Spa “Fun” for 7 Year Olds

Nothing nakreesetk
against spas or a bit of pampering, even though that kind of thing isn’t for me. What I have against the spa market actively targeting the under-teen crowd is the idea that kids need fun to be DONE to them, not that they can MAKE their own fun. As Julie Turkewitz reports in The New York Times:

It was a day out at the spa for Paige Ehresman and her closest friends. Manicures. Hairdos. Makeup. And some gossip — about second grade.

The spa industry has begun to target children in a big way, going way beyond mother-daughter manicures. Adult spas are adding separate menus of services for girls, usually ages 4 to 14. In most major cities, there are now dedicated day spas for children, offering a range of massages, facials and other treatments for girls (and sometimes boys) too young to have had their first pimple.

“I feel like the best princess in the world,” said Paige, who celebrated her seventh birthday at Sweet and Sassy, a national chain of spas that boasts that its cosmetologists are specially trained to work with children. After the beauty treatments, Paige and her guests walked down a red carpet and disappeared into a hot pink limousine, which took the squealing children on a spin around the parking lot. One 6-year-old guest documented the revelry in a series of selfies.

Ok, the writer knows most of her readers will probably be appalled. What’s most appalling to me, for some reason, is that the spas are “suggesting oil rubs for heels worn rough by barefoot play…”

WHAT barefoot play? It just feels as if the “play” part of kids’ lives is being replaced by the “getting” part. Not that most kids are going to spas. But there is something twisted about a society that pretends that kids are out there, Huck-like, playing so much that they need some R&R.

R&R for kids IS playing!

At the party here in Aurora last month, Paige’s mother, Kari Ehresman, 33, said she was thrilled to be able to treat the girls to a day of playful pampering.

“They do deserve something special,” said Ms. Ehresman.

Yes they do — free time, with their friends. They can always play “spa” if that’s what they really want. – L.

I want to be like mommy! Inert!

I want to be like mommy! Inert!

, , ,

102 Responses to Spa “Fun” for 7 Year Olds

  1. Thea January 13, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    My sister and I played “spa” in the red clay of South Carolina by turning on the house and making mud. I can’t claim any actual beauty impacts but it was a lot of fun.

  2. E January 13, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    Personally, I didn’t have birthday parties when I was a kid (nor did my siblings) and my kids only had them at ages 1, 5, 10 (and they were really low key).

    But this is a birthday party. How is this different than if they go to a play gym or lunch and a movie or horseback riding or any other planned commercial activity?

    I’m the last person who uses Spa services (I can’t justify the cost), but if a family wants to recognize their child’s birthday with something out of the ordinary, who am I to say what they choose?

  3. K January 13, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    The problem I had with this article was the part where the mom said she feels bad if she tells her kids no.

    Otherwise, I think it’s overblown. My daughter just turned 8 and got her first pro pedicure last April. My nephew has an April birthday and it has become a tradition for his mom and my mom and myself to go get pedicures after the family party. Last time, my daughter came along.

    She asks to go all the time, but she’s only been once, because *I* desperately needed some attention paid to my calluses heels and a toenail that was bothering me. Her pedicure, because she’s a kid and it’s much less work, costs 15 dollars. Did she NEED it? No, but it was a great, something for us to do together.

    I’m aware that it’s possible to spend an absurd amount of money on personal upkeep. I’m trying very hard to teach my daughter that hygiene and taking care of yourself is important, but to not be high maintenance.

    Other commentary on this article points out that part of this is a birthday party. And that prices will vary widely across the country. What’s the difference between a 300 dollar spa party for a bunch of girls, and a 300 dollar pool party for a bunch of boys?

  4. BL January 13, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    “One 6-year-old guest documented the revelry in a series of selfies.”

    Well, at least they’re not *completely* passive.

    (Rolls eyes)

  5. Powers January 13, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    K: “What’s the difference between a 300 dollar spa party for a bunch of girls, and a 300 dollar pool party for a bunch of boys?”

    The difference is that one is a passive activity and the other is an active one. No coincidence that one is stereotypically “girly” and the other isn’t.

  6. Crystal January 13, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    I usually take a “It’s America and not hurting you; get over it” approach to things like this. But I recently got back from Ukraine where orphans are literally starving to death in government-run institutions because no one besides the staff knows they exist. And my stomach just turns, thinking that the amount that these parents are spending on spa treatments for their kids could easily purchase one of my boys’ freedom.

  7. Buffy January 13, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    And it starts teaching girls earlier and earlier that having perfect nails and perfect hair and perfect skin, and spending loads and loads of time and money on same, is what’s valued in our culture.

  8. k January 13, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    It’s a once a year birthday party. Not all kids are athletic. Let’s pick a different example. What’s the difference between a 300 dollar spa party and spending 300 dollars to take a bunch of kids to the movies?

    And there’s nothing really wrong with liking “girly” stuff. My kid loves to get her nails done and loves kid makeup and the color pink and ponies and cats, but she also likes “boy” stuff like bugs and minecraft and digging up worms and sports and she gets just as dirty as her older brother.

    I also think reactions to this depend on what the mom does. I get regular pedicures because it’s a personal preference and I like my feet to look and feel nice. So it’s not a big deal for my daughter to get one every now and then as a treat. Women who have never set foot in a nail salon might feel differently. I don’t do pricey haircuts or any color at all, so I would not be inclined to take my daughter for those things.

  9. Michelle January 13, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Meh. I have no interest in spas or mani-pedis, but if I did, I’d definitely take my girls along. Girls like to do whatever things their moms do. Once a year, I take them all to an expensive hair salon where my friend works, and we all get our hair done. I’m about as far as you can get from high-maintenance (for example, I only get my hair cut once a year!), but I see no harm in enjoying something like that.

  10. E January 13, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    k, that’s what I was thinking. If the mom is a “girly girl” or whatever and this is what she likes to do, it’s not shocking the kid might be exposed to it and like it too.

    I have boys and we had a hockey themed party and took them and their friends to an NHL hockey game. They had pizza and cake with the team mascot, got his name on the Jumbotron and watched (passively) a hockey game.

    Yes Crystal we could have donated money to a good cause instead, but let’s all open our check books and look at how much all the things we consume cost and decide how we all should be spending our money. I’ve never purchased a car that costs more than 20k…should I apply that standard to everyone? Of course not.

  11. k January 13, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    And just because someone spends money on a spa party or hockey tickets doesn’t mean they don’t also donate money or time to worthy causes.

  12. E January 13, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    @Powers — seriously? Now a once a year event for your child (their birthday) MUST be a physical activity? What if the birthday is in January and you live in WI? Do they have to play outside? They can’t have an overnight movie/video game marathon?

    I mean, does the FR community get to publish guidelines as to what is acceptable birthday activity and how much it should cost?

  13. Donna January 13, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Good grief, different people like different things!! My daughter would LOVE this with extremely capital letters and I would happily take her for a special treat if we had a spa geared towards littler kids in our town. I’ve taken her for a manicure and pedicure and she loved it and regularly asks to go again.

    This certainly isn’t something we would do regularly, but for a special treat it would be fun. I get massages and manicures and pedicures for special treats for myself every once in a blue moon. I even weirdly got two massages in one day once. I enjoy it and would actually do it a lot more often if money and time allowed.

    This idea that if you do this, you can’t possibly spend plenty of time doing as well is ridiculous. There are actually many hours in a childhood. Kids can enjoy both DOING and having things DONE. One absolutely does not preclude the other. I find it interesting that it is perfectly acceptable for adults to enjoy a mixture of both active and passive activities, but children are only entitled to enjoy active activities. At what age is it acceptable to start likely passive activities?

