Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Spooky Kids' Books for Halloween and Beyond

    Halloween reads can range from sweet and silly to totally spooky.Halloween reads can range from sweet and silly to totally spooky.By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media book editor

    Finding the right book for your kid can be a challenge. But if you guess right and keep new ones coming, you may be on your way to raising a lifelong reader.


    Every month Common Sense Media highlights a few books for different ages -- some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to pique your kid's interest, get your reader hooked on a new author, or rediscover an old favorite.


    Here are our picks for October:

    • For kids 3 to 7, there's Click, Clack, Boo! by the award-wining team of author Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin. If you loved their Caldecott Honor Book Click, Clack, Moo, you'll be happy to see the barnyard crew -- cows, sheep, chickens, cats, pigs, and ducks -- once again vexing Farmer Brown. He hates Halloween and its spooky sounds, and he hides under the covers, away from trick-or-treaters and spooky sounds, while the animals host a festive costume party in the barn. The two converge to humorous effect. A
    Read More »from Spooky Kids' Books for Halloween and Beyond
  • Apps and Games to Spark Kindness and Compassion

    October is National Bullying Prevention Month.October is National Bullying Prevention Month.By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media app editor

    Kindness and compassion. These "soft skills" are ones that parents may think come naturally to their children. After all, your kids are good kids. You show them kindness and compassion, therefore they'll show it to others.

    As many parents have discovered, it's not always that simple. Kids can be cruel. And online tools make it easier to torment a peer in an ongoing, public, and often anonymous way.

    Schools deal with bullying -- cyber and otherwise -- on a daily basis, and many are trying to address this behavior before it starts by helping kids develop crucial social-emotional skills like kindness, empathy, identifying emotions, and looking at things from another's perspective. My kids' elementary school offers a couple of great programs -- Second Step and Roots of Empathy -- and my son's teacher is currently stocking her classroom library with books on social-emotional skills.

    But with young kids today spending a quarter of their

    Read More »from Apps and Games to Spark Kindness and Compassion
  • 5 Tips for Picking Your Preschooler's First TV Shows

    When you're 2 or 3, every show is a new show.When you're 2 or 3, every show is a new show.By Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media editor


    Anyone who thinks that "binge watching" is a new phenomenon in the age of Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes has clearly never watched TV with a preschooler. When little kids find a show they love, not only do they want to watch every episode, they're more than happy to watch the same episodes over and over -- which is one of the reasons it's important to make sure your kid's first show (or shows) are really worth their time and won't drive you crazy, either.

    The good news is that, for kids who've never watched TV before, every show is a new show, so you can take your pick of classics and hidden gems, as well as the latest things on PBS Kids or Disney Junior.

    Try these tips when picking your kid's "starter shows":

    • Look for shows with short episodes. Although each "episode" of many preschool shows (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, for example) may technically have a 25- to 30-minute runtime, many of them actually include a couple of shorter
    Read More »from 5 Tips for Picking Your Preschooler's First TV Shows
  • 5 Worst Fall TV Shows for Families

    Who wants to laugh at alcoholism, overweight kids, and racist jokes?Who wants to laugh at alcoholism, overweight kids, and racist jokes?By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media TV editor

    Every fall the networks barrage the TV-viewing audience with new shows. Luckily, this year teens and families have several great options to choose from, but as usual, expect a few bombs.

    With cliches, laugh tracks, and tasteless humor, these five shows are either just plain bad or include some really rotten messages for kids and families. Watch if you will, but make sure to start conversations with kids about why some TV shows resort to using stereotypes and touchy topics to get laughs. (Hint: Ka-ching!)

    Dads, 1 star, pause 14+

    If you're craving jokes about clueless old guys or sexy Asian schoolgirls, then you should tune in to Dads. But if you're not that into stereotypes about gender, ethnicity, age, and more, you've come to the wrong place. Asian American organizations have asked the network to reshoot the pilot because of an offensive plot point, and they've refused. Edgy comedy is one thing; this is something entirely different.

