Repost: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

Over the holidays I’m taking a little time away from blogging. Throughout the week I’ll be reposting some of the most popular posts from The Risky Kids archives. This post is from Lisa. Even though she hasn’t been able to write much lately, she’s still very much a part of The Risky Family. We miss your hijinks, Lisa, Thomas and Ben!

Task: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

 

Requires:

  • Pennies (or other coins)
  • Tape
  • Active train track
  • Train schedule

Possible hazards:

  • Death by train
  • Awkward conversations with the police
  • Projectiles

How it all went down:

 

We live about three houses down from an active railroad track – as in a train comes by every five minutes or so.  After living here for about five years, I hardly notice the train but our visitors are always a little shocked at the noise and vibrations.  I don’t want my kids playing on the tracks, so I loaded them into the mini-van and drove to an access point just down the street.  (I know, my kids are going to figure out that they can walk to the tracks, but somehow it made me feel better to have the illusion they could only get there by car.)

 

We duct taped 13 pennies to the track, then went home and waited for a train to pass.  Surprisingly, we only found two pennies when we returned.  The duct tape was melted to the track and the pennies were flat – I mean flat!   I wasn’t expecting them to be this flat.

Nothing like a squashed penny to drive home the point of the sheer weight and force of a train.  It was cool, and I think that the kids learned that getting run over by a train is a very bad thing

Tips:

  • Pick a portion of the track that is very straight – you want to see and hear the train coming from a long way away.
  • A location next to an automated crossing gate is good – the bells will warn you as a train approaches.
  • Don’t try to place pennies on the track if you can see or hear a train or crossing bells. Obviously.  According to Tulley, because of the unfamiliar size of train engines, our brains can’t accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming trains.  If you can see or hear it, get out of the way.
  • If you see a spot of the track is brighter or shinier than the rest, tape your penny there. That’s where the wheel makes the most contact.
  • Mark the spot with a stick on the ground.
  • If you’re waiting there for the train to pass, stand at least 30 feet away from ALL tracks.  A flying penny will put your eye out.
  • To ensure the safety of the train and the track, never put anything larger than a coin on the tracks.
Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).
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Repost: DIY Slingshot

Over the holidays I’m taking a little break from blogging. Throughout the week I’ll be reposting some of the most popular posts from The Risky Kid archives.  Slingshots are still a big hit at our house, and if we ever see a stick that’s a good candidate for a slingshot we feel compelled to pick it up. You never know when it might come in handy! This fall we hit the jackpot on slingshot ammo: acorns and hickory nuts. Add a target or a pyramid of plastic cups and you’ll have hours of target practice fun.

Make Your Own Slingshot

Task:  Make an awesome shooting tool.

Requires:  

Forked stick

Rubber bands (Medium to long rubber bands work best. You can always tie a couple together if you don’t have bigger ones on hand.)

Scrap of leather or cloth

Pebbles, peas, flower buds, acorns … pretty much any small object for ammunition.

Clear area  (without people, pets, or other things that might get damaged)

Possible Hazards:

Danger to others (depending on your aim!)

Projectiles (you’ll shoot your eye out!)

Property damage

Slingshot

How It All Went Down:

In a circumstance of happy coincidence, Eli and I found the perfect forked stick on our way to throw rocks.  Therefore, that’s my first piece of advice if you want to make your own slingshot:  always be on the lookout for the perfect stick.  Nothing will slow your weapon-making roll like not being able to find a single useful forked stick when you want one.

After that, it was pretty simple.  We chose a piece of fairly thin, supple leather for our ammunition pocket.  Elena followed the instructions and put the slingshot together herself in about 5 minutes.  It’s a sturdy little weapon (okay, we might have needed a little bit of duct tape), and it’s been fun for the kids to work on target practice.  It’s not hard at all to launch a pebble a great distance … it’s the aim and accuracy that takes lots of practice.

