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kottke.org posts about parenting

The overprotected kid

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2014

On the reading list for this weekend is Hanna Rosin’s cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers — and fathers — of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn’t work all that much when I was younger, but she didn’t spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn’t arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked. On weekdays after school she just expected me to show up for dinner; on weekends I barely saw her at all. I, on the other hand, might easily spend every waking Saturday hour with one if not all three of my children, taking one to a soccer game, the second to a theater program, the third to a friend’s house, or just hanging out with them at home. When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s-walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap-are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost — and gained — as we’ve succumbed to them?

Drunkenly stumbling baby trashes bar

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2014

No matter who you are, this is pretty funny. But if you have kids, it’s very nearly transcendent.

(via @ginatrapani)

“I’d sooner die than tell her”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2013

Mary HK Choi spent the first dozen years of her life at odds with her mother but now she loves her so much it kills her. A lovely offbeat story of mothers and daughters.

I love my mother a not-normal amount. It’s all twisty because she tried to kill me when I was young. Just kidding. My mom is an excellent mom. She knows I am irascible, prickly and antisocial. She knows that most human interaction makes me tired and that I either scare people away with precise invectives or trot out the fakest, nicest skinjob of myself because it requires zero effort. She nails me on all of it, asking one billion follow-up questions until I get behind my eyeballs and engage. She forces me to call distant relatives, dialling the phone and pressing it into my cheek while my eyes get hot and watery. She pulls rank all the time and once judo-flipped me onto my back in a grocery store to remind me where things stood. She is my favorite and it makes me crazy. You can tell that she was popular in school, but I am a fundamentally more popular person. I care more and I’m great at rules. I’ve known it since the first grade.

The top comment on the story is well worth a read as well:

Justin went berserk.

I’d NEVER heard a kid scream so loud or for so long and still manage to run around a room tearing drawings off the wall, shoving kids all over the place, tossing chairs across the room.

It was AWESOME, in a moderately terrifying kind of way.

And the tears. Oh the tears. You’d have thought we’d taken his pet dog and made him slit its throat and then skin and cook it.

That day NEVER ended. I mean of course it did, but it never ended. You know what I mean. So, I’m hanging in the room straightening up from Justin’s rampage, when our supervisor comes in and tells me to come outside.

Which is how I met Justin’s grandparents, the two nicest, sweetest grandparents ever. No, nicer and sweeter then that. When I stuck my hand out they brushed that aside and it was semi-bear hug time. They both thanked me for what I was doing with Justin and how he didn’t talk about anything else but me.

It’s Shaun the Sheep

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2013

We’re not big on TV for our kids (they watch maybe two hours a week and frequently less than that), but one show we’ve come to love watching with them is Shaun the Sheep. Produced by Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit), Shaun the Sheep has a number of things going for it:

- No dialogue. Not even the humans talk. Everything is communicated through grunts and gestures. Your three-year-old can follow it, as can your grandfather who only speaks Chinese.

- It’s frequently hilarious. I’ve never heard Ollie laugh so hard at anything. And not just for kids…my wife and I are usually in stitches next to them on the couch.

- Non-topical, non-contemporary. The show is almost entirely self-contained…you don’t need to know anything about pop culture to get the jokes. The humor is timeless…the show will be as good in 50 years as it is now. (There are plenty of pop culture references for the parents though…as with Bugs Bunny and Wallace and Gromit.)

- Non-violent. The humor is typically not mean-spirited and not predicated on characters hurting or attacking or making fun of other characters.

- Not gender specific. Mostly. This aspect could be a lot better (e.g. all the main characters are male), but the show is not specifically for little boys or little girls in the way that some kids shows are.

In short, it’s the perfect entertainment for 3-8 year-olds and their parents. I don’t think it’s available on Netflix Instant anymore, but you can get in on iTunes and at Amazon.

From punk rock to family men

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2013

The Other F Word is a 2011 documentary about how punk rockers and other countercultural figures made the transition from anti-authoritarianism to parenthood. Features members from Devo, NOFX, Black Flag, Rancid, and also pro skater Tony Hawk. Here’s the trailer:

To be sure, watching foul-mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver’s smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy, but the film’s deeper delving into a whole generation of artists clumsily making amends for their own absentee parents could strike a resonant note with anyone (punk or not) who’s stumbled headfirst into family life.

Available to rent/buy on iTunes and on Amazon.

