The 15 Best Online Preschool Games

By sara / January 17, 2017

Looking to add some excitement into your learning routine for your kids? Ever considered online games? Filled with fun characters and animation, these games can not only keep your young one busy, they can teach them in fun and interactive ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. This in a great way to introduce your preschooler to the computer. They can obtain skills for reading, math, languages, and even social sciences and music. From making friends to learning how to button a shirt, these interactive games can help your young one become a well-rounded individual. Teach them how to paint like Picasso, travel the world like Fernando, or become a future philanthropist. Let their imaginations soar with the help of online games.​

Offers games for babies, toddlers and preschool children. They have interactive books that parents can read while the kids can turn the pages. With colorful, fun animation and cute stories, kids will be amazed. There are games for building, and that are ideal for hand- eye coordination. Lastly, there are videos of their animated stories.

For very early starters that might not be quite acclimated to the computer, Aven’s corner offers simple, fun games that are easy to understand and catch on to. Games such as popping balloons and counting are just enough to teach kids how to use the computer while learning a new skill.

Poisson Rouge is a website that teaches kids how to learn intuitively. The games have no instructions, but forces kids to learn by clicking the mouse. There are a few instructions in English and French on the website. You can register for free and all content is available free of charge. This website also accepts donations.

Playhouse Disney is an interactive website with games that feature Mickey and many more from the Playhouse Disney gang. There are games and a plethora of activities from making place mats, creative crafts that spark creativity and imagination, coloring pages, pages with marbles, and the list goes on. There is a video section with real life morals in their endings to teach kids about human emotion and empathy. For adults, there is a section with blogs, apps, recipes, and printables.

Treehouse TV ias a  site has both fun and educational games for preschoolers. The kids can click on their favorite characters and choose a game or printable worksheet. Games are categorized by level, ranging from easy to medium to hard. There is also a section for videos with their favorite characters.

National Geographic for kids - is full of puzzles and brain games that help give your kids an educational advantage. During their down time, you can play a brain game with bugs and animals and create lessons around these themes. There are also memory games, videos, pages for writing letters and creating persuasion. Even for pre-k, this is an excellent way to enter into the real world with the help of parents.

is a great program for both students and parents. It is full of games with characters from Sesame Street and Barney and Friends. There are arts and crafts for parents and kids to do together and a community section for parents who want to share ideas. There are videos and games that are categorized by TV shows. This is also a great place to find television programs that will aid in your child’s educational development.

ABCMouse offers kids the autonomy of learning without the perpetual supervision of their parents. Ranging from ages two through eight, students can enjoy lessons in reading, science, math arts and crafts. There are ten levels filled with incentives and rewards, and after signing up, the students are guided through the levels. After completing a level, they are automatically guided to the next level. Parents love that their kids can get additional learning at home that is delivered in a sequence.

7. IXL.com

IXL is an online game website that is aligned with the common core state standards. Teachers and parents use this site to tutor students on subjects that they can’t quite grasp while in the classroom. These supplemental games offer prizes at the end of each section, with the incentive of earning even bigger and better ones! There are games ranging from pre-k level to grade 12, with subjects including Social Studies, Math, Science and Language Arts. Parents laud the fact that their kid's learning was extended and improved by these games.

is the perfect place for preschoolers to get a jump start on life. The main area of the site is an online virtual world called Story Land. This land is filled with pre-reading, early math, social science and music skills. Available on android and ios, these games introduce kids to real life activities such as grocery shopping and adopting and caring for a pet. Parents can teach kids how to be responsible for making the commitment of adding a pet to the family.

Education.com is a great place to start at home. It is good for teaching kids how to use technology while they learn the basics of math and science. For those with the extra time, there is a place to create lesson plans, with supplemental worksheets, stories, games, activities, and songs. New games are added periodically, and when students master the pre-k levels, they can advance to the kindergarten level games. There are even teaching tools and guided lesson plans. Parents can access these materials for free or join a premium membership.

NickJR. com is a fun-filled site that can transport your child into the world of their favorite cartoon characters. While not outlined with themes for learning, these games are loaded with educational objectives that will keep your kids busy and entertained. There are games and videos and also a section for parents with ideas for trips, recipes and activities. There are even health tips and how to videos.

Funbrain games is another tool that is lauded by teachers everywhere. Students love this site so much that teachers often use it as an incentive for getting their work done correctly and on time. This site is a gem that is filled with math and reading games ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. Although there is not a tab for pre-k, the games listed under kindergarten are for pre-k students too. There are also games for learning colors and some just for having fun.

Where else should you look to educate kids other than the home of Sesame Street. PBS Kids online games provide games that star the characters of your kid's favorite program. There are games for Dragon Tales and Sid the Science Kid, along with several other shows. One of the best parts of using PBSKids..org is the incentive program. After they finish a round of their game, they can earn a picture to show their accomplishment to their friends and families. Parents and teachers can even use these as an incentive to get even greater prizes!

Starfall.com is a reading program that is available for free online. It has been honored by teachers and homeschoolers all around the globe. It has four levels ranging from, ABC’s, Learn to Read, It’s fun to Read and I’m Reading. There is a sequence of games and activities ranging from small tales to plays and comics. Students learn letter sounds, blended sounds, vowels and consonants. The materials list learning objectives next to the book of each lesson, so, you can accentuate the skill or complement it with another skill for comprehensive learning. Starfall also has an online store where you can purchase paraphernalia and supplemental materials. Parents say that they enjoy the balance of learning and incentives.

The 20 Best Phonetic Alphabet Programs for Kids

By sara / January 16, 2017

Learning to read by phonics helps children learn to read better and faster. Since there are only 43 English letter combinations, most children can sound out words quickly and easily. Students who learn to read phonetically are better spellers. There is no need to memorize hundreds of words because most words can simply be sounded out. Since diagnostic tests can easily be administered, children can be taught those skills that they have missed along the way without any need to start over. Children can easily be tested on their knowledge and see how much they are learning helping to promote a love of learning and helping to build self-esteem, according to research performed by Gwen Fulwiler and Professor Patrick Groff from San Diego University.

Not all phonics programs are created equally. According to National Reading Panel under the auspices of the National Institute of Health good phonics programs not only teach the individual sounds but also teach children how to put those sounds together to form words.

Instruction is explicit as children often do not learn from embedded instruction. A great phonics program gives students plenty of practice breaking complex ideas down into smaller pieces. The program should teach phonemic awareness, knowledge of the complete phonetic code, directional teaching, blending and attention to detail.

If you are an early childhood teacher or a parent, you can help young children learn to read. You will need to choose the right resource for your situation. Here are 20 choices that you will want to consider.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons uses special marks for 44 different phonetic sounds. For example, blended letters are joined while long vowels have a line above them. This program is best for children who have never been introduced to reading as other children may become confused. The book contains reading stories and word lists allowing children to practice. After about 80 lessons, the book then begins to withdraw the special marks. Teachers and parents need to follow a careful script. The last few pages of the book contain lists of books that children might enjoy reading along with additional teaching ideas for teachers and parents.

Parents and teachers who are working with children functioning on many different levels may find The Writing Road to Reading a great program as it contains instructions from beginning reading to sixth grade. There are no student books and only one teacher manual. Students are taught many more rules than with most systems. They then write each rule down in a spiral notebook. Phonograms are learned through saying, writing and reading in their notebooks. This program requires a lot of work on the leader’s part. The program seems to work well for students who have had problems with other methods that present more generalized rules.

Parents and teachers can easily build their own curriculum by using the ideas in Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books. This book shows parents and teachers how to take the child’s natural curiosity and use it to teach a child to read. The program recommends that teachers and parents regularly read great children’s books to kids. The authors suggest magnetic alphabets to teach children to spell phonetically. As children begin to read basic words, then their vocabulary is slowly built up. Many experts find that this is the most natural way for children to learn to read.

The program At Last! A Reading Method for Every Child uses a combination of phonics and sight words. It teaches a decoding program teaching children to deal with exceptions in the most simple phonic rules. The program first introduces children to consonants that say their names which the program calls the good guys. It then introduces children to silent consonants that they call tough guys. Children are then taught short and long vowels before they are introduced to 25 sight phonograms. Many of the activities in this program must be created by the parent or teacher. Many are not suitable for the student learning alone.

Parents and teachers who are looking for a system that is almost totally independent may want to Action Reading Fundamentals. This program uses eight CDs and a workbook to teach the student. The only instructions that the teacher gets is a DVD that is about three minutes long. The system uses flashcards and games to keep the child enthused about learning. Some children may become bored with the program because it is very straightforward without gimmicks or animations. Most students find plenty of room in the workbook to complete the exercises which use the precursive style.

The Adventures in Phonics program is very intense. Not all children will be prepared for the rapid pace at which this program moves. Children will do better if they already have a basic idea of letter and sound combinations. This curriculum is not appropriate for all settings because it incorporates Christian values and words which may be offensive to some users. Some children will find that the provided space in the workbook is too small for their big writing. Most activities in the workbook are fill-in-the-blank or connect the dots which may bore some children. Little attention is given to blending words.

Color Phonics CD program probably works better as a supplement to another phonics program. Children are introduced to basic phonics concepts while watching five CDs. Each concept is carefully introduced. Then, practice occurs with the child being shown a cloudy picture. With every answer that the child gets correct, the picture becomes clearer. When all answers are correct, the child is rewarded with an animation. The program teaches consonants before vowels which are introduced in family groups. Children are encouraged to mark in their own books to practice the skills that they are learning.

 Explode the Code teaches some phonics while it also uses techniques to introduce students to letters. The program starts with an initial assessment so that parents or teachers are not wasting time teaching children what they already know. Different learning activities are included to help children with different learning styles including visual, auditory and kinesthetic. There is an online version that many find easier to use because it is less adult intensive. Some adults find the assessments difficult to interpret, and the computer program does this automatically.

There are two programs called Alpha-Phonics. Teachers and parents should look for the one from Chalcedon, as it is an updated version of the original by The Paradigm Company. This program is contained in a single manual that lies flat. It contains both teacher and student instructions. The program does a great job of teaching basic phonics rules. There is not much practice for students, so parents and teachers will need to supplement this manual. Sounds and words are introduced without accompanying pictures, so this may be a problem for some students. Others will benefit from the straight-forward presentation. 

Parents and teachers find Foundations one of the simplest courses to use. Reading, writing, handwriting, and spelling are all combined with the believe that students learn better when these language art skills reinforce each other. Unlike most programs, a letter is introduced to a student and then its most common sounds are taught together. For example, the student is introduced to the letter a by learning all three of its normal sounds. Great emphasis is placed on saying the sounds properly with the mouth and tongue. Parents and teachers can choose rather they want the child to write in manuscript or cursive with places in the workbook for both.

First Start Reading starts with the introduction of holding a pencil properly before children can develop poor writing skills. Then, it introduces children to a few consonants and then teaches them to blend them before vowels are introduced. This series has three books that children move through rather rapidly. Parents and teachers find all three books covered in one teaching manual. Essential sight words are introduced along the way so that children can read simple sentences quickly. Teacher instructions are brief but comprehensive. Assessments are included in the course, but they are optional. All necessary activities are in the five books, so parents and teachers do not have to worry about having other supplies on hand.

 Lifepac Gold Language Arts curriculum uses Christian words and concepts throughout, so it may not be appropriate in all settings. This program combines all elements of language arts into its curriculum including literature, speech, grammar, penmanship, composition, and spelling. Therefore, parents and teachers who are looking for a well-rounded curriculum may want to consider this one. This program starts with short-vowel sounds assuming that children already know letter and sound combinations. The student workbooks are full color and have plenty of room for students to work. This course is very teacher intensive, so the teacher’s manual s mandatory.

Teachers and parents who find it frustrating to teach multiple rules may find this program more to their liking. Instead of concentrating on teaching students rules, this program teaches through practice and familiarity practiced in workbooks. Levels A and B are designed for beginner readers. Carefully scripted lessons makes the lessons easy to teach. Some find the small print in the teacher’s manual difficult to see. Sounds are taught before letters encouraging students to sound out the word. The teacher or parent creates their own word cards and letter tiles with this system using supplies that they furnish. The program also has shorter versions for students needing remedial help.

Beginnings K5 is a comprehensive system covering handwriting, comprehension, composition, science, social studies, music, motor development and art. Most students do better when the entire system is used together rather than when individual components are used separately. In the phonics program, students are first introduced to vowel-consonant patterns before being introduced to beginning consonants. Parents and teachers definitely need the teacher’s manual for effective instruction. The complete phonics part of the program includes a practice book, reading books, review cards, workbook, a learner’s packet and a cute phonics’ CD. This program is aimed at homeschoolers Although classroom teachers may find it useful.

Children are invited to visit Alphabet Island where they are introduced to letters and their sounds through songs, poems, and songs. Some students may find the characterizations distracting while others will look forward to the next installment. While the program suggests that the video be watched during each lesson, if the student finds it distracting, then it can be omitted after seeing it once. Students are introduced to phonics rules that are repeatedly practiced. While the program can be used independently, many parents and teachers find it best to combine it with the company’s spelling program creating a total system. A complimentary math program is included with purchase.

Children who have to many wiggles to sit still and learn may do very well with the Sing Spell Read and Write Kit. This comprehensive system teaches through a CD presentation with catchy songs that introduce the concepts. Then, the student can read from 23 phonetic storybooks. Workbooks further reinforce the concepts. Also, included are fun phonic games and a treasure chest filled with small prizes. A wall chart allows students to easily see their progress. Teachers are introduced to the course on a video. The teacher’s manual makes it easy to stay organized. Assessments are included for those who would like to use them.

Teachers who want one book that serves as both the teacher’s manual and student book will want to consider Phonics Pathways. This program starts by introducing short vowel words and almost immediately starts to teach students to blend them to read simple words. Upper and lower case letters are introduced at the same time. Each sound is introduced in multiple ways including hearing, saying, tracing and writing. The material is specially designed to encourage proper tracking. Students are introduced to positive-thinking proverbs and fun characters throughout the book. Students are often introduced to a single word. Then, that word is introduced in a sentence. The sentence is then expanded in a pyramid formation.

The McRufy phonics program is a comprehensive program incorporating multi-sensory learning techniques. The laminated covers and sturdy pages in the student workbooks make it easy for students to learn as they will not tear easily. Unlike many programs relying on question-correct response questions, this program relies on open-ended questions frequently. Students should have some introduction to letters before beginning this program which moves rather quickly. For example, lesson three already has students blending b and a. By the end of the kindergarten year, students should know all letters including both long and short vowels, some digraphs, a few sight words including the names of colors.

All About Reading is an intensive phonics system that breaks each sound down into separate lessons. Open-and-go lessons allow teachers or parents to teach these lessons without any preparation work. The program features many hands-on activities. Each lesson focuses on spelling abilities: print awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, listening comprehension, motivation to read or a combination of these skills. The program includes two reading books that students will work their way through during the first level. A zebra hand puppet is used to teach many of the lessons. The program also uses an app to introduce children to the various sounds. The program also reinforces other early childhood skills such as following directions, coloring, cutting, listening, identifying syllables audibly, making inferences and developing vocabulary.

Saxton Phonics 1 is the top pick in phonics curriculum because of its completeness. The company recommends that the student is introduced to one new sound each week although the program can be completed faster if desired. Each lesson takes about 30 minutes to complete with students kept enthused through the use of a variety of activities. Constant review and assessment help ensure that students are learning. Parents or teachers who are unfamiliar with teaching phonics find this an easy program to use because the 500-page teacher’s manual tells the adult exactly what to say. The complete system includes two student workbooks, an alphabet strip, letter cards, spelling cards, key word cards, letter tiles, audio pronunciation tape and other components.

The Best Science Toys for Kids

By Rebecca / January 16, 2017
Best Science Toys for Kids

Science and other educational toys allow children to expand their minds and discover their imaginations. Children usually learn better when they can have hands-on experience, their attention is retained and they are engaged when they find their educational experiences to be interesting and enjoyable.

Science toys for kids foster an appreciation and love for the concepts of STEM. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) These educational toys, when used from a young age, can harbor a passion for careers in these scientific fields for when they are older. Currently, there are said to be more men in these fields of work than women. All of these toys are suitable for boys and girls of all ages to enjoy. I have compiled a list of the top Science educational toys for boys and girls from toddler age to preschool, and finally up to grade school level.


Best Science Toys for Toddlers

Boon Pipes Water Pipes Bath Toy

The Water Pipes Bath Toy can be used individually or together to create a chain for water to pour through. It includes suction cups so it can be attached to the wall and has five different pipes with unique shapes and functions. All pieces are BPA-free and safe for children.

  • To Play:

The child can place the pipes on the wall while taking a bath and they can pour water through the pipes to watch what happens. The pipes can be fitted together so that the water can flow through all of them. The best part for parents is that the water all stays in the bathtub and does not end up all over the floor.

Recommended Age Group                                                                 

12 months and up

Skills

Teaches the basics of fluids, vacuums, and propellers


Animal Planet Grow Eggs-Hatch and Grow Dinosaurs

The Animal Planet Grow Eggs toy contains three different eggs that hatch and grow dinosaurs right out of their shells. Your child will think it is like magic when they sit and watch their eggs hatch and see what comes out. Three different eggs hatch and grow into three different animals. They will reveal a Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, or Spinosaurus.

  • To Play:

Place the eggs in water and they will begin to crack within 24 hours and will finally start to hatch within the next 36 to 48 hours. Once hatched, the children can take the dinosaurs out to play, or they can place them back into the water to continue to watch them grow. Make sure you replace the water each day before they hatch. The animals can grow five to ten times their original size. Each egg includes an educational fact card about each different dinosaur.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                          

3+ years

Skills

Teaches them patience and responsibility and educates them on the process of hatching an egg and educational facts about dinosaurs


Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope

The GeoSafari Jr. My First Microscope can view anything up to eight times magnification. It has two extra-large eyepieces that are suitable for your toddler, and they are not required to close one eye to be able to see anything. It is a fully-functional microscope that they can use to examine all sorts of different objects without the use of slides. It also has a big knob that makes it easy for little hands to adjust the focus.

  • To Play:

Gather small objects that you think your toddler may be interested in examining more closely such as leaves or rocks. Place the object under the microscope and have your child view it and adjust the focus knob as needed to get a better focus and a clear image. Adult supervision is required, especially when examining smaller objects that may prove to be a choking hazard for smaller children. This microscope also includes a LED light that enhances the viewing, a non-skid feed, and even a sample tray.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                 

3 years and up

Skills

Encourages exploration and discovery, helps acquire core competencies that are important in a young child’s development


SainSmart Jr. Kids Bug Catchers Nature Exploration Tool

This Bug Catchers Nature Exploration Tool allows your toddler to catch bugs by pressing a button and then they can view the captive bug with the included microscope. It has a convenient carrying handle that makes it easier for the child to tote it around outside and to the park and this tool does not harm the bugs at all.

  • To Play:

Let your child run around the yard to catch bugs such as butterflies and moths. They simply press the button to open the lid to catch the bug and press the button again once the bug is caught. They can then view the bug and release it unharmed when they are done observing and then move on to the next.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                          

3 years and up

Skills

Encourages exploration, observation, and discovery                        


Best Pre-K Science Toys

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set

The Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set includes perfectly sized tools that support little hands and small scientific investigations. It features durable pieces that have measurement markings, as well as activity cards that introduce processing skills, living and nonliving things, physical science, senses, and a lot more. The packaging the set comes in is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle.

  • To Play:

The set includes a beaker, magnifying glass, funnel, eyedropper, flask, tweezers, goggles, a 6” test tube and stands, two smaller test tubes and stands, an activity guide, and ten double-sided activity cards. There are instructions for the various easy-to-do scientific experiments and introduces your child to the wonderful elements of science while keeping them engaged and having fun.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

4 years and up

Skills

Gain an understanding of basic science safety practices, learn how to use their five senses, build a common vocabulary, and observe, test, and discover science


Roylco R5910 Animal X-Ray Set

The Animal X-Ray set features real x-rays that are printed onto a durable and long-lasting plastic. You can see the x-rays with the use of an overhead, window, or light table and they feature 13 different species and an activity guide that educates your child on the skeletal system.

  • To Play:

Each x-ray measures 8x10 inches, and the images are printed onto a clear and heavy duty plastic. Simply hold the x-ray up to light so that you can see the printed skeletal image on the card. The set also comes with an idea and activity guide that helps walk your child through the skeletal system of each species. It is perfect to spark your child’s interest in science and even medicine and educates them while they have fun looking at all of the different x-rays that are included. They can even teach their parents as they go!

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

4 years and up

Skills

Encourages scientific exploration and discovery and educates a child on the skeletal system                                                                                               


Scientific Explorer Mind Blowing Science Kit

The Mind Blowing Science Kit is a number one best seller kit on Amazon and is based on nationally-recognized great explorations in the Math and Science program at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. It is an introduction to the scientific exploration of chemistry and allows your child to conduct experiments while learning interesting facts.

  • To Play:

This kit includes everything your child will need to conduct their interesting experiments. The kit includes red cabbage juice powder, citric acid, color tablets, polyacrylamide crystals, a pipette, small and medium scoops, and three plastic cups. Each experiment should be done on a flat surface that can be easily cleaned in case there are any spills.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                

4 years and up (with adult supervision)

Skills

Learn the basics about basic and acidic solution, learn how to follow basic instructions, and learn the basics of chemical reactions


Learning Resources Build and Bloom Flower Garden Building Kit

The Build and Bloom Flower Garden Building Kit allows your child to mix and match gears to create their spinning flower garden. All of the parts are interchangeable which gives the child endless combinations and designs for their gardens.

  • To Play:

This set comes with 116 pieces and includes colorful gears, flowers, butterflies, bees, ladybugs, wiggly stems, bases and so much more. They can put the pieces together; however, they can create and build as many combinations as their imaginations allow.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                              

4 years and up

Skills

Effective problem solving, cause and effect action, building and construction basics, builds self-confidence and fine motor skills


Best Science Toys for Grade School Kids

Thames and Kosmos Magnetic Science

The Magnetic Science Kit lets your child experiment with magnets of all shapes and sizes and even allows them to build their electromagnet. This kit teaches your child about magnetic poles and magnetic fields and how magnets react under different conditions and circumstances.

  • To Play:

The Magnetic Science Kit allows your child to perform 33 different games and experiments and it comes with a 60-page full-color manual to walk them through all of the different things they can do and build. They are also able to explore the invisible force of magnetism and learn about floating rings and electromagnetic fields.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                  

8 to 15 years

Skills

Learn how magnets behave and react, learn how to follow instructions, and learn about compasses


Thames and Kosmos Kids First Chemistry Set Science Kit

The First Chemistry Science Kit allows your child to conduct 25 different hands-on experiments safely using simple chemistry. They will learn how to identify different chemicals and discover the invisible gas carbon dioxide and see what its visible effects are.

