Archives for January 2013

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.


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 …


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!


50 Dangerous Things: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

Task: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track



  • Pennies (or other coins)
  • Tape
  • Active train track
  • Train schedule

Possible hazards:

  • Death by train
  • Awkward conversations with the police
  • Projectiles

How it all went down:


We live about three houses down from an active railroad track – as in a train comes by every five minutes or so.  After living here for about five years, I hardly notice the train but our visitors are always a little shocked at the noise and vibrations.  I don’t want my kids playing on the tracks, so I loaded them into the mini-van and drove to an access point just down the street.  (I know, my kids are going to figure out that they can walk to the tracks, but somehow it made me feel better to have the illusion they could only get there by car.)


We duct taped 13 pennies to the track, then went home and waited for a train to pass.  Surprisingly, we only found two pennies when we returned.  The duct tape was melted to the track and the pennies were flat – I mean flat!   I wasn’t expecting them to be this flat.

Nothing like a squashed penny to drive home the point of the sheer weight and force of a train.  It was cool, and I think that the kids learned that getting run over by a train is a very bad thing


  • Pick a portion of the track that is very straight – you want to see and hear the train coming from a long way away.
  • A location next to an automated crossing gate is good – the bells will warn you as a train approaches.
  • Don’t try to place pennies on the track if you can see or hear a train or crossing bells. Obviously.  According to Tulley, because of the unfamiliar size of train engines, our brains can’t accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming trains.  If you can see or hear it, get out of the way.
  • If you see a spot of the track is brighter or shinier than the rest, tape your penny there. That’s where the wheel makes the most contact.
  • Mark the spot with a stick on the ground.
  • If you’re waiting there for the train to pass, stand at least 30 feet away from ALL tracks.  A flying penny will put your eye out.
  • To ensure the safety of the train and the track, never put anything larger than a coin on the tracks.
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).

Getting Through Bare Patches of Play


To say the last two months have been difficult for our family would be an understatement.  Are you familiar with the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale?  We scored with moderate to high levels of stress.  We’ve been on vacation, gone through the holidays, put our home up for sale, and buried my father-in-law.  As I write this we are in the midst of a double move – first to temporary housing and then to a new home.

I find it hard enough to keep the kids engaged in screen-free play and risky fun during the cold winter months, but adding all these additional changes and stresses on top of the winter doldrums has meant we are in a MAJOR RISKY RUT.

I can’t tell you the last time we played outside.  I can’t remember the last time we did something all together as a family.  Our days seem to be a blur of traveling, packing, errands, and in the midst of all of it the kids are entertaining themselves with screen time. Loads and loads of screen time.

I know that it’s a rut, and I know that as sure as the flowers will bloom and the trees will bud, we’ll emerge from this tumultuous season with a renewed desire to simply PLAY.  However I also want to remain honest with you.  It can be so easy to read magazines, blogs and Pinterest and feel inadequate.  In my mind the families I admire are living the life I want to lead every minute of every day.  But that simply isn’t true.  Sometimes we just have to get through the day.

This blog is both a way to inspire you and a way to hold myself accountable to living a spirited, playful life.  It’s also real life, though, and sometimes it gets in the way.  So if you’re ever reading our posts and thinking that you can’t possibly live up to our standards (even as low as they are!), rest assured that we are just as human as you.  Be inspired, but cut yourself some slack.

For those of you who’ve been down this path before, perhaps you can inspire us now.  How do you manage to get through life’s rougher patches and still find ways to play?  This Risky Family (and I’m sure a few others) would love to know.



Risky Places We Love: The Skatepark


My older son, Thomas got a skateboard for his birthday. We signed him up for skateboard lessons and headed to the skatepark. He did great, and it looked like fun. I got tired of watching all the skating and decided what better way to bond with my kids than to try it myself?


