Shaun Gallagher taps into his creativity as a dad and his fun inner scientific geek in his new book, Experimenting with Babies. He writes: “As a child, I loved tinkering with my Radio Shack 50-in-1 science project kit. Now that I’ve got two young children of my own, I’ve made them my science projects, and I’m having more fun than ever.
Back then, I wired rudimentary circuits to activate a buzzer or light up a diode. Nowadays, I experiment with ways to help Ben, 1, and Joel, 3, learn new skills that light up their faces. But my parenting approach isn’t all trial and error. I take cues from the work of infant-development researchers, who have used the scientific method to reveal helpful, and often astounding, new insights into how babies grow, learn, move, speak, and behave.
In Experimenting With Babies: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid, I’ve taken published academic studies from various fields of infant research and adapted them so parents can perform them on their own babies, with no special equipment needed. The projects are simple and completely safe — in fact, I’ve tried a bunch of them on my own boys — and they’re sure to increase your fascination with the coolest science project you’ll ever get to conduct experiments on: your own baby.
I know we’re checking out Free Birds, which opens today, this weekend. Hang on to your nuggets! (See the movie trailer at the end of this post.)
“These days, it’s no easy task to find a movie suitable for the entire family, whether on the big screen or at home. You scan the online theater listings and see lots of movies being pitched to your kids, but many of the promos out there can send up a red flag to parents of little ones. And at home, you’ve already watched the titles on your shelf a dozen times and the sea of Netflix choices is just overwhelming—who has time to read reviews before deciding, much less make sense of all those content warnings? But you also don’t want to start a movie and be surprised halfway through by an inappropriate scene or a startling moment of violence.
Given that we all have different taste and tolerance levels, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to make that choice for family movie night, but here are some suggestions that might help.
1. Choose a sports movie. You might be surprised to find that many excellent sports-themed films are rated G or PG, have a positive message that can prompt conversation, and cover a wide variety of competitive events, from high school basketball (Hoosiers) to women’s college basketball (The Mighty Macs) to baseball (The Rookie) to football (Invincible) to swimming (Pride) to surfing (Soul Surfer) to golf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) to hockey (Miracle) to horse racing (Secretariat)—and even spelling (Akeelah and the Bee) and chess (Searching for Bobby Fischer).
2. Choose a G or PG-rated live-action film. For families with older children, don’t discount G and PG films in favor of the PG-13 rating. Hollywood believes teenagers, the most hotly pursued demographic, won’t go to a movie unless it carries at least a PG-13 rating, which explains why so few Gs and PGs are out there. But every year some slip through and many are worth watching as a family. Recent examples include The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Big Miracle, We Bought a Zoo, Hugo, Dolphin Tale and Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
3. Choose a box-office hit you enjoyed with your parents when you were young. Whether you are a child of the ’80s or the ’90s, you are bound to have films lodged up there in your memory that bring up warm feelings just thinking about them, so share them with your kids: Mr. Holland’s Opus, Groundhog Day, Rudy, Cool Runnings, Father of the Bride—give it some thought or browse through the rental list and you’ll come up with your own favorites.
4. Watch a vintage classic from the black-and-white era. Who’s going to sit still for black and white these days, you ask? Ease into it with an old comedy and you may be surprised that, after awhile, you have forgotten that it’s monochrome. Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine is a guaranteed laugh-getter–even for the very young–in their film The Naughty Nineties. Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is funny and charming with an uplifting theme. The Marx Brothers’ anti-war film Duck Soup is a riot. Cary Grant’s double-takes in Arsenic and Old Lace are priceless. Buster Keaton’s silent Civil War farce The General is unbeatable. And there are many more.
5. Choose to have fun. Watching movies together should be a joyous experience, one that creates the same kind of warm memories you have of watching beloved films with your parents. So pop some corn or roast some hot dogs, hunker down in the TV room together, turn off your phones and have fun.
Chris Hicks, author of Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind?, has been writing about movies for the Deseret News for more than thirty years. He was the full-time movie critic for 20 years and also reviewed movies on KSL television and radio for thirteen years. Chris then became the editor of the newspaper’s features department. Now retired, he continues to write a weekly column and DVD reviews for the Deseret News.
“Our species is now under threat. Not from aliens and not from zombies, but from those who oversee our schools’ playgrounds.
A couple of playground injuries have prompted one Long Island, N.Y. school to ban balls and require teacher supervision for games like tag. Haven’t these “protectors” of kids ever heard of evolution, creativity, and even Mark Twain, whose chosen name connotes living at the cusp of safety and risk? (more…)
If you’ve ever wondered where Fairy Godmothers come from, twin sisters Heather Fujikawa and Heidi Andrews are here to answer all of your questions. They’ve created a new children’s book series, Fairy Birds: Fairy Godmothers in Training. The book is adorbs. Your kids will love it, and you will appreciate the message, too. The twins explain it all in their essay below.
Thanks Heather and Heidi!