  • To Play:

This kit includes a 48-page full-color instruction manual and experiment guide, and all of the experiments are specifically designed for younger elementary school-aged children. It uses various common kitchen, bathroom, and laundry substances to discover different reactions, and learn about heat, evaporation, and crystallization.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                      

8 to 15 years

Skills

Develop critical thinking skills, cause and effect, and learn about different chemicals and reactions


Snap Circuits Lights Electronics Discovery Kit

The Lights Electronics Discovery Kit is a great hands-on introduction to the world of electronics by allowing your child to create real working circuits and devices. There is even the option to plug in your iPhone or Android phone to test and see how your circuits react. Snap Circuits has received many awards and boasts off carrying some of the best STEM toys for children that are available.

  • To Play:

This kit lets your child make over 175 different projects and has over 55 color-coded circuit components. All of the pieces easily snap together, and the instructions are easy to follow due to the conveniently color-coded circuit components. The pieces are also numbered for another level of easy identification. This kit does not require the use of any tools or soldering. It also features an infrared detector, strobe light, color changing LED, glow in the dark fans, a strobe integrated circuit, and fiber optic communication.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                

8 years and up

Skills

Build on skills and complexity, learn how to follow step-by-step instructions, learn the basics of how electronics work


Be Amazing Toys Big Bag of Science

The Big Bag of Science is an excellent STEM toy that teaches your children while keeping them engaged and entertained at the same time. This kit integrates concepts that are taught as separate subjects to help you apply them to real life situations.

  • To Play:

This kit includes a step-by-step instruction guide for each experiment and includes over 70 different activities that your child can enjoy. Along with the instruction guide, there is a lab booklet, test tubes, geyser tube, magnifying glass, papers, different types of powder and goo, insta-snow powder, and much more to explore and discover.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                      

8 to 14 years

Skills

Learn about different scientific processes, learn how to follow instructions, learn the basics of physics, chemistry, geology, and biology


STEM toys are the perfect addition to any household or classroom and are always fun and educational. They are useful learning aids that are sure to keep the focus and attention of the child while helping them retain information that they find to be fun and interesting. Next time you have to make a decision between that new video game or new robotics set, think twice before you walk past an educational toy wrapped in the idea of fun. Happy Learning!

The Best Engineering Toys for Kids

By Rebecca / January 16, 2017
Best Engineering Toys for Kids

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. These particular toys are good to help build an engineering skill set for children so that they can learn relevant subject matter for future careers in these types of fields. Engineering toys for children provide them with a fun and educational experience that encourages them to learn beneficial skills while developing their minds.

Educational toys benefit children of all ages in their developmental process by doing the following:

  • Develop a child’s senses
  • Teach lessons concerning cause and effect
  • Increase their IQ
  • Retain their interest in learning
  • Increase a child’s social and emotional development
  • Encourage socialization as children can learn and play together

I have compiled a list of some of the best engineering toys available for three different age groups including toddlers, pre-k, and grade school children. I will list the benefits of each toy and include the links to make finding these great educational toys as easy as one simple click.


Best Toddler Engineering Toys

ETI Toys 92 Piece Educational Construction Engineering Building Blocks Set

The Construction Engineering Building Blocks Set comes with 92 pieces and is engaging fun for both girls and boys. These blocks are certified to be safe for children, and each piece is washable and easy to clean. The set comes with a storage tub for convenience. All of the pieces are made from non-toxic and high-quality materials.

  • To Play:

The children can take the pieces out and build their toys. The set comes with blocks of various shapes and sizes, screws and nuts, plates, wheels, connectors, wrench, and an idea sheet for lots of imaginative playtime fun. There is a potential choking hazard, so this toy is not recommended for children under three years of age.

Recommended Age Group                                                                 

3 to 6 years

Skills

Teaches social development, teamwork, and collaboration


Guidecraft Better Builders Grippies Building Set

The Grippies Building Set is an open-ended magnetic STEM building toy for toddlers that combines exploration with magnetic play to introduce your child to the wonderful world of engineering at a very young age. The thirty piece set features four soft matte textures in bright colors.

  • To Play:

The magnetic pieces make it easy for your child to put all of the pieces together without becoming frustrated. Your child will discover how much fun it is to build and take things apart.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                         

18+ months and up

Skills

Tactile exploration, introduction to the basic principles of engineering and geometry


Fat Brain Toys Spin Again Toy

The Spin Again Toy was one of the first stacking and twirling toys that became available. The toy is made from sturdy and coated ABS plastic and is completely BPA free and safe for children. The discs are dual colored and stack from largest to the smallest. It is an incredibly visually enticing toy that will keep your child interested and engaged.

  • To Play:

To play, the child drops the discs onto the pole and watch as they spin around on the reversible base. There is a wobble base, or it can be turned over to become more stable. This toy stacks and spins and twirls and exposes your child to several different colors including magenta, lime, teal, and shades of lemon, red, and sky blue.

Recommended Age Group                                       

12 months to 5 years

Skills

Hand-eye coordination, baby engineering skills


Fat Brain Toys Squigz Starter Set Building Kit

The Squigz Starter Set includes 24 pieces and can be used in the bathtub, on the walls, windows, tabletops, and desktops. The pieces are made from a high quality 100% silicone rubber that is BPA and latex free. The pieces are all flexible, and, when assembled, can be transformed into rockets, vehicles, or even jewelry among other different fun things.

  • To Play:

Apply pressure to two of the pieces and the air will rush out. Your child can stick them to any non-porous and solid surface. Apply more pressure to pull them apart again. They will not damage any of your surfaces and can be removed and reapplied again and again.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                          

3 to 15 years

Skills

Encourages creativity, fine motor skills, interaction, and experimentation


Best Pre-K Engineering Toys

Blagoo Building Blocks-Car Toy Set

The Blagoo Car Toy Set is an educational building block toy with easy-to-build shapes and figures, animals, vehicles, buildings, and robots. The kit comes with 104 colored pieces that are made out of a durable plastic and non-toxic materials that are safe for children. The pieces include seven different colors and they all come in a convenient car-shaped carrying case, so the parts aren’t left strewn around the house.

  • To Play:

The case is on wheels and includes a rope and can be pulled around the house and be considered a second toy. There are build patterns included in the instruction booklet, but the possibilities are endless and are all up to the child’s imagination.

Recommended Age Group                                                                      

3 years and up

Skills

Building, mathematics, sense building through seeing and hearing


Tinkertoy Model Super Building Set

The Tinkertoy Super Building Set is a fun and colorful interactive building set with 200 brightly colored parts and includes spools, flags, washers, rods, and end caps. There are over 30 different building possibilities, and the plastic pieces are made to be durable and flexible. All of the pieces are 100% safe to use and all manufactured in the United States.

  • To Play:

All of the many pieces snap together and stay together. They are easy to assemble and disassemble. Each set comes with an instruction sheet and a sturdy portable box for convenient storage. The possibilities are endless, and some parts are flexible enough even to bend.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

3+ years and up

Skills

Analytical skills encourages children to use their imagination, building skills, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and spatial awareness


Lincoln Logs-Country Meadow Cottage

Lincoln Logs are a tried and tested true classic. The pieces are made entirely out of high-quality maple wood that is stained to mimic the real finish on a cabin. The logs have indentations so that they can nicely fit together. This set includes a female figure, a pony, roof eaves, slates, a door, a door frame, and windows that are made of a durable plastic material.

  • To Play:

An instruction booklet is included with each set that outlines how to put the cabin together. Each piece is easy to fit together and stack up, and children can use their imaginations to create different cabin or house models that are completely customized by themselves. The parts can be conveniently stored in the box, so all the pieces remain together for the next round of play.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                                

3+ years and up

Skills

Cognitive skills, motor skills, critical thinking abilities, increase analytical skills, problem-solving skills, and spatial awareness


Kids First Amusement Park Engineer Kit

The Kids First Amusement Park kit includes a storybook manual that helps children through their very first engineering project. It includes 97 colorful building pieces and comes in a large plastic storage carrying case with the assembly instructions for over twenty different models. They help children answer the questions of “how does…?” and “why is…?”

  • To Play:

Children can go through the storybook manual to gain a better idea about engineering and what they need to do to create their very first amusement park all by themselves. Children will be able to build and fix the rides as they travel through the storybook and use their imaginations to experience the amusement park.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                                                                              

3+ years and up

Skills

Develops fine motor skills, visual-spatial awareness, expand their imaginations, learn simple physics and engineering concepts


Best Grade School Engineering Toys

Hexbug Vex Robotic Arm

The Hexbug Vex Robotic Arm is a small hand-powered robot that can pick up and relocate items using a rubber grab hand. The crane can rotate 360 degrees. It takes an estimated four to six hours to build and has an intermediate difficulty level which makes it more suitable for grade school children.

  • To Play:

This robotic kit comes with over 350 snap-together pieces and does not require any tools to build. It is a fully interactive and hands-on toy that pushes a child’s creativity level while keeping them interested and engaged while learning important STEM concepts along the way.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                  

8 to15 years

Skills

Teaches gear reductions and power transfer through intricate gearing techniques


Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery Kit

The Snap Circuits Jr. Kit received The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children’s Products, and the Dr. Toy Best Educational Products Awards. Children have the opportunity to build working models of a photo sensor, flashing light, and siren with more than 100 other projects. Children will also gain hands-on experience when it comes to working with designing and building models of electrical circuits.

  • To Play:

This kit includes an illustrated manual. It also comes with over 30 color-coded real circuit components that simply snap together to create working electronic circuits and devices. The pieces also include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker.

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                      

8 years and older

Skills

Teaches building and how to follow instructions, education on how electrical circuits work


Thames and Kosmos Geckobot Wall Climbing Robot

The Geckobot Wall Climbing Robot can walk vertically up smooth surfaces such as windows, glass, and mirrors. There are seven different models in all that your child can build including the Geckobot. It uses a motorized air suction system, and your child can also create models of an industrial robotic arm with a vacuum suction cup gripper, a crawling inchworm, a smartphone holder, and more.

  • To Play:

This set comes with a 24-page full-color manual and includes 176 different parts and pieces. The gear system produces a rotating motion that makes the legs move back and forth and up and down. Two feet stay on the wall, while the other two feet move in alternating movements. The manual includes simple step-by-step instructions for each model which makes it easy for your child to build.

Price

$57.33

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                    

8 years and up

Skills

Develops thinking and social skills, teaches tactile processes, and teach them how things work


The Learning Journey Techno Gears Marble Mania Alpha Construction Set

The Marble Mania Alpha Construction Set has over 300 colorful pieces and is tech-themed. Your child will be able to build structures that work and move, and this set is also compatible with all of the other Techno Gears sets. It includes a power lifter, dual marble tracks, electronic light and sound module, and spiral tracks.

  • To Play:

This set comes with very detailed step-by-step instructions to teach your child how to connect all of the parts and pieces. After building, they simply drop the marbles into the top and watch them go. There are spinning spirals; the marbles can launch down ramps, and glide through a vortex before they drop to the finishing point. The motorized gears keep the corkscrew turning, and this sends all of the marbles back up to the top.

Price

$59.99

Recommended Age Group                                                                                                                                      

8 to 15 years

Skills

Encourages motor skills, cause and effect learning, logic, and helps your child gain an interest in engineering


There are many other engineering toys available for children of all ages and are all good to develop a child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and foster a love of engineering and science. There are so many benefits that are associated with STEM toys and they all allow the child to expand their imagination and learn how things work. So next time your child walks up to you and asks “why” and “how” you can pull out one of these kits and give them a hands-on learning experience that they will never forget. Happy Learning!

The 10 Best Fantasy Book Series for Young Readers

By sara / January 5, 2017

According to the National Education Association children who are read to at home have a higher success rate at school. Reading extensively also increases a child's vocabulary. Children's fantasy series' allow readers to be transported to other worlds and escape the predictability of everyday life. Below, I've compiled a list of the best fantasy books for kids. My choices are based on the strength of the writing, the overall popularity of the series and the cultural significance and impact of the series. Strong writing is writing in which the plot and characters come together to create an unforgettable story. Thus, every book on this list has at least one character that transcends the book series and has become a cultural icon.

This series is a collection of thirteen books for young readers. Daniel Handler published the books under his pen name, Lemony Snicket. The books follow the story of the Baudelaire children, whose parents died in a fire. They are sent to live with a relative named Count Olaf, who turns out to be a selfish, murderous man out to steal the children's inheritance. Throughout the series, the children work to fend off Olaf while also attempting to solve the mystery of their parents' deaths. The books, often labeled as dark humor, contain memorable characters, namely Olaf, who delights and mystifies young readers.

The Never-Ending Story was written by Michael Ende in the late 1970's. The original book's protagonist, Bastian, steals a book from an antique bookstore. The stolen book is called The Never-Ending Story, and it is set in a magical place called Fantastica. As he reads, Bastian becomes part of the story, mirroring how readers often feel when immersed in a make-believe world. Ultimately, Bastian's choices decide how the story progresses. Riding on the coattails of the original book's success, the publishing house released six additional novels by various authors based on the world of Fantastica. The series has also inspired computer games, a television series and a series of films, most notably the 1984 film directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

This is an immensely popular two-book series written by Roald Dahl. Dahl planned to write a third book, but unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Of the two existing books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, originally published in 1964, is the most well-known. The book follows the story of Charlie Bucket, who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate wrapper. This ticket is one of five such tickets that allow people to tour the Willa Wonka chocolate factory. Charlie takes his grandfather along for the tour. The two of them are awed by the whimsical sights, sounds, and smells of the factory. The 1971 film adaptation, starring Gene Wilder, is a classic.

Peter, a lively and adventurous rabbit, was first introduced to the world by Beatrix Potter in her 1902 book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Potter published five subsequent books in which Peter appeared. In the first book, Peter sneaks into Mr. McGregor's vegetable garden, where he gorges on vegetables until McGregor chases him out. Children and adults will admire the simple storytelling as well as Peter's relationships with his sisters and friends. The books have inspired several animated series as well as a popular biopic about their creator. The books saw a resurgence in popularity when English actress Emma Thompson published The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit in 2012.

6. Oz Series

Some people may be surprised to find that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) is the first installment in a series of fourteen books. It's plot, made famous by an American classic film, focuses on Dorothy, a Kansas girl who is sucked into a tornado along with her dog Toto. The two set off on a journey down the yellow brick road in which they come into contact with three strangers they soon befriend: Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. The 1939 film starring Judy Garland is perhaps the most famous adaptation, though the book has also inspired Broadway musicals, comics, and several other films. L. Frank Baum, the series creator, was a prolific writer who also wrote poems, short stories, and more than fifty books.

5. Peter Pan

Peter Pan is J.M. Barrie's classic novel about a young boy who never grows up. Pan leads a group called the Lost Boys as they go on numerous adventures involving pirates, mermaids, and other mythical creatures. Peter Pan first appeared in 1902 in Barrie's novel The Little White Bird. Barrie went on to write other works, but they were overshadowed by the character of Peter Pan. Popular themes in this series are the innocence of childhood and unconditional acceptance, both of which can be discussed and appreciated by young readers and adult readers. J.M. Barrie's life and the family who influenced him to write Peter Pan were the subjects of a 2004 film in which Johnny Depp played Barrie. Peter Pan has also been adapted into numerous feature films.

Winnie the Pooh is one of the world's best-known anthropomorphic creatures. Milne actually named Winnie the Pooh after his son's stuffed bear. Christopher Robin, the author's real-life son, is the model for the character in the books. The first book in the series, titled Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) is a classic and widely considered one of the best fantasy books for kids. The books focus on Winnie and his adventures in Ashdown Forest with his assortment of witty animal friends. The books have been translated into Latin and Russian. Streets around the world have been named after Pooh. And, of course, the books have been made into several full-length movies and animated series. Though the series is nearly a century old, modern-day merchandisers still capitalize on Winnie the Pooh stuffed bears and T-shirts.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are the two books that make up one of the best-known children's book series of all-time. Both written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, (aka Lewis Carroll) the books were originally published in the 19th century and still remain popular with children today. In the first book, Alice falls down a rabbit hole and into a fantasy world full of anthropomorphic creatures. In the second book, she goes through a mirror and into another fantasy world. The books contain some of the most memorable characters in literature, including Humpty Dumpty, the Hatter and the Cheshire Cat, The author was a mathematician, and some scholars believe the characters and situations represent certain mathematical concepts. Thus, the books, while written in a simple style, contain symbols and layers of meaning that make for good discussion by both adults and children.

This series of seven books by British author, C.S. Lewis, is one of the best-known children's book series of all-time. Now translated into more than 40 languages, the books were originally published in the 1950s and have sold over 100 million copies. The books' central focus is on various children from the real world who are transported to a fantasy land called Narnia. Narnia is inhabited by mythical creatures, including a talking lion called Aslan. The author was an avid reader of Greek and Roman mythology and was also heavily influenced by Celtic fairy tales. The books have, of course, inspired numerous stage adaptations and several features films, most notably a 2005 film that grossed over 400 million dollars.

The 7-book Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is the best-selling book series of all time. The series focuses on Potter and his friends at The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The novels are beloved by children as well as adults. Series author, J.K. Rowling, became a household name after successfully publishing the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in 1997. The books have also been praised by critics, though some criticize their dark themes, especially in the latter books. In 2007 when the last of the books was published, fans waited in a frenzy to buy copies. Some fans who were not native English speakers bought the English version of the books simply because they didn't want to wait for the translations. The Harry Potter brand is one of the most recognized in the literary world. Several high-grossing films have been produced along with a number of theme park attractions, dolls, clothes and toys.

The 10 Best Preschool Birthday Party Themes

By sara / January 5, 2017

We always want to make sure our kids have the best birthday ever! Choosing a fantastic theme is one of the best ways to guarantee your child and his or her guests have a great time and remember the party for years to come. To help you make the most of your child’s big day, we've assembled a list of the ten best preschool party themes that are sure to please any young child. But throwing one of the best preschool parties doesn't have to be a lot of work. We've included some quick and easy tips to bring in a little creativity and fun, without too much effort on your part. Pick one of these themes to ensure your child’s party is one of the best preschool birthday parties ever.

10. Artist/Paint Party

There is nothing preschoolers love more than painting. Throw a painting party and bring out the creative side of your little guests. Decorate your home with empty paint cans and bright colored table cloths. Splatter paint on a large roll of craft paper for a cute backdrop. To make paint brush treats, make Rice Krispy treats, cut them to the size of a paint brush, insert a popsicle stick into one end and dip the other end in colored, melted white chocolate. Give your guests a paint brush and canvas, or better yet, get out the finger paints!

Dinosaurs is a great party theme for preschoolers. Depending on their ages, you may want to tone down the scary dinosaur pictures and opt for more friendly-looking dinosaurs. Transform your living room into a jungle with large leave cut out of dollar store tablecloths. Make giant dinosaur footprints out of black construction paper. Dig for dinosaur bones in a sandbox. Serve kid-friendly foods renamed to fit the dinosaur theme, like dinosaur eggs in place of peanut M&Ms. With the dinosaur theme, the bigger, the better, so when you plan your party, think large.

What preschool-aged child doesn’t love a superhero? Planning activities and games for Superhero parties is simple. Get some fabric and cut it into a cape for each child. Have games focused on defeating the ‘bad guy’, using items like silly string, water balloons, or bean bags? Have them test out their superhero skills on an obstacle course. Or, get another adult to dress up as a villain and have the kids try to catch him and wrap him in toilet paper. Superhero parties are always a big hit with young kids.

What better way to make your young guests smile than with a party all about candy? A Candyland theme allows you to bring in a lot of bright colors, and decorations are super easy. Big colorful lollipops, bold stripes, and colorful tablecloths can easily transform your home into a child’s paradise.

Whether you opt to do a pool party, a beach party, or a squirt gun/water balloon party, water is always a great idea for kids. (Of course, always make sure you have enough adults to supervise.) Decorating is easy, with beach balls, balloons, and other cheap inflatables. Serve your food in sand buckets, equipped with shovels!

What pre-schooler doesn’t love Mickey? Throwing a Mickey Mouse party is a great option when you want to include both boys and girls on your invitation list. Because Mickey is such a popular figure, the internet is bursting with creative ideas to make your party unique and memorable.

Most young kids think minions are hilarious, and the idea of attending a minion party will be thrilling. There are so many easy ways to incorporate this theme without breaking the bank. Minions have such a basic shape; you can turn anything into a minion with a little yellow and blue paint and an eyeball or two. For a quick game, paint 2-liter bottles yellow and blue, add eyes, and you’ve got an easy ring toss game. Or print out a giant picture of a Minion and play pin the eye on Stuart.

Princesses are extremely popular among pre-school aged girls, so choosing the perfect princess for your party is sure to be a piece of cake (pun not intended!). With so many princesses to choose from, it’s easy to find just the right party favors and supplies you’ll need to throw the best princess party ever. Anything pink and frilly is sure to be a hit with preschool aged girls. Have the girls play dress up, or decorate a crown with stick-on jewels.

Whether you choose to make it a generic pirate party, or a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party, there are always a ton of great ideas online. Pirates have always been a kid favorite, and the pirate theme leaves a lot of room for creativity. You could add a giant sail attached to a broomstick to your kitchen table to make it look like a pirate ship, or you could have your kids walk the plank into a wading pool of inflatable sharks – the possibilities are endless.

This is a great birthday party theme that’ll work for either boys or girls. The pups are always saving someone from something, so instead of party activities, do rescue missions. To decorate, put your party treats in doggie bowls (unused, of course!) instead of regular bowls, or add a paw print to the top of your cupcakes using one giant marshmallow and three small marshmallows.

The 20 Best Audio Books for Kids

By sara / January 3, 2017

There is no question that reading to your child can help improve their reading skills while also giving you some one-on-one time with your little ones. Many parents have turned to audio books as a way to encourage reading as well. Audio books are beneficial as they can be used on long road trips or even while running errands as they distract children and keep them entertained.

Audio books provide many benefits other than keeping children entertained in the car. Audio books can be extremely beneficial for struggling readers as it allows them to enjoy books that might be above their reading level. Audio books can also help students understand narrative structure while encouraging visualization, both skills necessary for reading comprehension. Most importantly, they show children that reading can be fun, especially if the narration is done well. Interestingly, many classic novels, like those written by Dickens, were meant to be read out loud.

Audio books can be purchased almost anywhere books are sold. You can purchase them in CD form from booksellers like Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. The Apple App Store or Google Play carries downloadable formats that can be used with a smartphone. The book can be played through a car stereo or speaker just like music on the device can be played. There are online sites that offer free downloadable versions, such as MeeGenius and Storynory. Your local library is another great source for free CDs of audio books as well.

The benefits of reading to children are well-known. They help children build a stronger relationship with those who read to them and improve basic speech skills. Unfortunately, only 53 percent of children are read to, possibly because parents are working or have other distractions that make it difficult to read. Audio books can help bridge the gap, especially if the child can follow along in a written book while listening to an audio book. Most vehicles have the ability for CDs or cassettes to be played while parents are transporting children, even if it is to daycare or the grocery store, so filling that time with an audio book is a good way to keep the child entertained while also improving their learning ability. Statistics show that children ages three to five who are read to have better counting skills and 77 percent already demonstrate good reading skills. In addition, audio books encourage children to read for fun and not just because they are required to read for school.

