Gotta Love “One Step Ahead” — As Will Future Anthropologists

Hi Readers? Can you guess why I so cherish this recent home page from the folks at One Step Ahead? It’s because the headline sums up EVERYTHING that is wacky about our culture, starting with the fact that no child is allowed to enjoy any activity unless it is scientifically proven to GET THEM AHEAD. (At least one step ahead.)

That’s why what used to be called “playing” is now called an activity that promotes social skills and verbal skills. See? It’s developmentally beneficial! But of course, for all that good stuff to kick in, first you must BUY something. So if your kid wants to play? Do as One Step says to do:  “Shop Now!” – L Refer a friend, get a $10 credit!
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51 Responses

  1. I’m just gonna say it: I totally want that picnic table.

  2. LOL, perhaps its a way to tell these hypersensitive parents its okay to let kids play together and not to worry about germs?

    Also, I think the picnic table is pretty cool. Like that the benches aren’t attached. I am sure it’s over priced

  3. Looking at their catalog, I’ve often wondered if you knew of them and all the safety products they offer and what your thoughts were.

    When I first became a parent I thought it was awesome! and since then I have realized a lot of their products are major overkill and overprotection. Sure they sell some useful items and fun toys, but it’s a bit over the top. But at least they are one step ahead!

  4. The umbrella is crap, though. It can’t block UV rays if it doesn’t cover enough of the table for the kids to be in shade.

  5. Your kids will learn way more at that table than they ever could at a cruddy $99 job from Lowe’s. You owe them that table.

  6. I agree. It’d be one thing to say “buy this cute picnic table that’s sized for kids,” but it’s another to imply that kids won’t “build social skills, verbal skills, friendships, and fun” without one–after all, didn’t generations of people do all of that just fine sitting at standard-issue, adult-sized picnic tables at parks and whatnot? Also, when I was a kid, most kids I knew didn’t really like to sit still.

  7. Wait a minute…I’m pretty sure this table is a safety hazard waiting to happen… Has no one noticed that with detached benches the poor little children might HURT THEMSELVES? The horror!

    And I certainly need the guilt of the coordinating picnic set and napkins. Not to mention the perfectly groomed landscaping. Sheesh!

  8. I don’t think it’s much of a reflection on One Step Ahead… they’re just doing what they know will sell merchandise: labeling all toys as enriching and skill-building, in addition to fun. I blame instead the cultural bias that can only see something as “good for kids” if it’s framed in terms of life skills and developmental milestones.

  9. @Annika what are you talking about? It SAYS uv blocking. Don’t think about t. And DEFINITELY don’t buy one of those crappy other umbrellas that magically allows uv through even in the shade.

  10. Anyone notice the carefully multi-cultural kids are eating watermelons? There is a long (negative) association between blacks and watermelons. Oops!

    I also love how the UV-blocking umbrella keeps UV off the kids even when it doesn’t shade them at all. Of course, they have to be in the sunlight, for the picture. Lighting requires it.

  11. Oh no! They are all drinking from Juice Box holders because heaven forbid they spill. Or use a real cup.

    Also, unless that umbrella is anchored in the base, a gust of wind could send it flying as a dangerous projectile.

  12. I haven’t looked at the site in a while but was thrilled to see this:

    At first I thought it was a Jiffy Pop baby, but it’s just another product that is totally senseless.

  13. Jiffy Pop Baby! That’s a great one. At first I thought the kid was supposed to be under that thing.

    Aren’t most car seats made of velour these days? I know hot vinyl can be an issue, but I’ve yet to see a vinyl booster or car seat these days.

    So many “must-haves” these days. No wonder people are working themselves sick.


  14. or you could build your own… and that umbrella is seriously dinky.

  15. Ok so the weird seat thing is actually usefull. I know someone that has something kinda like that with her baby. It’s a portable highchair, tho her’s is meant just for tying to a chair. Handy when going places that there won’t be a highchair, like my house. I would have used one of those for my oldest kid. She was a tiny baby so most of those wooden highchars they have in restaurants were way to big and she’d slide out of it if we weren’t carefull. She was 15lbs at a year and only 17lbs at two.

    The seat cover thing tho is useless. I would just throw a recieving blanket over the car seat so the buckles wouldn’t become skin scarringly hot. And it did actually keep the rest of the seat from getting too warm. If you think about it the kid is strapped into a heated seat in the back of a hot car. My kids would cry until the A/C kicked in enough to cool them down.

  16. […] Hi Readers? Can you guess why I so cherish this recent home page from the folks at One Step Ahead? Its because the headline sums up EVERYTHING that is wacky about our culture, starting with the fact that no child is allowed to enjoy any activity unless it is scientifically proven to GET THEM AHEAD. … Read more: […]

  17. This was my favorite that I saw in the catalog they sent me (my other favorite being the plastic guard that keeps kids from sucking their fingers or thumb)

    They added a knot! To a washcloth! It’s genius! Quick, charge people $6 a pop for this incredible invention.

