Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from the Zoodles Team!

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 8:30 am

With the start of this warm holiday season, we couldn’t be more grateful for all the love and support, time and energy, and straight-up hard work that everyone has poured into Zoodles. It’s hard to believe this is our first Thanksgiving together, isn’t it?  A deep thanks from all of us, to all of you who have contributed to our growing success.  There’s a lot of work left to do, but we will never stop thinking how we are so, so thankful for you.

thanksgiving

November 24, 2009

Greedy or Grateful? Teaching Our Kids to Be Thankful Beyond the Holidays

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 5:18 pm

As the holiday season fast approaches, many of us are scrambling to think of a new gift to pile into our child’s crowded laps.  Whether it’s a Leapster, a box of Legos, or the holiday craze that is Zhu Zhu Pets, we all want the best for our children.  We want them to feel delighted by our present, excited to share it with friends, and ultimately loved and provided for by their parents.

greedy or grateful?We hardly ever think about gratitude, and how teaching our children to feel gratitude may actually be the best and most long lasting gift we could give them.  When kids are taught to appreciate the people and things around them, they learn to be delighted, excited, and loved by even the smallest of gestures.  Conversely, kids raised on a steady diet of the latest hit, can slowly become fueled by greed, and oftentimes become materially and emotionally hard to satisfy.

Inspired by Thanksgiving and looking ahead to Christmas, we thought we’d pass on some of Parenthood.com‘s tips for teaching thankfulness.  So without further ado!

Tips for Breaking Down Greed, and Building Up Gratitude

Get the wish-list habit. Holidays are a perfect time to start. Explain that your child won’t be able to have everything on the list, so sorting them in order of priority is helpful. When children have to choose among alternatives, they have to consider what’s important to them. You can help them do some of this thinking aloud.

coinsEncourage saving. Children who get everything they want without having to wait lose the joy that comes with saving their own money to get some of what they want. Some children are ready by the age of 4 or 5 to begin saving for a special item on their list.

decorative natural shellsIntroduce hobbies that last. Collecting is fine, but encourage free and inexpensive possibilities, too, such as the bookmarks given away in bookstores, leaves, stones or shells. Postcards are inexpensive, and your child can write something about where she bought it on the back of each one. The best hobbies are those that encourage creative or inventive or persistent activity, not continuous buying.

Opt for real experiences. Some families overplay the importance and value of things by making shopping a family event, a substitute for adventure, notes Jerry Stubben, Ph.D., a psychologist with the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research at Iowa State University and the co-leader of a family-oriented substance abuse prevention program in which non-materialistic values play an integral role. Stubben advises teaching children to think “beyond what the rest of the world has produced and to make something for themselves.” The good feelings that come from surmounting a challenge, learning something new, producing something creative or helping someone often last longer than the temporary boost derived from buying something new.

BlanketFort_-7775Be creative. Taking your child on picnics and hikes can be a wonderfully grounding balance to shopping and other more artificial entertainment. One evening, turn out all the lights, give everyone flashlights and camp out on a blanket in the living room. Challenge your child to help you find ways to keep busy and entertain yourselves without any high-tech distractions.

donation-boxBe charitable. The holidays – but really anytime – are good for introducing the idea of charity. Even a preschool child can benefit from having a little “giving box” into which you and your child put change to be given to a charity. Consider hosting a party for which guests are asked to bring a donation for a charity instead of a gift. Take your child with you when you make donations and explain why you’re doing it.

Teach media savvy. Confront media influences with your child. Whenever you see commercials together, talk about how the company is trying to convince you that you need it when you probably don’t. When your child says, “Buy me that,” help him weigh the pros and cons of each potential purchase. Is it less exciting than it looks? Will it last? You won’t always convince your child, but you’ll open his eyes to the way we can easily be swayed by bright colors, sounds or seemingly overjoyed paid child models playing with some trendy toy.

children_just_like_meGive your child a broader context. By the age of 6, children can begin to understand the perspectives of other people. As your child grows, try to share with her a broader view. Point out that much of the world’s population has never even made a telephone call, much less played the latest computer games. Many millions of people walk wherever they have to go, with only an occasional donkey, bicycle or bus ride. There’s probably a neighborhood not too far from your home where you can show your child a glimpse of how little some other people have.

Understand and combat peer pressure. School-age children want to look like their peers and own what their peers own. They need to learn that you’re not a soft touch for this, that they can spend their own money on such extras. They’ll be much more discerning if they see how hard it is to stretch an allowance or baby-sitting money to cover brand name clothes.

