Kids Rule!

Nineteen super-duper, crazy-cool, fun, silly and smart reasons why Madison's an awesome place to grow up

Chillin’ at the Union: (Back row, left to right) Chloe, Jackson, Jasmine, Jacob and Rowan. (Front row, left to right) Anthony, Aaliyah, Evan, Miley, Azriel and Mabel.

Chillin’ at the Union: (Back row, left to right) Chloe, Jackson, Jasmine, Jacob and Rowan. (Front row, left to right) Anthony, Aaliyah, Evan, Miley, Azriel and Mabel.

Photo by Noah Willman

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1. The More Things Change...

Kids these days.

As soon as you say the words, you sound old. But there’s no way around it: Kids today—babies to eighteen-year-olds, or those born from 2013 back to 1995—are different than we were as children.

Your sixteen-year-old is likely free-spirited in a way that you never were—a classic trait of Millennials, the optimistic, diverse and connected generation born from 1982 to 2001, says Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation Consulting and a Madison Magazine columnist.

But would you guess your three-year-old may turn out to be as no-nonsense as your grandparents? Every fourth generation repeats itself, Ryan asserts, and today’s younger kids—the iGeneration, or children born from 2002 and projected into 2020—will resemble those who came of age during the Great Depression. These youngsters either witnessed the recent recession or felt its impact on their parents or families.

“They’re not going to be as free and easy,” Ryan says. “They’re going to be savers, they’re going to be more cautious and they’re going to be very good rule followers.”

And then there’s the obvious difference between today’s kids and youth of the past: technology. Present-day children and teens were born into a world in which the Internet was a reality and constant digital connection, for better or worse, is the norm.

“They don’t know the world without digital technology,” says Joanne Cantor, professor emerita of communication arts at UW–Madison and president of Your Mind on Media.

While not one to advocate giving up technology, Cantor warns that growing up too wedded to digital devices could mean kids miss out on things they need more. So sure, they can play games on the iPad, but they also need to get their hands on blocks and crayons. They can spend time on the computer, but they’d better log just as many hours playing outside. And they still need and want interaction with their parents.

Hmm, creativity, play, stimulation and nurturing ... Maybe kids these days aren’t so different after all.  

– Katie Vaughn

2. Their Madison

In honor of Beloit College’s Mindset List, the annual description of the world incoming college freshmen were born into, we offer these facts of life for Madison kids:

To local high-schoolers ...
Both the Badgers and Packers have always been good football teams, and the Kohl Center—not the Field House—is the place to watch college hoops. Monona Terrace is a building, not an idea, and Chris Farley is a hilarious late actor. And they’ve never known Madison without a Starbucks.

For middle-schoolers ...
Summer in Madison has always included a Mallards game (and probably a hug from Maynard). Friday nights in August mean grooving at Dane Dances, while Madison Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition. Madison athletes can be Ironmen and the Boys and Girls Club is a longtime local helper.

To elementary-aged kids ...
Overture Center has always anchored the two-hundred block of State Street, while Hilldale shopping features Macy’s, not Marshall Field’s. The Old Fashioned’s mac ’n’ cheese is way yummier than the boxed kind. And the Goodman Community
Center and the American Family Children’s Hospital are Madison landmarks.

Local babies and toddlers ...
They came into a Madison where access to more than twenty area farmers’ markets is totally normal, Halloween costumes can be bought at two Mallatt’s stores and a commute across town could as easily take place on a B-Cycle as in a car. 

– Katie Vaughn

3. A Personal Playground

When I moved to Madison in 2003 with my then two-year-old son, we spent every weekend embarking on new adventures. My toddler’s favorite activity was going to the state Capitol—his own private jungle gym. I remember touring the building once on a fifth-grade field trip and struggling to take it all in. My son had no such limits to his exploration. Many, many Sundays we sat on the well-worn steps of each grand staircase and slid down to ground level one bump at a time. We growled at the statue of a fierce badger leaping out over a doorway. We lay on our backs to study the mosaics that reached up to the rotunda, feeling the cold marble press against our arms and the backs of our legs. We twirled through revolving doors and pushed ornate buttons on elevators. We listened as voices echoed. Then the next weekend, we did it again.

– Gwendolyn Rice

4. Healthy Food is Fun

Getting your kids to complete chores can be a drag. But getting them to eat their fruits and veggies needn’t be—just keep it fun and local. Here are four ways the whole family can join the feast.

Grow something
From a few containers of tomatoes and basil to a full-blown family garden plot, kids love to play in the dirt and watch things sprout. So do grown-ups. If the garden goes well, go for a compost bin and some chickens. 

Pick something
Southern Wisconsin is blessed with ubiquitous u-pick operations. Take the kids for strawberries at Carandale Farm near Oregon, the full gamut of summer veggies at Tree Farm near Cross Plains or crisp fall apples at Door Creek Orchard near Cottage Grove.

Learn something
Read Terese Allen and Bobbie Malone’s The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids. Visit Sassy Cow Creamery near Columbus. Chat with vendors at farmers’ markets to see what they do. Go to a Breakfast on the Farm event.

Cook something
Make Caprese salad from your tomatoes, basil and some fresh mozzarella. Smother u-pick strawberries with Sassy Cow vanilla ice cream. Kick it up a notch and make summer veggie stew (ratatouille) or spaghetti sauce.

– John Motoviloff

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