We’re on the prowl for more perfect sticks.  One slingshot isn’t going to be enough, especially over the summer.  They’re fun and very portable and the envy of the neighborhood.  Every kid wants to try it and every parent yells at the other kids to get out of the way (rightly so).  Without realizing it, the kids are learning about aim, trajectory, effect of ammunition size and shape … basically their own little hands-on version of Angry Birds.

If you just can’t find that perfect stick or you want to bypass the whole DIY bit, you can purchase a ready-made slingshot.

Make a Slingshot

Slingshot how-to

  1. Make a pocket for your slingshot.  Cut a small rectangle out of leather or a scrap of sturdy cloth.  You can either tie the rubber bands to the pocket, or cut two small holes at the edges and loop the bands through.
  2. Assemble the slingshot.  Tie the rubber bands to the ends of a forked stick.
  3. Gather your ammunition and get ready to shoot!  Place your ammunition in the pocket and trap it by pinching with your thumb and forefinger.  Hold the handle steady at an arm’s length.  Pull back on the pocket, aim, and fire!
  4. Have fun coming up with different targets and ammunition.  Aluminum cans, paper bulls-eyes and lines of action figures make great targets.  Of course if you have terrible aim, you can always start with the broad side of a barn.
Did you ever own or make a slingshot as a kid?  If you make your own, I’d love to see your photos on our Facebook page!

Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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Repost: Lick a 9-Volt Battery


Over the holidays I’m taking a little time away from blogging.  Throughout the week I’ll be reposting some of the most popular posts on The Risky Kids to date.  This post was the very first “Dangerous Thing” we tried, and one of my first posts ever.  It continues to be the most popular post on The Risky Kids, as well as our most viewed YouTube video.  Every few months or so I get treated to some variation of “You are the worst mother ever” in the YouTube comments, which I proudly see as a badge of honor.  Enjoy!

Task:

Lick a 9-volt battery to see what electricity tastes and feels like.

Requires:

9-volt battery

Aluminum Foil (for extra credit)

Possible Hazards:

Shock (duh)

How It All Went Down:

First of all, I would like to thank Eli’s latest ear infection for prompting me to pull out our new Exergen Temporal Scanner.  Our fancy new thermometer just happened to come with a 9-volt battery.  We had kids, we had a battery, we were ready to get this 50 Dangerous Things show on the road.

Elena was eager and ready to try licking the battery.  Eli?  Not so much.  Knowing that his reaction would most likely be priceless, I did what any reasonable parent would do.  By the time our bargaining was over, Eli managed to walk away with a pack of M&Ms and the promise of a new LEGO Ninjago mini-fig.  I got to stick a battery on his tongue and capture the best battery face ever.  Win-win.

Have you ever tried this?  I remember doing this as a kid. Not because my parents read a book about it (my mom owned one parenting book – Dr. Spock), but because someone dared us.  Our parents were off doing what parents did back then: mind their own business and get stuff done.  Unlike my house today, batteries weren’t stored in a clear, well-labeled container out of reach of children.  They were probably stored next to the chain-saw in the garage.  I bet we had to dig through the ones dripping with battery acid to get to the good ones.   Try it at least once.  It’s not painful.  Elena gave it a 2.5 on the pain scale.  It does taste weird, though.  It’s not something you can pin-point (Eli suggests poop, of course), since the electrical current stimulates random nerves on your tongue not associated with a specific taste.

Elena and I also tried chewing on a wad of aluminum foil, which conducts a weak electric current when mixed with the acid in your saliva.  I forgot the cardinal rule of chewing foil: KEEP IT AWAY FROM ANY FILLINGS.  Yowza.  Thank goodness we didn’t get that on video.  These ones are much better.

What are you waiting for?  Go ahead and lick a battery.  We dare ya.

Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do): Play With the Vacuum Cleaner

Task:  Explore the properties of moving air (and maybe sucker the kids into cleaning up a little).

