Monday, July 22

Deal Cafeteria: Fill Your Tray with Back-to-School Deals

by Jason Toon

"No shoving, you little monsters! I'm Doris Sue, HLIC (Head Lunchlady In Charge) at the Kids.Woot Deal Cafeteria, and I run an orderly lunchroom! We're warming enough back-to-school deals under these red lights for everyone. Nobody goes hungry if Doris Sue has anything to say about it. But this buffet doesn't have any brussels sprouts, 60% beef burgers, or chocolate milk that expires tomorrow. This Deal Cafeteria is all about the back-to-school specials!

Doris Sue doesn't miss a thing

"All week long, our stainless steel pans will be heaped with everything you need to start the school year satisfied. We're talking daily main dish deals, some Woot Plus event sides - and we're serving up one steaming scoop after another, Monday through Saturday, on the Kids.Woot front page. So grab a tray, get in line, and pile up the mouth-watering school-supply bargains at the Deal Cafeteria!

"No horseplay from you, no horsemeat from us - just all the back-to-school deals you can eat or my name's not Doris Sue! But first, let me see those hands. I run a clean Deal Cafeteria here."

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Friday, March 09

Tot Sauce: Playmobil! Sesame Street! Barbie in Space!

by Jason Toon

We blogged about kids' stuff over on Woot before Kids.Woot was even a twinkle in a business analyst's eye. Here are three such posts that we've had laying around for a while, so why not get a little more use out of them, right?

Barbie: Voyage to Rados
: we take a look at a bizarre (but real!) Barbie tie-in book that involves interplanetary prejudice, apocalyptic drought, and healing sequins. Think Dune with more pink.

The Sesame Street History of Rock n Roll, Part 1 and Part 2
: "You didn't just learn letters, numbers, and the occasional bit of Spanish from Sesame Street. You also learned about rock 'n' roll." Two posts featuring Muppified parodies of the Beatles, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Barry White, Billy Idol and more.


10 Great Playmobil Toys
: When Playmobil founder Hans Beck died in 2009, we saluted ten of the weirdest and most wonderful products from that company's illustrious line. Ghost pirates, Egyptian families, fancy pianists, and Cossack warriors all show up in adorable plastic form.

Share your Playmobil, Sesame Street, and Intergalactic Barbie reminiscences below!

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Wednesday, March 07

Tot Sauce: Breastfeeding Around The World

by Jason Toon

For parents raising children in foreign countries, breastfeeding seems like one of those issues that could be a minefield. It's touchy enough in North America; add in the general cultural confusion all expats experience and it's enough to make anybody nervous. Here are three accounts by North American moms of breastfeeding abroad.

Get your mind out of the gutter and look again.

Brazil: An American mom living in Brazil writes on the Expat Mums Blog, "I've been impressed by the level of acceptance and support for breast-feeding that I’ve seen. Pretty much every mother that I've met here has breast-fed." Not surprising in a country where the government sponsored the funny, cute ad shown above.

Mongolia: Canadian conservationist Ruth Kamnitzer writes in "Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan" about her three years living in the Mongolian countryside. "Their universal practice of breast feeding anywhere, anytime, and the close quarters in which most Mongolians live, mean that everyone is pretty familiar with the sight of a working boob," she says. But it doesn't stop there: "If a woman's breasts are engorged and her baby is not at hand, she will simply go around and ask a family member, of any age or sex, if they'd like a drink. Often a woman will express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves." Serve Cornflakes a la Mongolia at your next brunch!

France: What Wall Street Journal reporter and Paris resident Pamela Druckerman says in her book Bringing Up Bébé may surprise anyone who thinks France is a bastion of enlightened progressivism. "Breastfeeding isn't encouraged and many people find the sight of it disturbing," she writes. "Locals tell me that breastfeeding still has a peasant image." On the plus side, though, there's no chance your foray into the fridge for a midnight snack will turn into an involuntary breastfeeding episode.

If you've got experience nursing in a strange land - whether that means some exotic overseas locale or the restaurant down the street - share your bounty in the comments below.

