Archive for the ‘ Elementary ’ Category

PBS Kids Site Redesign Highlights Content for Ages 2-8 and Features Educational Information for Parents

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Kids and parents who are loyal to 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 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 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 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

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6 Tips for Surviving Air Travel with Kids

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Family air travel can be stressful for even the most travel savvy parents who rack up frequent flier miles for business trips. All parents are put to the test when it comes to traveling with kids in tow. Managing extra bodies and bags in the same lines that you are used to doing solo, dealing with unexpected surprises of air travel and the impact on your children, and hoping that fellow passengers are understanding of wiggly kids in flight are elements that are not present during work trips. Even if you’re not an experienced business traveler, use these six tips to prep your family for an upcoming flight to appear like a travel pro.

Let your kids know what to expect at the airport. While you talk about your upcoming trip, include important information about what to expect before the plane takes off. Discuss getting boarding passes and checking bags, the security lines (kids under 12 can leave their shoes on), and waiting to board the flight. Helpful books for young kids include  Helpful books for young kids include Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport  or Flying by Donald Crews.

Pack together. Whether packing in-flight entertainment or outfits for the duration of your trip, it’s always a good idea to involve your child. This ensures that your toddler has their favorite stuffed animal, your preschooler has a couple books that are familiar to be read at bedtime, your persnickity tween has a wardrobe that you both agree upon, and your teen has remembered the many chargers needed for their digital devices.

Have a discussion about in-flight manners. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about respect and how to ensure that they’re respectful of everyone they may encounter during their trip. Remind them to look the flight attendants in the eye during beverage service and to say please and thank you. Talk about how to respect fellow passengers by limiting the sprawl of their belongings to the area in front of their seat and their seat back pocket, being gentle with the tray table, talking in quiet voices, and not kicking the seat in front of them.

Purchase new things to keep kids entertained.  Load up your smartphone with new apps, purchase episodes of a favorite TV show or movies to watch on your tablet or laptop, and invest in some new markers, crayons, or stickers. Having new and novel items that your kids haven’t seen before will help keep them occupied on your flight.

Bend the household rules when it comes to screen time. To preserve everyone’s sanity once you’re in the air, throw screen time limits out the window. Let your child drain the battery on your smartphone for an Angry Birds playing marathon, deactivate Kindle Free Time screen limits, and let them watch movies back to back if needed.

Compliment them on a job well done. Make sure your kids know you recognize their good behavior by telling them how well they’ve behaved during the trip. If fellow passengers compliment them, be sure to let them know that others recognized what good travelers they were too.

Family in the airport via Shutterstock

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3 Ways to Teach Kids about Other Cultures

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Learning about other countries is an important lesson in geography and cultures for kids of all ages but how do you begin teaching them about a place that, at first glance, seems so different from where you live? Here are 3 ways to make your children global citizens.

Talk about commonalities. Young ages will be able to best identify with day to day life such as food, family, and daily life. Little Passports provides a great introduction for preschoolers through a monthly subscription service that follows Sam and Sophia through world travels with materials that arrive in the mail. Each month Little Passports sends information about a different country through a postcard written by Sam and Sophia, sticker to add to your child’s play passport, and a souvenir from the country. It’s a great way to get the conversation going about countries around the globe in an age appropriate way.

Look at photos. Pictures are a great way to get kids talking about places around the world because the visual nature makes them want to talk about what they’re seeing. Browse images from sources like Getty Images, Flickr, or the Travel App for Windows 8. Ever since getting my Microsoft Surface Tablet, we’ve enjoyed using the  Travel App to browse over 3,000 destinations around the globe and read articles on each city, area attractions, view maps to get a sense of geography, learn about the climate through weather reports, while also accessing stunning images. The Travel App can be used to learn more about a city even if you aren’t planning a trip.

Plan a trip. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for a trip that involves a flight and a passport, virtual trips can be just as educational and rewarding. Do some research and assemble links that relate to a country’s location, geography, history, traditions, food, and popular pasttimes. For an example, here’s a post I wrote about taking a virtual field trip to Scotland on inspired by the movie, Brave.

While it may be tempting to sit down with your kids and explore the world together, it’s always a good idea to preview information and images to ensure that they’re age appropriate before showing them to your children.

