Up to date information about children’s entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for January, 2012

Sylvan Learning offers house rules for “digital” kids

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Sylvan_1.jpgThe holidays are over. The New Year has started. Over the holidays, many kids may have received tech-toys for gifts. Computers, video games, cell phones, and electronic screens are ubiquitous in our lives and the lives of our kids. As the New Year is getting underway, we want to keep our kids clearly focused rather than busily distracted. Technology has played and can play a crucial role in education, but there are important rules for using any tech device.

Whether texting, surfing the web or playing video games, research shows that kids between the ages of eight and 18 spend more than seven hours a day with gadgets.* “That, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad,” says Dr. Richard Bavaria, senior vice president for education outreach for Sylvan Learning. “Balance, as in every other aspect of life, is key. A variety of helpful resources have made technology an integral part of our lives and how we learn. While technology has introduced many portals of enhanced learning, it can also be a distraction in kids’ lives – offering kids easy ways to get sidetracked, diverted and overwhelmed.”

To help kick-start a successful year, Sylvan Learning, the leading provider of tutoring services to children of all ages and skill levels, offers parents and families the following tips to find the right balance for using technology efficiently and effectively.

Your rules rule. Have clear guidelines for kids to follow. Like all rules for children, the clearer and simpler, the better. If you’re unsure how to start, talk to trusted teachers at school, other parents in the community, or look at good online sites.
Set time limits. A good rule of thumb for teens is two hours of screen time per day, including schoolwork. For elementary schoolers, it’s less. No screen-time just before bedtime. Decide what will work best for your family.
Set place limits. Ban electronic screens at dinnertime, for example, or when the family is having a discussion or enjoying family time together. Many families find that for younger kids, it’s best if the computer is in the family room – not in the kids’ rooms – and used only when an adult is present, monitoring.
Schoolwork comes first. Study and chores come before socializing and games. So does anything else you decide – writing that thank you note, going to Sunday school, helping the next door neighbor.
Stress privacy. Explain to your children why you won’t permit them to give out personal information about themselves or their family, to meet with strangers they’ve “met” online, or to spend money online. Just be realistic and firm.
Stress common sense. It is good sense not to allow downloading or uploading – music, movies, or photos for instance – without your permission. Show kids how their online words and pictures are, for all intents and purposes, permanent. Just as we watch what we say in our speech, we need to do the same thing online.
Be a role model. You’re a role model in everything you do and say as a parent, including using technology. Let the kids see you using your computer, phone, and other devices to make your life easier, more efficient, more fun. Show how you’re in control of it, not the other way around: i.e. if you say no gadgets at dinner time, don’t pick up the phone yourself.

Technology, when used effectively, helps enable and empower our children’s educational lives. The key lies in setting boundaries on kids’ electronic use. For more information, visit www.sylvanlearning.com.

* According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans between the age of 8 and 18 spend on average 7.5 hours a day using some sort of electronic device, from smart phones to MP3 players to computers.

VOTE! Help KIDS FIRST! Select Our 2012 Youth Film Critics

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

vote6_1.jpgPlease help KIDS FIRST! determine who the winners of our 2012 Youth Film Critics Search Campaign will be. We have 62 entries this year and they are absolutely adorable.Go to WonderworldTV/kidsfirst to view the contestants video reviews of this year’s official search titles and cast your vote. I promise you, they will bring a smile to your face as they are really darling.
Public voting determines 20 of the 24 finalists and the winners are determined by our celebrity panel of judges:  Thelma Adams, contributing editor for Yahoo and author of the “Thelma Adams on Reel Women” column that runs on AMC Filmcritic.com, and who was the film critic at Us Weekly for 11 years; Mark Cuban, owner of the HDNet Movies, Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures; Ben Lyons, E! film critic and frequent contributor to “Good Morning America”; and George Pennacchio, entertainment reporter for “ABC7 Eyewitness News” and host of ABC7’s “Evening at the Academy Awards” pre-show and post-show.

Right now – it is YOUR VOTE that counts the most! So, please, take a bit of time, watch the contestants’ video reviews and CAST YOUR VOTE. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are some links to this year’s critics:

Beauty and the Beast 3D

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Arthur Christmas
And, don’t miss this – our radio show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions on Voice America Kids, a division of Voice America. This is internet radio so past episodes may be listened to at any time. Here’s our most recent show. 

War Horse – Should You Take Your Kids To It?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

WarHorse.jpgThe acclaimed War Horse play and children’s book is now on the big screen! War Horse is a heartwarming tale about a father who buys a horse for his son on a whim. His son, Albert played by Jeremy Irvine, develops an unbreakable bond his horse, Joey. However, World War I approaches, and Joey is drafted into the military. Will the two ever reunite?

The movie has a charming story. When I interviewed the author of the children’s book War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, he told me that his book shows how war does not only produce a severe effect on people, but with animals too, specifically horses. It is interesting watching director Steven Spielberg’s translation of that theme onto film. One notable scene shows the horse, Joey, galloping fiercely through no man’s land, but is forced to slow down after he is tangled in a bunch of wires. After intense war, both opposing sides come together to untangle the horse! I found it touching because it shows that it takes both sides to solve a problem, and when the movie shows both soldiers cutting the wires from the horse, I thought of it as a symbol like they were ending their conflicts between each other. The cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, filmed the scene beautifully, which helped produce such an emotional effect on the audience.