  18. Down in here in South Texas where it is 95 degrees six months of the year, it’s not so much that the seat gets hot but that the metal buckles can and do burn bare skin. And since we wear summer garb practically year round, I have accidentally burned my daughter’s bare leg with the buckle. A few of my friends here have the seat cover. I personally didn’t get one, just was extra careful strapping her in and she learned to not be so squirmy. It is a non-issue for us now as she has graduated to a booster seat with the regular seat belt and not the 5-point harness. Of course, I used to live in South Dakota where the extreme cold was a problem…hmmm…maybe the jiffy pop cover would heat the seat up! : ) I do find a lot of these products overkill, if not in concept then in price.

  19. I “teach” toddlers. But the funny thing is, I refuse to TEACH. And they still LEARN! Imagine that!!!!

    As for the carseat cover…I live in Phoenix…’nuff said. You haven’t been burned till you’ve been burned by a seatbelt buckle in 120 degree weather.

  20. I used to work customer service for them about 15 years ago. Some items are good, some silly like the toddler helmet or coffee table bumpers.

  21. Molly Oberhausen- guess you don’t travel much because for those of us who travel with babies and toddlers it is a Godsend. Many restaurants overseas don’t have high chairs or booster seats so having a meal out becomes a juggling act. While visiting my in-laws, we packed a travel seat like this so that we could eat meals together (hands-free!) or tied our 10 month old to a chair while his 6 am breakfast was being prepared by the one awake adult (why have everyone up early while on vacation?). I also used it when flying alone with two under three. I had already checked the stroller so when myself or my older child needed the washroom, it was easy with the baby strapped onto me (it’s like a baby carrier but doubles as a booster seat). Also, if you have your child under 2 fly for free, they sometimes don’t get a seat so you’re doing an 8 hour flight holding a squirmy baby. Many practical reasons to have this if you travel with little ones.

  22. New age toys and gizmos and gagets for kids are a waste of time and money. My 17 month old son would prefer to play with natures toys such as dirts sticks and leaves. Imagine that my own back yard is full of free kids toys that nature just happened to put there for him.. I know In my life time I ate my fair share of mud and dirt and I’ve been healthy for 27 years. Without getting a little dirty from time to time how’s a kid to build an ammune system to actually fight off germs? I think also a lot of parents are to lazy to get away from their computer to chase their kids around to keep an eye on them. Instead every little part of the house is locked up tighter than Fort Knox… I don’t know call me crazy but for 100s of years people been raising kids without fancy toys and gadgets and we all turned out pretty good.

  23. When I had my first, I lived in a trailer and had a gas stove, which for safety reasons (so as to not burn yourself while reaching over the flames) had the controls on the front. And were easy to turn on.

    So I purchased some guards from this company that were supposed to keep children from being able to push in and turn the knob. They didn’t work at all. I have never bought another thing from that company.

  24. A UV-blocking umbrella (with the picnic table set) you say? Who is THAT protecting, considering all three of the children’s faces are fully exposed to the sun!

  25. The thing that is sad to me is that you actually have to tell people that it’s good for kids to have them play together. That families who don’t have that as a natural part of their lives ought to figure out a way to work it in.

    I have bought a couple items from this company. So I used to get their catalog, and it was always good for a few laughs. They do have some cute and useful stuff, though.

  26. As a SAHM, playdates come naturally. I mean, how else are you going to keep the kids from driving you nuts? 😉 Really, it’s great social time for the kids and the parents. When I was working (when I just had my first), he socialized with other kids at daycare.

    I do have a friend who has various family members look after her daughter throughout the week (none of them have kids of their own), and she was just saying to me that we should have more playdates. She said that she knows her daughter needs to gain more social skills with kids her own age, because she has had very little time other kids. Her daughter is almost three. She is a great mom, but circumstances have just led to this situation. Everyone gets busy, and if these social interactions aren’t built into the schedule they don’t happen.

    It is important, though! I don’t think it’s a bad thing for One Step to promote this. Their products, however, are of course not necessary in order for playdates to happen. 🙂

  27. Okay, Mike, I have to know – what is it about blacks and watermelons? Have spent the whole day listening to PC teacher stuff about how bad racial stereotyping is, so I now need a good laugh 🙂

  28. @ hineata – Back in the day in the US, black people were often portrayed in the media as happy simpletons chomping away on watermelon.

    My 6 year old looked over my shoulder while looking at this and said “nice table.”

  29. Thanks Donna! Sounds like Maoris being pictured driving tractors and diggers – in spite of the fact that in the 19th and early 20th centuries their academic results and education levels were often higher than Pakehas. Watermelons are delicious, though, and after packing too much info into the brain today, I wouldn’t mind being a simpleton lying around eating one 🙂

    And I agree with your girl – in spite of it being overpriced, that table is cool!

