Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

Blacksmith’s Song

Mary Hollowell ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Mary Hollowell is a parent, a science teacher, and a naturalist. She lives in Peachtree City, Georgia.

Izzy Gizmo

Parents’ Choice ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Little Whale

Kemie Nix ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Kemie Nix is Chairman of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon

Don Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

 

A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

The Secret Science of Magic

Naomi Lesley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

Awards Info and FAQ

What Makes A Parents' Choice Award® Winner?

The Parents’ Choice Awards program honors children’s toys and media that encourage children’s development, respects their intelligence, and offer many opportunities for learning through play.

Our judges are interested in how a product helps a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, and physically. We’re not interested in products that encourage commercialism, racial or gender bias. Above all, products must not extol violence.

Parents’ Choice Award winners have long-term learning value and play value. They’re innovative in concept, appealing, skillfully produced, and fairly priced.

Why Parents' Choice?

Established

The Parents' Choice Awards is the nation's oldest and most respected nonprofit program created to recognize quality children's media and toysIt honors the best material for children: books, toys, music and storytelling, magazines, software, video games, television, websites and mobile applications.

Credible

The Parents' Choice Foundation's independent panels of educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents and, yes, kids themselves, use long established criteria and field tested methodology to identify quality media and toys designed for infants to young adults of varied skills and interest areas.

Valued

Parents' Choice Award-winning products are valued by consumers, coveted by industry professionals and promoted by retailers. Displaying a Parents' Choice Award seal shines a highly respected spotlight on your products.

The Parents’ Choice Foundation® website hosts your award-winning product information for as long as the product is on the market. We highlight our award-winning products in blogs, newsletters, on our social media, and in the many requests we receive for holiday lists. At no extra cost to the winners.

Got Questions?

FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions, along with the complete answers from our support experts.

Product categories include: music, books (picture, fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks) toys and games (physical and digital), magazines, TV (broadcast, online, streaming), DVD, video games, podcasts, websites and mobile apps.

Annual Parents’ Choice Awards Calendars are published here. All “Call for Entries” emails clearly state submissions deadlines. If you are not subscribed to the Call for Entries emails, please click here.

For more than 41 years, the Parents’ Choice Awards program has used a multi-tiered and multi-layered evaluation process. We examine the package as well as its contents. We look for well-conceived and well produced age appropriate products that help a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, creatively and physically.

We look for long term educational value and play value. We consider how innovative a product is and if the price is fair. And of course, the product must be fun to use.  

The evaluation process begins and ends with the core team. Parent testers participate in the weeks-long testing period, using a proprietary survey as a guide to our the rigorous criteria.

No, products that are NOT awarded a level of commendation are not eligible to be resubmitted.

  • The Parents’ Choice Awards program does not evaluate education franchises, curriculum or teacher materials. 
  • Toy or game prototypes, Beta versions of digital media, or unpublished manuscripts are not eligible for submission.
  • CD and DVD submissions must include all credits and liner notes.
  • Eligibility dates (publication and product release dates) are noted on “Call for Entries” emails and submission forms.
  • And above all, products submitted must not extol violence or bias.

Parents’ Choice Foundation send email notification letters to all Awards applicants regardless of outcome.

We do not release feedback about why a product was not selected as a Parents’ Choice Award winner. This policy ensures that testers and judges will always be free to give honest answers and opinions. 

There are specific guidelines for the legal use of the Parents’ Choice Award images, whether in advertising or to place on the packaging.

A licensing fee is associated with the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, which are trademarked property of Parents’ Choice Foundation.

To request the Seals Use Guidelines and Seals Order Form, please direct an email to: seals@parents-choice.org. Please include your name and email address, company, product, year and level of commendation.

The Guidelines also include approved wording that you may use, without charge, in descriptions of your winning product.

These measures are in place to protect your Parents’ Choice Award-winning products as much as the Foundation’s intellectual property.

If you have additional questions about the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, please contact seals@parents-choice.org

Parents' Choice Awards®

Call for Entries

 Sign-up here to receive the latest news and schedule information about all of our Awards.

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Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Look below for 10 timeless tips to help your kids to enjoy reading. 

