Unwrapping Screen-time & Finding Childhood

Back to the Basics of Allowing Children to Enjoy Healthy Play

The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills

Development during early childhood shapes what becomes the foundation for development throughout a person’s life. Language, motor, interpersonal, and many other skill sets have their roots in the earliest parts of childhood and, as such, this time period is incredibly important. The job of young children is to play, move, talk, and interact with people and things so as to build basic skills – and it’s just as important for this to happen as it is for an adult to do their own job every day. Read the rest of this entry »

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Launches “Save the Lorax!” Campaign

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

"Let’s honor The Lorax’s important message by celebrating the story and saying ‘no’ to the film’s corporate cross-promotions," say CCFC director, Dr. Susan Linn. - (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield. Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Park, Springfield, MA)

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes:

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a campaign to “Save the Lorax!” from an onslaught of corporate cross-promotions.  For more than forty years, Dr. Seuss’s classic book, The Lorax, has been a clarion call for reducing consumption and promoting conservation.  But this Friday, Universal Pictures’ The Lorax arrives in theaters with dozens of corporate partners promoting everything from SUVs to Pottery Barn to Pancakes.  CCFC is urging anyone who cares about The Lorax’s original message to enjoy the story but pledge to shun the movie’s commercial tie-ins, including:

  • The new Mazda CX-5 SUV—the only car with the “Truffula Seal of Approval.”
  • Seventh Generation household products and diapers festooned with the Lorax.
  • IHOP’s kids’ menu items like Rooty Tooty Bar-Ba-Looty Blueberry Cone Cakes and Truffula Chip Pancakes.
  • In-store promotions featuring the Lorax at Whole Foods, Pottery Barn Kids, and Target.
  • Online Lorax games and sweepstakes for YoKids Yogurt, Comcast Xfinity TV, Target, IHOP, and HP.
  • HP’s “Every Inkling Makes a Difference,” a branded in-school curriculum produced and distributed by Scholastic.

“It is both cynical and hypocritical to use a beloved children’s story with a prescient environmental message to sell kids on consumption,” said CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn.  “The Lorax that so many of us know and love would never immerse children in the false corporate narrative that we can consume our way to everything, from happiness to sustainability. Instead, The Lorax would join everyone who cares about children and the environment to give kids time and space to grow up free of commercial pressures.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Consumerism and Commercialization During the Holidays


Many families make their own gifts as a way to beat excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays. One DIY gift is a personalized clipboard (click on image to enlarge). Partner it with a ream of copy paper and a box of 8 colored pencils and give to the young artists in your life! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How does YOUR family handle excessive consumerism and commercialization during the holidays?

  • Amanda Saklad writes, “We don’t visit any malls from October until February. Crazy out there!”
  • Meagheanne Donahue writes, “My son gets “ten and a goat”. Santa brings him ten Christmas presents (not big ticket items, usually just movies, Legos, board games, etc.) and a donation in his name to Heifer International. Santa even leaves a Heifer International card under the tree with a note about how it makes such a difference. My son is 8 year old, this is our 5th year doing “ten & a goat” and he LOVES it! Plus, it keeps him from going crazy with the “I wants” this time of year.”
  • Angelique Phoenix writes, “Just say no!”
  • Pauline Delton writes, “We don’t celebrate Christmas, and we were very clear when our son was a baby that we wanted him to love relatives/friends for who they are and not for what they buy (for birthdays, random gifts, for Christmas–which the relatives celebrate). We discussed our love for and the benefits of secondhand items, visits/passes/experiences instead of “things” that would break/take up space/etc. Despite this, we had a set of grandparents who would bring a new thing on a WEEKLY basis, and we talked with them once about it and then even more firmly a second time, and thankfully it stopped. I know some people say it’s rude to reject gifts, but once someone has dismissed your boundaries and has made the choice to do something you clearly didn’t want done, it’s not you who’s being rude. *shrug*”
  • Susan Countryman writes, “We focus on giving instead of getting–and incorporate handmade gifts.”
  • Phoebe Shaw writes, “We hide. Then we just buy them everything they want at the last possible minute.”
  • Dawn Klein writes, “I’m making some of my gifts and my one-year-old doesn’t watch the tube, so no Disney, Elmo, etc. I want her to use her imagination. I purchased some musical toys. Any other suggestions for her? Thanks.”
  • Desiree DuBois writes, “We make a lot of our gifts- jams, flavored vinegars, cordials, cookies or festive breads make nice gifts, or we buy locally made maple syrup or other products by local farmers & artists & value- added producers to keep as much money as possible in our local community.”
  • Tracy Tirrell Griffith writes, This year we are focusing on helping others and keeping things very simple and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.”

