Archive for October 5th, 2010

I may have been the only kid in the world who was happy when the summer weather started to end.  Shorter days and longer nights meant that it was truly dark outside when I went to bed and got to feel like I’d stayed up late even though I hadn’t.  Most importantly though—the end of summer weather meant that the rainy season was coming, and, if I was lucky, that meant blackouts.

As an adult blackouts are kind of annoying because they keep me from getting work done (or worse, they interrupt my DVR recordings), but once the initial annoyance passes and I’m left trying to figure out how to entertain myself without any kind of technology, I think back to my childhood and can’t help but smile.  I loved blackouts as a kid.

I loved wandering around the house with candles and flashlights.  It was like my own adventure; the house was familiar and yet strangely foreign.  The best part about power outages though, was that I always learned really cool things when we had no power.

When I couldn’t watch movies, I learned that movies were just a series of still images shown one right after the other (at least they were when I was growing up, back in the days before digital movie projectors) and from that I learned how to make flip books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_book).  When we couldn’t use the refrigerator, Mom told me about how people used to preserve foods before refrigerators existed and explained the canning and drying processes.  I learned that I was better at jigsaw puzzles than my brother and sister, but that my sister will always win Scrabble games, and my bother somehow has ridiculous luck with Yahtzee dice.  My dad taught me how to make the best couch forts and paper airplanes.  My mom taught me to sew things by hand and my grandmother taught me how to knit.  Grandma also taught me a lot of different card games (due to a blackout, I learned to play poker when I was 11).  

My family has always been big on finding teachable moments, and blackouts were prime time for learning about how the world was before electricity.  Blackouts were like my own personal time machine; I learned a lot about the way things used to be done because I was living the same way people used to.  (And when I started learning about the Oregon Trail in school, I felt a connection with the covered wagon travelers—I knew about how they had to preserve food, sew clothes by hand, and entertain themselves with cards and dice.) 

So the next time a blackout rolls through your neighborhood, instead of packing up the kids and going somewhere that still has power, use the blackout as an opportunity to teach your kids a little practical history.  Spend a few hours learning about the way things used to be done and creating your own entertainment; you’ll have a lot of fun spending time with your family (and when the power comes back on, I guarantee that you’ll have a renewed love for your light switches).

If you live in an area with a relatively stable power grid and don’t have blackouts very often, make your own!  (Bonus:  Blackouts created by hand equal electricity bill savings created by hand.)  Find the breakers for your house or apartment and just flip the main.  You’ll have to reset the clocks on your microwave and stove (and don’t forget your alarm clock!), but at least you probably won’t have to deal with the dreaded VCR clock my dad always complained about. 

Here’s some ideas for electricity free activities:

  • Hide batteries and flashlights around the house and go on a treasure hunt (complete with maps and clues) to find them before it gets dark.
  • Make your own beef jerky, just like people did before they could keep meat in refrigerators.  (Bonus:  Use the jerky as snacks for the following week.  Home made jerky is also a cool show and tell item—kids will love the ‘I made it myself’ factor.)
  • Knit scarves for cold weather.  (Learn to knit here:  http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/how-to-knit.htm or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uw-nUvGrBY)
  • Create a flip book.
  • Have a paper airplane race.
  • Using sheets, turn your entire living room into a giant fort (and see how the sheets glow when you light them from inside with flashlights).
  • Lay out an area on your floor and get the whole family to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle.  (Make your own smaller puzzles by cutting magazine pictures or drawings into interesting shapes.)
  • Act out your favorite movies, or even better, write your own play!  (Or use puppets made from socks or paper bags to act them out.)
  • Cook outside.  Fire up the grill or cook hotdogs over an open fire in the backyard. (Be safe and use a fire pit or make sure to line your fire with stones to keep it in one place.)
  • Hand write letters to friends and family members telling them how much you love them.
  • Stargaze.  If the power is out in your neighborhood, there will be less ambient light and the stars should be more visible.

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No, not the name of Michael Jackson’s child, but yes, the infamous Blanket. Every child has one and adores, loves, obsesses, ‘can’t live’ without one.  Every parent, from generation to generation, knows how emotionally attached a child can become to a soft toy or blanket. They understand that their child needs the comfort of their blankie each night when they go to sleep. While most parents do know and accept this fact, not all of them are aware of the reason for the attachment of the kids to their blankets.

Growing up, I had a blanket that was shredded at the edges and disgusting, I sucked on the corner of it every night – it’s name was Blankie. One time I accidentally left it at Disneyland in the hotel and I went back home to San Francisco where I lived as a child. I didn’t sleep for 2 nights until it came back. My heroic Aunt Kathy went to Southern California, dug through lost and found and brought back “Blankie.” My hero!!

Research published by the international journal Cognition in 2007 suggested that children tend to think their toy or blanket has a unique property or ‘essence’. According to ScienceDaily.com, “To support this theory, Professor Bruce Hood from the University of Bristol and his colleague Dr Paul Bloom of Yale University, USA, showed that 3-6 year-old children have a preference for their cherished items over apparently identical duplicates. Professor Hood said: ‘When offered the choice of originals and copies, children showed no preference for duplicates of their toys unless the object to be copied was the special one that they took to bed every night. A quarter of children refused to have their favorite object copied at all, and most of those who were persuaded to put their toy in the copying machine wanted the original back.’”

Most research has said that attachment to blankets or toys are because they are comfort items that provide a sense of security. However this study suggests that in addition to these physical properties of the toy, children believe that there is some other property of their objects that cannot be physically copied – in other words, these objects have a sort of “essence” that are invisible properties that make blankets or these special toys unique.

Other reasons why blankets are so important to children?

  • First of all, the blanket provides a sense of comfort and security. This is the feeling the child associates with its mother right from the time it arrives into this world.
  • A child also feels warm when wrapped with the blanket. This is another feeling associated with the mother when she hugs her child. Naturally, a child develops an affinity to objects that keep him or her snug and cozy.
  • It provides a special feeling – most blankets are soft to the touch, just the way a mother is to a child. A child needs the presence of his or her mother when going to sleep. Blankets offer the child the feeling of having their mother around them when they fall asleep.

In a surprising discovery, research conducted by Richard H Passen and his team at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee revealed that children liked their security blanket because it helped them cope with newer changes in life and helps in their learning. In fact, blankets of multiple colors are the best way to get children to learn the names of the colors and recognize their easily.

Kids, just like all of us adults, like the feeling of being safe and kept warm and snuggled. Conclusion?  No wonder a security blanket is indispensable!  Check out our Le Top so soft blankets by clicking here: http://www.letop-usa.com/Shop/ProductGrid?category=blankets&section=Baby

Le Top Soft Blankets

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