By Kristi Jemtegaard

  1. The key to reading is words: hearing them, saying them, seeing them, and connecting them to everyday life. Simply talking—in the grocery store, on the way to school, before bed—guarantees a richer vocabulary for your child.
  2. Set aside a special time each day to read together. Find a quiet place where you can focus on the book. Pretty soon, your child will make the connection between the pleasure of undivided attention and the pleasure of reading.
  3. Expect disasters. Sometimes reading just isn’t in the cards. Don’t push it. The last thing you want is to turn it into a battle. But be prepared to grab unexpected opportunities. Always have a book with you—in your bag, in the car, at the pool: waiting is a lot easier on everyone if there’s a story to share.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo

  1. Read books you like. Your enjoyment will be infectious. Read books your children pick themselves … and praise their choices.
  2. Stop occasionally to ask your child questions about the pictures or about what they just heard. Try to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “What do you think is going to happen next?” “Who do you like best in this story?”
  3. Connect stories to things that happen in your daily life. If you just read a story about a dog, point out all the dogs you see and talk about them: How big? What color? Who do you think they belong to? Make up a new story together about the dog … then find someone else to tell it to.
  4. Stop occasionally and point out an interesting word with your finger. Say it and have your child repeat it. Pre-readers don’t need to learn it … yet … but this reinforces the idea that those funny black lines on the page actually contain the magic of meaning.

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.” – Carl Sagan

  1. Capitalize on your child’s interests. If he or she likes bugs, find all the bug books you can. Read fiction and fact books. If they ask you a question, go together to a book to look for the answer—even if you know the answer already.
  2. Watch television together and talk about it. Compare what you see on the tube to real life and to real books. Ask questions. Make connections. Find books about things you’ve seen and read them as a follow-up.
  3. Visit the library. You don’t have to be rich to have a house full of books. Attend storytimes. Ask the librarian for books suggestions. And check out a book for yourself. You’re the best advertisement for reading there is!

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The Benefits of Free Play

The Benefits of Free Play

Parents’ Choice Foundation President, Claire Green fills us in on the latest prescription for play.

By Claire Green

Free play is just what it sounds like. There are no prepackaged instructions, no game pieces, no specific goals – unless the children make it so.

Free play flings imaginations wide open, explores backyards, unleashes enthusiasm, and tests life lessons.   

Free play is what childhood is all about.

The benefits of free play fills conversations and scholarly work. Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play founder, author and professor David Elkind, PhD are among those who have charted their courses based on play’s role in child development. Journalist Jessica Lahey reports on play in the Atlantic. Peter Gray writes about it in books and articles. And they all agree: free play helps children develop socially, physically and cognitively. A visit to the National Museum of Play shows that many a career has been mapped by play.

But what does free play mean to a parent? What should it mean? What should it do?

First to know is that free play is vitally important to your child’s development. Free play is how children learn to negotiate roles (you’re the boss, I’m the customer) and develop and follow rules (count to 10 then jump on one foot, then). Free play is about problem solving (that didn’t work; let’s try this), scientific discovery (where did you find that bug?) and creative expression (I’m flying on my magic dragon to the kingdom of …).   

Next, don’t panic. You don’t need a PhD to raise playful, well balanced and inquisitive kids. Kids are born ready to play – and learn. You do need to know that free play is a valuable commodity.

Free play isn’t expensive It’s less about being equipped with specific playthings than it is about the providing the time, space and encouragement. Free play is a great gift.

Give up control, not supervision. Just because free play isn’t a scheduled and scripted activity doesn’t mean that you should abandon parenting. Keep an eye and an ear tuned in. After all, Moms do have eyes in the backs of their heads and extraordinary powers of hearing. Just give the kids a chance to work things out. Don’t jump in to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Free play is an enrichment activity. Ditch specific learning goals. Free play breeds all kinds of success. On the playground or the playroom floor, free play is child directed and that’s the best kind of learning.

And as many pediatricians say, play is powerful medicine.

So fill the prescription for free play – and call me in the morning.

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Food for Thought

Parents' Choice Foundation

Food for Thought

Welcome to FOOD for THOUGHT – a Parents’ Choice Foundation book donation program designed to nourish young minds and imaginations. 

As we watched COVID-19 upend lives and livelihoods, schools, and spirits, we saw families waiting in long lines for donations from food pantries, restaurants, or grocery stores.

The pandemic has not just removed many families’ ability to put a meal on the table. It has also separated many children from a different kind of nourishment – that which comes from books.

