Archive for July, 2008

Happy (unlicensed) Birthday

Dora, Thomas, Barney, Hanna Montana, Spiderman, Ironman, Batman, all the Disney princesses, Bob the builder…. The list of licensed characters in our children’s lives is endless.

Marketing is the name of the game and the focus is our kids. As parents, we will spend an enormous amount of money to make sure a birthday party is a complete success in following through on the licensing concept as if Martha Stewart will have a swat team scrutinizing our party theme.

And, if themed party invitations are sent out, you can bet on getting more licensed products as presents in keeping with the theme.

Two major problems here:

1. We’re spending a lot more money on licensed products than you would for plain dishes, plates, invitations, games, etc.
2. You’re telling your child that someone else has come up with a good idea – no need to think creatively since it’s already been done for you.

A recent Wall St. Journal article highlights the problem of trademark infringement. You may be renting the Purple Dinosaur costume, piñata etc. rather than a Barney costume. Though it’s costing you money for the knock-off, it would cost even more for the real (licensed) product. How many of you had to calm down screaming kids because the six foot character that showed up for your party bears little resemblance to the character you hoped would show up.

Simple problem – don’t buy into the marketing of licensed products. You will save tons of money and by taking the cues from your children of what they enjoy, you can create a wonderful party together and will teach your child that his/her ideas matter.

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It’s Just Background Noise

A new study proves what we may have suspected all along; just having the TV on distracts kids. You knew that already just as you noticed your own level of concentration increases when the TV is off.

A recent study reported in the journal Child Development suggested that parents who leave the television on all day are stunting the development of their infants. It goes on to say that even when babies appeared to pay no attention to adult programs, they spent less time focused on toys compared with when the program was turned off.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two should watch no television and older children should be limited to no more than two hours a day.

”Parents should limit their young children’s exposure to background television,” said Marie Evans Schmidt, who carried out the research at the University of Massachusetts. She said TV was a potentially ”chronic environmental risk factor” affecting most children.

Many studies have indicated that excessive TV in the early years of life can stunt language skills and contribute to behavioral problems.

The message is loud and clear. Expand the same limits to all forms of media and you will have a child with time to think, dream and play.

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George Carlin was right, we do have too much stuff – Good Lessons from a Bad Economy

A classic bit by George Carlin was about having too much stuff.

He was right – we all have too much stuff. What makes us happy is buying more stuff, and then we have to buy bigger houses to contain all our stuff.

If we need to find the good news from a bad economy, it’s this. Look at all your stuff and don’t rush out to buy more. Imagine if you were moving and had to pack things up to a smaller place. What would you take and what would you toss? More importantly, think before you buy, especially when it comes to buying things for our children.

In a year where the scariest three words in the English language are “fill it up” we need to pay more attention to this distinction of wants vs. needs. We don’t need $5 cups of coffee or $2 bottles of water when we’re paying $4 for a gallon of gas and perhaps we don’t even need to use the car as often as we do.

There is a lot of good that can come out of a bad economy – the most important element is simplicity.

Pay attention to the lesson.

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