A family in Japan has gone viral on Twitter after sharing photos and videos that show a cardboard stand-in being used to convince their one-year-old toddler that his mother is still in the room.
The child's name is not being released, but father Neji Sato spoke to TODAY Parents about how the hilarious parenting hack came to be. Due to language barriers, the interview was conducted over Twitter.
Sato first explained that his son would cry whenever his mother, Fuki Sato, left the room.
"When my wife (left the room), I showed my wife's images and videos on my smartphone when (he) cried, but it wasn't effective," Sato explained. "I thought that there should be a real thing in the space."
Sato works with a company, Links Co. LTD, which produces promotional tools, including life-sized cardboard cutouts. He spoke to someone at the company, who encouraged the idea of using a cardboard replica, and soon it became a reality.
Sato explained that he still uses the cutout, and his son hasn't caught on yet.
Videos and photos showing the hilarious process have millions of views on Twitter. One set of photos shows the cardboard cutout in several different rooms and poses, with Sato's son happily playing and unaware of his mother's absence.
"Still he is unaware that he has a cardboard mother," Sato said. A translated version of one of his Tweets adds that the cardboard cutout is typically not noticed for "about 20 minutes," and includes a time-lapsed video.
In the replies on the Twitter thread, Sato explained that the cardboard cut-out is not used for actual child supervision: It's just there to fill the space while the toddler's mother is out of the room. There is always an adult physically in the room with the child, he said.
In another reply, he joked about putting the panel on top of a moving vacuum so that it appears to move throughout the room.
When a Twitter user joked about what might happen if the toddler saw the cardboard cutout and his real mother in the same space at once, Sato joked about how he plans to keep the viral hack a secret.
"I think the (cardboard cutout) will be hidden until he sees this Tweet!" he said.
Editor's note: Interview responses and Twitter posts were translated using Google Translate.