The cinematography in general is wonderful, especially when Kaminski zooms in the feet of the horses and the faces of the horses as they gallop across the vast fields. Most of the beauty of the movie comes from the horses, and I think the horse trainers did an impeccable job, particularly ZelieBullen since she trained the main horse, Joey. I recommend this movie to teens ages 13 and up. It is a pleasant family film because it is not too brutal, yet it still packs in all of the action and intensity of war. The movie is a bit slow in the beginning, so younger teens may get bored, but it quickly picks up the pace as the war begins. This is a moving tale to watch and will bring the entire family together for the holidays.

Reviewed by Gabriella Chu, age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.

Video Review available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWkcjuxuJRw

We Bought a Zoo – Funny, sad and really cool

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

WeBoughtZoo.jpg9-year-old Anthony Aranda reviewed We Bought a Zoo for us and here’s what he had to say about it: I really like this movie; it was kind of funny, a little sad, but really cool.

This movie is all about Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon, who is living with his family in the city trying to deal with the death of his wife and raise his two kids. His son Dylan is not doing so well and keeps getting into trouble. He finally gets expelled and so they have to find him a new school. Benjamin decides that it’s time for them to move and start a new life and they find a really cool house out of the city and want to buy it. But they soon realize that this house comes with a zoo. His daughter Rosie loves the house though so they decide to give it a try.

Some of the main characters in the movie are Benjamin Mee, Kelly Foster, Duncan, Dylan, and Rosie. My favorite character is Benjamin because he is a really funny character. When he gets mad he does some really funny stuff like throwing a tantrum all by himself, which kept me laughing. He is also a really good dad even though he doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing.
My favorite part in the movie is when Benjamin Mee is inside the porcupine pit and he thinks they are nice at first but then the porcupine started running after him and he jumped over the fence and landed on pointy stuff. So when they tried to take them off he kept screaming! That was really funny.

I would recommend this movie for ages 10 and up because there are some scary parts in this movie that younger kids might not like. The movie is sad because the mom dies and the family is still trying to deal with that. The pictures that Dylan draws are kind of violent and scary and there is also some kissing in the movie that is not appropriate for younger viewers.  Go out and see this movie in theaters or buy it when it comes out on DVD

Credit: Anthony Aranda, age 9, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

PBS Kids Expands Math Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Expanding its PBS KIDS Lab site, which offers more than 50 cross-platform games designed to help children ages 2-8 build critical math skills, PBS today announced new additions that will provide even more support to caregivers and teachers. These include bilingual translations of parental instructions and resources like a “Home Activities” section, math tips for families to use in their daily activities, and a new blog series with content related to kids and media.  PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are partners on this project, which is part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, a U.S. Department of Education-funded effort that aims to help kids build the skills they need for school success.

“Parents and caregivers play a critical role in supporting their children’s learning,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS.  “At PBS KIDS our goal is to offer families resources to help make anytime a learning time – whether it’s through an online game, or activity ideas that parents and kids can do together while they are out running errands.  The PBS KIDS Lab offers parents tools that are flexible to spark their kids’ imaginations and excitement about learning, and to help them build skills for success in school.”

Math has typically been a challenging curricular area for parents and caregivers to help their children better understand.  According to a recent study1, parents “may create fewer opportunities for children to learn about mathematics than language” and “concrete examples of how to maximize children’s mathematics interests would help parents overcome their mathematics anxieties and show parents why early mathematics education is important.”  To help parents support their children’s math learning, PBS KIDS recommends introducing number, counting and basic mathematical concepts by adding simple activities to a family’s daily routine like these five easy ideas, with more available on the PBS KIDS Lab site.

When driving in the car, count the trees as you pass by.
Call out street signs and identify their shapes.
Count aloud the seconds it takes for a child to brush his/her teeth.
Cook with the kids; count ingredients.
Play grocery store with household items. Count out the change.

“By taking activities that children already enjoy and adding elements of play that foster a better understanding of math, we are bringing mathematical thinking into everyday life in a fun and natural way.  The combination of playing games through the PBS KIDS Lab site and then extending the games at home or in the neighborhood helps to create lifelong students of math,” said Debra Sanchez, Senior Vice President for Education and Children’s Content at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.   “Through the support of the Ready to Learn Grant in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, we are providing programming and content that actively engages young children in learning.”

Available for free, the PBS KIDS Lab (PBSKIDS.org/lab) is the largest offering of interactive math content for preschoolers to date with games that comprise several suites, each of which is centered around a beloved PBS KIDS media property – from CURIOUS GEORGE to THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!.  Each suite links a set of games across different devices and is built around a math framework, leveraging games on a variety of platforms to support key math skills. The Lab also aggregates games by age and skill area so that adults can search for the games that will be the best fit for their kids. Additionally, the site helps parents and teachers learn how the games support learning by providing details on the games’ curriculum-based content.

The PBS KIDS Lab furthers PBS KIDS’ efforts to innovate across platforms to both educate and entertain America’s children.  PBS KIDS is increasingly serving children wherever they live, learn, and play – online, on mobile devices, on TV, and in the classroom.

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