(via @claytoncubitt)

Redshirting bad for academics

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2013

Older kids generally succeed better in sports, but holding kids back in school seems to have the opposite effect when it comes to academic achievement.

The researchers discovered that relatively more mature students didn’t have an academic edge; instead, when they looked at their progress at the end of kindergarten, and, later, when they reached middle school, they were worse off in multiple respects. Not only did they score significantly lower on achievement tests — both in kindergarten and middle school — they were also more likely to have been kept back a year by the time they reached middle school, and were less likely to take college-entrance exams. The less mature students, on the other hand, experienced positive effects from being in a relatively more mature environment: in striving to catch up with their peers, they ended up surpassing them.

I was the second youngest kid in my class growing up; only our valedictorian was younger. Meg was young too. And both our kids are among the youngest in the class…we didn’t redshirt them because they seemed ready for the grades they’re in. As the article states, the differences are starker now than they were…some kids in their groups are more than a year older than they are and most are several months older. NYC preschools have trouble finding a wide range of ages for each class because so many people are holding their kids back to gain a supposed competitive edge against their peers…fall kindergarten classes are full of 6-year-olds but few just-turned-fives. It’s crazy…but so much of New York is competitive like this, why wouldn’t kids’ preschool education be the same?

Is that baby born yet?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2013

You planning on having a kid soon? Check out Sandor Weisz’s new project, BornYet. When you register for the site, you get a subdomain (like is.rummicub.bornyet.com) that your friends can use to sign up for a birth announcement. When the time comes, it takes two seconds log into BornYet and send out an email blast with the pertinent info (like so). Pretty neat.

Raising a “gender creative” son

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2013

Matt Duron is a self-proclaimed “guy’s guy” who has a son who is “gender creative” (love that phrase) and wants to be treated like a girl.

My wife also gets a load of emails from people asking where our son’s father is, as though I couldn’t possibly be around and still allow a male son to display female behavior. To those people I say, I’m right here fathering my son. I want to love him, not change him. My son skipping and twirling in a dress isn’t a sign that a strong male figure is missing from his life, to me it’s a sign that a strong male figure is fully vested in his life and committed to protecting him and allowing him to grow into the person who he was created to be.

I may be a “guy’s guy,” but that doesn’t mean that my son has to be.

More parents like this please.

A brief history of the kid’s menu

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2013

Pretty interesting history of how the children’s menu came to “grace” restaurant tables around the country.

Children tend to rise to the culinary bar we set for them, and children’s menus in America set the bar very low indeed. To look at the standard kids’ menu, greasy with prefab items like chicken fingers, tater tots, and mac-and-cheese, you might think that industrial food manufacturers have been responsible for setting it. But the delusion that a child even needs a special menu is a lot older than the chicken nuggets that have come to dominate it. In fact, the children’s menu dates back to Prohibition, when, remarkably, it was devised with a child’s health in mind.

I hate kid’s menus. Our kids would happily order off the main menu but as soon as the promise of hot dogs and chicken fingers arrives with crayons, it’s difficult to steer them away.

How to talk to little girls

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2013

For the love of Christ, engage them about something other than their physical appearance. Do this:

“Maya,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “very nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.

“Hey, what are you reading?” I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I’m nuts for them. I let that show.

Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.

“I LOVE books,” I said. “Do you?”

Most kids do.

“YES,” she said. “And I can read them all by myself now!”

Do not do this:

“Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”

People do the “OMG, you’re so cute!” thing with Minna all the time and it bugs the shit out of me. (I mean, I get it, she’s cute. But come on.) It also completely shuts her down because she suddenly feels so self-conscious about herself and her appearance…which has led to her to be more cautious about new people and wary of cameras, the ultimate unblinking eye of cuteness collection. And this is a very chatty, social, and engaging kid we’re talking about here, but the “you’re so cute” conversation opener twists her up into a preztel of self-consciousness that’s so unlike her usual self.

Cool Dad Raising Daughter On Media That Will Put Her Entirely Out Of Touch With Her Generation

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2013

No, this story is not spot on at all. No one at our house is doing this. Nope.

“Well, I’m not making the same mistake he did,” Campbell continued as he pulled out vinyl copies of Television’s Marquee Moon, Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain, and Big Star’s #1 Record, highly influential albums that will in no way help his daughter interact with her peers at a particularly delicate time in her social development. “There’s a lot of cool stuff out there, and it’s never too early to start learning what’s worth your time. I’m just glad I have the know-how to guide her.”

