Archive for the ‘ Preschool ’ 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 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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PEG + CAT Brings Math to Preschoolers Through New Multiplatform Media Experience

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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6 Children’s Author Websites For Families to Learn Beyond the Book

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Every family has their favorite authors and in many homes, these are the books that you find yourself reading over and over again to your children night after night after night. While they may get old to you, they’re never old to your kids. The words and pictures often leave them clamoring to know more about the author, their inspiration, and favorite characters.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, many authors enable families to continue the education beyond the book thanks to interactive sites featuring games with delightful characters, videos, answers to the questions your kids have probably asked you about their favorite author, tutorials on drawing the creatures on the pages of the dog-eared book you so often read, and printables to color and adorn their walls. Here are six popular children’s book authors and illustrators whose phenomenal sites allow for families to explore a world beyond the book. As always, parents should preview the sites first to ensure they’re age appropriate for their child and then introduce it by sitting down together to take a look.

Kevin Henkes— Kids who identify with Owen’s attachment to his yellow blanket, delight in Lily antics with or without her purple plastic purse, and are inspired by Sheila Rae the Brave will love learning more about their favorite author on his beautifully done website that is chock full of videos where you can meet the author and get his perspective on your favorite books. A six minute video called Meet Kevin Henkes is fun to watch together to get a look inside the author’s studio, his early inspirations, and creative process.  Homeschooling parents and teachers will love downloadable activities for many popular books, including the Lily books, along with teaching and discussion guides for books like Penny and Her Song, Bird Lake Moon, Olive’s Ocean, and Junonia.

Grace Lin— For many years, Round is Mooncake was my daughter’s favorite book. The beautiful illustrations by Grace Lin captivated her while teaching her about our Chinese heritage. I love Lin’s site because it allows families to learn about a different culture.  Kids can learn Chinese with the correct pronunciation audio guides and character studies from The Ugly Vegetables and Where The Mountain Meets the Moon and are treated to a new Chinese word a day on her blog. It’s also fun to go on a virtual field trip of her studio, get ideas for crafts inspired by her different books, and read about the other careers she could have pursued based on her interests though she’s glad to be a children’s book illustrator!

Eric Carle— Well known for over 40 books, Eric Carle is a favorite in many homes across the country where children have memorized the words of his stories. While the text is memorable, so are his unique illustrations. Slideshows featuring how Carle paints his tissue papers, creates pictures, and made collages for Mister Seahorse can be found on his site. There’s also a short video of Carle reading his famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar that is fun for young fans to see. For families teaching their kids another language, there’s also an audio gallery of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in simplified and complex Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Lithuania, Maori, and Norwegian on his site.

Jan Brett— This fall Jan Brett is visiting 24 cities and towns as part  of a tour for her new book, CINDERS a chicken Cinderella. Her site provides dates and locations of tour stops for her book talk and illustration demonstrations. If Brett isn’t visiting a city near you, her site features a wealth of activities for her many books, video drawing tutorials to help her fans learn to draw favorite animals from her stories, virtual ecards and printable cards, coloring pages, and so much more! It’s easy to get lost on her site looking at the amazing resources she’s made available for fans of all ages.

Mo Willems— Mo Willems’ site is just as fun as his books. Sure, kids can get to know Mo but the content is really the shining star of Willems sites. There are multiple links from the main MoWillems.com that lead kids and parents to different microsites with tons of content. GoMo.net features interactive games, like the Bedtime Game, Spot the Dinosaur, Alligator Wants to Play, and Knuffle Bunny’s Baggage Claim Game, that include audio cues where the directions are read to young learners who aren’t quite reading independently. They’re easy for preschoolers to play plus provide plenty of encouragement thanks to positive reinforcement. Parents will love that the audio can also be turned off. Fans of the Pigeon books will enjoy an entire website devoted to Pigeon-centric activities like games, coloring pages, information about favorite characters, and teacher and parent stuff like teacher guides and event kits.

Tomie dePaolaHaving written and/illustrated over 200 books for children, Tomie dePaola is truly an inspiration for kids. Kids can learn more about Tomie (the frequently asked questions section is particularly fun!) while also learning about his creative writing and illustration process on his site. Mr. dePaola’s website also provides contact information for young fans and classes to write him a letter.

