Parents surf and watch TV eight times more than they read to kids

While we’re all on facebook and twittering…not to mention shopping on line and watching tv…it turns out that we’re not reading to our kids.

Leapfrog recently sent me the findings of a study they commissioned that indicated:

“While the majority of parents (83 percent) do read to their child daily, those who do spend an average of about 32 minutes reading, compared with a total of 209 minutes (approximately 3∏ hours) a day watching TV and browsing the Web.”

Does this surprise anyone?  At first this looked really upsetting but if you’re really reading books with your child for 32 minutes a day (if that’s for real)…it’s a good start. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the day our kids should be plugged into the tv/computer.  The problem I always had with my boys is that bedtime reading always became about one more book–and then you feel conflicted– after all you’re thrilled they want to read more…but at some point you realize it’s not about the book, but about not going to SLEEP!!!

LeapFrog is running a promotion in honor of National Reading Month…to inspire kids and parents to read one million hours. If you sign up, you’re in the running to win a TAG Reading System (We gave this electronic reading system our Platinum Award last year.)

For more details on the study, visit

Crayola Window Markers vs. Crayola Window Crayons

It’s really a toss up. The crayons have the greasy crayon texture – that really makes you feel like you’re drawing with a crayon on the window. The markers–which we have reviewed before–I just tried again.  They do fill in better than the crayons but they don’t give you the same tactile feedback as the crayons.  Even I think I need to stop drawing on the windows now….I’ve run out of room! Both the markers and the crayons are really a great value–under $5 for a set.

Less and Less Important Play Time…

The results will probably not shock anyone…but take a look at this interesting study from the Alliance for Childhood that indicates that our kindergarteners spend more and more time being prepped for tests–and less and less time playing!

“The studies were conducted by researchers from U.C.L.A., Long Island University, and Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Their findings are documented in Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School (at www.allianceforchildhood.org).”

The press release also quotes noted child psychologist David Elkind (author of The Hurried Child and The Power of Play):

He “calls the new research findings ‘heartbreaking.’ In a foreword, he writes, ‘We have had a politically and commercially driven effort to make kindergarten a one-size-smaller first grade. Why in the world are we trying to teach the elementary curriculum at the early childhood level?’”

My  mother has written on this topic for years–if we don’t give kids an opportunity to spin their own stories and fuel their own imaginations–we may be smothering the creativity of a new generation of artists, writers, inventors…

Pure Whimsy! – Kids Crooked House

Ok, so at the moment we’re all pretty focused on price…but when this company’s products came to my attention, I just had to share them.  Inspired by cartoons…Kids Crooked Houses are just  fun…take a moment to look at their website, it will make you wish you were four again (and had an unlimited budget). purple-house

I was so intrigued with the concept of these spirited playhouses that I posed some questions to the founder Glen Halliday

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How did you get started?
I’m a graphic designer who also loves to build things out of wood. One day seeing my three adorable kids (Jake, Bailey, and Madison) glued to the TV got me thinking of ways to get them outside and tumbling around in the backyard. So I thought I’d find, or make, something fun for them to play with.
I went to lots of stores and web sites looking for a decent, ready-made playhouse, or even a build-it-yourself one. But the houses they found were plain and ordinary, and just not, you know, FUN.
So I went home to sulk and watch some TV with my kids. I saw how much they liked the cartoon shows featuring houses with wonky lines, skewed angles and off-kilter windows…houses where everything is just a little bit funky, sort of off, and, well—crooked.
“That’s it,” I said. “Let’s build a Kids Crooked House.” And so I did.
My first Crooked House thrilled my kids AND the neighbor’s kids; it became the buzz on the block. It didn’t take long before the parents wanted Kids Crooked Houses in their own backyards.
Somehow the Fairy Godmother at Yahoo caught wind of us and dubbed us the winners of a huge 2007 marketing contest. We set off for the Big Apple to load up on advertising ideas for the company and here we are going national as a company.

What kind of playhouse did you have as a kid?

“As kids we didn’t have an actual playhouse but would always create crazy play spaces from whatever was around the house. Chairs, blankets, boxes, a lot times stuff my parents weren’t too happy see disappear from their rightful location. Families can get the best of both worlds now. Kids get their own imagination station and parents keep their furniture where it belongs.”

