Archive for June, 2016

Mom Says Screen Time Is Foul Play

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

In the dinosaur days – otherwise known as the pre-smartphone era, there was Parenting by Trinket.

When a wee one would get antsy or fussy while shopping at the grocery store, you’d search your purse for something to amuse and entertain your child in order to avoid the dreaded full-on meltdown tantrum in aisle three. Maybe you’d hand them your keychain as a distraction. Or maybe you’d grab a box of animal crackers and have them eat a lion.

These days, the more common scene is to see a parent hand the child a smartphone to quiet him or her down. This happens in restaurants, too, — another hotspot for possible child disruption to what parents always hope will be a pleasant evening out.

As I was being escorted to my table in an eatery the other day, I walked by a child sitting so calm and still that it caught my eye. As the mother of three sons, I was impressed. He looked like such a well-behaved young boy. His young mother sat across from him, also calm. No high-stress scene there. “Isn’t that nice?” I thought.

Then I realized that the son had a small screen — a smartphone or some other gadget — propped up right in front of him, and mom had a tablet propped up right in front of her. No wonder they were quiet; they were both lost in their screens.

You know where this is going – the whole no-screen-time rant. But no, it’s really not about that, because the next day I was chatting with a work friend who recently became a grandfather.

baseball grandpaHe’s in his sixties, grew up in the New York area, and is a devoted, serious Yankees fan – always has been, always will be – even though he has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for the last 30 years. His daughter works in New York, and several years ago she got married, moved to a New Jersey suburb and had a son named Samuel.

Little Samuel is now 3 and he has not watched any TV, he has never been handed a phone in a grocery store, and certainly has never has had a screen propped in front of him at a restaurant or anywhere else. It’s important to his mom that he not get sucked into our society’s sick addiction to tech gadgets, Candy Crush or SpongeBob Squarepants.

And it’s hard to argue with that. But for his grandfather, the Yankees’ fan, it has been brutal. Grandpa and Grandma are often called to New Jersey to help with babysitting, and for a retired guy who loves to watch sports, it’s digital detox of the worst sort.

Sunday afternoons are prime times to relax in front of the TV and watch a good ball game. And furthermore, little Samuel needs to learn about important people like A-Rod and Derek Jeter and Babe Ruth. He has tried arguing with his daughter, pointing out that it’s tradition, it’s sport, it’s the all American pastime – and it’s good for Samuel.

No dice. She knows her smart, sweet Sam will have plenty of screen time in the years to come.

All of this is pointing to the fact that it’s a struggle. We know that. Parenting by Trinket is no better than Parenting by Screen.

Parenting by being an involved, caring – and completely present in the moment — mom or dad is what we’re all striving for. And you have to make the screen-time decision that works for you.

After all, even Mr. Rogers didn’t advocate no screen time. (If he did, he would have been out of a job.) The point is you can raise a smart, inquisitive child who grew up watching Yankees games with his grandfather. And you can raise a smart, inquisitive child who didn’t.

When I next talked to my friend about the Sam situation, he had good news to report: He and his grandson – and the rest of the family – had found a solution. They all went to a minor league game. It wasn’t the Yankees, but the New Jersey Jackals at Yogi Berra Stadium proved to be a fine substitute, and Sam now knows what real baseball is all about.









15 Ways to Find Adventure In Your Own Backyard

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars

Ages: 3 & Up
Manufacturer: Educational Insights
Price: $14.99

This super durable set of kidnoculars are designed just for little faces.


Folkmanis® Monarch Life Cycle Puppet

Ages: 3 & Up
Manufacturer: Folkmanis, Inc.
Price: $39.99

This beautifully designed puppet shows and goes through the three cycles of the monarch – chrysalis, caterpillar stage, then butterfly.



Primary Science Outdoor Discovery Set

 Ages: 3 & Up
Manufacturer: Learning Resources
Price: $29.99

Little ones can use household items, pebbles, twigs, and even bugs from the backyard to conduct 10 different experiments.



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.




On Beyond Bugs!: All About Insects

Ages: 5 – 10 yrs.
Download Price: $5.99
Platform: iPad

This ebook app based on the Dr. Seuss book has kids exploring and learning about the bugs in their world.





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.



Star Walkthumbnail_starwalk2-pic-1-big

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.


Books and Magazine:


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.






Recess Monkey Music Video Debut for “Time to Make the Donuts”

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Debuting here on Parents’ Choice, from their upcoming new album release, “Novelties”, the song “Time to Make the Donuts” is, you guessed it, an ode to donuts and the makers who bake them.

