Quick Answers to Most Important Parenting Questions + Secrets of Happy Marriages

David Elkind, author of Parenting on the Go.
Quick answers to parents’ most important questions, birth to age 6, A to Z.
Issues: Attention deficit disorder; back-to-school blues; childproofing the computer; empathy in children; time outs; manners and morals; sibling rivalry, and much more.

Shaunti Feldhahn, author of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and The Good News about Marriage.
Debunking myths about marriage and divorce and discovering the little things that make a big difference.
Issues: The truth about marriage (most are happy) and divorce (the actual divorce rate is nowhere near 50%); improving your marriage by doing completely un-intuitive things: go to bed mad, keep score, don’t tell it like it is, and more.

And Now, Direct from a Screen Near You…

Although parents aren’t always thrilled about it, kids love toys that bring their favorite TV and movie characters to “life.” This week, we review several fun new toys that do exactly that.

paw patrolPaw Patrol (NickJR)
If you have a little one, chances are you’ve seen or heard of Paw Patrol—the hit TV show aimed at Pre-K and kindergarteners. The show revolves around six puppies: Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Zuma, Rubble, and Skye, plus their 10-year old tech-loving human companion named Ryder. They work together as a team, solve problems, and help creatures and the environment while showing kids cooperation skills. Now the pups are available as toys, from plush to action figures and even vehicles (which play a large part in the show). The Racers are a particularly good value because they each come with one vehicle and one pup (they also have working tires). If your child is a fan of the show or of animals in general, these super-pups will be a nice treat for them. Available for $7.99 and up at Amazon, Target, and more.

turtle sub underseaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtle Sub Undersea Chase (LEGO)
This set is just plain awesome, even if you’re not quite sure where you stand on the movie and whether it’s okay to turn a cherished, animated TV show into a live-action Megan Fox movie (Hmm. Does that sound a little biased?). With 684 pieces, including four figures (Donatello Leonardo, and two Kraang) it lets kids (and adults who like to pretend they bought this kit for their kids) recreate scenes from the movie, flicking missiles, firing shooters, and operating mini subs along the way. Or use your imagination and create something totally different. About $60 at your favorite retailer.

tmnt large figuresTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates Toys)
Haven’t had enough of those hard-shelled reptile badboys? Based on the movie characters, these figure are a little grittier than they have been in the past, but kids don’t seem to mind at all. Playmates has all of the main characters (the four Turtles, Shredder, the Foot Clan, and others) in a wide selection of sizes and styles, including wearable ones, which come with cuffs, a sword, and a bandana mask. There’s something here that every TNMT lover, old or new, will want to have. Right now. The large figures are about a foot tall and are more articulated then you might think, and after they’ve knocked each other around for a bit, they make great mentors for the six-inch figures (which are just as fun to play with). Small figures are about $9 at Toys R Us, and the large ones start at $14 on Amazon and other retailers.

how to train your dragon 2How to Train Your Dragon 2 Squirt and Float Dragons (Spin Master)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Battle Sets (Spin Master)

If your kids loved How to Train Your Dragons 2 as much as our kids (and their parents) did, this is a great opportunity to bring the fun of the big screen direct to your living room—or your bathtub. The Squirt and Float Dragons comes with three figures (Toothless, Meatlug, and Stormfly), all of which can shoot water about four feet—just far enough to make your bathroom floor really slippery, so be careful. There are also three great Battle Sets, “Toothless vs. Dragon Catcher,” “Gronkle vs. Gronkle Cannon,” and “Zippleback vs. Zipplecatcher,” all of which will keep everyone (yes, you too, mom and dad) entertained for hours. $8 and up at stores like Toys R Us and Amazon.

Three Things Men Should Know About Buying Jewelry for Women

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Then again, they say pretty much the same thing about chocolate, don’t they? Hmmm… Chocolate diamonds! You couldn’t possibly go wrong with chocolate diamonds. Or could you? It’s all so confusing….

The problem is that as guys, we look at jewelry differently than women do. Some women would like to have us believe that we’re incapable of appreciating the subtlety of fine jewelry. But that can’t be true—plenty of famous jewelry designers are men (think Tiffany). Whatever the reason, we have a miserable time figuring out what to buy. Here are three quick tips that should help:
[Read more...]