 

Vacuum cleaner science

Requires:

  • Wide-mouth jar (needs to be just slightly bigger than the end of your vacuum cleaner hose)
  • Strips of paper
  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Clean Filter/Bag (the author notes that it’s a good idea to start with a clean bag or filter when experimenting with the vacuum)

Possible Hazards:

  • Annoying noise
  • Hickey (I was just playing with the vacuum cleaner – I swear!)
  • Lose an eye (*shudders* and reminds kids to keep the hose away from each other’s eyes)

How It All Went Down:

How many times do you catch yourself yelling at the kids that (insert useful household tool here) is not a toy?  The Swiffer, the feather duster, the fly swatter, the vacuum … they’re all much more fun as swords and sibling torture devices than for the boring work they were actually intended to do.  But what if we stepped back for just a second and looked at some of our household tools and appliances in a different way, and maybe appreciated them for the cool inventions that they are?  It might take some serious convincing on your part for the kids to believe you’re actually going to let them play with the vacuum, but the results will be well worth it.  And who knows?  Maybe they’ll be having so much fun they’ll explore its carpet cleaning abilities as well.

We started with “The Siren Jar.”  When moving air is constrained to small tubes or spaces, it starts to do some cool things.  Since air currents aren’t usually visible, this is a neat way to demonstrate how moving air currents can affect  sound.  Remove the lid from a jar.  Turn the vacuum on and insert the hose into the jar.  Slowly bring the hose out until it’s just even with the top of the jar.  Play around with the position of the hose and notice the differences in sound.

“The Buzz Ribbon” is another cool way to show how air waves can change the volume of a sound.  Cut a strip of paper that is about 1/2 the width of the vacuum cleaner hose and up to 12 inches long.  Turn the vacuum on.  Hold one end of the paper strip and let the vacuum begin to suck the other end of the strip into the hose.  Hang on tightly to the strip and gradually let it in the hose until it begins to buzz.  Pay attention to where the sound is the quietest and where it is the loudest.

Bonus points to this experiment, since it emulates the sound of a fart (always a hit in this house).

Here are a few other fun ways to play with your vacuum that we can’t wait to try:

How to Turn Your Vacuum Cleaner into a Bazooka

Feeling Pressured

Make Your Own Giant Inflatables

How Vacuum Cleaners Work (if your kids have more questions)

You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

 

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The Idle Parent Manifesto: There Are Many Paths

This is the last part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

There Are Many Paths

It’s hard to believe that 1) I’ve been doing this Idle Parent series since I started The Risky Kids nearly 2 years ago (!) and 2) that it’s actually over.  Don’t say I never finish what I start!  Of all the many posts Lisa and I have written regarding the Idle Parent Manifesto, of all the many ways we’ve asked you to rethink the way you parent, this final idea within the manifesto is my very favorite.  If you never read another post within the series, if you only choose to take away one idea, let it be this one:

There are many paths.

 

We all know it in our hearts: there isn’t one right way to parent.  Wherever you are on the scale of risky to cautious, you try to parent the best way you know how, in the way you feel is the right fit for your family.  We start with these itty bitty babies and no clue what to do with them, and we set our sights on the far away day when they will leave us for their own grand lives.  We hope to see them walk out our doors with a good head on their shoulders, their feet firmly planted on the ground, and their eyes to the skies of possibility.  In between, we travel all kinds of convoluted ways to get them there.

If you figured out a straight line to get them from Point A to Point B?  Good for you.  You win the Perfect Parent Prize and you can write a book for the rest of us.  But I bet you haven’t amassed any where near the volumes of stories we could write about our funniest, favorite, and yes, most shameful moments our own windy paths have taken us on.

I wouldn’t hold your breath for those parents or that book, though, since the Perfect Parent is a myth.  They’re a community myth, one that we all have a hand in creating and perpetuating.  The Perfect Parent has it all under control.  The Perfect Parent sleep trains (or doesn’t).  The Perfect Parent works outside the home (or doesn’t).  The Perfect Parent enrolls their children in all the best activities (or doesn’t).  The Perfect Parent lets their child walk to school alone (or doesn’t).  The Perfect Parent only feeds their children organic, whole-grain, sugar-free food (or doesn’t).   Don’t you see?  The Perfect Parent with the One Path to Perfect Children is the story we tell ourselves.  Only instead of lulling us to sleep with dreams of all the ways we’ve done well by our children, this story keeps us awake with tales of failures and shortcomings.

