just about nonstop use during that time. Maia loves it. Daphne loves it. All the kids who come over want to type on it.


I picked the typewriter up at the thrift store for five bucks last fall. My plan was to give it to Maia as a Christmas gift, but for some reason I had a bit of a mental block over it. It took me over six months to sit down and figure out what kind of typewriter ribbon it needed and then to go buy it. Why did I think it would be so complicated? It was actually super easy.

Do you want to know why I bought a typewriter? I had visions of Maia sitting down and writing letters to her grandma and creating her own little books. I thought it would be fun, sure, but I also thought it would be a novel way for her to work on her writing.


Has she written any letters or books yet? Uh, noooo… Instead there is a stack of papers that look much like this one–gobbledegook. She mostly just has fun banging away on the keys as fast as she can. She gets a kick out of asking me to read them and then bends over double laughing when I sound it all out.


While I'm kind of wishing she would write something "real" on it, I'm reminding myself to just let her play. I love seeing her have so much fun with it. And knowing her, the writing will come eventually when she's inspired and not because I want her to do it.

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  • Reply
    July 31, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Is it electric? We have a manual typewriter that I have drug my feet on getting a ribbon for for much the same reasons. It just seems it will be super hard. Where did you get the ribbon?

  • Reply
    The Artful Parent
    July 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Yes, it’s an electric typewriter. There happened to be an old ribbon in it, so I knew what kind to get. They had it at Staples. You can also order them online.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I have been wanting a typewriter! I haven’t pinned down whether this typewriter would be for me or the kids. My dad used to type letters on a beautiful, black typewriter.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Typewriters rule! We have 1 and I’m on the hunt for another but have only found electric so I had to pass on them. The things that come out on papers are so fun to see.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 12:39 am

    lovely post with all the “xhehtohf;alkhgehtoejht;e” … just beautiful. much more meaningful than “real” words.

  • Reply
    Rachelle | TinkerLab
    August 1, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I LOVE this, Jean :) And we’re on the same page!! I’m coveting a typewriter that’s at our local thrift store for….$45! Gasp! We walked past it today and my daughter wanted to know all about how the paper scrolls through. I think I need to look on craigslist and see if I can find something more reasonable :)

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    August 1, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I want one. That looks like so much fun. I think I would even enjoy typing up a few things instead of on the computer. Why is that? Instant gratification of seeing the letters printed on the paper? I don’t know.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    We have one that I trash picked and I just don’t have a good place to put it but I can’t stand to give it away. I’m thinking about maybe putting it in their room, but would it keep us all up at night as they type away? Probably. :) Glad to see everyone is enjoying it at your house!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    how FUN!!! this makes me want to get a typewriter. i may have to go thrifting this week. love it! :) always love your blog jean :)

  • Reply
    Rashmie @ MommyLabs
    August 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    A typewriter can be a real “toy” indeed. Of course it is a great “tool” to get kids feel inspired to write but it’s the play element that’s so endearing.
    I think I am going to buy one soon for my daughter.

  • Reply
    Jo @ a life in lists
    August 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Oh wow, what a great idea! I think even pre-schoolers would get a lot from this, even typing gibberish. Mine is obsessed with identifying letters at the moment. Must keep an eye out for a typewriter on ebay or charity shops!

  • Reply
    The Artful Parent
    August 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Wow. I can’t believe a typewriter is $45 at a thrift store!

  • Reply
    The Artful Parent
    August 1, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Maybe you could just bring it out sometimes? Keep it up on a shelf or something but set it out on a table or desk on occasion.

  • Reply
    The Artful Parent
    August 1, 2011 at 6:25 pm


  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    How delightful for your girls! Fun and educational.
    My eldest daughter (14) just took a class at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City with visiting artist Zach Houston from San Francisco. (okay, that sounds like a lot of cities–especially since his last name happens to be a city. . .) Anyway, he makes a living composing poetry on a typewriter for donations. Fascinating.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    you could turn it into a writing “station”. set out a simple kids dictionary, editing red pens, cardboard and ribbon/stapler to bind her pages into books. markers or colored pencils so she can illustrate the gobbledgook…could also try to have her type site words, write them out on index cards. bet she could make super simple words with site words! my daughter loves just finding the 5 letters to her name and typing them on the computer!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    I had gotten an old computer keyboard for our girls thinking they might hunt and peck a little but quickly found out that they just want to look/act/seem grown up and type really fast like mommy does!!!! The faster the better!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Fun! What a neat activity! I wonder if you typed part of a story and left it in the typewriter, if it might somehow magically be completed?

  • Reply
    August 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    A year or so ago I picked up this gorgeous turquoise typewriter at a flea market for $20. It needs a new ribbon and I haven’t gotten around to it. But it’s so much fun just to click the keys (it’s a mechanical typewriter, not the electric one though). My original idea was to let my son take it apart. But this typewriter is just too pretty. So I’m holding this one for actual typing (whenever my little one will move past the gobbledegook stage) and looking for something less visually appealing to buy and take apart.

  • Reply
    Barbara Zaborowski
    August 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    My preschool class goes through several typewriters a year. They are almost always electric, since manuals are becoming antiques (probably why the one was $45.) Once the class is done with it (often destroying it in the process), it goes out to our workbench to be taken apart. Then the parts are re-cycled into our art projects.
    I think Laura has hit the nail on the head; for the kids this is a new miraculous technology. “Look, I can type and print at the same time. I don’t have to hit “print” and go get it from the printer!”
    My kids feel the same way about carbon paper, making copies without a copy machine!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I remember being waiting for the childrenĀ“s doctor, and the only TOY in the place was an old typewriter (without paper or ribbon), all the children there were busy and quiet taking turns in using it.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Golangco
    August 2, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I remember playing with these when I was younger. They were still used at the time, though the computer was already slowly taking over. We had a typewriter lying around the house so my brother and I would often type random things just for fun! We often typed titles of songs than we’d cut them out and have a raffle as to what songs should be in the top 10. haha Probably boring and silly if you think about it now, but I swear we had so much fun! :)

  • Reply
    August 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    that is so true. we can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make him drink right? i have to constantly remind myself that i can hand them the resources, give them the opportunity, but then i have to let go and let them do with it as they will!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    A beautiful post, Jean! And so cute! It made me laugh so much! And here is a special greeting for Maia: gbf gwebxqivnsmbb vahfklhewxl vm,b vkj

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

    i want one for my daycare!!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I remember typing on daddy’s typewriter, how much I loved it. Thanks for bringing back memories as I had really forgotten about it.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I incorporated a typewriter in a Storytime I led.
    I read the book Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type, and I brought in an electric typewriter from our office.
    The kids (ages 3-6) loved it. How fun.
    People are using manual typewriter keys for jewelry and altered art, so the prices on the old manuals are going up.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Yay for typewriters! I still have my 20-yr-old electric typewriter from high school and am so glad I told my husband “no!” when he wanted so many times to give it away. It’s in the garage, but I will take it out for the kids when my little one gets past her destructive stage.

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