Archives for March 2012

Risky Pins

Are you on Pinterest?  Do you love it?  I do – it seems hard to believe that a year ago I’d never heard of it and now I’m fairly obsessed.  I’ve been using Pinterest for my own personal fun for awhile now, but I recently started a Pinterest page for The Risky Kids.  I’m finding that it’s a great resource for games, toys, crafts, experiments, cool places to visit … just about anything, really.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite Risky Pins with you, and if everyone seems to enjoy them, make Risky Pins a regular feature on the blog.  Of course, feel free to follow our Pinterest boards – we’re theriskykids.  The more the merrier (and riskier)!

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The whole family needs to do this, and we definitely need it on video.

Kiddie Sumo Wrestling via The Happy Family Movement

Is it crazy to want to build this in our backyard?

Instructions to Build Your Own Play Hive via Playscapes and thoughtbarn

For preschoolers … or for moms who never learned how to tie a decent knot.  I want to master this!

Knot Tying for Preschoolers via Teach Preschool

This playspace seems like exactly what we’re trying to accomplish at our Montessori school.  I’m hoping to get there over Spring Break to see it in action.

Marge and Charles Schott Nature Playscape in Cincinnati

If you’re on Pinterest, let me know so I can follow your boards!  Pin anything risky recently?


50 Dangerous Things: Drive a Nail

50 Dangerous Things: Drive a Nail

Posted by Mike

Task:  Master the art of hitting things with a hammer.



Nails (6d or two-inch)

Board (soft pine or fir)

Safety Goggles (oops, maybe we should invest in a pair)

Possible Hazards:

Lose an eye


Cuts and scrapes

How It All Went Down:

We are big fans of the Montessori teaching style, particularly the 3-6-year-old curriculum which includes development in “Practical Life”.  The purpose of Practical Life is to help the children gain control and coordination in their movement and to foster independence.  It also aids in the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration doing everyday tasks.

Some of the exercises in Practical Life include:  pouring, folding, carrying, washing hands, cleaning, setting the table, interaction with classmates, and coordination movement.  Since Practical Life excercises are meant to resemble everyday life, it’s important the materials are real, and in most cases, breakable.

We try to practice these same ideas in our home.  When our children move away from home, I intend to have them armed with even more “practical” life skills that are so important to know but rarely taught.  The biggest thing I have in mind is how to handle money, but others include doing laundry, fixing meals, and the use of tools for basic repairs.

I lit up when I saw the “Drive the Nail” task in Gever Tulley’s book.  It fit right in with the Practical Life curriculum and although they could have easily smashed a thumb, it’s definitely a task that’s not too dangerous for kids to learn.  Looking back, I almost wish that one of them would have missed the head.  It would be a good lesson for the control you need to accomplish the task.

I went away to write this post while the kids continued hammering.  Our sandbox is definitely not going to fall apart this year!  I noticed that after a little practice, the 4-year-olds had each pounded in more nails without supervision.

Sticking out your tongue helps

Sticking out your tongue helps.
Video Notes: Cal is Eli’s best buddy and lives right behind us.  We didn’t even have his parents sign a waiver form.  Sorry about the length … we continue to work on our vlogging skills.  At least this time the black bands of sadness are gone!

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).


The Danger in Safety

Another brilliant observation by Jeff over at Explorations Early Learning, LLC.  This is exactly why we latched onto 50 Dangerous Things, and why we blog about these things.

As parents we’re inundated with rules and recommendations as to how we raise our children.  Society tells us that if we’re not vigilant, very bad things will happen to our children.  When Mike and I were Elena’s age, we were staying home by ourselves.  Now I have to look over both shoulders and practically whisper when I tell people that we let Elena ride her bike alone around the neighborhood.

“I could never …”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“She’s too young …”

Yes, you can (and they can!).  We’re just as afraid as we’ll be the day she drives away by herself the first time, or goes off to college all by herself.  We can’t keep her within our sight  forever.  And as for the age?  I imagine it is infinitely easier to teach them life skills and to give them space to fail when they are still young enough to enjoy hearing what you have to say, and when the outcomes of their failures are easy enough to manage.  

Last month I dealt with a situation at school (I’m the PTO president at a small, private school) where a parent was insistent that any kind of running game not be allowed on the blacktop.  Her child was injured during a game of tag.  I get it – it sucks to see your kid in pain.  Eli’s had his share of goose eggs and gashes in the course of normal play.  We can teach our kids to use common sense and to learn their limitations, or we can outlaw anything that has the remote possibility of injury or emotional trauma.  In doing so, however, we are robbing them of confidence, courage and critical thinking skills in order to avoid the bumps, bruises and tears of childhood.

Keep calm and play on, friends.


Parenting Is Hard Enough Without Monkeys and Hula Hoops


This is the first 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 Kid.  Need to get caught up?  You can do so here.

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work.

Well, why don’t we just start with a doozy?  Have kids?  If you think it’s easy, raise your hand.  Anyone?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  So what planet is Mr. Hodgkinson parenting on?

After thinking about this concept for a while, what I think that the author is trying to say is that he rejects the idea that parenting requires all the extra work we pile on an already trying job.

