Archive for the ‘ Fun ’ Category

4 Things I Learned About Parenting From Working at Walt Disney World

Friday, January 16th, 2015

I spent one year working for the Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World. It was hands down the most magical year of my life, filled with fun, learning, and a boatload of funny stories.

While I learned important lessons about teamwork and the power of positivity, I also learned a thing or two about parenting. By interacting with families of different backgrounds, sizes, and child-rearing styles, it became clear that all parents had alter egos on vacation. It was obvious when mom or dad were in full vacation parent mode, because they were savvy and quick on their feet when it came to handling children in a high stress (or high excitement) situation.

Here are some examples of how parents inspired me and had me taking notes on their impressive theme park parenting.

  1. Parents will stop at nothing to make sure that their kids are happy, even if that means sitting through It’s A Small World for an entire afternoon. While visiting Magic Kingdom on a day off, I watched a father re-enter the line for It’s A Small World four times because his daughter, “wanted to see the babies sing again.” My heart went out to him, and I respected the fact that he loved his daughter so much, enough that he would voluntarily ride in the tiny boat with her over and over again.
  2.  Stroller folding is an art form that is extremely underappreciated. This I learned firsthand. Being a stroller parker just comes with the job when you work a Disney attraction. Fellow cast members and I would bribe each other to take our stroller shifts, because it was a grueling task. Not every stroller folds the same way, and some have crazy hard child safety locks that require patience and an owner’s manual to unlock. I respect the parents who lug these contraptions around with them all day long!
  3.  Parents are experts when it comes to coping with wait times. I always commended those parents who stood on the two-hour meet-and-greet lines for characters with their kids. I felt sorry for these parents, until I looked closer. Their diaper bags were packed with snacks, coloring books, tablets loaded with movies, and anything else to entertain the little ones. It was like watching that scene from Mary Poppins where Mary opens up her duffel bag and pulls out a giant lamp and a potted plant, only with jumbo-sized bags of Cheerios and iPads instead.
  4. There is nothing quite like experiencing Disney through the eyes of a child. It is the reason why families keep coming back to Disney, and why I saw so many smiling parents crying happy tears when their kids saw Mickey for the first time or finally became big enough to ride the big-kid rides. In a child’s eyes, every character and attraction is real and there isn’t anything that magic can’t do. It was awe-inspiring and completely enlightening, talking to kids every day about Walt Disney World and all of the things they saw. I cried at least once a day, listening to the kids tell me about how the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them to Disney to fulfill their dream of meeting Mickey Mouse or how they couldn’t wait to meet Cinderella and give her handwritten letters or colored pictures because she was their hero. It was an honor and it’s a much missed privilege to spend my days making magic for kids from around the world.

Image: Lake Buena Vista, FL via Shutterstock

Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands
Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands
Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands

Brooke Schuldt is an intern at Parents and the mother of a cactus named Timmy. She has a different hair bow for every day of the week. Follow her on Twitter

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Home Field Advantage

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

dad and son playing soccer indoorsEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

You might be surprised, but this month I’m not writing about the holidays, gift-buying, or instilling the spirit of the season in our kids. Rather, I’d like to devote this piece to a topic that doesn’t get enough attention: the weather. People just don’t talk enough about the weather, right?

I live in Colorado, and it’s been quite chilly. The recent “polar vortex” that brought sub-zero temperatures to much of the country also brought back memories of cold spells when our kids were small and had disproportionately ginormous energy levels.

We are a sports family, and sports families can’t be hostage to the weather—every day is a sports day. Like the U.S. Postal Service, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” kept our kids from playing ball (well, thankfully, gloom of night did slow things down a bit). That meant we had to design “all-weather facilities” in our small home.

With a playroom that was barely big enough to store all the sports equipment and toys, our dining room became the default basketball court, the living room became the baseball diamond and hockey rink, and the hallway became the soccer field. The dining room was the hardest to adapt because of the inconvenient chandelier—but unscrewing just four Phillips screws brought down the lights and made room for the six-foot indoor hoop. The square faux Oriental rug in the center of the living room had the right number of corners for all four bases, so we only had to move the coffee table to make room. Since our fireplace never worked, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to convert it into the indoor hockey goal. Soccer was the most dangerous because the hallway was narrow and every kick went straight at the goalie or ricocheted off the hall wall right towards the goalie. Our solution: The goalie wore an old catcher’s mask. Yes, we could have used the living room hockey rink as a soccer field, but the only part of soccer that our kids loved was the penalty kick, so the hallway was perfect. Even though all the kids played tennis outdoors, we never managed to successfully adapt it to the indoor venue despite our clever deployment of an old volleyball net and racquetball racquets.