    I am also incredibly sick of this attitude that there is something wrong with girls wanting to do stereotypical girly things. It is as though certain segments of the population have decided that the ONLY acceptable way to a girl these days is to be a tomboy and girls who actually like “girly” things are wrong. This is as bad as believing that girls can only do “girly” things. How about just letting everyone do whatever it is they enjoy.

  14. lollipoplover January 13, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Children’s birthday party entertainment is BIG business in the United States. Around here, our kids have gone to indoor trampoline parks, indoor speedways, pottery painting parties, learn to paint parties, dress up parties, roller skate parties, ice skating, and your basic backyard celebration (my favorite).

    I don’t go to spas or get my nails done regularly but I won’t tell other people how to spend their money if it brings them enjoyment. I never had big birthdays growing up but I love house parties and find that they are less expensive and more fun than most organized party places(I personally get twitchy in Chuck E Cheese-it’s like kiddie Atlantic City).

  15. Papilio January 13, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Ugh. To me this sounds just like those beauty contests for ~5yos where the girls get dressed up until they look like a scary 5yo-sized cross-over between a doll and a street hooker: NOT a kid thing.

    (Who says children need to be athletic to enjoy a swimming pool??)

    “[…] the idea that kids need fun to be DONE to them”
    Call that a passivity then.

    I need a drink.

  16. k January 13, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    Yeah…I’m pretty confident that painting my daughters toenails pink isn’t the same as a beauty pageant.

  17. k January 13, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    And no, you don’t have to be athletic to enjoy a swimming pool. But some kids just don’t like to swim. Or don’t know how. Or are afraid of water and would prefer a different kind of party.

  18. Donna January 13, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    “(Who says children need to be athletic to enjoy a swimming pool??)”

    Who says children MUST enjoy swimming?

    I guess I just don’t understand this insistence that all children MUST like certain things and ONLY certain things. We’d be outraged if people gave us a list of activities that we must enjoy and another list of activities that we must dislike. Children are people too; people with a full range of opinions, likes and dislikes. And just because something didn’t exist in your childhood, doesn’t mean that it is per se unacceptable now and that the ONLY acceptable childhood is the one that existed in 1970.

  19. E January 13, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Well said Donna!

  20. lollipoplover January 13, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Sweet and Sassy has been around for awhile. I remember my daughter going to a party there some 5 years ago for the girl up the street who was very much a girly girl (and still is-she’s in high school now). My husband called it the JonBonet Ramsey party because she came home with blue eye shadow and teased hair with glitter in it. I’m pretty sure she loved it. She is no worse for wear because of that 2 hour experience.

  21. BL January 13, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    “It is as though certain segments of the population have decided that the ONLY acceptable way to a girl these days is to be a tomboy and girls who actually like “girly” things are wrong”

    Oh, girly things have been banned. In schoolyards, anyway. At least when I was in school hopscotch and jump-rope were considered girly things. But you could twist an ankle playing hopscotch, or trip over a rope, so … no more.

    But those were *active* girly things.

  22. Nadine January 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Ohhh great another way to get kids to sit still. Cause school and TV isn’t enough already.

    I don’t even go to a spa, never had my nails done, cut and color my own hair and never ever buy any clothing that arn’t on sale. Because the value of a buck is more important then what my toe nails look like in their snow boots.

    The way that this teaches kids that their image and looks are more important then actual skills and knowlegde is ridiculous. That shopping can be a hobby instead of a necessity. That little kids are already judging their own and others looks instead of learning to relate and start relationships is terrifying. Little self entitled smucks are raised in a world where we know that the next generation won’t have it better then their parents.

    Recipe for disaster!

  23. Jill January 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Sorry, but makeup and spa parties are not appropriate for such young girls. Adds to the hyper-sexualization of kids that we hear so much about today. Kids can play with mom’s make-up. I get that and I don’t get worked up with that. Totally different matter when we BUY makeup for kindergarteners and treat them to spa parties. That is NOT developmentally appropriate.

  24. lollipoplover January 13, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    When my kids were very little, a birthday party meant a few friends over with bubbles and sidewalk chalk and setting up the sprinkler if it was hot out. We also did afternoons at the favorite local playground and just brought soft pretzels and popcicles and let the kids play their hearts out.

    As they turned preschoolers and so on, their circle of friends grew and kids this age tend to be part of the *big birthday party at a destination* age where they invite the class (not to exclude anyone) and so a 25 kid sized theme party at a jumpy place becomes the norm. For me personally, this is the definition of hell. This many kids in a confined, indoor space makes me want to drink. It’s an Advil commercial.
    We did a mixture at this age. Having a winter birthday girl limits options. The spring birthdays did house parties outside or at a park where they could run around. I would have loved a swim party but we have no summer birthdays and indoor places around here are quite expensive or restrictive on what you can do (like the Y). Our youngest daughter (our little chef) did a chocolate making party at an old-fashioned candy shop know for it’s Easter bunnies with a few of her friends.

    I ask my kids how they want to celebrate their birthdays. We have a family budget($200), so they can either get more in presents or spend more on entertaining their friends. For the most part, they go 50-50 and get a good gift and do something fun with friends for under $100. The next birthday party for my daughter will probably be at the local roller rink. It’s $7 per person so she can bring 10 friends and I’ll just pick up water and cupcakes. Done. She loves to roller blade and will probably do a roller derby theme and give her friends derby names have races. And I don’t have to clean my house!

  25. Puzzled January 13, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    I agree with Donna entirely. Jill, doing your nails is only sexualized for a 7 year old if an adult teaches them that it’s sexualized; otherwise it’s “being like mommy.”

    However, the article does give me the creeps, but that’s a personal thing, not something I’d impose on others. I think the reason it has that feel for me is that it reminds me of an essay by David Foster Wallace called “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” His central point there was having an experience created for you from start to finish. The example he used was an ad for a cruise that said things like “You’ll say ‘Let’s Do Them All!’ ” The point being, the ad even told you how you’d behave.

    There’s also the feeling I get from the whole matter – “pampering yourself” always means someone doing something unpleasant to your body at a low wage. But then I remind myself that it’s better than being unemployed, and when we’re talking about a spa, it’s not really that unpleasant – and at a high-end spa, the wage isn’t that low.

  26. Jenna K. January 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    My 7-year-old daughter would LOVE this too, but that doesn’t mean I need to give it to her. I’d prefer her to spend time at a birthday party PLAYING with her friends, interacting, and being more active. Her birthday is in December, so no, we don’t usually have outdoor activities because since she was one, we lived in a cold climate that usually had snow on her birthday. In fact, last year, there was a blizzard and I was terribly worried that nobody would come to her party, but everyone came and we had a dance party, decorated paper princess skirts, did some makeup and hair with each other, made bracelets, and sang karaoke. The best part was it hardly cost me anything, since it was at my house, I baked the cake myself, and all of the activities were made of things we already had. I agree with Lenore here, this takes things too far and it’s no wonder we are raising the most spoiled, self-absorbed generation ever.

    Better yet, take that $300 you would have spent on a spa party, have a fun party like the one I described, and take your daughter and her friends with you to donate the money you would have spent to a worthwhile charity and teach those girls to better other people’s lives and focus less on themselves.

  27. Emily Morris January 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    I have very mixed feelings on this topic.

    On one hand, I do not believe any emphasis at all on such things is age-appropriate here. I think there is a big difference between nail polish and perhaps even a make-up party at home and going to a spa! It just doesn’t sit right with me.