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Monday, March 05

Tot Sauce: The Boys' Life Archive

by Jason Toon

Tot Sauce is the new, less lame name for the series formerly known as Triple Shot. One topic, three links, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, for kids, people who have kids, or people who used to be kids...

Former Boys' Life subscribers of all ages: earn your merit badge in nostalgic time-wasting with Google's exhaustive Boys' Life archive. From the very first issue in 1911 (cover story by Jack London) up through the end of 2009, the Boy Scouts of America's official magazine maps a century of the evolution of American boyhood.

But even voracious retrophiles like me can't possibly devour it all. Lacking any better principle, I started with the issues whose covers caught my eye. The three I settled on span just 15 of the 98 years of the archive, and I can't necessarily say they're the "best" issues of Boys' Life. But their covers didn't disappoint.

Boys' Life, May 1982: "What is this marvelous machine so many are using so well?" asks the future-forward cover story. "What's in that box, behind that screen you've heard about, seen at school or a friend's house - or even operated now and then?" It goes on to predict that in 2002, you'll have a computer in your brain activated by a switch behind your left ear, and you'll search for information just by thinking about it. "Do you think this story is farfetched? It's not." Along with the full-page ad for the basic Dungeons & Dragons game, and the piece on recumbent bikes, this issue captures the geek ascendancy in its larval stage.


Boys' Life, June 1974: "Colon(, Michigan) could be tagged 'The Town That Magic Built,' for many of its citizens are practicing magicians who work for Abbott's Magic Manufacturing Company." No, that isn't the first sentence of some whimsically poignant Michael Chabon novel. It's from the cover story of this issue, reporting on the sleight-of-hand boom that made Doug Henning and David Copperfield famous. The photos of '70s teenage magicians performing their illusions have a magic all their own. The kids of the Watergate era were finding other new enthusiasms, too, like soccer (in a piece by respected veteran English soccer writer Brian Glanville) and photography ("You Can Take Good Color Pictures"). But the ads for air rifles, baseball gloves, and dirt bikes prove that American boys were still American boys.

Boys' Life, December 1967: No, the psychedelic op/pop cover didn't mean the Boy Scouts had turned into the Merry Pranksters. Articles about model ships and Johnny Unitas are as wholesome as ever. But the Age of Aquarius casts its kaleidoscopic shadow over an ad for Chevrolet's experimental Astro I concept car, a Smith-Corona ad proclaiming a "type-in", and a trippily illustrated Poul Anderson story about "Christmas on Atlantis: a weird mystery that rocks a boy's world." The boys, they were a-changin'.

Three down, 900-odd issues to go. Let's talk children's magazines: share your reminiscences, show us what you found in the Boy's Life archive, talk about which other vintage kid-rags you wish you could browse (Highlights archive, where are you?), and tell us what periodicals (paper or pixel) your kids read these days.

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Friday, March 02

Tot Sauce: Three Great Bedtime Novels

by Jason Toon

Reading to my daughters is an essential part of the bedtime ritual at our house. The kids enjoy the story, the grownups enjoy how it quiets them down before bed. Sometimes we'll read a whole picture book in one sitting. But longer books, doled out a chapter a night, really turn bedtime into something they look forward to. Once you've run through Harry Potter and Winnie the Pooh, here are three more you can try, every one a hit with the Toon girls.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White: Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little fully deserve their reputations as classics. But don't overlook this lovely gem about a swan who can read but can't trumpet - until he finds a manmade trumpet and gets a job playing reveille at a summer camp. Fame and fortune working nightclub gigs soon follow - but can he really be happy so far away from home? White's typically elegant prose brings life to the old cliche: you will laugh, and you will cry.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: When four orphans - all geniuses in different ways - respond to a cryptic ad about opportuntities for gifted children, an eccentric millionaire assembles them into a team of agents. Their mission: stop a megalomaniac's global mind-control scheme. This series does for spies what Harry Potter did for wizards. Analytical kids will enjoy the brain-teasers that the plot often turns on. Sensitive kids will respond to the moments of genuine tenderness in the orphans' lives. And you'll all be wondering what happens next.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder: For me, reading the Little House books was a revelation. I was expecting gentle calico nostalgia; I found hardship, struggle, and frontier weirdness. They're all great, but On the Banks of Plum Creek gets my nod for a truly astonishing locust infestation, and the first appearance of another kind of equally nasty pest: Nellie Oleson.

