You Know, For Kids: A Selective Guide to Family Fun
Just reading to and with them is pretty great, but there's something extra-special about going to the movies.
In a sea of parenting sites and mommy blogs, Myles McDonnell's wonderfully smart You Know, For Kids is an island of good taste and great reading. Part of the SAY 100 parenting channel, this is the site for parents who really care about the quality of the media their tots are consuming. A magazine editor in New York and the former children's entertainment editor at Cookie magazine, Myles is always on the lookout for children's products that appeal to his two young boys – and to him. Spend some time here and you'll find it’s impossible not to feel Myles McDonnell’s genuine love for great stuff coursing through every post.
We checked in with Myles via email to find out what his current media favorites are for kids, where he goes online for parenting inspiration, his own parenting role models – and what Dads really want for Father's Day.
What's your filter for quality media and what makes it on the site? It's tempting to fall back on the old (and quite inappropriate for this subject matter, considering its origins!) chestnut "I know it when I see it," but that would be a cop-out, wouldn't it? But my filter really is simple: Anything that our sons really enjoy that my wife and I enjoy, too. And it is always pretty easy to tell.
Still, even those criteria pare away a lot of media right off the bat—there's plenty of stuff my kids seem to enjoy that bores me to tears or drives my wife from the room screaming. And the opposite is true, too: A children's book or a toy we find appealing may be aimed too much at adults—and the children pick it up and put it right down.
As far as what actually makes it on the blog, that's a different story—there's way more great stuff out there that I see than I have time to write about every week. (That's one reason I started the ever-changing "In the Moment" sidebar, which gives me a chance to recommend things I can't always fit into the full posts.)
For people new to your site, what are your current top 5 picks for music, books, and movies for parents and young children to share together? This list would literally change by the day (and by "current picks" I mean stuff that's come out relatively recently—otherwise I'd have to cram this full of Sendak and Dahl and the like!), but today...
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy
Hades: Lord of the Dead, by George O'Connor
I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
Press Here, by Hervé Tullet
In Tents, Recess Monkey (technically it doesn't come out till June, but it's worth waiting for!)
Make Believer, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Can't Wait, Grenadilla
The Golden State, The Hipwaders
Can You Canoe?, The Okee Dokee Brothers
The Pirates: Band of Misfits (in theaters now)
The Muppets (on DVD)
The Adventures of Tintin (on DVD, and criminally underrated)
Hugo (on DVD)
Gustafer Yellowgold's Year in the Day (really a CD/DVD combo, but the best way to experience these songs--with the exception of seeing them live, that is!)
What's a favorite recent thing that happened to you as a Dad? I noticed my older son reading one of my all-time favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, all by himself. Thus proving that he isn't merely pretending to be interested in the book just to humor me. (Unless he's incredibly crafty, I guess.)
What's your favorite thing to do with your kids and why? Just reading to and with them is pretty great, but I have to say, there's something extra-special about going to the movies with them. Maybe it's because we watch so many movies today at home, and the family-movie-outing experience is that much rarer nowadays. Anyway, it always feels like an occasion, and I've come to treasure that. (Or maybe it's just that these are the only times I manage to get to a movie theater these days?)
Where do you go online for inspiration? The two most useful and inspiring blogs for my purposes—and the ones I'm always trying to be more like, in terms of both quality and volume—are Stefan Shepherd's Zooglobble and Jeff Bogle's Out with the Kids. Zooglobble is simply the best go-to resource for all things kids' music, and it's the first place I turn when I'm looking for information on the subject: new releases, reviews, concerts, music videos—you name it. And just as I do, OWTK covers it all—books, music, games, toys, movies—but Jeff's coverage is enviably comprehensive. I don't know if I visit him for inspiration as much as motivation to be better, and to post more, myself!
Beyond that, it has nothing whatsoever to do with kids, but I spend a lot of time at Alex Belth's wonderful Bronx Banter. I originally went for the sports coverage, but I stayed for the great writing about all things New York City--history, culture, media, you name it.
And I also still spend wayyyy too much time watching stuff on YouTube, from old Flight of the Conchords clips to the Sesame Street mashup of the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot" (seriously, check it out) to Henri the Existential Cat.
Do you follow any other parenting/Dad blogs? Who else is doing it right and why? I wish I had more time to read them, but most of my little spare time nowadays goes to trying to consume more media for my own blog! Most of the ones I do frequent are kind of genre parenting blogs, rather than general parenting ones: The aforementioned Out with the Kids for entertainment; the amazing Dinner: A Love Story for food and cooking; Travels with Clara for, well, serious travel envy.
You're currently the copy chief at BRIDES magazine. How does that turn up in your blog – or does it? Ha! I guess it probably must somehow—just working at a consumer magazine keeps me vaguely in touch with young-person culture, so I'm marginally more in the know than a 42-year-old parent like me would be otherwise. (Lucky me, I can make a Nicki Minaj reference!)
Who are your role models as a father and why? My own Dad and those of my close friends, of course—the paternal figures of my own life. Plus, a little more delusionally, a few from literature and the movies—maybe a combination of Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and Lionel Barrymore's character in You Can't Take It With You? (Well, it's something to shoot for.)
You’re a discerning reviewer and Father's Day is coming – any suggestions for gift ideas for Dads? Well, personally I'm hoping for a copy for the latest volume of Robert Caro's LBJ biography—but then, I'm a crazy history buff. (For those Dads who aren't, though, it might double as a useful barbell of sorts, at 736 pages.) More generally, though: I think Dads will always be grateful for anything we don't have the chance to treat ourselves to anymore—whether that's a bottle of single malt Scotch or The Wire from iTunes or tickets to a hockey game will, naturally, depend on the individual Dad. (Though, being no fool, I did pick three examples that I myself would find mighty pleasing!)
Follow Myles on Twitter @uknowforkidsblog.