At the end of the book, the author encourages the reader to stop making every aspect of childhood a parenting priority.  His thoughts are that if you relinquish some of that control, your kids will be happier and you’ll feel less overworked as a parent.  He asks the reader to “Give childhood back to the children.  Resist the American way.  Keep rebelling!  Make family life into a revolutionary act.”

I like that.  If you only take one thing away from this series, or frankly, from this blog, let it be this:  make your own story and forge your own path.  Please look to us and the other trusted voices around you for inspiration, but don’t let anybody else write your family’s story for you.

My goal and passion is to give you elements to make your story more playful.  No matter where you fall on the Risky Scale, all I hope is that you’ll look for ways to add just a little bit of risk to your lives.  Try something that scares you just a bit.  Do something as a family you never thought you could do.  Do you like it?  Then try a little more.  Do you hate it?  Then try something different.  Whatever you do, don’t submit to the myth of the Perfect Parent and the One Path.  Start your own revolution against the stories that aren’t your own, and enjoy the twisty path.

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Our Tree Identification Project: Resources for Identifying Trees with Kids

We’re taking on a project – to identify every tree in our backyard!  You can read about the project here and here.

Tree Identification with Kids via The Risky Kids

We had a map of the yard, we had gathered leaves and nuts, now all that was left to do was to figure out what, exactly, we had!

Elena and I sat down one afternoon to do some research. I’d checked out just about every book available from the library to help us identify our trees, so we leafed through them (pun totally intended) and tried our hand at identification. A few lessons learned:

We quickly figured out which books were more user-friendly than others. I’m guessing this is very much a personal preference, depending on how you like to go about the process. In the end we decided that The Sibley Guide to Trees and 101 Trees of Indiana: A Fieldguide by Marion T. Jackson were our favorites. The Sibley book is very detailed, but easy to navigate for both adults and older children. I also think it’s helpful to have a book specific to your geographic location as well. And Trees (A Golden Nature Guide)? Honestly I just liked the nostalgic feel of it. It did help us with the more common trees, though.

Field Guides for Trees

Fall may not be the best time of year for this kind of project. Because we started late, many of the trees had lost their leaves already. Many of the leaves are compromised, too. We plan to pick the project back up where we left off in the spring, as a key identifier of many trees are the buds and blossoms.

Don’t be surprised or discouraged if younger children aren’t interested in the actual identification process. Eli loved helping with the map and gathering leaves, but had no interest at all in identifying the trees. And honestly, it was challenging for Elena and I.

Beyond incorporating their help in the gathering process, there are other ways to involve younger children without frustrating them. Check the non-fiction section in your local library for books related to trees. Eli particularly enjoyed From Acorn to Oak Tree by Jan Kottke and I Can Name 50 Trees Today!: All About Trees (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library). Consider leaf crafts or activities using nuts.  I plan to use these leaf identification cards next spring.

Kids' Books for Learning About Trees

In the spring and early summer I also plan to research the possibility of using apps or computer programs to help with the process.  I would also like to find a book or a good resource for teaching the best process for identifying trees.  Do you start taxonomically, like with birds?  Or do you do it by features, such as leaf type and shape?  Or does it even matter?

In the end, we were able to identify 8 of our 26 trees, so I’m very pleased. Are you curious to know what we have? Here you go:

  • 1 Northern Red Oak
  • 2 Elms
  • 1 Sugar Maple (should we try and tap it?!)
  • 1 Maple of unknown variety
  • 1 Dogwood
  • 1 Box Elder (and the annoying Box Elder beetles to go with it)
  • 1 Hickory

When it’s all said and done, I hope to have a nice map of our yard with every tree and bush identified. I think it would be lovely, and something I would pass on to future owners in the event we move. The trees are definitely something to be thankful for (although I’m not sure I would’ve been quite as grateful had you asked me last Sunday, after we raked and filled 38 bags with leaves!). We’ll shelve the project for now, and pick it up again in the spring. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for resources I’d love to hear them!