It’s safe to say that our indoor arenas didn’t improve our home’s property value. Although we made the kids use soft foam balls, bats, and hockey sticks, every wall got scarred, scuffed, chipped, and dinged. We could have patched and painted, but we preferred to see the vivid testament to a house well lived and childhoods well played.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

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An OT-Approved Gift Guide for All Kids

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

If your child works with an occupational therapist (OT)–or even if he doesn’t–you’re practically guaranteed to find at least one perfect gift for him on this holiday gift guide curated by my sister Meghan, an OT in New York City and mom of a 4-year-old little girl. She originally started this list in the form of an email, as a service to the parents of the children she works with (who range in age from 2 to 12 and have minor fine-motor/manipulation delays, developmental delays, Down syndrome, autism, sensory processing disorder, and ADD/ADHD). She includes toys, games, crafts, and apps, and takes great care to explain exactly what skills it builds, which children will benefit most, and tips to get the most from it. “My goal is to find products that will be fun for the kids, that parents won’t mind spending money on, and will encourage both cognitive and creative development,” Meghan says. Her first list was such a hit, she now works on it nearly year-round, and unveils it right around Thanksgiving on her blog, MAC & Toys. This year’s collection is bigger than ever, so I asked her to pick her absolute favorites of all the picks making their debut on her list. Here they are:

1.  Discovery Putty

This has been a huge hit with the kids I work with. They love digging through this magical putty and finding treats or animals. I like to have the kids pretend to be explorers and talk about what they’re finding. Even better: Kids who may need to work on making their hands stronger can do just that while playing with it.

2.  Seedling’s Art Kits

I love doing crafts with my own child and the children I work with. This New Zealand-based company began seven years ago with the simple goal of creating products that would encourage hours of creative and imaginative play for kids of all ages.  Each kit (and there are so many wonderful ones to choose from) comes with all the supplies needed to make your own SuperHero Cape, Snow Globe, Bird House, or many other magical things.  For those busy parents who may not be so crafty, this is the perfect thing to make you feel like Martha Stewart!

3.  Boogie Board

Remember Etch-A-Sketch and Magna Doodle boards? Those toys still bring hours of entertainment to kids. A couple of years ago, my daughter received a Boogie Board as a gift and we’ve been playing with it since.  I brought one to my office to use with the kids and it’s been really popular. Whether it be for practicing writing letters or numbers, drawing pictures, or making lists, this lightweight and easily portable writing tablet allows for hours of creative fun and it’s great for long car/plane rides, waiting at the doctor’s office, or to just chill out on the couch with. And it’s perfect for all ages.

4.  Squigz

These suction cup construction toys are super fun, and motivating for kids of any age. Whether you decide to get the starter or deluxe set, these toys will not only be relaxing but provide some sensory (auditory and tactile) stimulation that will keep your kids entertained for hours. It encourages creativity, fine-motor skills, and social interaction. They are incredibly versatile and can be used on walls, bathtubs, windows, table and desktops. Be sure to check out Squigz Benders and pipSquigz.

5.  Osmo Tangrams

In my practice, I have embraced the use of the iPad into sessions, since it’s often motivating for some of my older and more challenging kids. One of my new favorite iPad accessories is the Osmo Game System, especially the Tangrams set. What I love most is that my kids who really struggle with visual perceptual and visual motor activities–and often avoid things like puzzles–have found this particular Tangram set to be more fun and less like work. Arrange the tangible puzzle pieces into matching on-screen shapes to unlock more puzzles. Kids can play individually or against a friend. Watch your child’s self-esteem and confidence grow after she successfully completes each puzzle.

6.  Kinetic Sand

At this time of year, when we’re cold and dealing with snow, what’s better than feeling like you’re playing at the beach? WABA Fun has created this amazing moldable sand that kids can mold into objects, flatten with a rolling pin, cut into shapes with cookie cutters, and hide objects in. There are lots of imitators out there, but be sure to splurge and get the real stuff since it will last longer (WABA guarantees it will never dry out) and has nothing in it that may cause allergic reactions.

So those are Meghan’s favorites this year–but there are dozens more where that came from, so be sure to check out her complete list. Happy Holidays!

 

Photo via Shutterstock.

Not-so Frosty the Snowman
Not-so Frosty the Snowman
Not-so Frosty the Snowman

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The Most Dangerous Toy

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Scooters are cool, but they’re sending kids to the emergency room. Toy-related accidents increased almost 40 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to a new study in Clinical Pediatrics by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and foot-powered scooters were the #1 cause of injuries such as lacerations and fractures.

My older daughter had a Razor scooter when they first became popular—even before organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide and the American Academy of Pediatrics had issued safety guidelines. I remember watching her and a friend come speeding down a hill in the park and thinking, “This is an accident waiting to happen.” Fortunately, she never got hurt.

