What Attractions Are Open in and Around San Francisco?

More attractions are reopening each week, many by timed tickets only, while others are still closed. I’ve started tracking the status of over 100 family-friendly destinations in and around San Francisco, with updates and new additions every week. Click through to get inspiration for your next outing, figure out where you want to plan a few weeks ahead with advance reservations, and find out which venue has a cap of three celery sticks per person (that one is the Tilden Little Farm!)

The spreadsheet is here. Please share this with anyone who you think might find it helpful!

Click here for the full spreadsheet.

If this listing is helpful for you, I can let you know the next time I have a San Francisco resource to share. Join Littldata’s email list!

My goal at Littldata’s is to help parents in San Francisco and beyond figure out their family logistics by sharing tools such as maps, calendars, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. If you have feedback or ideas for future content, please contact me (Lian) at littldata@gmail.com.

A Visual Calendar of 2021 Summer Camps in San Francisco

This is a listing of in-person 2021 summer camps in San Francisco, with a visual calendar for playing mental Tetris with session dates.

It’s extra difficult to figure out summer camps in San Francisco this year because of the Department of Public Health’s 3 week session minimum, and because camps are all in different stages of releasing information as final guidelines roll out.

So I created a calendar-style listing that lets you visually compare session dates between camps, organized by age and location, which I’ll update as I see more camps open registration. (Last updated 4/1/2021)

Check it out, share it with your friends, and please encourage them to join Littldata’s mailing list so they don’t miss out on future goodies to help parents solve their family’s logistical challenges. I’m hoping to share content here more regularly, some for San Francisco parents and some for parents everywhere.


About Littldata: Littldata’s goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing tools such as maps, calendars, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. If you have feedback or ideas for future content that you’d like to see, please contact Lian at littldata@gmail.com!

Join Littldata’s mailing list here.

Outdoor Toys to Make Fields and Forests Fun for Kids During COVID-19

With California announcing a shelter in place order as of March 19, and many other places likely headed this way soon, families need options for getting fresh air and exercise while managing risks.

One thing to note is that it’s impossible to avoid all risk of transmission, since the virus can remain in the air for 3h, survive for up to 24h on cardboard and for three days on plastic and stainless steel. But we can all do our part to greatly reduce the risk, by:

  • limiting outings to what we need for health and sanity
  • staying at least 6′ away from anyone not in our household
  • reducing contact with surfaces that others may have touched
  • avoiding touching our faces, and washing our hands often

Because being sneezed, coughed, or breathed on by an infected person are the most likely ways to catch COVID-19, this post has recommendations for toys and play ideas that can be helpful to make wide-open and remote spaces more fun for children. Items marked with a $ are more expensive.

For your patio or backyard

  • Water Table (Age 1+) If you have an outdoor space to set it up. Accessorize with a toy egg beater and soap, or water beads, or whatever containers and spoons you have available. If you don’t want to buy a water table, any large container will do. You can also add play sand to your water table. For hygiene, drain and dry toys daily.
  • $ Sandbox Digging machine (Age 3+) If you’re lucky enough to have a large sandbox or other place to dig.
  • $ Climbing dome (Age 1-9) This needs a space at least six feet in diameter, but kids love it for both active and dramatic play.
  • Mini golf (Age 4+) If your child is old enough to use a long golf club semi-responsibly. Also great for the beach or open fields.
  • $ A giant Jenga game (Age 1+) can be used according to the rules, or for more open-ended building.
  • Not a toy, but an idea (Age 2-4) Ask your child to go on “quests,” to go touch “something red,” or “the fence,” or “find a leaf and bring it back.”

For sidewalks and paved spaces

  • $ Micro Mini Deluxe Scooter (Age 1.5-5) Children under 2 are often fascinated by scooters but may not be quite ready for them yet. Great exercise, fun, and transportation once your child figures it out.
  • $ Balance Bike (Age 1.5-5) Most children won’t be ready for a balance bike until at least 2, but again, this can make for great exercise and transportation.
  • A pogo bouncer or hopper ball (Age 3+) builds gross motor skills while getting out plenty of energy. These are also good indoors.
  • Rollerblades or skateboard (Age 5+) for the adventurous child. A helmet is necessary, and protective gear recommended.
  • Moon Ball (Age 5-Adult) A high-bouncing ball that makes a funny pop. Even much older children and adults tend to enjoy this.
  • Don’t forget a helmet for all of the ride-on items.

For open fields

  • A soccer ball (Age 1+) is a classic choice. Choose size 3 for children age 8 and under.
  • T ball (Age 1.5-6) A novelty to learn a new skill: hit, fly, roll, run, retrieve, return, and repeat.
  • Stomp Rockets (Age 2-10) The absolute best toy for making an open field fun, with lots of running and excitement. It’s inexpensive and cheesy, but do not underestimate this toy, even for older children.
  • Kites (Age 3-Adult) are also a great bet if you have access to a large open field.
  • Flying Airplanes (Age 3+) These foam toys are also great for running and playing in an open field.

For beaches

  • Shovel and bucket or beach “baking” toys (Age 1+) for endless sand play.
  • This water blaster (Age 6+) does not look like a weapon but is great at shooting water, and it floats.
  • If your beach has magnetic black sand, a magnet, plastic cup, and piece of paper can create a fascinating science experiment. (Watch this video from the Exploratorium about the magnetic sand at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.) (Age 3+)
  • Most of the toys in the “open fields” section above are also perfect at the beach.