Bumping Into Breastfeeding

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is breastfeeding our new baby and when I look at them, they’re so connected and I feel completely useless. I try to do other stuff like baths and diaper changing, but feeding seems so much more important. One of my projects was to set up the nursery. I got the crib and changing table all set up and my wife told me we needed crib bumpers so the baby wouldn’t bang her head on the slats of the crib. A friend told me that crib bumpers are a bad idea. So I’ve got two questions: What can I do to feel less useless when my wife is breastfeeding? And should I get bumpers for the baby’s crib?

A: Let’s start with the second one. For readers who don’t already know, crib bumpers are soft pads that run along the inside of the crib and are designed to do exactly what your wife says: keep the baby from running into the slats or bars and getting hurt. Bumpers sound like a great idea, and millions of people—including me—have used them for decades. But new research shows that bumpers could actually be more dangerous than the injuries they’re trying to protect against.
[Read more...]

What Happened To Sports? In 2014, Technology May Have Taken Its Place

amy williams sports 1

A guest post from Amy Willliams

“Hey Sam, you want to play catch?” “No thanks, Mom.” He didn’t even look up from his device. While saddened, I wasn’t shocked. This scenario is happening far too often in my family, and in our current technological world, as kids become engrossed in games on their phones and tablets start taking place of physical activity.

amy williams sports 1
Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

What happened to sports? It’s as if America’s favorite pastime has fallen to the wayside, unable to compete with the intense, addicting graphics thrust into the hands of these young, impressionable minds. It is not only a mere pitfall of the digital onslaught, it seems as if it’s becoming an epidemic.

The Good Old Days
Just twenty years ago, kids were still hopping on their bicycles and peddling to the nearest baseball field to get into a scrappy game with the locals. Play areas were filled with sweaty, mud-covered children playing football, baseball, heck, kill-the- guy-with-the-ball, returning home only when necessary to fuel up for lunch. Then, it was back out again until the sun went down and dinner was being served. The only problem parents encountered was trying to stop dirty sneakers from mucking up the house.

We Fell Into It
Eventually, an interesting thing began to happen. Small advancements in play technology started appearing. First it was TV pong, then handheld sports games on cumbersome devices, and finally a complete industry flood of fast-paced, miniaturized, highly realistic games that seemed to mezmerize and hypnotize our children overnight.

The next thing we knew – we were competing with overpriced systems, games, devices, you name it, that we purchased! At the same time, we were plugged into our own.

Fading Sports?
It may not be that bad yet, but it’s getting there. Due to lack of interest in physical activity, many kids may develop serious problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,” and that “children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.”

In addition, according to a 2011 report published in the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, kids are spending less time outside, yet when they do, they bring their electronics with them! Take a look at some schoolyards and you’ll see groups of the “heads down tribe” wasting away in the summer sun.

amy williams sports 2
Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

One Hour Recommended
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education both agree that children should get at least one hour of moderate exercise a day. An hour? Heck, you weren’t even warmed up after an hour when you were a kid. Yet, today if parents can get an hour of physical activity out of their child they’re lucky.

Dragging a kid away from their device to play sports is a challenge. This makes so many children miss the golden opportunity of learning team play, gaining self-esteem and experiencing something that will enhance their lives and their health in a variety of so many other ways.

We Can Do Better
If we get them out for an hour, so be it, but we can do better. Leading by example is the first lesson to send their way. This means that the less they see us on our devices and the more interested we become in their world may very well get them to look up. Here are a few tips on how to incorporate sports in our kids daily lives:

  • Start by showing interest in their video game by asking to play with them,
  • Ask them (or do it yourself) to keep a one week log of the time spent on their device.
  • At the end of the week, show them a list of other activities that could be achieved in the same amount of time. For example, half the time could have been dedicated to improving or learning a sport. Be prepared to spend this extra time with them if they take the bait and want to get out there.
  • Arrange sport activities for your child and their friends.
  • Start a long term sports program they can look forward to each day.
  • Implement electronic-free time zones that the whole family adheres to.
  • Acknowledge and encourage their effort.
  • Have as many family meals together as possible.

Although it may seem that technology is taking the place of sports in our kid’s lives, it doesn’t have to. All it takes is some extra attention from a variety of angles rather than an iron fist (which seems to always backfire). Put in the effort and before you know it, your child will be chasing, hitting, kicking, and throwing a ball in no time.


Amy Williams is a journalist and mother in Southern California. Finding a balance with technology is something her family is constantly working on. You can follow her on Twitter for more!