Finally, look to yourself. Do you have multiples of every piece of sports, kitchen or high-tech equipment? Do you make negative remarks in your child’s presence about how people dress or how their homes or cars look? Do you ever buy goods for your child because you are bored or because you’ve been short of patience with her lately? If the answer is yes, perhaps you and your child can work on curbing your materialism together.

The tips above were gratefully drawn from Parenthood.com‘s “10 Simple Ways to Combat Greed,” which can be found in full text here.

November 23, 2009

Stork Craft Crib Recall – How to Check Your Crib and What To Do

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 11:43 pm

Product recalls are not an area that we typically write about, but given that so many of us have little ones in cribs we wanted to spread the word about an important crib recall that was announced today.

Earlier today the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) along with Stork Corporation (a Canadian company) announced the recall of over 2.1 Million cribs.  These cribs were sold under the Stork Craft brand name as well as the Fisher-Price brand name.  The problem with the crib is that the “drop-side” can detach from the rest of the crib creating a highly dangerous situation.  Here are the relevant photos that show how the detachment of the drop-side from the crib and create a potentially tragic situation:

So what should you do?  First, determine if you have a crib that meets the recall.  Here are the instructions from Stork and the CPSC:

“The manufacture date, model number, crib name, country of origin, and the firm’s name, address, and contact information are located on the assembly instruction sheet attached to the mattress support board. The firm’s insignia “storkcraft baby” or “storkling” is inscribed on the drop-side teething rail of some cribs. In Stork Craft cribs that contain the “Fisher-Price” logo, this logo can be found on the crib’s teething rail, in the manufacturer’s instructions, on the assembly instruction sheet attached to the mattress support board, and on the end panels of the Twinkle-Twinkle and Crystal crib models.”

Below are photos showing you where to check on your specific crib:

If you have a crib that is included in this recall first you need to find an alternative sleep environment for your child.  Some options to consider would be co-sleeping for a short period of time, using a “pack & play” or some other sleep alternative.  Next contact Stork Craft to get your free repair kit.
Here is the contact information for Stork Craft: (877) 274-0277 or go to www.storkcraft.com.

November 19, 2009

My kids won’t go to bed!

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 4:10 pm

SleepBedtime routines are a tricky business.  They’re time-consuming, they’re sensitive to change, they’re hard to implement, and even harder to undo.  But scientific research shows that without them, kids have a tougher time sleeping through the night, or won’t fall asleep at all, or even if they do, it’s only after a frustrating bout of resistance that puts you in a bad mood for your bedtime.  After doing a little in-house research with the parents and babysitters among us, along with some mom blog and child psychology perusal, we’ve collected these tips from the battlefront:

Use the day as your ally.

Keeping the nighttime disasters down to a minimum actually depends a lot on how you schedule your child’s day.  Make sure your kids have plenty of time to run around and expend their energy.  If an afternoon nap is part of the lineup, make sure to follow it with some physical activity before dinner.

Master the after-dinner wind-down.

Many parents view the time after dinner as their best chance at having a peaceful rest of the night.  Watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with toys is often slotted here, as neither requires much supervision, and both give parents a much needed period to relax and clean up after dinner.  This is also the time many parents have told us they use Zoodles.  With the added benefit that it’s educational, Zoodles gives parents a painless way to slow kids down and keep them quietly entertained at the same time.

Moshi-IVR-Digital-alarm-clockRemember, timing is everything.

The bedtime routine should start at the same time every night, approximately half an hour before you’d like your child to fall asleep.  Take into account that children need anywhere between 11 and 12 hours of sleep a night!

Give plenty of fair warning.

Nothing’s worse than being interrupted in the middle of a game!  Give a half hour warning before the start of the bedtime routine, and then a 20 minute, 10 minute, and 5 minute warning.  This gives your child plenty of time to adjust to the idea of sleeping.

It’s never too late to start.

Sure, old habits die hard, but it’s never too late to introduce a bedtime routine to an otherwise unruly night.  If your child’s gotten used to falling asleep at 10 (or later!), and you’d like to scale that back to an earlier hour, introduce the routine by starting off at 9:30.  Stick to that start time for a full week while your child adjusts to the new world order.  The next week, move the bedtime routine ten minutes earlier.  Rinse and repeat until your bedtime routine is starting at 7:30, and your child’s droppin zZz’s by 8.

baby-bathroom-safety-bath-towel-207x300Choose your activities carefully.

Consistency is king, so make sure and choose activities that you’d be happy to do hundreds of thousands of times, night after night, year after year.   Some of the most popular ways to wind down?  Take a warm bath, change into PJ’s, brush teeth, comb hair, read a book together, sing a lullaby.  What all these things have in common is that they keep your child’s volume and energy low.

Keep it the same, every time!