For the forest

  • Bug catching kit, net, and/or magnifying loupe (Age 2+) Everything kids need to explore bugs and other things in the woods.
  • Shovel and bucket (Age 1+) For younger children.
  • Some cotton twine (Age 4+) opens up lots of options for building outdoors, using branches and other natural materials. Be sure to supervise closely for safety, follow park rules, and take the twine with you when you’re done.
  • Binoculars (Age 3+) What toy screams COVID-19 more than one that lets you look at interesting things from a distance? For older children, consider getting a pair of adult binoculars that the whole family can use for years.

You may be able to swap or share toys with other families. Because the virus can live for up to three days on plastic and metal surfaces, many families are choosing to “quarantine” items and boxed deliveries for three days before using, to avoid breaking out the Clorox wipes.

Have an idea that’s not on my list, or other feedback? Please share it with me at littldata@gmail.com


Want to read more? Check out the three easiest things you can do to help your family be well while staying at home during COVID-19; a list of toys that support independent play for ages 1-8; and, if you’re in San Francisco, a map of outdoor places where socially distanced exercise may be possible for the whole family. 

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

Indoor Toy and Play Ideas for Children Aged 1-8

With shelter in place orders, school closures, and working from home as the new norm in our attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19, we need all the help we can get. This post has indoor toy and play ideas for children aged 1-8 to help you keep the peace at home. (Littldata also has a list of social-distance-friendly outdoor toy ideas.)

Quiet, independent, long-duration play is the goal right now for many parents.

In evaluating indoor toy options, my main criteria were: capacity to support independent play, play variety, and duration of interest.

Independent Indoor Play Toys and Ideas

Items marked with $ are investments: they’re expensive, but tend to have resale value, and keep a child’s interest for hours at a time and for years on end. Items marked with a * are often cheaper (or even free) and may include consumable or easy-to-lose parts, but offer great bang for the buck. I’ve sorted what I think are the best bets, based on reviews and anecdotal evidence, to the top of each list.

The age groups are minimums only, and very approximate, so check for ideas in the groups above and (especially) below your child’s age.

Age 1+

  • $ Play Kitchen, Play Food, and Pots and Pans – For one year olds, play with these items will focus on the sensory aspects, while older children will develop increasingly elaborate dramatic narratives and games. (Up to age 5)
  • $ Learning Tower – These large stools with guardrails are not a toy, but a great way to get your kid involved in kitchen activities, and/or for you to be able to engage them while you cook and they play at the counter. (Up to age 5)
  • Mega Bloks – Interlocking blocks for the youngest of children. (Up to age 3)
  • * Single-use homemade food-safe paint – Just add a few drops of food coloring to plain yogurt. For both this and the play-doh, use your strap-in high chair to contain the mess. (Up to age 3)
  • * Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy – For the bath, sink, or water table. (Up to age 4)
  • Most of the toys on the 2+ list are also great for 1 year olds–the main issue is safety, so hold back if your child is still chewing on toys.

Age 2+

  • $ Magna-Tiles – The holy grail of toys for independent play for many families, these toys are endlessly reconfigurable, very easy to use, and are small to store. The wheeled car bases and ‘freestyle’ add-on are also great for the youngest kids. (Up to age 7)
  • $ Duplo – An intermediate between Mega Bloks and Lego in terms of dexterity required, these blocks are also compatible with Lego, giving them extra longevity. (Up to age 4)
  • $ Wood train set by Brio – Another toy that grows with children for years. (Up to age 6)
  • $ Play brooms and cleaning supplies – are surprisingly engaging, since children often love to do what they see adults doing. (Up to age 6, although for an older child you might get this one)
  • $ Lunii Storyteller – this device allows children to select and customize their own audio stories, and can be as enthralling as TV without the screen time. (Up to age 8)
  • * Art and Craft Supplies – This kit includes pom poms, pipe cleaners, felt, and more. Consider adding glue, scotch tape, or colored masking tape. (Up to age 8)
  • * Flashlight
  • Kinetic Sand – Another engaging sensory experience that is relatively easy to clean up, the National Geographic kits come in three different sizes. (Up to age 8)
  • Large Aqua Doodle Mat – These let your children have the fun of painting using just water, saving you the clean-up and need to refill paint supplies. (Up to age 5)
  • Doctor Kit – For playing doctor, although this may be less independent for a solo child. (Up to age 5)
  • $ Ride-on Thomas the Train – Expensive and large, yet not offering much exercise, this toy doesn’t have much to offer–except that it will safely entertain your train-loving toddler for hours, day after day. (Up to 40lbs)
  • * Make slime with cornstarch, water, and food coloring, or mix baking soda and vinegar and watch the excitement bubble. (Up to age 8)

Age 3+

Age 4+

  • $ Lego – This kit has some special parts, such as wheels, but is still very open-ended.
  • $ Marble run – Action-packed and great for this age. Younger children will love this too, but the marbles may pose a choking hazard and the pieces can be hard to fit together. 
  • Haba Tap + Tack – This is a small cork board for creative designs with a hammer, wooden tiles, and nails.
  • Lite Brite – A retro, contemplative toy for children who are patient and able to keep their own toys tidy.
  • Perler Biggie Beads, with pegboard – a larger-diameter version of the Perler Beads meant for older children, these are perfect for 4 year olds.
  • Wipe Clean Workbook – Children love (and learn from) repetition, and this workbook allows them to repeat lessons over and over.
  • My First Orchard – An ideal first board game to be played cooperatively by 1-4 players, this can be played by children as young as two with an adult or patient older child.
  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel – This game is almost as simple to play as My First Orchard, but is competitive, for 2 or more children.
  • Pengoloo – A board game with a little complexity, for two to four children.

