Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

June 1, 2015

Celebrate International Children’s Day!

Filed under: Family Activities,Personal Stories — Erin @ 11:17 am

It’s international children’s day, so celebrate your children and all the happiness they bring!  Here’s a great list of the top 10 things one parent misses most about being a child.  What do you miss most about being a kids? 



July 31, 2010

How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry

Filed under: Parenting Tips,Personal Stories — Tags: , , — Erin @ 12:17 pm
kids mean

Sibling Fights Picture courtesy of Teeny! Gee It's Been Awhile

Guest Blog by Kelly Wilson

If you have more than one child, the following strategies may help everyone in your home deal with sibling rivalry.

Embrace the Inevitable

Your kids will fight with you and with each other. They will alternate between playing like the best of friends and yelling at each other over who got the biggest piece of the candy bar that they had to share. And it can happen within moments.

The nice part about this kind of conflict is that it’s totally normal. Competition between siblings for attention from parents and others is not enjoyable, but developmentally appropriate behavior.

Anticipate Changing Needs

Understanding the foundational reasons for sibling rivalry can help increase the patience required to deal with it. Sibling rivalry develops for a variety of reasons.

Courtesy of Chapendra

Siblings Picture Courtesy of Chapendra

* Age Differences – unless you have a set of multiples, your kids are different ages with varying developmental needs and skills. This can create questions about why older children in your family have more independence or get certain privileges and younger kids in your family don’t.

* Personality Differences – my boys are totally opposite in every way when it comes to personality characteristics. The oldest is cautious and the youngest is a risk-taker. The oldest likes to plan out everything, and the youngest is go-with-the-flow. In our family, this can be wonderful and also the greatest source of fighting.

* Developmental Differences – My boys are three years apart, which means they have a variety of different needs and require different parenting. My oldest receives an allowance that he splits into sharing, saving and spending, and this allows him to buy toys and candy with his own money. This can be hard for the youngest, who doesn’t have a big allowance because he’s not yet ready for the responsibilities that go along with it.

Set Up Ground Rules

Since kids will fight for a variety of reasons, they need a collection of tools to be able to fight well. I like to teach my kids the following strategies to help the process along and prevent physical or emotional injury.

* “I feel” messages – set up a sentence that can be used anytime where kids learn how to share their feeling about an event. The sentence I use is “When you _______________, I feel ______________________.”

* Quiet Time – it’s difficult to come to a resolution when emotions are high. Encourage kids to time themselves out when they’re too angry to talk, and come back to resolve the problem after calming down (I’ve found this takes ten to twenty minutes).

* Make a Deal – if there’s something that one child wants, chances are good that there’s something the other one wants as well. Talking about the wants or needs of each person can help work out an arrangement that benefits both children.

* Apologize and Be Done – I remind my kids that holding a grudge works for no one. Once the problem has been discussed, apologies and forgiveness need to be shared. The situation is then officially over.

When to Get Involved

I try not to involve myself in my kids’ fights. This doesn’t mean that I sit by and let them say or do anything they want to each other. Instead, I listen and wait. Sometimes all they need is a little coaching, so I may give them a verbal cue, like “When you-“ which reminds them of the “I feel” strategy. If emotions run high, I may enforce a time out for all parties involved for about fifteen minutes. Usually my kids are ready to talk it out after some quiet time.

If kids really struggle with working out a problem, it helps to ask them questions. Start with one person at a time, stating that each person will get a turn and requiring absolutely no interruptions.

Ask for basics – what happened? Who was involved? How do you feel? What do you want or need right now? Move on to the next person, asking the same questions. By the end of this process, the kids can move on to actually solving the problem – all you’ve done is help clarify the situation for them.

Employing these strategies to deal with sibling rivalry take extra time and effort to begin with, but benefit everyone in your home for years to come.

Author byline


Kelly Wilson, Editor, Teaching Resource Center

Kelly Wilson is an editor for Teaching Resource Center, supplying classrooms with Teacher Supplies and Teachers’ Lesson Plans for over 25 years.

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.

August 18, 2009

Parents Know Best

Filed under: Parental Controls,Personal Stories — Erin @ 2:16 pm

There’s no shortage of parenting methods and tools available to parents.  My first real experience with “parenting methods” came when Abbie was a baby and we were trying to figure out how we wanted to handle the stressful problem of getting her to sleep through the night.  While often marketed as “one size fits all solutions”, we found that these approaches didn’t work for us for a variety of reasons.  So we researched all the methods, talked to other parents and then selected the approaches that we thought were best for our specific situation.  Ultimately this approach resulted in Abbie sleeping through the night and Tara and I feeling like we did what was best for our child and for us as parents.  What this experience reinforced for me is that every child and family is unique and that what worked for other families may or may not work for us.  The old saying “a parent knows best” proved to be true.