Campbell said he has also been vigilant in ensuring Emma develops an increased familiarity with timeless classic films, a parenting strategy that will inevitably hobble her as she attempts to achieve individuation while negotiating an adolescence heavily influenced by the very latest pop culture.

Yeah, our kids definitely do not listen to Philip Glass, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf, Burl Ives, Joan Jett, and Miles Davis on a regular basis. Or watch Chuck Jones-era Looney Toons shorts. Or Miyazaki films. Oh God, what are kids into these days? Pokebots? Blay blays? Yo-yos?

Children should be allowed to get bored

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2013

So says education researcher Teresa Belton:

The academic, who has previously studied the impact of television and videos on children’s writing, said: “When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased.

“But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them.”

It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen “tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity”.

iKids

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2013

We have a rule of no screen time during the week … On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.

That quote is from a parent who develops apps for kids. The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosin went to a developer’s conference and what she heard from the parents there might surprise you: The Touch-Screen Generation.

Lifelike baby dolls and the people who love them

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2013

Photographer Rebecca Martinez photographs reborn dolls and the people who collect/care for them.

Reborn babies

Babies create strong emotions for the bearer, holder, and observer. I have discovered this holds true even when it is known the baby is not real.

I am photographing dolls that are created to look and feel like living babies. They are constructed and weighted to feel like infants, which includes a head that must be supported while in one’s arms. They are the most powerful objects I have ever worked with, I am struck by the strong and palpable emotional reactions they produce. They provoke the dominant biological instinct to nurture and the entire spectrum of human behavior.

Some of the collectors care for their reborn dolls as if they were their own children:

Many of the women involved have an especially strong passion for the stage of mothering babies and this is a method to keep this stage permanently in their lives. There is a wide range of personal stories and motivations for being involved in this community. Some create or collect these dolls because they cannot continue to give birth to living babies, or have lost a child, or cannot have one of their own. Some women admire the art form and are doll collectors, others create nurseries in their homes and integrate the babies as part of their families and lives.

Sometimes literally:

Sometimes, women who have lost a newborn have commissioned artists to make a reborn doll that looks exactly like their deceased baby. Modeled after photographs of the real infant, these dolls are called portrait babies.

Reborn babies

We found our son in the subway

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2013

File this one under crying at work: a man finds a newborn on a subway platform and he and his partner adopt him and then blub blub blub, I’m sorry I have to go there’s something in both my eyes and my nose.

Three months later, Danny appeared in family court to give an account of finding the baby. Suddenly, the judge asked, “Would you be interested in adopting this baby?” The question stunned everyone in the courtroom, everyone except for Danny, who answered, simply, “Yes.”

“But I know it’s not that easy,” he said.

“Well, it can be,” assured the judge before barking off orders to commence with making him and, by extension, me, parents-to-be.

Please don’t help my kids

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2013

One parent’s plea to the other parents at the playground: please don’t help my kids.

They’re not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can’t do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What’s more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it.

In the meantime, they can use the stairs. I want them to tire of their own limitations and decide to push past them and put in the effort to make that happen without any help from me.

It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.

(via @delfuego)

How not to talk to kids about school shootings

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2012

There are plenty of resources available to help parents talk to their kids about violence against children, but don’t feel like you have to.

So as a parent, you’re left with the question not just of how to talk to your child about tragedy, but of whether you’re talking to your child for your child — or for yourself. There’s the question of what to say, but also when, and if, you should say it. “If you’re feeling panicked, and like there’s no place safe in the world, then that’s a good time to step back and get those thoughts in order,” Dr. Rappaport suggested. “But if we try to wait until we’ve fully come to terms with something like this, then we’ll never be able to talk. In fact, we’d never be able to get out of bed in the morning.”

How to talk to kids about school massacres

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2012

So far, I’ve found advice from Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. Any child psychologists reading today? Can you point me towards some other (possibly better) sources? Email me here: jason@kottke.org. I will collect the best resources and post here.

In keeping with the very contemporary-seeming “advice from children’s television” vibe, here’s Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton on talking with our children about the elementary school shootings.

Dr. Brené Brown shared several resources:

- Talking to children about violence from the National Association of School Psychologists

- Resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics

- Talking To Your Children About Violence Against Kids from the University of Minnesota

- Talking To Children About Death from Hospicenet.org

- Explaining the News to Our Kids from Common Sense Media

Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Talking to Kids About Tragedy by James Hamblin, MD at the Atlantic.

