Book Review: Mirette on the High Wire

I recently asked my mother to select some of our family’s favorite picture books. Raising four children of their own and now two grandchildren, my parents’ collection has become well-honed over time. Every book that remains seems to have a distinct purpose – a lesson to learn, gender fair and anti-racist representation, or beautiful illustrations and rhythmic text. Needless to say, competition for this short list of favorites was hot. Today we’ll talk about one of the winners (and Caldecott award winner), Emily Arnold McCully’s Mirette on the High Wire.

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Book Review: Preschool Gems

Preschool Gems is a collection of wise words straight from the mouths of perspicacious preschoolers.

One of the reasons I love working with preschoolers in the research that I do is that they are so darn honest. This is great if you study stereotype development, as I do, because preschoolers know the world they live in and are happy to report on it frankly. This can actually be something of a horrifying experience for parents when it becomes clear their child is privy to all sorts of cultural stereotypes about gender, race, and so on, and hasn’t yet developed that filter that keeps them from talking about touchy subjects with strange adults. I find it both charming and fascinating.

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Trick or Treat: Halloween Movies

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a great introduction to scary movies for young children, and a classic tale for all ages.

So far in our Trick or Treat series, we’ve covered Halloween costumes and Halloween books. Continuing our quest to get in the Halloween spirit, today we’re going to talk about Halloween movies. Halloween movies are prime time for the evil, ugly witch trope. Fair Play has a couple of alternatives to that, as well as a family-favorite introductory scary movie. There are many, many children’s Halloween movies out there (ABC Family and The Disney Channel generally dedicate most October evenings to children’s Halloween movies). Let’s discuss three examples of gender-fair, family Halloween movies.

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Kid Crafts: Apple Stamps for a Fall Wreath

Apples make great stamps for little hands – and the prints can be made into all sorts of fall-themed decorations!

This is the start of yet another exciting series on Fair Play, called Kid Crafts. We’ll feature child-friendly, generally seasonally appropriate craft tutorials for the whole family using basic art supplies. Today we’re going to use apples as stamps to create a festive fall wreath. Apple stamps are great for little hands. They also create beautiful prints that will appeal even to your more artistically discerning child. If your child can hold an apple half or slice, they can make a print. For this tutorial, Fair Play Boyfriend tries it out.

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Trick or Treat: Halloween Story Time

Our family keeps a seasonal table of holiday books out for a quick read any time of day

One of the best ways to set the tone for the season or an upcoming holiday is with seasonal books. I’m a big supporter of evening family reading, and holiday books are great for this because they get everyone in a common spirit of the season and emphasize the kind of family time the holidays are all about (or should be!). Our family room coffee table becomes a display for holiday books arranged in a fan, easily accessible for a quick read when the mood strikes. The contents varies according to the season, beginning with Halloween and ending with Christmas…or whenever Christmas gets put away, which is often some time in March.

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Trick or Treat: Gender In Halloween Costumes

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about Halloween books and movies to get in the spirit, but today we’re tackling the tough issue of gender in Halloween costumes. Halloween can be a wonderful time for your child to exercise their imagination in generating creative costume ideas. It can also quickly devolve into the Annual Celebration of Gender Stereotypes.

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Goldie Blox Rocks

Photo Credit: Susan Burdick Photography

By the beginning of last week, my inbox was full of emails from friends, classmates, and readers about this Kickstarter link I just had to check out. A wonderful new engineering toy for girls? Nah. The Lego Friends have really dampened my enthusiasm for girl-geared spatial toys. But, killing time before a lab meeting, I opened up the webpage and watched the video and…it was awesome. I was wrong. Debbie Sterling, the Goldie Blox developer, understands both the dearth of toys marketed to girls as well as the fundamental problems girls face beginning at a young age in play and continuing through adulthood which prevent them from ending up as engineers (or physicists, or chemists, or…). It is a lifelong process of shaping both interests and skills that excludes girls and women and maintains a gender imbalance in engineering to the tune of 89 men for 11 women in the case of engineering.

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Game Night: Five Crowns

Five Crowns, available on

Family game nights can include games of all varieties. We’ve covered a team game, an individual game, and now we’re going to tackle a card game. Five Crowns is another popular standby at our family game nights. It is a card game that combines gin techniques in five suits and two decks. I’ve told you before that our family game nights can get a little rowdy, and that’s true with card games as well, but if yours is a more subdued game night, Five Crowns should fit right in.

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