Archive for April, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest (and Tech Savvy)

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

My daughter marvels at how old and clunky the “fancy” computers look in old(er) pictures and movies. In fact, she thinks “War Games,” with its giant pong-like computer, is a comedy. My writing career actually started on a typewriter and though I’m not completely clueless when it comes to computers, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with technology and my teen. Frankly, sometimes e-mail is the easiest way to get in touch with her–but it isn’t the way to communicate.  Face time still trumps status updates or badly spelled texts any day. Still, it is crucial to know how to navigate in her tech savvy world. For instance, to keep track of grades and assignments, her school has a special interactive site. Different sports organizations offer the most up-to-date info on web sites instead of the old phone trees and band bake sales are more successful when publicized on Facebook.  I make it a point to sit down and really talk with my child, but I also work to keep up with technology—even if that means I have to twit, tweet or whatever.

Parents’ Choice 2011 Spring Small Screen Awards

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Small Screen Awards

We are happy to announce the Parents’ Choice Foundation’s Spring 2011 Small Screen Award Winners! This time, we’re celebrating our favorite Video Games, Software, Mobile Apps and Websites.

Children will learn to save, create, reason, and move as they explore our latest picks.  They’ll also find favorite books presented via new media.  Mobile apps can now be pop-up books, and DVDs present new ways to explore favorite picture books.

There are far too many winners to be described here, of course, so find the rest below:

Software | Video GameDVDMobile AppWebsite

Play and Learn: Celebrate Earth Day All Year

Friday, April 15th, 2011

April 22nd is Earth Day.  Founded in 1970 as a U.S. environmental teach-in, Earth Day is now celebrated by over 175 countries.  Spend the day teaching your children about climate change, energy, food, and other ecological issues that will impact their generation.  If you’re not sure where to start, try PBS’s list of Earth Day programming for children.

Though it’s only celebrated for twenty-four hours, Earth Day’s lessons can be practiced daily.  Encourage your children daily to be aware of the resources they use and the impact they’re having on their planet, and seek ways to volunteer or develop projects at home that will preserve and improve your local environment!

The following list includes some of Parents’ Choice Foundation’s favorite toys, books, and music that will encourage children to be aware of the materials they use, conscious of the spaces they inhabit, aware of ways to positively engage with nature, and knowledgeable of the other creatures with whom they share the planet.

Want to win all of these products?  Beginning Monday, April 18, listen to Absolutely Mindy at 3pm on SiriusXM Kids Place Live for details!

1. Naturebag | Naturebag Eco-Activities Ltd, $34.99 Ages: 3 – 12 yrs.
“Open the bag to find tools such as recycled cardboard leaf viewers, a rubber wood magnifying glass, soy-based crayons, hemp twine and organic cotton blindfolds…”

2. Eco Crafts | ALEX, $21.95 Ages: 6 and up
Create 20 easy Earth-friendly crafts with recycled stickers, papers and pencils!

3. 10 Things I Can Do To Help My WorldCandlewick Press, $15.99 (Hard Cover) Ages: 3 & Up
Author: Melanie Walsh
“This book is full of simple, practical, common sense tactics to combat environmental issues such as global warming and wasteful energy policies. Her bold, cheery acrylic illustrations and simple shapes are similarly full of kid eye-appeal.”

4. Planting Seeds | Raging River Records/Long Night Moon Music, $15.00 All Ages
Maria and Friends
“The new CD focuses on the themes of locally based agriculture and sustainability, and does so with a sense of style, grace and fun rarely found in children’s or adult music….”

5. CitiBlocs Skyline 200 Piece Hot & Cool ColorsCitiBlocs, LLC, $43.99 Ages: 3 & Up
“Depending on your perspective or vernacular, a cool, or hot, updated and eco-friendly (New Zealand Radiata Pine) version of a treasured building toy. Start by creating low and wide structures (horse corrals or Frank Lloyd Wright homes) and move on to skyscrapers in Singapore or Dubai.”

6. Oceans Are Talking | The Ocean Foundation, $15.00 Ages: 5-12
Sam Lardner & The Next Generation
“Collaborator and singer/songwriter, Sam Lardner is folksy, fun, skilled, and approachable as he encourages listeners to take a positive action to protect the planet’s precious resources and inhabitants….”

7. Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse | Creativity for Kids, $29.99 Ages: 4 & Up
“The Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse turns out to be a wonderful art project for a range of ages. The package wastes nothing – even the box itself becomes part of the house…”

8. Tegu Blocks | Tegu Ages: 3-10
“The set…promotes a clear message of “create, capture, share”, while also providing clear support for sustainability. Tegu products are made in Honduras from recycled hardwood…Tegu has created a modern twist on a classic toy – and somehow it already feels classic… “

Bee Friends

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

There is a delicate balance to the way the world works and even a small shift can have rippling consequences. One of the hardest workers on our colony called Earth is the honeybee. These guys probably don’t get enough credit for all their busy little buzzing does for us humans. Now it’s our turn to help. Honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate. For the last decade or more bees have been suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Why do I care, you ask? Bees sting and can ruin a good picnic. According to an engrossing new documentary, “Vanishing of the Bees,” commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables. Without bees, our food supply would be severely in jeopardy. The film, narrated by “Juno” star Ellen Page, explores the conflicting opinions over CCD and what is being done to combat the problem. Check out the website for Vanishing of the Bees for local screenings and clips of the film. You can also get the kids involved with great bee-friendly activities:

*As you plan your summer gardens, be sure to include bee-friendly flower seeds as well as vegetables and fruits.

*Be sure to buy local, organic produce if you can’t grow it yourself.

*Consider becoming a bee keeper or find a local bee keep in your area to support.

*Do a science report on bees. Spread the word about the honeybee problem.

*Use natural pesticides; hang up a bat house and always keep in mind our important little bee friends.

*Check out Honey Bee Sanctuary for more ways to help.

Time in a Bottle—or a Book

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Blog author, far right, in earlier days.

The old adage suggests that time flies when you’re having fun. Truth is, time simply flies by. Our kids grow up fast. Our lives change so quickly sometimes it’s hard to keep track. Fortunately there are now easy and innovative ways to capture our memories.  Kids can create their own story books illustrated with their own artwork (which sure beats just shoving them in closets or drawers) at sites such as Other services like Hallmark and, let parents personalize bed time stories with voice recordings. Several computer programs allow near-professional editing of home movies and even the novice photographer can turn a favorite snapshot into a museum-sized canvas through a myriad of online photo services.  Currently, I’m working on a family cookbook that doesn’t feature gourmet or fancy recipes, but rather the comfort food that I grew up with. In between the many photos of family members gathered around the table is the recipe for my paternal Grandmother’s Chicken and Dumplings as well as my maternal Grandfather’s secret recipe for Wedding Soup. All of my grandparents are gone now, but I feel like I have a little piece of them to share with my own daughter. The book will be something I can give her before she goes away to college—which, with the way time flies, will be here before you know it. What technology are you using to preserve your family history?