    On the other hand, this is a once-in-a-blue-moon birthday party. It’s different, it’s fun, it’s a rarity (or should be.)

    I also believe that our tendency to emphasize “girly is bad” is bad. I was not a particularly active kid. I didn’t like sports. I liked reading and art. I didn’t get tomboy girls.

    I think this is a big grey area that could be fine, could be a gateway, depending on how it’s handled.

  28. Dee January 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    “They can always play “spa” if that’s what they really want.” LOL – my son’s 4th or 5th grade class did actually do this during recess. Boys and girls! He still likes to give massages (although he is not very good). I personally LOVE a good massage, although I can only afford it once every few years.

  29. John January 13, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Quote from Donna: “I am also incredibly sick of this attitude that there is something wrong with girls wanting to do stereotypical girly things. It is as though certain segments of the population have decided that the ONLY acceptable way to a girl these days is to be a tomboy and girls who actually like “girly” things are wrong. This is as bad as believing that girls can only do “girly” things. How about just letting everyone do whatever it is they enjoy.”

    Amen! Amen! and…..Amen Donna! I could not agree with you more! It seems as if certain segments of American society are trying to masculinize girls and feminize boys. Some people are pushing so hard for “gender inclusive” toys for kids as if dolls marketed to girls and Tonka toys marketed to boys is such a sexist thing. Now there is nothing wrong with “gender inclusive” toys but based on my observation, I’m finding that even in the 21st century, little girls tend to gravitate toward a preference for dolls and little boys toward muscle-man action figures. Not to say there are not any exceptions to that tendency or that there is anything wrong with those exceptions but why do people push for them?

    A couple of years back, a European toy company posted an advertisement for their products by picturing little girls playing with toy guns and little boys playing with dolls. Why is it necessary to push this? If my little girl likes playing with dolls, then I’m gonna buy her a doll for Christmas, if my little boy likes playing with Spiderman, then I’m gonna buy him a Spiderman. I don’t need to have some hardcore feminist dictate the type of toys I let my children play with!

  30. Messy mama January 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    When you think of childhood it should be full of things kids do. My girls don’t know places like this exist and thank god! I’d never pay for them to be pampered. What do they need pampering from?? A first world lifestyle with warm clothing, shelter, plenty of food, afterschool activities, etc? If they want to be like mommy I understand but you need to be a kid first. Should I also but my six year old a bra so she can be like me? Let her drive my car? Have a drink with dinner? Just because I, as an adult, do it doesn’t mean it’s the right time of her life to emulate me exactly. My kids do have a make up bin so if the urge strikes they can doll up but it’s washed off before we leave the house and since they do it themselves they look more like clowns than beauty contestants. I’m not going to advocate legislating against this or anything like that but not one red cent of mine will support that industry.

    Bottom line – it’s commercializing childhood. Fun is free! Until you lose that ability.

  31. Jill January 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    I think some people may be missing the point — I don’t think the people who find this kind of thing creepy is not against girly things for girls! There is nothing wrong with kids playing dress up or painting their nails.

    It is not a “war on girly” to have an issue with exposing young girls to spa parties! This is not so much about girly activities as adding more to the cultural problem of our girls being pushed to feel that they are not good enough. Not pretty enough without makeup and fancy fingernails. Not good enough to be pretty on their own, without wearing some product!

    This is some twisted version of girly stuff that may not be very healthy.

  32. k January 13, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    Based on some of these comments, people DO have a problem with the girly aspect.

    It’s all in how you present it. My daughter doesn’t paint her toenails because of pressure to look a certain way or to get boys or to be pretty, she does it because it’s fun. For me, it’s about having healthy feet. I have thyroid disease and my nails grow weird and the spa people do a much better job of managing them so I don’t get ingrowns. It’s supposed to be fun. Sit in the massage chair and talk with your friends or read a book and pick out a cool color for your nails. Nothing more.

  33. brian January 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    The more controversial part of this article was the questions about race and class. There is something very “southern plantation” about having a person of color kneeling down to clean a child’s feet. Especially when that person is not being paid a living wage, benefits, etc.

  34. brian January 13, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    On the gender question, some studies show that actually we are more gender divided than ever before. This article on the topic is really interesting:

  35. lollipoplover January 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    “WHAT barefoot play?”

    So when CPS shows up at my door for my barefoot child playing outdoors, I’ll just tell them it’s all good and we’re going to schedule a Sweet and Sassy Spa treatment for those heels worn rough. Right??

  36. k January 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    Brian, where I live, salons definitely pay good wages and offer benefits and retirement. Most of them are family businesses. A good friend of mine works for a chain salon and even before tips, she makes more money than I do.

  37. Roger the Shrubber January 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

    You really missed the mark here, Lenore. Yes, I share your opinion that this is a pointless activity that is creepy in a lot of ways and may foster a sense of entitlement in young girls. I struggle with the same issues with my wife and boys when they insist on participating in every (fee-included) after-school activity and sport’s clinic offered to them. I often contemplate on how to cash-in on the upper-middle class desire to pay for their kids to be engaged in a supervised activity at all times. I’m thinking a robotic’s summer camp.

    But in the end, these things are harmless. You learn a lot about people by how they choose to spend their discretionary income. And it’s fine to make judgments about the actions of others as long as we realize that they are more a reflection of how we perceive our own values.

    Your website is not titled ‘Dumb Shit People Spend Money On.’ It’s ‘Free Range Kids.’ And the biggest difficulty in trying to raise my kids in manner that I feel represents that spirit is overcoming the perception (or fear) that others are going to negatively judge the choices that I make about the level of responsibility that I challenge my kids with. Expressing your disapproval of another parents harmless choice of how to celebrate a child’s birthday, on your website, encouraging others to join in on the condemnation, is my very fear expressed from another point of view.

    PS – I love you, Lenore! Keep up the (mostly) great work. I can’t wait to see your TV show!

  38. Emily January 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Another point on the “passive versus active entertainment” theme: At most “homemade” spa/makeover/dress-up/princess/rockstar parties, the kids end up giving the adults makeovers by the end of the party, and then they have great fun photographing their mothers and (better yet) their fathers, all glammed up in garish pink or red lipstick, blush, and blue eye shadow. I don’t see this as being an option at any of the commercial kiddie spas.

  39. Puzzled January 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    I will say, despite not really minding if people choose to do this, that lots of parts of the article itself made me gag.

  40. k January 13, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    I agree with Puzzled. The tone of this particular article is barfy. The author could have presented this in an entirely different way.

  41. E January 13, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    @Emily – no offense but, who cares? Is your suggestion that spa parties are okay, but they must include involving the adults?

    You read thru these posts and it’s full of judgement. You shouldn’t let kids this age to this, you shouldn’t let kids have spa parties at a spa, birthdays should be about more interacting (why they think the kids didn’t interact is beyond me) and physical, people shouldn’t have birthday parties and they should do a charitable deed or donate the money.

    This thread does zero for a FR attitude and kind of shows an unpleasant underbelly.

    People here dislike GREATLY when people are concerned for their kids being left in cars alone, but by all means we should be judging how they spend $400 on their kid’s birthday! LOL

  42. Donna January 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    There is a TON of anti-girly comments on this website regularly. It is clear that many who regularly comment here look down on stereotypical girly interests and value more stereotypically male interests higher.

    I am the least girly girl on the planet who gave birth to a girl who loves all things girly. She is who she is and my job is to embrace her as she is and not try to mold her into who I want her to be. Telling her that her innate interests are wrong is as repugnant to me as telling gay people they are wrong to be gay.

