Archive for ‘Age 8 – Age 11’

April 29th, 2012

Toys We Love

Have you seen these? They are part of a line of robotics toys known as Hexbugs. Designed to appeal to kids’ interests in all things creepy crawly, this line of products is not only fun and engaging but it also exposes its target audience to robotics at a young age and gets them thinking about science.

We love it because the creators of this line of toys have managed to incorporate modern electronics and technology in a product that simulates a real-life bug experience while still leaving the options for ways to play with it open and free for imagination.

I recently spent a weekend with a seven-year old and took him one of these toys as a gift. Every chance he got, he took that toy out and tested it to the limits. We built ramps for it to see how high it could climb without sliding backwards. We raced it against other toys. We even timed it as it crawled from room to room. And this was just the beginning with only one of them at his disposal. I could only imagine if I had been there longer. We might have built webs, made other “friend” bugs from other objects, created story lines and incorporated other toys. Can you imagine what else you can create for this with Legos?

Perusing the shelves of toy options at stores like Toys-R-Us, Walmart or Target often leads to frustration for those of us searching for the kinds of unique gifts that kids not only love to play with more than once, but also inspire free play and imagination. With increasing numbers of options that can only be used in one way, with one end result, toys like this stand out and should be valued.

February 6th, 2012

Super Bowl Idea Corner (Ages 8-18)

What do school-aged children and those in high school have in common? Most like to participate in a good game. Whether its sports or some other challenge, teams and friends are central themes to this time in life. So, for Super Bowl Sunday, why not enjoy a game of touch football? We found a set of 32 good rules posted in the Wall Street Journal.

If you can’t go outside, help them keep the spirit of competition alive inside with one of these other game ideas:

1) Host a lip-syncing contest: Let’s face it, most teenagers are into the latest music. Many will know the half-time performers and/or the celebrities chosen to sing the anthem at the beginning. For varied reasons, some of these stars choose to lip-sync their music during the show. Why can’t your kids do the same?

2)Super Bowl Trivia Contest: Why not engage in a little friendly family competition and see who knows what about football! Check out these sites for questions-Hub Pages, and Yahoo Sports!

3) Commercial Bingo: Create Bingo cards and fill in the squares with unique items you might see in a typical commercial during the Super Bowl. These might include various brands of beer, pizzas, automobiles, cell phone companies, snack foods, soda,etc., Make each card different. Whoever fills in their card first, or completes a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line, wins a prize!

While playing, remember that because our society tends to foster and value attitudes of competition and success AND psycho-socially, teenagers are at a point where they are focused on achievement, it will undoubtedly make the experience a lot more enjoyable for all if you offer up plenty of encouragement along the way! In this instance, it is not about who actually wins or loses! It is about having fun!

December 19th, 2011

The Muppets Movie

Idea Corner for Young Children (Birth to age 8):

Download this playset featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Fozzie. 

Because young children especially will tend to have their play imitate what they see on the screen, we recommend also creating and adding in your own muppets.   Don’t have time to make them?  No problem, add a stuffed animal to the story, a toy or a puppet.  It doesn’t matter to your kids.  Muppets come in all shapes and sizes.  You could be one too! What is important here is to extend the play beyond what is scripted.  Let your imagination run wild with your kids!

For more play, why not take the characters you created to a new location.  Get rid of the theater and take the tour on the road!  Try putting them all on the living room chair and making that chair be an airplane…  or put them all in the bathtub and let it be a submarine (no water of course!)  What happens next?

Idea corner for Middle Childhood (Ages 9-11)

There is a great storyline here that is perfect for middle childhood!  It is the idea of fitting in! School-age children are all about developing their individual selves, and finding their place and belonging.  In the movie, Walter is not only the world’s biggest Muppet fan, but he is also himself a Muppet.  Walter’s dream is to meet the Muppets and to be around people like him.

  • Form a club!  Take a look around.  What are things people have in common?  The idea behind this club is that it should not be exclusive.  It should be something everyone can be in if they choose to!  For example, what about a “club for everyone that wants to be in a club” club?!  And the first order of business?  Making invitations and sending them out to new friends!!   The kids could make signs, find and decorate a “club house”, have meetings, design secret handshakes, cheers, etc.
  • Create a “Muppet” game!  Walter has 4 fingers on each hand.  What can you do using just four fingers?    Walter is 18” tall.  How tall is that?  What else can you build that is that tall?  Challenge yourself!  Have teams! Who is the most creative?  Have prizes!

