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Ways to Explore on Earth Day



Hugg-a-Planet: Earth

Ages: 9 months & Up
Manufacturer: Hugg-a-Planet
Price: $18.95

This colorful stuffed globe is covered in a soft but sturdy fabric that is patterned with a map of the earth.

Wild Cards: Backyard Birds

Ages: 6 & Up
Manufacturer: Birdcage Press
Price: $10.95

Facts and beautiful photos adorn this bird-themed deck of cards. Three options for game play.



Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Ravensburger
Price: $19.99

This microscope allows children to view magnified objects through their smart device (e.g., phone, tablet, etc.) and features two magnification levels and a removable light source.



 Nancy B’s Science Club Binoculars and Wildlife Activity Journal

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Educational Insights
Price: $15.99

Binoculars and a journal to record their wildlife findings are included in this cute set.



TK1 Telescope & Astronomy Kit

Ages: 12 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $169.95

More than just a telescope, this geared toward older kids kit comes with an informative guide that shows how telescopes work, how to use it, and suggestions on what to look for in the night sky.


Marco Polo Apps

Ages: 3 – 7 yrs
Developer: MarcoPolo Learning
Download Price: Starting at $1.99
Platform: iPad

Explore the Arctic, the Ocean, and learn about how Weather works with this suite of apps.




Meet the Insects: Village Edition

Ages: 4 & Up
Developer: NCSOFT
Download Price: $3.99
Platform: iPad

This app is a veritable encyclopedia of insects with lots of photos and videos of creepy crawlies.



Scholastic First Discovery: The Forest

Ages: 4 & Up
Developer: Scholastic
Price: $1.99

Great for younger kids, this app teaches kids about the flora and fauna contained in the forest.


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Ages: 5 – 18 yrs.
Adapted By: Olga Shtaub
Developer: Vito Technology
Download Price: $4.99
Platform: iPad

This stunning app teaches kids about the moon, planets, and galaxies far, far away.




A Nest is Noisy and A Beetle is Shy

Ages: 5 – 8 yrs.
Author: Dianna Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Both written by Dianna Aston and beautifully illustrated by Sylvia Long, these two books show and teach kids about animals who nest and the fascinating world of beetles.



Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Annette LeBlanc Cate
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Hardcover Price: $15.99
Cute illustrations and abundant bird facts make this a great starter manual for amateur birdwatchers.





Ranger Rick Magazine

Ages: 7 & Up
Publisher: National Wildlife Federation
Newsstand Price: $4.99
Subscription Price: $19.95 / 10 Issues

Each issue contains articles about animals, nature, conservation, puzzles, and word games sure to keep your nature lover busy.






Ages: 3 – 6 yrs.
Publisher: Cricket Media
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues

Budding scientists will find plenty to think about in this dynamic, “opening windows for young minds” publication, geared to the preschool and kindergarten set.




Eco Kids Planet

Ages: 7 – 11 yrs.
Publisher: Eco Kids Planet Limited
Newsstand Price: $5.00
Subscription Price: $46.00 / 11 Issues

Each issue of this advertising-free publication focuses on a different biome: sample issues included the African Savannah, the African Congo Rainforest, the Eastern Himalayas, and India.




Girls Have Autism, Too



Image: Rowan Scherf (Photo by Sam Scherf)

Image: Rowan Scherf (Photo by Sam Scherf)


I’ve read a number of articles about Sesame Street’s groundbreaking introduction of Julia, a Muppet with autism.  As the mother of an incredible young woman on the autism spectrum, I think what’s most groundbreaking is that Sesame Street’s new character is a girl.

Current statistics show that of the 1 in 68 children in the US challenged by autism, boys are diagnosed five times more often than girls.  It’s not that girls don’t have autism, they do. It’s that, for a variety of reasons, girls are often misdiagnosed.

The criteria for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (a developmental condition marked by social and communication difficulties, repetitive/ inflexible patterns of behavior, and restricted interests/ intense fixations) are based on data derived almost entirely from studies of boys.

It can be difficult to identify girls on the spectrum. On a measure of friendship quality and empathy, research shows that girls with autism scored as high as typically developing boys of the same age – but lower than typically developing girls (Head, McGillivray, & Stokes, 2014).

Girls on the spectrum can show a much higher interest in socialization than boys, which can make them more adept socially, but also makes social exclusion (which becomes inevitable during adolescence) especially painful.

Social life does not come naturally. Girls may painstakingly study people to imitate them, developing a greater ability to hide their symptoms – yet another reason girls with autism may be hiding in plain sight.

In addition, the criteria for an autism diagnosis in girls is often masked by overlapping diagnoses. Autism and ADHD frequently occur together – and because people diagnosed with ADHD tend to have higher levels of autism traits then typical people do – girls who seem easily distracted or hyperactive may get the ADHD label, even when autism is more appropriate.

A misdiagnosis for girls on the spectrum can be particularly difficult, especially as they enter adolescence.  Meeting the “mean girls” of junior and senior high school (and trying to decipher this new behavioral code) can be incredibly painful. Moreover, puberty involves unpredictable changes (horrifying to those with autism) that include breast development, mood swings, and menstruation.

The world is more dangerous for girls with autism as they develop sexually.  Their tendency to take things literally, their social isolation, and their deep desire to connect and to belong, can make girls and women easy prey for sexual exploitation.

People with autism who do not seem interested in social life may not obsess about what they are missing – but those who want to connect socially and cannot are tormented by loneliness.  In this way, autism may be much more painful for girls – and for women.  71% of adult women with Asperger’s reported suicidal thoughts; more than 10 times higher than the general population (Cassidy, et al., 2014).

Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia, was quoted as saying, “As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that [Julia] had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age,” she said.

Me too.


About the Author: Roberta Scherf is the parent of a young adult with autism, and the creator of MeMoves. See Roberta’s work at:

Head, AM, McGillivray, JA, & Stokes, MA.  Gender differences in emotionality and sociability in children with autism spectrum disorders.  Molecular Autism.  2014; 5; 19.
Cassidy S, Bradley P, Robinson  J, Allison C, McHugh M, Baron-Cohen S. Suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in adults with Asperger’s syndrome attending a specialist diagnostic clinic: a clinical cohort study, The Lancet, Volume 1, No. 2p142–147, July 2014.



Just Announced! The Parents’ Choice Spring 2017 Audio Awards


Grunge color light Headphones


From an astronaut who was afraid of the dark to a Big Buncha Buddies at a Sci-Fi Junior High, the Spring 2017 Parents’ Choice Audio Award winners have a lot to say.

This is a stellar playlist for those who sing La La La, or dream too much about lemonade and ear snacks.

We salute the newest Parents’ Choice Audio Award winners – talented, quirky, innovative and genuine. They know what it’s like to be a child, and how precious a time childhood should be.

What are you waiting for? Browse the list, and just push play.


Family Adventures – in Learning and Fun


Submarine watercolor illustration

What kind of family trips are you planning? A day trip to a children’s museum? A factory tour? A summer vacation that challenges mind and body? Or helps those in need? There’s even a lot to learn at the beach, beyond the importance of sunscreen. Staycations have plenty of backyard and neighborhood learning, too.

The folks at Cricket Media have asked Parents’ Choice Foundation to partner in their new initiative called Keeping Tech in Check and create, among other things, a library of ways to transform a family trip into a family adventure.

Beginning in April 2017, we’ll be presenting ideas and activities that enlist Parents’ Choice Award winning products to  jumpstart playful learning. Whether a visiting a Butterfly Garden, a Planetarium, or to one of the 400 places in the National Parks System, we’ll have ways to prepare for, and follow up on, the family trip with lists upon lists of playful learning ideas.

Learning is fun, and we want kids to know that. It’s what we believe and it’s what we do.

Stay tuned, sign up and check back. There’s a lot of fun on the road ahead.


Cricket Magazine Give Away!



Ages: Infant – 3 yrs.
Publisher: Cricket Media
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues


Cricket Media’s scaled-down signature mix of words and pictures serves its youngest audience with a delightful baby book format. Its sturdy, non-toxic pages feature colorful short stories, poems, and varied and vibrant illustrations and photographs that reflect the lives of babies and toddlers, offer a closer look at objects, actions, and places (napping, a playground, things that fly), and invite practice in identifying colors, parts of the body, and such concepts as big and little. A “Kim and Carrots” story, featuring a little girl and her toy rabbit, is a regular feature, as is a theme-related “Guide for Caregivers” with tips for read-aloud experiences, fingerplay, and simple crafts to enhance learning and together time.



Ages: 3 – 6 yrs.
Publisher: Cricket Media
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues


When I was little, I discovered pill bugs beneath a loose, damp-bottomed brick in our breezeway. Before my mother advised me that they would probably rather be left alone, I was fascinated by their hard shells, multiple legs, and how they rolled up in my palm. While perusing a recent issue of Ladybug, I was surprised to learn that pill bugs aren’t really bugs, but are related to sea crustaceans, and that, like fish, they breathe through gills.

Not surprising at all is that Ladybug’s editors use reading as both a source of pleasure and discovery to propel each issue of this thoroughly engaging magazine. Its humorous and thoughtful short stories, poems, and songs, outstanding artwork, cut-out crafts, and recurring games and puzzles invite children to wonder, observe, and play, while subtle verbal and visual lessons in empathy, friendship, and compassion thread throughout.



Ages: 6 – 9 yrs.
Publisher: Cricket Media
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues


“I really like your magazine. I almost scream when I get a new one.” So began one 9-year-old Spider subscriber’s letter published in a recent issue, and such enthusiasm from fans is common and understandable. Geared to ages 6 to 9, this literary magazine, populated throughout its margins by its host cast of cartoon insect characters led by googly-eyed Spider, is a notably smart and funny compendium of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and artwork by talented writers and artists; as well as word puzzles, recipes, games, and crafts. Some of the content takes aim squarely at funny bones; some invites thoughtful contemplation; and some opens a window on the world at large, with stories and poems about the customs and everyday life of other cultures (Diwali, the Indian New Year and Festival of Lights, for example, the spectacle of human tower-building in Barcelona, Spain; a retelling of a Maasai folktale from Kenya). And as always, each issue devotes page space to the original artwork and writing submitted by fans.



Ages: 9 – 14 yrs.
Publisher: Cricket Media
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues


Several decades old and showing no signs of age, this exceptional literary magazine remains timely and fresh, and despite the ubiquitous attractions of electronic devices, its fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art are enjoyed as fiercely by today’s audience of tweens and teens as they have been since the magazine’s inception in the 1970s. Well-conceived and wide-ranging, Cricket stories are often serialized, giving readers engaging substance, whether set in the real world or in a fantasy realm. Recent non-fiction pieces explored the roots of an Irish legend, the hard lives of 18th century chimney sweeps, and the accomplishments of a busy horror actor and a pioneering female acrobatic swimmer. Readers are welcomed as active participants through a vibrant two-page letters section, short story, poetry, and art contests; book recommendations, artwork, and favorite first lines from books. In addition, the magazine includes excerpts from readers’ contributions to Cricket’s online, ongoing, interactive fantasy adventure, “Kyngdom.”


Head on over to our Facebook page for more information and to enter!