    But most of you are missing the point. My daughter wants to do these type of things because she actually finds them fun. She doesn’t view them with adult eyes as to political statements anymore than she views playing doctor with her friends sexually.

  43. E January 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    BTW — I just looked at the photo gallery from the article (I’d read the article earlier before I commented) I can’t imagine anyone looking at that and getting offended, even on behalf of the girls.

  44. Emily January 13, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    @E–I never said that spa parties at kiddie spas were inherently evil; I was just saying that, if you do it at home, a lot of kids enjoy giving the adults makeovers as much as, or more than, they enjoy getting made up themselves. So, I wasn’t saying that you shouldn’t have your kid’s birthday party at a kiddie spa if that’s what she (or he) wants; I was just pointing out that the “homemade” version would allow kids to put make-up on the adults, if said adults were willing. I don’t see any “unpleasant underbelly” here, and I don’t think it’s my business to tell other people what kind of a birthday party they can and can’t have (for themselves or their kids); I was just speaking to the “active versus passive” thing that Lenore brought up.

  45. hineata January 13, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    Is this really any sicker than the spas for cats and dogs? I find the idea of those really repulsive, but where people are willing to pay there will always be someone willing to take their money.

    I didn’t particularly appreciate the self-serving comment in the article from the head of the spa association likening visits to spas to visits to the dentist…one is a habit essential for good health, the other a habit essential for the propping up of other people’s finances, but again, no one has to follow such nonsense, unless they want to.

  46. E January 13, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    @Emily, I’m just having GREAT difficulty thinking why anyone needs to consider the activity level of a party that happens once a year (maybe less in some families).

    I’m guessing that a gaggle of girls would be BEYOND excited if they were getting to see Frozen 2 on the first weekend it came out — all the while they would just be sitting staring at a screen.

    It’s completely inconsequential…unless the kid would prefer to have a party that is more “active” or whatever.

    Personally, because I am NOT a girly girl, I’d happily PAY someone to do all the ‘stuff’ because I wouldn’t have to be involved, would have to buy the supplies, or supervise the ‘transformations’.

    Everyone is different. Who cares.

  47. E January 13, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    @hineata , I noticed that too.

    But it’s a business. And like any business, they are trying to put seeds of thought into people on why the should do something.

    A friend got really ticked over a gym playing ads around the holidays saying basically “don’t limit yourself over the holidays…dive in…and then join our gym in January”. I don’t understand why anyone thinks business that buy ad time aren’t going to actually try to sell their product. They aren’t consumer reports or a dietician.

    In this case, the spa person got a chance to get their plug in. I’d say that fair since detractors got way more space to talk about the down side (one included an OH MY GOD, lol).

  48. hineata January 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    And yeah, with the anti-girly thing. I was a tomboy growing up, and somehow gave birth to a ‘pink’ princess. Loves malls, whereas I still have to prepare myself to shop. She would love this kind of thing, and if it existed close by I could see myself sending her along with Grunge girl occasionally just for some sister bonding.

    Luckily it doesn’t, so I save money as they do each other’s hair and make-up instead 😊.

  49. k January 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    “I don’t even go to a spa, never had my nails done, cut and color my own hair and never ever buy any clothing that arn’t on sale. Because the value of a buck is more important then what my toe nails look like in their snow boots.”

    Give me a break. I’m positive you spend your money on things that you find essential that others don’t.

  50. E January 13, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Nadine said:

    That little kids are already judging their own and others

    Unlike what you are doing?

    In my house we occasionally rib each other about what we choose to spend money on. Obviously, being married >25 years, we must be somewhat similar minded, but that doesn’t stop me from having a large collection backpacks….or my husband’s habit of buying lottery tickets. Do either of us truly need these things? Nope.

    But he points out that his lottery hobby is way cheaper than a round of golf or a round of drinks at the pub around the corner. I point out that my various hiking packs are cheaper than leather handbags and I’ve had some for 10 years (and still use them).

    I don’t paint my nails either…but I’m guessing all my friends that do can point to me and say “and I don’t do that”…whatever “that” is.

    We cannot be identical and we aren’t.

  51. Jill January 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    It’s all about $$$. I see nothing inherently wrong with spa treatments for children but it used to be nice to look forward to certain experiences as belonging to the world of teenagers and adults. Riding in a limo with your friends and wearing makeup were two things that belonged exclusively to big girls and grown women and were milestones that were eagely anticipated when I was growing up.
    No longer. Now the kiddies can do it too. I miss the world where adults had their own interests and pasttimes and kids had theirs. Now we’re all lumped together and the line between the world of kids and the world of adults is increasingly blurred.

  52. Emily January 13, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    @E–You’re right, the activity level of ONE annual (or less frequent) birthday party, doesn’t really matter. However, I agree with Lenore’s opinion about the proliferation of passive entertainment for kids. Yes, the kiddie spa is generally reserved for birthday parties, for MOST people. However, I’m seeing a pattern here, and even though kiddie spas are a relatively small nail in the coffin of the active childhood of yesteryear (compared with TV, video games, the Internet, Netflix, smartphones, tablets, and the paranoid mentality that leads to adults getting arrested for sending kids outside to play, or having them walk to school alone), it’s a nail nonetheless.

    Our culture seems to be telling us, “Independent play is dangerous for children. Screens, kiddie spas, and Build-A-Bear are fun. Kids activities must be organized and fully supervised by adults, with a specific agenda in mind, so that kids are smarter, more athletic, and better prepared to compete in the global economy. While you’re sculpting your child into the ideal miniature adult, remember, don’t leave your child alone at all, ever, until 18, because that’s the magic age of adulthood, when you release them into the world. In the meantime, we know you’re busy, so don’t bother making a healthy meal with whole ingredients that you can pronounce. Pick up a Family Dinner Box from McDonald’s instead, at the McDonald’s in Wal-Mart, where we also sell Porn Star T-shirts for preschoolers.” See how sinister that sounds? It kind of reminds me of Brave New World, even though this New World is anything but Brave.

    So, you’re right–one birthday party at a kiddie spa isn’t the problem in isolation. The problem is, it’s not happening in isolation; it’s just another part of the fabric of an unhealthy environment, for both kids and adults. If someone had tried to open up a kiddie spa during Lenore’s childhood, or even mine, people would have just laughed at that, but now they’re gaining traction, because since it’s now “not safe” to let kids play outside, and it’s “not productive” to give them free time that’s not structured to the nth degree with dance, swimming, gymnastics, Suzuki violin, Daisy Scouts, and S.A.T. prep, this kind of pre-packaged “fun” doesn’t seem so out-of-place.

    Anyway, on another note–to the person who mentioned the problem of having to invite the child’s entire school class to every birthday party (or all the boys, or all the girls), is it possible that some parents gravitate towards kiddie spas and other venues that can’t realistically accommodate an entire class of kids, just so they can have a “valid reason” to keep the party smaller? I mean, I don’t agree with it, and I think that “We/Kiddo just wanted a small party this year” is a good enough reason, but peer pressure affects adults too, and sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be the bad guy, whether you’re fourteen or forty. So, the way I see it, “Sorry, Oblivious Bully Mom, Sweet ‘N Sassy could only accommodate ten kids” is sort of the grown-up version of “Sorry, Mean Girl, my mother won’t let me invite you to my sleepover.”

  53. Puzzled January 13, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    I’m considering taking my cat to a cat spa/hotel – because it’s cheaper than most cat-sitters, once my regular one goes off to college.

