So Long For Now

I’ve put off writing this post for a couple of weeks now, because to write it makes it so very real. After 3 years of blogging, I’ve decided to say goodbye to The Risky Kids. It hasn’t been an easy decision, but several factors have combined to make this the best decision for me, you, and my family.

As some of you know, The Risky Kids isn’t my only blog. I’ve been blogging over at Just Like The Number for over 8 years, which is the equivalent of 80 in Internet Years. So I know a thing or two about blogging, and how to determine whether or not a blog has growth potential. I started The Risky Kids to share my passion about play and to build a community around parents that wanted to raise happy, independent kids without irrational fear or paranoia about the world around them. My hope was that in creating a niche blog such as this, I would find an audience with whom this content resonated with, and that over time it would grow.

I have most definitely found an audience. I’ve interacted with many of you through discussions here and on social media, and you’ve inspired me just as much (okay, probably more) as I hope I’ve inspired you. However, The Risky Kids just hasn’t grown the way I’ve wanted it to.

I could continue to plod along and post here and there, but that’s never been my style. I wouldn’t feel like I was giving you my best, and I’m not cool with that.

I could continue to produce content as I have been, but in order to give you my best, I have to continue to put significant time and effort into each post. I’ve found that it’s getting harder and harder to do so. It requires a hefty amount of time to plan, execute, photograph and write good posts, time that I don’t necessarily have. It has to come from somewhere, and it ends up coming from personal and family time.

I’m also finding that as my kids are getting older, they aren’t always so keen on doing things for the main purpose of producing great content for the blog. Sure, they still love nature hikes and geocaching and doing 50 Dangerous Things. But they don’t necessarily want me to photograph every moment and put it on the Internet. Often, they ask if we can just do something to do it for fun, not for a blog post. I only get one shot at this parenting gig, and I don’t want to mess up great moments for the sake of page views.

While I’ve never done this for the money, the hard truth is that without any source of income, a blog is really just a creative hobby. And that’s great! There’s nothing wrong with that! But when I take a good, hard look at the amount of time I spend writing for both blogs, and maintaining separate social media accounts for both, I’m spending entirely too much time on my hobby. It’s less of a hobby, and more of a part-time job for which I earn significantly less than minimum wage. That’s not to knock blogging. It is what it is, and I’m not bitter at all. I just need to be more mindful about how I spend the precious hours I am given in this life.

The tricky part is, I still have a great passion for play. I still have a great passion for the kinds of parenting topics I’ve covered here, and will continue to face. I still love to take photographs and write. And so while this is goodbye for this particular space, it’s not a complete goodbye. As I did before I started The Risky Kids, I’ll continue to write about these topics as I’m inspired to do so over at Just Like The Number. While I understand that the range of topics I write about there might not be of interest to all of you, I hope you’ll consider subscribing, either via an RSS reader or email. I’d love to see you over there!

For the time being, this space isn’t going anywhere, so you can continue to reference old posts as needed. I just won’t be posting any new material. Like many of you, I’m finding great enjoyment from Instagram, which is essentially a mini-blog of our escapades. I’d love for you to follow me on Instagram (I’m @AngieSix) and stay connected with me that way.

Finally, I just want to thank each and every one of you for reading, sharing your stories and ours, and cheering us on. It’s been so much fun, and you’ve made me a better parent. I hope you’ll continue to play The Risky Kid way: less worry, more fun. In the end, risky play is everyone’s business. Play on, friends!

 

 

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International Archaeology Day

Did you know tomorrow, October 18th, is International Archaeology Day? Neither did I, until I was doing some research for a Bedtime Math post last month. What does this have to do with The Risky Kids? Well, for one, archaeology is kind of a risky job, right? I mean, it is the profession of the one very adventurous chap by the name of Indiana Jones!

In reality, it was an experience we had while traveling in Spain that made me connect archaeology to The Risky Kids. We were nearing the end of our trip, and on the last day that Mike was with us before heading back to the States, my cousin took us to visit Italica.

Italica

Located near present-day Seville, Italica is the site of an ancient Roman city. The impressive ruins date back to 206 BC. Now, for you and I, this is crazy amazing. But for my kids, who had already traipsed through much of Spain and seen lots of “old stuff,” Italica was a hot, dusty, boring place. Especially when your parents passed multiple signs for a most amazing water park along the way.