Before choosing an audio book, it is important to keep the age of the child in mind. Children who best respond to audio books are between the ages of three and seven, but a three-year-old may be frightened by some books that are written for older children. In addition, the audio book should be narrated in a fun, exciting way rather than simply the voice of someone reading a book. These audio books are highly rated by children and are appropriate for children between the ages of three and seven. In addition, these versions are narrated in such a way children remain interested and are better able to visualize the story as it unfolds.

Rudyard Kipling wrote the “Just So Stories” for his children, and each story follows a particular theme. Each story explains how a creature was transformed from its original formation to its present appearance. The stories include “Why the Whale Got Its Throat,” “How the Camel Got its Hump,” and “How the Alphabet was Made.” The stories are told with comic exaggeration and a conversational style that will keep older children interested even though the stories are designed for younger children. It is important to note that the stories were published in 1902, so some of the narratives may be politically incorrect in today’s era. This could open a dialog among older children regarding differences in race, gender, and politics today compared with past eras.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a timeless classic. Even if you and your children have seen the movie many times, the audio version narrated by Jason Pomerantz provides insight into how imaginative the classic story of Dorothy, the Tinman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion is. The Dorothy character in the audio book is younger than what is depicted in the movie while the other characters are much more silly than they are depicted in the film. Some parts may be frightening for small children, but the audio book makes them less intense than the film version.

The Cricket in Times Square, written by George Selden, was a 1961 Newbery Honor Book. The audio book version narrated by Tony Shalhoub brings the characters of Chester Cricket, Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse to life. Shaloub lets the story speak for itself, giving a unique personality to each character. The book is suitable for children as young as two and as old as ten or eleven. The story unfolds slowly, and the characters are very realistic throughout the audio book.

The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, written by Betty McDonald, has been a parent’s savior for decades. She has the ability to teach children to behave using her wits and knowledge. Whether a child is selfish, doesn’t tell the truth or won’t put away their toys, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has a solution. John McDonough narrates the story, differentiating voices between children and adults. His narration of Penelope the Parrot in “Talking-Back Cure” is one of the highlights of the entire series. The books are age-appropriate for children between the ages of three and eight, although some older children may enjoy the narration of the stories.

Ramona Quimby has become one of the most popular characters in children’s books. She is not afraid of anything and is always getting into something. The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection includes eight stories of Ramona’s adventures based on the books written by Beverly Cleary and Tracy Dockray. The audio books are narrated by Stockard Channing who is able to bring the characters to life and provide children with a visual of how the story is unfolding. Channing adds humor to stories that are already somewhat humorous. Although the books are designed for children six and older, even younger children will be amused at the antics of Ramona, her friends, and her family.

15. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The classic Ian Fleming novel comes to life in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang audiobook. The story is narrated by David Tennant, and he speaks to the listener as if they were old friends. The story itself is attractive to children of almost any age since it is about a flying car. There are funny lines in the book that are accentuated by Tennant keeping children entertained throughout. The book version is different than the Disney movie version that starred Dick Van Dyke so parents who are familiar with the book through the movie may note the differences. There are a series of books including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Rides Again, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Race Against Time and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon. The series is not sold together, so parents will need to purchase or download each one separately.

The Junie B. Jones series written by Barbara Park is well-known to many parents who probably read the series when they were young. There are several audio collections available which allow children to hear the adventures of Junie B. Jones. Lana Quintal, who narrates the audio books, has been praised for capturing the voice and personality of Junie B. completely. Quintal uses a realistic child’s voice for Junie B. which keeps children as young as three and as old as ten entertained. The audio book is just as funny as the written books that children have loved for decades. There are several collections available so parents and children can enjoy Junie B. even on very long road trips.

Written by Daniel Pinkwater, the Hoboken Chicken Emergency is the hysterical story of a 266-pound chicken. Pinkwater also narrates his story that is quickly becoming a favorite among children. It has been called funny and “surprisingly sophisticated” for a children’s book. Young children will enjoy the antics of Henrietta while even children of middle school age will enjoy the sense of humor and imagination in the book. There is even a political lesson included in the story regarding con artists and scams. The narration is positive and children will enjoy the way the story unfolds.

Matilda, written by Roald Dahl and narrated by Kate Winslet, tells the story of a sweet, exceptional child. Matilda was one of the last books published by Dahl in 1988 before his death in 1990. The book stands alone among children’s books, actually referring to C.S. Lewi and Tolkien as great writers who were not very funny. Winslet's narration brings Matilda to life, letting children of all ages get a glimpse inside the book as she creates a visual of what life for Matilda must be like. Some of the books may seem dark as Matilda’s parents come very close to neglecting her and the head mistress of her school is outrageously evil. Overall, it could spark discussion with children about dealing with bullying, even when the bully is an adult.

The Boxcar Children are orphaned siblings who make a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the woods until one of them gets sick. Once they are reunited with their grandfather, many adventures ensue in this series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Phyllis Newman narrates the collection, bringing Henry, Jessie, Violet and Bennie to life along with the many characters they come into contact with in their new town and on their grandfather’s island. Children as young as five can relate to the characters while older children will enjoy the antics the children become involved in. The narration is easy to listen to, and Newman can clearly differentiate between characters.

Rudyard Kipling’s story of Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and Shere Khan is brought to life by narrator Meredith Hughes. The audio book is entertaining for all ages, from very small children to adults. It is an excellent adaptation for long family trips as Hughes’ narration keeps the story flowing in a way that makes listeners want to know what happens next. The audio book also includes several short stories written by Kipling including “The White Seal,” “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” and “Toomai of the Elephants.”

C.S. Lewis published the Chronicles of Narnia between 1950 and 1956 and more than 100 million copies have been sold of the print version of the seven novels which include “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” and “The Last Battle.” The entire series, narrated by Chrissi Hart, is now available in an audio format that provides adults and children with many hours of reading time. Hart brings Narnia’s secret world to life and children of all ages will enjoy the fantastic tales that are included in the book. Although the books are allegedly included in the order, C.S. Lewis intended them to be read; some say that reading them in a different order gives them a different meaning that is meant for adults.

Adults and children will enjoy Appleblossom the Possum in audio book form. The story is narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Dustin Hoffman and tells the tale of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s loveable character, Appleblossom. The story is about a newborn possum making her way to her mother’s pouch with views of the nightlife of adult possums. There is music on a rooftop and even a conga line in the story that is destined to become a childhood classic. Hoffman’s own granddaughter was jealous that he was able to play the role of Appleblossom as it was one of the one-year-old's favorite books.

Written by Roald Dahl and narrated by Douglas Hodge, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory focuses on Charlie Bucket, a boy who is honest and brave. Unlike the film, the book does not focus on Willy Wonka, but instead looks at the story from Charlie’s point of view. Hodge is able to convey what Charlie is doing and feeling as well as portraying Veruca Salt, Violet Beuregarde, Mike Teavee and Willy Wonka. As Hodge weaves the tale, the listener is transported to the chocolate factory that no one had visited for years. Children of all ages, and even some adults, will love the whimsical tale and the moral it conveys at the end.

The story of a housepainter who receives penguins from Admiral Drake, written by Florence and Richard Atwater, has become a favorite since its release in 1938. It became a movie starring Jim Carrey and is now available on audio book, narrated by Nick Sullivan. The book provides children with many lessons including why people daydream, geography and culture of other areas of the world as well as helping them learn more about penguins. Sullivan’s narration keeps listeners entertained as he describes the antics of the penguins as well as conveying the depression suffered by the original penguin before the arrival of a female companion. Prior to the release of the movie, few people were aware of the book, but it has grown in popularity and is an excellent option as an audio book.

Little House on the Prairie, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, tells the story of Laura and her family as they move to Indian country in Plum Creek, Minnesota. The audio book is narrated by Cherry Jones, a Tony Award-winning actress and there is music provided by Paul Woodiel, an accomplished fiddler, and violinist. The audio books are easier for young children to follow, unlike the written books which can be too slow-moving for children under the age of five. Adults who grew up watching the popular television show will also enjoy the audio book with their children. In addition to the initial Little House on the Prairie book, other books in the series are available for download or on CD.

4. Adventures of Hank the Cowdog

Released in 2008, the Adventures of Hank the Cowdog has quickly grown in popularity among children ages five to eight. In the first of the series, Hank resigns as Head of Ranch Security and joins an outlaw band of coyotes. The audio book is written and narrated by John R. Erickson who easily differentiates characters and gives the listener a visual of what is happening in each scene. He conveys to the reader his love of dogs and children clearly understand the moral of each story. There are humorous aspects for both children and adults, so parents will enjoy listening to the stories as much as the children. Erickson includes songs that are very engaging and many parents say that their children listened to the audio books so often, they memorized many of the stories. There are many Hank the Cowdog adventures available, both in download form and on CD or cassette.

Mary Pope Osborne narrates her own book series, The Magic Treehouse, the story of Jack and Annie who find a treehouse filled with books. The treehouse takes the siblings on a series of adventures based on the books they choose to read. The first collection contains books one through eight, including “Dinosaurs Before Dark,” “The Knight at Dawn” and “Mummies in the Morning,” along with five others. The stories captivate children as young as three and as old as six or seven, although some older children may find the books to be slightly childish. Some parents have found that children improve their reading by listening to the audio version while following along with the printed book.

The story of the mouse born to a family of humans, Stuart Little, has been a favorite for many years. The book was written by E.B. White, and the audio version is narrated by Julie Harris. Stuart Little has been criticized as a children’s book as children may find parts to be boring, and some of the humor included in the written version is geared more for adults. There is also language that is archaic and most of the printed books have few illustrations. However, the audio version, with the Harris’ excellent narration makes the book easier for children to follow. Because the book was written in 1945, some cultural references are outdated, such as gender roles, but these are secondary in the audio book as children grasp the other aspects of the book which is that, although Stuart faces significant obstacles as a mouse in a human world, he overcomes them with enthusiasm. The narration conveys each character’s personality so that the listener gets a glimpse inside the written word, as if they are sitting in a room with the characters as the action takes place.

For generations, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web has been a beloved classic. The story of Charlotte and Wilbur captivates children as young as two and three while older children and adults are touched by the friendship Wilbur and Charlotte develop throughout the book. The book turns a spider, a creature who many children may view with fear, a heroine. Narrated by George Plimpton, the audio book helps listeners better appreciated the meaning of the book. Children can feel what it is like to live on a farm, even when they may never have visited one. 

The 10 Best Online Reading Programs

By sara / December 21, 2016

The availability of online study materials has transformed not only how students learn in the classroom, but also the ways in which their parents can help them learn at home. Whether it's teaching or reviewing the basics in the evening, or seeking out the best resources for homeschooling, online resources are a game changer in child literacy and instruction. Indeed, recent studies have shown that students who work on basic literacy skills at home, during the earliest years of their pre-school and elementary school education, are up to 56 percent more successful on standardized literacy tests during their late elementary school years and during middle school.

In fact, students whose parents played an active role in their literacy education were more likely to read at least 10 books per year and more likely to show high levels of comprehension and literacy in other subject areas, including mathematics. These results help to clarify the importance of working with young students on reading and comprehension from an early age, and there are many online tools available that make this process even easier and more exciting. The best tools have been ranked below.

Though there are hundreds of helpful resources online that encourage greater literacy in pre-school and elementary students, only ten were chosen for this ranking. These tools were selected based on a combination of factors. First and foremost, the tools chosen had to be developed either by a coalition of parents and teachers or by a group of teachers who work with real students on reading and literacy in their professional careers. Online reading programs were also chosen, and ranked, based on their affordability, their appeal to parents of homeschooled children, and their use of fully immersive web technologies that appeal directly to young learners. More immersive and interactive programs, like those with slide shows, videos, and interactive games, rank as some of the best and most productive resources today. This reality is reflected in their placement within the ranking.

ABCMouse Early Learning Academy is widely regarded as one of the best online tools for early learners grasping the most basic concepts of reading and other subjects. Founded in 2010, the company was a leader in the immersive, web-based and app-based education boom at the beginning of the decade. In the nearly seven years since its founding, the company has focused on fully immersive experiences on an array of mobile devices, as well as an adaptive and immersive website that allows students to progress at their own pace through basic lessons in sight words, phonetics, and the letters of the alphabet.

As a bonus, a license for the company's website portal, and all of its mobile apps is made available for free to virtually every public school, public library, and noted community organization. This wide accessibility makes the ABCMouse system widely accessible to both public schools and home schooling environments.

CNK Digital is a leader in making learning fun. Since first offering its gaming platform early in the present decade, CNK Digital has become a leader in game-based learning, with a variety of leveled games that work with students from pre-school through the beginning of middle school. The company's games are fun, but also instructive, with lessons in phonics, sight words, the alphabet, sentence structure, and much more.

While fun to early learners, the CNK Digital service is also a robust analytical tool for teachers and parents. Every action taken in one of the company's many literacy games records data about the student's comprehension, including the lessons and games that they either struggled or excelled in the most. This allows teachers and parents to focus their efforts on critical weak points in their student's literacy education, addressing major issues early on.​

Designed based on core principles of the National Reading Panel and peer-reviewed research on childhood literacy, StudyDog is primarily an independent learning tool that encourages students to work on their own, with minimal parent or teacher supervision. The service incorporates several immersive games, videos, slideshows, and lessons from the "StudyDog" himself, to teach students the fundamentals of the alphabet, phonics, vocabulary, and even sentence structure, based on the student's age and level of proficiency in core literacy concepts. The StudyDog approach is backed by scholarly research, as well as documented outcomes via standardized testing under the former No Child Left Behind Act, making it one of the most documented and reviewed approaches to reading education online.

Suitable for students in grades K-8, Book Adventure has a dual mission in the world of online reading education. First, the service is designed to help early learners master the basic concepts of reading comprehension and the principles of literacy. This is accomplished through a series of games and "adventures" that require input from students, corresponding with literacy lessons, to progress through the "adventure" and reach its conclusion.

Each adventure also promotes the company’s second mission: To encourage a lifelong passion for learning. The company's mission statement notes that many people will only read if they are motivated to do so by an enjoyment of books and a commitment to literacy. Each "adventure" excites children about reading and books and gives them a new goal that will push them toward more independent reading outside the bounds of each lesson.

Kiz Phonics draws a great deal of its instructional inspiration from programs like Hooked on Phonics, which was one of the first programs to emphasize phonics and phonetics in literacy education. With that being said, the program is also differentiated in several key ways. First and foremost, Kiz Phonics is developed by a 27-member panel of teachers who work daily in reading and language arts education. The program also has the support of several tenured professors of language from around the country.

The Kiz Phonics program, unlike Hooked on Phonics, is available entirely online or through mobile applications. Because the program was developed by people who teach English or ESL to young and adult learners, heavy emphasis is placed on the proper progression through fundamentals, like the alphabet, phonics, pronunciation, sentence structure, and reading techniques. Digital letter, word, and pronunciation charts are also available online and can be printed, making this a great instructional tool for a homeschooling environment as well.

Mr. Nussbaum is a real person with years of experience in childhood literacy education, and the MrNussbaum.com website is a testament to this. The approach taken by this unique online tool, appropriate for children in grades K-8 that combines lessons in reading and literacy with a zeal for research. The Nussbaum approach to literacy education strongly believes that students need to not only learn the basic principles of reading but also employ those principles in everyday tasks.

To that end, students will put their skills to use as they scour real scholarly materials, researching concepts and actively reading in pursuit of a final goal. It's a practical approach that helps students connect theory with practice in a meaningful way for the rest of their lives.

Dating back to 1987, Hooked on Phonics is both one of the oldest and one of the most successful programs for people of all ages who are learning to read. The program has historically focused on early learners, from preschool through the early middle school years, when developing most of its books, DVDs, and other materials. To that end, Hooked on Phonics today is the single most comprehensive tool for parents and teachers who are assisting early learners with phonetics and the most basic concepts of literacy.

Though Hooked on Phonics was started by a father who wanted to teach his son to read, the company has evolved over 30 years into one that involves both parents and teachers. Lessons are designed and revised by a panel of literacy experts, early childhood educators, and actual classroom teachers, in an effort to make them immersive, interactive, and fun. The company most recently turned its series of successful books and DVDs into an interactive web portal and a mobile app, giving students and parents a vast number of digital lessons on virtually every portable device. It remains one of the most highly effective teaching tools in early literacy.

Part of the Learning A-Z family of learning tools, which has been providing at-home and in-school instruction to students since 2002, Headsprout is known for its adaptive approach to early childhood literacy. Unlike many of the company's competitors, which apply a one-size-fits-all approach to learning basic phonetics and reading comprehension methods, Headsprout's software uses an adaptive approach that responds to student answers. If the student needs more time on a concept, Headsprout detects this fact and acts accordingly. Likewise, the software can speed students through concepts that they already know or are grasping with ease.

Headsprout's unique, adaptive approach to teaching reading has produced real results for students both in the home and at school. Furthermore, the company's approach has been validated by peer-reviewed studies, published in many major journals of education, since the software first hit the market over a decade ago. The company's consistent approach to student learning, and its use of algorithms and lesson adaptation, make it a great fit for independent study times and all levels of early learners.

There is one problem that has almost always stopped homeschoolers and budget-weary parents in their tracks: licensing fees for literacy programs. Many of the most popular literacy programs, even those offered primarily for home use, require steep subscription and licensing fees that can eat into family budgets. This makes it hard to review, or to teach, the most basic literacy and reading comprehension concepts with early learners. Reading Bear was founded to put a stop to this problem. All of its literacy and reading comprehension lessons are completely free for home use, making this tool the best option for parents on a tight budget.

Reading Bear, like many other tools, understands the importance of "leveling" its learning programs and providing numerous instructional options to parents. The free service offers its early childhood reading lessons in both video and slideshow formats. In addition, the service offers seven different levels of instruction for each lesson, ranging from a short "review" of the lesson's concepts to a longer, fully immersive lesson for young learners who are either new to the concept or need more time to review before moving on. The ability to choose different instructional methods and levels, in addition to its free price tag, makes Reading Bear a top choice for parents who prefer flexibility and have a tight budget for instructional tools.

One of the things that originally made K5 Learning unique was its founding members: parents. When the company was founded, virtually all literacy tools were marketed exclusively to schools and sold on a "volume license basis," making it nearly impossible for parents and homeschoolers to take advantage. The company’s original mission was to democratize this process, bringing high-end, highly effective phonics and literacy tools to early learners across the country, whether they were at home or at school.

In the two decades that have elapsed since the founding of K5 Learning, the company's reading and basic literacy program has become one of the best options on the market for both schools and homes around the world. In fact, the K5 Learning program in reading was recently named the best such program in the country by a leading educational publication. The program is designed by a coalition of parents, ESL teachers, and literacy experts, along with early childhood educators who design interactive lessons compatible with Internet browsers and mobile devices. As a result, it easily tops the rankings for the best at-home literacy and reading program available to parents in the United States and around the world.

The Best Early Childhood Education Conferences of 2017

By sara / December 21, 2016

Education is the key to further advancing the modern world. Therefore it is essential to properly educate today’s young children and youth. Attending education conferences can be an effective way of doing so, as interaction with other learning professionals helps educators to better their classrooms. Attending the presentations and lectures of others can help an attendee improve their skill set and strategies.

Further, educational conferences allow for a chance to mingle with other learning professionals while discussing their work, which then leads to refined and effective curriculums. Many education centered conferences offer continuing education credits as well.  Below is our list of 10 can't miss conferences in 2017. Did we leave any off the list? Please let us know! 

  • Dates: January 24-27, 2017
  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Cost: Early Bird - $349(Until December 16,2016), Regular - $399, On-Site - $449

The National Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) is the single most comprehensive and biggest independent technology centered conference around. This year, the FETC will feature a specialized track focusing on the importance of integrating technology into early childhood education. Plenary lectures and small group sessions will showcase a wide range of research explaining the effects technology has on early childhood education. Attendees will have access to intensive workshops and training sessions, focused on introducing educators to various devices that can be used in a classroom setting. Tech experts will be on-site ready to help and answer any technology related questions, in addition to providing a plethora of information regarding incorporating STEM topics into curriculums. Key speakers include Dr. Kate Highfield, Tamara Kaldor, Gail Lovely, and others!

  • Dates: May 9-11, 2017
  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Cost: TBA (Available in January)

The annual National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute’s conference seeks to shed light on toddlers, preschoolers and young children with disabilities. Often time, these children with special needs get overlooked within the education system, due to lack of educator training. The National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute works relentlessly in order to train educators with the proper tools required to deal with disabled toddlers and young children and provide them with proper educational resources.

  • Dates: March 13-15, 2017
  • Location: New Orleans, LA
  • Cost: Early Bird (Before March 9,2017) - $745, Regular On-Site - $795

Reading is an essential life skill that serves as the foundation of any education. Therefore, early childhood educators and learning professionals have a responsibility towards fostering strong reading skills in students.

The Plain Talk About Literacy and Learning conference does exactly this, by training educators on strategies to better teach students how to read. The conference presents several breakout sessions centered around presenting effective classroom strategies such as foundation reading skills, social skills, writing, and comprehension.

The event is a must attend for educational leaders, administrators, early childhood educators, ESL teachers and even mental health professional. The institute will highlight strategies for dealing with reading difficulties in students, along with teaching preventative measures. Attendees will leave the conference refreshed and ready to strengthen the reading foundations of early childhood students.

Conference attendees also have the option of being eligible to receive continuing education units (CEUs), along with credit offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Key speakers include Robert Brooks, Doug Fisher, Pedro Noguera, Anita Archer, Neil Duke, Steve Dykstra, Howard Fuller and many more!

  • Dates: October 4-6, 2017
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Cost: Member Early Bird - $335, Member Regular - $415, Member On-Site - $450

The Division for Early Childhood Conference aims to bring together educators and learning professions whose career is centered around assisting special needs children and their families. The annual conference serves as a platform for bringing together attendees with an interest in special education, early autism detection and treatment options.Every year the conference is centered around a theme, this year’s theme being Mountains of Opportunities: Interdisciplinary Collaboration in the New Millennium. Breakout sessions will consist of assisting attendees in mastering this theme, by educating them on special needs and detection.

Attendees will also learn to develop new teaching techniques to apply in their classrooms, focusing on educating special needs children from ages zero to eight. Key speakers for the 2017 conference are still pending announcement.

  • Dates: May 2-5, 2017
  • Location: New York City, NY
  • Cost: Early Bird Rate (Until April 17, 2017) - $373 (3 days), Regular Rate - $425 (3 days)

The Young Child Expo & Conference is a collaboration between the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University and Los Niños Services. The conference has a simple goal, to train professionals and early childhood educators with the ability to foster knowledge in children, ultimately leading to their growth. The event brings together doctors, nurses, teachers, professors and students from around the world, all eager to learn techniques to further education processes in their home institutions.

This year, the conference is broken down by days, May 2nd will feature the Autism Invention Summit Day presented by Profectum Foundation and the Neuronet Learning pre-conference workshop, then breakout sessions and lectures will take place from May 3-5.

