Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

March 31, 2010

Celebrating National Nutrition Month!

Filed under: Parental Controls,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 5:27 pm

Picture 62Did you know that March was National Nutrition Month?  Thanks to recent efforts by the First Lady, health and nutrition have become major talking points in schools and homes around the country.  As one of the biggest advocates for improved fitness and nutrition education, Michelle Obama has inspired a wave of national health campaigns, including Let’s Move, Team Nutrition by the USDA, and Apps for Healthy Kids.

Apps for Health Kids

Apps for Healthy Kids is a fantastic competition that encourages content developers to make quality health games for kids.  We say, it’s about time!  The deadline to enter is June 30, and you can read more about the guidelines here.  If you do end up submitting something, be sure to let us know so we can feature your game!

Zoodles wanted to take part in the movement too, so throughout the month, we’ve been roaming the interwebs hunting for the best health games out there.  Everything good that we found was then served up to your unwitting children!  Hopefully they’ve been enjoying the *fruits* of our labor, and maybe even shared some of the things they’ve learned!  (For instance, did you know that lime jello doesn’t actually contain lime?  Of course you did.  But did your kids?  Hmm? Hmm?)

Well if you want a taste of what your kids have been playing, check out some of our favorite dishes:

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If you thought this was cool, stay tuned for what happens in April. It’s National Poetry Month!

March 19, 2010

Zoodles Recommends: 5 Superific Spelling Sites for Kids!

Filed under: Family Activities,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 5:08 pm

We get a lot of requests for spelling games.  And we know a lot about spelling games.  So why not write a post about spelling games?

Without further ado, Zoodles’ favorite spelling sites!

Spelling City

Spelling CitySpelling City* describes itself as “a new and innovative interactive educational site used to help children of all ages improve their spelling skills and expand their vocabulary.” The power of Spelling City* lies behind its ability to take custom spelling lists from parents and teachers, and turn them into fun, interactive games that help students learn those words.

Between the Lions

Between the Lions GamesBetween the Lions* is a PBS kids show that encourages kids to “get wild about reading.” Partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the show follows a family of lions – Theo, Cleo, Lionel and Leona – as they run a magical library where words take on a life of their own.

Word World

WordWorld GamesWordWorld* calls itself “the first preschool series where words are truly the stars of the show!” Using a map navigation format, your child can visit different characters in their environments and practice developing literary skills one at a time, rather than all at once.

Read Write Think

Read Write Think GamesStarted in 2002, ReadWriteThink.org* was created through a partnership between the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Verizon Foundation. Their goal is to provide parents and educators with free games, tools, and activities that will not only enhance kids’ reading ability, but their love for books and written expression.

Starfall

Starfall Games

Starfall* is an independent site dedicated to helping children read, and have fun while doing it. The site hosts hundreds of early reading games and activities that engage kids while helping develop key literacy skills. These skills include letter recognition, phonics, spelling, and reading comprehension.

*This superific spelling site can of course be found within the Zoodles browser.  Get it now!

March 11, 2010

7 Stages of Computer Literacy for Toddlers

Filed under: Family Activities,Technology in the Home — Erin @ 7:10 pm

Coupled with developing motor skills, the thought of introducing your young one to a computer can be daunting.  Where do you start?  What are most kids able to do, and by what age?

In this post we thought we’d share our take on the stages you can expect your child to move through on their path to Computer Whizdom.  As with most things, their progress down this path will depend a lot on how much time they’re able to spend online playing, learning, and exploring.

1. Toys

baby-toyMost of the first toys your child handles are bulky, colorful, and safe.  As your child learns to grasp these objects, they also learn how to wrangle fun sights and sounds out of them.  In this early stage of motor skill development, your child is just starting to understand that what they do physically can make something else in the world behave a certain way.

2. Screens

Zippity_Learning_System-lifestyle_shotSoon after, your child will start to understand that screens – be they on the phone, TV, or computer – are places where things happen too.  Not only that, but they’ll quickly realize that they can make things happen there!  Depending on how developed their motor skills are, this is a great time to introduce toddlers to hand-banging keyboards like Fisher Price’s Laugh & Learn Keyboard Topper or full-body systems like the Wii or Leapster Zippity.

3. Touch

ipod_touch_gamesTouch is the third physical interaction usually mastered by tots.  Their little fingers do particularly well with touch screens, so the iPhone and iPad are great (though expensive!) interfaces for them to start with. With apps like My First Puzzles, the interaction between finger and screen can be so immediate that children can easily get caught thinking that the manipulatives on screen are real!

4. Pen

MagnadoodleAfter touch, the next interfaces to learn are ones that involve pens.  No need to run out and get a tablet – you just need something interactive that will continue to develop your child’s fine motor skills without losing the feedback and immediacy of touch interfaces.  Whether your child spends time with crayons, Magna-Doodles, or Tag Readers, learning to grasp and use a pen tool will pave the way for mouse success.

5. Keyboard

Picture 18The keyboard – mentioned previously in Screens – is a tool that can be mastered to varying degrees.  The first thing to learn is that banging on the keyboard causes things to happen on the screen.  That’s pretty much all your toddler needs to know to explore their powers on sites like Kneebouncers or Fisher-Price.  The next thing to learn is that different parts of the keyboard do different things, starting with the spacebar and arrow keys, and then the letter and number keys.  After the hunt and peck typing has begun, your child is well on their way towards 120 WPM typing!

6. Mouse

The mouse is a perplexing tool for kids.  The first thing they do – and easily too! – is start clicking away!  What you’ll quickly find is that clicking the mouse isn’t the hard part, it’s clicking the right thing on the screen that proves difficult.  To do this, your child has to understand conceptually that the small rounded device in their hand controls another small graphical image on the screen – the cursor.  Once they see that their hand and mouse movements map to the cursor’s movement, then they’re clicking really means something!   From there, they need to learn how to “click just one time,” do some clicking and dragging, and finally hit those double-clicks and right-clicks!

After watching lots of little ones struggle with their mouse at home or in our office, here are some recommendations:

Chester Mouse

Get a mouse they can grip. They’ve got tiny hands!

Get a mouse with one button. Left click vs. right click means nothing to them, and disaster to you!

Adjust the mouse speed. The cursor’s tiny as it is!  Why not slow down the speed, so they can actually watch it move!

7. Explore!

With these skills under their belt, your child will be well on their way to computer bliss and freedom.  As they explore, they’ll quickly pick up other important abilities like scrolling, searching, and navigation.

At that point, it’s not a question of “can they go,” but “where they go” that really matters.

3yo-ToyboxAnd that’s where Zoodles comes in.  With Zoodles, you can trust that your little keybanger will not only be contained, but engaged, and educated, all from within the safety of our browser.  Our interface protects your computer, and our content safeguards your kids.  We feature content providers who are passionate about designing games, activities, and videos specifically for young developing users.

Truth be told, your little one will probably move through these stages faster than you can say “antivirus,” and you won’t have to do a thing.   They just need time to explore.

With Zoodles, you can trust that your child’s road to computer literacy will be a smooth one.  So let them drive.  You just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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