It's easy! It's fun! It celebrates the second anniversary of Kids.Woot in a way that doesn't oblige us to physically interact with other humans! It's Sling-A-Monkey, the casual gaming sensation that combines the carnival midway of yesteryear with the corporate promotional strategies of today! Step right up and start slinging!
Not only does this video remind me how monumentally big everything looks when you're a kid, and how close the ground is - it also confirms that British parents sometimes have to settle disputes in the slide line, too.
Thanks to Redditor rocketchef for putting his adorable kid to work for our entertainment!
Wired co-founder and tech oracle Kevin Kelly posted three anecdotes the other day in which digital kids say the darnedest things. One was about a 5-year-old who saw a TV and wondered where the mouse was; another about an iPad-using toddler who tried to use pinch gestures on a printed photograph; and a third about an 8-year-old asking how people got on the Internet before there were computers. I've heard similar stories from friends about their kids' iPad-born misconceptions of how the world works.
Am I nuts, or are those stores more disturbing than cute - especially the one about the picture-pinching toddler? If this was a story about how a kid hit another kid with a hammer because cartoons made him think it wouldn't do any real damage, we'd all be horrified at the way TV had distorted his understanding of reality. It seems to me that these kids' understanding of reality is equally warped. But Kelly and most of his commenters seem blissfully unaware of any such issues. His grandiose closing paragraph merely smiles at the tots' wise insight that "if something is not interactive, with mouse or gestures, it is broken" before concluding with some techno-schmaltz about how "the internet is not about computers or devices; it is something mythic, something much larger; it is about humanity."
Remember, you and I came to the iPad era grounded in at least a couple of decades of interaction with our physical environments. What happens to the human mind when, during the most crucial period in its cognitive and motor development, it encounters technologies like the iPad? We have no idea. I hate to pee in the virtual punchbowl, but it seems wise to at least consider the possibilities now. iPad-type devices are still only used by a relatively tiny number of people. If introducing children to iPads at an early age can harm their development, that's a lesson we'd hate to learn after the devices have become as ubiquitous as TV.
Maybe I'm being paranoid here, or underestimating kids' ability to learn distinctions between virtual and physical worlds. I'm no kind of expert on any of these subjects. But I can't help but feel a twinge of unease at the anecdotes that transport Kelly into such ecstasies of virtual optimism. What about you? Do, or will, your kids have iPads in their cribs? Or would you rather they learned how to work with the real world first before they toddle into the virtual one?
They stumble, they get emotional, they spill things all over themselves. This video from Sweden shows that the difference between a baby and a drunk is all about context.
We all want to teach our kids to "be themselves". We also want to prepare them for a sometimes-cruel world where certain idiots will disapprove, criticize, and even attack them for being themselves. The tough question is: at what point do your well-meaning warnings turn into a form of disapproval themselves?
That's what I wondered as I read "My son is gay", an inspiring, thought-provoking blog post that lit up the Internet last week (44,000 comments and counting). While the author's 5-year-old son wanted to dress as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween, he also had some trepidation that his classmates would laugh at him. She reassured him that none of the other kids were going to make fun of a little boy in a costume on Halloween.
And she was right, sort of. It was the other moms who were the problem. No sooner had she dropped him off at his preschool than three uptight busybodies swooped in to express their horror that she had "let" her son wear that costume. And sure enough, their disapproval was couched in the rhetoric of concern, about how mean kids could be and how the author was setting her son up to be ridiculed.
I'll go ahead and assume the worst about their intentions. It sounds to me more like their own sensibilities were disturbed by seeing a little boy in a Daphne outfit, and their "concern" was a socially acceptable excuse to voice them. So, you know, screw them. But I can't help but think they had a tiny little point somewhere in all that bilge.
No, no, I don't think the author should have kept her son from wearing the Daphne costume. But I do think I would have been more realistic about the possibility of negative reactions.
Ah, but doesn't that legitimize the bullies and bigots? Doesn't that give them a power they don't deserve? Doesn't it just serve to inhibit your kid even more? Yes, it does. Which is one more reason why this parenting thing is so hard. Do I have to inoculate my kids against the disapproval of others by subjecting them to my own disapproval, thinly veiled as "protection"? I hope not.
It's easy for me to sit and say what I think the author should have done. But if you have to err on one side or the other, far better to err on the side of unconditional love. I know the piece has definitely made me re-examine my own parenting to make sure my own fears about my kids don't turn into their fears.
I would've handled the situation a little differently (and maybe not for the better), but so what? If every parent loved his or her kids as unconditionally as the author of "My son is gay", maybe we'd live in a world where everybody felt free to wear whatever Halloween costume they wanted to.
Only five columns in and I already get to talk about the panickiest holiday of the year: Halloween! Unfortunately, the fear many of us feel on that day has nothing to do with good, clean, scary fun and everything to do with paranoia.
It's funny how parents who'd scoff at ghouls and witches get terrified at equally mythological tales of the razor blade lurking inside that Baby Ruth. As Lenore Skenazy reminds us in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy". Indeed, crime statistics for all kinds of offenses show that Halloween is consistenly one of the safest days of the year.
Yet, across the country, churches and schools and businesses are planning parties as safe alternatives to old-fashioned trick-or-treating. What are we supposed to be afraid of, exactly?
I won't fault the good intentions behind those efforts. I still give my kids' candy a once-over when we get back to the house, although these days I'm hunting more for bite-size Twix bars and less for hidden syringes. But rather than simply debunk myths about Halloween dangers, I'd like to talk about the good things Halloween brings along with all that candy.