The Autism Invention Summit Day provides attendees with a great opportunity to learn different methods for dealing with autistic children. Experts will be on standby to answer any specific behavior or autism-related questions attendees might have.

Conference attendees also have the option of being eligible to receive continuing education units (CEUs), along with credit offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Key speakers include Monica G. Osgood, Bari Koral, Steve Gross, Derek Volk, Rebecca Shahmoon Shanok and much more.

  • Dates: June 11-14, 2017
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Cost: TBA (Available in March)

The goal of the NAEYC Professional Learning Institute is to encourage early childhood education professionals to better impact their classroom environments. NAEYC is open to all early childhood education teachers, researchers, and leaders who are looking to strengthen their early childhood education knowledge.

The conference will present lectures and breakout sessions aimed at improving teaching practices, teaching new lecture approaches and offering early childhood education centered research. By attending the 2017 conference, participants are sure to leave with new knowledge, a stronger professional network, unmatched inspiration to improve their school system and numerous other tidbits of new innovative information.

Conference attendees also have the option of being eligible to receive continuing education units (CEUs), along with credit offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Key speakers include Eugene Robinson, Kara Ahmed, Stephanie Carlson, Allyssa Meuwissen, Luis Hernandez, Martha Buell and many more!

Dates: July 19-21, 2017Location: Honolulu, HICost: Full Conference - $550, Early One-Day - $350

The Learner conference is a must for professionals who want to incorporate digital media into their early childhood educational methods, along with those who have already taken the initiative to do so. Each year the conference is centered around one major theme, which is then broken down into multiple sub-themes, presented via a series of breakout sessions.

Learning is a form of traditional media taught through means of textbooks, homework, lectures, and activities. However, modern times and modern technology has made it essential for educators and learning professionals to adopt digital media teaching methods as well.

The conference provides training sessions for using e-textbooks and virtual classrooms beginning at the early childhood level all the way to college and even professional studies. Through means of breakout sessions, attendees will have opportunities to learn about new ways to teach using technology, how to introduce collaborative learning to the classroom and combining different online platforms for a better learning experience. Key speaker include Bill Cope, Mary Kalantzis, Dan Hoffman, Fuxing Liu, Christine K Sorensen and more!

  • Dates: March 17-18, 2017
  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Cost: TBA (Available December 2016)

The Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference is presented as a collaboration between three institutes, the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, Denver's Early Childhood Council, and the Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance. The conference is aimed at providing a means of learning skills required to successfully educate early childhood students, and collaborating with other attendees in order to network and talk strategy. Lectures and breakout session offerings are aimed at addressing problems and hurdles faced by early childhood and learning professionals in their respective fields.

The conference also seeks to train professionals to adequately address such challenges and shortcomings found in early childhood education, in order to better the future of today’s youth. Key speakers include Holly Elissa Bruno, Steve Spangler, and others!

  • Dates: April 7-8, 2017
  • Location: Whitewater, WI
  • Cost: TBA

UW-Whitewater’s Early Childhood Conference is a must attend event for professionals who are looking to expand their network and develop insights on early childhood education. The conference is a grand collaboration between the College of Education and Professional Studies in partnership with the Continuing Education Services department at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. The theme of this year’s conference is Our Words are Important: Nuestras Palabras son Importantes, an attempt at highlighting the importance of words in all languages.

The conference will feature lectures in both English and Spanish, along with hosting breakout sessions in both languages as well. Spanish workshops serve to highlight the conference’s theme that stems from encouraging children to converse in any language they feel comfortable in. Moreover, the conference offers credit to professionals who attend the conference on both days and who complete mandatory written assignments. Key speakers include Monica Brown, Terrie Schmoldt, Okee Dokee Brothers, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, Jayanti Tambe, Shelly Gonzales and more!

  • Dates: January 25-28, 2017
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Cost: Individual Rate – $125, Group Rate - $125

The annual Opening Minds Conference is considered by many as being amongst the best early childhood conferences worldwide. Opening Minds brings together numerous professionals in order to host unforgettable lectures and breakout sessions focusing on early childhood development. Attendees have the privilege to learn about the newest and most effective teaching strategies for all types of students. Furthermore, attendees also have the opportunity to earn professional credits at the conference.

Credit earning opportunities are available in Continuing Professional Development Unites (CPDU’s), Continuing Education Unites (CEUs) for Certified Teachers, and Continuing Education Credits for Advanced Nurse, Registered Nurse, and Licenses Practical Nurse, to name a few. The Opening Minds Conference is a great event for all professionals who have careers in the education, technology, social service and others. Key speakers include John Borrero, Tom Bradach, Carrie Brockway, Nancy Bruski, Patrick Cerria, Meredith Craven and more!

The 20 Best Phonics Songs

By sara / December 21, 2016

Music is a powerful methodology for everyday life. Certain songs incite memories, emotions, and spiritual balance. It can also be one of the most beneficial models for teaching phonics during early childhood. Songs, rhymes, and other mnemonic devices are the most memorable for the human brain and allow children to naturally internalize sounds and concepts as parts while still working with them as a whole.​

Recent studies have shown that teaching through music helps increase test scores in children. Choosing the correct song is critical to the success. Songs promote phonetic awareness, fluency, and comprehension. Another study found that music training, unlike listening, produces long-term modification rather than short term. The key here is finding the specific song to target the specific skill for the child to master.​

Below are a list of songs and what they can be used for when teaching:​

Teaching a child to count can be difficult. They may get stuck on one number or skip a series of numbers, or forget one all together. This song teaches a child a fun way to count from one to ten through a fun song they can remember as they continue their cognitive development. This song encourages children to count out loud but also to hold up the correct number of fingers, so they begin to associate the word with the actual number of fingers they are holding up. As they continue to learn the word association, this activity will help them translate a word into a comprehension activity.

19. A-B-C

One of the first songs that we teach children is the A-B-C song. There is a reason that everyone speaking the English language knows this song; because it effectively teaches the letters. Children learn this song at such a young age, but it helps them learn to recognize the sight of each letter as well as helping them learn the phonetics of each letter. As children grow, they continue their comprehension of this concept into reading, writing, and phonetic sounds to construct stories.

Letter Tales is a song that helps children associate sounds with specific letters. It moves through every letter of the alphabet and teaches the phonetic sounds of all twenty-six letters. The album as a whole teaches oral language skills through fun and catchy songs.

Teaching a child to sound out words that are meaningful to them first is a great way to teach phonics. The world of a child is very self-centered, so sounding out their name or identifying the first letter in their name is an important exercise. This song is full of alliterations and rhymes to help a child recognize the individual sounds within a word and then begin to nice the same sounds in different words.

One of the most fun and recognizable sounds for children to learn is "S." It has a very distinct sound, and there are many words that begin with the letter that are within their comprehension levels. This song focuses on the initial phoneme alliteration to help children recognize the first sound of these words and then encourages them to find other words that they know with the same initial sound.

15. Name Game

This song is wonderful for teachers as it allows them to insert names of students in their class with a quick little rhyme and helps each student both hear their name called as well as hear how their name rhymes with something else. In doing so, these clever lyrics help prepare children to become enthusiastic and capable readers. This song identifies and important part of the oral language by discussing a specific ending sound of a word and how that ending sound is related to other words to form a rhyme. Rhyming is one of the basic skills taught in Kindergarten to increase reading comprehension.

Another extremely important skill for children when transitioning from oral communication to reading comprehension is the ability to look at a word with similar sounds and replace one letter of the word to make it a different word. This song teaches phoneme blending to show children how to make that replacement and form new words and then how the word associations change the meaning of a sentence.

This song is popular for using phoneme manipulation. It runs through a series of well-known words and replaces the first letter with the different vowels from the alphabet. Children learn how the different sounds affect specific words and can then be used to teach them the differentiation of vowel sounds versus consonant sounds later in their education. Not only does this song teach them phoneme manipulation, but it also teaches children that some letters can make two sounds. Learning that vowel can make short or long sounds can be confusing for children, so they can use a song like Apples and Bananas to help them hear the difference between sounds.

This song (and the others from this collection) focuses on the sound of each letter of the alphabet. Teachers can choose from a variety of levels on which to focus their efforts in relation to this song. The focus can be changed and adapted as children progress through the comprehension of topics such as initial phoneme, counting, clapping, imaginative play, and sight words. Integrating multiple tasks for a more complex lesson is encouraged with this song.

Down By The Bay is a popular song sung by man teachers and parents alike. It teaches children how to construct their own rhymes through silly concepts they will find enjoyable. This song invites children to join in the fun as they hear about whimsical creatures and the sights of the day down by the ocean.

Learning to build a word can be difficult. Teaching children how to put two letters together to make a different sound helps them see how individual letters become part of a word. Reading and writing is difficult for students with limited language skills. Learning words such as blends, digraphs, and homophones during a phonics lesson can frustrate children easily. Adding images, movement, and song to a difficult concept such as beginning and ending sounds helps children feel successful in their learning and increases their retention of the material.

The English language is full of special circumstances, double letters, and silent letters, which prove very difficult for children to grasp. Speech therapists often struggle with children who cannot form essential mouth sounds. Songs work best with visuals as well, and children always respond better to movement and activity. Have them pretend to eat cookies while they learn to make the six basic mouth sounds of Ah, Sh, MM, EE, OO, and SS. Once a child learns the sound these two letters make together, place the lyrics in front of them and help them then learn to read those sounds while they continue to learn to form the mouth sounds.

Once children have mastered initial phonemes, blends, digraphs, and homophones, they can begin to string three letters together to find sound patterns. Sounds like "Str" or "Spr" or "Thr" or "Scr" can be used to form bigger words such as "string," "spring," "three," and "scrub." The use of these three sounds together further progress reading comprehension and vocabulary at early ages. Integrating these words into a song that offers a lively oral language experience helps children repeatedly hear higher-level vocabulary in simple melodies.

A child with a language delay has to work harder for every word spoken. Songs help children practice their fluency in both articulation and language. The silliness of the song Michael Finnegan combined with a change in tempo of the song (singing it very slowly or extremely fast) make it a great way to practice language and speech. With this song, children are learning more than they think and is a wonderful tool for teachers as music makes learning an adventure, helps connect your students, and shows them the joy of learning.

Skip to My Lou is a great song for teaching fluency and fun. It can be combined with different activities to increase child participation and quickly develop language skills. Each movement discussed in this song can be drawn and showed to the children for active participation. Teachers and students can sing along with the song and then use the appropriate movements. Due to the silly nature of the song, this becomes a fun event for children rather than a language or speech drill.

Soup! Soup! Soup! focuses on one of the most difficult sounds for children to understand "ou." This sound is particularly difficult as there is a counterpart sounds of "OO." Helping children decipher between sounds and which letters are making which sounds is much easier done through music. This silly song helps children hear the sound and how it breaks down in the word. It also addresses the initial phoneme of the letter "S" which becomes fun for children to learn. The letter "S" has a slightly silly nature both in appearance and in sound making it a typical favorite among children. Soup! Soup! Soup! is a fun and silly way for children to learn without realizing they are learning.

Muffin Mix introduces children to the concept of alliteration. Utilization of words starting with the same letter and sound and/or being able to identify these words is key to the success of early language development. Constant repetition of a single sound in a poem or song helps children associate that sound with a specific letter. In earlier studies, alliterations and rhyming was shown to represent an immediate step in natural language development. It is also a strong predictor of reading success through phoneme awareness. Children who successfully use word play and invent rhyming patterns and poems at early ages also showed earlier success in reading and writing.

Hey Caterpillar focuses on syllabication. Children learn how to break words into syllables. Learning syllables help children with reading and spelling. Children learn how to break down words into smaller parts so they can begin to spell words syllable by syllable rather than attempting to spell words as a whole. Activities can accompany Hey Caterpillar such as stomping, clapping, snapping, and other silly noise making actions. Once this activity is complete, pass out the lyrics of the song on paper and the children can work on splitting words into syllables and again clapping or snapping to hear where the break is in the word. This will help them as they read and write.

In the song Take a Word Apart, the first part of a word is taken away initially and then the last part of the word is taken away. Children will have to use their imaginations to recreate the word that is missing so they can understand the song. This activity encourages children to shout out the answers and then whisper them. Since this is also a song, teachers can also focus on the rhyming pieces of the lyrics to help build vocabulary, fluency, and phonetic awareness throughout the entire exercise. Building and dissecting compound words helps children learn to spell by breaking words apart and then putting them back together.

On Your Lap works through phoneme addition and blending. Saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make the word helps children hear that individual sounds run together to create words. This is a difficult skill to master as the sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. This song includes different digraphs that must be read as a unit rather than as individual sounds. The lyrical words can be changed out to focus on different sounds. Encourage children to say the two sounds as one unit for greater fluency when reading. Beginning with easier words and working up to words with blends will instill confidence and success during difficult concepts. It is also easier to act out the activity by working with the specific letters in the lap of the child so they can see it and say it and hear it for greater learning retention.

The 15 Best Apps for Learning to Read

By sara / December 16, 2016

One rite of passage of being a kid is learning how to read. It can be exciting for the child as they discover new words and stories and it can also be thrilling for parents to see their child learn. In the modern world of the 21st century, there are endless aides to teach reading, and it can be difficult to determine which are the most educational and fun to use. Some are for kids with little to no reading experience, while others are for slightly older children who want to advance further. Some engage parents quite a bit, while others allow them to observe more than participate. This can effect what a family is looking for in an app. The following list of 15 apps represents the best of all of these scenarios for kids to learn how to read.

When selecting this list, we looked at what techniques and strategies are the most effective, which programs keep children engaged and which programs involve the parents to an effective but not overwhelming degree. As technologies have changed, studies have shown, as published by readingrockets.org that the use of newer technologies not only enables to learn the task at hand, such as reading but also pairs it with knowledge of technology that they'll regularly use. Additionally, the use of technology assures a more individualized support system and thus the child feels more supported, as stated by Scholastic.com.

15. Bookster

Bookster is a storytelling app that will not only read to children but will also allow them to record their reading and to pay it back. Their goal is to teach vocabulary at any level of reader. Pictures, as well as words, will engage the new readers and will allow the less experienced kids to connect. Interactive features, such as flipping pages and words that can be tapped on the screen, keep the child involved in the learning process. As the child progresses, levels of content will adjust to meet their increasing abilities and help them to improve further. This allows for a no-pressure atmosphere as the children learn at their own pace and are encouraged to continue.

This program is much more straightforward than many of the other programs featured here and is more simply designed. That being said, the minimal flourish and lack of pizzazz put the focus back on the content of the app. This will increase their skills from auditor and shape guides into the alphabet, then to words and sentences. This allows for younger participants who are not yet reading to work through self-lead activities and to learn independently.

For the kids who have a handle on basic reading and are now looking to expand their knowledge while gaining a higher reading ability, Encyclopedia Britannica is a perfect fit. It puts their reading skills to the test, as the child can read content that utilizes phonics rules, while they also learn about other topics, such as science or history related topics. The best part for the child is they can choose the topics they review and what they learn about while improving their reading abilities and enjoying the experience.

12. Super Why Phonics Fair

For a game with bright colors and sounds, Super Why Phonics Fair is a great option. It allows the participant to play games where they are learning about letters and sounds without the awareness of effort being required. The setting is in carnival games, which allow for variety and fun throughout. As the child works through the games, their spelling abilities are enhanced, and they'll want to keep playing to learn more.

Capitalizing on an old classic with a modern twist, Elmo is here to teach the new round of youngsters how to read. Various levels ensure the needs of infants to children and every skill level in between as they learn the alphabet. The interactivity of videos and images keep the younger kids connected and learning while also entertained. Though the game can become repetitive and a bit boring for adults monitoring their children, the presence of Elmo connects parent to child and child to the building blocks of reading. This is a good starting point, but challenging materials can be found in other applications.

10. PlayTales

For families that want to expand beyond English, there are apps that offer foreign language for young children. PlayTales offers storytelling that is similar to some of the other apps listed here with creative images but takes it to the next level by providing the content in eight different languages. Participation from the reader is available via the reading and other interactive options. Out of all of the apps on the list, this one has the largest age range of compatibility and is the unique in what it offers for education.

For the parents out there, this program not only is educational but also brings some nostalgia into the process. Together with their kids, parents can share part of their childhood and help them learn in the process. LeVar Burton, the host of the original show on PBS, acts as your host and a guide through the app's activities, but the books are the focus. That being said, the cost to review said books can be costly, at $10 a month, or $30 for six months).

8. Tika Tok StorySpark

This app encourages a higher level of reading and writing development. Once the child has a basic understanding of reading, they can advance to this app, which allows them to write and illustrate their own books. Before they get started on their writings, lessons are available to expand their knowledge. Colorful images and easy to follow instructions encourage children to move forward in this program. Once their product is complete, they can even print the completed product, which leaves them with their first published work. Not bad for someone who is only in the single digits of age.

7. Martha Speaks Dog Party

Lessons are disguised as mini-games for kids who are developing their skills from more basic ABC's and words toward understanding the actual content. What makes it so engaging for children is the characters, such as Martha, the talking dog, and the selection of games that all teach valuable lessons. This is best for kids who are expanding their vocabulary and love some fun.

6. MeeGenius

While many reading apps have books for children to read, few apps have as large of a collection as MeeGenius. With over 700 stories to choose from, including well-known children's authors, to up-and-comers, children can choose titles based on their interest and skill level. To help them improve their reading ability, the app has a function that can play the story out loud that is paired with highlighting of the words read. This improves the child's recognition of the words, how they are said, what they mean and how they are used.

For a program that builds with the skill level of the child, it is hard to get a more comprehensive program than Bob Books. Whether in print, in the app, or a combination of both, this program is valuable over time. After learning the alphabet, the child can learn, at their pace, how to sound out words and then sentences. They can adjust the levels as they see fit or have it automatically adjust with their learning. As the child advances, they also are rewarded with increasingly colorful images which is increasingly satisfying.

The 2013 App of the year Runner-Up and iTunes App Store's Editor's Choice deserves its high regard. Children are guided through vocabulary lessons, and the increasingly difficult terms are learned with style. The characters, or monsters, are fun and entertaining to the point that children are having a blast as they work through their games. Each word they learn in the game can be examined and experimented with, as the child learns how to use terms and apply them in reading properly.

In this app, kids not only get a diverse set of lessons in phonics and basic reading, but they also get knowledge in various areas in the form of fun facts and games throughout the program. Side options, such as free drawing, allow those kids who aren't committed to reading yet to have an outlet. Critical thinking is expected of those who are progressing through reading lessons. Aside from traditional phonics lessons, Learn with Homer keeps the child engaged by weaving lessons into voice recording, music, and other interactive opportunities.

This app is a continuation of the Starfall Learn to Read website, which has identical content. Mini-books in the app have specific focuses on the sounds of letters, specifically vowels. The use of music, videos, readings and repetition of the vowel sounds in those passages allow for children to follow patterns and learn how vowel sounds work in various contexts. Games also keep children connected to learning and how to apply lessons as they are learned in this app.

FeelElectric! is one of the best blends of an app between educational and fun. Activities that aide in the learning process relate to games, story building, videos and a diary where descriptive words are provided to help the newer reader and writer to capture their thoughts and feelings. This program is also a favorite of parents due to how the components regarding feelings can be shared with the parent. Such techniques are typically utilized by families that aren't currently living together, such as military families. This essential function, paired with great interactivity makes this program hard to beat.

The 20 Best Special Education Apps

By sara / December 12, 2016

When you are told your child has special educational needs, you might feel scared, confused, or like you do not know how to help or what to do for them. Hopefully the teacher, specialist, or doctor who provided the diagnosis gave you information; but if not, or if you desire more, there are resources out there to help you navigate the waters. Whether your child has been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, autism, or a learning disability, support is out there, if you know how to find it.

If you are seeking resources for information on your child’s special educational needs, an excellent place to start is Understood.org. This site provides great articles specifically aimed towards parents of children with learning disabilities. Whether you have questions about treatments and approaches or tax deductions, the information is on this website.

Another comprehensive resource is Special education guide. If you go to their “K-12” section, the website provides definitions of terminology you may have heard in reference to your child, and the “Tools and Resources” section includes an exhaustive list of websites that you can refer to, arranged by diagnoses. These websites can help you find a local support group, which may be important to you. It can help to be surrounded by others who know how you feel.

Technology can be a powerful thing, not only in providing information at the push of a button, but it can also help your child with learning challenges in a new and interesting way. There are lots of educational apps out there, and some of them are targeted towards individuals with special needs. Then, some of them are not specifically targeted for those individuals, but the skills they exercise are particularly needed when a child has learning disabilities.

Below, we have chosen and ranked 20 of the best apps for special education needs here. The higher ranked special education apps are those that target practical social and daily skills, progressing towards those that are academic in nature. While both sets of skills are important, those that deal with activities of daily living or social interaction are relevant to children and adults alike every day, hence their important spot at the top of the rankings. Some apps provide practice in both, and those are obviously considered the most comprehensive apps listed.

Whether you are looking for the best Autism apps, best ADD/ADHD apps, or best apps for kids with special needs, these are some great resources. 

Motion Math: Hungry Fish is based on the concept of mental math, providing a fun, simple, game of feeding the fish by doing addition. This is great, untraditional practice for kids with learning disabilities, who may have trouble maintaining focus in a traditional classroom setting.A unique factor of this math game is that it contains 18 levels of addition difficulty, making it easy to adapt to a child’s individual learning level. There are also in-app purchases available with levels on subtraction and negative numbers.

This app is designed to help teach sentence building for younger kids, but kids with learning disabilities could benefit from its adaptable style. This app is unique because of the versatility of customization. The app uses pictures and color-coding to give, to those who need it, a visual cue that matches up with the sentence. Kids can master simple and complex sentences alike while adults track progression.If your child would benefit from fun, visual, guidance in sentence building, this app would be an excellent choice for you.

Lots of kids with educational disabilities have an especially hard time with math concepts. This app provides visual stimulation based on math problems. The most important aspect of this app, for our purposes, is that each skill level can be adjusted individually based on the child’s expertise in the topic. This fun app may just be the ticket to helping your child learn math concepts that they have not quite grasped yet.

The price listed below is for the entire bundle of Motion Math games, including 9 games for ages 3-15. The math skills practiced in these games progress from simple addition to learning basic economic concepts. Users state that these games have helped their easily distracted child remain engaged in the fun activities more than others, earning them a rightful spot on this list.These games are appropriate for children with learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, or any child who has trouble in a math classroom setting. Those with weaker attention spans will appreciate putting math concepts into practice, as opposed to memorizing them from a workbook.

Spell Better was created for those who struggle with writing confidence as a result of trouble spelling or forming sentences. Basically, it is an advanced form of the spell-checker that we use in text messaging, in a word processor form. The app was designed with dyslexia in mind, affecting the font choice and the predictive way that it corrects words. It also offers text-to-speech with words highlighted as they’re being read to improve visual recognition.This app can provide the confidence your young writer needs to assist them in writing assignments. The app can provide suggestions from phonetic spelling errors, skipped letter errors, and more, based on the context in which the word appears.

