I remember the first time my son was placed in my arms. It was a surreal and intensely emotional experience; the culmination of months of patient waiting, wonderment, and anticipation finally materializing into a beautiful baby boy in my arms. It was a realization of motherhood and the unexplainable, overwhelming love that came with it. I will always remember that first kiss. That simple, gentle, affectionate kiss on my newborn’s forehead changed me forever.
As parents, we shower our children with hugs and kisses. Physical affection comes so naturally and intuitively to us that it needs no scientific backing. Of course, there is plenty of scientific research to support parental warmth and affection as a critical component of child development. Many studies show warmth in a parent-child relationship is positively correlated to higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavioral problems. Parents’ hugs and kisses linger much past the early years. Further longitudinal analysis has shown warmth and affection from parents to be related to academic competence, fewer teen pregnancies and associations with deviant peers. In addition, children who are raised in affectionate homes are found to effectively use proactive, problem-focused coping strategies. However, lack of warmth of affection can foster feelings of alienation, expressions of hostility and aggression, low self-esteem, and anti-social behaviors.*
With findings like these, it’s no wonder that evolution has hardwired parents to shower our little ones with plenty of hugs and kisses. That’s why The Kissing Bandit, a children’s book that celebrates the importance of positive affection between parents and children, caught my eye. In their Kickstarter video, authors and dads Jason and Aaron tell their heartwarming story of how the children’s book came to be. Their goal is simple: to spread the glorious sound of a child’s laughter in every home through affectionate play. Their interactive book is narrated by Professor Roade, the first of two puppet characters in the story. Midway through the story, the Professor transforms into the playful and colorful bandit Edora, who loves to kiss children until they giggle uncontrollably.
Taken by the idea, I backed the Kickstarter campaign and received an advance copy of The Kissing Bandit last week. The book and puppet are packaged in a beautiful storage box, with stunning graphics and a magnetic closure. Everything about the book, from the front to the back cover, is stunning. The cover art captures the delight of a child’s laughter wonderfully with adorable characters playing peek-a-boo behind shimmering, rainbow lips. Each page turn is a feast for the eyes – with high-quality photographs interlaced with vibrant hued graphics. The puppet is a simple design that is perfect for coordination-lacking parents like myself as well as toddlers still grasping gross motor skills.
When my son and I read the book for the first time, the magical transformation was a pleasant surprise that resulted in shrieks of excitement and laughter. Now, every time we read the book, he is giggling the whole way through in anticipation of Edora’s appearance. Within a few hours, it became a favorite. He not only loves to be the recipient of gazillions of kisses, but also likes to play Edora showering mommy with kisses everywhere.
The simple story, the beautiful images, the interactive puppet with a twist — all make for a great time to be had by adults and children alike. The Kissing Bandit is more than just a children’s book; it is an opportunity to engage in meaningful, loving, affectionate play with your child. It’s an opportunity to create precious memories.
* Research References cited above:
Cox, M. (forthcoming). Parent-child relationships. In M. Bornstein, L. Davidson, C. Keyes, and K. Moore (Eds.), Well-being: positive development across the lifespan. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Scaramella, L.V., Conger, R.D., Simons, R.L., & Whitbeck, L.B. (1998). Predicting risk for pregnancy by late adolescence: A social contextual perspective. Developmental Psychology, 34(6), pp. 1233-1245.
McIntyre, J.G. & Dusek, J.B. (1995). Perceived parental rearing practices and styles of coping. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24(4), pp. 499-509.
Young, M.H., Miller, B.C., Norton, M.C., & Hill, E.J. (1995). The effect of parental supportive behaviors on life satisfaction of adolescent offspring. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 813-822.