Aside from the occasional trip to the movies or the late night out for Thanksgiving dinner, keep your regimen of bedtime activities consistent.  Don’t add, remove, or switch things around!  This includes special snuggle sessions and extended trips to Mom and Dad’s bed, even if it’s just “five more minutes!”  Your child will start to derive massive amounts of comfort from the regularity of your schedule together.

No negotiating, ever.

Nobody knows this better than you – some nights, no matter how hard you try, or how smoothly things run, they just- won’t- go.  The offending tactics are all over the spectrum.  Some little ones will tiptoe out and wander around in the hall, others will simply kick and scream in your arms, and many a devious child will flip the lights back on as soon as you shut the door.  Nestor Lopez-Duran, PhD from Child Psychology Research advises parents to be firm and repeat the phrase “It’s time to sleep,” without qualifying the statement or entering into a negotiable conversation.  Guide them back to bed every time, for as many times as it takes.

photo: GettyThis was the advice that we found, but there are bound to be things we missed.  The important thing is to find what works for you.  Take it from us, it’s a worthwhile investment.  Without a bedtime routine, you’ll be fighting a war that’s hard to win… at least until they hit their teens, when your new daily struggle will be getting them out of bed.  :)

Jodi A. Mindell, Lorena S. Telofski, Benjamin Wiegand, & Ellen S. Kurtz (2009). A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood Sleep, 32 (5), 599-606

November 12, 2009

8 Tips to Surviving Your Parent Teacher Conference

Filed under: Family Activities,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 7:17 pm

With the end of fall comes parent teacher conferences, and many parents have just experienced, or are nervously anticipating, one of the few chances they have to sit down with their child’s teacher and hear how their child is doing in school.

parent-teacherIn her article “Preparing for the Parent Teacher Conference,”  long time teacher Diane Milne mentions a number of helpful ways to ease your nerves and communicate or understand everything you’ve been wanting to know about your child in half an hour.  We’ve boiled her thoughts down into 8 basic tips:

  1. Write your questions down beforehand, in prioritized order.
  2. Touch not only on your child’s academic performance at school, but their social well being.
  3. Ask how you can help your child do better in school.
  4. Be honest when the teacher asks you questions in return.
  5. Even when you disagree, keep an even temper and do not accuse or insult the teacher.
  6. Work towards a solution that involves both of you.
  7. Be willing to share what is going on in your child’s home life that may affect his time at school.
  8. End on a note that makes the teacher feel supported and appreciated.

Supporting your child’s education extends beyond his or her teacher – there are also a number of ways to support your child by supporting their school, their local community, and other parents.  Read what the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) suggests as 100 Ways to Help Your Child and School Succeed.

Still left in the dark?

Of course, no matter how effective your parent teacher conference is, half an hour with the person who spends 30 hours a week with your child will never feel like enough.  No matter how well intending, busy parents plus busy teachers make for a *very busy* combination.   The result?  You start to feel left in the dark.  Increasingly disconnected from what your child can or can’t do, what they like, or what they’re good at.  You start to battle this constant worry that you’re not doing enough, this guilt that you’re not there every time your child learns something new.

It was this feeling of helplessness, and our desire to empower parents to be part of their child’s development, that drove us to create many of the Parental Features on Zoodles.

Our hope is that the weekly email updates, the vibrant graphs and pictures, and all the powerful controls we afford you, will help you feel more like a participant in your child’s learning journey.  Whether in school or at play, your child is growing every day, and we don’t want any parent to feel like they might be missing out.

November 10, 2009

Violence in Children’s Media

Filed under: Parental Controls — Erin @ 11:34 pm

Last night Abbie, my 5 year old daughter, got out of bed and told my wife & I that she was too scared to fall asleep.  When we asked why she said she was afraid of robbers breaking through her window and that they would have guns.  We were shocked that these thoughts were in her mind, and upon further questioning we found the following illustrations in a book entitled “Pinkerton, Behave!

photo

Robber climbing through a window

photo1

Robber holding a gun to the head of the person in the bed!

photo2

Robber pointing the gun toward the person in bed & a child!

Needless to say my wife and I were shocked and after comforting Abbie to get her back to sleep we talked about how we trusted the book because it came from her school library.  We didn’t “screen” the book, and if only an adult had screened the book they wouldn’t have let a kindergarten child take it home.

This is the very reason why we at Zoodles have trained education & content experts personally review all material that is entered into Zoodles.  I never thought I would feel more safe with the content my child plays with online than I would with the books she would bring home from the library, but I am proud of our Zoodles team for giving me that piece of mind as a parent!