The First Then Visual Schedule app is a task manager app created for pre-readers. It provides a picture for each task to be completed, and a caregiver provides the order of events for the day so that a child can interpret it on the app. Knowing what to expect throughout the day is sometimes especially important to those on the Autism spectrum, and this app is especially designed to lower anxiety about the unexpected for those who do not read yet.Users can even add custom photos to represent each task and print off a paper copy of the schedule if the child prefers it. There are also several different formats (icons in order of occurrence or a list form) that can be used according to the preferences or needs of the child. The price is a little higher for a task-manager app, but if it reduces anxieties for your non-verbal child, it’s priceless.

Another task manager app, “Finish. The procrastinator’s to-do list.” is most appropriate for the older children who have trouble keeping up with the tasks they need to complete. It is essentially a task manager, where one can enter the to-do items on their list and a deadline, and then you’re done until the deadline creeps up. The simplicity of this app is what makes it appropriate for those who find themselves distracted easily.A really unique feature of this app is its “Focus Mode”, which visually eliminates all to-do items besides those that are the highest priority at that moment. This can help keep the user from being overwhelmed with a number of tasks listed, focusing only on the ones that need to be done at that moment.

This app was designed by an individual with Autism who finds comfort in mathematically patterned rainbow lights. The app simply projects your choice of patterns with soothing sounds playing simultaneously.Some settings can be altered, but ultimately it is a simple visual of pretty lights and colors. This setup can provide comfort and calming to a child that might need a bit of a break.

Pocket Pond is another app for those who need a break from sensory stimulation. It is a realistic-looking pond scene that interacts to touch. Accompanied by a relaxing, natural soundtrack, the water ripples and moves when touched. The user can also feed the koi and make the frogs jump.This app, used with headphones, would be perfect for the child with a sensory processing disorder who needs to take a calming break. It is a simple app designed to be a temporary escape from the real world.

See.Touch.Learn Pro is unique because of the sheer amount of lessons you can use with the app for your child with special needs. The lessons contain picture flash cards designed to teach vocabulary, and new forms of self-expression. Since ABA therapy for those with special needs largely depends on flash cards to represent new concepts, this app puts all of those flash cards in one place.There is an entire peer-based community that shares the lessons they have created, which the user can download. These downloads, plus the 2,200 exercises included in the Pro version of the app, you should never run out of lessons for your child.

Fluidity HD is another app designed to be a calming experience for those who may feel over-stimulated in their current environment. The interface is a constantly moving liquid, which can be controlled by touching the screen. The flow of the liquid and of course, color, can be altered, making this app therapeutic for anybody in need of a good calming session.In-app purchases allow you to include ambient sound, which can be important for some children with sensory processing disorders. Users can also purchase the option to output the calming visual to a different screen, if necessary.

This app can provide practice in reading aloud for children with learning disabilities, but its unique auditory qualities can also be helpful for those diagnosed with Autism or sensory processing disorders. The user will record narratives in their own voice, hopefully improving auditory processing skills. These recordings can be stored, for the child or caregiver to listen to and improve upon later.For users with learning disabilities, the app practices reading comprehension skills by asking questions throughout the stories, which are answered by choosing a written multiple choice answer. It also can improve on paragraph building with the fill-in-the-blank format.

This app was designed to improve budding reading skills for young learners. Four games in this app can improve reading skills by allowing them to hear the word vocalized while visualizing the word written on the screen, being prompted to say the word aloud. The games are presented on a colorful, interesting background, making it fun for children. Sight words and word families are emphasized, and the app caters to multiple learning styles with the four game options. This app is an excellent value for the price, encouraging young readers in a fun way.

Telling time can be a difficult concept for children with learning difficulties, and this app offers a visually stimulating approach to the topic. This app is all-inclusive in its time lessons, teaching how to set a clock, convert between analog and digital time, determine AM/PM differences, and more. The skill of recognizing what time the clock says is an important part of learning independence for your child with special needs, and this is an interactive approach to teaching this invaluable lesson.

My Little Suitcase is based on the board game you probably played as a kid with cards flipped upside down, and you found matches based on your memory of their placement. The game can be fun for all ages, but because of the number of cards available, it is probably more appropriate for a younger crowd.It has made this list because simple games are often the best option for “sneaky” learning, that is, learning without the easily distracted child realizing that they’re doing something educational. This app helps to expand vocabulary by providing specific words for items. Also important for our purposes, the app can accommodate 1-4 players, and taking turns with multiple players is excellent social practice.

This app is invaluable in its lesson on practical money management. Next Dollar Up was not designed to help children count change, but to teach about money use in the real world. In this simple game, you are asked for a total based on your purchases as if you’re checking out at the grocery store. If the total is $1.99, for example, you are then expected to count out two, single dollar bills for the cashier, and that’s it!This may seem to be a little pointless since change is not counted and it is not necessarily teaching about counting out your money, but how often does one count out exact change when making a purchase? This makes a simple purchase a learning experience for those who don’t yet understand spending money, which is an essential skill for independence.

My First Voice Lite was created with Applied Behavior Analysis in mind for any child with non-verbal tendencies. It is a simple, child-friendly interface to help them communicate their needs that pertain to food, drink, clothing, toys, and emotions. For those who need it, the app can be used to create an AAC device simply by installing it to an appropriate device.You can do some customization with this app like choosing a voice option, a theme for backgrounds, and visual icon size. This is the lite version, and the paid versions offer full customization and more photos for communication needs.Overall, this app is an excellent value, because AAC devices can set you back thousands, whereas this app can be used for free for the same purposes.

This app (one part of an entire series of ABA apps) was designed to teach users how to recognize emotions. Although the app is designed for ages 1-4 years old, it is the perfect tool to teach individuals with trouble reading social cues how to read emotions by facial expression. The app gives you the option of providing a picture and allowing you to choose the emotion from a list, or providing an emotion and allowing you to choose one of four facial expression pictures that seemingly expresses that emotion. Interpreting emotions is the only skill practiced in this download, but reading facial cues is an extremely important part of the skilled social interaction.

Children with ADD/ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, learning disabilities, and sensory processing disorders can benefit greatly by giving their brain a “break”. This app gives the child a visual list of possible activities that they can do, based on customization that an adult caregiver provides, to relieve the overwhelming feeling that they select from a menu, whether “slow and sluggish” or “fast and hyper”.When the child first opens the app, they choose a location, then how they are feeling. The location options that the child chooses from are “home, school, community, or desk/table”. The adult caregiver can customize suggested activities according to a location that the child chooses, depending on equipment available or appropriateness of the activity. This app is a wonderful concept for kids who can benefit from physical activity to help calm them down in stressful situations.

This is an app created by autism experts to practice academic and social skills. The lessons are extremely well made, and an adult is able to choose a theme that would be the most effective motivation and reward for the individual child. If the child is particularly interested in sports, for instance, a sports scene will be in the background of the game as a motivator. Also, a short animated clip of a sport being played might be the reward for a job well done. One unique feature of this app is the ability to appoint an adult that can control, through another device, the lesson progression, and curriculum that the child follows. This is a comprehensive app designed very well towards the population of children on the Autism spectrum.

The 20 Best Educational Toys for Toddlers

By sara / December 8, 2016

Educational toys for toddlers, whether for Christmas or other reasons, must serve their purpose. Each toy selected helps children engage with it in a manner that involves use and development of fine or general motor skills, as well as opportunities to learn melodies, rhythms, letters, numbers, and words.

We base our selections on several factors. First and foremost, we’re looking for educational utility. We also consider factors such as price, popularity, consumer reviews, and practicality. Our goal is to eliminate the frustration around shopping for educational Christmas toys; there’s no point in referring anything that’s overpriced, overrated, or impractical.

Call and Chat Learning Phone is like giving a child his or her own cell phone. Designed to emulate a smartphone, Call and Chat includes ten engaging and realistic phone apps, including clock, photos, games, and music. Children will feel like mom and dad as they play and talk on their own phone, which allows them to store up to 5 numbers they can pretend to call, and up to 5 ringtones for use.

Call and Chat is one of the best educational Christmas toys for toddlers because it teaches numbers, letters, and time concepts through interactive fun apps and games – and is has a bonus voice activation feature, which allows children to talk to a friendly animated bird when activated.

Touch & Teach Word Book includes over 100 words, 90 creative sounds, and 15 melodies on 12 exceptionally interactive pages with incredible details. Every single page reacts to a child’s touch with sounds, words, and music, keeping them engaged from beginning to end. Children have incredible fun with characters Cody the Smart Cub and Cora the Smart Cub while learning to build and expand their vocabulary skills while associating words with sounds and pictures, as pictures come to life with the touch of a finger. Touch & Teach Word Book is one of the best toys for toddlers, because it provides four different play modes, including What’s That Word?, Music Time, Find It Quiz Game, and Letter Fun.

VTech Baby Babble and Rattle Microphone operates like a real microphone, amplifying your baby’s voice and encouraging their creative expression as they sing and learn. Babble and Rattle play 12 melodies in classic or rock ‘n roll style to introduce children to instruments. When baby shakes the rattle, it plays fun sounds and phrases. Microphone’s cute puppy button is an endearing friend that encourages them to sing along to the sons. Product features a red ring that can be turned to introduce children to 12 different animals, providing a perfect opportunity for children to build fine motor skills and learn over 60 songs, melodies, and phrases.

Touch and Learn Activity desk is an interactive desktop with four double-sided cards created to introduce children to animals, music, letters, numbers, people, and more. This activity desk provides over 30 learning activities, 20 fun and popular melodies, a rich count of over 160 vocabulary words, and an interactive LED screen with demos to show children how to write letters and numbers step by step. When children are ready to express their creativity, table turns into an art stand, allowing children to draw using the easel or chalkboard. (Chalk and eraser are not included, but can be purchased and easily stored in the unit).

VTEch’s Baby Learning Laptop is perfectly designed for growing babies and toddlers in our information age. This adorable laptop comes in blue or pink and features 9 chunky keyboard keys and movable mouse for a realistic experience. What makes this toy such a gem is its early learning center. The early learning center has 3 modes of play to teach shapes, objects, feelings, and music. Children will love touch and learn interactivity of the product, which includes over 90 songs, music, sounds, and fun phrases for children to sing along to and enjoy.

Mag Builders is currently one of the top toy selections everywhere this holiday season. Mag Builders is an excellent opportunity for children to develop several math skills. Stimulate children’s creativity while they learn and strengthen their grasp of building, geometry, mathematics, and sense of color. Magnetic sets are robust with pieces. Children can build trains, trucks, rocket launchers, and more. Purchase includes 104 solid magnetic pieces, as well as 50 squares, 8 larger-sized squares, 18 equilateral triangles, 12 right triangles, and 4 – yes, 4 – magnetic cars, giving hours and hours of unlimited creative opportunity. Best of all, this set is designed for preschool play and comes with a storage container, making projects easy to construct and easy to clean up.

Pretend & Play Doctor encourages the development of your child’s fine motor skills during play while they learn practical life skills such as empathy and caring for others. Designed with frustration-free packaging, Pretend & Play is a 19-piece set, including stethoscope and pager with lifelike sounds, plus bandages, forceps, thermometer, and battery-operated cell phone. We live that gives children opportunities to ease their anxieties about upcoming doctor visits through role play while increasing their fine motor skills and social development. Pretend & Play Doctor is a great toy that grows with children, who enjoy it well past their toddler years.

Melissa & Doug’s Catch & Count Fishing Game is a top choice for several reasons. The resourceful packaging fits all of the game pieces inside of a mesh bag that also serves as the pond used during play, making clean up simple. Although made strictly for dry land, there’s still plenty of fun to be had. This game is creatively designed to encourage the development of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Consisting of ten wooden fish with magnetic pieces, two fishing reels with child-friendly hooks, and a worm spinner, this game provides interactive learning opportunities for children to explore color, shapes, counting, numbers, and the concept of big and small.

Teach your little one the power of finance. Pretend & Play Cash Register includes realistic coins and dollar bills, plus solar-powered calculator. We like this because this is a fun product that provides imaginative opportunities for children to develop beginning math and sales skills. Designed with large, easy to press buttons, and the cutest “cha-ching” sound made when the drawer’s opened, children are able to interact with “real money” that’s life-sized and easy to handle with little hands. The product is sturdy in build and includes play dollar bills, plastic coins, play credit card, and an activity guide to provide play scenarios and information on use.

All it takes is one simple press of BeatBo’s tummy or feet to activate this little dance machine. Designed with fun songs, learning content, and dance moves, BeatBo can move with the best of them. Beats Dance and Move provides three modes of entertainment: Dance ‘n Move, Learning & Games, and Customized Sing-Along. Best of all, children and parents can customize the experience by recording a phrase and letting BeatBo remix it into a personal song for fun and pleasure. Because BeatBo is designed to grow with children, he can provide hours of edutainment for years to come.

Busy Learner’s Activity cube gives children an opportunity to explore the shapes and sounds of animals, as well as color. Designed with five, fully-explorable sides, children can expand the power of their imagination with music, light-up buttons, and more. Sliding and spinning blocks encourage the development of fine motor skills, and the cube’s interactive design triggers fun sounds upon movement. Busy Learner’s Activity cube also has 25 adorable sing-along songs and melodies for your child’s enjoyment.

Designed to accompany your child as they go from crawling to walking, the Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker gives baby the power of adaptive technology in conjunction with endless hours of learning fun. Walker features an activity panel and a gaggle of barnyard friends to cheer them on and assist them as they learn shapes, colors, animals, and music in addition to walking. Product features vibrant spinning gears, piano keys, colorful rollers, shape sorters, and buttons that light up to stimulate their mind and develop motor skills.

VTech’s Little Apps Tablet features Cody The Smart Cub, who provides stimulating fun in a neat little toy. Little Apps is designed with a color-changing screen, piano keyboard, and letter buttons for hours of imaginative play. This cute little electronic tablet gives children the experience of playing with a tablet just like mom or dad as they engage eight activities, each with their own progressive learning levels. We love that Little Apps gives your child the ability to learn how to count, perform basic math, learn letters and words, and more. There’s even a built-in keyboard and music to help develop creative musical skills and tune creation. Our favorite feature, however, is the parent-friendly option that allows for volume control.

Adorable and chock-full of activity, Fisher-Price Laugh, and Learn Stages Chair is the perfect option for the little tyke that loves to be enthralled for hours on end. We love it because it’s inexpensive, yet saturated with great features. Laugh and Learn Chair features over 50 – yes, 50 – songs, tunes, phrases, and melodies for children to enjoy. The chair’s Smart Stages Technology allows you to enter the child’s age to program it to automatically provide content best suited for their stage of development. Physical activities such as turning book pages, pressing the remote control’s buttons, and lifting the seat cushion encourage gross motor skill development and coordination.

LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket is the perfect toy for little foodies. This 14-piece educational toy assists in a child’s development of motor skills with activities that include sorting matching, stacking, emptying, and filling the basket. As children play, their experience opens them up to exploring shapes, colors, manners, and more. The picnic basket has a cute, sweet little voice that’s distinctive and charismatic, allowing children to sing and dance along easily to its songs and melodies. Parents love that the product is reasonably priced, and can hold a real sandwich for a child to enjoy a “real picnic” in the backyard.

Drop and Go Dump Truck possesses three vibrant and colorful buttons for toddlers. When pressed, the construction toy’s buttons play melodies and phrases in addition to teaching tools and colors. Motor skills are developed by lifting hinged bucket, which will unload rocks for children to pick up and reload. Once rocks are refilled, children experience the delight of pulling or pushing the truck to see play rocks tumbling and rumbling around with vehicle movement. Drop and Go Dump Truck intrigues children,; some parents have revealed the toy has held their child captive for up to an hour at a time.

One of the top selections due to its frustration-free packaging and creative design, children get to develop and sharpen creative imagination and fine motor skills with the Enchanted Princess Palace. VTech’s design features 5 MagicPoint locations to bring characters to life with adorable phrases, lights, and interaction. Outfitted with an abundant variety of features to enhance children’s role-play and fine motor skills, this product features Princess Darla, plus her bed, harp and mirror, and the ability to let two characters chat, sing, and play with each other. Luxurious toy design is inspiring, delightful, and enchanting as it teaches children words, colors, letters, and more with vibrant songs and cheerful melodies. Best of all, this is one of the best toys for children because it’s age range extends from 18 months to 5 years of age.

Though considered a little pricey, the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set is an excellent way to introduce the alphabet in an addictive, fun-filled manner while strengthening fine motor and coordination skills. Fridge Phonics features 26 magnetic letters that talk and sing, allowing a child to stay occupied and engaged while spending time with a parent or guardian in the kitchen. The fun starts when children press a letter into the bus window and press it. Violet, the cute and friendly dog, will pronounce the letter’s name, its sound. When pressed twice, Violet will say a word that begins with the letter and use it in a sentence. Press the music note to dance and sing along to the jovial sounds of three learning songs, including “Wheels on the Bus” and the “Alphabet Song.”

LeapFrog’s My Own Leaptop gives children the opportunity to feel like Mom and Dad with their very own laptop computer device. Although this isn’t a real laptop, this creative device provides an array of interactive options that simulate actual computer activities. Choose from any of four learning modes, including ABCs, Messages, Games, and Music. What’s so awesome about this toy is that children get to perform cute and cool activities such as send and receive pretend emails, sing along to 16 built-in songs, and learn letters and animal names. My Own Leaptop includes entertaining animations to bring the learning experience to life, and help reinforce alphabet and early development of child vocabulary. Best of all, it’s available in green or pink.

VTech is at the top of the list because this brand has proven its ability to keep its pulse on the edge of what toddlers need in terms of education that’s fun, interactive, and entertaining. VTech Musical Rhymes Book helps children develop fine motor skills with sliding and twisting play pieces. Five bright and playful piano buttons introduce children to colors and instruments. Outfitted with over 40 songs and 2 modes of learning (music and learning), VTech Musical Rhymes book features 6 classic nursery rhymes and provides a visually striking design to stimulate and entertain children for hours on end.

The 10 Best Christmas Movies for Children

By sara / December 7, 2016

Get your family ready for the Christmas season with The 10 Best Christmas movies for Children. Some of these movies will get your children singing along to classic Christmas songs and the rest of these movies will have them captivated by the magic of Christmas. Grab a hot chocolate and sit by the glow of the tree as you enjoy these movies with the whole family.

The Santa Buddies will teach your children that it is important to treat everyone with compassion even when it is hard to sometimes. Puppy Paws has lost faith in Christmas and he decides that he wishes that Christmas would just disappear altogether. This causes the magical Christmas Icicle to start to break. If the magical icicle goes away so does Christmas. This means that the Santa Buddies will have to try to convince Puppy Paws to believe in Christmas again so that they can save the Holiday season. Watch and see if the Santa Buddies will be able to restore faith in Christmas and save the magical icicle from melting forever.

Santa thinks that no one cares about Christmas anymore so he decided that he would not be handing out presents on Christmas Eve. Some of Santa’s elves set out to prove to him that children still love Christmas. They take Santa into town dressed in a disguise so that he could see how sad everyone is about the news that Santa will not be delivering presents to the good boys and girls this year. See if Santa will change his mind and decide to deliver presents instead of cancelling Christmas.

Watch as Scott Calvin becomes Santa for the holiday season when he finds Santa’s outfit in front of his house and he puts it on. At first Scott does not actually believe that he is Santa and he tries to go about living his normal life. One of Santa’s elves tells him that he has to be ready for Christmas before Thanksgiving so he needs to start preparing for his new job as soon as possible. Your children will love to watch as Santa prepares to come to their house on Christmas Eve.

Follow the famously grumpy Scrooge McDuck as he goes on a journey through time. He will visit the past, present and future of his very own life with three different ghosts. He will be able to relive some of the hardships in his own life as well as some of the hardships of the Cratchit family. At the end of the day Scrooge McDuck learns about the joy of giving and how it is much better too spread happiness then to spread negativity.

6. Home Alone 

Watch as Kevin gets left at home alone while his family goes on vacation for Christmas. He is faced with the task of surviving without the comfort of his family to make the holidays better. Two burglars notice that he is alone and they plan on breaking in. Kevin is a lot smarter than they planned on and he set many traps to help save his house from being burglarized. While he is at Central Park in New York City he meets a lady that is able to show him what really matters during the Christmas season.

Frosty is a snowman that comes to life when a magical hat gets put on his head by students during their recess. The only way that Frosty can stay alive is if he keeps the magical hat on his head. The hat belonged to one of the teachers at the school and to the students dismay he wants the hat back. Your children will fall in love with this fun and upbeat snowman.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about the Grinch that lives high up in the mountains about Whoville. The Grinch does not like Christmas and he wants to take the joy away from the Whos that live in Whoville down below him. On Christmas Eve he plans on going in each and every house to take all of their Christmas presents. He is successful until he meets a tiny little girl named Cindy. She helps his heart grow and teaches him that Christmas is more than just about the presents.

This movie will take your children on the journey of the unique Reindeer Rudolph and how he is able to become the leading reindeer on Santa’s Sleigh. At first Rudolph feels bad because he can’t compete in the Reindeer games like all of the other reindeer. He is made fun of because he is not as good at the games as the others so he runs away. On his journey he learns that it is ok to be different and decides to return home. When he gets home he learns that Santa has cancelled Christmas because of a bad snowstorm. Luckily Rudolph’s nose is bright enough to save Christmas and guide Santa safely through the storm.

Your children will be able to go on a magical Christmas journey on the Polar Express. This movie is about a young boy that starts to believe that Santa does not really exist. The boy finds a magical train that is heading to the North Pole so he gets on it with the permission of the conductor. The boy meets many new characters on the Polar Express that will go on this magical journey with him to help restore his faith in Santa. Watch and see if the boy will be able to start believing in Santa again.

A Charlie Brown Christmas was inspired by the popular Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown feels sad that the holiday has become over commercialized so he and his friends put together a play to show the true meaning of Christmas. The first couple of rehearsals for the play do not go like Charlie wanted them too but Linus is able to bring everyone’s attention to what truly matters. The movie ends with Charlie Brown and his friends singing “Hark! The Herald Angles Sing” outside around the Christmas tree.

The 10 Best Thanksgiving Kids Crafts

By sara / November 16, 2016

​The holidays bring family together and help us create lasting memories. But with family in town, preparing a big meal, and the unexpected surprises that inevitably arise, it isn't always smooth sailing, especially when the kids get underfoot. If you are looking for ways to entertain your kids in the days leading up to and on Thanksgiving, here are a few fun DIY crafts for Thanksgiving everyone is sure to enjoy.

Let these great ideas create some fun craft time for the whole family! ​

Kick off Thanksgiving week by taking some time to create a gratitude wreath with your kiddos. It’s super easy and a great way to talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving. All you need is a paper plate and some construction paper. Have the children trace their hands on different colored construction paper and cut them out. Next, have the kids write things they are thankful for on the cut outs. Cut out the middle of a paper plate, and then glue the hands to the plate. Hang the wreath on the door or in another area of the home.

