More About the Snowball Maker

Hi Readers! As I read through the comments about the $9 snowball maker invented by a dad to make sure his sons’ snowballs weren’t too hard-packed, I saw that some folks thought I was a killjoy for scorning it.

So I wrote back to explain that what I really object to is anyone trying to convince parents that an age-old activity is suddenly TOO DANGEROUS. And that, for some reason, THIS GENERATION is more vulnerable to injury/disappointment/disaster than any previous generation, and hence needs to be more protected. And I also object to the fact that someone is making money by assuaging a new parental fear that he himself inflamed.

Thought I’d nailed everything that irked me about he snowball maker. And then I read this fantastic comment from Chris Byrne, a.k.a.,  “The Toy Guy:”

We have tested this product or one like it, and it’s horrible and unsatisfying for kids to use. The balance is wrong, and the snowballs actually disintegrate before the kids can throw them. We played with kids ages 5-11, and every one of them was frustrated with it for different reasons, mostly because it didn’t work. The one we played with was also very cheap, and younger kids didn’t have the dexterity to use it.

The other problem is that it turns kids into snowball manufacturers, rather than crafters. Now, I know that probably sounds insane, but different snow has different consistencies, and learning how to make a really good snowball comes from getting your hands in the stuff. Do you pack it tight to do damage? Or do you make them quickly and less compressed, for speed? You know what that’s called? Play. This implement effectively removes one whole aspect of creativity and interaction from the play.

I don’t think the readers of this blog are the target demographic for this product, and certainly not from the comments I’ve read. But the important thing  with our kids is to look at the whole experience and realize that every time we put a piece of technology or a product  between a kid and an experience, that experience is  altered–and not always for the best. I know that’s a little heady for a snowball molder, but the principle is sound. The mechanized, perfect snowball takes the individual kid out of the play experience.

Besides, what’s wrong with getting wet and soggy in the snow? Wasn’t that the point? Didn’t you stay out until you were soaked through and the tips of your mittened fingers were covered with ice? Then you got to come inside and get dry and warm again, only to watch the sun go down and the snow turn violet in the last light of the day, and go to bed hoping there would be more snow overnight so you could do it all over? Is there anything that so completely transforms the world to a kid as much as a blanket of snow? But I digress…

I don’t think he digressed at all. I think he’s pretty profound. And perhaps, thanks to him, the conversation will…snowball. (Couldn’t resist!) — L.

Outrage of the Day: 8 Year Old Suspended ANOTHER Year for Toy Gun

Hi Readers! Such stupidity cannot be condoned: An 8-year-old was suspended LAST year for bringing a toy gun to school (accidentally), and this year, the draconian punishment continues. The difference between TOY and WEAPON, between MISTAKE and PREMEDITATED, between KILLER and KID seems to be utterly lost on these “educators.”

The school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach.

The parents refused and believe their son has already paid for his mistake enough. Samuel has since been home-schooled, but his parents want him back in public school.

“I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”

Here’s the whole story. Thank goodness, this week the family gets another chance to persuade the school board that Zero Tolerance for rationality is maybe not such a great idea. — Lenore

Babysitting, Rocks, A.C. and One VERY Bizarre Dora Toy

Hi Folks — It’s Sunday, a lazy day, so here are some my recent Tweets (from Twitter) you might like:

Great Salon piece: When do you let your kids babysit? http://bit.ly/carbKy

Perfect one-panel comic about kids and their chemistry sets! http://bit.ly/by86B8

How a country without A.C. would be warmer in many GOOD ways: http://bit.ly/8Y7fsv

Strange new trend: “Make believe” camps where kids are encouraged to play the old-fashioned (sort of) way: http://nyti.ms/czSkZe

Students not allowed to touch rocks! Given a POSTER of rocks instead: http://bit.ly/d2Q98p

Excuse me. This is a toy for…a kid? Not, say, a lonely mom? Dora, I’m shocked! http://bit.ly/dzMggq

Have fun! — L.

Outrage of the Afternoon: School Bans Toy Soldiers

Hi Folks! I’m a pacifist at heart and I have no desire to see guns in the school. But I also have no desire to see a boy told he cannot wear the hat he decorated with toy soldiers because the soldiers are carrying — guess what? Toy guns.

Ooh! How terrifying! You can find me under the desk!

As this A.P. article by Michelle Smith explains, the second grader made the hat for some kind of hat day, and he was inspired by having met a soldier last year. He wanted to honor the guy and our troops. That’s an impulse you really want to squash, right? Respect? Gratitude? Feh!

Apparently,  the  principal said he would not object to the boy’s patriotic hat if the little plastic soldiers simply were not carrying weapons. (Though imagine the brouhaha if the boy attempted to sever the weapons from the soldiers’ hands.It might involve a knife! And then blood! And then, probably, death!)

So off with his head! Er…hat. And chalk up another brilliant decision made in the name of  Zero Tolerance. Remember: when tiny plastic weapons are outlawed, only tiny plastic outlaws will have tiny plastic weapons. — Lenore

And you should see his Agent Orange lunchbox!

Ok, Another Really Weird Work/Parenting Story

Hi Readers — Not sure if this is real, but it seems to be: Baby’s First Cubicle! Yes, a toy kiddie kubicle komplete with komputer! Let’s come up with some other funny things it should include besides the chair and a built-in mouse pad. Maybe baby’s first pink slip? Or baby’s first RSS feed he can read at work and comment on? — Lenore