“The Story of Stuff” with Kids

School ends tomorrow, as I write this. We don’t have much in the way of camps or full-day activities set up for the kids, part of the me-not-working decision. (See previous post.) Instead we undertake what I refer to as Mom Camp. Just me and my three young friends exploring Boulder’s vast holdings. (Let’s hope they feel vast this year.) Anyway, I’m not sure how my blog writing will change with our summer schedule.

Therefore, I’m going to take the next two weeks away from writing in order to transition once again into full-time parenting. Also, we’ll be pulling off a DIY home renovation project over the next two weeks which will leave our computer harder to access. I’m sure I’ll be updating you on Mom Camp and the “moving a wall in our basement” project. Until then…


Our family doesn’t watch a lot of television. What has actually helped immensely on this front is the fact we don’t have cable. When the only channel is PBS, and even that doesn’t come in on windy days, the kids just aren’t drawn to television as much.

Because our TV screen has less to offer than those of other homes, my kids’ focus often turns to our family computer, located in our most trafficked home zone. The two older ones enjoy emailing their friends, watching YouTube videos forwarded by friends or relatives, or exploring programs like Worldmapper.org. It’s nice for me that we all share the computer because I’m not the sole person shooing kids off this screen. Instead the “shooer” tends to be the next person with a computing need.

Even so, we try to not have this computer on constantly. (We have another computer for Todd’s work by the way, no kids allowed.)

The other day when Daniel couldn’t figure out anything better to do, he asked me if he could play this online, math-based computer game, the only type of video game he’s allowed access to at our house right now. It gets so exhausting to say no to kids all the time! I know you get this. I’m always trying to set up yes situations, but this time of year seems to be extra “no” heavy with so many end-of-school projects, tests, and events to do.

Daniel begged perhaps two more times to play the math game, when finally I came out with a yes. Not to the low-quality computer game featuring Garfield of all characters, but a “yes” to something else on the computer.

I told my  kids, “Here’s the deal. You have to ask me before you watch YouTube videos or play online games on our computer. But you never have to ask me before you watch Story of Stuff videos. You can watch any of them as many times as you want!”

They were pretty into my new rule. (They probably thought at least they had a foot in the door.) But I had my visions too.

As you may have guessed, I love the message in The Story of Stuff. I adore its funky cartoon format which engages kids and adults alike. I love that I learn so many new facts watching them. And as I may have mentioned elsewhere, Annie Leonard is one of my current day heroes.

Before I made my proclamation, I’d already shown my kids The Story of Stuff. Daniel watched it first when he was 9 and could understand the general message, especially when he viewed it more than once over the next few weeks. Annie, age 7, comes and goes and probably doesn’t really get it, but she’s not about to say no to one of Mama’s few screen-time yesses.

One morning last Fall, I was watching The Story of Cosmetics for the first time and soon 12 year-old Stephen was peering over my shoulder. I hadn’t even called him over like I usually do.  I figured he’d never last through a make-up video, but I was wrong. I’m telling you, Annie Leonard has power.

Then a couple months ago at Annie and Daniel’s school it was indoor recess again due to rain. We Coloradans just aren’t very familiar with rain and frequently keep the kids inside because of it. (Can’t remember one day of indoor recess as a kid in wet, green Virginia.) After school Daniel proudly exclaimed, “I had my class watch The Story of Bottled Water at indoor recess! They really liked it.”

I think you’re going to like it too.  These are only 3 of 6 videos.  Check out the Story of Stuff website to see them all!  Leave a comment below with which one you liked best.

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