Age 6 + 

Wooden clips are small, but allow kids to create big spaces with blankets and sheets.

Physical Indoor Play

These items are for exhausting your kids when you can’t get outside. Most require a bit more space.

  • $ Nugget Couch – Much more than a couch, these strategically-designed cushions support a wide range of physical and imaginative play, if you have the space. 
  • * Alternatively, build a fort using your sofa cushions, chairs, and blankets. These wooden clips can be used to attach blankets.
  • This pop-up tunnel/ball pit/tent system that older babies and younger children will love to explore.
  • $ Indoor Trampoline – This 3’ diameter trampoline has a bar for children to hold.
  • Little Tikes Basketball Net – Indoors or out.
  • Fort builder – A larger building toy that will get your kid using their whole body
  • Foam Pogo Jumper – A pogo jumping toy that can be used indoors or out.
  • * Velcro dart board – The balls are light and safe to use indoors. Kids will run back and forth to play.

Ideas for Play without Buying Things

  • Rotating toys can go a long way in maintaining novelty, and making it a little easier to tidy at the end of the day. Use bins or bags to pack away some toys in a closet for a few days to a few weeks at a time. Young children will often focus well if you set out a few items as provocations at the beginning of the day or play session. 
  • A natural extension of this strategy is to swap toys with friends and neighbors. You can sanitize toys before using a disinfectant spray, or simply quarantine items for at least three days before use.
  • Use things you already have such as building a boat out of cardboard boxes.
  • Introduce household tasks now that your children have all the time in the world to learn how to sort beans, sweep up, sort laundry, wash dishes, etc.
  • Enjoy outdoor time. Open fields, beaches, and forests remain safe options even when playgrounds are off-limits. If hikes are a hard sell with your kids, check out this list of toys for COVID-19 friendly outdoor spaces. For those in the Bay Area, see my map of COVID-19 friendly outdoor places in San Francisco.
  • And screen time. It’s okay, really. Face Time with grandparents, friends, and others can be a great way to keep in touch. Amazon Prime has a wide range of age-appropriate and educational shows for children, as well as a free 30 day trial. And here is a comprehensive list of educational companies offering free subscriptions and services during COVID-19 school shutdowns.

Have an idea that’s not on this list, or other feedback? Please share it with me littldata@gmail.com


Want to read more? Check out the three easiest things you can do to help your family be well while staying at home during COVID-19, or browse all of Littldata’s COVID-19 content in one place.

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

A Map of Outdoor Destinations in San Francisco Where Social Distancing May Be Possible

[Updated March 28, 2020 – Many outdoor destinations have now been closed, including all Parks in Marin County and parking lots at Ocean Beach, Beach Chalet, and Marina Green in San Francisco. I’ve updated the map to reflect this, added more locations for coverage throughout the city, and taken a more cautious attitude towards assessing the suitability of locations for social distancing.]

Given our current Shelter in Place order and the continually escalating COVID-19 situation, it’s clear that the best option is to stay at home whenever possible. However, given the reality of small San Francisco apartments, it’s also clear that many people will choose to go out for exercise as long as it’s allowed.

So, the goal of this map is to help San Franciscans find free outdoor spaces where it may be possible to exercise while maintaining the legally required 6′ of distance from anyone outside your own household. You can filter for destinations by your accessibility needs (stroller, easy walks, and hikes) and by–very roughly–how crowded they tend to be. Of course, if your chosen destination is crowded, please keep moving until you find a more suitable spot.

Get the map by joining Littldata’s email list here.

Some of the city’s most popular parks (and of course all playgrounds) are not included on this map, since they’re often so busy that I didn’t feel comfortable recommending them at all. Also, the city is encouraging everyone to stick to outside areas within walking distance of our own homes and has closed parking lots at many major destinations. You can find the newest info on closures at the top of the SF Recreation + Parks website.

Please email me anytime at littldata@gmail.com with tips, and any other feedback!

Get the map by joining Littldata’s email list here.

Once you join the email list, you’ll automatically be redirected to the map, which you can bookmark so that you can return to it anytime.

On my email list, I’ll periodically be sharing tools and content for parents, such as spreadsheets, calendars, maps, lists, and more. Some content, like this map, will be more specific to San Francisco and the Bay Area, but much of it will be for all parents of young children. You can opt out of the email list at any time, and of course I will never sell your email address.

If you’re looking for some ideas to make all these forests, fields, and cemeteries a little more lively, check out this list of social distance-friendly outdoor toys. Littldata also has a list of indoor toy and activity ideas (including some that are great for patios and backyards). Finally, if you’re among the billions of people currently staying home due to COVID-19, here are the three easiest things you can do to help your family meet some of the physiological, psychological, and social needs that we typically address by going out into the world.