How to Choose Non-Commercial Toys that Promote Creative Free Play this Holiday Season

TRUCE Action Guides: Toys, Media & Children

TRUCE is a national group of educators deeply concerned about the impact of children’s entertainment and toys on their play and behavior. Their goal is to raise public awareness about the negative effects of violent, sexualized, and stereotyped toys and media on children, families, schools, and society.

It’s Black Friday and many parents have holiday gift buying on their minds.  The discussion of holiday buying looms large in our community, with folks chatting about buying local, buying handmade, and buying non-commercial.

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE), a Massachusetts based group of educators concerned about how children’s toys and entertainment are affecting the play and behavior of kids, has a few guides available on media and play that will help aid parents in making informed decisions and choices when it comes to toys that promote creative free play:

Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide

This guide will help parents and educators promote children’s creative and constructive play, and make informed choices about toys, and work with others at home, school, and in the community to support positive play.

In this guide TRUCE highlights that toys have high play value when they…

  • Can be used in many ways.
  • Allow children to be in charge of the play.
  • Appeal to children at more than one age or level of development.
  • Are not linked to video games, computers, TV, or movies.
  • Can be used with other toys for new and more complex play.
  • Will stand the test of time and continue to be part of play as children develop new interests and
  • Promote respectful, non-stereotyped, non-violent interactions among children.
  • Help children develop skills important for further learning and a sense of mastery.
  • Can be used by children to play alone as well as with others. Can be enjoyed by both girls and boys.

TRUCE invites parents to copy and distribute their guides to help spread the word in your community.  Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (pdf)
TRUCE: Toys, Play & Young Children Action Guide (Spanish pdf)

Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide

Want to provide your little one with experiences that will enhance healthy play and development? This guide will help you understand why quality play is vital for your child’s growth and what you can do to support it.

In this guide TRUCE warns parents to  “Beware of BRANDING! Children’s media characters are often used by marketers on toys, clothing, and foods to capture young children’s attention. Why is this a problem? Whenever kids see it, they want it because it’s familiar. These kinds of licensing agreements, which support branding efforts, can lead to unwise buying choices, unhealthy eating habits and nagging.”

Download this guide here:

TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (Spanish pdf)
TRUCE: Infant & Toddler Play, Toys & Media Action Guide (pdf)

To learn more about TRUCE, visit www.truceteachers.org.


Hilltown Families Counteracts Commercialization via Creativity

Empowerment by Art: Hilltown Families Checks Commercial Fashion

“We had a great time! My son is wearing his shirt with pride right now at an evening event at his school,” texted Helen Kahn of Florence, MA.

In the wake of JCPenney’s “I’m too pretty to do homework” and Forever 21 “Allergic to Algebra” t-shirt debacle, this past Friday Western MA families came together to pushback against commercial fashion and corporate marketers in the Hilltown Families event, “I Am Not A Billboard!”

Presented by Hilltown Families and hosted by The Art Garden, a newly formed non-profit in Shelburne Falls, grandparents to toddlers came together from Charlemont to Northampton to make their own fashion statement by designing and decorating t-shirts with their own words and images. Slogans like “Science Rocks,” “Girls Rule,” and images of peace were drawn, sewn & painted in a successful intergenerational event!

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“With children’s clothes often donning corporate symbols and slogans, our kids are made into walking billboards for big corporations,” says Sienna Wildfield, Founding Director of Hilltown Families. “Fashion is just one of the many avenues corporate marketers utilize to market their brands to children, surprisingly, at a very young age.  Allowing children to embellish their own clothes with symbols and words that celebrate their individuality and intelligence is just one simple way families can counteract commercialization while fostering creativity and expressiveness.

“Messages that communicate values on physical appearance, consumerism and gender stereotypes to our children are pervasive,” says Jess Kuttner, LICSW, Psychotherapist and mother of two boys. “The recent news of t-shirts sold by JCPenny with the slogan, ‘I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me,’ is one example of how empty and degrading values are being marketed to our children.  Is it any wonder that there are epidemic numbers of kids and teens who bully each other and numb themselves with video games, TV, food and drugs? Giving children the opportunity to create their own t-shirts is a proactive way to counter corporate and negative messages while helping children focus on what is unique about themselves on a deeper level.

Big thank you to ❤ The Art Garden for hosting this event, to ❤ Country Pie Pizza of Ashfield for donating pizza for our pizza party, and to all the ❤ amazing families who came together to empower their kids and themselves through art!

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