The necessary parts of childhood playtime that keep parents up at night.

Wednesday afternoon, Saturday morning before the sun is fully awake, Friday after a half day from school; it is almost always a perfect time for playtime with my two daughters. From a young age, which seems like a lifetime ago now (I turn my back for a split second and now I’m the dad of a tween and a tween — what the heck!), I’ve been game for whatever they wanted to play with, with me. The only exception to that previous sentence and fatherly sentiment is when their playtime looked set to involve one of the worst playtime products and/or ideas ever conceived. I’m no superman but these playtime "classics" were and still are my kryptonite.


I know that as a parent I’m supposed to love this relatively clean toy that’s capable of occupying children for hours (or at least for many dozens of minutes). And yes, I recognize that it does encourage unique creativity, I cannot deny that, but eeewww that smell and that feel in-between my fingers and underneath my fingernails and All. Those. Pieces. Stuck. In. The. Carpet. No, just no with the Play-Doh.


My first day as a stay-at-home dad, August 22nd, 2008, and I decide to take two young children ages 4 and, gulp, 1 outside to paint because I was going to nail this at-home parenting thing from the word go. I set up a table with paper and paints, drag the high-chair out onto the patio, and tell them to go be their little Picasso-selves. The problem was that this was a really, really, really windy summer day and within minutes their masterpieces-in-progress were scattered all over the backyard and without any paper left on the table to use, my baby’s paint-covered fingers were suddenly in her hair and in her mouth. I was online job-hunting later that night, convinced I was a failure as an at-home dad. That day pretty much closed the door on my daughters’ chances of being a famous painter and confirmed my opinion on paint and painting as a playtime activity.

Sand (and Anything Involving Sand)

Sandy beaches with waves and plastic buckets and warm sunshine and French fry thieving pigeons are one thing but sand anywhere else is an unmitigated disaster. Oh, I know, a sandbox in the backyard always seem like a good idea…until your daughter gets sand in her diaper, until your son buries his stuffed animals in it, and until your outdoor cat discovers the huge new litter box you so kindly put out for him.


…but specifically the 45-minute process of getting kids dressed for playing in the snow only to have them get cold wet snow up into their boot and down the back of their neck and in their sleeve, all within 30 seconds of being outside and they are back inside, crying hysterically and scattering dripping layers, gloves, scarves, hats, boots and jackets all over the entryway.


The Pop-Ups have a song on their last Grammy Award-nominated kid’s album called “Glitter Everywhere” and I break out into hives just reading the title. We’ve never actually listened to that song because glitter everywhere is the most hideous threat anyone could make to a parent.

OWTK is a paid contributor to Clorox’s SpinCycle, helping you navigate the messiness of parenthood.

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