Reclaim TV Time by Making It Safe for the Whole Family

What ever happened to just hanging out and listening to music or reading? We live in a world where popular music has to be marked with an explicit tag, and you have to show ID for the latest beats as if it were beer or cigarettes. The subtle lyrics of romance have been replaced with crass declarations. Your kid’s radio needs parental control settings.

They took away comic books by making them even darker and more sinister than they used to be. The heroes are more troubled and morally ambiguous in the name of character complexity. We call them “graphic novels” so that baby boomer adults can feel justified in buying them. And they are, as advertised, more graphic—and more disturbing.

Now, they’re coming for your TV. Actually, they’ve already got it. You may have purchased that big-screen TV for wholesome, family entertainment, but show by show, network by network, you’re losing the ability to turn on your television without it undermining the values you’re trying to instill in your kids. Violence and sexual situations make even prime-time, “family” TV shows earn their MA rating (for mature audiences only). Aside from TV Land and the Cartoon Network, our options as parents are getting narrower by the day.

The time has come to reclaim your family TV for your family. Here are a few suggestions:
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5 Great (And Nearly Unknown) Places to Raise a Family

Every family has its own personality. Some are sports nuts while others are full on sci-fi geeks. There are those that want to huge yard and others that do not want the hassle. Just like a family, cities have their own unique flair. If you are ready to make a move then matching your family’s needs to a city’s culture is the perfect pairing for a long and happy time in the neighborhood.

Old School With A Hip Vibe

If your kids have Ella Fitzgerald on their iPod then the Ballard district of Seattle, Washington may be your perfect match. This is an old-school, small town area in the biggest city of the Pacific Northwest. It has a working waterfront that contributes to the thriving Pacific fish industry. The boutique shops and fresh seafood restaurants have turned this once blue collar fishing town into a trendy area that is great for a family of free-spirited bohemians.

Photo by manleyaudio via Wikimedia Commons

The Electric Family

The engineering industry is changing locations and Boise, Idaho is one of the hubs. Forbes ranks Boise as the second best places to raise a family for it’s low cost of living and low crime rates. Idaho’s population has more than doubled in the last two decades, much of that because of an influx of technical personnel for the booming Boise scientific industry. With its rapid housing growth, it is also a great place to rehab a fixer-upper with additions to enhance the aesthetic and comfort of your home—add a sunroom or put in a new bathroom to gain equity.

Photo by Bjh21 via Wikimedia Commons

Norman Rockwell’s Family

If you are looking for a picturesque suburban area where kids ride their bikes, seniors stroll in the park, and lovers skate at the ice rink then look no further than West Hartford, Connecticut. With only around 60,000 people, West Hartford boasts six parks, ice skating rink, a dog park coalition, two senior centers and three libraries. West Hartford’s school system is one of the best in the state. All is good in West Hartford.

Photo by Ragesoss via Wikimedia Commons

A Sport For Every Kid

Football, baseball, and soccer are the staples of many American families. If your weekends are full of sporting events then move to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. This Albuquerque suburb has a 78.5 acre sports complex replete with baseball fields, dog parks, skate parks, and tennis courts. This is just one of more than forty parks, paths or outdoor venues that the city offers. Rio Rancho offers the temperate climate that comes with the Western states. Add to that the beautiful views and a top ranking school system, Rio Rancho is the perfect place for a family full of sporting enthusiasts.

More Outdoor But With A College Feel

Another place for the outdoorsy family, Logan, Utah is the home of a flowing river of the same name, big skies, and Utah State University. This is a college town by most descriptions. With more than 2,000 staff and faculty, Utah State University is the largest employer of the city. Having a university means that the city values education, and it is reflected in Logan’s educational system. With a city motto of “City United In Service,” Logan is the true definition of a neighborly community.

Photo by UtahStizzle via Wikimedia Commons

Excel at Math and Science Even If You Flunked Both in School

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.

Lessons from Asperger’s + A Mind for Numbers

Jesse Saperstein, author of Getting a Life with Asperger’s.
Topic:
Lessons learned on the bumpy road to adulthood by a young man with Asperger’s.
Issues: Surviving the world of online dating; navigating the challenges of college; understanding how others perceive you (even if they’re wrong); keeping a job; confronting memories of being bullied; serving as a role model to the next generation.

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.

All Work and No Play? Naaaah

Yes, the new school year is almost (or, in some places, already) under way. And yes, the kids are going to start coming home with backpacks full of homework. But that doesn’t mean no more fun. Here are two great activities that will help you make the summer last a little longer, and three that will keep a smile on your face as the weather gets colder.

poo doughPoo Dough (Skyrocket Toys)
One of our favorite fads has been gross toys—things that poop, blow snot, pass gas, and more. If your children are into this (most are), they’ll definitely enjoy Poo Dough, which is completely disgusting, but in a really fun way. You get realistic, pooh-shaped molds and the dough itself (which comes in a lovely shade of yellow and two equally lovely shades of brown). But wait, there’s more. You also get special molds for “corn” and “peanuts.” Yep, the kids (and plenty of fully grown adults) are all set for hours of giggly, eeeew-inducing entertainment. About $8 in stores like Toys R Us, Amazon, and Walmart.  http://www.skyrockettoys.com/

fart pianoFart Piano (Skyrocket Toys)
If the look and feel of poo dough isn’t enough, you can always add sound effects with the Fart Piano. Far more versatile than its name would indicate, this piano can also cough, belch, and sneeze. Just press a key and you’re on your way. It even comes with sheet music so you can entertain out-of-town guests and dignitaries. About $20 on Amazon and Toys R Us.

fuze water blasterCyclone Water Blaster (FUZE/Skyrocket)
What a great way to get the kids involved in doing something physical outside. The Cyclone Water Blaster is essentially a motorized (using 4 AA batteries), handle-bar mounted squirt gun that enables kids (or the kid in any adult) to soak someone up to 25 feet away and pedal off before the victim can return fire. The nozzle has a 180-degree radius and riders can adjust it on the fly. Get two Blasters and you can turn your bikes into horses and water joust. Grab some towels and let the games begin. About $25 at your favorite retailer, including http://www.walmart.com

bike bubblerBike Bubbler (FUZE/Skyrocket)
This one manages to bridge the gap between exercise and gross-ness. All you do is mount this motorized gizmo underneath your bicycle seat, and you can spray out a stream of bubbles as you zip around the neighborhood. In the words of one of our child-testers, “it looks like it’s pooping bubbles.” Well, at least this time it’s clean, right? The Bubbler comes with one 4-ounce bottle of bubble solution, and you can make your own when you run out. For kids who aren’t riding yet (or adults who are exhausted), the Bubbler works just fine without a bike. About $15 at www.SkyrocketToys.com or www.FuzeBikeFX.com

view masterView Master (Fisher Price)
Remember View Masters from when you were a kid—those goggle-like viewers with their circular cardboard story reels that simulated 3D? They’ve been on toy store shelves since the 1940s (it’s their 75th anniversary this year!), and who would have thought that something so low-tech could possibly entertain today’s tech-crazy kids. Go figure. The new View Masters are pretty much the same as the old ones—put the reel in the viewer and push a lever to move through the story. The only real differences are that the images are brighter and the viewers themselves come in a variety of styles, including Hello Kitty and those Despicable Me minions. Gift sets include a View Master, three story reels, and a handy-don’t-lose-them storage case. Available in stores and online for about $15. http://www.fisher-price.com/