    Speaking of breaking into cars, my state has a bill in committee to extend the Good Samaritan act to breaking into hot cars to rescue children. The full text isn’t available yet, but I’ll be anxious to see how they define hot, rescue, etc. or if they just stick with “good faith belief.” I’ll also be interested to see how many car windows get smashed for no good reason.

    I’ll admit it – I get my nails done – before events where I need to shake hands with donors or supporters, and frequently during campaign season. I don’t do it outside of that though.

  54. Emily January 13, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Another thing I forgot to mention–why is this news? What’s a story about a little girl’s birthday party at a kiddie spa, doing in the New York Times, unless the spa paid the newspaper a hefty sum of money for what essentially amounts to a large chunk of advertising space? Even then, the New York Times could have (and possibly should have) said no, because fluff articles about children’s birthday parties take up space that could be used for legitimate journalism.

  55. E January 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

    @Emily — I don’t think this party has anything to do with most of what you wrote.

    I think birthday parties are a big deal now. They didn’t used to be. I can recall going to a handful in the 70s and that’s about it. My kids went to a handful in one year.

    Since b’day parties have become ‘events’, parents are doing them bigger and outside the home. Some are pool parties…some are trampoline park parties…some are lunch and a movie…some are home parties….some are (apparently) spa parties…I bet boys might have laser tag or paint ball parties.

    People don’t have “free play” parties with no organization because a) they can do that any time and b) when you get a houseful of kids, you tend to try to organize them in some way, to both manage them and differentiate the day from your average day.

    At least that’s my take.

    There’s a point to be made about independent play, but using a birthday party as an example of that is not accurate. Even the birthday parties I attended in the 70s had games or activities that were planned and organized by adults.

  56. Donna January 13, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    Jill –

    Why the heck do you care what other people spend their own money on? I guess if they are choosing to go to the kiddie spa over feeding their children, an issue exists. But if they have the money and want to spend the money on the kiddie spa, why do you have anything to say about it at all? I am sure that I could go through your annual expenses and find any number of things that I think are completely stupid and money better spent elsewhere. It doesn’t make me right.

    Personally, I’m opposed to the idea that there should be a set artificial age for milestones. I allow my child to do things when she is interested and I feel she is ready or when a unique opportunity arises.

  57. Donna January 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    I have a real issue with the notion put forward so often here that one passive activity means all your activities are passive or one organized activity means you never play. My daughter enjoys manicure and pedicures and ziplining; reading and running 5Ks; free play and structured taekwondo classes. A balanced life includes both whether you are a child or an adult.

    Even our birthday parties are varied. We sometimes have them at home. We sometimes have organized activities. Just depends on what my kid is into that year. Her birthday; her choice. I only choose what we do on MY birthday.

    “If someone had tried to open up a kiddie spa during Lenore’s childhood, or even mine, people would have just laughed at that, but now they’re gaining traction, because since it’s now “not safe” to let kids play outside, and it’s “not productive” to give them free time”

    So? 1970 was not the end-all-be-all of life. Many things have been invented since then that are fun and maybe these things are gaining traction because they are that … FUN. I know my kid enjoys structured activities. She enjoys her downtime to play with friends, but she also really likes taking classes and lessons.

    Nor are these things new. I took pottery classes on Friday nights in later elementary school and played on a softball team and briefly took guitar lessons. I vaguely remember gymnastics and dance classes when I was younger as well. I also had a birthday party every year. Kiddie spas and yoga classes may be new, but extracurricular activities aren’t. They occurred in the 70s too.

  58. tdr January 13, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    The thing that got me was the comment from the kid’s Mom that her kid “deserved” such a year. To me a spa event is quite an extravagant treat and I think I would be hard pressed to find a young kid who “deserved” such a thing.

  59. Emily January 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

    @E–You’re right, old-school birthday parties did involve organized games and activities, but that would be things like, kids making their own party hats, then playing games like musical chairs, three-legged races, treasure hunts or scavenger hunts, or Pin The Something On The Something (according to the party theme) if the party parent happened to be artistic enough to make the game out of poster board. I remember, because most of my childhood birthday parties were like that, until I got a bit older (nine or so), and then we did pool parties at the community pool, which were very much “free play” parties–we’d go to free swim, then have pizza and cake, and maybe do a craft or watch a movie if there was time. It’s still possible to do a “free play” party at a park, or a skating rink, or an outside venue. It’s also possible to do an organized activity that’s active and engaging, like laser tag (which, by the way, isn’t just for boys–I’ve played a few times, and I love it).

    But, the point that I was trying to make wasn’t just about an isolated birthday party here or there; it was about the cultural shift in general. It’s never just “one birthday party,” because it’ll inevitably happen that one little girl has a spa party, and then ALL the little girls in the grade two class/Brownie troop/ballet class/school do the same thing. Even if it was just with birthday parties, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but it’s not just birthday parties. Look at the old-school, homemade birthday parties versus the pre-packaged venue parties right now, and look at the activities that kids of my generation, and before that, would engage in. Sesame Street is a good indicator–in the old-school episodes, kids played outside, rode bikes, walked to school, ran errands for their parents, and did all kinds of things that would be considered neglect now. So, while “typical kid activities” used to include things like climbing trees, building forts, sledding down hills in the winter, drawing on paper with physical drawing tools, and other Free-Range, open-ended activities, that’s shifted as well, to Wii snowboarding, Candy Crush Saga, a parade of adult-organized extra-curriculars that cost money, and now, kiddie spas. Even if these kiddie spas are special and reserved for birthday parties NOW, I have a feeling that they’ll eventually shift into being more of a “just because” activity, one Disney Dad at a time.

  60. Lisa @ Four Under Six January 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    This kind of makes me sick to my stomach and I can’t even articulate why exactly. It just seems so wrong wrong wrong. This is so disappointing and yet I know that as a mother of two girls (and two boys) in the suburbs I will be surrounded by pressure to take my girls out for a “mani/pedi” because it’s soooo cute and fun. I love a good professional pedicure, but I feel like I’m one of the meanies around here that won’t be doing this with my kids anytime soon.

  61. Edward January 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    Saw the words “a bit creepy” in previous comments concerning this kiddie spa thing – guess I’ll just come out and say it; you’ve spent years teaching your kids about Good Touch/Bad Touch and now you’re taking them to a place where they’ll be touched quite a bit by complete strangers and you’ve instructed your pre-teens to ENJOY IT! How are kids supposed to make good judgements about this sort of stuff when their parents give them these conflicting rules?
    If you don’t know what I mean, this video:

    when watched from time mark 6:40 to 8:15 will give you some idea.
    Yes I know it is a “staged” situation in this Dutch program about kids auditioning and rehearsing for parts in a Netherlands musical production of Pinocchio but it demonstrates kiddie spa treatment.
    Personally I don’t see how a pre-teen benefits from this sort of thing.

  62. Earth.W January 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    I can’t see any harm in spas and massages.

  63. Puzzled January 13, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    I have a friend who tutors (I also do some tutoring, but haven’t made the market penetration she has, probably because I don’t devote much time to it.) She reports that when she breaks into a neighborhood, she starts getting flooded with calls from that neighborhood – particularly if it’s an upper class or upper middle class area. She suggests that the cause is parents feeling a need to show “I’m not a worse parent than the one down the street!” I would worry about this dynamic happening with spas – but that’s not the fault of spas, it’s the fault of parents who think this way, and (to state the obvious) it’s already happening with tutoring.

