Archive for ‘Birth to Age 8’

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.

March 12th, 2012

Lessons from the Lorax

Recently, NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Media released an updated statement on technology and young children. Where they previously had advocated restriction and abstinence for young children. They now say, “We believe that when used appropriately, technology and interactive media have tremendous potential to nurture early learning and development.” “Appropriate” then translates to use within developmentally appropriate classrooms to enrich existing curriculum. How does this work exactly? Let’s take a closer look at Disney’s new movie, the Lorax and how both the movie and various on-line resources can be used to enrich a first grade curriculum- either at home OR in the classroom. With the prevalence of modern marketing techniques, children are probably talking about it, collecting movie toys from McDonalds and living out the movie’s influence in other ways. Why not maximize its impact for good?! Haven’t yet seen the movie? Rent it! Or show some of the trailers!

Writing: The State of California’s first grade standard for writing includes: ” Students begin to learn to write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea, considers audience and purpose.” And “Compositions describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences”

Here are some activities that address this:

A) The movie has a famous quote. “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” Why not have your child create a dictionary of a tree language? Together you could keep adding words as they come up over time!

B) Write a story together! “What would you do with the last Truffula seed?”

C) Or increase vocabulary and try your hand together at this word search!

Science: The obvious theme throughout this movie is being more friendly to the environment which goes hand in hand with science! The State of California’s first grade standard for science includes: “I observe the world and use words, graphs, and illustrations to describe it”

For an activity to address this, we found these great ideas on-line and already in practice!

A) On Recycling


B) The Lorax Project Web-site

Mathematics The State of California’s first grade standard for mathematics includes: “They measure with simple units and locate objects in space.” specifically, for measurement, “students describe and arrange objects in space in terms of proximity, position and direction (e.g. near, far, below, above, up, down, behind, in front of, next to, left/right)”

For an activity, why not:
A) Make a forest of different sized Truffula trees and have your child or children create maps for things within that forest.

OR same idea w/ a twist

B) Pretend an area outside with lots of trees is a Truffula forest and take turns hiding something within the trees- or use this image and a little imagination! Then, the person who hides the object has to give directions or clues to the other person or people playing to find it!


C) Do a Google or other search with your child on line for all of the various images on-line that show Truffula trees then compare and contrast them together. Which is bigger? What are they near? What is below them in the images? What is above?

And don’t forget, there is also the book by Dr. Seuss and all of the other wonderful stories within his collection for private and shared story times! Whether you are a teacher searching for lessons or a student or parent exploring sites with activities, this is really just the beginning of a lot of possibilities!

February 28th, 2012

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle: The Won’t Pick Up the Toys Cure

Sometimes you just need a moment. What follows is an example of how media can be used as a resource for education. In this example, it is the start of the whole experience that gives adults that time but also ensures kids benefit too! It is what we call at AIME, a win-win!

The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series stars a small lady who lives in an “upside-down” house in a lively neighborhood inhabited mainly by children who have bad habits. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a chest full of magical cures left to her by her deceased husband, Mr. Piggle-Wiggle, who was a pirate. In “Mrs.Piggle-Wiggle: The Won’t Pick Up the Toys Cure” on Hulu, Mrs Piggle-Wiggle must cure one little girl of her bad habit of leaving her toys out.

Here are some play ideas you can do at home with this video to expand upon its content and to create learning opportunities:

1) (Cognitive/ Intellectual) Make an upside down house. You can draw it, you can build it. What does it look like? How is it different than a regular house? Why is it upside-down? Who are the neighbors? What do their houses look like?

2) (Physical)Have a “don’t pick up the toys” day. Restrict it to one area of the house and have your child or children try to use as many of their toys as possible. See how messy that area gets! Make sure to use both big and small toys. When the area begins to get crowded, find one small toy and take turns hiding it in the mess. The one finding the toy must stack, sort and take great care to move toys out of the way until he/she finds what he/she is looking for!

3) (Language) Within Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, there are a lot of fun plays with language. For example, when Mrs Piggle-Wiggle is needed, she hears a “Wail of the Windsproggles wafting” Pick a toy, any toy and make up silly ways to call that toy using the same letter the toy starts with. Does it take a toot-toodle- toot to call the train? Or a “DRAAAAAGGGHHHHH-A-DOO” shout to call the doll? The words don’t have to make sense. What matters is the letter/ sound they start with!

4) (Emotional) How is your child feeling today? Let him/her invite Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to play for a bit. If he/she is sad, then suggest that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle help spread cheer! If he/she is happy, then together they can play a game that is happy! This one is up to your child.

5) (Social) One social skill that is important in life is being able to read and interpret emotions. Go back through the video and stop on different moments where the actor/ actress face shows an emotion relative to the story. The tree feels sickly, how does his face show it? Now, take paper plates and have your child draw faces with different emotions on each. He/ she can then play with these emotions however they want to. Put the plates on Popsicle sticks, and they become puppets. Hold them up in front of your face and they are masks for a play. Once the plates are made, the play is up to your child!

Lastly, does your child LOVE Mrs Piggle Wiggle now? Why not check out the books by Betty MacDonald for more of her wacky adventures!

February 5th, 2012

Super Bowl Idea Corner- Young Children (Birth to Age 8)

One advertisement making its rounds for the Super Bowl this year is the one featuring Matthew Broderick and aimed at those original fans of his movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Young viewers won’t understand its reference to the movie, but their parent’s sure will!

Here are some related activities however that you can do for them:

Toddlers: Physically, two year olds are beginning to explore their worlds using all their senses. One activity in particular is how to get from here to there. This commercial features travel in a car. When they see this, why not ask them about what they know about traveling in a car? Do you have toy cars in your house? Why not give them a starting place, and an ending place (not too far away) and let them drive the toy car from here to there? You can also build a road with them, and try it again? Can something be a bridge? Or a road block? Then try it without the toy car. Give them a greater distance and have them roll, crawl, scoot, creep, walk, run, hop and jump to get from point A to point B. Do you have dolls with legs that move? Animals that can crawl with help? Challenge your child to make them travel the distance as well. You do it too! Who has bigger steps? There are lots of things you can do for this journey!

Preschool and School Age: Children birth to age 8 will have no understanding of what a day off means. So for them, why not create it? Ages 3-8 in particular are the perfect ages for adventure! When they see the ad, why not ask them what it would be like if they could take a day off of school and go to the moon instead?… How will you get there? Where will you stay? What will you wear? What will you eat? Before the big game starts, help them map things out… find a space in your house that can be the space ship, designate the area for the moon…. then let them create. You can give them paper to make pictures to decorate their house on the moon, or to make pictures of stars or planets to be the “views” from their ship windows. You can find some of your clothes perhaps to wear as “space suits”, add stuffed animals for space creatures… and even make plates of their own special food to eat. At commercials, you can radio in and see how they are doing! Remind them, they can only visit for one day! At the end of the game, check back in- where did they go? What did they see?

For young children in particular, free play is important. So, instead of passively watching, why not let the items, themes and/or ad content from the big game today inspire you to create new games and activities? Everyone will enjoy things a lot more!

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.