Life Under my Rock – “Ad? What Ad?”

By , January 30, 2008 9:39 pm

For those of you who have not been keeping up with the blogs Shaping Youth or Corporate Babysitter (aka. Parents for Ethical Marketing), there has been a HUGE debate raging over a certain Target print ad. The debate even made it into a New York Times article! Since I have been away on another planet for the past two months (between the holidays and blog moving), I only just discovered this controversy last night as I tried to play a little catch-up with my Blogroll.

There has been enough said on all sides of this debate, so my two-cents on the intention or appropriateness of the photo would really be overkill at this point in the process. Besides, any intelligent remark would only be drowned by the endless sea of flaming comments that are bombarding these two unfortunate bloggers.

My point in bringing this up is not to stir up further controversy, but to mention my revelation when I first read about the Target ad: I must really be living under a rock to have not seen this ad that everyone else in the universe HAS seen!

Part of this ignorance or innocence (depending on your point of view) stems from the fact that I live in the boonies. The nearest Target is about 3 hours away so we don’t see billboard ads for anything much other than Cellular One and local businesses.

The other, and more major cause of my uninformed state, is obviously my lack of television. With TV, we would be exposed to far more marketing than we are now. This controversy made me think more about advertising and children.

Since the average child in the US is supposedly exposed to 40,000 TV-ads annually, it seems that parents ought to come up with some sort of strategy for dealing with this commercial barrage.

In my mind, there are three approaches to dealing with kids and TV commercials:

1) Don’t worry about the number of ads they see:

The easiest approach, but you still might want to read on. I have some suggestions further down for discussing ads with your kids and teaching them a bit about media manipulation.

2) Limit the number of ads that your children view:

Some practical suggestions for accomplishing this:

– Limit their network TV viewing time.

– Choose PBS over advertising channels. They’ll see some “brought to you by…” stuff, but that seems far less blatantly manipulative than mainstream ads.


3) Totally eliminate TV advertising from your children’s lives:

How to do it:

– Get rid of the TV (but this is awfully drastic and is not for everyone)

– Allow them to watch only PBS or any other commercial-free channels out there (won’t work if the “brought to you by…” bothers you too.)

– Have them watch only videos and DVDs.

– TIVO or videotape the kids’ programs minus the ads. Have them watch the recorded versions.

How to handle TV advertising and your children is a very individual choice and one approach does not work for all families. I am not preaching any particular philosophy here! Think about it, and decide for yourselves.

But whether your children see a lot of ads, or only a few, I think another important aspect of dealing with advertising and children is to talk to them about the ads that they see. Here are some suggestions:

For young children:

– Have them call out “Commercial!” whenever an ad comes on. Children under the age of 5 often have a hard time distinguishing between a program and a commercial.

– Have kids count the number of ads in one hour, or time the length of each commercial.

– Talk to children about what is being advertised and how it is made to seem appealing. Do they think that Barbie can really dance all by herself?

For grade-schoolers:

– Show kids that you are skeptical. Ask them who they think created the ad. What is the message? What information is missing from the ad? Do you believe what is being shown? Show them that many ads attempt to make the viewer feel that life would be better, or more comfortable, or “cooler” with the product in question.

For pre-teens:

– Mute the ad and have your child tell you what he or she thinks the ad is saying. Or have your child cover their eyes and then describe to you what they think the ad showed.

For better or for worse, ads are a part of our world and they aren’t going to go away anytime soon. So learning to deal with advertising and how it works seems to me to be an important life lesson, one that even TV-free kids will have to learn eventually.


Some of my suggestions came from PBS Parents: Children and Media

A related post of mine: Combating Commercials

Image thanks to Wikimedia Commons and photographer David Monniaux.

The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly (Reg Down)

By , January 29, 2008 1:25 pm

My 7 year-old daughter is a picky reader. She is reluctant to read any book that looks like it might be scary, suspenseful, or have any kind of a plot twist at all. I am assuming that this high level of sensitivity is just a phase. But in the meantime, it can make chapter book choices somewhat limited.

While searching for books for her Christmas book gift bag, I stumbled upon this. A story about a fairy with the lovely name of Tiptoes Lightly, how threatening could that possibly be?

