Brightly, a part of the Penguin Random House company, is a great website for book recommendations when you are looking for something specific. I like that they have book recs based on needs, like romance YA books or books for introverted kids. They have great author interviews and various contributors that give differing perspectives/advice. Only downside is the books are only from the Penguin Random House publishing house. Easy to navigate and is updated regularly so definitly a must have on your tab!
Little Passports is a subscription based service that allows children to explore different countries. They have three tiers of subscriptions; Early Explorers (ages 3-5), World Explorers (ages 6-10) and the USA Edition (ages 7-12). I am reviewing the World Explorer edition, we have so far received 2 subscriptions.
I thought it was like any other subscription where the first box jumps right in but the first box was a 'getting to know the product' more than anything. She received her passport and a letter telling of the adventures she was going to partake in. She was very excited about receiving a passport and the huge world map!
The World Edition seems to be online based. Using her boarding pass she logs in and plays games that teaches about the country she is 'in'. She also received a postcard, a treasure from the country, a pin to place on her map and an activity sheet. One sheet had a recipe for a favorite sweet in Brazil that we will definitely make!
I like the concept of Little Passports but feel it can be expanded a bit. The online portion is lacking, she plays one game and one information tutorial. The postcards and treasure from each country is great! I will likely continue the subscription but not as frequently as once a month.
Get Epic! is an online library for children 12 and under to access whatever books they are interested in. It is free for educators and $5 a month for parents, it can be a great supplemental resource for students at home or school.
When setting up a profile all you need is the name and age, the rest of the set up is the student choosing which subject/topics interest them the most. They even have an option to choose Spanish/dual language books for English Language Learners. The next page will feature recommended books for the student, this updates as the student continues to read.
Each month they have challenges, a great way to track students usage of the program. I would definitely recommend this for advanced readers for independent study. This site is also great for reluctant readers because it gives them the choice in subject matter.
The holidays are here! Shopping for kids can be a task if you decide not to give a toy or clothes. Giving books are my go to gift for children, its beneficial for the child and family (no noise makers). This is a combined list of some of my favorite children books and bookish things of the year that will make great gifts.
Almost half of nurseries/infant book shelves are Winnie the Pooh themed, Winnie: The True Story is a great book to add to the collection.
Who doesn't love bookish onesies? Book Riot has plenty of infant onesies and kids shirts to satisfy your printed children's book needs.
Infants put anything and everything in their mouths, something that means books do not last long in their hands. Indestructibles are made for these little hands, I have yet to encounter someone whose child has found a way to destroy this book...it is that good!
Subscriptions! Subscription services are great for preschoolers to middle grade. Here are some great subscription services for a variety of interests.
Tinker Crate- for ages 9+ merges science, engineering and technology with monthly DIY projects.
Doodle Crate- ages 9+, great for kids who love art. It focuses on design and creative projects.
Little Passports- for ages 3-12, great for the child/family who loves traveling or learning about the world. Each month you 'discover' a new country.
Junior Explorers- ages 5-12, for the budding adventurist. This crate focuses on wildlife and nature throughout the world.
What to give a preteen/teen is usually hard, interests can vary and change often. Here are some items that can cover plenty of bases.
Scratch off Map- My teenaged niece actually made me find this. She mentioned how she wrote down every state in the U.S. and puts a line through it once she has visited the state. This is a similar concept except its an actual map, a great visual for the traveling teen. It also has a global map for the international traveller.
Lumberjanes- I LOVE this graphic novel, group of friends, summer camp and all around shenanigans is great for any female reader.
Coloring books- who doesn't love to color? The Harry Potter Coloring Book is a personal favorite. Since coloring is becoming popular again you can usually find a coloring book for most characters/interests.
Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription service that encourages creative thinking and innovation in the form of building projects. I saw their advertisement on Pinterest and they had a discount for a trial service. What sold me was the About page on their website, they stated that they created this service for busy parents who still want to encourage innovation at home but may not have the time to find projects, get supplies, and tailor it for their child. Each month they give all the supplies needed with explicit instructions on how to build or create an object.
I loved that the instructions were in picture form which allowed my daughter to engage and 'read' the steps. I also liked that each project indicated messiness and parent involvement level, this allowed me to plan out which project to do first based on my schedule. I would recommend this product to anyone who loves Pinterest but does not have the time or resources to do all those lovely projects with your child.
They have different subscriptions based on age:
- Koala crate for ages 3-4
- Kiwi Crate ages 4-8
- Tinker Crate ages 9-16+
- Doodle Crate ages 9-16+
1. Reader by Originator
- This is a free app for the phone that focuses on sight words. There are three levels, beginning at Pre-K and ending with 3rd grade. Each level has a word for each letter of the alphabet. When you pick a word it scatters the letters and the child has to place the letter in the correct order. It then moves on to a sentence with three sight words and the child has to place the right word into the correct space.
2. Movie Machine by Goldie Box
- This free IOS app comes from the makers of Goldie Box, a company focused on encouraging girls to enter into the STEM field by delivering engineering based activities. The app focuses on animation by creating your own movie! I would recommend this app for kids aged 6 and up though it seems more geared toward middle schoolers its never too early to start encouraging analytical thinking. The company has recently begun selling their products at big box stores!
3. Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr.
- This is an educational website that many teachers use to supplement lessons. The free app is available for the phone or you can view on their website. The company creates movies on core subjects: science, health, reading/writing, social studies, math, art and technology with an option to take a quiz after. Some of the movies discussed are: Martin Luther King Jr., recycling and how to count money. You can pay for access to the hundreds of movies or keep the free version which gives you a new movie every week.
Let's be honest, kids watch t.v. While I can list the studies, opinions etc. of effects of too much screen time it does not speak to the realities. What is a reality is the control of what kind of t.v. shows your child consumes. Here are some shows that are appropriate and educational.
1. ODD Squad
- A PBS show that follows kid detectives as they use math to explore incidents in their neighborhood. The majority of actors are children so kids can easily connect with the characters. Great for kids from first to third grade.
2. Wild Kratts
- Another PBS show that focuses on biology and zoology. Each episode the Kratt brothers are on a mission to save an animal. During the mission the kids learn about the animal and its environment. My kindergarten and first grade class loved this show.
3. Magic School Bus
- All seasons are on Netflix! Although this is a bit outdated (1990's) its definitely still relevant. Science teacher Ms. Fizzle and her magic school bus (get it) goes on science adventures. From becoming a bee and learning about beehives to traveling back in time to the dinosaurs. Netflix is doing a reboot of the show to be released in 2016. I would play episodes that related to a science theme in the class and asked follow up questions that connected the video and what we learned so far.
4. Good Eats
- You can get episodes on YouTube. This is a great science/history/cooking show for middle to high school kids. Alton Brown is the host and the show is a cross between Bill Nye and food. He tells the story behind the creation of the food in each episode (history), gives scientific facts of the different chemical components of the ingredients (science) and then cooks and taste the resulting product (cooking). The host is very entertaining and don't be surprised to see episodes in which he dresses in characters from different time periods. Interesting fact: my high school chemistry teacher used some of these episodes in my consumer chemistry course, which I loved!