In addition to wearing helmets, kids should be wearing knee pads and elbow pads, urges study senior author Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.P.H., a Parents advisor. However, our editors have noticed that fewer kids are wearing them these days—and the rise in stunt scooters may encourage more dangerous scootering. Any child younger than age 8 needs to be closely supervised when scootering. And parents, if you’re riding with your kids, set a good example and wear a helmet too.

Buy the safety gear you need here. 

It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions
It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions
It Worked For Me: Safety Solutions

Photo via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Big Kids, Fun, Health, News, Safety, Toddlers

5 Problems With “Frozen” That Leave Me Cold and Confused

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He posts twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here.  He currently lives in New Jersey and can be followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.

My friends who don’t have children relentlessly hurl sympathy at me like Angry Birds whenever the film is brought up.

“Ugh, I have no idea how you tolerate that stuff. I’d rather have my pockets stuffed with filets, be tethered and hung over a pack of hungry wolves.”

My friends can be pretty dramatic. But the crux of their argument holds water. They hate the idea of having to watch a movie written for children 200 times in a month. In fairness, who would want to do such a thing? But many of us do it to please our kids, despite how unnerving it can be to grow so familiar with a movie you can’t stand. It’s like knowing all the lyrics to a Ke$ha song. You know it’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s infected your psyche, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

With that said, I am going to admit something I probably shouldn’t…but I love “Frozen!” I love the songs, I love that cute little snowman Olaf, and I love that it exists in a “happily ever after” world when there is so much about the real world to bring us down. And my wife and two young sons love it even more. However, I’m crying foul on a handful of scenes that just make no sense to me at all. I realize it’s a movie. But bear with me as I go over some off-putting aspects of “Frozen” that I simply cannot ignore any longer. If you’re a parent of young kids who miraculously has avoided the film so far, this post will include plenty of spoilers. You’ve been warned.

  • Why doesn’t Elsa just TELL Anna that she has special powers that could kill her?

This is easily the part of the film I have the biggest problem with. Elsa nearly whacked Anna when they were children, so Grand Pappy, the magical troll, removes the ice from her head and also conveniently removes all memories of her sister Elsa’s magic. So, their parents’ solution is to keep Elsa locked in a room for years, away from anyone she might accidentally murder. Seems about right. Except for the fact that they could have easily told Anna, “Listen, honey, Elsa has this problem where she might inadvertently freeze your face off if you touch her.” Seems like a normal conversation between daughter and parent to me.

  • Why is Hans suddenly a sociopath?

He’s the perfect gentleman for 75 minutes, then all of a sudden…BOOM. He’s Christian Bale in American Psycho. I get it. They were trying to make him as detestable as possible, so viewers would know who the bad guy was. But if this movie was trying to move away from traditional fairy tale norms, they could have just had Anna tell Hans, “Look, we were drunk. It was stupid. I don’t know your last name. Thanks for taking care of Arendelle and all that crap. But it’s time to leave.”

  • How does Elsa not know Olaf’s name?

When Anna finally reaches the ice castle and approaches Elsa, everyone’s new favorite snowman, Olaf enters the scene. Elsa is perplexed by this. “Olaf?” she wonders aloud, as if she had never seen him before. SHE MADE HIM. And if you’re going to tell me that this is the same snowman she made when they were kids and that’s why she doesn’t remember, why wasn’t Olaf talking in that original scene? Did he only develop speaking skills later in life, like a baby? This is all very confusing. Elsa birthed Olaf and should damn well know his name. What kind of sorceress is she?

  • If Grand Pappy was taking a nap, how did he know about Elsa striking Anna’s heart?

For an old guy, Grand Pappy is quite mentally spry. He emerges from a snooze to tell Anna he can’t help her with the “ice in her heart put there by her sister.” How did he know about that? Did he just guess by looking at her? Or did he look in his crystal ball and was already aware? And if that’s the case, WHY WAS HE TAKING A NAP WHEN SOMEONE WAS DYING?! Grand Pappy needs to reassess his priorities. The guys sleeps way too much during crises.

  • So, Arendelle welcomes back a Queen who abandoned the city under duress, practices sorcery, and left them all to die in a tundra?

I know it wasn’t intentional and all, but I’d consider moving to a neighboring community if my head of state was throwing ice at people and suddenly changed the temperature from 80 to 20 degrees while I was wearing a t-shirt and cargo shorts.

In closing, yes, I understand that it’s a movie. And yes, that doesn’t change things.

Does anyone else have a kid’s movie with questionable storyline decisions that bug you? I want to hear them! Add your comment below, tweet me here or email me at jdeprospero@gmail.com.

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