Archive for June, 2012

Every Dog, er Cat, Has It’s Day

Friday, June 29th, 2012

The Fourth of July is right around the corner and while you are adding red, white and blue bunting to the house and preparing  for fireworks, be sure to stock up on supplies for International Justice Day as well. In case you didn’t know, IJD is July 17.  You may have overlooked this observance because you were also busy preparing to mark World Population Day on July 11.  Still, you may have to drop some big hints to the kids for Parents’ Day on July 22, but they no doubt they will have lots of ideas for World Cat Day on August 8.  That’s quickly followed on August 9 by International Day of the World’s Indigenous People Day, followed on August 12 with International Youth Day. If World Humanitarian Day on August 19 doesn’t do it for you—not to worry, Just Because Day is celebrated on August 27. Why bother with even marking such events on the calendar? Just remember, for a long time, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was simply known as September 19. Life is short, celebrate everything!


Featured App: The Three Little Pigs by Nosy Crow

Friday, June 29th, 2012

The Three Little Pigs by Nosy Crow

Gold Award winnerThe Three Little Pigs
Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner
4 & Up
Nosy Crow

Oh that Nosy Crow! They’ve gone and recreated the Three Little Pigs as you’ve not seen them before.

Each piglet has more personality than ever; Mom and Dad can’t wait for their nest to be empty, the eldest boy is a nervous wreck, the girl appears worried but holds her pocketbook like the queen, and the youngest can’t wait to get started on his adventure.

The Three Little Pigs by Nosy CrowSo off they go. The spunky little pig leads the way. Tapping on each lets readers hear (and read) the perfectly matched conversation bubbles. The eldest is tired and wants to know how much farther they have to go, the girl is hungry and wants a snack, and the youngest just marvels at the sites along the way. And so, as the traditional story unfolds, each little pig builds a house of straw, sticks, and bricks. All are pleased with their homes and settling in quite happily.

Until the Big Bad Wolf arrives in his food truck. Dressed in his best mobile chef’s attire, he huffs and puffs and (yes readers, you too) blows the house down. When the first two pigs arrive at the youngest pig’s brick house, the feisty youngster is ready with a plan. The result is charming to the core. Watch the app’s trailer below!

Reviewed by Claire S. Green   ©2012 Parents’ Choice
Claire is president of Parents’ Choice Foundation and cofounder of Sandbox Summit®. She looks for toys and media that will unleash children’s interests, and celebrate the fun of learning.

For more fun from Nosy Crow, try their Cinderella app, another Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner available on the App Store.

Cinderella by Nosy Crow

Cinderella by Nosy Crow

To Monitor or Not to Monitor: Tracking Children’s Digital Lives

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Somewhere Not Here Mitchell Joyce via Compfight

As uKnowKids, describes it, our parents had a built in way to monitor our communications. Before cell phones, there was a single house phone. When friends called, parents knew. If they were worried about what we were talking about on the phone, they could pick up another line in the house, cover the mouthpiece, and listen to our phone calls.

That’s not possible anymore, as an ever growing array of social media sites and phone apps give kids more options for communicating than parents could possibly monitor on their own. As a result, numerous services now offer the means to observe and control children’s digital lives. Parenting today requires us to choose whether and how we will keep tabs on our children using these software, apps, and other tools.

According to The New York Timesa Pew Study found that two-thirds of parents monitor their children’s digital footprints. For some, this is as simple as friending their children on Facebook or following them on Twitter. With the number of privacy options available on social networks like Facebook, parents will often still be unable to keep track of their children’s online activity without the use of specially developed software and apps. The days of simply blocking unsavory sites from a child’s computer have passed. Now there are apps that track a smartphone user’s movement, and others that forward sent text messages to  a parent’s phone.  It is not necessarily that parents don’t trust their children. Some simply wish to attain the same awareness of their children’s comings and goings that their own parents had. For other parents, protection is the goal of monitoring online activity. The shadow of cyberbullying looms over modern adolescence, and monitoring a child’s online communications can make it easier to detect the traces of  traumatic online harassment.

But how do parents integrate their observations into parenting? As one grandmother said to The New York Times, she uses technology to stay privy to plenty of information that she could never bring up to her granddaughter. Teenagers do not want to feel as though their parents don’t trust them, and nothing would give them that sense more than a reference to knowledge a parent had gained by reading their child’s text messages. In other words, though you might learn by reading your son’s text messages that a girl caused his sour mood, it would be better not to bring her up to him.

Today’s parents must decide whether it is enough to regularly discuss internet safety with their children, or whether a more active digital observation solution works best for their family. Not only that, but parents must include in this decision the complex ethics of surveillance and trust that digital monitoring solutions bring to the surface. To what extent should we discuss with our children the ways we track their online activity, and should they be involved in choosing how they will be monitored? Should we share the information we learn with them, or keep it to ourselves and use it to silently guide our parenting?