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

A demographic look at the State of Babies Yearbook 2019

A summary of the State of Babies Yearbook 2019 report and a chart comparing key scores from the report with basic political and economic indicators.

This text appears over a photo of a smiling Black toddler with an adult smiling and clapping behind her.  "Babies are born with unlimited potential. For the 12 million infants and toddlers in the United States, the state where they are born and live during their first three years makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life. The littlest among us face big challenges, and we can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child."
Source: State of Babies Yearbook 2019

Nonprofits Zero to Three and Child Trends just dropped a motherlode of data on the wellbeing of babies and toddlers, on both a state-by-state and national level in the U.S. Their State of Babies Yearbook 2019 delves into data across three broad domains: health, families, and early learning.

A table that displays the following text: ZERO TO THREE’s policy framework, grounded in the science of early childhood development, promotes supports for infants and toddlers’ healthy development in three domains: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. These domains form the basis for the indicators in the State of Babies Yearbook: 2019.

*Good Health:
Health Care Access/Affordability Food Security
Nutrition
Maternal Health
Child Health
Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

*Strong Families:
Basic Needs Support
Child Welfare
Home Visiting
Supportive Policies/Paid Leave

*Positive Early Learning Experiences:
Early Care and Education Opportunities Early Intervention and Prevention Services
When babies and toddlers do not have the supports they need to thrive, their development can suffer, leading to lifelong consequences.
Source: State of Babies Yearbook 2019

In each domain, they’ve gathered analyzed a range of data points that provide a snapshot of how babies and families are doing. Some of the factors are direct measures of policies (such as the percent of income-eligible children who have access to Head Start programs), while others are the more complex result of social, economic, and family circumstances (such as the percent of babies whose parents sing and read to them each day). These factors are summarized in a score for each of the three domains. Here’s a page from the resulting report card for California:

A page from the State of Babies Yearbook 2019 PDF that shows the scores for California for Good Health and Strong Families, accompanied by textual analysis.
Source: State of Babies Yearbook 2019

The State of Babies project summarizes each state’s progress in each domain with a score of G (Getting Started), R (Reaching Forward), O (Improving Outcomes), or W (Working Efficiently). In other words, it’s a simple 1-4 scale and a convenient data point to be compared with other factors. So I wanted to see how these indicators of baby and toddler wellbeing compared with basic political and economic factors.

To measure how politically left- or right-leaning each state is, I used data aggregated by Gallup from their 2018 tracking poll, in which respondents were asked whether their political views as liberal, moderate, or conservative. Gallup then creates a “Conservative Advantage” number that is the gap between the percent who identify as conservative and those who identify as liberal. Median household income from the 2015 U.S. Census is used as an indicator of the economic wellbeing of families in each state.

The results are in the chart below. A score of “1” in the State of Babies sections indicates the best conditions for babies, and “4” the worst. For the Conservative Advantage, higher numbers reflect more conservative politics, and lower/negative numbers reflect more liberal politics.

A heatmap chart that shows the three scores from the State of Babies alongside the 'conservative advantage' score from Gallup and median household income, for each state. States are sorted from strongest to weakest State of Babies scores.

The overall trend is that greater wellbeing for babies and toddlers is associated with both more liberal politics and higher median household incomes. A few other points that stand out at a glance:

  • Vermont and Rhode Island both received top State of Babies scores, even though their median household incomes aren’t quite as high as the other states with top scores.
  • Iowa looks like an overachiever in baby care, receiving top scores in both Strong Families and Early Learning, while its politics and median incomes are middle-of-the road.
  • Conversely, Nevada looks like an underachiever in baby care, receiving the lowest scores on all three measures, while its politics and income are both relatively moderate.
  • California is doing well on Good Health and Strong Families, but received the lowest score on Early Learning. The report notes that this “reflects the state’s more burdensome infant care costs as a percentage of single and married parents’ incomes, and its lower percentage of parents who read to and sing songs to their babies daily, when compared to most other states.”
  • Baby and toddler wellbeing indicators tend to trend together, but not always. California, North Carolina, Idaho, New Mexico, and Kentucky all received the lowest score in at least one area while receiving the highest score in another.
  • Alaska is an outlier in a few ways, presumably because of its unique geography, climate, and culture: it has a high income but is quite conservative, and its Strong Families score is high but the others are middle of the road.

This is just a first read, and there’s a ton more data in the Babies Yearbook 2019, which you can access as an interactive or a PDF. They even provide a toolkit if you want to use the data to ask your state and federal lawmakers to make policy changes.

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

Is Steam Train, Dream Train the ideal board book?

Somewhere around the thousandth time that I sat down with my baby and a book in my lap, it occurred to me that not only do most children’s books seem to feature animals instead of humans, but also, many of them end with someone falling asleep. Is there a conspiracy, I wondered, between children’s book authors, publishers, and parents everywhere to make babies and toddlers go the f**k to sleep?

I wanted to know, so I conducted a (rather unscientific) study of 100 popular board books to see how many feature animals and how many end in sleep. Along the way, I noticed that there’s a healthy number of trucks, trains, and other vehicles in these tiny tomes, so I counted those, too.

