Here’s Looking at (and Listening to) You, Baby

Long gone are the days when mom and dad had to lie sleepless wondering whether they heard a cry or whimper from baby’s room down the hall. Today’s parents have a variety of technology to keep an eye—and an ear on baby from the next room or even from the office across town. For this column, we reviewed several Internet-enabled monitors, most of which work on private WIFI networks so there’s no fear of broadcasting your lives around the neighborhood to parents with similar devices. None of these monitors are cheap, but you’ll be able to get your money’s worth by using them as security monitors or nannycams after your baby gets older.

 

Peek Plus Internet Baby Monitor System

peek plus monitor parents@play

The Peek Plus has all the features you want. You can carry the included video monitor on your belt and watch it all over the. Or you can access video on your phone or Internet while Grandpa and Grandma (up to three viewers) see the same thing on a password-protected network. The only drawback here is the required bridge unit (included) that connects to your Ethernet network to make the WiFi work. This means another set of wires to deal with, though the bridge unit can be kept away from the camera. http://www.summerinfant.com

 

Withings Smart Baby Monitor

withings monitor parents@playA screenless monitor with a simple, clean design. The monitor itself looks like a white jewelry box that unfolds to reveal a simple 3MP lens. On the back, you’ll find just two plugs, Ethernet and mini-USB for recharging the battery. This is one of the few monitors that includes a bracket to attach the monitor on the side of a crib. It also plays lullabies and has a night light, two features that can both be controlled using the app from anywhere in the world. You can even take photos with the monitor with a 4X zoom and 90 degree pan that works with just a pinch or swipe of the finger. http://withings.com/en/babymonitor

 

Samsung SNH 1010 Smart Cam Monitor

samsung monitor parents@playThis is the monitor of choice for the social media-connected. It will send a tweet or email when there’s movement or sound from the baby’s room. It will also post motion- or sound-activated video and stills directly to YouTube and Picasa so you can quickly share with friends and the world. It runs on AC power and connects to the Internet via Ethernet or wirelessly. Up to 10 users can access the camera at the same time and an unlimited number of cameras can be added to the network. The SmartCam has night vision and even includes small speakers for two-way talk. http://www.samsung.com/us

 

IZON 2.0 WIFI Video Monitor

izon parents@playWe love the sleek look of the IZON, which has the look and feel of an Apple product and sets it apart from the rest of the crowd. This is a monitor for design lovers. It was easy to set up using a simple QR code that collects information on your local network. It was simple to use on our iPad and iPhone, and allows you to add multiple IZON cameras and view them at the same time. The IZON has motion and sound alerts, and can record up to 100 events for free to a designated cloud storage area. Sound and video are crisp, though not HD. However—and this is a big however—we can recommend the IZON only if your baby’s room always has a light on, since the monitor has neither LED nor infrared technology. http://steminnovation.com/

Four Ways Parents Can Capitalize on Pre-School

preschooler

how parents can make the best of preschoolMany parents send their children to pre-schools and other learning institutions to help their child develop and hopefully prepare to do well as a student and later as an adult. While selecting the right pre-school is a good first step, there are ways parents can continue at home what educators do at school to help their child get the most out of the process.

1. Find out What Your Child is Learning

Request a copy of your child’s curriculum from the school and talk with your child and your child’s teacher about what they are learning. That way as you are planning trips with your child, selecting library books or simply talking before bed you can incorporate some of the things your child is learning about. For example, if your child is learning about trees, take them to a park, national forest or even your back yard and talk about the things your child has learned. Encourage questions and exploring when doing this to enhance what the child is learning at school through new connections and discovery.

2. Work with the Teachers

Teachers may often notice things about their students learning habits that parents may not pick up on. By talking with and working with teachers to help your child learn, you are given a professional second opinion on what may help your child. Talk with your child’s teachers often to develop a relationship and be open to hear new ideas. On the other side, share with teachers any concerns or issues you have noticed. If your child has a particular form of discipline they respond to or any health issues, talk openly and frankly with teachers about how to manage those issues. The more you are able to talk openly with teachers the less frustrated you and the teacher will be, and your child will start getting the support he or she needs more quickly.

