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A fact-filled fun tour of all that's newsy for dads
By Bruce Kluger
Fatherhood by the Numbers
Single moms may still outnumber solo dads by a ratio of five-to-one, but according to statistics, fathers are gaining fast. The latest figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that the number of single-father homes has vaulted by 25 percent over the past three years, even as the number of single-mother households has remained constant. The author of the report, Lynne Casper, says the new numbers reflect an "increased trend toward a more active role in fathering," a movement that has been helped in part by changes in custody procedures, a greater social acceptance of single parenting by dads, and the rise of organizations that promote fathers' rights.
The Write Stuff
Kids getting tired of the same old stories at bedtime? Easy solution: tell them to write their own. The "Create a Story" feature at www.storytelling.com offers children the opportunity to flex their imaginations-and hone their writing skills-by permitting them to fashion original stories, based on suggestions from child education expert and Chicago-area storytelling guru Naomi LeitholdGiven basic themes and "story-starters" by Leithold, your budding Hemingway need only finish the tale, after which he or she can enjoy the instant gratification of seeing the tale posted on the site. "It's a great way to help kids build their confidence," says Leithold. "And there's no better motivator for writing than seeing it in print."
Dad on the Tube
If prime time television programming is any indicator, fatherhood is about to enjoy another round of positive P.R. In announcing their lineups for the fall season, nearly all of the major networks revealed that they will be rolling out at least one new sitcom about the adventure of hands-on daddydom. Included in the fatherland-rush are ''American Wreck'' on CBS, starring Daniel Stern as a single father who runs a community center; The Dad (ABC), a comedy starring Jim Belushi in the title role; One on One (UPN), about a single father raising a 14-year-old girl; and Fox's The Bernie Mac Show, in which a married man unexpectedly adds a brood of three to his household when his sister enters a drug treatment program. And you thought Father Knows Best knew best.
Quote if the Month
"It is time for all to know that a divorced dad is still a dad. Time for public discourse and public policy to go beyond gender stereotypes and the fears that perpetuate them. Time to change the laws and practice of divorce in such a way that both parents can be actively involved in their children's lives after divorce. Even though there are so many of us, we each experience the loss, the injuries and insults of divorce in isolation-which makes it hurt all the more. We wouldn't be human if we didn't feel pain, anger, resentment, self-doubt, even despair. These feelings are difficult to deal with, but they are normal. There is no gain whatsoever in denying their existence."
-from Still A Dad: The Divorced Father's Journey, by Serge Prengel
You are There
One more way that learning can be fun. The new "Faces" application on the iknowthat.com website allows your child to insert his or her photograph into a historic setting, and in the process, learn a thing or two about the world we live in. "I want every kid to grow up with a broad vision of life's possibilities," says Gary Kiliany, the man behind iKnowthat.com and the father of two. "When a young girl like my daughter sees herself in a space suit or alongside Amelia Earhart, it helps her see the world beyond her backyard." Among the other career choices your child can select with the "Faces" application: Balinese dancer, jet pilot, firefighter, surgeon and participant at the Yalta conference. Have fun.
As non-motorized scooters continue to crop up on sidewalks and blacktops across America, so do skinned knees, broken bones-and worse. A three-month study of children (ages 3 to 12) who visited a New York hospital emergency room revealed that 87 percent were injured by a fall off a scooter. Among the causes for these accidents were irregular pavements, lost balance, improper brake usage, riding tandem with another child, and being hit by a car. In response to these hazards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that scooters be ridden only by children 8 years and older, and that the following precautions be taken:
- Outfit your child with the proper protection, including a helmet, kneepads, elbow pads, and wrist guards.
- Instruct your child to ride only in areas away from motor vehicles, and not to ride tandem with other children.
- Always supervise your child's scooter activity to ensure safety.
The Juice on Juice
Just because you give your kids fruit juice in order to sidestep the high-calorie, low-nutrients, tooth-rotting scourge of soda pop doesn't mean you're in the clear. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, chronic fruit juice consumption can cause its own host of problems, including chronic diarrhea, gassiness, bloating, and abdominal pain. Additionally, habitual fruit juice consumption can prevent a child from developing a taste for real fruit (which has the crucial fiber content lacking in juice extracts) and lead to obesity and tooth decay if sipped throughout the day. In the case of infants, juice can also lead to malnutrition if it prematurely replaces breast milk or formula, which contain significantly more protein, iron, calcium and fat. The Committee recommends that whole fruit should be encouraged as a juice alternative in your child's diet, and that infants should not drink more than 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day (and never under the age of six months). In all cases, says the Committee, only pasteurized juices should be served to your children.
Ask any car dealer and he'll tell you: men like their vehicles loaded up with all the gadgets money can buy. So why should their kids' exersaucers be any different? The Ultrasaucer (Evenflo, $79.99) is the mother-er, father-of all kiddie-spinners, with enough dashboards and doo-dads to keep your little one deliriously distracted through, say, four innings of prime-time baseball. Looking more like a spaceship escape pod than rotating kids' seat, the Ultrasaucer boasts 10 push-and-poke activities, swivel-, bounce- and rock-motions, and a seat that is adjustable to three different heights. And it's a snap to assemble-literally. (For kids four months and up.)
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