Parenting must have an “exit strategy” — Medium

Provocative thoughts over at Medium:

“Perhaps parenting has changed, but I don’t think so. I think parents have changed. I think the new tools like blogs and online communities have given them something nature never intended; a dependence on their kids for identity.”

Parenting must have an “exit strategy”

5 Awesome Questions to Have Your Kids Ask You (Part One)


Recently I stood at the counter of an amazing bakery attempting to make the most important decision of my birthday. Each pristine glass case was filled with perfectly piped cakes made of lady fingers and jam, meticulously arranged fruit tarts, and pies that would impress even Martha herself. On the counter, in neat little rows, a rainbow of photo-ready macaroons. Making a choice wasn’t going to be easy, but luckily I had brought my three-year old along as counsel.

I stooped down to ask her opinion. As I swiveled around to the glass, I was faced with a completely different experience than I had fifteen seconds earlier. Looking up at what I’d previously identified as culinary masterpieces, suddenly all I saw, aside from a bottom row of tarts, and a few special order mismatches tucked behind them, was a tower of racks with plates resting on top. Not a single macaroon in sight. In fact, it was totally depressing down there.

As adults, it’s easy to forget that the world is basically built for us. Nearly every doorknob, counter, armrest, and soap dispenser, was placed at a height determined by the size of your average adult. Ever stepped off a shallow curb that you were expecting to be deeper? That jolt you get as your foot gets jarred into the pavement is the cold hard realization of your adult size privilege. Ok. That may be going a little too far. But still.

Of course, that’s just the way it is. Kids get that. But as parents, it’s our job to understand their vantage point. It’s not always easy to navigate a world that is in many ways, just waiting for you to fit. While there’s no reason to lower all the surfaces in your house, you can make them feel bigger with one fun interview.

Let your kids ask you these questions (or any others they come up with) and answer them as thoughtfully as you can.

Lift them up. Let them steer the conversation. But don’t feel like you have to leave with $60 worth of macaroons they never even had to know about.

Younger kid questions

– If you could be an animal, what would you be?

– What food would you never eat?

– What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?

– What was your favorite game to play outside?

– Who taught you to ride a bike? Was it hard?

Older kid questions

– Who is your favorite relative that I’ve never met or don’t remember?

– Who was your worst teacher? Why?

– What do you wish you had learned as a kid?

– If you could be a kid again for one day, what would you do?

– What is the most ridiculous thing that scares you?


Child psychologist suggests rewarding children does not help long term learning

“In reality, all the research we have done on motivation shows that as soon as you offer kids a reward to do something, their attention is taken away from what they are doing and put onto the reward.

Child psychologist suggests rewarding children does not help long term learning

Need to Know: Hunger Crunch Game

Hunger Crunch
Busy parents Need to Know. Every week we highlight one album, book, app, movie or show that’s about to blow up.

There are two things you need to know about Hunger Crunch. First, it’s an awesome, superfun iPhone game. Second, it’s part of a trend of mobile games that funnel proceeds from in-app purchases to a good cause.

First, the game. It’s a side-scroller set in a colorful, beautifully designed world. You play as a Beast, stomping and smashing minions and collecting candy coins and collectables as you go. There’s running, jumping and boss fights galore. It’s fun for both grownups and kids.

While it’s a winner on the merits of gameplay alone, it’s also designed to serve a cause – fighting hunger. All purchases made in the app (for example, to unlock new abilities) go to Rice Bowls, a nonprofit working to feed orphaned children where the need is greatest.

When you play, you can help provide much-needed food to these awesome kids.

I’ve helped design mobile games. I know that only about 1.5% of people who download a mobile game actually spend money in it. About 50% of total game revenue comes from just the top 10% of players. It all adds up, however – Gartner estimates that $22 billion will be spent this year on in-app purchases. The vast majority of that money is spent (thrown away?) in mobile games.

We’re going to see more games (like Hunger Crunch) that designed to generate revenue for a good cause. To work, these games need to be well designed and genuinely fun to play. Hunger Crunch succeeds on both counts.

The game itself is free. In-game purchases range from $.99 to $14.99. Get Hunger Crunch for iPhone here.