Ready for travel around the world via Shutterstock

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NORAD Santa Tracker: Fun and Educational Way to Follow Santa Around the Globe

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

As Christmas draws near, the anticipation of Santa’s arrival becomes almost unbearable but the NORAD Santa Tracker is a fabulous website that allows kids to see where in the world Santa is while teaching lessons about geography at the same time. Run by The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), this real organization is a joint venture between the United States and Canada whose mission is to provide “aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space.” Each year the Colorado Springs based company uses radar, satellites, Santa Cams, and fighter jets to track Santa’s travels around the globe as he starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west.

Children can visit the site for the Santa Countdown Calendar to see the days until Santa’s sleigh is loaded up and ready for take off. The interactive site allows kids to click on parts of Santa’s village to see which workshops are the busiest on any give day up until Christmas Eve.

NORAD begins tracking Santa on what is Christmas Eve in the United States. By the time kids on the East Coast have woken up, Santa has already made stops in Asia. A world map shows exactly where Santa has stopped. NORAD displays the city and country of Santa’s last stop along with the arrival time to his next destination. A fast paced ticker on the site shows how many gifts have been delivered and is mind boggling for kids who still believe.

The Videos tab on the website feature footage of Santa as he traverses the globe featuring Santa and his reindeer flying over landmarks all over the globe. The videos can also be seen on NORAD’s YouTube page.

For curious kids, NORAD features a Frequently Asked Question page where parents can share how Santa is able to travel the world in a mere 24 hours, the travel route, technical specifications of Santa’s sleigh, if NORAD fighter planes ever intercept Santa, whether Santa has ever crashed, and even numbers and an email address in case they want to communication with NORAD about unanswered Santa questions.

In the years that our family has been tracking Santa, the NORAD site has become more sophisticated with additional content added each year that makes it a holiday tradition even for the non-believers.

Christmas background with Santa’s sleigh via Shutterstock


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5 Helpful Resources for Talking to Kids About Tragedies

Friday, December 14th, 2012

As we struggle to comprehend what happened on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, we’re also trying to find the words to talk to our children as they ask questions. It’s a difficult topic to talk about as our children look to us for guidance. As parents, it’s our job to grieve for fellow parents and the young children whose lives were taken but at the same time, provide answers to our kids who are wondering if this could happen at their school.

When today’s events unfolded, I was immediately transported back to my first grade classroom and the discussion that I had with my students as a new teacher about Columbine. I remember my principal talking to us as staff about what to say and about addressing student questions as they came up. As expected, many of my students asked about the safety of our own school.

Having talked about tragedy with children before, I shared my parent and educator perspective with helpful tips on talking to your kids for parents who are looking for guidance on talking about these difficult topics. But knowing that conversations in houses across the nation will be different and suited to our kids and family values, where else can you turn as you’re trying to make sense of today?

I always turn to trusted resources who I can count on to provide helpful tips and age-appropriate talking points for my own children. Here are some helpful links that I found with sound advice for discussing the Sandy Hook tragedy with your children.

PBS Parents offers flexible suggestions about answering kids’ questions about current events. I like that the tips in Talking with Kids About News can be applied to news of any kind and not just about tragedy.

Explaining the News to Our Kids by Common Sense Media provides differentiated messaging for kids depending on their ages. There are tips for talking to those under 7, between 8-12, and teens which is especially useful for families who have kids of different ages and need to address everyone’s concerns in an age appropriate way.

The Mother Company offers expert advice on their site and Talking About Devastating News with Our Kids includes an interview with Pattie Fitzgerald, who advises bringing up difficult topics in context and “explaining that certain events are rare occurrences, or far from where you live” reassuring kids “that as parents you take thorough precautions to keep them safe.” There’s also a very helpful list of tips parents can use to navigate tough news topics.

Sesame Street’s Here for each other: Helping Families After an Emergency is a downloadable PDF that is a fantastic resource for parents of young children. It urges parents to model a sense of calm in front of children since kids take cues from parents and caregivers. There are also simple ways to stay positive after an emergency along with ways to address a child’s fears based on their age.

The American Psychological Association has a post about Helping Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting. Wise words include “What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there listening to them.” APA also encourages parents to find times when kids are most likely to talk but to express your opinions while making a concerted effort to listen and not interrupt.

Sadness – a lonely child via Shutterstock

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