Start by finding two maple leaves in slightly different sizes. Glue the smaller one of the larger one. Cut out a beak and wattle from construction paper (you can also use tissues paper) and glue those to the leaf. Attach big googly eyes just above the beak, and tweak the stems a little to look like feet.

For this fun Thanksgiving kids’ craft, you can use a plastic bowling set or paint plastic soda bottles. Buy a pack of feathers, and tape 3 or 4 feathers to the back of each pin. For the turkey faces, you can either buy foam shapes or cut out eyes, a beak, and a wattle from construction paper. Glue the face to the front of the pin. Line up the pins and enjoy a little turkey bowling while waiting for dinner.

This is a great activity for the whole family. If you are having extended family over for Thanksgiving, consider including everyone in this craft. Everyone in the family will trace their hand on a piece of while cardstock. The kids can cut all the hands out and color them to look like turkeys. Glue the turkey hands to craft paper or wrapping paper (enough to fill a picture frame), and fix the paper with the turkeys in the frame. Put it on display each year.

Start by trimming the top of a brown paper bag. Fold it down to double the thickness of the bag. Cut colorful feathers out and glue to the back of the bag—the more you add the better. For the face, you can either cut out a turkey face, or fold a paper plate into thirds and glue it to the bag. Fold the top of the paper plate down and attach googly eyes, a beak, and a wattle.

These are not only super cute, but they are great cheap centerpieces you can use to decorate the Thanksgiving table. Start by painting a paper cup brown and letting it dry. Next, glue a brown pom-pom to the top of the cup. While the glue is drying, cut out feathers from colored construction paper as well as a beak, the wattle (the hanging part under the beak), and feet. Glue the feathers to the feathers, as well as googly eyes and the beak, wattle, feet. Let the glue dry and viola! Make as many as you like to turn your home into Thanksgiving central.

Get a big piece of white butcher paper and draw or paint a leafless tree on it. Then fix it to the wall. Lay out construction paper in autumn colors, leaf templates (if you do not have leaf templates, try just drawing a few to get the kids started), scissors and markers or crayons. Have the kids write things they are thankful for on the leaves and then cut them out and tape or glue them to the tree. This is a great way to keep kids engaged throughout the day while adults are cooking, cleaning, or just relaxing, and it encourages them to think about things they are grateful for.

If your Thanksgiving dinner will involve a kids’ table, spend some time in the days leading up Thanksgiving making Thanksgiving crafts to decorate it. One favorite is this simple idea for a cool centerpiece. You will need sticks from 14-18 inches, depending on how high you want this centerpiece to be, paint, paper bags, white or cream paper, colored pencils, glue, tall glasses, and lentils. You can also use different colored construction paper instead of paper bags. Start by painting the sticks and letting them dry. While waiting for them to dry, cut 5 inch circles from the brown paper bag (or colored construction paper) and 3.5 inch circles from the white paper. Decide what you want to spell out, like Thanksgiving, Give Thanks, or Happy Turkey Day, and on the white paper, write letters corresponding to your message. Glue the white circles to the brown or colored ones, then glue the circles to the sticks. Fill each glass with enough lentils to hold the sticks in place, and place the sticks in the glasses and arrange the letters accordingly.

Help your children create fun and creative decorations for their table that will also keep them entertained while everyone else is eating. For this project, you will need black cups, black cardstock, brown construction paper, and yellow construction paper. Cut out the bottom of the black cup. Cut a circle in the black cardstock that is a little larger than the rim of the black cup and glue the rip of the cup to the paper. Cut out a strip of brown paper as well as a square from the yellow paper that will be the buckle. Glue the yellow to the brown and secure the whole strip to the bottom of the cup. Put crayons or other craft supplies in the cup, leave colored construction paper and scissors at the table, along with anything else they will need. It is also a good idea to cover the whole table in crafty paper to make clean up easier. 

These are incredibly easy, look great on the table, and can be used to hold all kinds of treats on Thanksgiving. First, you will need some clear cups (we recommend the shorter, wider cups often used for wine, but any clear cups will work). Then, grab some colored construction paper and cut out plenty of feathers as well as brown circles for the turkey’s face and beaks and wattles. Glue the feathers to the back of the cup (five seems to be the ideal number, but again, up to you). Glue the googly eyes to the brown circle along with the beaks and wattles. Then glue the face to the front of the cup. Fill the cups with whatever you want. We like to do chocolates, but they can be used to snacks, drinks, or even holding crayons.

The 15 Best Podcasts for Kids

By sara / November 11, 2016

In 2004, the first podcasting service set up shop. By June of 2013, Apple had hit one billion podcast subscribers and podcasts were becoming commonplace in classrooms. Paul Harris, an educational expert at Harvard, says podcasts are usually written off as viable options for children because most people assume kids need a visual component to engage them. However, more and more parents are discovering they are mentally stimulating ways to occupy their kids down in waiting rooms, during long trips and before bedtime. Is your child missing out on important (and enjoyable) learning opportunities? We've scoured the internet for the highest-ranking programs that entertain and educate.

Here are 15 podcasts your kids will love! 

CPR's Classics for Kids introduces its audience to classical music in six minute segments. The episodes are brief enough to hold a young listener's attention but are packed with facts and musical excerpts presented in an entertaining way. In the Halloween segment, host Naomi Lewin dons a Transylvanian accent reminiscent of Count Dracula as she tells listeners of trolls and dead marionettes marching. Classical composers get four or five episodes dedicated to them so kids can learn about their lives, music and lasting musical influence without getting overwhelmed by information. Because the show delivers information so effectively, many music teachers have incorporated it into their classrooms.

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child describes itself as "indie rock for indie kids" but reviews constantly highlight it's appeal to parents. "If Barney makes you cringe, Spare the Rock Spoil the Child is for you," one mom advises. The trick is a rocking selection of the best kid's songs mixed in with family-friendly adult songs. Bill Child hand-picks the selections and promises his audience a collection that is "Kidz-Bop- and condescension- free." Listeners could hear music from They Might Be Giants and Dan Zanes alongside tracks by Elvis Costello and Earth, Wind and Fire. Good music isn't all the show has to offer; there are also book reviews and artist interviews. Throw in a couple of kid co-hosts and you've got a show that's sure to please the whole family!

13. Tumble

Tumble is a science podcast show where kids can learn lessons from a biologist in "The Tale of the Bacteria Farmer with Sarah Richardson" or a scientist who studies fear in "The Laboratory of the Haunted House with Margee Kerr". The show uses storytelling to teach its audience about real experiments and scientific principles. The content is explained in a way that kids as young as five can grasp, but interesting enough to engross much older children. The show is co-hosted and produced by Lindsay Patterson, a scientific journalist who was inspired to bring science to the masses after her first interview with a scientist, which made realize she had never really understood science until then. Music teacher Marshall Escamilla co-hosts alongside Patterson and creates the music for the show.

With over 900 episodes, Sparkle Stories provides stories, nature projects, recipes and crafts. The show is designed to delight the youngest audience and are recommended for children age three and up. Parents don't have to fear any scary elements that might come back to haunt tiny listeners. These stories don't rely on villains for their plots. One parent describes what others can expect from the podcasts by saying, "[Y]ou get loving, imaginative story weaving perfect for inquisitive, open, young minds. They teach love, respect, kindness and wonder." "Sparkle Stories" isn't a free service, but the company does offer a free ten day subscription for anyone who is interested in trying out their content.

If your child has ever wondered why the sky is blue or who invented words, then you'll definitely want to check out But Why. It covers a wide variety of those random questions children love to ask and, all too often, parents don't know the answers to. The topics are more than just kid-approved; they're created by kids! Listeners record their questions and submit them to be played later during an episode. Allowing kids to guide the show really appeals to its target audience. Kids enjoy hearing what other kids have been wondering about and the prospect of having their own questions featured excites them and inspires them to come up with questions about the world around them.

10. 411 Teen

Dr. Liz Hollifield hosts 411 Teen out of Tallahasee, Florida, and describes it as a "program created with teen input for a teen audience." Some podcasts are centered on local subjects, like one where high school students interview the area's school superintendent candidates, but most of them deal with topics a nationwide audience can relate to. Segments allow listeners to hear directly from teenagers about their feelings on important topics and also include interviews with experts. "411 Teen" tackles tough issues like bullying, drug use and growing up without a father.

The show also provides tips for success with episodes dedicated to writing an effective resume and applying for financial aid. Teens find themselves interested in topics they might otherwise ignore when they hear their peers debating different viewpoints. It's an effective way to get kids thinking about their own opinions on controversial topics like gun control, bathroom legislation and xenophobia.

Hosted by a kid, for kids, Podcast Kid covers subjects like making friends, how to deal with bossy people (even if that bossy person is you) and nightmares. With a little help from "some other guy", seven-year-old Jenna presents important life lessons in ways that other children can understand. That "other guy" is Jenna's dad, James, who helps create the podcasts. Kids are captivated by hilarious appearances from JoJo the Clown. Jenna also discusses movies, books, shows and games that kids love. The list of podcasts on the website mixes in episodes by Jenna's brother J, The Grateful Kid, with episodes like "Grateful for Restaurants", which discusses how kids can show their thankfulness while eating out.

Short and Curly is a podcast that is best listened to as a family. Each installment probes ethical dilemmas like "Is It Ever Okay To Lie?" and "Is It Ever Okay To Fight Back Against a Bully?" It poses a perfect opportunity to discuss complex issues with children and hear what they think about them. "Should You Love Your Sibling?" is likely to arouse a reaction from feuding siblings and challenge their views at the same time. Episodes like "Should Chimps Have the Same Rights as Kids?" and "Can You Trust a Robot?" are perfect fodder for a philosophical debate. Segments are not tedious moral lectures, however; the show is lighthearted and compelling. The two adult hosts present the quandary, often in a comedic skit, and turn to young guests for their answers. Ethicist Dr. Matt Beard appears in each episode to provide different ways of looking at the question.

Astronomy Cast is tailor-made for youngsters captivated by outer space. Megastructures investigates an unusual transit signal from another star. According to the podcast host, it is most likely that this is a natural phenomenon; however, the podcast does explore the possibility set forth by Freeman Dyson and others decades ago that this could be an alien occurrence. This series teaches scientifically sound principles while piquing the listeners' interest.

6. Storynory

Storynory is an easy favorite for children. Recommended for ages three and up, these podcasts are delivered in a soothing fashion that makes them a great choice for bedtime, or any other time you want your kids to calm down. These stories fascinate kids of all ages and many parents too. Stoynories, as they're called on the site, not only deliver new, listener-generated stories, but classic stories as well, ranging from Norse and Greek myths to fairy-tales and more.

This site puts its own twist on well-known stories by telling them from the point-of-view of a new character. For example, the speedy hare gives his version of the race between himself and the tortoise in order to dispel any myth that the tortoise won; the real winner was undoubtedly the cunning fox.

Youth Radio is an award-winning program that trains teens and young adults in media and technology and airs their stories on public radio stations nationwide. The program has reached an audience of 30 million listeners. The website has a searchable database, or you can choose one of ten categories to browse. Podcasts cover a plethora of topics including: disabilities, familial issues, science and issues faced by the LGBTQ community.

The Children's Hour hosted by Katie Stone ranks at the top of the list because it covers a range of topics such as influential author R.L. Stine and successful screenwriter and puppeteer Jim Henson. In addition to informing the audience of prominent artists, it also collaborates with police officers to present Safe Kids which teaches kids ways to be safe inside and outside of their homes. The most recent episodes teach kids how the Electoral College works and explores the influence of campaign songs on elections.

Story Pirates is a critically acclaimed program that works to promote literacy and encourage confident self-expression. Founded in 2004 by a group of Northwestern University graduates which included comedian Kristen Schaal, "Story Pirates" brings children's original stories to life using talented actors and comedians in live performances across the country.

The troupe employs the use of imaginative costumes, lovable puppets and songs to show kids the value of their own words. After seeing a performance with his son, John Stewart endorsed the show on "Larry King Live" and even let Kristen Schaal, Zola the Monster and Rolo the Pirate take over his set on "The Daily Show". The Pirates usually perform at locations around New York City, but in 2013 they began releasing podcasts so everyone can enjoy the young writers' creations. These podcasts could spark your own child's creativity, so don't forget to submit the finished product for possible inclusion on radio segments or podcasts.

Our next choice comes highly recommended by both kids and parents alike. With over 225,000 monthly downloads, it's a regular at the top of the iTunes and Stitcher podcast charts. MPR's Brain's On! covers everything from brain freeze to lemonade rain while completely absorbing listeners. Children (and adults) walk away from podcasts being able to explain how glass is made and why our voices sound different when they're recorded without realizing they just sat through a science class. The show boasts an impressive array of guest experts from astronauts to zoologists. Host Molly Bloom is joined by a different pair of children each episode to answer a listener's question.

To keep kids interested, the hosts never dwell on anything for more than a few minutes, change speakers regularly and include fun segments. In How Do Airplanes Fly? the audience gets to listen to Gloria Goldfinch explain how her feathers benefit her, an excerpt from an original broadcast about the Wright Brothers and guess an aviation related mystery sound. Bloom says the secret to the show's success is having kids interview the experts; this ensures guests will explain their answers in ways that kids understand.

Another hit from MTPR, "Pea Green Boat” has been airing for over 30 years and won the top spot due to educational and humanitarian mission. It's a show for children of all ages that entertains with songs, stories, poetry and special guests. The Pea Green Boat sets sail each weekday afternoon. Once a week, the Poetry Club takes over and every Monday librarian employed by Missoula's public libraries feature books, both new and classic. This show is the home of many favored, original songs like "The Hamster Dance" and "Peanut Bitter Bears". Although disguised as fun and games, these educational episodes promote kindness and inclusion through podcasts through segments that address differences like disability and race. Through a collaboration with the China National Theater, listeners can hear a performance of "The Princess and the Pea" by children in Beijing.

Investing in Your Child’s Education: Finding the best preschool

By sara / November 3, 2016

Choosing the right preschool for your child requires more research than simply choosing one that is close to home. As a parent, you want the best for your child, especially when it comes to education. A good education from the beginning sets a child up for success throughout their education. There have even been studies that indicate that preschool education reduces future crime. As a parent, you may find it difficult to hand your child over to strangers, even if those strangers are well-trained and prepared to guide your child into the next phase of his or her life. If your child has been at home with one parent since birth, this can be even more difficult.

Why You Should Send Your Child to Preschool

Many parents find it difficult to send a child to preschool, believing that they can learn at home or that they are way too small or immature to manage the stress they may feel by attending school. In fact, research shows that preschool is an opportunity for your child to grow as it may be the first experience they have in a structured learning environment. Preschool also helps better prepare children for Kindergarten, which is now mandatory in most states.

Children also develop socially and emotionally at preschool as they learn to develop trusting relationships with adults other than their parents while also being exposed to other children. Although preschool may not appear structured, it is. Preschool structures are designed so that they are invisible to children but evident to staff. It provides children with the ability to make choices and teaches them how to take care of themselves as well as other people. Research shows that children who attend preschool have better language skills and are more curious than those that do not.

Preschool students also develop better motor skills as well as math and literacy skills. However, for your child to benefit from all of these positive aspects, it is critical that you choose the right preschool to fit both your child’s needs and your own.

Accreditation

One thing to look for when choosing a preschool is accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is one accrediting agency that promotes high-quality early learning for children. For a preschool to be accredited by the NAEYC, they must meet or exceed criteria set forth by the agency that indicates the highest quality of early childhood education possible. The agency also offers professional development programs that provide support and education to preschool teachers and administrators to keep them up-to-date on the latest trends in early childhood education.

Consistent Rules and Regulations

As a parent, you know that children need rules. For a child to be able to follow those rules, they must be consistent in both application and punishment. Rules prepare children for the real world where limits will surround them. They also teach children socialization, like requiring a child to say “please” or “thank you.” Children need a sense of order and rules give them that sense.

When a child follows the rules, they feel a sense of competency and self-confidence. Rules also reassure children that an adult is in charge. As much as a child may act as if they want to be in control, they rarely want total control. They need to know there is an adult who is in charge. When reviewing a preschool, make sure that they have written, easy-to-follow, age-appropriate rules. You don’t want a preschool that is overly strict nor do you want to choose one whose rules seem to be lackadaisical, applied one day and not the next.

Teacher-to-Student Ratio

No matter how good a teacher is, having too many preschool students in a class can be a disaster. Preschool classes should have no more than ten children supervised by one teacher. It is also best to choose a preschool that provides aides to the teacher who can manage the children when the teacher is otherwise occupied. It is also recommended that you talk to the school about staff turnover as this can indicate how much the teachers enjoy working there and teaching students.

Preschool Philosophy

Probably the most important thing to look at when researching preschools is the preschool philosophy used at the school. There are several different philosophies on educating small children, and you want to be sure the school you choose offers a philosophy that will work best with your child. The following descriptions will give you an overview of each theory to provide a better understanding of their differences.

Bank Street

In 1916, Lucy Sprague founded the Bank Street College of Education in New York City early childhood program. The philosophy is that the world around us is the best teaching tool. Lessons focus on history, geography, and anthropology with artistic lessons included with scientific lessons. Toys in the classroom are basic, requiring children to use their imagination in order to play. Teachers are specially trained to help children work in groups or alone. Bank Street programs are excellent for children who learn best in an unstructured environment.

Community Centers

Community centers, such as the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA or others, may offer preschool programs. They may follow on or a combination of different preschool philosophies for teaching students. Many of these preschools offer sliding payment scales or may even be offered for free to lower income families.

Cooperative

Parents who prefer to be hands-on in their child’s preschool education may want to consider a cooperative preschool. This allows them to use any philosophy or a combination but with parents taking on significant roles at the school. Parents take turns fulfilling duties, including snack preparation, school upkeep or classroom assistance. There is usually a paid teacher, although the teaching aspect may also be handled by parents. If you prefer the cooperative philosophy, be sure to choose a preschool that is supported by a regional or state organization that regulates parent participation. If there is not one in your area, consider reaching out to other parents about creating a cooperative preschool.

High/Scope

A Michigan educator, Dr. David Weikart, developed the High/Scope preschool philosophy in 1970 for use with high-risk urban children. The program focuses more on academic skill development than social and emotional development. Children learn collaboratively with adults and are encouraged to make their own decisions about activities. Some of the activities commonly used in a High/Scope preschool include arranging things in order, counting, telling time, singing and dictating stories. Some programs incorporate computer learning. This type of learning is best for children who learn best in a one-on-one setting and is especially beneficial to special needs children.

Language Immersion

In Language Immersion Preschool programs, classes are conducted entirely in a new language. Teachers rarely translate what they say, but use hand gestures or motions to indicate what they are saying. Research indicates that this type of language learning is best for children while adults learn better with translation learning. Other preschool philosophies may be included in language immersion. Children develop fluency in the new language while helping improve their language skills in their current language. This type of preschool program may delay first language development at first, so children who are already struggling with their current language would not benefit from this type of program.

Montessori

Probably one of the best-known preschool education philosophies, Montessori is based on the work of Maria Montessori who founded the movement in 1907. She believed that small children learn as individuals with teachers as guides. Montessori programs have play materials designed with a particular purpose so that the child learns even as they are playing. Also, personal responsibility is encouraged with children taught to take care of their own needs. This may include preparing snacks or cleaning up toys. There may be a wide range of ages in each classroom as the Montessori method encourages children to help each other learn. This type of early education philosophy has shown to be beneficial for special needs learners.

Play-Based

Play-based preschools are common with the primary goal to promote learning through structured play. This may include unstructured hands-on play, group story-time or themed activities. Some play-based programs include academic content as well to provide more balanced education. They often combine principles of Montessori or Waldorf as part of their curriculum.

Project Based

Similar to Montessori, Project Based preschools believe students are individual learners and teachers are guides. Students and teachers work together to negotiate, plan and work through various projects. Lessons gain more meaning through real-world connections and field trips while the projects give students a hands-on approach to problem solving. The process allows students to develop positive learning habits and better problem-solving skills. Learning is as self-motivated as possible and has shown benefits for children who work better in an unstructured environment.

Reggio Emilia

During the 1940s, the townspeople of Reggio Emilia, Italy, created a preschool philosophy that is similar to Montessori in that students take the lead in learning. Projects are completed by the children that reflect their own interests based on teacher observations of spontaneous curiosity. Children learn from mistakes rather than correction. Their play and projects are documented in their words and photographs so parents and teachers can follow the child’s progress. This method also allows the student to see their actions as important. The learning philosophy emphasizes creativity and artistic representation. It has shown promise with students who are not native-English speakers.

Religion-Based

Churches and religious schools often offer preschool programs that may follow a combination of different preschool philosophies. However, they also incorporate varying degrees of religious content as well. Most church-based preschools do not require that you become a member of the church for your child to attend, but it is important to understand your child will be given instruction related to the religion of the church.

Waldorf

The Waldorf method of preschool education is based on the research of Austrian educator Rudolf Steiner, who opened the first Waldorf school in 1919. The underlying method for teaching children is dependable routine. Schedules at the school follow a consistent rhythm and teachers remain with the students for up to eight years. This allows the children to develop a trusting relationship with the teacher. The schools are often home-like with all-natural furniture and play items. It is a group-centered curriculum that includes play-acting, story reading, singing and other activities designed to develop the child emotionally and physically.

Children who thrive on the routine will do well in a Waldorf-based preschool. It is important to note that the school must be affiliated with the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America in order to call themselves Waldorf preschools. Also, teachers must be Waldorf-trained.

Visit the School

Once you have determined which philosophy works best for your child and have researched other factors that you feel are important in a preschool, it is critical that you visit the school to meet the staff and view the facilities. Although the staff may sound knowledgeable over the phone and the website may have beautiful pictures, you need to see, in person, that what you have been told or seen online is the case. Take your child for a visit as well to see how they interact with teachers and other students. A school may be affordable, clean and offer the perfect philosophy, but if your child doesn’t respond well, it may not be the best option.

Choosing the right preschool can be confusing and stressful, but by following these tips and gaining an understanding of the best philosophy for your child, you can make the choice that will be in the best interest of your child while giving you piece of mind that your child is getting an educational head start.

The Top 20 Children’s Books since 2013

By sara / October 19, 2016

Picking out a favorite story together and snuggling on the couch to read aloud, exploring the world through your imagination, is an activity that is emotionally rewarding and gives parents, grandparents, and caregivers the opportunity to bond with children. Family reading time is not just a way to spend quality time with one another. Although this is a meaningful benefit, the other advantages to children's development is invaluable.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to when they are young are better able to pretend to read or read, write their names, and count higher, up to 20, than children who are not read to. Finding the best books for toddlers to begin a tradition of daytime story hours and bedtime tales can help preschoolers be best prepared to enter school and create lasting memories with parents and family. 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin is not only one of the best children's books of 2015, it is also one of the books most recommended for reading aloud to children. Focusing on having and encouraging dreams, it expresses just what parents love most about their children. This rhythmic poem about growing up will be a top choice of parents for nightly reading times, with the emotion of the joy of the love parents have for their children balanced with surprising twists and pops of humor. Plus, the rhymes are an educational tool for helping children to gain sound recognition and form a foundation for spelling skills.

The Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood is one of 2015's best bedtime stories for kids and overall best new books for toddlers. Telling a tale of a full house that won't sleep, not from the children to the granny to the mouse, the story stays in the bedroom, lulling readers and listeners to dreamy sleep. Wood's mastery of language combined with her husband Don Wood's soothing illustrations is a sure bet to send kids happily off to dreamland, taking with them a mind full of descriptive words to take with them as they begin to build their narratives.

Paris: A Book of Shapes (Hello, World) by Ashley Evanson takes children ages 2 and younger on a journey through Paris, France, exploring the triangles, stars, rectangles, circles, and every shape in between throughout the city's landmarks and landscapes. Whether picking out squares in the Eiffel Tower or arches at the Notre Dame Cathedral, children get to travel around one of the world's most famous cities and learn more than geometry. A love of travel and art, along with some French words, will inevitably come with every turn of the page.

Go! Go! Go! Stop! By Charise Mericle Harper shares a message of teamwork and giving it you're all. The poignant lesson is told energetically with always appealing dump trucks, forklifts, and big machinery that especially little boys love. All the trucks work together to help to build the town bridge, going and going and going until it is time to stop. Luckily, Little Yellow comes to town to help the others slow down, and the trucks and machines can finish the project by listening and working together. One of the best books for two-year-olds, this story also builds letter recognition with "Go!" colored in green and "Stop!" colored in red throughout the pages. Toddlers are sure to get excited about story time as the "read" with mom and dad.

I’m Dirty! Board Book by Katie McMullan is an extension of the series that started with I Stink!. This time, McMullan chooses a backhoe loader to do the dirty work, loading dirt and making mud. The thick, durable board book is a match for the hero of the story, making it easy for little hands to turn pages and grab onto to take on trips to grandma's or long car rides. This must-have book also tops the best family read aloud books, entertaining kids with fun read-aloud sounds, and it helps to build math skills, too, as the backhoe cleans up clutter and counts up the piles.

Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habitats by Il Sung Na is a perfect addition to a child's library. With pages that focus more on beautiful illustrations than text, it is easy to see why this would be on the list as the best book for 2 and 3-year-olds. The vivid, bright illustrations stimulate children's imaginations, helping them to follow along with the story or to tell the story themselves by narrating the pictures. Children take away a valuable lesson, too, as Bear travels to find a better home than his own in the forest, only to realize that the best home for him was his own home all along.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is at the top of the list for best books for preschoolers. The story's main character, Duncan, finds that his crayons have decided to quit, leaving him letters to tell about each of their grievances, from torn wrappers to overuse. Duncan must find a way to get his crayons to come back and start to work together again. Children will begin to imagine just what their own crayons might say.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, is a top choice for preschoolers and preparing them for the world of STEM. Science leads Ada on a quest to find answers, finding at times only more questions instead. Children will begin to learn how the process of scientific investigation works. Plus, Ada's scientific adventure to find the source of a stink illustrates for kids that it is important for everyone to follow their passions and reach to achieve their goals, no matter what might stand in their way in the process.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a sure-fire way to make sure that children have fun while reading! In one of the best new books for preschoolers, a dose of silly added to a bunch of funny keeps readers and listeners alike turning the pages of this book about dragons. Did you know dragons like to eat tacos? All kinds of tacos! The real humor starts, though, when a little bit of salsa gets into a dragon's mouth. Storytime will quickly turn into fun time as the Dragons' party is ruined by a little too much spice.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems is at the top of best children's books of 2016, and it is also one of the best books about feelings on the list ... and manners! The award-winning Willems features his fan favorite characters Gerald and Piggie again, but this time, it is to say goodbye to readers as the last book in the ever-popular series. Both as the final installment and for the heartfelt message from Willems to the readers themselves, this is a sure-to-turn-into keepsake edition for all little readers and Mo Willems fans.

The Only Child by Guojing takes children on a journey of a lonely little girl's imagination as she travels through a forest to find her way back home. One of the best books of 2016 about feelings, the story is beautifully illustrated, telling the story in the intricate and expressive depictions of the little girl who wandered away from her home. Opening up the chance to talk to children about their own feelings of loneliness, boredom, and fear, the delicate drawings and expressive heroine of this best children's books of 2016 help children and adults relate to trying to get back home.

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd is another book that will captivate young readers and stimulate creativity in all who read along. The color explosion of red mixed into the black and white pages encourages readers to find the hidden stories within the story. Children can tell their own stories through the pages with little hidden and unexpected surprises in each scene without being confined to an intricate and detailed story.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a twist on classic fairy tales, lullabies, and epic adventures. Preschoolers go along with a little girl as she sails to take a little boy away to travel through forests and mountains, magic sprinkled everywhere. Young readers will have fun connecting each stop with stories they know, and parents and families will enjoy sharing their memories of tales from their own childhoods with their children.

7. Waiting

Waiting by Kevin Henkes, a 2015 bestselling book, helps children understand patience, a particularly challenging concept, especially for toddlers. The story follows the thoughts and movements of five toys sitting in front of a four-paned window. Are the puppy, rabbit, owl, pig, and bear moving themselves somehow, or is there a small child moving them around? Readers get to decide for themselves through softly illustrated figures as they learn that waiting gives the opportunity to see the world that is going on around them, even if they aren't going anywhere.

Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney is a best book for any toddler who is about to spend his or her first night away from home. The popular character Llama Llama is excited for his first sleepover as he heads to stay the night with Gram and Grandpa. Llama Llama misses Mama, and he starts to get really nervous when he realizes he has left Fuzzy Llama behind at home. Grandpa, though, has a unique toy from when he was a little boy, and Llama Llama is comforted and content, happy to stay the night with Gram and Grandpa. The delightful pictures and easy rhymes add to the appeal of this book, and preschoolers will quickly add this to the list of their favorite Llama Llama stories.

Stick and Stone by Tom Lichtenheld and Beth Ferry is one of the best new books for preschoolers, delivering an anti-bullying message that is poignantly placed before heading off to school. Playing on the idea of sticks and stones may break my bones, the authors create a twist when Stick and Stone become friends. The twosome save each other from different situations, first as Stick doesn't let Pinecone make fun of Stone and then as Stone saves Stick when he is blown away. The simple illustrations add to the detail of the story, and children will learn what true friendship means.

I Don't Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty follows the story of young Frog who is having a bit of an identity crisis. Frog wants to be anything except a frog! He thinks about how great it might be to be a cat or even an owl. He stubbornly sticks to his story when talking to his father, but Frog changes his mind when he runs into a wolf who happens to hate eating frogs. Children learn to accept who they are, and adults can get a good chuckle in the dialogue between Frog and his father, making this an overall best book to read aloud, over and over again!

Max the Brave by Ed Vere is one of the best new books for preschoolers, opening up a chance to discuss the true meaning of bravery with little ones in a thoughtful, adorable story. Max is a cute little kitten who is steadfast in his brave quest to chase and catch a mouse. But, Max doesn't know who or what a mouse is. He asks animals along the way on his journey to tell him if they have seen a mouse, even the mouse himself. Mouse tricks Max, scaring him, and little readers learn that it's okay not always to be brave.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea is recommended as part of the best new books for toddlers and preschoolers by teachers and reading specialists because of all of the additional developmental features designed to help learn how to read. From speech bubbles to expressive drawings to lots of repetition, the reading aids only enhance this heartwarming story about two friends, Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony, as they share secrets they have been keeping to try to not hurt one another's feelings. Toddlers can learn to read and take away a valuable lesson about friendship, too.

Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! by Todd Tarpley turns the pages on preschoolers who might have a bedtime ritual to keep from doing anything but going to bed. In this story, one of the best children's books of 2015, humor surrounds a little boys' desperate attempt to get his robots to go to sleep, in spite of their constant requests for oil, bolt tightening, and story reading. Close inspection of the pages reveals an added bonus: A mouse joins the chaos, and little readers will have fun finding it on each page. The onomatopoeia of the robot sounds is an added bonus for imaginative fun in this story that just might help little ones drift off to sleep.

15 Great Parenting Podcasts

By sara / September 22, 2016

Information on parenting is vast in our high-tech culture. Books, magazine articles, and websites all boast the latest, greatest parenting knowledge, and it can be overwhelming to weed through all of the words to find the true nuggets of wisdom. Another method of learning is podcasts, specifically those about parenting. In 15 minutes to an hour parents can listen and get advice, stories, or just laugh as they plug in on their ride to work or while doing chores around the house.

Since parenting podcasts are abundant in number, I’ve chosen the top 15 that are worth a listen for parents.  Ranking Reasons: Any list of favorites is going to be subjective, but I used the following guideline to help me make my choices for best podcasts related to parenting: 

  • Reviews from other listeners​
  • Applicability to most parents
  • Need based on the specificity of the audience(One in a Million Baby, for example)
  • Usability of advice offered
  • Frequent inclusion on best podcasts lists for parents

15. The Boob Group

The Boob Group is, not surprisingly, a podcast about all things breastfeeding. It’s a part of New Mommy Media, and they include expert interviews and list specific goals for each episode. Sunny Gault leads the way as the host, and she is a lactation consultant who emphasizes the importance of supporting all moms, no matter how they choose to feed their kids.

A panel of moms are included in each podcast, so the discussion is coming from many different people, and listeners are more likely to connect with the style and tone of at least one of the moms on the panel. The topics covered are not generic. While there are basic topics that the group discusses, they also take on less common breastfeeding situations, like wet nursing and breastfeeding adoptive children.

The tone of the show is nonjudgment. It’s informative while still being fun. Plus, if you’re a breastfeeding mom, you can listen to an episode while your child nurses!

14. Manic Mommies

Though Manic Mommies is no longer producing new episodes, there are 405 to listen to and enjoy. Erin Kane and Kristin Brandt offered a podcast that gave advice on how to do it all without losing your mind. They interviewed Elizabeth Edwards and author Jane Porter. Parenting coach, Kathy Surro and pediatrician, Dr. Robert Lindeman round out the cast of this witty show.

Moms who feel overextended and need solid advice and a good laugh will benefit from tuning into these shows. Manic Mommies episodes have received almost four million downloads, and their advice still resonates with moms, even though the last episode recorded was in 2014.

13. The One in A Million Baby

Birthed from a painful experience, Tessa Prebble founded this podcast when her daughter, who died before turning one, was born with severe disabilities. Prebble used the isolated feeling she was experiencing to make sure other parents of children with disabilities and health issues wouldn’t feel alone.]

Parents of children with special needs share their stories through interviews, and no topic is off limits. While the show can be inspiring due to the camaraderie of these moms supporting each other, the episodes discuss the devastation of having a child with chronic problems, some that lead to death.

Though this podcast will not cover issues every parent deals with, I included it because of how necessary it is for the parents who need it. Prebble has created a safe place for those struggling with a specific, dark set of problems to feel safe and accepted. She’s a beacon of light for those one in a million parents.

12. Zen Parenting Radio

Though the name implies a new age feel, Zen Parenting is easily relatable for any parent. The idea behind the show is that parents who have self-realization will be better for their kids. Cathy Cassani Adams and Todd Adams are the married hosts who balance each other out. She is the emotional core while he is the logical view.

Topics include how to deal with pain, why words and images matter, and staying internally peaceful to promote peaceful behavior on the outside. Though some of the topics go deeper into emotional analysis than most of us usually venture, they are tempered with topics that are informative without being over analytical. Tune in and get your Zen on with these very compatible hosts.

11. Totally Mommy

Comedians Elizabeth Laime and Vanessa Ragland offer an honest parenting podcast focused on discussing the true plethora of emotions associated with being a parent. They define themselves as “unqualified” advice givers, but their podcast is popular because their answers are so real.

This podcast is mainly for entertainment purposes, though it does deal with real questions listeners have and the advice can be sound. At the end of a long day of being mom, this is the go-to podcast to laugh and get some perspective. It’s entertaining, and the hosts are women you’d like in your mommy circle of friends to chat and have a drink with.

10. The Read- Aloud Revival

We want our kids to learn, and one great way to help them be life-long learners is to give them access to and appreciation of great books. Host Sarah MacKenzie wants to help us on the reading journey. Her podcast shares the best books to read to our kids aloud, and she emphasizes the power of parents reading to children. Parents reading to kids builds their reading skills and fosters a desire for reading.

The podcast explores what books to choose for kids of different ages, how to make kids socially aware through books, and how to build a household where kids are avid readers. Her tips are simple and readily applicable, and her tone is one of a friend and bibliophile.

9. For Crying Out Loud

Executive Lynn Corolla, who is also the wife of comedian Adam Corolla, and parenting author Stephanie Wilder-Taylor cover a range of topics during what will be the funniest hour of your day. This comedic pairing offers occasional interviews with famous guests, and the topics the hosts discuss range from irreverent to thought provoking.

While the tone is entertaining, the hosts are also not afraid to get personal about their lives raising kids. The fact that this podcast is hosted by moms doesn’t mean it won’t offer entertainment and insight for dads. It’s humorous and topics range from political to pop culture.

8. One Bad Mother

Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn warn parents not to listen to this podcast with their kids because there will be swear words. This podcast is for adults only, and it is hilarious. Ellis and Thorn share the truths of what it’s like to be a parent. As opposed to painting the parenting experience as 24/7 magic, they share the realities of raising people with their own minds and opinions and the challenges that involves.

The episodes tend to run over an hour, but they are so enjoyable that it doesn’t feel that long. Guest hosts are invited on to discuss specific parenting topics, and though the tone is relaxed, the topics are relevant and the insight important. Get ready to laugh before you press play on this one.

7. Little Sprigs

Christian Perez hosts this podcast about mindful, conscious parenting. I can’t think of any parent who wouldn’t benefit from the approaches presented on this podcast. The goal is to help parents connect with their children and raise them without power struggles.

Topics include how to get away from using bribes and punishments to motivate and to instead build a relationship with your child that helps them understand how to treat others and feel valued.

Experts and authors come on the show to talk about self-care, raising confident children, and the emotions children have and how to deal with them. The hosts and guests are honest. This is not a podcast that hides the difficulties of parenting. Instead, because of how difficult it can be, Little Sprigs offers ways to parent peacefully in a way that respects your child and helps you feel more peaceful about parenting choices. It’s informative and powerful with insight to spare.​

6. Quiet

Susan Cain is the author of the bestselling book <u>Quiet</u>, and her podcast specifically deals with how to raise introverted kids in a world obsessed with noise and extroversion.

Classified as a self-help podcast, Cain includes research, interviews with parents, and interviews with kids who define themselves as introverts. Her goal is to help parents understand and appreciate their introverted kids so they can help them thrive in the world, not in spite of their introversion but because of it.

As a mother of an introverted child, The Long Runway is my personal favorite. Cain takes the time to reinforce that introverts are normal and don’t need to be fixed, just understood. She also helps parents recognized the signs of an introverted child and discusses the long runway method to help introverts, a way of understanding and accepting that they need more time to prepare for most events.

The Long Runway is a great intro if you have questions about what traits an introvert exhibits. Cain reinforces that introverts quiet temperaments are normal and make them successful, not something they have to overcome. Cain’s style is informative, and her voice makes the podcast relaxed and easy to listen to.

5. Mom and Dad are Fighting

Allison Benedikt and Dan Kois, parents and editors at Slate, are the mom and dad in this scenario. Though they do not have children together, they do have a great rapport and are humorous and informative.

During each podcast, they cover triumphs and fails in their own parenting lives. This section is personal, honest, and relatable. They take calls from listeners and deal with difficult questions to help other parents navigate through the journey. Guest hosts are also invited on to discuss specific issues, and the Mom and Dad Recommend portion gives listeners a chance to hear what Allison and Dan recommend for the week.

The set-up for this show works, and both hosts have voices that are calm and measured. This podcast is for any parent who likes to laugh while also being informed.

4. Spawned

Kristin Chase and Liz Gumbinner are hilarious, and this podcast is fun and down-to-earth. The founders of Cool Mom Picks offer a non-judgmental approach that will provide moms with a safe place to go to laugh. However, their episodes are not just fluff. They offer insight and information on up-to-the-minute issues without ever using a condescending tone.

One of the biggest complaints of those who reviewed them on podbay was that they just wanted more episodes because these ladies are so enjoyable.

Their first episode about technology use is intelligent and fun, and it’s a great way to get to know the hosts and their style. The consensus from listeners is that it’s a blast to hang out with these ladies.

3. The Longest Shortest Time

Hillary Frank, the host of this podcast, is a great center for a show that covers a variety of parenting topics. Special guests are interviewed by Frank and share narratives of their lives about parenting. The vibe is very NPR-like, and this podcast feels intellectual yet approachable.

Sex is not a topic that is off-limits, which for most of us is great since sex changes after kids. There don’t seem to be any taboo topics; everything is on the table and handled in a mature, entertaining way. Episode 89 features Katie Couric discussing motherhood after the death of her husband, and The Longest Shortest Time is known to reel in big guests like Couric on a fairly regular basis.

2. The Mighty Mommy

You don’t have to be Supermom, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve. The Mighty Mommy’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting podcast offers just that. Cheryl Butler boasts the ability to choose relevant problems most moms have and break them into solutions using small, readily applicable steps. She tackles everything from simplifying schedules to how to say farewell to a child leaving for college.

Butler is serious about her tips being quick. Each episode is only about 10-12 minutes. Episode 578 offers tips about how to be more mindful of negative speech, and Butler provides stories and research to drive her points home. It’s a must-hear for any parent.

1. Respectful Parenting Podcast: Janet Lansbury Unruffled

Janet Lansbury takes the knowledge she used to write parenting books and shares it with her listeners on Unruffled. Specifically geared towards the parents of toddlers, Lansbury helps parents deal with common toddler issues by teaching them to respect their child’s feelings while still guiding them towards appropriate behavior. Her approach helps parents feel like they are setting and enforcing reasonable limits while also lovingly raising their children during one of the hardest parenting phases.

Lansbury’s voice matches the title of her podcast. It’s smooth and even, and her advice to her listeners is spot-on and encouraging. Her episodes are generally around 15 minutes, though they can go longer or shorter. Lansbury is a voice of calm encouragement to parents who need it.

These are the parenting podcasts worth your time and attention. No matter what stage of parenting you’re in, you’ll find a podcast on this list that will suit your needs.

Best Apps for Kindergarteners

By sara / September 20, 2016

Introducing technology to young children may give them an advantage later in life. While the image of a child playing on a tablet computer all day long can rub people the wrong way, it doesn’t have to be only about frivolous fun and games.

When used correctly, learning apps can give preschoolers and kindergarteners a great head start to learning math and reading. This stimulation will also carry over to them to becoming comfortable with using technology at a young age.

With that in mind, this list of best apps for kindergarten children was composed to help parents and teachers choose the best apps that will encourage a fun learning experience for their children.

Various factors were taken into account when deciding what apps to include on this list. Favorite teacher apps for kindergarten were considered because when it comes to education, the opinions of teachers are critical. Other factors considered include the subjects covered in the app, the amount of content available and how user-friendly it is for little children.

Without further ado, here are the 10 best apps for kindergarten children:

Kindergarteners do not need to be a fan of Umizoomi the television show to have an enjoyable time with this game.This colorful app is a great introduction to basic mathematical concepts. With the main characters Milli, Geo, and Bot, children can choose from a variety of activities that cover simple concepts such as counting, patterns, colors, and shapes.

  • Pros: Positive main characters, easy to understand directions, a variety of activities.
  • Cons: Characters of the game reinforce gender stereotypes, which may be a concern for some.

Anyone who has an interest in the education of young children is sure to have heard of Montessori and the style of learning that they implement in their learning institutions.

This simple app takes on an aspect of the Montessori educational program – The Phonetic Object Box – and makes it into a digital tool. Using basic phonetics, children can combine letter combinations to make words.

While some may enjoy the simplistic design of this app, others may find it to be somewhat lackluster. Those looking for more of a Montessori experience may be disappointed with the content of this app.

  • Pros: Comes in 4 languages – (English, Spanish, French, Italian), printing is an available feature to take learning time off-screen.
  • Cons: Only one syllable words are available, may be too helpful in some aspects.​

Toca Tea Party is different from most of the apps on this list. Instead of focusing on academic skills, this learning app is more focused on developing social skills.

The setting of this game is exactly what the name implies – a virtual tea party complete with a table, tablecloth, place settings, refreshments, and snacks. Participants (real or computer generated) engage in imaginative play and practice being a good host as well as a good friend. Children also learn useful skills such as getting along with others, making friends and following directions.

  • Pros: Can be played individually or with others.
  • Cons: May does not hold a child’s attention long-term.

A good education begins with a solid foundation of the basics. When it comes of the ABC’s, this app is a great introduction to the very basics of the English language.

Like the name implies, Starfall ABC’s is all about the alphabet. Each letter is introduced in various ways which cover letter sounds, how the letter looks visually and practical usage of the letter in different words and sentences. All of the content is presented in a way that is fun and easy to understand.

  • Pros: Replay value.
  • Cons: May be best for the younger spectrum of kindergartners.

The main objective of this app is to help children think on their own by evolving their thought process.With less detailed instructions, children are left to figure out the rules of the activities mostly on their own. With some activities, the rules of the game will change midway through the playing time, which forces the child to adjust from one thought pattern to the next. Skills they will learn include impulse control, following directions, flexible thinking, and reasoning.

  • Pros: Teaches critical logic skills.
  • Cons: Some children will need additional help.

Learning emotional language is just as important as phonetic language. With this app, children will learn a variety of communication skills that will help them grow emotionally. These skills will also help them to better communicate with their peers and others around them.Children will learn to identify emotions, recognize body language and read facial expressions. They also will learn what it means to have empathy for others. This is one of the best apps that cover this subject matter.

  • Pros: Builds vocabulary, parents can customize the app.
  • Cons: Not a replacement for social time.

Homer is an app that is all about books and reading. With lots of books to choose from, paired with an organized layout, this app makes reading look fun and easy. There is sure to be at least one book to spark the interest of any young reader.

Having a big selection of books to choose from mean users have an opportunity to learn about a variety of topics while also honing their reading skills.

Through this app, children learn letter sounds, sight words, reading comprehension and critical thinking. By reading the story books, children have the opportunity to learn facts on other subjects such as animals, music, and geography.

  • Pros: Lots of content, multiple user accounts, free for educators.
  • Cons: Although there is a free 30-day trial, the annual cost to use this app is $79.00 USD, which makes it the most expensive app on this list.​

Moose Math makes learning math fun and practical. The main setting and plot of Moose Math is building a fictional town, complete with stores and shops. Visiting the stores open mini-levels that introduce different learning activities and variously styled math games.

Children do not need reading skills to play along. With verbal and easy to understand activities, this app is full of things that everyone can enjoy. If a child happens to get stuck about what to do next, hints will pop up to help lead the story along. Subjects covered include counting, addition and subtraction, colors, shape and kindergarten math.