The “parents know best” philosophy drives our approach to building many of our features for parents.  Some parents have strong feelings about the branded characters they want their children to interact with, while others have strong feelings about the type of activities that their child can do online.  An important part of the Zoodles offering are the parental controls we provide to parents that allow them to customize their child’s experience.  Here is a brief overview of the parental control features inside of Zoodles:

Promoting Educational Subjects – We have a team of Stanford-educated educational experts that hand curate the content we offer in our “virtual toybox.”  Part of the process of adding a game to our system is evaluating the educational value of an online game / activity. Since we know what concepts are taught in every game / activity parents can promote games from a specific subject area in their child’s toybox.  All you have to do is adjust the sliders in our Education & Parental Controls section of the parent dashboard:

Zoodles Educational Controls Math and Reading

Blocking Websites, Characters and Games – Every family makes their own decisions about the characters and websites their child is allowed to engage with.  For example, we don’t allow Abbie or Samantha to play with SpongeBob SquarePants.  SpongeBob is just one of the many branded characters we have decided that we don’t want our children engaging with.  We know of many parents who have an aversion to some of our favorite characters (Dora the Explorer, Sid the Science Kid, etc.).  Again, every family is unique, so Zoodles allows parents to block exactly the content they don’t want their child to engage in.  You can block an entire website, block a specific branded character, or even block a specific game that you don’t want your child to play with.  Here is what the interface looks like today to make this simple for you:

Block websites

Block Shows

Block Games

Restricting Types of Content – I have had the pleasure of talking with dozens (if not hundreds) of parents about the role that the computer plays in the life of their family.  One interesting trend has been that many Zoodles users are using Zoodles as a replacement for the TV.  Parents love the fact that the content is engaging, safe, and educational.  Many parents who want to replace “TV time” with “Zoodles time” enjoy the ability to customize what types of content their child can play with (e.g. – block all video content).  Here is what the interface looks like to easily remove or add different types of content to Zoodles:

Content Type Access

In keeping with our “parents know best,” please let us know how you would like to customize your child’s experience by leaving us a comment or sending us an email:  support@zoodles.com

August 11, 2009

Preparing For The School Year

Filed under: Personal Stories,Technology in the Home — Erin @ 1:02 am

I admit it, I am a little nervous.  Normally at this time of the year I am nervous because I am waiting to see how the Chicago Cubs will break my heart… but that isn’t the case this year.  No, this year I am not nervous about the Cubs (this really is our year!), I am actually a little nervous because my oldest daughter is starting kindergarten!  This monumental event has had two questions running through my mind over the weekend:

  1. How did my little girl get old enough to go to kindergarten?
  2. With just a week until school starts, what can we do to have Abbie brush up on some math and reading basics?

Since Tara, my wife, will tell me that the answer to the first question is “you are getting old”, I will focus on trying to answer the second question.

Much has been written about the concept of “Summer Learning Loss”, so Tara has worked hard to keep Abbie engaged over the summer in numerous academic activities.  As Zoodles longest running user (yes, I exposed Abbie to our product *very* early… poor kid was our first tester ;-)), Abbie does love playing on the computer.  So this week we have decided to use a newly updated feature of Zoodles that allows parents to “promote” educational subjects in their child’s toybox.  The following picture shows our new interface which equally weights all the academic areas:

Zoodles Educational Controls

Given that we are interested in Abbie brushing up on her math and reading skills we have gone ahead and increased the focus on these subjects by simply moving the sliders up.  As you can see from the color coded representations of games, Abbie now has more math and reading games in the front of her toybox.  Pretty cool!

Zoodles Educational Controls Math and Reading

So now Zoodles parents across the country can let their child play online while also influencing exactly what subject areas they are going to be playing in!

August 3, 2009

How we (the Williamson Family) use Zoodles

Filed under: Personal Stories — Erin @ 12:03 pm

Every child and family are unique, but I thought it would be useful to share how Zoodles has become a part of our weekly routine in the Williamson household.  Abbie, our 5 year old daughter, like all children her age has a diverse set of interests.  She loves doing arts & crafts, playing outside, playing with her younger sister, swimming, watching TV, playing on the computer, etc.  Like all parents, Tara and I are constantly evaluating what activities are appropriate for a given situation.  There are specific situations where Zoodles is the perfect activity.

We have found that any time watching TV was a suitable option, Zoodles was typically a better option.  The television is a passive experience where children “lean back” and absorb the experience.  Abbie is intellectually much more engaged when she is on Zoodles and learning through playing games.  Prior to Zoodles, the internet simply wasn’t a replacement for “TV time” since the experience often resulted in her calling us over every 15 minutes with some technical problem (e.g. – pop-up windows, accidentally closing the browser, etc.) and we simply weren’t comfortable leaving her alone on the computer because she would invariably end up on some other site through clicking around and that made us nervous.  Zoodles solved both of these problems for us since the interface is made for children and the service controls what sites children are allowed to play with.

We have also found that Zoodles is a great “wind down” activity.  After a day full of activities (swim lessons, play date, etc.) Abbie can become pretty exhausted, we often find ourselves looking for an activity that Abbie can do on her own, at her own pace, that will allow her to “wind down” while giving Tara and I a chance to catch-up on the days tasks that we haven’t gotten to yet.  Any parent reading this will recognize this type of activity and the value of having a “go-to” activity at this point in the day.

Finally, we have found that Zoodles is a great way to find new topical areas for Abbie to explore.  Her interest in making charts and measuring objects was piqued after watching a great Sid the Science Kid video.  Seeing Abbie discover entirely new topics to explore is incredibly rewarding, and I will admit it was even more rewarding since in this instance it involved a topic I also love!

Every family is unique and I am certain that other parents have found completely different ways to use Zoodles in their home.  If you happen to have a great use for Zoodles that you think others should know about feel free to leave a comment to this post.

Powered by WordPress