  30. […] Hi Readers? Can you guess why I so cherish this recent home page from the folks at One Step Ahead? Its because the headline sums up EVERYTHING that is wacky about our culture, starting with the fact that no child is allowed to enjoy any activity unless it is scientifically proven to GET THEM AHEAD. … Read more: […]

  31. Oh no, I never realised that play dates might be good for my child but I cannot afford that outdoor set. What to do?!

    My daughter was in daycare from when she was 3 months old actually and played with other kids all day, every day. And even there they managed without a fancy wooden outdoor set!

  32. I can only agree the table is mighty fine looking, but for me the cost/benefit of buying this would tend heavily toward not buying it, reasons being:
    1) cushions looks nice, but would have to be cleaned regularly by me because my kids to tend toward being dirty when they are outside, and dropping the occasionally drop of juice, food stuff etc
    2) they would spend appr. 3 minutes sitting there, then they would be off climbing trees, digging in dirt, catching, snails, worms, toads ….
    3) or being under the table, playing cave, hide and seek, ninjago or whatever else there imagination would prompt them to do
    4) a picnic blanket (I am using a fancy word for any available piece of cloth in that situation) on the grass would be much more appealing, since they are expected to eat at tables at home. The chance to eat on the ground would be too appealing, except of cause if you get to bring the muffin up in the climbing tree / tree house.

    but that is just my opinion 🙂

  33. […] Hi Readers? Can you guess why I so cherish this recent home page from the folks at One Step Ahead? Its because the headline sums up EVERYTHING that is wacky about our culture, starting with the fact that no child is allowed to enjoy any activity unless it is scientifically proven to GET THEM AHEAD. … Read more: […]

  34. I apologize in advance for going off topic, but my computer would freeze every time I tried to post this in the “for or against” section. During my lunch break at work I was reading Mamapedia, when I came upon this question. A woman was obviously appalled that her 6-year-old stepson walked home from school with his 7 or 8-year old neighbor and (horror of horrors!) no adult. She then asked others if she felt that a kindergartner should be able to walk home alone. The answers were full of the usual, “No way,” “Times have changed,” and “I just couldn’t take the chance that anything would happen…”

  35. Yeah, the seat thing is not ridiculous at all. They’re not intended to have an older child “strapped into” a seat so they can’t fall out, they’re intended for a high-chair aged baby or young toddler to be able to sit where there’s none available.

    And I agree with Scott — I don’t think this falls so much into the “overprotection/safety” realm as into the “market overpriced stuff to the people with more money than reasoning ability” realm. Other than the waste of money as compared to a less high-end product, I can’t see a downside to this picnic table thing — it looks cute and fun. It’s just not worth the cost, and they’re overmarketing it as though it can do things that normal tables can’t. But what products aren’t marketed that way?

  36. Reminds me of a Montessori catalog I paged through when the oldest was a wee ‘un. This page: $36 “presentation cushion” for passing around the baby on, ideal for relatives who were nervous about holding very new babies. That page: $80 special table for semi-toddlers to sit at instead of being stuck in a high chair, thus fostering his independence and competence and reducing stress at mealtimes. The wee chair for the table cost extra.

    So we dug out an old contoured foam cushion, the kind that has a dip in the middle, and refurbished it by putting it in several layers of pillowcase with a disposable chux pad on the inside in case of spillage. Cost: $0.40 for the chuck. My husband bought four pre-milled chair legs, four button-shaped leg bases, and a piece of oaktag from the builders supply store and made a table that we still use for the current little ‘un. Cost: $16. The chair: an activity cube that cost us nothing because it was a present from the relatives. No, it wasn’t solid wood with hand-rubbed finish and Scandinavian styling, but the baby didn’t care.

    I’ve heard that in New York City stores can get some moms to pay $40 or more for a little crocheted wool mouse meant for teething on.

  37. I hate the word “play date”. Just send your kid over and knock on the door already.
    I’d love a piece about parents further retarding their children’s growth in the area of bicycle riding. I am meeting more 1st, almost 2ndgraders that do not know how to ride a two wheel bike. My 7 year old is on his 2nd bike and just recently I let him ride around the neighborhood without his older sister. He doesn’t have anyone to ride with though because the boys his age are still on training wheels and have to be escorted by a parent.

  38. When I moved from MA to NJ I was informed that I had to call another parent on a very safe cul de sac street in order for our kids to play!!! No just showing up and knocking on doors in the suburbs. Thanks for this, I’m about to be a grandmother and wrote this after reading your article in the Week!