  64. Nadine January 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Girls that spend more time on how they look and how they are perceived do on average worse in school. They are less likely to speak up or take position on a topic. Girls are still more likely to drop math and science when growing up ( they even make commercials about that fact now… So it’s not exactly obscure information). Toys are more gender bias then they have been over the last 40 years. Girls are getting to be ” mean girls” at younger and younger ages, partly because they are exposed to more and more stereotypical mean girls on TV(again, im not making this sh…up, they do research on this stuff). Girls are made aware of their looks at younger ages now and it’s not normal. If commercials are brainwashing kids about toys and food then the two dimencial shows in between those commercials showing different kinds of (passive) agressive social behaviour and shallow topics are probably influential too (yes that is my own logic). There are more then enough girly things any girl comes in contact with on any given day and a whole lot of them are not condusive to raising a smart, responcible, independent, nerdy, unapologetic,strong woman with a healthy self image. If only girls (and boys too)were constantly bombarded with information about science, math, nature, biology, the universe, history, empathy, philosophy (and yes there is such a thing as philosophy for kids, there is a french documentary about it and it’s 4 year olds questioning and dicussing a whole lot of heavy topics, its frigging awsome) then yes I could understand the need for some extra girly time. Till then… I think it keeps girls from looking beyong their girlyness.

  65. SKL January 14, 2015 at 12:53 am #

    Yeah, I have taken my kids to the spas at Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari (once each). One of my kids is obsessed with cosmetology and wants to do that for her living. So I got their fingernails done. It was cute – they got to pick the colors and scents and learned a few things about the process. Things they will never learn from me, since I don’t do paint. 😛

    The last time, though, my up-and-coming cosmetologist was not impressed with the nail job she got. She couldn’t wait to get home and clean it off and re-do it her own way (in between her TKD belt test and soccer game). Needless to say, I won’t be paying for any more kiddy manicures.

    I enjoy the occasional massage / facial, but I have an old body. Kids don’t need to be “rejuvenated” of all things. I do look forward to a time when they can go on the water slides while I get a massage for myself.

  66. SKL January 14, 2015 at 1:05 am #

    I think we worry too much about girls being aware of their appearance etc. My kid has convinced me it is in-born. From the time she was 4 or maybe younger, she would notice others’ appearance and tell me she wanted to have red lips and high heels and such. She started doing hair (hers and others’) at age 5 or 6. Again, she got none of this from me – I never wear make-up, all I do is pull a comb through my hair once a day. 😛 Nor do we watch TV etc. It’s just the way her brain works. Her sister is not obsessed but does get caught up in Miss Cosmetology’s activities. I don’t see any harm in it.

    This same girl is very physically active. And math is her favorite subject. So what if she paints her nails?

  67. BL January 14, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    “And just because something didn’t exist in your childhood, doesn’t mean that it is per se unacceptable now and that the ONLY acceptable childhood is the one that existed in 1970.”

    I’m not so sure there isn’t something special about 1970. An email exchange I had with Lenore last year was about a book I read about exclusive private schools in the US. According to the book, it was right about that time that liability concerns caused such schools to drop rock-climbing clubs, ski clubs, river-rafting, and trips to Europe, among other things.

    The book is “Lessons from Privilege” by Arthur Powell and this bit is on page 64 (I could see the page on google books; Lenore couldn’t for some reason.)

  68. Jill January 14, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    @Donna Perhaps you misunderstood my comment. When I said it was about $$$ I meant that spas are a business that want customers to purchase their services. Getting children interested in having mani/pedis, massages, facials and the like opens up a new market. Spas don’t have to wait to attract new young customers until girls are teens getting ready for prom or a violin recital or whatever. Now they have four-year-olds getting prettied up.
    And if you were to examine my household expenditures you would find that every cent not going to food, shelter and clothing goes to saving the flightless Huralumu from extinction and for purchasing workout clothing for members of an obscure Amazonian tribe that had no contact with the outside world until 2010, when a National Geographic photographer introduced them to Zumba classes. My family cares not for the glittering pleasures of the world but for Doing Good.

  69. Donna January 14, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    BL –

    I don’t deny that the world has changed since 1970, although I think the real date is MUCH later as I was born in 1970 and still know plenty of people who took interesting and adventurous field trips as kids.

    However, this blog seems to have a real vision that very little that has become popular since 1970 should actually exist at all as it relates to children. For example, yoga was not a thing in 1970. I’m sure some did it, but it was certainly not common. Today it is. Few complain about adults engaging in yoga, but mention a class for kids who are interested in yoga and it is the most evil thing on the planet with 99% of the remarks amounting to nothing more than it didn’t exist in 1970 so it shouldn’t exist now.

    There is something to be said about children today being overscheduled. I don’t know anyone who can afford to do it unless out of necessity (ie both parents work and the kids have to go somewhere after school every day), but I am sure that some do. There is definitely something to said about the constant need for activities to be organized so that, instead of pick up games of baseball, kids are enrolled in leagues. There is also something to be said about society treating children as things that need to be entertained constantly.

    However, attacking individual activities like this or yoga or the numerous other things that have arisen since 1970 just makes Free Range Kids look petty and like they are attacking people personally. People have different interests. It may not be your cup of tea, but there is nothing inherently wrong with a kiddie spa day as part of a well-balanced childhood. Same with yoga and a myriad of other post-1970 activities. The focus should be on kids needing ample time and space to engage in free play and not on the individual activities that children choose to engage in during their structured play time.

  70. E January 14, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    @puzzled…I think the tutoring issue is because HS and college admissions has become super competitive. The parents we hang around (we all have HS and/or college kids) all joke about not being able to get into the colleges we attended if we were applying today.

    I remember when my son was in early HS, a club soccer teammate missed practice for a tutoring session. It was the first (but certainly not the last) time I’d heard of someone who was very smart getting tutoring — my own childhood experience was that tutoring was for kids at risk for failing. This kid wanted to attend a specific highly competitive college (and yes, so did his parents) and in order to do that, he needed a certain course load and a certain GPA. He needed a tutor to help him get there.

    I don’t think it’s just keeping up with the Joneses just for the sake of having a tutor like them, it’s about the kid having the most options post HS.

    Time will tell with my kids, but in college they both lamented not getting the kind of grades they were capable of, both because of college choices available and financial aid impact.

    In our neighborhood, good tutors get recommended when people ask for a recommendation on our Yahoo Group list. Just like plumbers or electricians, the ones that are good get a lot of repeat business.

  71. Donna January 14, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    Jill – And still I may find your expenditures completely ridiculous. Personally, I don’t think there is anything positive whatsoever in teaching obscure Amazonian tribes zumba and buying them workout clothes and would prefer that money be spent at the spa. That is what makes America a still somewhat great country. We can each decide how to spend our own money.

    And since I spend 60 hours a week actually helping those in serious need of help, I am extremely glad that places like spas exist for me to occasionally go and relax from the daily stresses of other people’s often insurmountable problems.

  72. Vicky January 14, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Beyond ridiculous. Imho it’s another example of the privileged and pampered being bamboozled out of their money. Maybe it helps to see this for what it is when you have to count pennies and your expenditures come under much greater scrutiny.

  73. BL January 14, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    “there is nothing inherently wrong with a kiddie spa day as part of a well-balanced childhood.”

    But *is* it part of a well-balanced childhood?

    To use another one of your examples (one that I’m personally more familiar with), there’s nothing wrong with organized sports, either. But in my town when I was a kid, there were about a dozen varsity basketball players and scores of us who played pickup basketball with a passion. Now there are still twelve varsity players, but I don’t see any pickup games, and from what I hear they just don’t happen any more.

