The Big Book of How - Facts and Experiments for Summer Vacation


[This review is the first post co-written with my six (almost seven) year-old daughter. This summer we're doing all sorts of new things, not the least of which is helping Dad with some blogging...]

The Big Book of HOW from Time Magazine's series "Time for Kids" is not only about how things work, but also about how to do things yourself. Imagine a book full of questions that a young adult might ask, like "How were the pyramids built?" or "How do you prepare for an earthquake?" Except in addition to the answers, there are experiments (or "crafts" as my daughter called them) to illustrate how the things work in real-life. Here's what she had to say:

This book would be good for kids six to twelve years old. Adults can read the book with them also, and they can do experiments with their children. The book is very colorful, with all different kinds of pictures. It is also big with 181 pages and lots of facts. My favorite part of the book is all the crafts and experiments that look like fun. One of the things I learned from the book is to make sure you have plenty of food and water when a hurricane is about to strike. I do not live near the ocean, so I don't have to worry about hurricanes!

I have to say, I don't have anything bad to say about this book. I think this book would be fun in school and on summer vacation because it has lots of fun things to do. If you're curious about how things work in the world, you might like to buy this book. It might not be a good library book however, because once you start reading it you might not want to give it back.

Time for Kids Big Book of HOW, $12.21 from

iPad App of the Week: Phaidon Design Classics


Phaidon Design Classics is a book (or really, a three volume set) for design nerds like me. In it they curate and chronicle 999 objects that they deem are noteworthy for their innovation, influence and are "perfect in their design." The objects are numbered and ordered chronologically, starting with Chinese household scissors from 1663 and ending with the most modern products of today.

Though you could buy the three volume set at Amazon for $110.25, for $19.99 you can get all of that content and more on your iPad - plus an extra product (product 1,000 - the suitably chosen iPhone). It's an awesome collection of things both historical and current, allowing you to browse through not only the history of object design but human history as well.

The interface is fairly easy to understand, and while the clicking sounds it makes when you transition to a new object are kind of hokey, they do help you navigate through the enormous collection. You can also narrow down the number of objects shown by choosing categories or by running keyword searches on the titles and descriptions.

Running a search on "children" yields 49 results, among which there are some of the things you might expect, like the Mammut Chid Chair sold by Ikea, the Tripp Trapp Child's Chair from Stokke or the Eames Hang-It-All. There are also many objects that are taken for granted but are nevertheless incredibly innovative, like Crayola Crayons, Pez candy dispensers, the very first Jigsaw Puzzle (made in 1776), or the very first Teddy Bear (made in 1902). I must admit that I never really gave much thought to the Classic Red Wagon from Radio Flyer (pictured), but two paragraphs later not only do I know the history behind how it was designed and developed, but I appreciate it all the more.

Phaidon Design Classics for iPad by Phaidon Press, $19.99 from the iTunes App Store.

Moms (and dads?) in "the age of anxiety?"

Salon has a good interview I read the other day of Judith Warner, the author of "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety." I'm sure loads of other blogs are talking about the book, but from what I can tell her basic premise is that in an effort to be the perfect mother, moms are actually overstimulating their children and creating an unhealthy, unbalanced home life. I wasn't intending on blogging about it (the book or the interview), but I've been thinking about it for a few days now, so I'm going to recommend checking it out.

She does talk about fathers eventually too. At one point the interviewer asks "A lot of women wonder, how can they get fathers to do their share?" Judith Warner responds:

I don't know. I think at this point it's largely a lost cause for our generation. It's too late. The statistics overall will tell you that there's a grotesque inequality of who does what. When you have families where the mother is at home full time, she does almost everything.  ...You see a lot of wives caught up in this desire to be this perfect mother and this perfectly functioning creature, and the husbands are kind of shunted off to the side and often made to feel like impediments to the smoothly functioning household. I don't think they're necessarily getting a whole lot out of this, easy though it is to get enraged with them.

I'm not going to argue statistics (I have to assume she's done the research), but in my experience the dads I'm friends with (none of which are stay-at-home) are all actively involved in the child-raising. To say it's "too late" and dismiss the need to get fathers involved because they currently aren't involved is absurd.

However the point about shunting off husbands to the side is interesting to me. As a stay at home parent myself I've found you get used to a lot of control over the household, and I can see how this would happen. Though the idea of shunting my wife to the side is ridiculous, if she were less interested in child raising (or culturally not expected to take as much of an active role) things could easily be different.

Anyway, some interesting stuff to think about.

Mommy madness. []

"The book."

I have never felt more like a rookie in my life since I've started taking care of a baby, and the things that seem like they should be so simple are often incredibly confusing. Being the kind of guy I am I figured there must be some sort of book that would explain all of those random but very immediate questions (insert tired "these things don't come with a manual??" joke here). I checked out a few and I've found what I think is the best - Michel Cohn's, The New Basics : A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent. (And no, not just because it's for the "Modern Parent," though I do like the title.)

It's written by a kind of "pediatrician-to-the-stars" in NYC (Jennifer Connelly is quoted on the inside flap) and he covers most every question a new parent might have in a very matter-of-fact, non-judgmental way. We use it so much my wife and I have taken to referring to it as "the book." How often should we be bathing her? Check the book. Formula with iron or without iron? Check the book. What exactly is "colic" anyway? Check the book. The advise I got on sleeping alone is proving to be invaluable.

It definitely doesn't take the place of a question for your kid's own pediatrician (or a quick call to mom), but for a reference it's great.