Finding wholesome, quality television that your big kids will enjoy can be a tricky business. That’s why we’re excited to hear that all three seasons of the hit Teen Nick series H20: Just Add Waterwere released on DVD this week. The show—which originally aired in Australia several years ago but has now gained a worldwide audience—focuses on three teenage girls who find their lives changed forever when they become mermaids with magical powers. The best part? H20 is often commended for its strong female characters and positive messages for kids.
I recently spoke with Phoebe Tonkin, one of the stars of the show (she plays Cleo, in the center of the photo). Here’s what she had to say about her work and what it’s like to be a role model for girls:
H20 was your first television job. What was that like?
It was incredibly exciting. I hadn’t ever acted professionally before, and it was a big change from drama class at high school. But I was lucky that Cariba [Heine, on the right], Claire [Holt, left] and I were all in the same boat, so we all learned over the course of the series together.
The show is praised for its positive messages for girls. Was that important to you?
Of course. Throughout the show, the main priority for these girls was their loyalty to each other. The message that stayed consistent during H20 was that friendship is very important, despite the magical elements. That was the biggest underlying theme.
What message would you like young girls to take away from the show?
That leaning on your friends, especially as you are growing up and going through changes, will make everything a lot easier, and a lot more fun!
You finished the show quite a few years ago now, but it’s coming out now on DVD in the US, and it’s been gaining a following here over the last few years. Is that strange for you?
It is! Its so flattering when I hear a young girl with an American accent come up to me on the street and express how much she loves H20. It was always a big goal for us when we were filming to get it into the US, so it’s really amazing that it has been so well received here.
Is there anything else you think parents or kids should know about H20?
The three characters that we play are very real, and even though they are put in the extreme situation of becoming magical mermaids, their issues are very real: boys, school and growing up. And there is always a valuable lesson to be learned at the end of each episode.
Just because your kids are out of school for the summer doesn’t mean they can’t keep learning! If you’re starting to feel like lazy summer days are frying their brains, check out Wonderopolis.org.
It’s an awesome new website that makes learning fun for kids—and sparks creativity for the whole family. Wonderopolis, started by the National Center for Family Literacy last October, helps parents and teachers make kids’ worlds a little brighter through the power of discovery, creativity, learning and imagination. Every day Wonderopolis posts a new “wonder”, or a curious question meant to make learning fun and practical. Each Wonder of the Day covers a clever topic that parents and kids can put to use together with activities, vocabulary words and videos.
Through the Wonders of the Day, kids learn why flamingos are pink, what makes Jell-O jiggle and how fish can breathe underwater, and along the way they learn to think critically and use their imaginations. Your child can even use the site to learn about world news and events, too, with wonders such as “Where is Tornado Alley?” and “What are the ‘Ides of March?’”
This summer Wonderopolis is launching Camp What a Wonder, a free virtual camp that engages families in imaginative learning while school’s out of session. Check out the site every Thursday from June 23 to August 11 and you and your child can explore and discover tons of “wonders” about nature.
Next time you have a free hour with your kids, be sure to check it out! You can connect with Wonderopolis on Facebook or Twitter, too.
Ever see a child in a sitting in a stroller and think, “He’s way too old for that stroller”? (I sure did, last weekend.) In a funny coincidence, ABC News recently featured a story about kids too big to still be using a stroller. The story highlights a photo blog started two years ago that posts pictures of kids too big (because of their age) for strollers. Titled “Walk,” the blog can be found at TooBigForStroller.com.
Started as an inside joke, the blog’s rising popularity has lead the blogger, Laura Miller, to be berated by defensive parents who see Miller’s blog as a cruel critique on the difficulties of parenthood. While some parents still find it convenient to put kids in strollers, most experts agree kids should start transitioning out of strollers around age 3.
By 4 or 5 years old, kids should showcase their self-reliance and confidence by walking on their own. Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician and advisor for Parents, shared with ABC News: ”By this age, kids should be able to follow directions, listen to you and hold hands when you’re crossing the street,” she says. “In this day and age when our children are becoming more sedentary, you’re sending the wrong message by chauffeuring them around.”
However, strollers can still be beneficial when parents are in crowded, public places and need a way to keep tabs on their kids. While the American Academy of Pediatrics does not have specific guidelines for when kids should stop sitting in strollers, there are benefits to getting kids out of strollers sooner than later: kids will learn how to exercise, develop motor skills, and be more independent.
This year’s annual Toy Fair, held at the Javits Center in New York City, didn’t disappoint. Parents.com and Parents magazine editors saw everything from a life-sized Lightning McQueen of “Cars” built out of LEGOS to the original Power Rangers striking a pose to a court jester juggling fuzzy toys.
Walking the floors, we came across some unique and wonderful new toys and games, plus updates of childhood classics. Here are some standout new toys and products for toddlers/preschoolers and big kids:
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Learn & Laugh Baby iCan Play Case (Fisher-Price; $14.99; Age 6-36 months) – Now you can entertain your tot with the iPhone without worrying about it being drooled on, dropped, or damaged. This rubber, colorful case locks the iPhone in place while covering it with a protective plastic film.
Hideaway Country Kitchen – (Guidecraft; $240; Age 3+) What parent wouldn’t want a kitchenette that folds easily for storage? This wooden kitchen folds up to a depth of 6” and still has functioning knobs, a removable sink, and a pull-out oven rack.
Brush with Genius (Colorforms; $14.99; Age 3+) – Invented by a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this unique brush allows kids to make colorful drawings that then comes to life with sounds.
Figit Friends (Mattel; $49.99; Age 6+) – These squishy, voice-activated dolls easily captivate. They dance, sing, respond to commands—and are much cuter than Teletubbies. Figits come in four colors with distinct personalities (see picture above).
Glow-in-the-Dark Hexbugs (Innovation First; $11.99 each; Age 3+) – While these are estimated for ages 3+, their small size seems more appropriate for older kids. These entertaining racecar-like bugs have a glow-in-the-dark Galileo theme and constellations on their backs. They entertain kids who love fast-moving toys while also teaching them about astronomy.
The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy (Klutz; $19.99; Age 8+) – Perfect for summer nights, boys and girls can chart constellations, explore the moon’s surface, and learn about meteors. The guide also comes with a collapsible cardboard telescope, a special flashlight, a map to steer the stars, and more.