  74. SKL January 14, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    A spa day is cheaper than some “free range” things we consider awesome. Like those preschools that are all about outdoors and building stuff out of real materials. A lot more expensive than a manicure once a year. 😛

    I’m not a fan of birthday parties in the first place, but that is not a free-range related peeve.

    It’s just a fun experience. Like going to an ice cream parlor. Frivolous, unnecessary, and not ruining any child’s life.

  75. lollipoplover January 14, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Lenore started out this article with “Nothing against spas or pampering…” so I don’t get the anti-girly lobby.
    I think the main question is why they would need the R&R. We drive them everywhere and make things as convenient and easy as possible. I dare you to find one of these kids with callused hands from chores or over doing it barefoot anywhere but their carpeted floors.
    What stresses do they need massaged away?
    That Santa brought the wrong American Girl doll?
    I think that aspect is quite ridiculous but honestly don’t care who gets their nails painted and filed and rides in pink limos. Perhaps they are destined for a career with Mary Kay. It takes all kinds in this world. Wearing lipstick does not erase feminism.

    MY personal most hated birthday party is this:
    Basically, the kids play video games in a truck that pulls up to your house. But again, your money your choice.

  76. Donna January 14, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    BL –

    Commenting on your belief that pickup basketball games appear to be going away is a valid observation. Heckling basketball and insisting that it should not exist at all because SOME PEOPLE overschedule their children is not.

    The fact is that people who wish to overschedule their kids will do so if there are 5 potential activities or 500. People who believe in the necessity of independent play will not overschedule their kids whether there are 5 potential activities or 500. It is the mentality that is the problem, not the individual choices in activities.

    Frankly, in all but the top earners, overscheduling outside of necessity (ie both parents work and kids need to do something after school every day) is not an option as all these activities cost lots of money. I imagine that extremely few kids are going to kiddie spas daily or weekly or monthly. This is a special treat in all but an extremely limited Kardashian situations and a ridiculous thing to get upset about.

  77. Donna January 14, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    Apparently most if you don’t remember your childhoods at all. Kids have always had stress – school, peer relationships, bullying, parents. Those stresses may seem silly to adults, but are very real to children.

    That is not to say that kids NEED massages to handle their stresses. Adults don’t NEED massages to handle their stresses. But this idea that childhood is a completely stressfree pleasure cruise is ridiculous.

    Further, I don’t get a massage or mani/pedi because I NEED one. My hands are not calloused fron work, I am not riddled with stress knots and I don’t spend time running barefoot either. I get them because I enjoy them. So this is really just a judgment about what people should enjoy.

  78. SKL January 14, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    I agree that the only R&R kids need is sleep.

    I doubt the spa people are seriously expecting parents to believe their kids will be disadvantaged if they don’t get a spa treatment.

    As a single mom of girls, I will say that I like the *idea* of sharing such things with my daughters as they grow up. So far it hasn’t happened that way, because the spa things I like are different from the ones they like, and it’s too expensive for something we don’t really mutually enjoy.

  79. E January 14, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    @BL, I can speak to our experience with “pick up sports”. In our neighborhood, kids go to bunch of different schools. And lots of parents work. So kids might be on different school schedules (both daily schedules as well as calendars) and they might not get to know as many neighborhood kids as if they all attended the same school. Also, younger kids might attend an after school program since no one is home.

    Of course, there is also sports specialization and year-round play of every sport, so by the time a kid is hitting middle school (if not sooner) they might choose to play 1 sport most of the year.

    FWIW, my kids focused on soccer, but they did go up to the Y to play pickup bball with friends, and sometimes their non-soccer playing friends would join in on pickup soccer games. It didn’t happen a ton, but it happened (and still does now that they are post-HS).

    It seems like this party option is being held up as “what’s wrong today”. I think that’s over simplification.

    I imagine my mother rolled her eyes at the home bday parties I attended as a kid because she never once hosted a party for any of her 6 kids. Maybe she thought that was overindulgence too. She’s probably never considered a year of traveling abroad for one moment of her young life. But lots of people believe (and some studies show) that a gap year after HS spent maturing and enriching is extremely beneficial. I’d bet most FRers would agree. But a few generations ago that would have been considered frivolous.

    Society changes. Options increase.

  80. Maria January 14, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Umm…what’s wrong with this? Because the kids are sitting and enjoying themselves in a different way. Big deal? You don’t like to have a pedicure, don’t . Bit there is nothing wrong with a spa day.

  81. BL January 14, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    “In our neighborhood, kids go to bunch of different schools. So kids might be on different school schedules”

    How different are these schedules?

    At least by high school age (so we were old enough to drive), there would be kids from three different public school districts at these pickup games. As well as kids who went to the Catholic parochial school.

  82. SKL January 14, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    My kids are over-scheduled. My kids play pickup games.

    It helps to have neighbors with kids, finally.

  83. E January 14, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    @BL — well for starters, my kids went to a year-round scheduled school, meaning they went to school for 9 weeks and were off 3 (or 4) weeks all year round. So there were periods of time they weren’t even in school at the same time as other kids. Conversely, the went to school in June and August when other kids were out.

    They got on the bus much earlier than the “traditional calendar” kids, so they didn’t share bus stops or anything. Their school started at 7:something while traditional schools didn’t start until 9:something.

    Some kids went to magnet/IB schools that had bus rides up to an hour.

    Personally, we both worked and the kids were mostly in afterschool programs (later we got a in house sitter).

    My kids played soccer “year round” (at their request) so even when not in the HS season, they were often heading off to soccer practice after school.

  84. SOA January 14, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Sounds like people are jealous of parents that can afford this. I was given massage and pedicure and manicure and facial certificates as gifts from my father when I was young. He wanted his little Princess to feel like a princess. It was his hard earned money to do with as he pleased. I enjoyed them. Where is the harm exactly?

    There is a little spa that is geared just for little girls in town and I think its adorable. They get to get nails and feet done and then dress up in boas and get pictures taken. They do birthday parties there. Little girls love it.

    I don’t see the harm in a little pampering for little girls. I can guarantee you rich people’s children get this regularly so what is the harm in middle class little girls getting it on a special occasion?

    How is this not free range exactly? Hell my mom always dropped me off for these spa days and left me there alone all day. That is pretty free range right there. I was expected to handle myself and call her to come pick me up when I was done.

  85. Donna January 14, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    “Personally, we both worked and the kids were mostly in afterschool programs (later we got a in house sitter).”

    I think THIS is the largest reason that pickup games are dwindling — there simply is not a large amount of kids home to play most of the time. The vast majority of children are raised in households where all the adult caregivers (however many that is) work outside the home. They are in after school activities by necessity, not choice. By the time kids are of an age to stay home alone, they are often already invested in the extracurricular activities they’ve been doing for years and want to continue.

  86. SOA January 14, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    The whole passive birthday party play stuff is stupid too. So far for my twins here is the birthday party role call: 1st-carousel party at a carousel with all the rides they wanted. They could not walk yet so seems good. 2nd- party at a children’s museum with crafts and then playing in the museum 3rd- party at a treehouse in a nature center with live animal demonstrations and nature walks and play 4th-Pump It Up jumpy place 5th-park party with playground 6th- party at house with bouncy house and slide rental 7th- pool party and this year for 8th-rolling video games.

    As you can see only like 2 of those are passive parties. All the others have been very run around like crazy kid based.

    Should I feel bad now that they are getting a video game one this year where they might sit and play games with their friends? too bad I won’t be made to feel bad about that. We are also having a playground there too so they can play there if they want as well.