As we tried to balance enjoying the sights ourselves without wanting to shake the children, we came across a group of graduate archaeology students participating in a dig. We stopped for a moment to observe, and to our surprise, a student came up to the kids and asked if they’d like to help.

My American self wanted to protest. Surely this went against some rule or regulation. Wasn’t there some kind of waiver I need to sign? And do you really want my kids messing with ancient Roman artifacts?

Italica

The answers were no and yes, and the next thing they knew the kids were learning how to sift through dirt samples and identify artifacts. Just in their little scoop of dirt they found tiles from mosaics, pottery shards, and playing pieces from a game kids their own age used to play on the roads thousands of years ago.

Italica

We thanked the students profusely for their time and continued on our way. And wouldn’t you know, for the rest of our visit to Italica the kids were totally engaged. They read the signs, observed the surroundings, and asked lots of questions. By saying “yes” instead of “no,” and by encouraging them to touch instead of telling them “hands off,” the experience became personal to them. It’s still one of the parts of the trip they talk about the most.

Italica

So thank you, future archaeologists, for taking the time to bring some “old stuff” to light for kids, and sparking an interest where previously there was none. Happy International Archaeology Day to you!

Of course, I realize we can’t all travel to archaeological digs and have this kind of experience (although our world-class Children’s Museum in Indianapolis offers a summer trip for families to dig for real dinosaur bones!). But have you ever visited a museum or historical sight that you thought did an excellent job of engaging your kids? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

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Keeping the Summer Spirit Alive Through the School Year

Keep the summer spirit alive

One of the hardest things about going back to school is watching the last glorious days of summer unfold while you’re stuck inside. And while I won’t deny that we were all ready to get back to a schedule, none of us were quite ready to give up on summer. It got me thinking – what is it about summer that makes the season so special, and how can we keep that summer spirit alive as our days get both busier and shorter?

Keep the summer spirit alive: build a bonfire

Eat Outside

Picnics, deck dinners and cul-de-sac cookouts are frequent occurrences during the summer. Back to school doesn’t have to mean back inside! In fact, I find my kids need even more outdoor time in September and October, to make up for long days indoors at school. Have your afternoon snack outside on the patio, plan a picnic dinner, or build a bonfire and cook outdoors.

Keep Exploring

Keep Exploring

We’re great about planning road trips and vacations in the summer, but you can still travel and explore when school’s in session. Plan a day trip for the weekend, or become tourists in your hometown. Check out that new trail you missed over the summer, look for a new geocache nearby, or visit that playground that was too hot to consider last July.

Just Add Water

Just Add Water

It’s Murphy’s Summer Law: once the pools close after Labor Day, you will find yourself with the hottest, stickiest weather that will leave you longing for the pool. There are lots of fun water toys on clearance in the stores now, so stock up and enjoy them at home before you pack them up for the fall. Break out the sprinkler or the water balloons. I love to stock up on water guns (these are great) so that all the kids on the street can have a big water gun fight.

Game on! Cornhole

Game On!

This is also a great time to get outdoor games at great prices. Stock up on outdoor games and toys the kids loved during the summer, and add something new to the mix (we just got these OgoDisks and love them).

Protect the Empty Calendar

Protect the Empty Calendar

One of the beautiful things about summer is the feeling that you have entire days with no real obligations. No sports practices or math club. No homework or tuba lessons. While it’s a given that your calendar will fill up and your afternoons and evenings will be busier, you can still control it to an extent. It’s okay to say no, or to limit the number of after-school activities the kids participate in. Everything that comes home in the folders looks so fun and exciting at first, but when the reality of having something to do or somewhere to be 5 nights a week sets in, all the frivolity of summer flies out the window. We limit the kids to one extracurricular per season, and it works for us.

Another thing we’re trying this year to make our evenings less full is to do homework as soon as the kids get home from school. I refused to do this for years, being of the belief that the kids needed to chill before they attempted homework. Instead, I found that they had a hard time getting back into the homework mindset, and often homework stretched into the evening and too close to bedtime for my liking. Now, we have a snack while we get started on the day’s work. It seems to go faster and we all love the feeling of being completely done with our school obligations, leaving the evenings free for play. And if the day is just too perfect and the call of the outdoors too great? I’m okay with saying no to homework, too.

