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  WONDERTIME  
 

Circulation: 400,000
Date of Birth: February 2006
Frequency: Bimonthly
Price: $4.95
Natural Habitat: On the nightstand of the former legal
aid attorney, now stay-at-home mom, whose dinner party conversation opener is usually “Max was breast-fed until
he was three.”

By Charlene Dy

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Modern parenting can be a tricky gig. Is it about achieving Martha Stewart’s domestic overachievement? Or pushing the brawniest Bugaboo stroller on the sidewalk? Or making sure Max gets into the right kindergarten, finds a Chinese tutor, and joins a toddler soccer team to learn group play?

For every parenting question, there is a magazine with an answer. Condé Nast’s Cookie says to buy your kid fancy stuff. Time Warner’s Parenting says to listen to the experts. But Disney’s newest publication, launched last February in an increasingly cacophonous field of parenting magazines, cuts through the noise like a recess bell. According to Wondertime, in order to understand your kids and help them learn, parents should try to see the world through their eyes.

From a child’s perspective, for instance, sticky tape is a wondrous thing. So, in its regular “Growing Up” section, the magazine introduces readers to five-year-old Maisie, a tape aficionado whose mother Deanna muses, “I think she may have taped the cat once.” Another publication might offer tips for curing Maisie’s addiction, but Wondertime embraces it, explaining how, for pre-schoolers, tape “immediately gratifies their ongoing experiments with independence and environmental control.”

Intended for parents of children six years old and under, the magazine strives to explain children’s development to adults, but it avoids the tone of parenting manuals by adopting first-person narratives for the majority of its articles. Almost all are about real parents and real children. A service article on how to use animal metaphors to combat teasing—“Are You a Mouse or a Bear?”—offers tips from a psychologist in a sidebar, but the article itself is about Taylor’s struggle with her bossy, immature best friend, Arianna. It’s written by Taylor’s mom, a writer and former elementary school teacher.

In fact, most of the articles are by writer-parents and nail a self-deprecating, self-empowering first-person voice, so that reading the magazine is akin to trading stories at the playground with a group of your favorite imperfect, but ultimately triumphant, moms.

Wondertime also features atypical families, but casually, as if it’s assumed that everyone is different. Adopted children and foster families crop up regularly. The magazine recently wrapped up a three-part series on a family whose son has Alfi’s Syndrome, a condition similar to autism. In another article, a working mom confessed that she felt that her children loved her groovy stay-at-home husband more. And for the Winter issue’s book recommendations, the wacky and avuncular children’s author Daniel Pinkwater purposely chose contemporary classics rather than exclusionary holiday-themed books. His line-up included Guji Guji, about an ugly croco-duck, and the heart-warming The Bakeshop Ghost. Both would be ideal presents for families of any religious or nonreligious persuasion.

Wondertime has an instantly appealing look. Wide, matte-finish pages give it the luxurious heft of a coffee-table book. The lavish use of white space and whimsically cropped, unfussy photographs feels contemporary, yet accessible. Models look like regular kids. The magazine also has a delightful web presence that mimics the earthy colors and spacious layout of the print version. In addition, it offers online extras like the column “Dalai Mama” that reads like the diary of your wacky, emotional, incredibly perceptive best friend.

In short, the magazine seems almost perfect. And no wonder. Alexandra Kennedy, Wondertime’s executive director and her team from Disney’s FamilyFun magazine spent five years developing their concept for Wondertime through diligent market research. They showed moms color palettes, different weights of paper, and asked them what they wanted to read. They invited an array of experts—sociologists, neurologists, pediatricians, academics, and psychiatrists—to be editorial advisors.

At times, however, Wondertime feels relentlessly wholesome. Like Oprah, it’s tirelessly—and sometimes tiresomely—good. But this is a minor quibble because, after all, let’s not forget Max. He’s rocking out in kindergarten. Why? His parents tried to see the world through his eyes, and what they saw was good.

 
 
 

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