What are you guys reading at bedtime? Right now we're halfway through the second Mysterious Benedict Society book, so I need suggestions ASAP! Post 'em in the comments…

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Thursday, March 01

The Secret of El Arenque Rojo, Chapter 3: The Child Who Stares

by Jason Toon

If you bought our Woot 2012 Calendar, you may have noticed that each month sports a different QR code. And if you've scanned that code, you've gotten a message telling you to wait until the first of the given month to read a new installment in The Secret of El Arenque Rojo. And then you probably wondered what we were talking about. Chapter 1 appeared in January on the Woot blog. Chapter 2 took the tale to Home.Woot. And now Chapter 3 brings Roy Odom and his prophetic slapstick quest to Kids.Woot...

Roy Odom's voice climbed and climbed, faster and faster, finally tumbling over the edge of the end of his story, landing in a billowy breath. He waited for some reaction to flex Professor Evelyn Sayre's face into life.

But the head of the Quarterpace University film department just stared. Then sighed. Then reclined in her vintage wooden roller chair, the slatted back creaking into place. Her eyes never left Roy's as she reached for the almost empty Slurpee cup on her desk and took a last, loud slurp on the red straw.

Professor Sayre had a powerful presence for a twelve-year-old...

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Wednesday, February 29

Tot Sauce: Positive Girl Marketing

by Jason Toon

As the father of three daughters, I appreciate anything that will get them out of the pink aisle of the toy section. Here are three examples of toy marketing that - while, yes, they're still selling stuff to kids - at least treat little girls like they can do more than dream about being princesses.

XBOX Kinect: Girly Vader: maybe it's unfair that I partially blame the video-game industry for turning so many young American males today into monsters, but I do. This much-talked-about Kinect ad puts a girl in the (imaginary) black helmet - a small step back but a welcome one.

Vintage LEGO Ad
: Jezebel unearths an old LEGO ad featuring a happy kid having fun building stuff. The kid happens to be a girl. My own little girls - who do their share of princess dreaming, too - are more the Lincoln Logs type.

Girls Explore Historical Doll Sets: female heroes like Amelia Earhart, Mary Cassatt, Harriet Tubman, and shortstop/MD Dot Richardson add brains, guts, and strength to the vapid fashion-doll archetype.

How do you tear your daughters away from their glitter-pony-tiara play, if only for a little while?

Thanks to inkycats for the suggestions!

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Friday, February 17

Tot Sauce: From Indie Rock To Kindie Rock

by Jason Toon

Maybe it's a reaction to the excesses of mainstream kids' music the same way indie, punk, alternative, etc. was a reaction to the excesses of mainstream rock. Maybe it's a vehicle for passing down the heritage of cool to your kids. Maybe it's just a way to listen to music with your kids that doesn't drive you insane. Personally, it's all of those plus just something fun our whole family can enjoy together.

However you frame it, "kindie rock" - that is, kids' music with an indie sensibility, also known as family music or all-ages music - is a thriving scene these days, complete with its own festivals, venues, and stars. And many of those stars were indie-without-a-k rockers before they found a younger audience. Here are three that my kids enjoy.

Elizabeth Mitchell
One of the pioneers of family music, Elizabeth Mitchell started playing for kids in the late 90s along with her work for grownups in the band Ida. And "family" is more than a genre description: her most frequent collaborators are her husband Daniel Littleton (also in Ida, and previously in 80s melodic hardcore legends the Hated) and their daughter Storey. Her five albums are filled with lovely renditions of songs by everyone from Lou Reed to Neil Young to Augustus Pablo.