Here’s what I did: I started with the 90 English-language narrative board books in my home. To bring the total up to 100, I added the first 10 featured children’s board books on Amazon (excluding seasonal holiday books) that weren’t already on the list. I excluded a few books that simply count or name objects, and which lacked sentences, narratable images, or plots.

In tallying each book’s contents, I looked for animals and motorized vehicles that were either active characters or a focus of attention, whether visually or in the text. Imaginary animals (such as those from Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss) and animal-like objects (such as teddy bears) were counted as animals, as long as they were animate and active in the story. Animals and vehicles that appeared in an image’s background without being a focus of attention were not counted.

The last page of Virginia Lee Burton’s 1942 classic, The Little House.

To count sleep, I looked for books that ended either explicitly or implicitly with sleep. For example, the last page of Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House shows a nighttime scene, twinkling stars, and the phrase “and all was quiet and peaceful in the country.” Sleep is not mentioned, but it’s implied, and I counted it.

What did I find? It turns out that 75% of the board books feature animals (whether or not accompanied by the other themes), 24% feature vehicles, and 24% end with someone–an animal, person, vehicle, or combination thereof–falling asleep. Only 14% included none of these things.

Looking at the overlaps, 18% of books had both animals and sleep, 16% had vehicles and animals, and 5% had vehicles and sleep. There are many animals in board books, and a good number of them fall asleep at the end.

Two books out of the 100 had the trifecta of animals, vehicles, and a snoozer of an ending. The first is Steam Train, Dream Train, a 2013 book authored by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. This book followed hot on the heels of the duo’s #1 New York Times bestseller Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, suggesting that this combination of elements was deliberate, if not calculated.

Steam Train, Dream Train not only uses, but thickly layers, these three elements. It features a train, of course, but it also stacks race cars on the train, and shows a yellow digger operated by a giraffe merrily scooping balls into the train’s hopper. The book ends with sleep upon sleep: after a series of vignettes in which various animals bed down to sleep on the train, the scene pans out to reveal that the train is, in fact, a toy on the floor of a young child’s darkened bedroom. The child, meanwhile, sleeps quietly in bed. It’s a sweet ending that playfully yet insistently suggests to children that everyone and everything goes to sleep at the end of the day.

This isn’t even the last page! Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (2013)

The other book that includes animals, a vehicle, and sleep is The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. The vehicle here is much less pronounced; it’s a boat that the animals are living on, and it never shows any of the mechanical guts and parts that toddlers love. So it is not as obviously in the spirit of the trifecta, but it is a delightful short book for younger babies and toddlers alike about bedtime routines and sleepy time.

Of course, there are also excellent books that avoid these formulas entirely. Of the 14 books on the list that do not contain animals, vehicles, or a sleepy ending, many are stories that depict everyday lives and experiences. There is Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 The Snowy Day, with its spacious description of a child’s encounter with snow in an urban neighborhood in New York. And there is Amy Wilson Sanger’s unfolding of the rhythms and pleasures of a family dim sum outing, as told through collage and rhyme in her 2003 book Yum Yum Dim Sum.

Whether or not Steam Train, Dream Train is the ideal board book, its deft use of some of the most common baby and toddler book themes will rank it among the most familiar-feeling of volumes. And that should be comforting to children–and to their parents, who need them to go to sleep.

Sign up for Littledata’s mailing list here.

Here are all 100 books:

Animals, vehicles, and sleep

Steam Train, Dream Train2013
The Going to Bed Book1982

Animals and sleep

Babar and His Family1973
Behowl the Moon2017
Big Red Barn1954
Curious George and the Bunny2010
Go to Sleep, Little Farm2014
God Bless You and Good Night2013
Good Night, Gorilla1994
Goodnight Moon1947
Guess How Much I Love You1994
I Am a Bunny1963
I Love You, Little One1998
I Love You, Stinky Face1997
If Animals Kissed Good Night2008
Olivia’s ABC2014
Pajama Time!2000
There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!1974

Vehicles and sleep

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site 2011
The Little House1942
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?2012

Animals and vehicles

1, 2, 3 To the Zoo1968
All the World2009
Are You My Mother?1960
Counting Cars2016
Curious George Rides1952
Harold’s ABC1963
Jamberry1982
Little Blue Truck2013
Little Elliot, Big City2014
Llama Llama Misses Mama2009
Peek-a Who?2000
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks from A to Z1990
Sheep in a Jeep1986
The Shape of Me and Other Stuff1973

Animals only

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?2007
Baby Beluga1980
Barnyard Dance!1993
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?1967
But Not the Hippopotamus1982
Caps for Sale1940
Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type2000
Corduroy1968
Curious George Goes Fishing2001
Dear Zoo1982
Do Cows Meow?2012
Doggies1984
Dr. Seuss’s ABC1963
Each Peach Pear Plum1978
Everything Is Mama2017
From Head to Toe1997
Gallop!2007
Giraffes Can’t Dance1999
Green Eggs and Ham1960
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? 2006
I Love You Through and Through2005
Little Green Frog2016
Max’s New Suit1979
Moo, Baa, La La La!1982
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?1970
My First Peek-a-Boo Animals2017
Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs1993
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!1975
On the Night You Were Born2005
Open the Barn Door…1993
P Is for Potty!2014
Pat the Bunny1940
Potty2010
Ready, Set, Brush!2008
Some Bugs2014
The Foot Book1968
The Mitten1989
The Napping House1984
The Pout-Pout Fish2008
The Very Hungry Caterpillar1969
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt1989
Where’s Spot?1980
Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA2015