3. Create a Routine

While teachers can create and live by a routine while teaching school, they can’t control the schedule at home. As parents, creating a schedule for your child to go to bed on time, do their homework if they have any and even to eat meals is important for the child’s progress at school and physical development. Routine creates a sense of security for a child and helps him or her to relate to the world. Create a bed time routine and stick to it every night at a certain time. Complete homework or other assignments at the same time everyday and keep meal times as consistent as possible.

4. Read to Your Child

This is not a new idea, but it is still important. Reading to your child can open many opportunities both for learning and bonding. Along with obvious benefits of learning about whatever the book is about, reading can also teach the importance of learning, aid in developing speech patterns and word recognition and develop empathy and moral values. If your child is learning about letters or phonics, have the child point out letters or sounds he or she knows. Talk about what happens in the book and what the child learned from it. Reading at bed time is a good way to form a reading habit.

Kristen Thomas is an avid blogger and contributor to TheLearningExperience.com, a leading day care provider with quality child care centers in Texas.

Becoming a Child Whisperer + Army Chaplains + Mentoring Female Servicemembers and Vets

[amazon asin=B00A6HR884&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1:Carol Tuttle, author of The Child Whisperer.
Topic: The ultimate guide for raising happy, successful, cooperative children.
Issues:Have a happier, more cooperative child using less discipline; repair troubled parent/teen relationships; know exactly how to best motivate your child; foster more natural confidence and success in your child.

Interviews with


Seal of Approval Winners, Holidays 2012

mr. dad seal of approval

mr. dad seal of approval

Seal of Approval winners, Holidays 2012

PREGNANCY AND INFANCY

connect internet baby camera from summer infantConnect Internet Baby Camera Set (Summer Infant)
Summer Infant has a new set of monitors, all optimized for local and remote viewing. The Connect monitor is easy to set up and use immediately to view your baby from the other room or from across town. There is no ongoing fee for the service and free apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, as well as a website, makes it all possible. We even tried the customer service help line and found knowledgable people anxious to help a dad in need. This is a great product for dads who want to move beyond old-fashioned sound or video monitors and take advantage of the Internet to view the baby from the next room or the next continent. This product is not only perfect for fathers, but for everyone in the household. peaceofmind.summerinfant.com/connect/

TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS

my first career gear, astronaut from aeromax toysmy first career gear, pirate princess from aeromax toysMy First Career Gear (Aeromax Toys)
What’s not to like for dads in a collection of job uniforms sized for kids called “I WANNA BE LIKE DAD.” Aeromax, long a maker of quality “costumes” for creative play for kids (and older kids), has made this My 1st Career Gear series fitting most most kids from ages 3 – 5 years, for both boys and girls. My 1st Career Gear shirts are made of high quality print in great detail with most of the tools you will need to complete most jobs. Ideally, if you’re doing it right, it’s great that kids pass through a phase when they want to be exactly like mom or dad. This collection allows kids to dress up just like dad. www.aeromaxtoys.com

kimochisKimochis (Kimochis)
As parents, we all know that young children sometimes have a really tough time articulating their feelings. Sure, they can jump up and down when they’re excited, and cry when they’re sad, but what about all those times in between? Enter Kimochis, a completely unique line of toys that help very young kids tell us what they’re thinking. Each Kimochi (which means feelings in Japanese) is a soft and cuddly roundish mini pillow that has a facial expression on one side and the name of the emotion on the other. Those little pillow guys live inside one of five larger characters. Dads can use the Kimochis to help their little one recognize, better manager, communicate, and express their emotions. Ages 2 and up. www.kimochis.com

bubble ride CD from Vanessa TrienBubble Ride (CD by Vanessa Trien)
We’re big believers in the importance of music—and its power to create memorable experiences that families can share. Bubble Ride, Vanessa Trien’s third CD, fits the bill nicely. It’s a sweet collection of imagination-activating, movement-inspiring, conversation-sparking songs that cover a wide range of topics from silly to thoughtful. Dads and their kids will have no problem listening to quietly or jumping around and dancing along. Ages 3 and up. www.vanessatrien.com