The Not-Its
The faux-naivete of indie pop makes actual kids' music a natural progression. Sarah Shannon of 90s Sub Pop indie-pop heroes Velocity Girl now fronts the Not-Its, a quintet playing tight, catchy power-pop tunes about school, tag, animals, and other prepubescent concerns.


They Might Be Giants
From their very first recordings, the geek-pop titans have always flirted with kiddie sounds and nerdy educational lyrics. Now they're up to four proper kids' albums (No, Here Come the ABCS, Here Come the 123s, and Here Comes Science) but as a longtime fan, I can't even tell the difference from their regular stuff. Each album was also released with/as a full-length DVD video, and they made 18 episodes of a family video podcast, too.


These are just three that get some play at my house - the indie-gone-kindie roll call could also include Laura Veirs, Dan Zanes, Caspar Babypants, Wee Hairy Beasties and many more. Hope this post helped you and your kids find a new favorite. And if there's a kindie-rock classic racing up the charts at your house, share it in the discussion thread!

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Wednesday, February 15

Tot Sauce: Sleep

by Jason Toon

As the subject of parental kvetching and commiserating, sleep shows no signs of tiring. All you have to do is look at the best-seller list to see that this particular frustration remains very universal. At our house, even though our younger girls are now 7 and 4, rare is the night without at least one invasion of Mommy and Daddy's bed. And my kids treat sleeping like a participation sport. They can burn more calories in one night sleeping than I can playing a game of racquetball. Here are three sleep-related links I've found useful lately - if for no other reason than to remind myself that my misery has lots of company.

"Confession: This Pediatrician Is A Sleep Softie": this Huffington Post piece proves that the Sleep Wars are no respecter of persons. Claire McCarthy, MD explains how she and her husband "broke all sorts of 'sleep rules' on a regular basis." When the sheets hit the road, even a doctor has to give in sometimes.

Baby Sleep Positions
: This hilarious series from How To Be A Dad breaks down the various baby/parent sleep configurations into a kind of Kama Sutra of parental grogginess. Our 4-year-old favors the H, which is every bit as miserable as it looks in the picture.

We Don't Know How Much Sleep Kids Need - Or Maybe We Know Exactly How Much They Need: Remember the "sleep rules" I mentioned earlier? National Public Radio wasn't expecting much controversy a couple of days ago when they reported on a study that indicated that sleep recommendations are more social than biological. But the story made sleep specialists crankier than a 6-month-old who hasn't had a nap. So yesterday NPR followed up with an interview with pediatrician and author Judith Owens, who called the study's conclusions "not only absurd, but irresponsible."

If you've seen anything on the Internet - other than powerful sedatives - that's helped you cope with your kids' sleep issues, share it in the comments below. I need all the help I can get.

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Monday, February 13

Tot Sauce: 3 Cool Baby Items on Etsy

by Jason Toon

It's easy to get cynical about post-hip parents who see raising their child as one more avenue for expressing their coolness. And sure, no kid should be treated like an accessory. But if you don't surround your kids with good taste from an early age, the void will be filled by bland, manipulative mass-market crap. Here are three things on Etsy that show that baby-raising can be funnier, neater, and more fun than all that cheapo pastel stuff at the big-box stores.

The Boobie Beanie: Not just a warm, crocheted cotton hat for infants - but the perfect visual joke to defuse the discomfort that still sometimes accompanies nursing in public. First comes the double-take, then the laugh. Available in a variety of skin tones. Brilliant.

Super Hero Baby Personalized Art Print: Every baby is a superhero to his or her parents, right? This pop-art 8x10 print makes any toddler the star of a Golden Age-style comic panel. And unlike most nursery decor, this one will age pretty well for at least a few years beyond diapers.


Misfits Horror Show Punk Onesie: Sure, you've probably seen "punk" onesies before. But nothing's less punk than something that just says "punk". If you want punk cred, you gotta show you know your stuff - and the Misfits' spooky skeleton dude is the most kid-friendly punk icon around.

If you've found any cool kids' stuff on Etsy, share it in the comments - if you don't mind maybe running into a fellow Kids.Wooter at the playground sporting the same look.

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