Vehicles only

Busy Fire Station2015
Madeline1939
Road Builders1994
Roadwork2008
Trucks2013

Sleep only

Nighty-Night2017
Peepo!1981
Welcome, Precious2006

Neither animals nor vehicles nor sleep

Beep Beep Robot! A Spinning Gears Book2017
Brush, Brush, Brush!2010
Bye-Bye Time2017
Calm-Down Time2010
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom1989
Foods With Moods: A First Book of Feelings2018
I Am a Big Brother1997
Quantum Physics for Babies2013
Sharing Time2009
Snow1998
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes2008
The Snowy Day1962
Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?2000
Yum Yum Dim Sum2003

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

A two-year-old’s poop rage

This is the first entry in the Poop Doula Tales, a library of parents’ real potty training stories. You can submit your own story, or join Littldata’s mailing list for updates.

  • age: 24-27 months
  • gender: male
  • method: Oh Crap Potty Training
  • tags: constipation, bare bottom, cold turkey, rage, hovering

Early experiments. My 1 year old son (I’ll call him M) taught himself to pee on command. When his diaper was off, he’d flex his little round belly and stare at his penis until a thin stream puddled on the floor. Naturally, he found this mesmerizing.

I didn’t think M was ready for potty training, as he was neither verbal nor particularly obedient nor at all aware of the concept of a mess–but I also didn’t want to quash his learning about bodily functions. After a few attempts at catching his pee in a cup and talking about excretion, which disastrously resulted in M darting into a corner to poop on the floor, I sought advice from other parents.

I was encouraged to get a potty so that we could establish a choice and boundaries: he could either poop and pee in his diaper, or in the potty, and nowhere else. This basically worked, as he used the potty a few times over the next several weeks, but I didn’t push it and we were still in diapers for many more months. At least he wasn’t pooping on the floor anymore!

Like all parents, I secretly hoped that by placing this highly-rated potty chair in his room, my child would potty train himself.

No more diapers. As M’s second birthday approached, we felt that the timing was right. He was more verbal, eager to please, and aware of the difference between dirty and clean. We didn’t want to do it just before starting preschool, which would happen at his second birthday, so we decided on the two week preschool winter break. I got two more potties, read Oh Crap! Potty Training, rolled up our carpets, and prepared to grind it out.

On the first day of winter break, we said “no more diapers,” and our son went naked from the waist down. There were several pees on the floor but by hustling M over to the potty, we usually managed to end in the correct spot, and we could see that he was learning.

We felt encouraged after the first day, but also aware that he hadn’t pooped at all, as compared with his usual twice-daily schedule. The second day, we continued to make progress on pee and even managed to get a small poop in the potty. We felt great.

Everything according to plan.

Day three was when it fell apart. We don’t know exactly what happened, but the novelty of potty training was probably starting to wear thin, especially with our constant hovering. There was pee on the floor with no fucks given, and M was running around on his tiptoes while grabbing his bum, not knowing how to get the poop out.

There had only been one small poop over the three days, and we were worried that if constipation made his next poop hard and painful, it would become difficult making any progress at all. So we gave him prune pouches and vowed to back off, simply saying things like “let me know when you need help with the potty.” M was trying. My husband said he’ll never forget the serious, ashen look on M’s face when he said “Poop coming, Daddy, big poop coming!”

Poop rage. The next few days were up and down. Backing off seemed to help, until it didn’t. We were doing a lot of laundry, and developing a new term: “poop rage.” When he felt a poop on its way, our son would shriek and run around, throwing toys and overturning furniture. When he thought the poop might be making its final descent, he would dash over to the potty chair, but then spring back up almost immediately. If he got the poop in the potty, it was with milliseconds to spare.

At 9 lbs and 20″ high, this stool was one of the larger things M threw during his poop rages.

At one point, he leaped off the potty so fast that the poop, still attached to his bum, ended up on the floor. This caused a meltdown, because he felt he had done what he was supposed to do, and yet didn’t get the outcome and praise he was expecting.

After several days of this, we were at our wits’ end and shifted strategies again, going back towards a more in-your-face approach. When M clearly needed to poop, we brought him to the potty and did what we had to do for him to stay sitting: cajoling, manhandling, toys, screen time. We got some poops out this way, and there was progress, but there was still lots of jumping off the potty, and we were still getting poops in the pants and on the floor. It was around this time that I got “food” poisoning and spent an evening in a cold sweat. I was tired of this shit.

With the new trains he got for Christmas, he could sit on the potty for a long time, but usually with no results.

The big toilet. There were only a few days before M would be back at preschool. It was frustrating, because we had devoted our entire winter holiday to potty training and we still weren’t sure if he would be far enough along to be out of diapers at preschool.

We decided that the little potties weren’t working for us anymore. They had been essential in those first few days when proximity was key, but at this point it seemed more important for him to learn to poop without running around in a panic. Because the big toilet was not something he could leap off so easily, we decided to make the switch, with the help of the very stable IKEA toilet seat.