What’s the most unusual request to date?
The oddest request we have gotten was to build a Kids Crooked House for two miniature donkeys.
Strange but true.


Why do you think it’s important for kids to have their own unique space?

“The kid in me says it’s just fun. First rule of a Crooked House: no grown-ups allowed. In more serious terms, though, what sociologists call “free play” is vital to childhood development. With modern technology and parenting methods, it’s actually getting harder for kids to engage in unstructured, imagination-based play. Not having limits, not having a “score” is the kind of play that helps a child grow and socialize. Studies show that people who missed out on free play as kids get into more trouble as young adults. So a playhouse like ours is actually a free-play platform that allows kids to go places, without leaving the sanctuary of their own back yard.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
My art set, building blocks and Stretch Armstrong.

Other things you should know:

The houses range from $1949 to $4449. Ok, we can dream right?
Note–we haven’t tested these yet.

Pick of the Day: Sprig Toys Eco-Trucks

51ildpwlsfl_sl500_aa280_Looking for a great lightweight truck to take to the sandbox–or just enjoy in your house?  Take a look at Sprig Toys new Eco-Trucks ($14.95).  We’ve been big fans of this truly green company that makes it toys from repurposed milk jugs and saw dust!  There are three trucks in the new in line:  a loader, a dump truck and an exacavator.  While we were concerned that some folks may find them too lightweight, our testers across the board thought the weight was a plus–making the toys easier for their kids to tote about.

It's Friday…time for Play-Doh!!!

6105076n1ol_sl500_aa280_I’ve discovered over the years – you either love or hate Play-Doh.  I just had a really good time trying out the new Spaghetti Factory ($9.99)…It’s similar to the “hair” makers of the past.  (If you haven’t played with Play Doh since you’re a kid–then you will have no idea what I’m talking about.)  In both cases you fill the toy with Play-Doh and you press down on the mechanism and the Play-Doh comes out in long “spaghetti-shaped” strands.  If you have a child with special needs and you’re working on building strength in your child’s hands–you may want to give this one a try.  You’ll want to attach the pasta machine to the table surface for added stability.

The base has molds for making other shapes…my mother made a lot of ravioli and bow ties–but for me it all about pushing down the plunger and making the spaghetti come out.

Pick of the Day: Creature Floor Puzzle (Andrew Zuckerman)

9780811867856_normStunning…there are two (double-sided) 16 piece puzzles–featuring bold photographs of an elephant, a chimpanzee, a lion and tigers…taken by New York based photographer and filmmaker, Andrew Zuckerman. The puzzle is made by Chronicle Books $24.95).

What I love about these puzzles is that they are so different from what’s on the market–they’re fun (and very challenging to work on)…and extremely satisfying when you put them together. Each puzzle is a pleasing 2′ x 2′. The pieces can fit together even when they’re not right graphically–adding a layer of difficulty and requiring great visual discrimination than most puzzles for kids.

The only drawback–the age label is 3 & up—most 3s will leave you to figure these out on your own–these are really a parent child puzzle for 5s & up.  This is a perfect example of where you will want to give your kids a game plan for putting them together.  Take out one set at a time–(the pieces come  packed separately) and then I always go for building the sides first…looking for the corner pieces.  And while many puzzle makers say I’m cheating…I always look at the box!   I just noticed that this won’t be released until June…but you can pre-order.  I hope this is the first of many!

Pick of the Day: Fair Trade Joobles

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I just opened a box of Joobles…a really adorable collection of knit dolls (made of organic cotton) from Fair Indigo. Each doll is knitted (some with yarn hair)…and stitched features. This is now the third collection of fabric dolls we\’ve received this month that have such wit — a really good sign that there is still a great deal of talent and creativity out there in toy land.  (Apparently a lot coming from Peru! – the blabla collection is also made in Peru.) The Joobles are $29 each. They will appeal to both boys and girls- also a plus!  They will be  just right for toddlers that will love their squish factor and cheerful design. According to the company’s information, Joobles are made in a Peruvian co-op that also provides free breakfast to the children in their community.