I had my friend, Jessie, build me this sweet board. She and her husband, Donny, own our local skate shop, Franklin Skate Shop. Jessie offered a class in beginning skateboarding for moms, so of course I signed up. She said it would be a total workout and she was right … a totally thrilling workout. Skateboards are unstable and they move fast. They have four wheels, but I swear, you really only need two.  The only problem is that the kids make it look so easy. It’s not.

I took a lot of classes and that video is pretty much the summit of my skating skills.  Not too shabby for a mom whose had knee surgery, though.

You can do more than just skateboard at the skatepark, though.  Thomas and Ben got rollerblades recently, and we spent most of Thanksgiving break at the skatepark.


If wheels are too much for the kids to handle, no worries.  Ben enjoys running around the bowl in his sneakers.

As with anything risky, there can be a downside to the skatepark. There are bound to be teens at the skatepark, and where there are teens there’s probably some colorful language. In the photo above, Ben is perched next to a few salty words we’ve edited out (we’ve already hit our quota on R-rated blog posts this year). The way I see it, you can shelter your kids or you can use real life occurances like this as an opportunity to talk about what we do and do not say as a kid. Swearing aside, I’ve found that most skateparks are filled with polite kids who are more than happy to show off their skills and to give tips or helpful hints.

Disclaimer: Skateboarding is an actual RISKY sport. Buy a quality skateboard and take a few lessons. I recommend wearing a helmet and pads. A lot of pads. You are going to fall and it will leave a mark! Just ask to see the scar on my chin. Yeah, I got that falling off my skateboard.


Risky Reads: The Post-Holiday Edition

As I write this, today is the first day I am home alone with both kids in school.  As much as I hate the mad rush out the door before the sun even rises, this is glorious.  We had a good holiday, despite a family medical emergency (not in our immediate family  – we’re all fine) and a computer meltdown (happy birthday to me – a new hard drive).  The highlight was getting a really good, can’t-leave-the-house snow storm the day after Christmas, especially after a dismal winter last year with no snow to speak of.

The other highlight was seeing the kids enjoy Christmas gifts that were screen-free.  We try hard to buy them things that will foster learning and creativity … sometimes they’re a hit and sometimes they’re duds (I’m looking at you, human anatomy board game that seemed like a good idea).  This year they were big hits, especially the LEGO Master Builder Academy Set and Snap Circuits Jr. .  Even the hard-to-please tween is impressed.

Snap Circuits Jr. is ahh-mazing!

While you’re slowly crawling out of the post-holiday tinsel and cookie crumbs, here are a few things that caught our eyes:

I really want to give these Sticklets a try.  They’d be great in the winter for building indoor forts and just as useful in the summer for building tee-pees and such.

We do the Girl Scout gig, but how cool would it be to call yourself a Hacker Scout?  Forget peddling cookies, how about dumpster diving and soldering?

Leave a few related items out and let the kids figure out what to do with them.  That’s the idea behind these “Planned Discoveries.”

Welcome to the age of overparenting. Do you see yourself anywhere in here?

For more thoughts and ideas, follow our Pinterest boards and Like The Risky Kids on Facebook.


Idle Parent: We Try Not to Interfere

This is the tenth part 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 Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.

We Try Not to Interfere


When 4-year-olds make their own cinnamon sugar toast.

I did not interfere in the making of this cinnamon sugar toast. Obviously.

One of the realizations I came away with after reading this book was how the line between being a helicopter parent and a distracted parent can be so fine.  And so fuzzy.

On the one side you have your classic helicopter parent, who sees it as their parental responsibility to be involved in nearly every aspect of their child’s life.  On the other side you have a hands-off parent, who has as little involvement as possible.

Along both sides you have a spectrum.  There’s the all-encompassing helicopter parent who doesn’t leave a single task or decision to a child.  More than likely, though, a parent prioritizes an area of over-involvement.  Maybe a parent helicopters when it comes to safety – helmets and seat belts and never playing outside alone.  Maybe a parent helicopters when it comes to school – micromanaging homework and interactions with teachers.  Maybe a parent helicopters when it comes food – dictating every morsel that goes into a child’s mouth.