 

 

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Bypassbypass from simply fun (SimplyFun)
Like many games, the basic challenge is pretty simple: Get from one side of the board to the other—in this case by building a road, piece by piece. The problem is that the other players are trying to build their own roads, and they’re trying to shut yours down in the process. Bypass! Doesn’t involve as much strategy as, say, Chess, but it does require a bit of spatial analysis, critical thinking, and flexibility to adapt to a constantly changing board. And besides being lot so fun and a great way to hang with the kids, particularly on those cold, rainy winter days, it’s also a great way for dads to admire their children’s ever developing brains in action. Ages 8 and up. www.simplyfun.com

don't rock the boat from patch productsDon’t Rock the Boat (Patch Products)
With all the high-tech toys that are out there, it’s surprising that anyone makes non-electronic toys anymore. Fortunately, Patch Products does. Don’t Rock the Boat is a really fun, easy-to-set-up and easy-to-clean-up. Think Suspend (a March, 2012 Seal of Approval winner), but with penguins. The boat in question is balanced precariously on a wave and each penguin sends the boat reeling in a different direction. See who can get the most penguins on the ship without knocking the whole thing over. And if you feel you absolutely must turn everything into a learning experience, there are some valuable lessons here in balance and load-distribution. Ages 6 and up. www.patchproducts.com

Lite Brix Building System - Extreme City Lights from Cra-Z-ArtLite Brix Building System – Extreme City Lights (Cra-Z-Art)
When you first start taking the Lite Brix out of the box, they look kind of boring. Almost all the bricks (which, in shape, look a lot like Lego) are the same color—kind of a translucent white. But once you and your child have built the first skyscraper and turned on the battery-powered LEDs, wow! And when you finally get all three up and running, wowie wow! The buildings seem almost alive. The detailed directions make it pretty easy for dad and child to assemble cooperatively—better yet, let your child read the instructions and show how well you can follow orders, Dad. The three buildings that are part of this kit can be rebuilt into a single structure and they can be combined with other Lite Brix kits. But don’t feel limited by the instructions. Lite Brix also combine with Lego, so you can build even bigger and even more amazing structures. Ages 6 and up. www.cra-z-art.com

Lay-N-GoLay-N-Go (Lay-N-Go)
If your kids have LEGOs, you also have LEGOs everywhere. Little pieces on the floor and sprinkled over random pieces of furniture. Lay-n-Go helps tame this problem by fencing in an area to keep the pieces while building. Drawstrings bring the play area together to make cleanup and carry a lot easier. This helps keep each project together with its pieces. Dads will want to get an extra one for other projects that involve small pieces. www.layngo.com

 

Bully Goats Gruff/Little Red Hen CD by Yvette LewisBully Goats Gruff/Little Red Hen(CD by Yvette Lewis)
No, that’s not a typo—Bully Goats Gruff is correct, and, as you might guess, it includes an anti-bullying message. The other piece on this CD, the Little Red Hen, also has a message, this one about sharing and cooperation. But in our view, the real value here is in the music. Professional opera singer Yvette Lewis (who wrote and sung the music) and Grammy award nominee Jimmy Hammer (who did the arranging) bring some serious musical firepower to the table and do a great job of introducing kids to the concept of opera as a singing story. The music is catchy enough that dads and kids will be able to sing along. Plus, each piece is followed by an instrumental version which gives everyone a chance to make up their own story and lyrics. www.operakids.com