How do you keep the carefree spirit of summer alive throughout the school year in your home?

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Lessons From a Baby Rabbit

I was sitting on the porch steps the other day, reading and basking in the sun, while the neighborhood kids played four square in the cul-de-sac. I heard a commotion off in the bushes, and was quite surprised to see a baby rabbit running for its life … being chased by a very empowered chipmunk!

Not realizing what I was about to unleash, I called the kids over to see the baby rabbit. It had made its way back into our bushes. The kids blocked the obvious escape routes in hopes of catching it, and I played along, thinking they could never actually catch a rabbit.

Lesson #1: Never underestimate highly motivated children.

They did manage to get it out of the bushes, where it promptly ran into our open garage. Now I was a little worried. I had visions of the rabbit getting trapped somewhere in our garage and dying … and how wonderful that would smell after a few days. Six kids, fifteen minutes and one plastic storage bin later, they’d captured the baby rabbit.

Baby Rabbit

Lesson #2: Anything has the potential to become a pet.

Within minutes of capture, this rabbit became the darling of the cul-de-sac. They filled the bin with grass, fetched it some water, and freely gave away my entire supply of organic baby carrots. After a few tense moments, the rabbit seemed resigned to the fate of being the neighborhood pet. He nibbled a few carrots, let the children stroke his back, and took a little nap.

Still, his natural instinct was to find his freedom. He tried several times to jump out of the bin, displaying his superb hopping skills. The kids weren’t ready to say goodbye, as a few of them were still desperately lobbying their parents for a free pet rabbit. (My kids knew better!) I had to tend to dinner, so I put them in charge of rabbit-sitting. This super-important task consisted of sitting by the bin and making sure the rabbit didn’t jump out.

Rabbit Sitting

Lesson #3: Never underestimate a highly motivated rabbit.

All the adoration and free organic carrots in the world weren’t enough to keep this rabbit from his true desire – freedom. I’m not sure exactly what happened, as I was in the backyard grilling dinner. Some say he jumped, others say he was dropped in a misguided attempt to move him to a new, grassier bin. But I heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the backyard as the rabbit saw his chance and scampered away to suburban rabbit freedom.

Rabbit selfie

Oh well. At least we have the selfie to prove that for a few hours, we had a pet rabbit.

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Too Risky (Even For The Risky Kids)

Please Don’t Try This At Home!

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Scooter Jousting

Thomas got an Aerobie for Christmas. We spent a lot of time playing Aerobie on the tennis courts over break. One day Ben got involved by riding his scooter around the court and deciding that he would be the “FPU” (Frisbee Picker Upper). Whenever the Aerobie got stuck in the pine trees just outside of the tennis courts, Ben got the “FRS” (Frisbee Recovery Stick). Thomas picked up the FRS and the scooter and headed straight for Ben while yelling, “SCOOTER JOUSTING!” My gut reaction was, “Awesome! We need another stick and two shields!” Then I came to my senses. My training as an optometrist took over and all I could think about was removing wood chips from the kids’ eyes and treating them for a fungal infections. Needless to say, Scooter Jousting never saw the light of day.

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Ping Pong Dining

My parents bought us a kit that converts my kitchen table into a ping pong table. Initially I was skeptical, since most toys like that fail, but this one was awesome. The only down side is that we actually eat on this table. My first instinct was to play right thru the meals. Extra point for landing in certain foods! That was a fleeting thought. Can you say gross, disgusting and messy? We took a time out for dinner instead. Now, that didn’t stop me from putting a water glass on one side of the net after dinner. It took Thomas less than five minutes to get the ping pong ball in the cup . . . my kids are going to be very popular at the fraternity house.

Unofficial Polar Bear Plunge

We’ve done the Polar Bear Plunge at Camp Widji for the past several years. It’s a cold great way to start the year. This year I was working so we missed it. A few weeks ago we were walking by our neighborhood pool and I thought out loud that we maybe we could do an “unofficial” polar  bear plunge. Ben didn’t hesitate – he made a beeline for the pool and I’m pretty certain he would’ve jumped in. Again, I changed my mind. For some reason it’s ok to wade into a lake with about a hundred of my closest friends but jumping into a freezing cold swimming pool with only my kids seemed just plain crazy.

