Take Me Outside

Lynne Heffley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

Did I Mention Invention?

It’s impossible to watch Did I Mention Invention? without saying, “Wow, that’s so cool.” At least once during an episode, viewers are certain to be amazed and, hopefully, inspired. Host Alie Ward brings an upbeat, just-right narration to the show as she travels the globe from her home base at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Detroit to seek out young superstars in the science field.

For example, Natalie Hampton, who after being bullied at school, created an app called Sit With Us, designed so that students can find a school lunch table where bullying is not tolerated and where students are interested in similar things – horses, neuroscience, whatever. It has more than 100,000 users and stresses kindness. In another segment, Alie visits a scientist who is creating clothes that generate electricity. (How nice not to have to search for a phone charger anymore!) Robobirds – developed to scare off crop predators – and motorized surfboards are two other intriguing inventions.

Pop-up fun-fact segments are interspersed among the scientist story profiles, posing questions such as, “Who invented color film?” The answer: Two musicians.

Students who are competing in science fairs at school will likely be motivated to try something new after watching. Parents of kids who have to help their kids with science projects might just be inspired, too. Watch and you’ll be sure to “up” your science game in no time.

 

Ann Oldenburg ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

Raised on Hose Water

Lynne Heffley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

SPIDER Magazine

Lynne Heffley ©2018 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

Earth Rangers Podcast

Earth Rangers podcast

Don Oldenburg ©2019 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.

Nat Geo Little Kids

Sharon Heuscher ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Sharon holds B.A.s in English Literature and Ancient Studies as well as a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently a masters-level trainee in Clinical Psychology specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. For the past thirteen years, Sharon has focused primarily on raising, educating, and nurturing her five children who range in age from three to thirteen.

Hey Clay®

In our review of the Hey Clay kit, we noted that the free companion app presents clever modeling technique tutorials with each individual step broken down; each kit had its own app. Here, this clever bundling of Hey Clay apps in one suite offers six free tutorials, one from each set (Monsters, Aliens, Animals, Birds, Dinos, and Bugs). Considering that each creature takes upwards of 30 minutes to make, that’s a lot of playable content. And it’s free.

Additional creature tutorials can be purchased at a reasonable 99 cents per character.

 

Jennifer Wells ©2020 Parents’ Choice

For more than 20 years, Jennifer has been developing play experiences for children, with beloved organizations like Highlights and LEGO. With a Master’s degree in Children & Media, a Bachelor’s in Music, and a love of Star Trek, Jennifer has many layers.

tori

The tori Explorer Pack from Bandai Namco is a screen-based play platform that combines real-world action, creativity, and digital play into one package.

In addition to the dashboard app and the “board,” the set includes a catapult, a wand, and a “creative kit” composed of 4 DIY spacecrafts, a book, and a stand. Combine one of these toys with an RFID tracking component and the magnets in the “Mirror Board” are able to track its location – effectively allowing the player to use each to control a virtual counterpart within one of the four tori games.

tori supports a variety of play patterns. Kids can use the catapult to play the first-person, Angry Birds-style Jungle Rescue. Or they can race a spacecraft, collecting jewels and eliminating enemies. The wand has the most intriguing potential, even if it’s a bit more challenging to control. Two of the four tori apps use the wand – one, a creative building tool, and the other a meditative game which asks the user to manipulate virtual objects to match a shadow outline.

Templates are provided for kids to decorate their own cardboard spacecraft. Once decorated, the template can be quickly and easily scanned into the app, which morphs into a virtual shell for the spacecraft within the game. This gives kids a unique opportunity to see their own creation as part of a video game right away – instant gratification for our testers.

Parents should know that they’ll need to help with the instructions, especially with the initial set-up. The tori Explorer Pack packs a lot of advanced technology, facilitating interesting play possibilities, within a fairly easy to use platform. If your budget allows, this is a fun way to explore the bridging of the digital and physical worlds of play.

 

Jennifer Wells ©2020 Parents’ Choice

For more than 20 years, Jennifer has been developing play experiences for children, with beloved organizations like Highlights and LEGO. With a Master’s degree in Children & Media, a Bachelor’s in Music, and a love of Star Trek, Jennifer has many layers.

Emma-Made Lemonade

How did 11-year-old Emma come to run a global lemonade stand enterprise from her backyard? This humorous adventure, written and created by David Matthew Feldman and Louise A. Gikow, and performed by an extensive voice cast, is deftly grounded in lessons in money management and investing. Emma relates how she went from one front-yard lemonade stand to an international franchise conglomerate with the help of her math-savvy younger brother, Polonious (and a circus elephant, a parrot, and a secret lemonade recipe). Told in flashbacks over 10 episodes, and framed as an interview with a reporter, Emma’s story begins when she buys an ugly duckling and discovers the existence of a Home for Ugly Ducklings. This benevolent rescue operation needs funds to keep going and Emma is determined to raise money to help by modifying her eccentric, elderly neighbor’s purple lemonade recipe, enlisting Polonious as her business manager, hiring a circus elephant to squash the lemons (with clean feet), and her neighbor’s parrot to provide vocal advertising. With help from Polonious and other characters (and told in simple but clear language), Emma and listeners learn the basics of spending and saving, supply and demand, expenses and profit margins, loans and collateral, and investment strategies. Emma’s first lesson: she misses out on buying the first duck of her choice due to impulse buys (ice cream, movie tickets, etc.)  After building her lemonade stand, Emma must budget for the ingredients and for her employees (the parrot is paid in birdseed for his promotional services; the circus elephant is paid in peanuts). Emma survives a competitor (a well-funded mean kid), and learns about overspending, how banks make loans, the consequences of unread contracts, and the concept of franchises. As her enterprise takes off (thanks to strategic planning, an excellent product, and some luck), the caring relationship between the siblings is noteworthy; so are the comical touches that make the lessons go down easy.

 

Lynne Heffley ©2020 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

Hey Clay

Jennifer Wells ©2019 Parents’ Choice

For more than 20 years, Jennifer has been developing play experiences for children, with beloved organizations like Highlights and LEGO. With a Master’s degree in Children & Media, a Bachelor’s in Music, and a love of Star Trek, Jennifer has many layers.

Ranger Rick Jr.

Sharon Heuscher ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Sharon holds B.A.s in English Literature and Ancient Studies as well as a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently a masters-level trainee in Clinical Psychology specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. For the past thirteen years, Sharon has focused primarily on raising, educating, and nurturing her five children who range in age from three to thirteen.

Dream within a Dream

David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.

Simple Art of Flying

David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.

Top Wing

Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

The Merciful Crow

Kemie Nix ©2019 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.