Archive for March, 2014

Time Shift Your TV – Little girls, pink weapons

Monday, March 31st, 2014


Little girls like pink things, and little boys go for blue, brown and camouflaged. That’s the traditional thinking, and that’s how it often appears in the toy aisles. Girly items there. Boyish items here.


But lately the lines have gotten blurred. Toy makers have realized that with more aggressive and take-charge role models being presented on film and television to young girls, it’s time to come up with, yes, pink weapons. Not pink bows, but pink bows-and-arrows. Pink guns.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about the gender heroine gap that seemed to be closing a bit (but not enough), thanks to what seemed to be an increase in female heroines. Those popular, fierce female characters in films have not gone unnoticed by toy companies, especially thanks to the Hunger Games movies.

Did you know there’s a Katniss Everdeen Barbie? And with new movie Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley, there’s a Barbie doll for her character Tris, complete with chest tattoo.


The concept is causing parents’ heads to spin, notes The New York Times, quoting one mother as saying her seven-year-old daughter likes being “girly”, but also loves “the hero and being in charge.” Others wonder about encouraging their daughters to play war games, something they uneasily tolerate with their sons. The Rebelle line of toys from Nerf, introduced last year, features pink products  with taglines such as: “Who says you can’t look angelic while you launch a crossbow attack? Arm yourself with the stylish power of the Guardian Crossbow blaster!” And, “Who says you can’t be a heartbreaker with fiercely accurate aim? Arm yourself with the stylish power of the Heartbreaker Bow blaster!”

Good Morning America, following up on the story, talked to a little girl who said a sparkly bow and arrow was “cool.”

One child psychologist told the Times that girls should be allowed to act on their aggressive impulses to see how they play out, but questioned the idea of using pink, sexy weapons to do it.  A parenting expert interviewed on GMA said if there are weapons for boys, there should be weapons for girls.

Toymakers say it’s all about equal-opportunity play.

What do you say?

Fair Factories

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

This week marks the 103rd anniversary of New York’s Triangle Factory Fire, a tragic event that brought to light the dangers of child labor and unsafe working conditions in 1911. The majority of the victims were girls, the youngest just 14. It is important to remember this event and talk to our kids about work, careers and the everyday products we use.

Popular movements to buy local food or support small business aren’t just about economics. They’re about knowing where your products and food come from and whether the people who build, grow or produce them work in fair and safe conditions. Some industries such as chocolate, coffee and gemstones still employ children in factories around the world to keep their prices down. Large consumer products companies often purchase the goods for their products, if not the outright products themselves, from overseas where they employ child labor. Would you pay more to purchase something that is not the result of child labor? It may seem like a difficult concept to explore, but now there is an app that can help you buy your products more thoughtfully.

The aVoid browser plug-in uses data from the Active Against Child Labour campaign, and helps you find products that aren’t linked to the exploitation of children. The U.S. Department of Labor has a “List of Shame,” that helps steer consumers away from bad working practices. The Green Pages also provide a list of socially responsible companies and businesses. Basic laws of supply and demand tell us that the power lies with consumers. When we demand fair pay, safe working conditions and to stop the exploitation of children, perhaps the anniversary of the Triangle fire will feel more like the ancient past and not serve as a reminder that not all of the kids of our world are yet safe.




Time Shift Your TV – ‘None of the Above’

Monday, March 24th, 2014

For this show, the phrase “Kids, don’t try this at home” really applies.

National Geographic Channel kicks off a new series, None of the Above, on Monday, March 24, with a Mythbusters-type show that pushes science to the limit.

Host Tim Shaw, a British broadcaster and self-described teen inventor, likes to try crazy stunts using physics, chemistry and engineering to see what results he can generate. In England, he is known for an experiment he conducted in 2010 called Man in a Box. He locked himself in a wardrobe-sized metal box and challenged viewers to find him while live-streaming it all 24/7. No one ever did.

In the series premiere of None of the Above, the challenges are a little more do-able. In one, Shaw wants to see if he can cook a frozen turkey in a vat of boiling peanut oil. (Stand back!)

Then he travels to a bar and challenges customers to get an olive into a wine glass without touching the olive. (Are toothpicks allowed?)

And next he creates the “Frankenstein pickle” by passing a live electric current through a pickle. (A green light?)

For each experiment, Shaw asks viewers to guess what the outcome will be with a multiple choice question. For example, Will it blow up? Will it be fried crispy? Will it burned on the outside but raw inside? And the last option is always: None of the Above.

“I love science,” says Shaw in a press release about the show. “What do I love more than science? I’m passionate about taking what I know and breaking down the facts and theories, making them digestible and entertaining. Ultimately, I want to show how impressive this world can be, while having a ton of fun doing so … and maybe blow some stuff up along the way.”

Kudos to Shaw for being inventive and trying to stir up excitement about science. It’s always good to be reminded to think outside the (metal) box.  Just make sure you’ve got your safety goggles on if you’re doing it Shaw-style.

The World As We Know It

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Image via Aly Parrott


Crimea and Malaysia are all over the news lately.  Can your kids find these places on a map? Can you?  Studies show that Americans–young adults in particular–are geographically illiterate. Fifty percent of 18 to 24 year olds can’t locate New York. These statistics though embarrassing, aren’t meant to shame—but rather inspire everyone to sit down and get to know the world we live in.

Like any other course of study, it’s best to break geography down into smaller parts. Start early with the kids but remember it is never too late for anyone to learn. States and their capitals can be a good starting point for everyone. Keep it fun, and make it a family affair. World puzzles are a way to spend time together and start a discussion.

Planning a trip? Be sure to bring out maps and have the kids help plan the routes. How many states have they been to? What’s the best way to drive across the US?

Be sure to tie geography lessons into whatever subjects kids are working on in school. Learning math? Make sure they can find Greece and Egypt on a map, then talk about Archimedes and Euclid and their advancements to the subject. Literature, Art, Science all have ties to geography and when we point them out, we create a visual and lasting lesson. Having a sense of where we are in the world; where we come from, is crucial to critical thinking. Not to mention never having to stop and ask for directions again.







Time Shift Your TV – Is your child bossy?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

This past week, several celebrities helped draw attention to a new campaign launched by the Girl Scouts of the USA and Leanin.Org, the nonprofit organization founded by Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg, author of the book Lean In.

It’s the Ban Bossy campaign, and the goal is to encourage girls to be leaders.

“I’m not bossy,” Beyonce says in the video. “I’m the boss.

As the site notes:

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.


She says sisters shouldn’t call each other bossy. And the word shouldn’t pop up on playgrounds as regularly and easily as it does.Deborah Tannen, in a column for USA Today notes that the word “bossy” has deep roots. And, says Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, “bossy is not just a word but a frame of mind. Let’s agree to stop sending girls and women the message that they’ll be disliked – or worse – if they exercise authority.” offers several excellent downloadable PDFs with tips for girls, parents and teachers to help bring about change. Among the tips for girls: “Stop apologizing before you speak.” And, “Trust your Inner Voice.”

Along these same lines, actress Amy Poehler has created a web series called Smart Girls at the Party, “the show that celebrates individuals who are changing the world by being themselves.”

Each episode starts with a funny little intro by Amy. Episodes are available online for viewing and cover all sorts of topics, from interviewing famous women to un-famous women and girls, all of whom are doing interesting things. You and your daughters might enjoy checking out a few of the episodes. It’s lighthearted, but takes on serious topics and showcases women who are empowered in various way.

The jingle for the series, “Smart girls have more fun!”