Taking risks is fun, but even risky kids need to think responsibly before jumping in. It’s about knowing your limits and following your gut … even if it means missing a possibly epic game of Scooter Jousting or Ping Pong in the Pasta.

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Halloween Hallelujah: When the Kids Can Carve Their Own Pumpkins

Tween carving pumpkins

Confession: I don’t like Halloween.

Let me clarify … I used to like Halloween, in two separate stages of my life. One, of course, was when I was a kid. The Jerry Seinfeld bit about Halloween pretty much sums up my experience of Halloween as a kid. Crappy costumes, the humiliation of having to wear your winter coat over said costume, balanced by the overriding joy of realizing there was a holiday with a sole purpose of getting candy.

Halloween lost its luster for a bit when I was too old for trick-or-treating and too cheap to enjoy buying candy for other trick-or-treaters. And then we became parents. There is this sweet spot for Halloween when you can throw a crappy costume on your toddler, parade them around for an hour, and keep all the candy for yourself.

Then one year Halloween rolls around and the kids have an opinion about what they want to wear. They have expectations about how the house should be decorated, thanks to that one over-achieving neighbor we all have. And they want to keep all the candy for themselves (except for the Baby Ruths and Tootsie Rolls, which … eww). I love Christmas and have no problem putting the extra effort into making it special, but the Halloween spirit eludes me. I dread it all and have a hard time getting into it.

The one task I dread more than any other is carving the pumpkins. It’s one of those things that always sounds like a lot of fun to do with kids, until you actually start doing it. Suddenly it’s an art project gone south, with the participants messy, grumpy, and armed with sharp objects.

Like previous years, I’d put off carving pumpkins until the I couldn’t hold the kids off any longer. We spread newspaper on the driveway, lugged over the pumpkins and got to work. We just got all of our supplies ready to go when a couple of the neighbor boys wandered over. Could they help scoop out the pumpkin guts? Job #1 that I can’t stand taken care of.

With the guts out of the way, we moved on to design. Eli wanted a simple Minecraft design, which I obliged, while Elena was able to draw her own. Equipped with a small, child-sized serrated knife, Eli got to work scoring the pumpkin along the lines I’d drawn. Elena, who has spent time in the kitchen this year learning some basic knife skills, carved her own.

Kids carving pumpkins

For the first time in my entire parenting career, I spent a good portion of pumpkin carving time not needed. Of course I stayed on hand to supervise, but I wasn’t the one doing all the work. Suddenly I realized how this could actually be an enjoyable activity, one in which pleasant holiday memories are made. Turns out, pumpkin carving just needed maturity, basic skills, and the ability of the parent to back off a bit to turn it into a pleasurable experience for everyone.

Funny, now that I think about it, that applies to a plethora of parenting experiences!

How do you feel about Halloween? In what ways do you let your kids claim some independence during this holiday? Do you let them carve their own pumpkins, trick-or-treat without you, or decide for themselves how much candy is okay to eat? Or do you feel like you have to monitor it all?

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The Waning Days of Summer

City Museum, St. Louis

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that The Risky Kids will be taking a mini hiatus for the next 3 weeks.  Not coincidentally, that’s about how long we have until school starts again.  The summer is flying by too quickly, and the kids and I collectively agree that we need more Ferris wheels, pool days, pajama fests and general sloth-iness in our lives before we return to alarm clocks, school buses and homework.  This is also the last stretch of time I have to spend with Eli before he enters the world of kindergarten.

I have a feeling you’d rather spend your last few days of summer vacation enjoying it rather than reading about it on someone else’s blog.  So shut the computer down and go do something totally lazy and indulgent.  I don’t care how old you are, summer only comes once a year and it’s meant to be savored.

Lisa has a few posts in the works that may (or may not) get published in the meantime.  When we return in mid-August we’ll have loads of cool content to get you back in Risky mode just in time for fall’s cooler temperatures.  Thanks for understanding.  I can’t write authentically about living the playful life if I don’t take the time to play myself.  Enjoy the rest of your summer and we’ll see you soon!

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The “Playability” Factor: Choosing a Neighborhood Based on Play

View from my back porch. Love our mighty oak.

We are slowly but surely settling into our new home.  We’ve only been here for a short time, but I’m already noticing a remarkable  difference.