For me, parenting can be like walking a tightrope.  You come home with this newborn and you have no idea what you’re doing or how you’ll do it.  Someone tells you that you’re now the official tight ropewalker and you panic.  You’ve never been on a tightrope, you can barely balance on flat terrain.  But you have no choice so you give it a go.  You’re terrible at first – jittery, anxious, lacking in confidence.  You fall off the tightwire, A LOT.

As time goes on, you get the hang of it.  You gain confidence and don’t need to refer to some kind of childcare manual every time something goes wrong.  They move you to the highwire.  Soon, other people are asking for tightrope advice.  You still have to work at it, you still have to pay attention to what your doing and make adjustments as you go, but you are a mighty fine tightrope walker/parent indeed.

Now try to walk the tightrope and juggle hula hoops.  Or maybe do it blindfolded.  Even better, try walking the tightrope juggling hula hoops blindfolded with a monkey strapped to your back.  Congratulations.  You’ve taken a difficult task and made it infinitely harder.

That’s my take on this notion that parenting doesn’t require hard work.  In and of itself, parenting is a difficult and challenging task.  And yet, once you get in the groove of what works for you, your partner and your kids (more on this when we discuss “There are many paths”), you’ve somewhat mastered the act.  Of course there are things that will throw your balance off – a new baby, sick kids, job changes, ages and stages, etc., but for the most part you can stay on the wire and not break a sweat anymore.

It’s when we try to add the hula hoops and monkeys that it gets harder.  It can be any number of things.  Maybe we helicopter parent, trailing our kids around the playground or micro-managing every inch of their school life, until we are weary.  Maybe we demand perfection of our kids before they’ve reached the developmental stage where they can even begin to grasp a task.  Maybe we leave our spouse in the dark in an attempt to be the Super Parent, assuming no one can do it better – or worse yet – everyone else is doing it wrong.

These are the kinds of things that make parenting so much harder than it has to be.  Parenting is work, taxing work at times.  But adding unnecessary tasks does more than just make your job more difficult.  It robs you of the joys the work can bring.

The tightrope walker who manages to stay balanced for the length of the wire finds pride in her work.  She’s probably even relaxed enough to smile during the walk.  The other tightrope walker, heavy with the extra burdens, has only the thought of making it to the end of the wire.  She’s not enjoying the walk, she’s just trying to get through it without falling off.  And if (or more likely, when) she does fall?  Does she remember with pride the length of the wire she successfully mastered?  No, she only remembers what she did wrong that caused her to fall.

Relax a little.  Ask for help, lower your standards, see if what your kids can do on their own is good enough.  Balance without the extra burdens.

Do you add things to your parenting that make the job harder than it needs to be?  What’s your hula hoop or monkey?


50 Dangerous Things: Throw Rocks


Pretty self-explanatory – find some rocks, throw them.



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

Possible Hazards:

Bumps and bruises

Danger to others

Property Damage

How It All Went Down:

I took Eli out to a fairly deserted pond at the edge of our neighborhood.  Seeing as how he’s 4, I didn’t think we needed to worry too much about damaging people, pets or property.  Then again, when I was 5 I gave the neighbor boy a bloody head when I chunked a rock at him.  For this task, we picked inanimate objects for targets as opposed to the neighbor boy.

(I promise, my video skills will get better.  I wanted to use the Flip, but the battery died.  I have yet to master the iPhone video without the black bands of sadness on the side.)

As an adult, I had forgotten how good it feels to throw things for fun.  Imagine how fun it is for kids?  There’s something so satisfying about hitting your target, or getting a rock to skip perfectly across a pond.  There are so many places where throwing things is taboo – and rightly so.  But let’s not forget that there are some places where throwing things like rocks and sticks is perfectly fine, and we should do what we can to let our kids experience that mini-thrill.

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).


The Idle Parent: Laid Back or Lazy?

I came a cross a compelling title at the library not long ago:  The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kidsby Tom Hodgkinson.  I had to check it out.  Funny, there are some titles I’m simply not willing to believe.  Gourmet Meals in 3 Ingredients and 30 minutes! would never make it into my kitchen.  But promise me a little less work and a little more time on the couch in regards to the daily grind of parenting and you’ve got yourself a reader.

I initially thought I’d read the book, see if any of it was actually applicable to our lives, then review it for you.  A few chapters in, I realized that the book was so full of ideas that are contrary to how the masses (especially the American masses) parent today, one post wouldn’t be enough.

The book opens with The Idle Parent Manifesto.  It contains both glorious ideas and others that make me cringe.  Glorious and cringe-worthy side by side make for excellent discussion, so I thought instead I’d take each priniciple within the Idle Parent Manifesto and give it its own post.

The Idle Parent Manifesto

We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work.

We pledge to leave our children alone.

We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children’s lives from the moment they are born.

We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals.

We drink alcohol without guilt.

We reject the inner Puritan.

We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays.

An idle parent is a thrifty parent.

We lie in bed for as long as possible.

We try not to interfere.

We play in the field and forests.

We push them into the garden and shut the door so we can clean the house.

We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small.

Time is more important than money.

Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness.

Down with school.

We fill the house with music and merriment.

We reject health and safety guidelines.

We embrace responsibility.

There are many paths.

Which one makes you want to pump your fist in the air?  Which one horrifies you?  Hoo boy, this is going to be a fun series …