Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

October 27, 2009

New Zoodles Games from Scholastic!

Filed under: Schools and Learning,Zoodles Blog — Erin @ 11:12 am

Scholastic is a household name in education, and we’re happy to announce that Zoodles now features some great games from their site!  Scholastic has done a fantastic job creating content that is fun and educational, basing their games on popular books and characters that your children know and love.  Nothing more satisfying than using the appeal of Harry Potter and Captain Underpants to indulge the literary senses of kids around the world!  Here are the top 5 Scholastic picks from our always amazing Education Team:

Virtual Forest Challenge

Your child lear2037_255ns ways to recycle and the importance of helping the environment by clicking on different places in the community and answering questions in the form of a quiz.

Write a Dreadful Act

2031_255 Your child learns about grammar and parts of speech by filling in a Mad-libs type form and creating their own story.

Masterpiece Match

Masterpiece MatchYour child learns about different artists by matching each artist’s description to his/her painting.

Dinosaur Cove

2050_255Your child explores and engages with the virtual dinosaur environment by making decisions about which rocks to turn over in search of dragonflies, fossils, and other objects.

Balloon Bust

Balloon BustYour child develops fine motor skills and a basic understanding of motion while timing darts to pop balloons.

October 19, 2009

Going Back to Kindergarten

Filed under: Personal Stories,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 10:50 pm

I recently had a chance to go back to kindergarten.  The school that Abbie, my 5 year old daughter, attends affords parents a number of opportunities to volunteer, and so last week I volunteered to help out in the classroom.  I found the experience incredibly rewarding on a number of levels.

First, as a parent I was able to experience what Abbie does in school so it helps me to better connect with her around classroom experiences.  Since I now have a better understanding of her school day I am able to ask direct questions about her day rather than “how was school?”.  This certainly helps to get the conversation over dinner moving in a  good direction.

Second, Abbie was thrilled to have me in the class.  She was clearly proud that I was the first Dad to help out in class and that both her parents had been in her class to help out.  Nothing like scoring some points with your little one ;-)

Finally, I was able to observe ~20 kindergarten students develop important language & literacy skills.  One of the great challenges for teachers (especially kindergarten teachers) is the variability in skill level of students.  Some students will come into kindergarten reading, others might still be struggling to recognize letters.  I witnessed this variability in the classroom and unfortunately one of the students had already developed a belief that “I am not very good at letters.”  He said this as he watched his classmates finish an exercise with ease while he struggled a bit.  This  is a shame and potentially a damaging point of view for this child to have.

One of the great things about having children play educational games is that they are able to progress at their own rate without being self conscious about how they are performing with respect to other children.  Numerous studies have shown that the ability to “self pace” in educational games is one of the reasons they are so effective at helping people learn.  In addition to self pacing, many educational games are able to adapt to a child’s abilities, and therefore it helps provide children with the appropriate balance of challenging work and the opportunity to build self confidence in their abilities.

Hopefully more parents will see these benefits and decide to use a service like Zoodles to have their children play safe, fun and educational games.

October 14, 2009

How to Set Good Screen Time Limits for Kids

Printable Screen Time ChartSince Zoodles was launched, we’ve had the chance to talk to hundreds of parents about how they handle screen time in their home. Some parents have different rules for watching TV than for playing on the computer, or for TV shows versus DVDs.  Some parents regulate screen time based on their child’s age, the time of day, or the day of the week.  Some allow their kids to watch two hours a day, some set a timer, others give their kids free reign.  Many times the TV or the computer is used as a reward for good behavior, strong report cards, or well-performed chores.

How do you control screen time at home?

If you have any tips on regulating screen time at home, share them here!

We did some research on what Common Sense Media recommends for setting screen time limits, and these are the suggestions that we found:

  1. Provide distractions.
  2. Practice togetherness.
  3. Do activities.
  4. Delegate chores.
  5. Schedule play dates.
  6. Grant privileges.
  7. Encourage creativity.

To read about each of those tips in more detail, be sure to visit the Common Sense Media website!

Does it really matter what they watch?

Of course!  We see it as both a parent’s responsibility, as well as Zoodles’ responsibility, to be extremely careful in the types of media we expose kids to.  It’s important to remember that children are affected by media differently depending on what stage of development they’re in.    For instance, preschoolers love songs and rhymes, and can be influenced heavily by the music they hear on the radio or that their parents play.

They also have trouble separating make believe from reality, and commonly imitate behavior they see.  This makes them particularly susceptible to the language and behavior they see on TV, even on educational shows from channels like PBS, Disney, and Nickelodeon. As they grow into kindergartners,  their love of humor takes off exponentially, and they continually experiment with new words and new ways of expressing themselves.  Even so, they are still surprisingly vulnerable to misunderstanding the intent of commercials or the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

With more age, a child’s freedom only increases, and kids by this time should understand for themselves the value of screen time limits, have the discipline to limit how much they watch on their own, and learn to differentiate between content that’s appropriate and inappropriate for them.

This is why it’s important to not only implement good screen time limits for you and your family, but to engage with your children in conversations about what it means to be a smart media consumer.  To do our part here at Zoodles, we are always taking careful steps to not only monitor the educational value of our content, but the level of violence involved, the presence of advertising, and the overall age-appropriateness of the content.

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