For many kids, the classroom is their only access to ­­­­holding a book in their hands.  School libraries are often the only place where imaginations can soar while pages are turned.

Parents’ Choice Foundation has championed children’s literature since 1978. We believe that children need good books as much as they need good food.

We wondered: What if we could combine nutrition for the body with nourishment for the mind and soul? What if we could pair a book pantry with a food pantry?

Yes, we can.

Our pilot program is launching with a generous gift of 3,000 books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt book publishers.

The logo is courtesy of Peter H. Reynolds, aka The Word Collector.

Powered by the Baltimore City Public Schools, books will be distributed via its 18 emergency meal sites. 

We’ll keep you updated as this program grows.

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Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

 Parents’ Choice Foundation contributor Kemie Nix writes about the value of fiction books for children.

By Kemie Nix

First, let’s all acknowledge that the kerfluffle about the demise of books was not only premature but wrong. There. Now let’s ponder the role of fiction in books in general and as it pertains to the young in particular.

Because it is not medicinal, fiction is deemed to be less valuable and more frivolous than nonfiction. The theories seem to be that nonfiction is more educational. Children are encouraged to read nonfiction to increase their knowledge of various subjects. Nonfiction is generally deemed more “intellectual” than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

​”Nonfiction is generally deemed more ‘intellectual’ than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In most schools in the United States, children are taught decoding skills from textbooks. Once the purpose of  these textbooks was to teach children to read so that they could start reading “real books”as soon as possible. As usual what was designed to serve people has run amuck. Children are taught decoding skills so they can read harder textbooks and/or nonfiction.Trade book literature – stories – have been pushed to the periphery of reading.

For children affluent enough to have access to books, the emphasis has moved away from stories into acquiring knowledge through nonfiction. While the reading of any book is to be encouraged, fiction gives gifts of inestimable value to children which are not to be found anywhere else in all the world beyond fiction. The premiere gift of fiction is long-range thinking abilities. Nothing, absolutely nothing, trains long-range thinking skills like stories.  A young reader – or listener – must keep ideas, a plot, characters, setting, and emotional content in  mind from the beginning of the book to the end. This process frequently extends over many days. (This explains the great appeal of series books.The characters and setting are known quantities, and readers can focus on the fun part – the plot. Reading speed will increase in series, however.)

There are also many gifts given by children’s authors and illustrators. These people care about the concerns and sorrows of childhood and can and do teach children that they are not  alone and that there is hope.  They often teach through laughter – also not medicinal. When children discover that  characters feel their same emotions, they frequently respond with love. The first book that any child identifies  with and loves, I have dubbed the “AH-HA book.” The reader has crossed a major bridge to significant, life-long literacy thanks to an author. They teach without preaching.

Another gift is empathy. Young people are too smart to read about anti-heroes. They identify with good characters and correctly identify and reject the villains. While identifying with good characters, children learn to understand, and care for the travails of others: and they are quite capable of transferring these insights into reality.

While society is rightfully concerned about dwindling attention spans, an antidote is at hand – fiction.

Any method to get children into fiction is helpful, but the best entrance is one that most of us can enter – reading aloud. People who read aloud, including parents and teachers, freely give all the gifts embodied in fiction and are to be treasured.

Visit some of our favorite fiction books here.

Kemie Nix is the founder of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

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Charity Begins at Home

Charity Begins at Home

We asked financial literacy expert Susan Beacham, founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation, to share her thoughts on teaching children the concept of charity and why helping others and the experience of feeling generous, means charity really does begin at home.  Click here to read Susan’s thoughts on why Charity Begins at Home.

By Susan Beacham

Most people think the phrase “charity begins at home” means taking care of you and your family first.  It does. And taking care of your family includes teaching your children the concept of charity – helping others and the experience of feeling generous – should be taught at home. When forming your lesson plan, consider these three thoughtful points:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

―Winston Churchill

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” 

―Theodore Roosevelt

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

―Maya Angelou

Teaching our children how to be charitable, by giving to others in time, talent or money, is a wonderful and long-lasting gift both for the receiver and the giver.  To make the charitable experience more memorable, and thus more likely to happen again, turn the abstract concept of charity into a concrete experience.  Find a cause or organization where kids can have hands-on experience. 

