Author Archives: Alix Ford

Monsters In The Closet

Wanda's Monster

One of the perks of working for Kidz Central Station is being in the know about all the incredible kid-focused activities in NYC. Armed with up our up-to-date knowledge on what’s happening around town, Lauren Pohl and I took advantage of a recent warm Sunday afternoon to sit in an air conditioned theater with our four year olds to see a performance of Wanda’s Monster playing at The Vineyard Theater in Union Square.

Right around two years old, kids can develop a fear of the dark. Poignantly, it often seems to parents that these fears manifest themselves overnight. As soon as their little imaginations kick in, some kids start to envision the noises they’d heard only the night before as big hairy creatures hiding under the bed. It’s precisely this fear that comes to life and is set to music in this fun-filled performance.

The basic arc of this one-hour play follows young Wanda as she ‘discovers’ a monster in her closet. At first Wanda is terrified, but after receiving advice from her Granny she starts to believe that maybe the monster stays in her closet because HE is the one who is shy and frightened. By putting herself in his fuzzy oversized shoes and considering how the monster might feel, Wanda tackles her fears and reaches out to make a new friend. Naturally, the monster slowly overcomes his own fears and a beautiful friendship is born. Empathizing with others and accepting them for who they are, no matter how purple or fuzzy, is the lesson kids hopefully takeaway from the play.

At first, most kids in the audience were wide-eyed and anxious as Wanda’s monster made his entrance. The actors clearly understand this and the monster dances and shakes in exaggerated silly movements giving kids a chance to see that he isn’t frightening, but fun and goofy instead. But even kids who are not afraid of the dark, like my son, were silent and unsure what to make of the monster initially.

As I watched the reactions on the faces around us throughout the play I was reminded how children, even those the same age, often react to the same situation differently. My son was laughing and/or dancing throughout most of the performance, while Lauren’s daughter was holding on her to favorite stuffed bunny and her mom’s hand most of the way through. And yet, after the show when everyone is invited to meet all the characters and shake their hands, take pictures or ask questions, it was my son who wanted nothing to do with them and Lauren’s daughter, with her own fears sufficiently tackled, who was eager and ready to join them for the picture above.

They advertise that the play is for kids aged two to ten, but I’d say the sweet spot is likely the four to six set. Thankfully, the music is by Laurie Berkner so parents can enjoy the music as well as the delight on their kid’s face throughout.

The performance is showing through September 8 in Manhattan at The Vineyard’s Dimson Theatre (108 East 15th Street). Tickets available online at www.WandasMonster.com or by calling (646) 601-1406.

Kids and Technology

kids-tech

This past weekend I had the opportunity of speaking on a technology panel at the Brooklyn Baby Expo representing Kidz Central Station. It was a great opportunity to think, yet again, about how much technology is shaping and reshaping my experience as a parent. The simple fact that when my very newly-turned 4 year old was born there as no such thing in the marketplace as an iPad is mind boggling. Flash forward three years and my son not only dominates the memory space on my iPad — whether it’s the many photos I’ve taken, the smattering of videos, apps I’ve downloaded for him, or those I’ve downloaded to help me as his parent — but he more or less dominates the use of my iPad too.

With all the naysayers out there claiming that I am ruining my son’s development by allowing him to use the iPad (or similar devices), it was nice to be reminded that there are other likeminded parents who agree that technology has a lot of upside for kids, and it also helps us as parents. My son uses the iPad and ‘reads’ digital books, plays with puzzles or ‘draws’ in coloring books. We have been using Skype or Facetime to call my parents, who live in California, since he was born. He only understands phone calls that involve video interaction – he can’t wait to show them some new trick or piece of art – and he ‘sees’ them more often than my nephews who live in the same state (but an 8 hour drive away).

Plus, technology has converged on my life as a parent in a lot of useful and practical ways. Whether it’s a website that let’s me search for kids classes in my neighborhood, an app that allows me identify the symptoms of my son’s various illnesses, or an app that turns my phone into a baby monitor. That’s not to mention the 6 million photos I’ve taken on my phone, or the videos that are sucking up so much of my memory.

Clearly, too much of any one thing is not a good thing and I am not in the habit of giving my son the iPad for hours at a time. Nor to do I think that the digital puzzles, coloring or medical apps will replace drawing with crayons, turning the pages of a real book or calling my pediatrician directly when my son is ill. Like so many things in parenting, and in life, moderation is the key, of course. But I am thankful to have the option to download six episodes of “Curious George” and stock up on a few new kid friendly apps when I am packing for my yearly cross country plane rides to visit family. I can bet you that my fellow passengers are at least as happy as I am when I pull out my iPad and hand it to my son.