This was when we felt like poop doulas, because we would stay with our son for fifteen minutes or more at a time, holding his hands literally and figuratively. Sometimes we’d show him the animated story ‘Poo Goes to Pooland’ to make it fun and help him stay on the toilet a little longer. Sometimes we’d look away and talk about closing our eyes and listening for the “plop”–an idea that appealed to him after we let him hear our own poops fall into the toilet. Sometimes we’d block the bathroom door and play bad cop, telling him he had to stay in the bathroom until he pooped. Sometimes he needed us to hold him. One particularly memorable time, M grabbed me with both arms and screamed “Mommy!” just before letting out a particularly large log.

It was an intense few days, and it was clear to us that learning how to navigate the sensations and process of pooping on the toilet was a new and difficult thing that our son had to figure out on his own. This wasn’t something he could really understand by watching, in the same way that you can watch someone else walk or hold a spoon. But it started getting easier each time.

This could last for over half an hour.

Gear and outings. It so happened that at this point, we didn’t have a stool the correct height for M to climb on or off the toilet on his own, and I think this was helpful for those few days, as it helped him to stay on the toilet. After some trial and error, we eventually settled on the IKEA Bolmen stool, whose height is helpfully about halfway between the floor and toilet. For convenience, we also eventually installed a training toilet seat on our toilet, the kind that replaces the usual toilet lid and hinges up and down to reveal the adult toilet seat below.

At the same time as all of this, we were also working towards longer outings, with the help of a folding toilet seat cover (for public restrooms) and a travel potty (for hikes and other places far from toilets). There was some trial and error, but nothing as dramatic or frustrating as the poop training.

Big kid underwear!

Where we are now. In the end, after 16 days of intensive potty training with two parents on full duty, our son was able to go back to school commando, and started wearing underwear (the GAP ones fit him well) about two weeks after that.

We often still need to prompt and coerce him into visiting the toilet, in the same way that it’s hard to get him to get dressed or come to the table for dinner. I think it’ll be months before he’s fully self-initiating, as he gets very involved in his play and just doesn’t care that much if his pants get wet. But on the bright side, he doesn’t seem to have poop accidents, which we think is related to the fact that he struggled to get his poops out, and still has to focus to get it done.

We still use diapers for sleep. After a few weeks of training, his nap diaper started to stay dry about half the time, and as this gets more consistent, we’ll move him to training underwear for sleep, but we’re not in a rush.

While our process was definitely labor-intensive, it’s worked out well for our family and we’re so proud of our little guy.

The Poop Doula Tales is part of Littldata’s Potty Project, which also includes the Potty Training Exit Survey, a quantitative investigation into potty training timing, methods, and results. This post uses Amazon Affiliate links. Littldata may earn a small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on a link and buy a product. You can join Littldata’s mailing list here.

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

How to protect your family from the measles

The short answer is, obviously, to make sure you’re all vaccinated. But vaccination schedules can have variations and there are a few factors at play. Given the current measles scare, I wanted to make sure my family was doing all we could to protect ourselves, as this is what I found.

First, why are we talking about measles? Because there’s an outbreak right now. According to the CDC, in January 2019, seventy-nine cases of measles were confirmed, across ten states. There have been outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases) in New York State, New York City, and Washington State, associated with travelers coming back from Israel and Ukraine. [Update as of April 10, 2019: There are now 228 cases just in Williamsburg, and 285 in Brooklyn, NY overall, which have prompted the city to declare a state of emergency and institute mandatory vaccines, with fines for non-compliance.]

Outbreaks happen when there isn’t herd immunity, when not enough people are immune in a community and the disease starts to spread. The best way to prevent measles is through the MMR vaccine.

Is your family immune?

Babies 0-12 months are probably not immune.

What you can do: Especially if there are measles cases in your area, try to make sure family, friends, and caregivers spending time with your baby are vaccinated. If your baby is in a high-risk context, such as traveling internationally or in contact with many unvaccinated people, it may be worth asking your pediatrician about getting vaccinated before the standard 12-15 months. Early vaccination for babies 6-11 months is recommended by the CDC for babies traveling internationally or in an epidemic situation.

Details: Babies often have some “passive immunity” due to antibodies received from their mother in utero or through breastmilk, but most babies likely don’t have enough to protect them from the disease. Babies can, however, be vaccinated before 12 months. It’s not harmful but is simply less likely to be effective, because a baby’s low-level passive immunity can prevent them from reacting to the vaccine with a sufficient immune response to become protected. Note that babies immunized before 12 months will likely still need two additional shots in the future at the usual ages. It can be an extra step to take during an outbreak or in higher-risk contexts, but because the vaccine is less likely to be effective before 12 months, remember that it’s not a substitute for avoiding crowds and people who may have the measles.

Adults and children over 1 year are probably immune, by two weeks after their first MMR shot.

What you can do: Check your medical records to make sure both doses of the MMR vaccine have been given on schedule. Check your state’s vaccination laws or databases to confirm the vaccination rates at your children’s schools. If your child is in a high-risk context, such as living in a city with an outbreak, or attending a Waldorf or religious school without herd immunity, you could ask your pediatrician about getting the second shot earlier. If your child has a medical condition that means they can’t get the MMR vaccine and there are measles cases in your area, you may want to make sure that anyone in regular contact with them is vaccinated.