    People need to calm down. Should I feel bad that I spend a ton of money on these parties? Well I won’t. Its our money to spend how we please and these are the only kids we got and before long they are going to outgrow parties all together. So I am making the most of it while I still can. The kids always love our parties and they are the talk of all the kids and everyone has fun. Isn’t that what kids are supposed to be able to do? Have fun?

    Oh and I go get every other week nails done and pedicures about once a month or so and waxing-should I feel bad about that too? I wanna look good. Its our money. If I had a little girl I might take her with me maybe 2 or 3 times a year to get nails with me. I would not be made to feel bad about it.

    I don’t get how this had to do with free range.

  87. Donna January 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    I do agree with SOA about one thing (shocking I know): kids only want these types of birthday parties for so long and I’m willing to indulge if I can afford it. My 9 year old is already becoming less girly … and less interested in big parties. All of her friends so far this year have gone small for their birthdays too. And I remember the same from my childhood. Maybe it is an introvert/extrovert thing, but theme parties generally seem to be a thing of young childhood not a lifetime habit.

  88. Jill January 14, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    But Donna, the flightless Huralumu will be extinct in a few years if we don’t do something to save them! Please think of the Huralumu who hop around, flightless and defenseless on a remote volcanic island in the South Pacific, prey to land crabs and the fierce ring-tailed tree weasel! (Baby Huralumu are particularly adorable. Have you ever seen a picture of one?)
    As for the Amazonian Rain Forest Zumba enthusiasts, they are a proud and noble people, deadly accurate with a poison dart gun, who love to Zumba. How can you not see the crying need to properly outfit them in high-quality workout clothing?

  89. E January 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Donna – I think we’re being punk’d. 🙂

  90. E January 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

    @BL, I don’t drive by a ton of open/outdoor courts, but I just realized that when we take our dog to the dog park, we pass a court — and it’s always got people (sometimes kids, sometimes old kids, sometimes adults) playing.

    Our Y (yes, it’s a membership) has time slots for pick up bball every day. My nephew (different city) plays pick up at his local Y every day as well.

    So yeah, back in 1970, when most of Moms were at home and every kid was basically on the exact same school schedule, we kids probably did a lot of things that they don’t now.

  91. Papilio January 14, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    Re the passive/active and anti-girly things: with activities like playing dress-up or playing with mom’s make-up or beading for all I care (because my objection to this really isn’t with the fact that it’s girly), the point isn’t that their body is active, the point is that THEY are DOING something, making something; it’s THEIR play, their ideas, their creativity, etc. And maybe the dress-up becomes a roleplay and maybe they can make up the parents too, or whatever, but it’s *theirs*, it’s up to them what happens next.

  92. SKL January 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Well, I take my kids to get their hair cut bimonthly, so I guess I’m anti-free-range. I also drive them around a lot, and take them to the chiropractor, and a few other things that involve things being done to them while they are inactive. For that matter, sitting in school involves a lot of being talked at while they sit and try not to fall asleep.

    A spa treatment as a birthday treat is a half hour out of 365 days. It says nothing about whether the kid spends the rest of the year as a subject or an object. Besides, more likely than not, if there are other girls around, the entire time is spent blabbing, which is as good as a lot of other things they could be doing for that half hour.

  93. Donna January 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Papilio – No child in the history of children has ever engaged in active pursuits every waking hour of every single day. They ALL occasionally do things that are passive and likely have since the dawn of man. Two hours spent watching Frozen is not more meaningful than two hours spent in a spa.

    This idea that a child who goes to the spa is incapable of ever doing anything active again is idiotic. In fact, it may even stimulate some active pursuit like watching Frozen inspired my child to sing and dance around the house for weeks.

  94. Amanda Matthews January 15, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    It’s a bit shocking that so many modern-day parents (with their stranger-danger molesty hysteria) are letting their kids be touched and rubbed by these “specially trained cosmetologists.” It’s not a job I’d be willing to take the risk of doing!

  95. Papilio January 15, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    “This idea that a child who goes to the spa is incapable of ever doing anything active again is idiotic.”

    Strawman argument.

  96. Donna January 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    “’This idea that a child who goes to the spa is incapable of ever doing anything active again is idiotic.’
    Strawman argument.”

    No it isn’t. The belief here must be that one birthday trip to a spa somehow impacts the overall ability to be active otherwise the whole outrage over this being a passive activity makes absolutely no sense in a world where every human being engages various passive activities on a daily basis.

  97. SKL January 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    Let’s see, some things that were “done to” me during my free-range childhood (school-age):

    – I sat in school. A lot. And church.
    – My mom combed my hair. (Ouch.)
    – I sat in front of a TV screen.
    – I got spanked and grounded and stood in the corner. And there was no talking back or making faces.
    – My mom chose my clothes and set my dinner on the table (at age 7).
    – I had my hair cut by someone else.
    – I used to spend evenings watching my dad prepare for hunting trips. He would clean his gun, make new bullets and shotgun shells, and other stuff. Or watching and listening as he played his favorite music on the turntable or the piano. Ahh, good [passive] memories.
    – I got my ears pierced for my 12th birthday. My grandma made me a dress. Next I got served by wait staff at a restaurant. And a cake was baked in my honor (not by me). I even got a holiday from chores. An all-around passive [but very happy] birthday if ever there was one.

  98. Flurry January 16, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    When I was a kid, I got in trouble for being “sassy”. Real trouble. I know it has a different meaning now, but when I saw “Sweet and Sassy” I had to stop myself from thinking ‘that’s what girls aspire to?’

  99. Eric January 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    I read and agree with many of your articles. A general theme I pick up from them in addition to the main point is this: Most parents are very responsible, certainly care for thier children and should be free to raise them as they see fit. To that end, we criticize parents who take their kids to a ‘spa’. Seems, not is, somewhat hypocritical. I agree with you on most, but this struck me as now doing onto others what you don’t want done unto you.

  100. Papilio January 17, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    “’This idea that a child who goes to the spa is incapable of ever doing anything active again is idiotic.’
    Strawman argument.”
    No it isn’t.

    Yes it is. You turned other people’s POV into something they didn’t say and then declared that ‘idiotic’. That’s a strawman argument.
    The belief here must be […]
    No it mustn’t; it’s just the only explanation you can find. You need to zoom out. Lenore just used the spa thing as an example of the idea that children need to be entertained (by adults) all the time – and *that* idea is indeed idiotic.

    Kids don’t get obese from eating one hamburger a year, but that doesn’t mean junkfood is healthy.

  101. SKL January 17, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    Papilio, there is nothing in the article (or in real life use of kid spas) that suggests a belief that kids must be entertained all the time. It’s a birthday party. By definition it’s a rare treat. I know nobody who takes their kid to a spa more than once or twice a year. It would have to be a lot more often than that before it became anti-free-range.

    If you think kids should never be entertained or given passive treats, you are entitled to your opinion, but I don’t see that as a free-range issue.

    I don’t really understand what it was about this practice that set Lenore off. I guess some language in the ads rubbed her the wrong way. Since she has sons, I’m going to assume she hasn’t ever taken her own kids to a spa and gotten their nails done, so she has an impression from the ads, but no actual experience. Those of us who have experience taking our kids there feel differently.

  102. Tammy January 18, 2015 at 3:33 am #

    Had to laugh about the “Barefoot Play” I had CPS called on me because my 9 year old daughter was playing outside-Barefoot!! (This was in July).
    They came, investigated my supervision skills, spoke with my daughter all of which was a complete invasion of my privacy, but again, I was told “cooperate or we can take the kids”. In the end, it was recommended I work on my supervision skills but no neglect was found. Can you believe this?