My instincts were correct and this book proved to be a sheer delight to read…for all of us! My daughter opened it and then couldn’t put it down. She began reading it to her 5 year-old brother who was equally as riveted, and the two of them began requesting that I read it to them at bedtime too. I came to really look forward to our evening reads and the latest Tiptoes adventure. In fact I was sad when we finished, and really find that I miss Tiptoes! (Time to buy the other books in the series!)

The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly is actually a collection of three stories about Tiptoes and her friends: The Bee Who Lost his Buzz, Pumpkin Crow, and Lucy Goose and the Half-Egg. Each tale is composed of many short chapters (most just two or three pages) which makes it nice for bedtime, even on nights where you are running late, or to read to young children with limited attention spans.

The stories are all very sweet and innocent, yet really funny too! The magic and wonder of nature and the seasons is a constant theme throughout the book. The characters are all very lovable and appealing, with names like Jeremy Mouse (an always-hungry mouse), Pine Cone and Pepper Pot (gnomes who sleep with their long beards wrapped around their heads for warmth), Pins and Needles (house fairies who sleep in a pin cushion), and Ompliant (an elephant).

I honestly have nothing but wonderful things to say about this book. These are stories that your children will want to hear over and over again. The adventures of Tiptoes will spark the imagination of your little ones, and you too!

An interesting note: As we read, I felt that these tales had a real “Waldorfy” feel about them. I was very interested to read in the author’s note at the end of the book (reprinted on his website here), that Tiptoes was indeed “born” at a Waldorf school. Reg Down was a eurythmy teacher in several Waldorf schools, which is where he began inventing the tales of Tiptoes and her friends.

I am so happy that Mr. Down decided to publish these magical stories so that we may all enjoy them. If you want to sample some of Reg Down’s work, visit his website: where you can download some sample chapters from his books. Also be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the stories page where you’ll find quite a few other stories and plays to download (all free too!).

(Also: You can visit Mr. Down’s website for a list of local stores that carry his books, as well as some smaller online bookstores.)

Egg Cartons (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , January 27, 2008 8:06 pm

After guests, blog moving, and sick kids (croup and colds), I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this one. I know…excuses, excuses, excuses.

I came up with the idea this week, but the kids added to it and modified it. My idea was Tiddlywinks. Do you remember Tiddlywinks? Does anyone play Tiddlywinks anymore?

First we cut the top and little side flap off the egg carton. Then my oldest daughter marked each cup with points. First row 1, next 5, third 10, etc. Then we took the little plastic disks from our Bingo game and played Tiddlywinks with those.

It was hard. I have always been bad at Tiddlywinks, and still am apparently! The kids weren’t much more successful either.

I then suggested that we try bouncing a small ball into the cups. That worked MUCH better and was actually pretty fun.

At first the tall, pointy, cone-like structures between the cups (there is probably some interesting technical term for these in the egg carton manufacturing world) got in the way a bit, but then my 7 year-old daughter suggested that we cut them off. So she did.

After that it was smooth sailing and fun playing. My daughter decided to use the top of the egg carton to record her scores.

By the way, my daughter had the idea of playing Mancala with the egg carton. I thought that was very clever, but it was too rainy today to go out and collect stones.


Next week’s Unplugged Project:

Pipecleaner (or Twist Tie? Or Wire?)

(This was my 5 year-old’s suggestion, so blame him if you don’t like it!)



By , January 26, 2008 1:13 pm

Welcome to Unplug Your Kids at its new home. I hope you like it and, most of all, I hope it loads faster!

There are a few differences from the old blog. I have combined the toy and book recommendations in with the main blog. I plan on trying to recommend one toy and one book per week. You can access my recommendations in the categories menu (“toy recommendations”and “book recommendations” – with subcategories under each heading).

One neat feature of WordPress, is that it allows for the creation of “Pages.” The top right sidebar shows the links to the pages I have created, including the Unplugged Toystores, Unplugged Bookstores, and a page about the weekly Unplugged Project for anyone who wants to know more about that.

Between having company all week and trying to get this set up, I haven’t had a lot of time to work out every detail. The internal links do not function properly yet, and there is something weird going on with the size of the categories drop-down menu, as well as some other details that need attending to.

As a die-hard perfectionist, I hate to put the blog online with any untidiness or disorganization, so I apologize. However, knowing me, I felt that if I didn’t make myself put it online now, it might be years before it was “perfect enough” in my mind.