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The Risky Kids Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Screen-Free, Playful Gifts for Kids of All Ages

The Risky Kids holiday gift guide: screen-free, playful Christmas gift ideas for kids of all ages.

This post contains affiliate links, and includes some items I received for free. However all items are things we personally use and love!

This time every year the Internet is full of gift guides to fit every kind of recipient. While there are many wonderful guides out there, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t share with you some of our very favorite things. These are things that my kids play with year round, and best of all, none of them require a screen! We love them, and think the kids in your life will love them, too.

Kiwi Crate

1. Kiwi Crate subscription

We’re going on 2 years of being Kiwi Crate subscribers, and I’ve been so impressed with each and every crate. My kids love doing crafts, and I love it when they craft, but I’m not always so good with planning out crafts and having the right materials available. Kiwi Crate does it all for you, sending you everything you need to make at least 2 specially-themed crafts in every box. The crafts are well-thought out, the directions are easy to follow, and the art materials provided are always of amazing quality. A Kiwi Crate mail day guarantees smiles and fun!

Gibbon Slackline

2. A Slackline

We’re partial to the Gibbon Slackline, and they make several varieties, including ones specifically for kids and/or beginners. Put it up in your neighborhood and watch the kids flock to your yard, or pack it up and take it with you to the beach or camping!

3. Inline Skates

Last year we bought each of the kids these these inline skates, which have adjustable sizing – such a bonus when you have kids with growing feet! Soon every kid in the neighborhood was asking for skates! Fun for skating, family outings, or games of street hockey.

I'll trade you 3 sheep for some ore.

4. Card and Board Games

We like to gift ourselves a new family game every Christmas. This year it’s Carcassonne. Our family favorites include Ticket To Ride, The Settlers of Catan, Rat-A-Tat-Cat, Bananagrams, SKIP BO and Flash . When the kids were very little, Dancing Eggs was a huge hit. Make it a priority to have a family game night once a week and you have yourself the gift that keeps on giving.

5. Books

We always gift at least one book at Christmas. I especially like to gift books that encourage some kind of activity beyond reading, or that provide lots of detailed pictures and information that can be savored for a long time. This year Eli has especially enjoyed Unusual Creatures and Cool Creations in 35 Pieces. And while I usually find movie and TV character based books to be of terrible quality, I can’t say that for the Marvel Origin Stories. If you have a young fan of superheroes in your house, these books will be a hit. And if you’re the parent who has to read them, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the content. Elena really enjoys Wreck This Journal (and its related books by the same author) as well as Craft-a-Doodle.

6. Stomp Rocket

The Stomp Rocket is such a simple toy, but yet so much fun. Be sure to buy an extra set of rockets, just in case you’re anything like us and get a little, uh, overambitious with your launching!

Penny Skateboard

7. Penny Skateboard

I balked a bit when Elena first asked for one. We had a skateboard already, and she was never very interested in it. But a Penny Skateboard is different. It’s smaller than a traditional skateboard, and made of plastic. It’s designed specifically for riding, as opposed to tricks. She opts to ride her Penny board over her bike and her scooter every time. I have to admit, with all the fun color combinations, I kind of want one myself!

8. Yo Baby

For those kids who aren’t quite ready for an actual skateboard, or for a fun indoor alternative during the winter, a Yo Baby Kick Flipper is a great choice. The Yo Baby is made to help you learn balance, coordination, and basic board skills. We use our indoors, but it can also be used on grass, sand or even snow.

Strider Balance Bike

9. Strider Bike

Skip the tricycle and the starter bike with training wheels and get your toddler or preschooler a balance bike. There are tons of different makes and models, but we loved our Strider bike. It had a metal frame, which seemed more durable than a wood frame, and it looks like a real bike. We got Eli one when he was 2. At 3 he was riding a regular bike without training wheels. Even when he could ride a bike with pedals, he still loved his Strider because he could go super fast on it.