Idea corner for Idea Corner for Adolescence (12-18)

Can this movie connect to the 12-18 year old crowd?  Absolutely! In the story, one characteristic that describes Walter is “low self-confidence”.   This is a quality that every teenager deals with at some point as they determine how they feel about themselves.   Developing a positive personality and a strong self-esteem is a vital part of their social development.


  • What does your teen have a passion for?  Miss Piggy loves fashion.  Kermit loves all things green.  This movie is all about defining who you are and defining what you bring to the table.  Help your teen practice more of what he or she excels in!  Together, set and accomplish three goals in a main area of their interest.  If they aren’t sure, have them follow the lead of one of the Muppets.  Maybe their favorite color is blue?  They could collect three blue things, or cook 3 foods with blueberries, etc.
  • Language can build or destroy self-esteem.  It’s something teenagers do not think consciously about.  In slang terms for example, “Muppet” has come to refer to someone who is completely useless, or has just done something foolish.  That is the opposite of what the characters stand for in the movie.   Start a game at home where you each earn points by pointing out positive things others say and lose points when someone catches you saying something negative.  Try it for a couple hours, a day or two, a week.   Figure out prizes.  Earn bonus points by turning a negative into a positive.  “She is such a Muppet!”… bonus points?  Try “She is such a Muppet because she made everyone happy..”  instead!

Think Critically!

This is the part of the blog where YOU get to try your hand at media-literacy.  What do you notice here?  How does it reach different audiences?  What are the messages?

Muppet Movie Advertisement

If You Only Have Time for One Question

It is important to continually assess what your children are taking away from their media exposure.  Sometimes, all it takes is one question to start the conversation.
Here is one suggestion:

“What is Kermit?”
Young children may answer, “A Frog”.  When this happens, talk to them about real frogs.  Ask them what is the same about them?  What is different?  Keep in mind that especially young children will think Kermit is real.  So, the object then is not to change their thinking or to teach them that Kermit is a character in a movie and not a real frog. The object is simply to have a conversation about media and to begin to promote critical thinking.

School-Aged kids, who are able to understand different aspects of grouping now, might answer something totally different.  For example, they might say, “He is a Muppet”.  You can then elaborate with “What is that?”, “Are there other Muppets?” etc.
Adolescent children might have a different answer all together!  One that is possibly not even suitable for print.    If they do, their answers may be short and this may not even be a topic they are interested in.   A good way to approach this with them is as you would talk to an adult.  “What did you think of this movie?”  “What did your friends think?”  and “Why?”

Spotlight Resource

Is the Muppets Movie good for young children?- a Mom’s review

Other Resources

  • Alliance for Childhood ( 
Prepares materials and advocates for regaining childhood, including play.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (
) Position statements and handouts on a variety of key media issues.
  • Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood ( 
Coalition working to promote policy and grassroots efforts to stop marketing practices that harm children.
  • Center for Media Literacy ( 
Selects, evaluates, recommends, and sells quality media literacy teaching resources.
  • Coalition for Quality Children’s Media (CQCM) ( 
Publishes Kids First, a newsletter which reviews and rates children movies and videos.
  • Commercial Alert (
) Advocates for policies to limit harmful marketing directed at children
  • Common Sense Media ( 
Reviews children’s media (films, TV and videogames) in terms of age appropriateness.
  • Empowered By Play ( 
Helping families and teachers protect and promote imaginative play in our way-too-busy, consumer-driven, media-filled world.
  • Handmade Toy Alliance ( 
Supporting small batch children’s apparel, toy, and accessory makers
  • International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media ( 
Global clearinghouse on media practices, resources and research
  • Kaiser Family Foundation ( 
Prepares the most comprehensive reports on status of media in the lives of children and families
  • Media Education Foundation ( 
Documentary films. Challenging media.
  • ( 
Media literacy skills for a healthy body, mind, democracy and planet
  • MediaLiteracy.Com  ( 
A clearinghouse for resources for advancing media literacy education
  • Media Literacy Project ( 
An organization dedicated to advancing education and advocacy for media justice.
  • National Association for Media Literacy Education ( 
A national membership organization dedicated to media literacy as a basic  life skill for the 21st Century
  • PBS Teachers- Digital Media Literacy ( 
A clearinghouse of resources and references to help students and educators better understand how to navigate the media landscape.
  • Playing for Keeps ( 
Educates and advocates about the value of play
  • Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (T.R.U.C.E) ( 
An organization of educators who work to counteract the harmful impact of media and marketing on children.