Among the things we teach at Money Savvy Generation is to put the “do” in donate. Do what you can, not what you can’t. Charitable donations aren’t only for the mega rich.  Give a pair of socks, a package of crayons, or pet food to a local animal shelter. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk, bring the newspaper closer to their front door, or mow their lawn. 

Put screen time to good use. While wrapping presents, enlist your children to find a cause that resonates. Begin your search by reading the ConsumerReports article on charities. And before you finalize your giving, visit a charity watchdog  like BBB Wise Giving Alliance,Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to help you and your family research the organization’s financial soundness. 

Here are three organizations that help others near and far, and in different ways. DonorsChoose, Kiva, UnicefMarketplace  

Happy Giving!

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Parents’ Choice Awards: The “Helpers”

Parents' Choice Awards: The "Helpers"

In these topsy-turvy times, we all need to sing, and dance, and learn something new.
 
A BIG thank you to the Parents’ Choice Award winner “helpers” for providing these wonderful resources.

By Parents' Choice

Copy of Learn

Music:

Justin Roberts is performing a “live concert” on his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/justinrobertsmusic4kids/ . And on his website, he has a page where he teaches kids how to make homemade musical instruments and other craft projects – https://bit.ly/3ddh5Bf
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/3b78wGr

Bill Harley is doing free concerts for kids! For more details, go here billharley.com/miniconcerts 
He’s also released The Wash Your Hands song as a free download: https://bill-harley.myshopify.com/products/wash-your-hands 
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2xSSUIm and https://bit.ly/2xSMZmB

Mi Amigo Hamlet and Alina Celeste are performing daily free bilingual concerts together on their YouTube and Instagram channels!

Mi Amigo Hamlet – https://www.instagram.com/miamigohamlet/ and https://bit.ly/2w9Jo37

Alina Celeste – https://www.instagram.com/alinaceleste/ and https://bit.ly/3a6gY8L

For Parents’ Choice reviews of their music go here – https://bit.ly/2U3cn1y and https://bit.ly/3923f1v

Aaron Nigel Smith is launching a YouTube program later today called The Big Up Show. It’s a music based variety show that promotes peace. To watch, go here – https://bit.ly/3dg1Es3
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2vvYbVg

Laura Doherty Music is performing “live concerts” on her Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/lauradohertymusic/
For the Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/39XkCBZ

Maria Rossoto is making lyric videos from the songs on her CD!She started with “The Rot Thing to Do”, which teaches about composting – https://www.reverbnation.com/artist/video/16412243 
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2WtT5nE

Animal Farm are hosting Music Circle Time and other activities on our Facebook page every day – https://www.facebook.com/AnimalFarmMusic/
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2U4EUnC

 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ “

– Fred Rogers

Learning for All Ages:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood offers advice about ways to stay healthy as well as helping young children navigate new things, including at the following links –  Germs, Germs Go Away Handwashing and A Germ Fighting Superhero videos; Draw Your Feelings activity page; Doctor Daniel  game; and article on How to Prepare Children for Unexpected Events.
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/2vzvyGV

Yellow Scope Science Kits website, they have lots of free and fun science experiments that can be done at home with everyday items! Go here to start experimenting – https://yellow-scope.com/blogs/news
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2U4UsaA

Ranger Rick Mags is giving free access to their website and digital magazines thru the end of June. Go here to access – https://bit.ly/3dfsu3K
For Parents’ Choice reviews – https://bit.ly/2TZLzz5, https://bit.ly/2U1vqcy, https://bit.ly/3b1figO

Bravery Mag presents Bravery School – a free 4-week daily curriculum delivered right to your inbox! Go here to access – https://bit.ly/3daUIwl
For the Parents’ Choice review of this Gold Award winner, go here- https://bit.ly/33nQcGg

Todo Math by Enuma is offering up a 14-day trial code! Go here to access – https://bit.ly/2x9vQVg
For the Parents’ Choice review go here – https://bit.ly/2TVm95G

KidLit TV has free read aloud videos and other resources for homeschooling –  https://kidlit.tv 
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2WtZ9MW

WURRLYedu. is offering schools free access to their music education program until July 1st.Go here for more information – https://www.wurrlyedu.com.
For Parents’ Choice review – https://bit.ly/2U4x9hp

Kodable is offering up free resources here: http://blog.kodable.com/covid-19-resources/ 
For Parents’ Choice review –  https://bit.ly/3a2tSEI 

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