Children's Spirit Animal Stories, Volume II, CD by Steven D. FarmerChildren’s Spirit Animal Stories, Volume II (CD by Steven D. Farmer)
There’s no substitute for reading to your child—it builds vocabulary, focus, concentration, opens up doors to the imagination, and is a wonderful opportunity to spend time cuddling with your children (no matter how old they are). Sometimes, though, it’s nice for dad and kids to listen to someone else read a story. And it’s especially nice if that story sparks interesting discussions. That’s exactly what Steven D. Farmer does in Volume II of Children’s Spirit Animal Stories. Witten and read by Farmer, the stories feature various animals (an elephant, a dolphin, a unicorn, and others) who are dealing with the same kinds of problems as we humans do. Farmer’s voice and reading style are engaging and he keeps the messages from being too heavy handed. We found that the real value is in the conversations that the stories spark. Dads can jump start things with questions like, “What would you do if you were Emma?” But most kids will already see themselves in the animals and will have plenty to say on their own. Ages 5 and up. www.satiama.com

mungi bands from techno sourceMungi Bands (Techno Soursce)
Taking the Silly Bandz concept (that is soooo last year) up a couple of notches, these clever, magnetic silicon bands let kids mix and match to create necklaces, bracelets, rings, anklets, hair ties, and more. And, although Mungi Bands were created by the father of three girls, boys will like them too–especially the sports-themed ones. And dads who are willing to wear Mungi Bands will earn the respect and admiration of their kids (well, maybe not), and will have a great opportunity to keep up to date on their kids’ interest in popular culture. Ages 6 and up. www.mungibands.com

TWEENS AND TEENS
Skylander Giants from Toys for Bob/ActivisionSkylanders Giants
(Toys for Bob/Activision)
The sequel the monster 2011 hit, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. If you haven’t met the Skylanders, there learning curve to get you up to speed is a little steep—but well worth it (though be warned: it will take you ten times longer than it takes your kids to master the game play). As with Sypro, the Skylanders characters exist both in the real world (beautifully crafted figurines) as well as in the video game world—place your figurines on the Portal of Power and they appear in the game. Having the figurines increases the opportunities for imaginative play. Whether you play with your child, against your child, or you wait until he’s gone to bed and you play by yourself, this game is a real blast. And with more than a dozen increasingly challenging levels, you’ll be busy for quite a while. We reviewed the Wii version, but the same figures (a total of around 50 ight now) can be used on Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U. 10 and up. www.skylanders.com/giants

JT Splatmaster Z200 ShotgunJT Splatmaster Z200 Shotgunn (JT Splatmaster)
JT SplatMaster is designed to be an outdoor shooting experience. But I must confess that my 9-year old daughter and I have used it inside too (our living room is really long and my daughter is a crack shot). The Z200 shoots small paint-filled pellets that do exactly what the name of the product promises: Splat! But don’t mistake Splat! for a lack of accuracy. Not at all. In fact the SplatMaster is so accurate that you can actually have shooting competitions. Another nice thing—especially if you’re shooting inside—is that cleanup is really easy. If you get to it quickly, the paint wipes right up. And the manufacturer says it won’t hurt the environment. A warning: Although the shotgun is a great fund, we strongly suggest that dads spend some time going over safety rules with their kids. Because there’s a lot of force behind those pellets, it’s extremely easy to get hurt. Goggles are essential and, if you’re planning to shoot at another person, everyone needs to be wearing appropriate protective gear. You can get all of that through the splatmaster website. Ages 9 and up. www.jtsplatmaster.com

Lies, Damned Lies, and the Stuff We Tell Our Kids

Okay, is there anyone out there who can honestly say he or she hasn’t lied to a child? We all do it and we know that everyone else does, but there’s something about reading a study that makes things sound a lot worse.

Turns out that 90 percent of parents have a whole arsenal of completely BS stories we tell our kids, according to Warbutrons, a major UK bakery firm. And this goes way beyond the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Here are some of the best lies (if you aren’t already using these, feel free to claim that you made them up):

[Read more...]

Encouraging Character and Curiosity + Navy Chaplains

Guest 1: Rick Ackerly, author of The Genius in Every Child.
Topic: Encouraging character, curiosity, and creativity in children.
Issues: How focusing on character, curiosity, and creativity at a young age lights the path to a successful life and academic achievement; how parents and teachers can build self-worth and confidence; the importance of allowing children to take on challenges, learn from disappointment, and take on responsibility.

Guest 2: Chaplain Dale White, CAPT, Operations Officer, Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains. Additional Resources:

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