Most importantly to me, trick-or-treating makes my kids more familiar with their neighborhood. It introduces them to their neighbors. It helps them feel like this neighborhood is their home, a home they share with the many and diverse people they'll meet on Halloween. It brings us grown-ups out into the streets and onto our porches, where we have the countless casual encounters that strengthen bonds between neighbors. In short, trick-or-treating builds community, which is a 21st-century way of explaining why human beings celebrate holidays in the first place.
Speaking of which, tradition is another appealing aspect of Halloween for our family. We're not church people. We don't have the kinds of preserved traditions that, say, recent immigrants might have. We don't live in our hometown anymore. Not even Christmas is what it used to be, since so many of our relatives have moved to faraway places. Trick-or-treating is one of the few things my kids do more or less the same way I did, and my parents did. I don't want to give that up in return for a couple of highly regimented hours in a church basement.
I'm a big believer in the idea that a cohesive community is the best first line of defense against any danger. And the second is equipping your kids with the knowledge and confidence to deal with their surroundings. Trick-or-treating helps build both of those.
And oh, yeah, it's fun, too.
So the Toon family will be takin' it to the streets this Sunday night. How about you?
Top photo: Trick or treat by Flickr member therapycatguardian, used under a Creative Commons license
Bottom photo: Trick or treater--scary by Flickr member rochelle, et. al., used under a Creative Commons license
My daughters just watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time, whereupon my 2-year-old issued a Halloween edict: nobody in the family is allowed to dress up as a witch or a flying monkey. My only question was, how come I'd never thought of dressing as a flying monkey?
That idea might just be awesome enough to get me to wear a costume for Halloween again. I bet I could do it better than that guy. But I guess I'll have to wait another year or two in the interest of my child's sanity.
Have you ever worn a costume that freaked your kids out? (And no, grossing out your grown-up kids by dressing as a Sexy Dental Hygienist or something doesn't count.)
My Dad Panic columns thus far have dealt with dangers (or "dangers") to kids, but this week we'll talk about a danger to adults. Or at least something potentially really gross for adults: leaky diapers.
Even the most germophobic new parent has to accept that sometimes you're gonna get pee and poop on your hands. And probably your clothes. And maybe your carpet, your furniture, your car upholstery - the yellow and brown menace can rear (see what I did there?) its nasty head anywhere at any time. Cloth diapers, eco-friendly disposables, run-of-the-mill Pampers, Huggies, or Luvs: humanity has not yet invented the diaper that can reliably stop this scourge.
So it seemed like a good time to direct your attention to this robust Deals.Woot discussion started by our own senior developer and new-dad-for-the-second-time Shawn Miller. It starts as a simple Huggies vs. Pampers debate, before spiralling off into all kinds of fascinating tangents.
Did you know that, at least in the 1960s, Pampers showed off their new diapers with runway shows featuring baby models? You would if you'd followed that discussion. Other topics of interest include whether the water involved in washing cloth diapers negates the positive environmental qualities, and how to take a tip from hospitals to keep your changing table clean.
Within the limits of this column's usual scope, there's even a whiff of actual danger. Do disposable diapers increase the scrotal skin temperature of baby boys? And is that a contributing factor to the general decline in male fertility? Deals.Woot member kelliedn links to a Wired article that mentions a couple of studies on the subject. A German research team answers "yes" and "yes" to those two questions. Predictably, Proctor & Gamble's own research says "somewhat" and "probably not". But what I want to know is, now that I've decided not to have any more kids, can I just wear disposable diapers instead of putting my sensitive bits under the surgeon's knife?
I mean, you know, hypothetically, of course.
When paranoia rules, science loses out in more ways than one. "Kids’ science kits could take hit from new safety ruling" reports eSchoolNews.com. It seems the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering labeling classroom science kits as "children's products", which would mean they'd have to be tested to ensure that the items in them are safe for consumers under 13. The manufacturers sought, and were denied, a testing waiver for potentially hazardous items like... paper clips.
That's right: if a kit to teach kids about magnets includes a paper clip, or a ruler, or some other commonplace household item, the CPSC considers those items dangerous until proven innocent.
Now, manufacturers of all kinds tend to try everything to wriggle out of safety-testing obligations. Maybe they're overstating their case here. But the situation sounds pretty crazy to me. Any 11-year-old can walk into an Office Depot and buy a box of 1,000 paper clips that have never been tested as children's products. I don't see how those paper clips suddenly get more dangerous when they're included in a science kit.
And by the way, let's take a moment to mourn the demise of the chemistry set, and the model rocket kit and the other science-oriented playthings of the past that have been safetified out of the American childhood. I have to wonder if science-minded kids in China, India, and Germany are allowed to play with stuff like that, and what that means for America's future. The god of unintended consequences has a dark sense of humor.
Fear not, Wigglephobes. This audio quiz has nothing to do with the genre known as "childrens' music." Instead, we're looking at songs about kids. Or, at least, songs that mention kids.
This 28-second MP3 contains clips of 15 different songs, each including the lyric "kids". (That word may or may not be in the song title.) Some big hits, a couple of obscurities, from all over the genre map, with some clips giving you a few seconds to get your bearings and others blipping past in a fraction of a second. Listen sharp.
The first person to name all 15 artists and titles will win, yes, one of those Woot screaming monkeys we're trying so hard to get rid of. Plus, of course, the invaluable esteem of your e-peers. Many of these songs have been recorded by multiple artists, so be careful: we're looking for the artist who's performing this particular version of the song. Post your answers below and may be the biggest music nerd win.