My kids are playing with other kids and outside A LOT more.

We knew when we purchased this next home that “playability” would factor into our choice.  We paid attention to the neighborhood we liked at different times of the day.  Were there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?  Did they seem to be in the same age range as our kids?  Are they outside?  We also paid attention to the specific house and lot.  Did it encourage or discourage our kids from having friends over?  Did the yard have features that would encourage them to play outside?  Did the traffic pattern in front of the house encourage or discourage free play outside?

We knew when we found the house we wanted that the answers to these questions were “yes.”  We were lucky that we found a neighborhood and a house in our price range that satisfied these desires.  But I still wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly these differences in our living space would translate into more play for our kids.  I’m thrilled, especially considering the weather is still icky (8 inches of snow last week).  Thoughts of what will happen when the weather warms up make me giddy.

I’m really looking forward to reading Mike Lanza’s book, Playborhood, to find even more ways to foster and encourage free play within our neighborhood.  If you’re not familiar with his book or his blog, I encourage you to check it out.  You’ll be so inspired!

Would you ever choose a home or a neighborhood based on “playability?”  And if you have, what led you to make that decision and how did you go about it?

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Talk to Strangers

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What is this?

That’s the question Linda asked my kids last weekend. Obviously, it’s a rock. But let’s pretend it’s more than a rock. Maybe it’s a tool? Or an ancient Indian artifact?

My kids guessed a lot and decided it was an ancient Indian comb that Indian moms used to brush the unruly hair on  Indian boys.

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For the past week, Benjamin has been using this rock to brush his hair. It cracks me up.

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Today, Thomas grabbed the rock and started brushing too.

You might be asking, “How is this risky?” (Beside the fact that you could lose a toe with that comb.)

To get this new comb, we talked to strangers. Gasp! From day one, we tell our kids not to talk to strangers … and this is good advice?  Unless you spend your time hiding under the bed, there will be situations where you must talk to strangers. Linda and I met some strangers last weekend kayaking and they were the ones who gave us the rock. We struck up a conversation and learned some things about rocks and Indian artifacts. Now, I’m not completely convinced that this rock is in fact an ancient Indian artifact. But in the big scheme of things that’s not what mattered.

We talked to strangers, had an adventure and have great stories that we lived to tell about. We never got that punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when you meet people whom you can’t trust. We knew to go slowly, trust our instincts and have fun. We came home and told our kids about our experience.

Homework: Next time you are out and about with your kids, meet a stranger. Strike up a conversation and learn something. Go home and research it and see if what you learned is true. Talk to your kids about instincts and learning to trust them.

We talked to strangers, and now we comb our hair with rocks.

Have you ever trusted a stranger and come out with a new friend and a good story? Let us know.

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One Year Anniversary Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Kelly M!

kids climbing trees

I can hardly believe that it’s been one year since I launched The Risky Kids!  While this blog is still very young, it’s been so much fun to see it grow, begin to take its first tentative steps and find its voice.  And unlike my real babies, it lets me sleep through the night.

diy slingshot

I’m also so very glad that my good friend Lisa joined us this year.  Having blogged solo for six years, it’s so nice to have a blogging buddy … especially one that’s willing to superglue her fingers together or squash pennies on a railroad track.  You just don’t find friends like that everywhere.

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I’m happy to report that in our first year of blogging about risky play, no laws or bones were broken and only a few tears were shed!  And people think this stuff is dangerous …

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We did, however, have loads of fun, especially with our 50 Dangerous Things series.  Gever Tulley’s book, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), was the inspiration behind starting The Risky Kids.  As a way to pay homage to the book that started it all and to thank each and every one of you who joined us on this adventure, we’re giving away a copy of the book!

But wait – there’s more!  We love you too much to stop at one of our favorite books, so we’re also throwing in a copy of The Art of Roughhousing.  I just finished reading it a few weeks ago and it’s been an instant hit at our house.  We know you’ll love it, too.

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below letting us know the riskiest fun you had with your kids in the last year.  Want to earn an additional entry?  Just “Like” The Risky Kids on Facebook and let us know that you did so in the comments.  The giveaway will close on Sunday, February 2, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST.  Winner will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.  Books will be mailed directly to winner.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing The Risky Kids with your friends.  We can’t wait to share another year of adventures with you!

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