10. Nerf anything

For such an inexpensive line of toys, I’m amazed at how much play time we consistently get out of them. The mini basketball hoop that mounts over a door gets all ages of kids playing in our basement. The Firevision line looks really cool. This year we’re upgrading our dinky guns (which have served us well for 3 years) to some bigger ones. Watch out when you come visit!

What are some of your favorite playful, screen-free toys for kids?

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The Idle Parent Manifesto: We Embrace Responsibility

This is the nineteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

Embrace responsibility via The Risky Kids

We embrace responsibility.

 

What a crazy idea, right?  And why on earth would any parent not embrace responsibility?  We all want to raise responsible kids, but the burden lies in between the wanting and the doing.  There are four main areas in which I focus my efforts to raise responsible kids.  I want my kids to be responsible for:

Themselves

I want them to know how to take care of their health, their home, their happiness.  Before they leave the nest, they need to know basic living skills – how to cook, how to clean, how to wash their own clothes.  They need to self-regulate the kinds of foods they put in their bodies, the amount of sleep they get to be functional.  They need to learn who they are and what makes them happy, so they don’t depend on people or things to fill a void only they know how to fill.

Others

I want them to honor commitments, treat others with respect, think before speaking, empathize.  I want them to realize that everything they do creates a wake, with ripples that touch everyone around them.

Finances

My favorite nugget from financial author and radio host Dave Ramsey is to “act your wage.”  I want my kids to understand personal finance.  I want them to be good stewards of the money they have, to spend less than they make, to save, and to not let money rule their life or ruin relationships.

Their Virtual Self

It’s a brand new technological world for our kids, one we never had to worry about ourselves.  I want my kids to know what it means to be responsible in the world of social media – what they share, who they share it with, how they portray themselves online.  I don’t want to scare them, but I want them to realize the permanancy of the virtual world, and how nothing they say or do online is private.

How do we accomplish these things?  We model what responsibility looks like.  Not only should we show them how to be responsible, we should be transparent when we mess up.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes good ol’ responsible grownup Angie does some really stupid stuff.  A lesson in responsibility is even more impressive upon kids when you can show them you’re not perfect, but you’re open to learning how to do better yourself.

Secondly, we promise ourselves not to swoop in and fix things.  Our kids will disappoint us.  They will do things that embarrass us and make us question how others see us as parents.  They will do things that bring humiliation, suffering, and pain upon themselves.  I hate conflict.  I hate it when my kids are sad or hurting.  My first instinct is to make it better.  But sometimes it’s the pain and frustration that are the best teachers.  Putting a band-aid on the situation or stepping in to clean up a mess isn’t helpful, it’s irresponsible.

Finally, we pay attention.  I need to be present enough to see opportunities for my kids practice responsibility.  It’s so easy, especially for me as a stay-at-home parent, to do things for them.  Make their beds, bring a forgotten lunch, continue to do tasks for them they can do themselves because it’s easier or because I haven’t opened my eyes to see they’re not babies anymore- all of the things I do on autopilot sometimes because it’s what I’ve always done.

It’s not an easy task and it’s one that I often fail at miserably, but I know it’s important.  Embracing responsibility now means hard work and lots of little mistakes.  Waiting for responsibility to magically kick in later will mean disappointment and big, expensive mistakes.  I think I’ll choose the (seemingly) harder road now.

How do you embrace responsibility in your own home?  Does it come naturally for you, or do you struggle (as I do) to let some responsibilities trickle down to your children?

 

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The Idle Parent Manifesto: We reject health and safety guidelines.