  39. […] Hi Readers? Can you guess why I so cherish this recent home page from the folks at One Step Ahead? Its because the headline sums up EVERYTHING that is wacky about our culture, starting with the fact that no child is allowed to enjoy any activity unless it is scientifically proven to GET THEM AHEAD. … Read more: […]

  40. DANGER! DANGER! I see exposed screw or bolt heads holding the picnic table and benches together! These can often have sharp edges that can cut tender fingers. For shame!

  41. I can’t bring myself to be offended by this. Unnecessary extra gear, sure, but their whole goal is to sell stuff. Most of the safety stuff is potentially useful in some climate or area. The umbrella’s useless but who honestly expects kid-size things to be effective. Right up there with an Easy-Bake Oven.

    And -gasp- we had a play date this morning. Two sets of geek parents-of-toddlers who’d really like the kids to get along so eventually both generations can have “play dates” together.

  42. I used to call the “One Step Ahead” catalog the “Catalog of Fear” … the products (and accompanying copywriting) are designed to create irrational fear in parents (and then conveniently sell a product to irradicate this fear).

  43. My daughter will likely have a picnic table like that at her grandparents’ house, just as soon as Dad gets time to build it and the 10’x15′ playhouse to go with it. This makes sense, as my parents have two grandkids, one on the way, and 3 more planned by my sister. It will be a total of six kids, all living within walking distance, so they have all the best outdoor toys and stuff. Dad will build a table just as high quality, but much cheaper, though, since he won’t need a high-priced kit to do it, just a trip to the local lumber store.

    @Molly: We actually have a couple versions of the “strap the kid to the seat” thing. One is almost identical to the one pictured. The other two are closer to a booster seat, and we use them at least weekly, when I take my 3-year-old for her “lunch date with Pappy”. The restaurant we go to has great food, is super-close to Dad’s job, but there are no high chairs or boosters, so we strap the seat to the chair, and the kid to the booster. She can reach her food, can’t escape and terrorize the waitress, and it tucks in my trunk from week to week. Looks like this, but not inflatable… It’s great for visiting relatives (like my inlaws) who don’t have a high chair or booster for my kids, too.

  44. As a Brit, I don’t even like the term ‘playdate’, which is making its way over here. When I was a kid, it was called ‘Going over to X’s house’ or ‘X coming to my house’

    ‘Playdate’ has overtones to me of adults managing everything – I used to aks my mum for permission and phone my friends to invite them over after I was about six. And there were *no* friend’s parents in sight once I started infants school at 5.

  45. I saw that picnic table when we were buying a sandbox for our 1yo last year. I love it… because it’s pretty, lol. But I wouldn’t spend that much on something my kids won’t use much. I’d love to have it, though. I can see my 6yo having picnics with her friends on it. I did love that link to building your own picnic table. I’m going to show my husband. Maybe he could build one this summer (of course, we’d have to buy power tools and stuff, too).

    About that thing to attach your kid to a seat. I have 5 kids (ranging in age from almost 12 down to 20 months). We have occasionally gone places without high chairs/boosters but we always held the kid or they knelt on a chair. I don’t see how that thing is helpful unless the kid is sitting on something to boost him up because they wouldn’t reach the table.

    Maybe my kids are weird because I can’t imagine needing something like that. My toddler no longer uses a high chair when we go out to eat. A few weeks ago he decided he’d rather sit/stand/kneel in the booth with us. He doesn’t move around half as much as my 6yo, lol.

    He also sat in a chair last week. I was on one side and my 9yo daughter was on the other, boxing him in so he couldn’t fall off. He just knelt on it and ate like normal. Again, he’s only 20 months. I remember my other kids doing that around the time they turned 2. By 3 they were all out of high chairs and I find the boosters in restaurants to be dangerous. I’ve had kids just slip right out of them and get caught by the table by their necks. One time my oldest fell right through, cracking her head on the table and landing on the floor. We only used them like three times before I decided it was safer to just let her kneel in the booth.

  46. I have to disagree. I think One Step Ahead is a fine company and the products that I bought there were of great quality and value. Yes, they have a few exaggerated safety items on there (such as the safe-toddling helmet) but many of their products actually promote independence and confidence. I don’t really have a bad thing to say about them.

  47. My husband and I had a drinking game we’d play whenever the One Step Ahead catalog came around: drink whenever you see a variation of the word “safe” on a page. It is BRUTAL.

  48. justanotherjen — no reason to think your kids are “weird,” but some kids just wouldn’t sit well at that age without something holding them in. Some would get too wiggly and either get into things or fall out of the chair (I had one I could barely keep in an actual high chair), others would find kneeling through an entire meal rather fatiguing (I know I sure would!)

    I think that one is a case of “maybe not necessary for everyone but not a crazy idea in itself.”

  49. This might be a Free Range Fail, but I love that little table! I love all the kid-size version of an adult thing. They’re so adorable! The one thing I regret from my childhood is not having one of those little cars, I always wanted a little car

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