Sing and dance along with the donut maker, who gets out of bed at 3:15 A.M. to put the donut mix in the donut machine. But who knew making donuts was this well choreographed a procedure!?

Parents’ Choice readers can download the song for free until 6/23! Click here to get your free download.

The entire “Novelties” album is released 6/17 and is exclusively available on Amazon Music.

Recess Monkey (Jack, Drew, and Korum) are three Seattle teachers who rock out for the whole family.

Keep an eye out for a Parents’ Choice “7 Questions for…” interview with Jack Forman coming soon.


18 Ways to Play with Simple and Not-So-Simple Machines

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016



Kids First Engineering Kits 

Ages: 3 – 5 yrs.
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $44.95 and up

This line of science kits introduces scientific topics to kids starting at age 3 and prepares them for more advanced kits and learning. We love Amusement Park Engineer, Automobile Engineer, and Aircraft Engineer.


DIY Electro Dough Kit

Ages: 4 & Up
Manufacturer: Technology Will Save Us
Price: $27.00

Use dough to create circuits and craft components to light up a bulb, create a buzzer, and even play games such as, soccer and basketball.




 Ages: 6 & Up
Manufacturer: Wonder Workshop
Price: $149.99

This adorable one-eyed robot responds to voice commands, dances, and even sings. Kids use apps such as, Blocky, Xylo, and Go to teach him new things by coding commands for him to follow.



littleBits STEAM Student Set

Ages: 8 – 14 yrs.
Manufacturer: littleBits Electronics, Inc.
Price: $299.95

Designed in partnership with educators, this set is designed for students and allows for four children to explore and build at once. Kids work to build functioning machines, such as a security device, an art machine, and a throwing arm



Robotics: Smart Machines

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $129.95

This kit introduces older kids to robotics and basic programming. Kids can build eight predesigned robots, or create their own.




Circuit Maze™

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.
Price: $29.99

Players work to create a real functioning circuit. Over 60 challenges range from beginner to expert, making this logic game just as much fun for adults.




Remote Control Machines Kits

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $49.95 and up

The Remote Control Machines line has older kids constructing and controlling their own motorized vehicles and machines. Some of our favorite kits include Space Explorers and Animals.




Box Island: One Hour Coding

Ages: 8 – 12 yrs.
Publisher: Radiant Games
Download Price: Free
Platform: iPad and Android

Take a trip to Box Island and learn basic coding skills.




Crazy Gears

Ages: 5 – 9 yrs.
Developer: Seven Academy
Download Price: $1.99
Platform: iPad

With no instructions, kids are free to explore and practice working with machines and gears.




Simple Machines by Tinybop

Ages: 6 – 8 yrs.
Developer: Tinybop
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

Kids explore and use the forces of physics to make music, storm a castle, and launch a spaceship.



Crazy Machines Golden Gears

 Ages: 7 & Up
Developer: Viva Media
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

A puzzle game that has kids experimenting and building their own “Rube Goldberg” type machines.





Building Machines

Ages: 5 – 7 yrs.
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Hardcover Price: $17.95

Kids who love construction will get a kick out of assembling and building their own earth movers out of the included die cut pieces.



How Machines Work: Zoo Break!

Ages: 7 – 10 yrs.
Publisher: DK Publishing
Hardcover Price: $19.99

This fun and funny book follows the story of a sloth and his sidekick as they work to break out of the zoo with the help of simple machines.




The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!

Ages: 5 – 9 yrs.
Author: Kelly Doudna
Publisher: Mighty Media Press
Hardcover Price: $14.95

Big concepts made easy for little learners. Explore the technology of six simple machines: levers, pulleys, screws, inclined planes, wedges, and wheels.


Rosie Revere, Engineer

Ages: 5 & Up
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Hardcover Price: $16.95

This story follows the titular Rosie on a quest to fulfill her dream of becoming an engineer.


Announcing: The Parents’ Choice Book Awards

Thursday, June 9th, 2016


The Spring 2016 Parents’ Choice Book Awards celebrate page turning.

From temper tantrums, friendship and searching for gold, to jazz musicians, a famous photograph and beloved friends left behind.

There are dinosaurs and bears and otters and prairie dogs.

Readers travel through time, sandwiches go missing and a pirate helps rebuild a ship.

Oh, and batons are twirled, girls are forgotten and an egg refuses to hatch.

Needless to say, there’s a lot to shout about!