Portrait of happy family with two children reading at home via Shutterstock

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7 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor While Teaching Kindness with Daniel Tiger on Neighbor Day (Sept. 2)

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Every adult who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood remembers the iconic show’s theme song but the idea of being a good neighbor is an important concept that can be taught to kids at the youngest ages. What does it mean to be a good neighbor? One of the fundamental skills involved is kindness. Kindness can be taught in many ways beginning at the youngest ages but it also needs to be modeled by adults and reinforced in a variety of different ways.

To celebrate the upcoming Labor Day Neighbor Day with Daniel Tiger this Monday, September 2, PBSKids provides the following seven suggestions for families to help teach children kindness while getting to know your neighbors and neighborhood better.

  • Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt with this downloadable PDF from PBS Kids. Featuring words and icons, it’s a great tool to reinforce early literacy skills while taking a walk on the sidewalks near your home.
  • Invite some friends for a neighborhood game day and have them bring their favorite game. Things like flying kites, playing hopscotch, and jumping rope are always better with friends.
  • Have a potluck at a park or central location to spend some time getting to know each other and having a face to face conversation.
  • Create a sidewalk chalk art murals where everyone gets to exercise artistic abilities to make your neighborhood a little more colorful.
  • Arrange a neighborhood book swap/swap meet to share your family’s favorite books with others.
  • Play the Make a Card game on PBSKids.org. This interactive game gives children a way to create a card for someone they care about and helps them know that everyone in the world, young and old, is a giver and a receiver.
  • Have a Daniel Tiger’s Neighbor Day viewing party on Monday, Sept. 2. In this half hour special, Daniel learns how good it feels to be neighborly and that one kind act can lead to many. His first good deed starts a chain reaction of kindness all around the Neighborhood, culminating with the declaration of “Neighbor Day” where kids will be encouraged to do something nice for a neighbor. If you can’t wait for the special Neighbor Day episodes, episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood are available on PBSKIDS.org and the PBS KIDS Video app.

Additional activities and resources for parents can be found on the Daniel Tiger Neighbor Day website. The Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood parents site also has a lot of good advice from Mister Rogers, including an article on Fred Rogers wisdom on making friends and an article by PBS Parents about helping your child make new friends.

Image courtesy of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood © 2013 The Fred Rogers Company

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4 Classic Stories and Rhymes as Preschool Apps

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

While there’s no substitute for sitting down and reading a book with your child, interactive apps provide them with some hands on learning that reinforce early academic skills. Learning opportunities that take classic stories and favorite rhymes are engaging ways to provide your toddler or preschooler with another way to learn while you’re on the go or suffering through an unbelievably long non-kid friendly wait at the pediatrician’s office.

5 Little Monkeys— One of the most well-known children’s rhymes is now an app available for iPhones, iPads and iPods. The digital version of this favorite helps teaches counting and language through beautiful graphics and sounds. Just like the rhyme, the app features repetition to help develop cognitive skills like memorization, reasoning and comprehension. Preschoolers will love rhyming, singing, and acting along with the monkeys as they also learn musical skills such as pitch control, volume, and voice inflection. 5 Little Monkeys is $2.99 from iTunes for iOS devices.

Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf— Preschoolers who are familiar with the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf will love the interactive version of this story app. Kids can use the microphone to huff and puff just like the wolf, tap on items inside the house to get a better look, or tilt the mobile device to animate the pigs and make them engage in various activities like jumping rope or swinging.  Parents will appreciate that this app supports learners with different levels of reading skills by allowing children to read the story independently or have it read to them. The narrator’s voice can also be changed from male to female to mix it up and provide gender balance for children. This app is $3.99 from iTunes for iOS devices and also available for $2.99 from both the Amazon and nook ($2.99) app stores.

Little Red Riding Hood—  If the predictable tale of Little Red Riding Hood is getting a bit old, let them come up with their own story with a different ending through the Nosy Crow version of the app. Young storytellers get to create their own story by choosing from multiple paths along the way result in a new, fully-animated adventure with different endings every time. There are also nine different games and activities that are embedded in the app to keep interest high throughout the story. Little Red Riding Hood is $5.99 from iTunes for iOS devices.

Pooh’s Birthday Surprise— Winnie the Pooh fans will love joining the delightful inhabitants of the Hundred-Acre Woods in an interactive storybook that focuses on early literacy and pre-math skills. Kids ages 3-5 join Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, and Tigger to plan and celebrate Pooh’s birthday where they work to identify and extend simple patterns, problem solve, develop their vocabulary, and story comprehension skills. Pooh’s Birthday Surprise is $4.99 from iTunes for iOS devices.

Family with touch pad at home via Shutterstock

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