Monday, October 21st, 2013
Kids and parents who are loyal to PBSKids.org and enjoy accessing content online have probably already seen the site redesign that focuses on games, videos, and shows featuring favorite characters but the highly intuitive and visual site aimed at ages 2-8 now works across all devices, is organized in an age appropriate way, and features wealth of educational resources for parents.
“The number one reason for the redesign was to incorporate new PBS branding,” said Chris Bishop, Creative Director at PBS Kids. Responsible for the new look and feel of the site, Bishop believed it was important not “to disturb what already works well. If a kid can’t get to what they want, that’s horrible. We want to be sure that they can still get what they want.”
The redesigned site incorporates a new look for familiar characters, Dot and Dash, a blank canvas above the site’s hallmark spinning wheel, and a wealth of contextual information for parents that appears while kids are playing games, watching videos, or going to a show.
“With this redesign, we are folding our elementary school age features previously on PBS KIDS GO! into a single PBSKids.org destination designed to appeal to all kids 2-8,” said Melissa Mills, Associate Director of PBS Kids Public Relations and Social Media. Since the former PBS Kids Go site was retired, all content from lives at PBS Kids but Bishop “wanted to provide different ages with distinct experiences through the same site.”
The new site allows for the youngest PBS fans to find content they love quickly and easily. Large thumbnail images in the video section makes it easy to find full episodes or segments featuring favorite characters whereas in the games section, the similar layout contains 6 games at the top where kids can either flip through to find the things they want to play or search by topic.
Where can ages 6-8 find favorite content that formerly lived on PBS Kids Go? It’s been integrated into the bottom part of the site. The depth of content they’re used to can be located on the right side of the PBSKids.org homepage. While preschoolers tend to be overwhelmed with content, focus group proved to Bishop and his team that “older kids like to feel overwhelmed. They like to navigate by games” and sort by topics. The site also highlights harder games, targeting kids who are looking for an extra challenge.
All the changes at PBSKids.org also means more information for parents. While the educational value might not have been apparent before, PBS has integrated a Parents Bar at the top of the site to tie in content from other parts of the site and learning objectives. Now when children play a game featuring Peg+Cat, Daniel Tiger, or any of the other popular PBS characters, parents see get a targeted message about other content from PBS such as resources, things to do and tips for families on the go on the Parents Bar. Video content now features information about the clip such as the name of show, name of clip, length, and goals like language, literacy, social and emotional development.
Images courtesy of PBSKids.org
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
There are so many topics that we need to start talking to our children about at a young age but in an age appropriate way. Talks about being a good friend morph into conversations about being a responsible digital citizen as they start going online, observations made about alcohol while dining out can lay the groundwork for discussions about underage drinking, and modeling good cell phone behavior can convey the message that no text is worth a life once your kids get behind the wheel. But did you know that over the counter medicine abuse is also a topic that should also be discussed early?
As a parent of an almost 10 year old and 7 year old, I’m pretty savvy on texting lingo but not so much about slang that has to do with medicine abuse. Even though October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, Stop Medicine Abuse is an ongoing prevention campaign funded by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association that aims to alert parents and community members of the dangers of teens abusing over the counter cough medicines. With 1 in 20 teens abusing over the counter cough medicine to get high, teen medicine abuse needs to be on our radar screen.
What do you need to know? StopMedicineAbuse.org urges parents to know what’s in their medicine cabinets and what can be abused. Look for dextromethorphan (DXM), a cough suppressant found in over 100 products that is commonly used to get high.
What should you do?
- Safeguard the medicines in your home by throwing out old expired ones you no longer need and take stock of what you keep in your cabinet. Knowing what you have in your medicine cabinet can tip you off to a potential problem if things go missing.
- Talk to your teen about the dangers of abusing all medicines, including over the counter ones.
- Know the lingo. Just as it’s important to know texting slang, it’s also important to know the slang for medicine abuse. CCCs, robo-tripping, Skittles, red devils, and syrup head aren’t what you think. Here’s a helpful infographic that provides definitions of 5 commonly used terms when discussing medicine abuse.
Pills and medicine bottles courtesy on pink background courtesy of Shutterstock. Infograph courtesy of Consumer Healthcare Products Association and OTCSafety.org
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Pencils. Books. Backpacks. What did your children need as they went back to school this fall? In many areas of the world, the most important thing that children need to be ready to learn is more basic: a nutritious meal! Our ability to access food in the United States is often taken for granted until we realize the true impact of what it means to be hungry. Hungry kids have trouble learning but in countries around the world such as Kenya, Niger, and Honduras, school meals are life changing.
This week the World Food Program USA (WFP USA) is encouraging families around the country to pack lunches for 5 days and donate the money you would have spent buying lunch in your workplace cafeteria or going out to eat to WFP USA’s Lunch Money Challenge. All it takes is a quarter a day to provide a healthy meal for a child through the Home Grown School Meals program, a nutritious and sustainable program that uses food by local farmers.
Providing a nutritious meal each day helps to improve life chances for kids in Honduras, Niger, and Kenya. School meals give poor families an incentive to send their children to school, especially girls who may not otherwise have the opportunity to receive education. The meals help kids reach their full potential by breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty for the world’s most vulnerable kids.
The Lunch Money Challenge can serve as a great springboard for talking about social good with your children since it’s one the whole family can get involved in. Talk to your kids about why you’re bringing lunch this week, rather than buying it from the school cafeteria. Chances are they’ll be on board and happy to give up school pizza for the week. After all, a study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and supported by the United Nations Foundation found that 9 out of 10 American youth between the ages 8-19 give money to organizations that support charitable causes.