Those who do opt for  monitoring have many options. For younger children, consider “gated” social networks like Everloop, which offers games, chat, and messaging similar to Facebook, but with the benefit of safety features appropriate for those under 13. Parents of older children who wish to have a better understanding of what they do online can use tools like Trend Micro’s Online Guardian, which lets parents track internet activity and limit online time on multiple computers. As we don’t imagine many families will be returning to the use of a single house phone any time soon, such software might be the best bet for knowing where your children are going online and what they do when they’re there.


THINK-ETS Giveaway: Tiny Toys for Creativity, Avoiding Meltdowns, and Family Bonding

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012


Want to win your own set of Think-ets? Visit our Facebook page and tell us whether you’d like the original, fairy, or beach set of Think-ets. We’ll pick a random winner of each set on Wednesday at 9:00am EST!

Randy Compton, the inventor of Think-ets, pictured above, and the CEO of Think-a-lot Toys, shares the story of how he invented the creative and tiny Think-ets toy. He also offers stories from parents and children who’ve enjoyed playing with them!

I came up with the idea for Think-ets after realizing how much my 8 year old daughter Meryl loved playing the game “What’s Missing?” when we went hiking in the mountains of Colorado. I loved to hike and she loved to play. So we used to play this wonderful, old fashioned game called “What’s Missing?” at rest stops along the way. We would use twigs, rocks, moss, etc. as our items to test our memories. The game made hiking fun and interesting for us. She no longer thought of hiking as a chore or a bore—instead, she welcomed the outings because she wanted to play “What’s Missing?”! And since she LOVED this game, I thought to myself, “Why not make this into a game that others could buy as it worked so well with my daughter?”

So, I put a handful of miniature objects in a little mesh pouch and with some friends came up with the name Think-ets. I added some more games to play so kids wouldn’t get bored and soon Think-a-lot Toys was born. That was in the fall of 2007.

All of our “tiny treasures” have been painstakingly sourced from around the world. They come from Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, India, China, Peru, and the U.S.A. among others. We seek to avoid cheap plastic items that contribute to our world’s trash heap. We don’t believe in games that are bought one day and tossed the next. Some of the tiny trinkets are made in large factories and some of them are painstakingly made by hand by rural artisans.

For example, our little straw hats are made by some older men in a rural village in Mexico. My supplier says it’s hard to say how long these will be made because the younger generation doesn’t seem to be as interested in taking the time to make them. The little soccer player in our Sports Think-ets is hand painted by mostly women in rural India. The miniature animals are carefully made by Safari Ltd. in China by workers who handpaint each item. The little crown, coffee cup, copper chalice and jet airplane are made in a pewter factory in Rhode Island. I could go on but you get the idea. It’s simply amazing to think about the craftsmanship behind some of these little trinkets.

And, we’re happy to say that our game Think-ets is assembled at a facility that employs people with developmental disabilities located in Lakewood, Colorado. We like supporting our community in this way and many customers love knowing we do.

One other interesting story: Our company logo is the face of Meryl’s best friend and next door neighbor growing up. Her friend’s dad took the picture, morphed it a little, put some trinkets above her head to show think-ets imagination…and voila, a logo was born!

We now have 13 different versions of Think-ets (the same number of stripes on the American flag) and have also created other storytelling card sets and games. To date, we’ve sold more than 75,000 Think-ets here in the United States and in a few countries around the world. Our goal is to make “toys and games that make you think—and use your imagination.” It’s really true. Imagination is more important than knowledge.


Featured Album: Beethoven’s Wig: Sing Along Piano Classics

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Sing Along Piano Classics
Beethoven’s Wig
Spring 2012
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
Available on iTunes


Beethoven’s Wig creator Richard Perlmutter is known for his witty, appropriate lyrics set to works by the great classical composers. This offering, one of the best in the series, contains many comic gems. One standout, however, strikes a different chord. Complete with mission control lift-off, it is a soulful transformation of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” into a beautifully sung, dream-like “Voyage to the Moon”: “Flying higher, higher, higher, higher/We’re floating free, weightlessly/Floating, falling, floating/Falling down, floating down, falling down….” The cleverest songs are Perlmutter’s sly treatments of Schoenberg’s “Sehr Langsam” (“S.O.S.”) and Henry Cowell’s “Amiable Conversation” (“Bang Bang Bang”). Other comic highlights: Chopin’s “Funeral March” as an elegy for a car past its prime (“Poor Uncle Joe/Has a car that doesn’t go”) and the Brahms Lullaby re-imagined as an anti-lullaby (“I Can’t Sleep”), thanks to a buzzing fly. The tracks are deepened by a sterling cast of professional opera singers and by notable pianist Grant Gershon, resident conductor of the Los Angeles Opera and music director of the L.A. Master Chorale. The album ends with Gershon’s striking reprise of each selection.

Lynne Heffley   ©2012 Parents’ Choice