Will This Toy Get My Kid into Harvard?

Hi Readers! Here’s my piece from today’s Wall Street Journal:


Remember when a ball was just a ball? Now it is a tactile stimulating sensory aid that helps develop gross motor skills.

Really. Strolling through the international Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York City last week was like walking through the brightly painted halls of a children’s hospital—at once cheery and sad. Cheery were the shiny bikes and busy ant farms. Sad was the way the marketers made it sound like they were peddling early intervention in a box.

Take “Baby’s First Construction Marble Raceway Set” from Rollipop—a very cute plastic set of chutes and curves that any marble would be delighted to loop through. It looked ready to delight any kid, too, and better still keep him occupied while Mommy checks her BlackBerry. But according to the box copy, this was no mere diversion. It was an educational show-stopper that “encourages hand-eye coordination,” even while “visually stimulating” the brain and developing “fine motor skills.”

Read the rest here!

We KNEW It! Walking to School Good for Kids’ Hearts

Hi Readers! New research shows, “A Simple Morning Walk to School Could Reduce Stress Reactivity…” well, it’s a really long title (41 words!). But basically,  a new study at the University of Buffalo concluded that walking to school seems to reduce the amount of stress a heart feels a little later, and that’s good because such stress can lead, down the road, to cardiovascular disease.

The study was a small, slightly strange one that compared 20 kids who sat in a chair and saw a slide show of passing suburbia to 20 kids who walked a mile on a treadmill while carrying school backpacks and also seeing the suburban slideshow.

A little while later both groups were given a test. On average, the heart rate among the walkers went up 3 beats per minute, but it went up 11 beats in the ones who were “chauffeured.” The chauffeured kids also exhibited more stress.

Look, I’m not getting all the scientific terminology exactly right — the study also talks about systolic blood pressure, which I’ve never understood — but the point is: Walking to school is good.

Which you knew. And I knew. And walking would be good even if it didn’t do a darn thing for cardiovascular anything. It’s just good to get fresh air, and get to know your neighborhood and have a little unstructured time. But it’s always nice to have a little study to whip out when parents say, “I would NEVER let my child walk to school! It’s too dangerous!”

And heart disease isn’t? — Lenore