This is the eighteenth part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We reject health and safety guidelines

 

First up, Lisa’s take on the subject:

I admit, I don’t always make my kids wear a helmet. When Thomas got his first two wheel bike, I bought the safety kit. We suited up with a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards. By the time I got all that on him, frankly, he was on to the next event. I wondered why Thomas had little interest in bike riding. It was Roger who clued me in to the fact that all the safety equipment was hindering Thomas’ interest in bike riding. Bit by bit, I let it go. If we are on a greenway, I let him ride without a helmet. Around the neighborhood, I let him ride without a helmet. If we are going to be on roads with lots of cars, I make him wear it. When we mountain bike, I always make him wear a helmet.

20130706-092427.jpg

We skateboard and in-line skate. The skatepark requires a helmet and I abide by that rule. I have a healthy respect for skateboards. Those things are death wishes with wheels awesome. But for some reason, the longboard is ok without a helmet. I blame the Athleta catalogue.  This is just one example of how we toe the line when it comes to health and safety guidelines in our family.

And now for Angie’s two cents:

So this is a tricky one for me.  I am, by nature, a rule-follower.  Breaking the rules, whether they make sense or not, makes me nervous.  At the same time, I realize that I am this way because I’ve been conditioned for nearly 40 years to not trust my own judgement when it comes to my health and safety.  As the author points out:

The anxious parent, conditioned into living in fear by health and safety guidelines and worry-inducing media, is afraid of hammers and nails and drills and knives.  Our obsession with safety removes independent judgement from the individual.  It is disabling.

“You can’t be too careful these days.” Yes, you can be too careful!  We’ve allowed stories in the media that don’t happen that often to cloud our judgement of what is safe.

I do not want to raise kids who lack independent judgement.  I do not want to raise kids who go through life being too careful.

What I want more than anything is for us to look at situations and think about them critically before deciding, “Safe or unsafe?”  I want us to do this as parents, and I want us to do this with our kids.  I want my kids to be able to think independently for themselves and to weigh risk versus benefit, instead of blindly assuming that whatever The Experts have decided is the right choice.  I want them to stop and think – are these guidelines to protect me or to protect someone else from getting sued?  I want them to ask themselves, “Do these rules make sense?”  I want them to feel comfortable challenging us on why we do something, and I want to feel comfortable listening to them. I want to be secure enough in my authority to change my mind if they make valid points.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Are there health and safety guidelines you reject because they don’t make sense for your family?  Or do you feel like that’s something none of us should mess around with?

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Minimalist Parenting: #HelpWomenAtRisk

#HelpWomenAtRisk

Last winter, in preparation for the launch of their book Minimalist Parenting, authors Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest put together a virtual camp.  Called MinCamp, it encouraged participants to take one small step each day to make their family lives simpler.  I participated, sharing it on The Risky Kids Facebook page, and I found it to be extremely valuable.

That’s exactly how I feel about the book as well.  So much of what the authors aim to do by helping families achieve a pared down lifestyle is in line with my passion for The Risky Kids.  When you are not immersed in the busy, you have time to play.  When you give yourself (and your kids) the gift of free time, you unlock worlds they can’t discover in the car between soccer and tuba lessons.  I simply adore the book and the philosophy, even though it isn’t so easy to simplify life with work and family.  I also realize how lucky we are to have choices when it comes to this … to have an abundance of things and opportunities from which we feel compelled to minimize.

Shortly after writing the book, the authors traveled to Ethiopia as part of the ONE Moms Delegation.  ONE Moms is a movement of moms using their extraordinary voices and collective influence to spread the word about the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease. Through this trip, they became familiar with Women at Risk, an organization that helps lift Ethiopian women out of prostitution and poverty.  During the entire month of October, 100% of the royalties from the purchase of Minimalist Parenting through this link will go to Women at Risk.

If you don’t already own this wonderful book, now would be the perfect time to purchase a copy and make a difference at the same time.  Consider purchasing it for a gift or buying copies for your book club or Mom’s group.  Besides making your own purchases, you can help out by sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Be sure to use the hashtag #HelpWomenAtRisk. Once again, here is the link (only purchases made through this link will count): http://bit.ly/helpwomenatrisk

Thanks so much for helping!  I have no direct affiliate with the authors, I just love the book and want to help them spread the work about this particular campaign.

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