One of the great things about being a kid is having the time and imagination to build your own little world. With no raw materials at all, kids will at a certain age start playing "house"; throw in some canned goods and they play "store"; a book and a chalkboard and it's "school." With a few special props, there are even more worlds to create.
Start with shelter. A blank-slate cardboard playhouse (from Chasing Fireflies, $68) has a classic profile, and decorating is left entirely to the occupant. With crayons, markers or paint, kids can customize endlessly and engage in the time-honored suburban tradition of redecorating. The chimney can also be switched out for a cupola, to play school. Less expensive is the Makedo Find & Make Playhouse kit ($25), which, however, depends on you finding a monster-size box to start with.
Next, something to eat. Make it in the All-in-One Play Kitchen (GuideCraft, about $200) with fridge, range, microwave, sink - and, with an added note of reality, a dishwasher. As with real kitchens, there is not enough counter space.
There are many, many versions of toy food out there for kids to play-cook imaginary lunch and dinner, but Melissa and Doug's felt version ($20 for a 33-piece sandwich set) is a good one. We also love the sandwich shop set from Green Toys ($16), which allows a mix-and-match assemblage of a burger and a sandwich, with accompanying veggies. It comes with a sandwich shop order form that will let the kitchen double as a spot to play "hipster deli."
To that end, throw in some fine, "Dream of the '90s"-style fake facial hair. A set of "stylish mustaches" are to be had, as is a beefy inflatable beard (at Capitol Kids, $6). Next thing you know, they'll be pickling something.
There are homeowners who focus on the kitchen, and those who focus on the workshop. Those creatively inclined will appreciate the Red Toolbox that holds a set of six real, usable tools made for a child ($50). Further kits are available to create household projects that make the place more livable, like a birdfeeder or a basketball hoop.
Decorating the interior can be done with an extra-personal touch with Paint Your Own Lantern kits (from 4M, $13.25), which are based on stylish mid-century modern orbs but are infinitely personalizable.
The kids' own Etsy shop will not be far off after they start making beads with 4M's recycled paper bead kit ($10) or a Rainbow Loom Bracelet Making Kit ($15).
After artsy work, kick back with a pint-sized cowboy guitar (Schylling, $25) for mangling a few folk songs. Or snuggle up for a good read. In the vein of classic fairy tales and woodland quests is Colin Meloy's fey novel Wildwood ($9) and its new sequel, Under Wildwood ($17), set in a mythical woods outside Portland and good for reading aloud or new readers (recommended for ages 8 and up). Meloy, of the Decemberists, reads the audio CD ($38) of the latest installment himself, with characteristic aplomb.
And what home is complete without a pet? Melissa and Doug's supersized stuffed dogs come in a surprising variety of breeds, all looking pretty realistic - basset hound, black Lab, Jack Russell, husky - how to choose ($20-$60)? No need to get the Portuguese Water Dog (though there is one!); they're all hypoallergenic.
After lunch and various improvement projects, and certainly after the acquisition of a dog, all homes need a bit of a tidy-up. Will play broom sets (Schylling, $11) make cleanup fun? Well, at least you're trying to instill good habits.
Speaking of reality intruding, no play reality is complete today without a child-specific smartphone (Smooth Touch, $17; needs three AAA batteries), with modes that help build motor and language skills.
Once equipped with a phone, the kids'll need wheels. The younger ones can scoot around the neighborhood on a Wheelybug ($50) - safe, sit-on wheeled animals that come in tiger, bee, cow, pig, ladybug and mouse models for pre-toddlers and early walkers.
Once they're a little more adept with motor skills, have them hop in a futuristic-looking PlasmaCar ($70), which needs no batteries and has no finicky gears or electrical parts, but instead runs on other physical forces: inertia, centrifugal force and friction. If you can bend down that low, you can take it for a spin as well.
For kids who've graduated to real trikes or bikes (or any bicyclist in your life, actually), wrap the bike's frame with BikeGlow. It's a 10-foot long stretch of lit wire ($25, requires two AA batteries) flexible enough to wrap around parts of the bike, much in the way that rope Christmas lights are wrapped around trees this time of year. Safe, cool and festive.
Toys were spied at Capitol Kids, Playthings-Hilldale, Whoops And Co., Learning Express-West Towne, and online and most are widely available.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.