[stag_icon icon=”chain” url=”” size=”22px” new_window=”yes”] Website

[stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”yes”] @hungercrunch

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Apps for Kid Explorers

In the hands of a child, a smartphone with a few choice apps is a powerful tool for exploration, understanding and discovery.

Our 6-year old uses the following five apps dedicated to real-world exploration. Older kids should like them too. I have them installed on my iPhone; they’re also installed on an old iPhone we let our kid use around the house.

Beyond helping kids explore the world, apps like these can teach kids how to use technology appropriately for learning.

Star Walk Kids – The easiest way for anyone (child or adult) to learn the stars, planets and constellations. It’s fun to stand in the backyard in the early evening, exploring the night sky as a family.

The app matches the map on the iPhone’s screen with the actual stars in the sky in your location. It features an easy-to-understand interface and friendly narration. This app is a total winner.

Leaf Snap – Last summer we used a couple of field guides to identify trees in our region by  their leaves. We supplemented our field guides with this promising app that literally makes identifying leaves a snap. All you do is take a photo of the leaf and the app shows you what kind of tree it came from, along with information about the species. It’s not always accurate, but it generally works and it’s fun to use.

CuriousRuler – A fun app that uses the iPhone camera to teach kids how to measure objects around them while learning about sizes, units of measure, and proportions.

Merlin Bird ID  – One of the simplest yet most effective bird identification apps. It asks a few simple questions that include graphical guidance.  It then reveals a list of birds that best match the description.  Once you or your kid has found your bird, learn more with additional photos, sounds, and ID tips. It’s a little advanced for very young users, but older kids will quickly get the hang of it.

Kidcam – Taking photos is a key part of exploration. And all kids love snapping photos. In fact, they often get carried away with it, taking hundreds of photos that fill up their library (or your library) KidCam solves this by optionally putting a one to five second delay on the camera shutter, sorting your kids photos in their own library, and even setting a limit the number of photos and videos your kids can take. (When the limit is reached, the oldest photo or video gets deleted.) It also has kid-friendly controls and silly monster overlays.

Runner up: NatureTap. Swipe, flip and tap your way through hundreds of birds, bugs, frogs, flowers and now mammals. And challenge yourself with fun and exciting games.

There are also a couple of great apps for reporting your nature observations in the name of citizen science,  including Project Noah and iNaturalist. However, these require logging a location along with an observation. That’s something you likely want to do with your child.

If you’re looking for more recommendations for movies, books, apps and more, check out

Toca Nature App Review

Toca Boca released a new app called Toca Nature, and it’s delightful. Design your own world starting with a plot of land floating in space. Day turns to night as you construct hills, mountains, forests, and lakes.

Different animals inhabit your landscape. Learn what foods they like, and you may befriend them. Sneak up on them quietly, and you may get a snapshot of a sleeping doe or a swimming beaver.

Toca Nature

Continue reading “Toca Nature App Review”

Like a Girl

A maxi-pad commercial in the Super Bowl last night made me tear up.

You may have already seen the Always commercial from last summer called “Like a Girl” where men and women of all ages talk about what it means to “play like a girl.” It has over 54 million hits on YouTube. That one made me tear up too.

I teared up because it reminded me of my own frustrations playing and learning new sports as a girl. I was competitive. I wanted to do anything the boys could do, but better. I have been known to grab a boy by the hoodie and pull him to the ground after he beat me in a race. It was that bad.

I find my daughter shares the same frustrations. One day in the car she asked, “Mommy, how do you change the law? Because I want to change the law that only boys can play professional baseball.” She’s only six-years-old, yet she’s already frustrated by the limitations she feels as a young girl who loves sports.

It’s important to me that my daughter grows up with strong female role models. I never want her to think “playing like a girl” is a bad thing. I want it to make her proud to play like a girl, throw like a girl, and run like a girl.

This is why I get out on a snowboard or skateboard with her. It’s why I put her in skate clinics with other girls. It’s why I constantly look for videos or films with strong female athletes in them, so she will always know that playing like a girl is exactly what she wants to do. And every once in a while it’s nice to hear her say, “Look at my mom! She’s killing it!”