  • Pros: Visually appealing, fun setting.
  • Cons: May not be challenging for older kindergarteners.

While the central plot of this app may be learning how to play chess, the reality is that MiniChess by Kasparov has more to offer than just teaching the rules of the game.

Guided through an interesting story with the lead character Cheddar the Mouse, activities along the way teach children the mechanics of the game through various puzzles and activities. Subjects covered include math, spatial skills, and vocabulary.

  • Pros: Well narrated, can be enjoyed by a wide age range, lots of content, hints to assist along the way.
  • Cons: None that we could find.​

Like the name implies, this game is all about kindergarten level subjects and activities. Children work with a virtual instructor that introduces them to activities that include math, spelling, sight words and more.

This app understands that all kindergarteners are not at the same level academically. With that in mind, the developers have included adjustable levels (from level 1-5). With this feature, each child’s education can be customized according to their ability.

The customization doesn’t end there. Teachers and/or parents can also turn different subjects on and off, depending on what they want their child to focus on that day. After completing activities, children are rewarded with coins that they can use to purchase prizes like stickers and ornaments.

  • Pros: A wide range of activities.
  • Cons: None; this is one of the favorite teacher apps for kindergarten.​

Understanding the Importance of Language Development

By sara / September 20, 2016

Long before children learn how to read words on a page, they develop and hone the skills needed to understand how language works. Rapid growth occurs in the language centers of the brain during the early childhood years. Before the age of 8, children form the foundation for language and literacy development by discovering that speech has patterns and symbols have meaning. As a result, successful early language development is a vital part of later achievements in reading.

A plethora of research has proven that early literacy is closely linked to language development in the preschool and kindergarten years. Disparities in ethnic, linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds contribute to language skills delays and smaller vocabularies that cause students to fall far behind their peers.

Exposure to structured, age-appropriate instruction during these formative years helps bridge this achievement gap.  The National Center for Education Statistics reports that preschool enrollment among 3- to 5-year-old children has increased from 59 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2014. This upward trend in participating in early childhood education is preparing students to enter school equipped with the tools they need to be successful English Language Learners (ELL).

Strategies to Support Language Development and Literacy

Building verbal skills in early learners should revolve around playful, interactive experiences. In addition to having plenty of opportunities for speaking and listening, young children need exposure to printed materials to develop a rich understanding how to use words correctly. Whether you are searching for new ideas to bring into the classroom or activities to support early literacy at home, these strategies build confidence in young ELL students as they explore new concepts and expand their oral skills.

Building a Varied Vocabulary

Boosting a child's vocabulary is a critical component in language development and literacy. Young children increase their receptive (listening) and expressive (speaking) vocabularies primarily through social interactions. There is an explosion of word awareness between ages 3 and 5. Preschoolers enter an early education program knowing anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words. By age 6, this increases to an average of 10,000 words. A larger vocabulary supports a child's ability to recognize printed words and comprehend the meaning of stories.

Pretend Play with Peers

While children are engaged in pretend play and group activities with their peers, they are using language skills to negotiate those interactions.

Rich Interactions with Adults

When they talk with adults, children are exposed to a greater variety and more complex words. During daily routines, asking open-ended or multiple-choice questions and providing prompts when children need help expressing themselves gives them the tools to think critically about what they are observing. Offering ongoing commentary about activities that are occurring or describing objects in the environment also introduces children to contextual language.

Categories

Pick a topic, such as winter, colors or zoo animals, and then have each child throw out a word that belongs in the category.

Journaling

Have students create journals that allow them to share their thoughts on what is happening during their day or about a book that they have read. Young children can draw pictures while older children can add written observations.

Increasing Phonological Awareness

Before children can learn how to read, they need to develop a strong ability to hear sounds in the spoken language. Phonological awareness includes recognizing rhyming words, matching sounds to letters, identifying words that begin and end with the same sounds and creating new words by switching letters. Reading aloud and playing word games are great techniques for encouraging phonological awareness. At this age, repetitious rhyming is also an important tool for teaching kids the cadence and patterns of speech as well as how to listen for syllables and distinguish differences in similar-sounding words.

Reading Aloud

Reading books aloud stimulates the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound. Point to pictures in the book when you read a corresponding word. Occasionally label an object with the wrong word to keep the kids engaged in the story and to encourage their ability to link the written and spoken word. Discuss what you read after the story ends.

Letter Tennis

Playing in pairs or small groups, the first person says a word that starts with a particular letter. The next person comes up with a new word using that same letter. When someone is stumped, pick a new letter and then begin again.

Rhyming Jars

Label a jar with a word, such as hat, and then write matching words from a rhyme family on popsicle sticks, such as bat, cat, mat, sat and rat. Include pictures with the words to help early readers.

Singing Nursery Rhymes

From Dr. Seuss to Mother Goose, silly poems and songs that have rhythmic, repetitive verses increase memory skills and demonstrate the structure of language. Add gestures to connect words with actions, such as jumping over a stick or blowing a horn.

Letter of the Week

As you plan weekly activities, think about thematic ways that you can incorporate a specific letter of the alphabet. When children read a book about astronauts, draw a picture of an airplane and learning a rhyme about marching ants, they are able to make associations between words.

Encouraging Story Comprehension Skills

Storytelling encourages children to use language in a concrete way. Whether they are recounting a tale that they just heard or sharing a personal experience, they are learning about syntax, reinforcing comprehension and building their vocabulary.

Story Basket

A story basket gives children permission to let their imaginations run free. Gather themed items in a basket and then have students create a story using the contents.

My Favorite Things

Place a few favorite items in a container. As the child removes an object, have them tell you what it is, how they use it and why they like it.

My Story

Have students create a scrapbook by cutting out pictures from magazines of items that they like. Provide page prompts, such as My Family, My Favorite Foods and Things I Like to Do, to help students expand their awareness of their own life stories.

Story Predictions

Before turning the page, ask students what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, ask students how the outcome could have changed if the main character had made a different decision.

Supporting Decoding Skills

In order to read, children must first be able to recognize that letters have sounds and sounds have patterns. Early learners need to develop their decoding skills to understand that letters are symbols that have meaning, just as the Golden Arches represents McDonald's. Guessing games are a great way to get kids thinking about connections between abstract concepts and real-world objects.

Picture Books

Offer a library of entry-level reader books that provides pictures next to written words. This technique supplies clues to help early readers decipher the meaning of the words.

What's Wrong

?Using silly images, such as an elephant driving a car, a fish roller skating or a dog walking a human, have students identify what is wrong with a picture and how they can fix it.

What am I Thinking?

Give students descriptive clues to help them identify an object that you are thinking about. Clues for a dinosaur might include, "It was the largest animal on Earth," or "It lived a long time ago." Variations on this game include I Spy, Guess Who, and a scavenger hunt.

LLI: An Early Reading Intervention Strategy

Students who do not meet grade-level reading expectations need additional support to catch up to their peers. One program that has been successful in reaching this goal in a short timeframe is Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI). Designed for kindergarten, first and second-grade students, this accelerated literacy development system uses engaging leveled books and planned lessons to increase vocabulary, comprehension, and phonics.

Small groups of three students at the same reading ability gather daily for 30 minutes to read together and play word games. Currently utilized in 15 states, the LLI early reading intervention system developed by Fountas and Pinnell (F&P) has helped struggling students make significant gains in letter naming, word recognition, and decoding to become proficient readers.

Supporting Early Literacy at Home

Parents play a crucial role in helping children develop their early language development and literacy skills. The home learning environment should include a variety of developmentally appropriate materials, including books, toys, and games, that support language growth. When working with little ones at home, start with shapes, colors, and letters. These are concepts that are easy to illustrate with concrete symbols and printed words.

Shared book reading not only introduces children to print concepts but also exposes them to a varied vocabulary and expands their phonemic skills. While reading and at the end of the story, ask open-ended questions about the characters, objects, and events that are part of the book. Whether a child has access to an early education program or speaks a different language besides English in the home, the quality of these parent-child engagements is the biggest predictor of how prepared students are to become fluent readers in school.

How to Become a Substitute Teacher

By sara / September 19, 2016

Entering into the educational field is a decision that many people make. However, you aren't relegated to only one option if you want to venture into this niche. Some people decide to pursue full-time jobs at a university, but others may opt to act as substitutes. When the latter field intrigues you, learning the answers to important questions can help you to decide if the field is right for you.

How do I become a substitute teacher for preschool?

Generally, you need to have a degree in order to teach at a school. Therefore, you would have to attend a university and obtain a degree in early childhood education. Depending on the school, you may need to procure a degree in a second major as well. You may also have to obtain a graduate degree. Sometimes, an undergraduate degree allows you to work for a certain number of years; then, you have to obtain the graduate degree within that period of time to maintain your certification.

How do I become a substitute teacher for elementary school?

When you want to become a substitute teacher for elementary school, the requirements are similar to becoming a substitute teacher for preschool. However, your degree would be in elementary education as opposed to early childhood education. This degree usually allows you to teach kindergarten through seventh grade.​

What is the difference between a temporary and permanent substitute?

If you decide that you want a job as a sub, you need to define what exactly your goals are. Most schools have both temporary and permanent substitutes. A temporary sub is a person who is called to take the place of a particular teacher. You may receive phone calls late at night or early in the morning to ask if you can come in. You may be expected to be on-call. If you work as a permanent sub, you will report to the school every day. Then, the school will place you in a different classroom depending upon where the need is. If no teachers are out, you might act as a study hall monitor.

Which type can lead to a permanent sub?

Either type of substitute can lead to a permanent job; however, permanent sub jobs are more likely to help you reach this end. Since you have a presence in one school on a regular basis, you have a better chance to make connections. If you work as a temporary sub, you may be move from school to school within the district each day that you are called into work. Furthermore, you might not be in the school each day. A permanent sub position more fully exposes you to the environment of the school.

Are there different requirements by state?

When it comes to teaching, you will find that the requirements vary by state. Some states may have corresponding requirements, so you may not have to do anything more if you work in one of them. In other cases, you may need to take additional courses or examinations to make sure that you are certified to work in that state. Looking into the requirements of your home state and school is important, but you also need to consider if you want to work in those areas.

Are public and private schools different?

You are also likely to find that public and private schools vary regarding requirements. Public schools need to follow the requirements of the state whereas private schools usually have more freedom. The private schools may, however, still choose to follow the state requirements. On the other hand, they may allow you to work as a substitute even if you do not have a degree in education.

How long does obtaining a degree take?

If you want to work as a substitute, you may need to wait a period of time before you start doing so. In the event that you do not have a college education at all, then you will likely have to go through a four-year program. The graduate portion takes an additional two years. During that time, you will likely also have to student teach.

What is student teaching?

Student teaching is an experience that helps you to prepare for the real-world experience of the classroom. Other career paths encourage students to pursue internships; student teaching is essentially your internship. In most cases, student teaching will take up the last semester of your study. You will be expected to spend your days in the classroom. Therefore, even if you are not planning to teach full-time in the future, you may need to do so now.

What if I want to substitute for special classes?

You may want to act as a substitute for art, music or theater classes, or your interests may lie in other areas. In these cases, you usually need to have a degree in the subject area. At private schools or in some states, you may find that you can teach these classes without an education degree as long as you have a degree in the area of interest.

Are there any benefits?

If your considering a career shift into teaching, you should recognize that substitute teachers have very different benefits from full-time teachers. If you are a temporary substitute, then you are unlikely to receive many benefits from the school if any at all. As a permanent substitute, you may have limited benefits.

What is the salary?

The pay for substitutes is usually per diem. You are paid for the days that you work; therefore, you do not receive a salary in the traditional sense of the word. Permanent substitutes might receive a salary, but you are still usually only paid for the number of hours or class periods that you are there each day. The pay is also going to vary by state and the type of school, public or private, in which you work. Public schools tend to pay more than private schools do.

Why would you substitute?

The decision to substitute is one that might lead you to a full career in teaching. You may love substituting so much that you decide to pursue the job at a higher degree. However, you may also have a job that you already love but know that you could be good at teaching too. Substituting can offer you a flexible schedule. Having a passion for teaching and not acting on it can leave you with regrets.

What skills do you need?

You need to have lots of patience when you are working with young children. Furthermore, you have to be aware of the curriculum of the school and the district in general so that you know how to properly prepare your students. Strong public speaking skills and confidence are essential too. If the students can tell that you do not know the subject matter well, then they may doubt your abilities as a teacher. You also need strong problem-solving skills. Issues are going to arise in the classroom that you cannot plan for. Still, you must be a highly organized person who is also willing to execute the lesson plans that the regular teacher leaves for you each day.

The 10 Best TED Talks for Parents

By sara / September 19, 2016

Too often, the idea that children are the future is heard but rarely understood on a larger scale. Not only does this concept embody the fact that children will only get older and be responsible for the manner in which the world works, but it depicts that children are responsible for the influence of the world from the moment they are born. Believe it or not, but children are learning the moment that they exit the womb and adults are learning from them as well. It is believed that a person will learn the majority of what they need to know before they are five years old, so it is fairly astounding just how salient of a role that children play in the world's development and how always have. TED Talks are responsible for putting these profound ideas into moving words and motivational speeches, and they correctly validate why it is so necessary to understand early childhood years better.

Technology, entertainment, and design: The three focuses that have established both the name and purpose of this nonprofit foundation. Since 1984, the concept of TED Talks has always been to spread ideas. Words are powerful and influential at best, so there is no denying the influence of a talented public speaker. Often, people ignore proper ideas due to a lack of understanding of them or simply because they cannot relate to how they are conveyed. TED Talks convey messages concisely in the form of brief talks that are usually under twenty minutes long, and plenty of their talks have been responsible for changing the world with education, ideas that have finally been brought to life, and the discussion of global issues that would have otherwise been ignored. In more than one hundred languages, these talks are heard throughout the world.

1. Peter BensonSparks: How Youth Thrive

This is an author with a profound belief that children are not to be filled with knowledge because they already have a solid foundation of important life aspects. Upon making mention to a few studies for validation, Benson begins discussing his thoughts on sparking children to be more motivated. One-quarter of eighty million children will never be successful because they lack the necessary peer motivation, so Benson mentioned that three people are necessary for sparking a child's hope, what they believe to be their meaning, and their purpose in life.

2. Alison Gopnik ~ What Do Babies Think?

Alison Gopnik is a psychology and philosophy professor, so she understands how a child thinks. With studies that prove children can read minds no matter how young they are, she also discussed that the age of a person correlates with how much information that they are able to retain. Believed to be the age bracket full of scientists, younger children's development depends on how things are able to work. For example, the manner that children play revolves around a series of experimentation; how does this work, why, and is it able to be altered?

3. Temple Grandin ~ The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Autism is a condition that has been heard throughout the world more than ever the past decade. Grandin herself has been diagnosed with autism, so she is well equipped to discuss the condition at large while simultaneously disproving pre-existing notions about it. Describing how autism is a set of traits, including behavioral, personality, and social ones, the speaker stated that autistic people are detail-oriented and that there is nothing wrong with that. The world does not need to treat this as a fragile condition, but as one that is different because it offers fresh perspectives.

4. Patricia Kuhl ~ The Linguistic Genius of Babies

In this talk, Kuhl highlighted that babies favor one language over another. Now, the majority of the world is part of a bilingual household, so this talk is profoundly important for every person with children in every corner of the globe. Children six months and younger study everything around them in a manner that gives them cues as to what they are supposed to mimic or sound like. This collection of data allows children to create an understanding of their world by demonstrating to them who they are supposed to be. Coinciding with this talk is Annie Murphy Paul's, What We Learn Before We're Born, which states that children hear language in the womb, thus instilling in them morals, ideals, and a foundation before they are even born.

5. Sal Kahn ~ Let's Teach for Mastery--Not Test Scores

Kahn is an educator intent on not rushing children through education. When preparing for school and throughout the course of a child's education, it is crucial to never rush them through a lesson simply because they must learn this particular topic. Children have yet to even master basic concepts of the world, so how are they able to retain such valuable information on a plethora of subjects? Kahn urges parents to take their time with children as everyone learns differently and those who seem slower with learning might be mastering a particular trade rather than just brushing its surface.

6. Colin Powell ~ Kids Need Structure

Education is important; there is no denying that. However, education often gets pushed to the side throughout a child's career. Essentially, extracurricular activities become more important while studies lessen in significance. Powell discusses the need for a right educational path to be presented to children as early as possible not just for the knowledge that will be bestowed upon them but because they need to learn how to strive through social situations. Early education will easily adapt a child to society, a fact that will generate positivity in societies across the globe. This talk also stressed the importance of family playing a role in a child's education outside of the classroom.

7. Sugata Mitra ~ The Child-Driven Education

In no way does this talk attempt to disprove the need for teachers, but it does emphasize the importance of a child being independent in their educational affairs. Even in troubled parts of the United States, children have access to teachers and better educational opportunities than developing portions of the world. Mitra stated that providing one electronic device to a school in an underdeveloped portion of the world for one week would result in the child learning it in its entirety with little to no help. Essentially, children in the United States are pushed through their education with a guide rather than learning critical thinking skills and adapting to a more simple way of life. Additionally, distractions can be detrimental to the learning process, and certain areas are full of them.

8. Jarrett J. Krosoczka ~ How a Boy Became an Artist

Speaking from his own experience, the speaker touched upon the importance of honing in on a child's interests. Stating that he only had an interest in drawing that spiraled into him becoming a talented artist, Krosoczka illustrated the importance art has in a child's world. Art can shape a kid's future and the manner that they view the world, so why not make it a positive experience? No matter the age, pay attention to the interest of your child because it could be their entire world in the future.

9. Laura Schulz ~ The Surprisingly Logical Mind of Babies

Schulz is a cognitive scientist who has a profound interest in how logical children are before they can even talk. Children learn a lot from so little information, and Schulz has always been fascinated by that. She discusses the fairly intricate decision-making process that children have the moment they are out of the womb and how it is important to recognize that and influence it to the best of your ability.

10. Mac Barnett ~ Why a Good Book Is a Secret Door

In a fairly humorous talk, Barnett stresses the importance of books for children, specifically ones that spark their budding imaginations. He strained how words should come to life for children and he also emphasized the importance of introducing children to art. Imagination is forever, so creating a solid foundation of that is salient.

The 50 Most Educational YouTube Channels for Kids

By sara / May 26, 2016

​Finding educational shows for your children to watch can be hard to find. Finding an educational show that they will actually enjoy is even harder. YouTube is an excellent way to find educational content that your children will love. This list will allow you to find the right channel for every stage of your child’s life. Most of these videos are under thirty minutes long so your children will not be sitting in front of a screen for extended amounts of time. For the younger children, we focused on videos that will get them up and dancing around as well as videos that have a lot of repetition so they will be able to learn and have fun at the same time. The videos for older children will get them engaged and have them thinking about new and exciting topics. These are the 50 Most Educational YouTube channels for children.

 Sesame Street

Your toddler will be able to have fun with familiar characters while they learn at the same time. The Sesame Street channel will teach your children lessons about the alphabet, sharing and how to be kind to others. Each day a different type of video is uploaded so you can find the right video to fit your child’s interests. There are thousands of videos ranging from just over 1 minute to about 5 minutes so you will be able to find the right video to help your toddler learn new things everyday.

  • 1,917,181 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most viewed episode here
  • You can check out the Seasame Street channel here

 Baby Einstein

The Baby Einstein channel will teach your children through playful imagery and catchy songs. Puppets are used to teach your toddler lessons about shapes and colors as well as entertain them with classic nursery rhymes. Videos range in length so you will be able to find the right videos to fit your needs. Many of the videos get your toddler to interact and use their curiosity to help them learn new things.

  • 78,986 subscribed viewers
  • You can see the most viewed episode here
  • You can check out the Baby Einstein channel here

Oh My Genius

Oh My Genius is a channel focused on teaching your toddler new and exciting objects as well as numbers and letters and much more. Oh my genius is able to do this with fun songs and colorful graphics that will hold your toddlers attention while they learn at the same time. These videos will inspire your little genius to get up and play along as they watch. There are a variety of playlists that you can choose from to make sure you find exactly what you want your child to learn.

  • 355,110 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most viewed episode here
  • You can check out the Oh My Genius channel here

 Bedtime Lullaby

Bedtime Lullaby is a great channel to help you put your toddler down for a nap each day. There are many different playlists to choose from to help your child relax and fall to sleep with less of a meltdown. Videos are the perfect length to keep them asleep and feeling relaxed for a few hours. This channel also offers classic lullabies you can sing with your child right before they go to bed for the night.

  • 652 Subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most viewed episode here 
  • You can check out the Bedtime Lullaby channel here

 HooplaKidz

HooplaKidz is a fun channel that will have your toddlers singing and dancing all over the house. The Adventures of Annie and Ben series follows the three main characters around as they embark on exciting journeys to far off lands. This series is a fun way to teach your child about other cultures while also teaching them vocabulary words at the same time. There are many different series on this channel that you can choose from to help you teach your growing toddler.

  • 1,999,748 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most watched episode here
  • You can check out the HooplaKidz channel here

 Yo Gabba Gabba

Your toddler can sing along with familiar characters as they enjoy the Yo Gabba Gabba channel. Your toddler will be able to learn through exciting new songs that are lead by the main characters from the popular tv show. Many of the episodes involve art so you will be able to bring out your toddlers creative side with characters they already know and love.

  • 382,219 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most watched episode here
  • You can check out the Yo Gabba Gabba channel here

 Kids TV

The Kids TV channel is full of episodes that get your child involved and help them learn. The creators of Kids TV know that the most important years of your child’s development are the early years so they want to help lay the ground work for their bright futures early. Each episode will teach your toddler a fun and exciting new lesson. The beautiful graphics will keep your child engaged in every second of the videos they watch.

  • 1,666,015 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most watched episode here
  • You can check out the Kids TV channel here

 Toddler Fun Learning

Toddler Fun Learning is a fun way to help your child learn new songs as well as classic nursery rhymes. Each song will help them learn things like counting as well as their ABC’s. The Story Time videos will help your toddler become more interested in learning to read. Each of the videos in this series will take your family on a new adventure as they watch each Story Time video.

  • 70,048 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most watched episode here
  • You can check out the Toddle Fun Learning channel here

 StoryBots

The StoryBots channel is full of beautifully designed videos perfect for helping your child learn new things as they grow. These videos will teach your child things like how to brush their teeth or get dressed in the morning as well as many other fun lessons. The StoryBots channel also has an app full of educational videos that follow the StoryBots around as they go on new adventures to exotic new places.

  • 180,747 subscribed viewers 
  • You can see the most watched episode here
  • You can check out the StoryBots channel here

 Turtle Interactive

Each Turtle Interactive video will teach your child with a fun new song that they can sing along with during each new episode. The playful graphics will engage your child as they learn new lessons through popular nursery rhymes. Turtle Interactive is the perfect channel for children who enjoy hearing music as they offer hundreds of different videos for your family to pick from and