I am eager to get on with the business of blogging …

So here it is!

PS. I plan on being around more now that the bulk of the work is done.

Toothpicks (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , January 20, 2008 8:41 pm

This week I have an old friend and her 2 year-old son, and mother visiting from Upstate New York, so we had an impromptu toothpick art party!

We got out construction paper, glue, playdough … and of course toothpicks, and had fun.

Here are some photos:

And the finished products:

Dolphin and Fish (5 year-old)

Dog, Butterfly, Tree and Clouds (7 year-old)

Mystery Sculpture (2 year-old)

And finally…the grownup projects:

(Note the cherry stem fishing line in this one, very clever!!)

If you did the project with us, I hope you had fun and please be sure to put your name in Mr. Linky so that we can visit.

I look forward to seeing what you all came up with! As usual, I am sure there will be many creative ideas that I would never have thought of.


Next Monday’s Unplugged Project:

At the suggestion of Becky who is overrun with egg cartons at the moment, the theme is:

Egg Cartons!!

Thank you Becky! Sounds like a fun one.


(Sorry the comments are here instead of where they should be. I didn’t want to import the post the normal way for fear of overwriting all the work I have done up until now, but I didn’t want to leave them behind! )


– said…

The “subscribe to” link at the bottom still uses the blogspot URL instead of the new one. I’m kind of new to this RSS reader thing, how do I add the new address instead?
January 20, 2008 8:33 PM

Tamara said…

Yours are super! How nice to combine various things together. I never think of using play-doh in conjunction with paper for art projects. I’m off to dig some egg cartons out of our recycle bin….
January 20, 2008 8:49 PM

AndrĂ©e said…

Somehow I remember sticking toothpicks into playdough when I was a kid. Why in the world did I do that or for what purpose? But anyhow, these are neat pieces of art. Egg cartons? Got it! I may even incorporate some art into that one. My daughter has been collecting them for the farm so I have plenty.
January 20, 2008 9:01 PM

Mom Unplugged said…

That is a good question about the RSS feed. I think you’ll just have to subscribe using the blogspot address.

When I move, I’ll put a notice up here. Then you can go to the new blog at and resubscribe there. Sorry I don’t have an easier answer.

If anyone knows of a better solution could you please post it here? Thanks!

(And thanks for your interest in subscribing to my blog!)
January 20, 2008 9:08 PM

soo said…

what beautiful art work, I’m afraid that I am another one that would never think of combining different materials such as paper and playdough.
It just so happens that I’ve been saving my egg boxes for a friend, but she won’t be getting them … well not all of them anyway.
January 20, 2008 9:57 PM

Maria said…

A great collection of things. It’s curious, because Joel (3 1/2 y) has made a similar ‘thing’ than the 2yo boy.
January 21, 2008 12:32 AM

Kate in NJ said…

We are the cherry stem use by the way!
I thought P would use some clay too, but she wanted a frame for a picture
she drew..we have egg cartons a plenty for next week.
January 21, 2008 8:10 AM

amanda said…

I love your project! Very cute results, and fun for all ages, too. clever :)
January 21, 2008 8:23 AM

SuburbanCorrespondent said…

Kids can be so creative with anything! My kids love craft sticks and duct tape (!) and tinfoil. Also cardboard. My eldest once made an entire suit of armor out of tinfoil.
January 21, 2008 9:33 AM

Claire said…

You made some cool stuff this week. I really like the way you have combined mediums. Does the playdoh stick to the coloured paper?

Took us a while to get going with the theme this week but we were soon on a roll and had great fun.

Not sure what we will do this week. I won’t use my egg cartons as I save them to give our hens eggs away to friends. I suspect we may look to doing something with egg shells instead – we have plenty of those!
January 21, 2008 12:19 PM

Heather said…

They look great. I am so in for the egg caarton project. My husband and I were just wondering the other day what we were going to do with all of our egg cartons. So a great way to use them up. Thanks.
January 21, 2008 1:40 PM

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said…

Well, my original intention was to get the play dough out and stick some toothpicks in, but then I came up with something different. I’m so glad I actually did the “assigned” project this week! :)

Your kids did a great job incorporating everything!

PS. Thanks for helping me do something with the egg cartons!

hugs to all,
January 21, 2008 2:37 PM

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