November 6, 2009

How to Have Fun while Avoiding the Flu

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 1:23 pm

t1larg.sesame.giCold season is upon us, and many parents and children have told us they’re suffering from swine flu, a fever, or just a plain nasty cold. It’s gotten so bad, some have said, that they’re pulling their kids out of school to avoid the spread of germs between classmates. But what do you do once you’re home? Combined with the rainy days and darker and darker nights, families are spending so much more time cooped up inside, it can be hard to stay entertained. Today we thought we’d share a few fun ways you can avoid the flu and have fun at the same time!

Tips for Avoiding the Flu

First and foremost, it’s important to review all the CDC’s basic tips for avoiding the flu.

1. Get the flu vaccine
2. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue
3. Avoid people who are sick
4. Throw away used tissues
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
6. Disinfect common surface areas in the home
7. Wash hands often with soap and water

There are TONS of fun ways to turn each of these tips into long-lasting habits, but we’ll just focus on a few:

Catch ‘Em!

kid sneezeRegardless of age, it’s almost a universal truth that people don’t cover their sneezes or coughs with a tissue.  So how can we expect kids to?  Who has time to run to the Kleenex box when an awesome episode of Sesame Street (woot, 40th Anniversary!) is on?   As a result, parents find themselves inexplicably crouched in front of their 3 year olds with an open tissue in hand, waiting to catch the next nose-twitch-turned-explosion.   Any parent could testify to how hard it is to catch them all, especially once you turn your back to get the remote, or get up to grab the laundry.  Ah-choo!

Instead, why not make Kleenex fun again?  All kids love having their own personal items, and what they love even more is carrying these things around.  Why not use this to your advantage and create an emotional affinity with a travel pack of Kleenex?  Stickers are a MUST, but the real highlight is making it portable.  All you’ve gotta do is punch holes in the sides of the plastic and use yarn to make a Kleenex necklace!  Even a fun Kleenex fanny pack might do the trick.  If crafting isn’t for you, you could also check out Germy-Wormies, slightly overpriced arm bands that encourage kids to sneeze into the crook of their arm rather than into their hands.

Toss ‘Em!

kleenex-in-waste-basketSure, you might be saying, it’s easy to imagine a toddling 3 year old wearing a Kleenexlace, but it’s equally easy to see the trail of dirty tissues littered behind them.  Save yourself the headache and turn the disposal process into a fun game too.   In the time-honored tradition of office workers around the world, make the toss a matter of skill.  Set up an open trash can in a corner of your house and put a line down on the floor using tape.    Demonstrate a few times for your toddler and then have them try!  The fun will never end, and, depending on their aim, the trail of Kleenex will.

Wash ‘Em!

children-washing-handsOnce again, hand washing is something that adults can’t even get right.  We don’t do it often enough, and we don’t do it long enough.  An important lesson for us all to learn is that proper hand-washing requires 20 seconds of scrubbin’!  For the younger kids, we suggest coming up with a fun jingle that’s — wait for it — 20 seconds long, so we start raising a generation of healthy, serenadin’ kids!  Need ideas?  Check out this hand-washing song.


1367_255For the older kids who might scorn such shenanigans, we scoured through our Zoodles games and found “The Case of the Filthy Fingers!” an interactive quiz game that helps your child recognize the right times to wash. And come to think of it, if none of this works, you could always make a Purell necklace and complete the collection :)

Don’t Forget Zoodles!

Last but not least, if you do find yourself with a sick little one, do not despair.  Despite all your best efforts, sometimes the bug gets all of us.  If you find yourself cooped up at home, Zoodles is always the best solution.  We’ll keep your kid engaged and make sure they’re keeping those minds sharp even on a sick day from school, without overly taxing their bodies or spreading their germs around the house.  More importantly, if you’re stuck at home too, or maybe even sick yourself, their independent play on Zoodles frees you up to take calls, answer emails and work from home.

November 2, 2009

Zoodles now the “Award Winning Zoodles!”

Filed under: Family Activities — Erin @ 10:55 pm

I am Zoodles NAPPA Goldpleased to announce that Zoodles has won a prestigous NAPPA Gold Award!  NAPPA (National Parenting Publications Awards) is the well known guide for the best products for parents and kids.  Zoodles was recognized as a great product for families and especially for children preschool aged and up!  NAPPA awards are sought after by companies large and small and we are proud to be recognized along other award winning companies such as Leapfrog (Tag Reading System), Disney (Club Penguin), and PBS (Word Girl Website).

I want to recognize our team and extended team who helped to develop the Zoodles offering.  Our team of engineers, designers, content / education specialists, product managers, and advisers all worked incredibly hard to make this happen.  Finally, I want to thank all the parents and children for giving us valuable feedback on how to improve Zoodles.  Please keep the feedback coming so we can improve the product for you and your little ones!

Mark Williamson
CEO & Co-founder of Zoodles

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