Tips for Talking to Children About the Shooting from the NY Times.

Hitting the sweet spot between overparenting and underparenting

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2012

Madeline Levine on what many feel is the optimal style of parenting.

Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?

This? No. Hell no. No no no.

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2012

No. No no no. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. NO NO NO NO! No. No no. No no no no no no. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.

Some will spend $795 on Gucci backpacks or $1,090 on leopard print puffy coats from Lanvin.

Sasha Charnin Morrison, fashion director at Us Weekly, admits that some of the clothes are outrageously prices. But, she says, things like $200 Gucci sneakers make her kids happy.

“They’re a walking billboard of you. They’re a reflection of who you are, so if you are someone highly stylized, then you want to make sure your kids are the best-dressed kids out there,” she says.

No no no no no no no no no. No. No no no no no no no no no. Fuck you.

Why are American kids so spoiled?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2012

In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert says that, “with the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France”, American kids might be the most spoiled kids in the history of the world. Strong words but not without merit.

How did parents in different cultures train young people to assume adult responsibilities? In the case of the Angelenos, they mostly didn’t. In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.

In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

In a third episode captured on tape, a boy named Ben was supposed to leave the house with his parents. But he couldn’t get his feet into his sneakers, because the laces were tied. He handed one of the shoes to his father: “Untie it!” His father suggested that he ask nicely.

“Can you untie it?” Ben replied. After more back-and-forth, his father untied Ben’s sneakers. Ben put them on, then asked his father to retie them. “You tie your shoes and let’s go,” his father finally exploded. Ben was unfazed. “I’m just asking,” he said.

Doctors firing families who refuse vaccines

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2012

Some pediatricians are asking families who refuse to vaccinate their children to leave their practices.

For Allan LaReau of Kalamazoo, Mich., and his 11 colleagues at Bronson Rambling Road Pediatrics, who chose in 2010 to stop working with vaccine-refusing families, a major factor was the concern that unimmunized children could pose a danger in the waiting room to infants or sick children who haven’t yet been fully vaccinated.

In one case, an unvaccinated child came in with a high fever and Dr. LaReau feared the patient might have meningitis, a contagious, potentially deadly infection of the brain and spinal cord for which a vaccine commonly is given. “I lost a lot more sleep than I usually do” worrying about the situation, he said.

“You feel badly about losing a nice family from the practice,” added Dr. LaReau, but families who refused to vaccinate their kids were told that “this is going to be a difficult relationship without this core part of pediatrics.” Some families chose to go elsewhere while others agreed to have their kids inoculated.

DIY sperm donors and the virgin father

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 10, 2012

Trent Arsenault is a computer security engineer, a 35-year-old virgin, and also the father of fifteen children (and counting). Arsenault non-anonymously donates his sperm for free to couples who need it to have children.

After a woman from his hometown posted repeatedly to say she couldn’t find a donor, Trent knew she was the one. “I thought, I’m probably not going to hurt anyone. The worst that can happen is someone will waste their time with me.” He met the woman, a 37-year-old lesbian schoolteacher, and her partner, in December 2006 at a nearby Barnes & Noble, where the couple’s 3-year-old adopted daughter played while they questioned Trent for two hours. They liked that he’d been raised Christian and worked in technology. The recipient provided a donor contract, drafted by a lesbian-run law firm, negating both his paternal rights and responsibilities. The couple gave him a box of Ziploc food containers from Wal-Mart and scheduled a first appointment. On that day, they texted Trent when they were twenty minutes from his house, and he set to work on the “recovery,” as it’s known. When they rang his bell, he handed over a Ziploc. Two weeks later, they sent Trent another text, with good news. After a year of fruitless trips to a sperm bank, the recipient had gotten pregnant on Trent’s first try.

(thx, patrick)

The lessons of Steve Jobs

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2012

At the end of this month Jeff Atwood is leaving Stack Exchange, a company he cofounded with Joel Spolsky. In a post on his blog, he explains why:

Startup life is hard on families. We just welcomed two new members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn’t sustainible for parents of multiple small children. The death of Steve Jobs, and his subsequent posthumous biography, highlighted the risks for a lot of folks. […] Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have been wildly successful, but I finally realized that success at the cost of my children is not success. It is failure.

In his post, Jeff points to a similar post by another entrepreneur, Brad Wardell.

In the last several years, the company has been successful enough to generate a substantial amount of capital. And with it, I have been fortunate to bring in people with great talent. And so I started thinking of all the amazing things we would do. I would put in crazy hours to do it, of course, but we would go and do amazing things.