Background: Current CDC recommendations are for two doses. The first dose, typically given between 12 and 15 months, is effective in causing immunity for 93% of people. With the second dose, typically given between 4 and 6 years of age, 97% of people become immune. Here’s the thing: the second shot can be given earlier than 4 years, as long as it has been at least 28 days since the first shot. Waiting until age 4 to 6 has more to do with “administrative considerations,” that is, so that immunizations required for school attendance can be conveniently given and recorded all at once. So it’s possible to ask about getting the second shot early; just know that your child may still need another shot before attending school and that the additional shot may not be covered by your insurance.

And yes, you can get a blood draw to check whether measles antibodies are present. If I were considering optional travel to a place with a current measles outbreak (at the time of posting, that’s Israel and Ukraine, but you can check current travel notices here), I might get the blood draw done to see if I have immunity or not. Otherwise, though, if you’re getting a needle anyways, your doctor may suggest that you just get an MMR booster instead.

Who needs a booster?

Measles immunity is considered to last for life, so anyone who has received two shots should not need another. According to the CDC, you will be assumed to be adequately vaccinated if any one of the following applies:

  • one or more doses of a measles-containing vaccine administered on or after the first birthday for preschool-age children and adults not at high risk
  • two doses of measles-containing vaccine for school-age children and adults at high risk, including college students, healthcare personnel, and international travelers
  • laboratory evidence of immunity (blood draw/titer)
  • laboratory confirmation of measles
  • birth before 1957 (note: this is because the vaccine was introduced in 1963, so people born in 1957 or earlier almost certainly have been exposed to measles already.)

The vaccine isn’t old enough for lifetime immunity to be completely assured, however, so if you’re concerned, check with your doctor about getting a titer (blood draw) or booster shot.

Looking for data? Each state has different vaccination laws, but you can get a snapshot and click through to details on each state here. If you’re curious about state legislative changes, you can find those here. In California, you can check vaccination rates at all daycares and preschools, elementary schools, and middle schools. California vaccination rates have gone up since 2016, when a new law banning personal belief exemptions came into force, but there are still schools where there is not herd immunity. You can also check school vaccination rates for other states, including Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

You can also check out the New York Times’ measles explainer, published on February 20, 2019.

Disclaimer: I’m not a physician, just a worried parent. Check with your doctor!

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

Cars, guns, and the deaths of American children

Every death of a child is a tragedy. According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), these tragedies are all too common in the United States, with children here being 57% more likely than children in other wealthy countries to die by the age of 19. Deaths of children and teenagers from age one to nineteen in the U.S. are also now more likely to be due to injuries (61%) rather than illnesses (39%).

This is in part because over the years, advances in sanitation, vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment have reduced the chance of dying from infectious diseases. In 1900, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea and enteritis were the most common causes of death for the entire U.S. population, with 40% of these deaths being those of children. By 2016, the most recent data available, none of these diseases were among the ten leading causes of death for children.

Among injury deaths, most (57%) were unintentional, with suicides (21%) slightly more common than homicides (20%).

Cars, or motor vehicle collisions, comprised the largest single cause of death, killing 4,074 young people in the United States in 2016, or 20% of child deaths overall. At 15%, firearms are the second largest cause, with 59% of these deaths classified as homicides, 35% as suicides, and 4% as unintentional. Although drowning is a relatively less common cause of death, it was the most common cause of death among the youngest children, age one to four.

Child deaths from car crashes have decreased significantly since the early 2000s, which the authors attribute to seat belt and child car seat use, more stringent safety standards and features in cars and roads, graduated driver-licensing programs, and campaigns to reduce teen drinking and driving. But more recently, from 2013 to 2016, the rate of car crash deaths has increased. According to the authors, the causes for this reversal are not yet fully known, but likely include an increase in distracted driving due to peer passengers and the use of cell phones. Of course, this time period coincides with increased ownership of smartphones among teenagers, with smartphone ownership among all Americans increasing from 35% to 70% between 2011 and 2016.

As the rate of unintentional gun-related deaths has remained relatively stable, the increase in gun deaths from 2013 to 2016 reflects rising rates of firearm homicide (increased by 32%) and suicide (by 26%). In 2016, there were 126 unintentional child firearm deaths (and 50 more with an undetermined intention), which could have been made less likely through safer gun practices. This leaves almost 3,000 gun-related deaths of children through homicide and suicide.

Instead of seeing child injury deaths simply as “accidents,” the study’s authors pointed out that these are “social ecologic phenomena that are amenable to prevention.” Public health initiatives have made progress in reducing the number of children who die from car crashes, drowning, and residential fires, but in comparison with other countries, the United States has a long way to go. For cars and even more so for guns, the United States has the highest rates of child death as compared with other wealthy countries. Maybe this isn’t so surprising, given that the United States is the only country in the world with more guns than people.

If you’re wondering what you can do to protect the children and teens in your life, you can check out the CDC’s child injury prevention tips. For motor vehicle collisions, these tips include things like using seat belts and child car seats correctly and consistently. The CDC child injury page does not mention guns.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed data from the Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) system of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which collects information from U.S. death certificates. Check it out here for more details.

Get the latest Littldata here.

About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.

I would love to hear from you anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.