Levels and reasons for uninvolvement can vary widely, too.  Perhaps drug or alcohol abuse impairs a parent from their basic caregiving duties.  Some parents see it as a badge of honor to raise children who are as independant and self-reliant as possible from an early age.

And then there are those, like me and probably many of you, who fall in the middle.  We’re not ready to let our 3-year-olds cook dinner for themselves or stay home alone, and yet we’re pretty sure we don’t want to room with our kid at college to make sure they get to class on time.  How do you decide when to hover and when to walk away?

I think this is what the author is trying to answer when he includes the choice to not interfere in his manifesto.  The Merriam-Webster definition of interfere is “to interpose in a way that hinders or impedes.”

Interfering doesn’t mean rescuing.  It doesn’t mean helping.  It doesn’t do anything in the way of teaching.  It does the opposite.  It robs a child of any chance of meaningful growth.

What is it that we want to impede or stop?  Is it imminent injury or putting someone in serious danger?  Then it’s probably a situation in which you interfere.  Situations that come to mind? An argument between friends or siblings that’s turned verbally or physically abusive.  Play that turns dangerous: throwing rocks at each other, unsupervised playing with fire, getting out the ladder to climb on the roof.  Trying something in the kitchen that involves the stove or knives before having a demonstration.  You interfere and then use it as a teachable moment.

When we interfere in moments that are simply messy, uncomfortable, or differ in the way we would handle them, we’re preventing our children from learning how to be functioning, responsible people.

It’s incredibly hard. Unless you are totally tuned out, not interfering will probably create more work in the short term.  For our family, it means listening to more sibling squabbles and letting them sort it out.  It means hurt feelings, tears, slamming doors, and cries of “It’s not fair!”  It means trying to tune out whining from kids who have fallen in a rut of too much screen time and don’t remember how to combat boredom (Lord, if we only fix one thing in 2013 …).  It means lowering standards, whether it’s on how the bed is made or what kind of food gets packed in a lunch, so that a kid can do something totally, completely on their own.

Suddenly, not interfering doesn’t seem so idle after all.  In the long run, though, it will make much less work for everyone.  You can enjoy the competent adults your children grow up to be and they can leave home confident that they have the life skills they need to function.

When it comes to parenting, what do you find difficult to not interefere in? What do you find easy to stay out of?


Our Most Popular Posts of 2012

Happy New Year!  I can hardly believe it’s 2013.  This is the year I send my youngest to kindergarten, and will officially be a mom of school-age children.  Yikes.

Have you made any resolutions for your family life?  Things have been a little more squirrely here than usual, so I haven’t had a chance to make anything official yet, but I have a mantra for 2013 floating in my head: Less screens. More pages and play.  Yes, even Risky Families struggle with screen time.  It’s an issue for us, and definitely something I want to address in the coming days.  Is it a struggle for you, too?

Lisa and I are doing our best to get back to a normal posting schedule this month, and we have some really cool posts coming up (including a giveaway for our 1-year anniversary – can you believe it?!).  However that might be a little tricky in the next week or two.  My trusty Mac, on which I do 99% of my work, is living at the Apple store right now.  Keep your fingers crossed that it can be fixed, will ya?  We are also dealing with a very ill family member, which may require last minute trips out of town.  So while we might be spotty for the coming days, we will be back in full risky force soon.  Thank you so much for continuing to read, share and play with us.

And just in case you’re new here or you just had to know, here are the 5 most popular posts from The Risky Kids in 2012:

Make a slingshot

50 Dangerous Things: Make a Slingshot

50 Dangerous Things: Lick a 9-Volt Battery

Nature Playscape at Cincinnati Nature Center

Nature Playscape at the Cincinnati Nature Center

Make Your Own Darts

DIY Darts

50 Dangerous Things: Stick Your Hand Out the Window

50 Dangerous Things: Stick Your Hand Out the Window