According to mom, former teacher, blogger, and social good advocate, Elena Sonnino, “teaching our children to use their voices for good- as change agents- and to be charitable is a gift that we can give them.” Sonnino encourages parents to be a role model but also have a conversation about giving with children that explains our action and behaviors.
If you don’t know where to start, she suggests discussing these questions:
- Do my children know that I give to charity?
- Do they know which charities I am supporting?
- Do they know why I choose to give specifically to this charity and the impact of my giving?
And why do we want to raise charitable children? Sonnino believes that “learning about others and caring about others impacts everyone. Our 21st century children are entering a world with the understanding that what impacts one child, far away, has a ripple effect on all of us.”
So go ahead and get involved by starting with The Lunch Money Challenge. Line up your lunch bags, make some sandwiches, grab a piece of fruit, and repeat it five times and teach your kids how to help others around the world with this very simple act that can make a world of difference.
Image courtesy of World Food Program USA
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Thursday, October 10th, 2013
As classroom parents plan Halloween party activities to occupy the time between the school parade and the night’s sugar rush, it’s a great time to sneak in some wonderfully spooky science experiments that will allow kids of all ages to learn a little science before diving into the afternoon’s treats. Here are six easy experiments that will dazzle kids of all ages and are pretty easy to prepare.
Serve misty punch. A chunk of dry ice in a big punch bowl allows the room to be overtaken by a creeping fog. Show elementary aged kids the dry ice before it’s immersed in the liquid and talk about why it’s called dry ice. Hint: DryIceNetwork.com says that the substance is really frozen carbon dioxide. “It is called dry ice because it resembles water in many ways…but when it sublimates [when a solid or gas changes state without becoming a liquid], it turns to gas instead of liquid.” Save another chunk of dry ice for Halloween night and add it to your jack-o-lantern after lighting the candle to make some spooky fog.
Create a Halloween feel box to invigorate their senses. Get a large bowl and add a package of wet gummy worms, wet spaghetti coated in oil, and peeled grapes. Place it inside a box where you’ve cut a hole big enough for a little arm to slide inside and let early elementary ages, preschoolers, and toddlers try to guess the real foods inside your slimy bowl. It’s a fun idea that allows children to make observations based only on touch. About.com Family Crafts has more ideas for household items to place inside the feel box.
Make ghosts and bats dance with static electricity. Balloons, tissue paper, markers, scissors, tape, and your sweater or hair are all you need to make fun Halloween shapes float around thanks to static electricity. How do you do it and why does it work? Visit Inspiration Laboratories for the full instructions and explanation.
Write and reveal secret messages with Goldenrod bleeding paper. According to the American Chemical Society, “Goldenrod paper turns bright red when exposed to basic solutions, like ammonia water. Spray some ammonia-water solution on your hand to make a bloody hand print.” For full directions, visit Steve Spangler Science for directions and why this is a very cool experiment, especially if you’re short on time. Ammonia water is safe for kids. Just make sure that they wash their hands after being sprayed.
Concoct some glowing bubbling brew. Did you know that a diluted yellow highlighter will glow under a black light? Have kids make a prediction about what will happen when you turn on a black light and turn off the overhead light. Also make them guess what will happen when you mix the yellow highlighter water (aka glow water) with vinegar and then pour it over some baking soda. For some great photos of what this experiment looks like, visit Play at Home Mom.
Test the density of candy with a simple sink and float test. Once Halloween has come and gone and you’re left with the candy that hasn’t been eaten, it makes for great science experiments. CandyExperiments.com has tons of great candy experiments but a really simple one is the sink/float test. Visit the site to learn why some candies float while others sink!
Scary Halloween laboratory via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
If you’re looking to integrate more math into your preschooler’s day, you’ll love PEG + CAT, the newest series from PBS Kids that made its debut this week. PEG + CAT is a delightful new animated preschool multimedia property that follows spirited red-head Peg and her sidekick, Cat, as they teach kids foundational math concepts and skills through their adventures. Kids and parents alike will appreciate the fun way that kids are introduced to age appropriate math topics through a fun storyline that features relatable characters and catchy songs through a multiplatform media experience that includes interactive mobile and online content.
Each episode features a story where Peg and Cat encounter an unexpected challenge that requires them to use math and problem-solving skills in order to save the day. Their adventures take children from a farm to a distant planet, from a pirate island to a prehistoric valley, from Romeo and Juliet’s Verona to Cleopatra’s Egypt to New York’s Radio City Music Hall. The series displays the value of resilience and perseverance in problem-solving through specific math lessons.
In addition to the televised content, PEG + CAT’s multimedia content provides another avenue for children to learn and practice the concepts they see on the show. Games, other resources found online at pbskids.org/peg, and additional interactive features like games, streaming video, parent and educator resources and a mobile app accompany this new show for a richer learning experience for today’s preschoolers.
“We are thrilled to bring PEG + CAT to the PBS KIDS audience this October, not just because it is a smart, funny and engaging series, but also because it meets a critical need for today’s kids,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS. “Over half of our nation’s children are performing below proficient levels in math by the 4th grade, which is why we need to start early to give young children the foundation they need to succeed in this important curricular area. Peg also promises to be a positive role model for girls; this is critical because research shows that kids identify math as being for boys and not for girls as early as second grade. With her sense of humor, problem-solving skills and eagerness to collaborate and persevere, Peg will help encourage both boys and girls to explore math.”
Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education through the Ready To Learn Initiative, a program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families, and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), PEG + CAT is the first original preschool multimedia property developed as part of the federal Ready To Learn Initiative.
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