Then Steve Jobs died.

And suddenly I realized something. What is the objective here? My oldest child just turned 15. My other two are no longer little either. And I have been missing out on them.

And another from Eric Karjaluoto:

For a long time, work was my only thing. I worked evenings, weekends, and Christmas. At those rare times when I wasn’t at work in body, I was there in spirit, unable to speak or think of much else. I wanted so badly to climb the mountain that I stopped asking why I was doing it.

I admire [Jobs] for the mountains he climbed. At the same time, I wonder if he missed the whole point, becoming the John Henry of our time. He won the race, but at what cost?

Me? I may turn out to be a failure in business, but I refuse to fail my kids.

This mirrors my main reaction to Jobs’ death and Isaacson’s book as well. I wasn’t working 80 hours a week or leading a growing company or even spending very little time with my kids but I was pushing pretty hard on Stellar, pushing it towards a potential future of insane working hours, intense stress, and a whole lot less time with my family (and selfishly, less time for myself). Since Jobs died, I’ve been pushing a little less hard in that direction.

Four is hardly a trend but it is interesting that the death and biography of the greatest businessman of our generation — someone who was responsible for so many world-changing products and ideas, who shaped our world through sheer force of will & imagination, etc. etc. — is inspiring some people to turn away from the lifestyle & choices that made Jobs so successful & inspiring in the public sphere and to attempt the path that Jobs did not.

How to parent like the French

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2012

Adapted from her upcoming book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, Pamela Druckerman shares why French parents are superior in this WSJ article.

The French, I found, seem to have a whole different framework for raising kids. When I asked French parents how they disciplined their children, it took them a few beats just to understand what I meant. “Ah, you mean how do we educate them?” they asked. “Discipline,” I soon realized, is a narrow, seldom-used notion that deals with punishment. Whereas “educating” (which has nothing to do with school) is something they imagined themselves to be doing all the time.

One of the keys to this education is the simple act of learning how to wait. It is why the French babies I meet mostly sleep through the night from two or three months old. Their parents don’t pick them up the second they start crying, allowing the babies to learn how to fall back asleep. It is also why French toddlers will sit happily at a restaurant. Rather than snacking all day like American children, they mostly have to wait until mealtime to eat. (French kids consistently have three meals a day and one snack around 4 p.m.)

We have a French pediatrician who advised us to do almost exactly what is in this article and we’ve had pretty good success with it. It’s not all roses (kids are kids after all) and a lot of work, especially for the first couple of years, because you have to be consistent and steady and firm (but also flexible) and I know I haven’t always done a great job, but the dividends have been totally worth it so far.

Five best toys ever

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2011

Jonathan Liu over at GeekDad compiled a list of the five best toys of all time.

2. Box
Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.

Love it. (via @jsnell)

Sending children through the post

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2011

This is one of my favorite Flickr photos:

Child by mail

This city letter carrier posed for a humorous photograph with a young boy in his mailbag. After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.

The Kid Should See This

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2011

Great new site from Rion featuring online videos, photos, books, and other media that’s appropriate for little kids.

There’s just so much science, nature, music, arts, technology, storytelling and assorted good stuff out there that my kids (and maybe your kids) haven’t seen. It’s most likely not stuff that was made for them…

But we don’t underestimate kids around here.

With obvious exceptions, media “made for kids” is mindnumbingly dumb. YouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo are amazing resources of not-made-for-kids but totally-appropriate-for-kids stuff like what Rion is posting here. I’ve often wanted a Wikipedia For Little Kids (for the iPad) that’s almost exclusively video- and image-based that I could let Ollie loose on to learn about stuff. (via @swissmiss)

Are playgrounds too safe?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2011

Playgrounds built in the last 20 years may be safer and result in fewer lawsuits, but the kids who use them may be missing out on some critical emotional development.

“Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”

After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights.

“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”

(via @tcarmody)

Gender cake parties

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2011

Now, I’m not here to judge anyone, but I’m totally judging: this is insane. A gender cake party goes like this:

My husband and I would like to do a cake party to find out the sex of our baby. So basically we will have the ultrasound tech put the sex of the baby in an enveloppe and we will give that enveloppe to our cake maker. The inside of the cake will either be pink or blue so when we cut into it our family, friends, as well as ourselves will find out what were having. We planned on having our close family and freinds over for this big moment….sounds lovely right?