“What do you do when Nordstrom wants you to expand your fashion accessories brand into a clothing line and MTV calls you to meet for a potential TV opportunity all in one week? You decide to do neither and write a children’s book, of course. Well, that’s what we did anyway.
Over three years ago we made up our minds to create something that could encourage internal beauty instead of external beauty. The question that came to mind was ‘Where do Fairy Godmothers Come From?’ and we decided to answer it in an illustrated children’s book series called Fairy Birds: Fairy Godmothers in Training. Our goal is to teach children about positive attributes like giving, loving, and kindness. That stuff is true beauty.
In our six-book series, little Fairy Birds go to Fairy Godmother School to learn the secrets of how to become a Fairy Godmother. Each time the young Fairy Birds learn a quality of a Fairy Godmother, they grow a colorful feather. Lesson upon lesson, feather after feather, the little Fairy Birds’ wishes come true.
In the first book that just launched, the Fairy Birds go on a soaring adventure to grow their first colorful feather, the pink “Givie” feather that flourishes when they give to others. The book is full of infectious illustrations, delightful color, fashionable characters and a solid message—to just give a little–that we hope captivates children everywhere.
Our goal is to inspire little readers to not only read the message of the book but to run with it. At the end of each one is a package of Givie Heart confetti that the reader can sprinkle every time they give. These Givie Hearts have been seen sprinkled on a homemade card for a parent, sprinkled on a tea party created for a friend and sprinkled as a walking path to help a baby brother learn how to walk. We’ve had plenty of guinea pig readers join in on small acts of kindness from California to Texas and Paris to Italy.
We hope from the first book of the series that children get inspired to give and that they find out just how fun it is to do small acts of kindness in and around their own homes and communities.
Check out our Fairy Birds website to play with interactive ways to give with DIY giving blog posts and short giving videos. Real life Fairy Birds can make a difference. See what we’re talking about. Check out our video after the jump.”
New York Times bestselling author of the young adult Merlin series, T.A. Barron, loves the earth–and often writes about it. His new book, Atlantis Rising is the story of the magical island of Atlantis–not its destruction this time, but instead, its creation. This is the first of a trilogy.
As a writer who cares deeply about the environment, Barron wrote the following essay about how to get our kids to care, too.
“We all know the bad news: The planet is seriously suffering from all sorts of environmental abuses. Some people remain stuck in denial. And kids, our last best hope for the future, are being hammered by depressing news and the overwhelming scale of environmental problems – even as they are spending less time out in nature.
In the face of all this, can parents, teachers and others who care about our children do anything? Are there any ways to enlighten as well as empower young people to help protect the air, land, water, and creatures of the Earth?
The answer is Yes.
As a dad, I’ve learned a lot from my kids – starting with how little I really know. But one of the most important things they’ve taught me is that raising environmentally aware young people doesn’t start with learning. No … it starts with loving. Before kids can be expected to understand the facts about our planet, they need to feel an enduring bond with the marvelousplaces and trees and birds and animals who share that planet with us. We are emotional beings – so we can’t ask kids to protect and steward something they don’t truly love.
That love comes, first, through a child’s experiences in nature. No matter whether that happens in a patch of grass at a city park or somewhere in deeper wilderness – it’s a time of magic.
All kids need is a chance to play in soil or sand or a pile of leaves. To explore a quiet glade (with no electronics to intrude). To discover a mossy stream or a pair of baby raccoons or a piece of petrified wood that’s a million times older than the child herself. My family, for more than 20 years, has watched butterflies emerge from their cocoons each summer – a thrilling experience for everyone.
All these are teachable moments, offering opportunities to learn more about connectedness, natural patterns, transformation, evolution, water sources, or geologic time. But most of all … they are opportunities to wonder, discover, and love.
When that emotional bond is secure, then it’s time to explain the serious environmental challenges we face – with honesty but also a light touch. The goal is to impart understanding, not despair. So talk about the links between the purity of water, the health of frogs, and the survival of humankind. Discuss the essential wisdom of not fouling our nest, preserving the complex web of natural systems that support us all. Finally, look at some photos of the Earth from space – and then consider how unique and precious our lonely planet really is. Add all that together, along with nature’s unending ability to delight and surprise … and you’ll have kids who are truly motivated to help save the Earth.
Now comes the hardest part – maintaining hope. In our troubled times, this is difficult for any caring adult. But it’s even more difficult for young people, who haven’t seen as many winters followed by springtime. The best way to keep kids’ hope alive, I believe, is to convey the idea that every person matters. That every human being – even a child – has the power to make choices that can cumulatively make a difference.
How to do that? Certainly not through lectures or sermons! Instead, just share stories. Whether true tales of remarkable people or fictional tales of unlikely heroes – such stories are lifelines that keep us afloat. They connect us to people who have faced enormous challenges and found the courage to persevere – and sometimes, to triumph.
Hope often eludes us, especially in a world that is sometimes darkened by the clouds of despair. But hope is resilient, like a wildflower in the harshest mountain storm. It can survive, and maybe even flower beautifully.