Who Needs a Toy When the Food Is So Yummy?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 23 2010 6:42 PM

Who Needs a Toy When the Food Is So Yummy?


Amanda, kids seem to like McDonald’s for the same reasons grown-ups do: Because it tastes good. So getting rid of toys isn’t going to help all that much. We didn’t get toys when I was little, and I lobbied long and hard for the occasional foray to McDonald’s, as our girls, one a teenager, do now.


I’ve been looking into obesity issues among the urban poor for other stories I’m working on, and there are lots of reasons people eat food that’s downright lethal for them, whether it’s from Mickey D’s or the corner chicken joint where you can get a wing box for $1.99. It’s cheap. If you live in a food desert, like so many low-income folks do, it’s convenient. If you’re working a couple of jobs to make ends meet and are beat most of the time, it’s convenient. And when people get into the habit of bypassing fresh food and eating out of a box, they also lose the habit of cooking, as a lot of social scientists and food security activists have found.

Rates of obesity are higher among low-income kids, too, but it seems to have little to do with the cut-throat nature of kiddie sports leagues. From what I see in D.C., a lot of low-income kids don’t even play in sports leagues or take lessons. The registration fees every season are too expensive and most folks don’t know that there are scholarships. You have to sign up online for leagues and classes, and many urban poor don’t have easy access to the Internet, even with computers in libraries. Then there are the costs of equipment and snacks and travel.

More to the point, a lot of poor kids live in neighborhoods where parents don’t feel it’s safe for kids to be playing outside after school, so they don’t. At the same time, low-income kids feel the same lure to the couch from TV and video games that all families have to battle. The more I read about obesity in this country , the more I think it will be a very hard knot to unravel.

Finally, I get the point that Boone makes in the article. I confessed to my 5-year-old daughter’s coach recently that I am turning into an insane soccer parent. My reaction to my kid’s play says a lot more about my issues than her abilities, and it is ugly.

I think for many people, the key to making sure your child stays healthy is to find that sport or outdoor activity your kid enjoys-whether she’s good at it or not, whether it’s organized or not. It could be as simple as riding her scooter or skateboard around the neighborhood from one friend’s house to another, or thrashing through the playground or mucking about in the backyard. Many of us are afraid to let our kids have that kind of freedom, the kind we had when we were kids, and organized sports serve instead as the release valve for all that crazy kid energy.

Photograph of kids at McDonald's by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data


The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:47 PM Ukraine’s Slow Descent Into Madness While it fights rebels in the east, Kiev is beginning to crumble from the inside.
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 3:23 PM This Is What Bette Midler Covering TLC’s “Waterfalls” Sounds Like
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.