    Read More »from 5 Worst Fall TV Shows for Families
  • 14 Music Games and Apps for Budding Composers

    Music education imparts real-world skills kids can use for a lifetime.Music education imparts real-world skills kids can use for a lifetime.By Shira Lee Katz, Director of Digital Media, Common Sense Media


    My friend Nina's teenage son, Carlo, is impressive. He's not a typical achiever in the As-and-honor-roll sort of way, but he's quietly determined and creative. The kind of kid who has a lot going on under the surface.

    The thing is, he's just not that talkative. When I come over for dinner, Carlo greets me at the door with raised eyebrows and headphones that swallow his ears. But his ultra-cool look softens when I ask him what he's been up to.

    "Writing music!" he exclaims.

    I've never seen him grin so big. Nina explains that he recently discovered Garageband -- Apple's easy-to-use music-creation program -- and hasn't emerged from his room since.

    Carlo found his connection to music as a teenager, but it's never too early to introduce it your kids. Music can benefit kids in so many ways: by helping them express themselves, by teaching them to be patient and disciplined, by training them to think creatively, and

    Read More »from 14 Music Games and Apps for Budding Composers
  • 5 Best Fall TV Shows for Teens and Families

    A TV editor's picks for this season's top shows. A TV editor's picks for this season's top shows. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media TV editor

    Maybe it's the competition from streaming TV, or maybe it's just good timing, but after a few disappointing seasons, traditional TV networks are seriously stepping up their game. From quirky comedies to thrilling dramas, the 2013 network TV line-up offers some great new shows for families to enjoy together.

    While it's sometimes hard to pick the winners and losers based on pilots or clips, we feel pretty confident that these few shows will have something positive to offer families and teens.


    The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC), On 12+

    Fox is one of TV's most beloved comedians, and this show demonstrates that his Parkinson's disease hasn't dampened his sense of humor. In a wonderfully meta manner, this comedy takes Fox's real-life situation (as a father with Parkinson's and a supportive wife, who's reentering the public sphere after being out of the limelight for many years) and turns it into comedy gold. Could be a great pick for

    Read More »from 5 Best Fall TV Shows for Teens and Families
  • Back-to-School Books for Kids and Teens

    There are lots of great kids' reads for September. There are lots of great kids' reads for September. By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media editor

    Finding the right book for your kid can be a challenge. But if you guess right and keep new ones coming, you may be on your way to raising a lifelong reader.

    Check out Common Sense Media's Essential Books for Kids and Teens guide to find more than 150 of our perennial favorites. Plus, every month, we highlight a few books for different ages -- some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to perk your kid's interest, get your reader hooked on a new author, or rediscover an old favorite.

    Here are our picks for September:

    • For kids 5 to 8, there's Year of the Jungle, an autobiographical picture book by Suzanne Collins with cartoon-like illustrations by James Proimos, which hits bookstores Sept. 10. The Hunger Games author shows the loneliness and confusion a child feels when a parent is off fighting in the military, drawing on her own experience as a little girl whose dad was off serving in Vietnam. With so many families affected by
    Read More »from Back-to-School Books for Kids and Teens
  • 6 Skills Every Kid Should Know Before Kindergarten

    By Seeta Pai, Vice President of Research and Digital Content at Common Sense Media

    Stressed out about your kid's entry into kindergarten? Scouring the Web for resources to help your little one learn letters, numbers, shapes, and colors before school even starts?

    All parents want their kid to be prepared for kindergarten. And many of us turn to preschool and pre-K educational products hoping for an advantage. But the truth is, kindergarten readiness is less about the ABCs and 123s than you might think. What really makes for a successful start to schooling may surprise you.

    We've rounded up the six most important things you can do to get your child ready for kindergarten, with suggestions for great media picks that may help:

    • Encourage a love of learning. While kindergarten may be your immediate focus, you're really laying the foundation for lifelong learning. It's more important for your child to enjoy learning than to master facts and figures. Nurture curiosity, encourage
    Read More »from 6 Skills Every Kid Should Know Before Kindergarten
  • 15 Apps, Games, and Sites to Start the School Year Right

    These apps, games, and sites will jump-start core skills.These apps, games, and sites will jump-start core skills.By Common Sense Media editors

    Every school year, kids encounter new concepts that build on the previous year's learning. For most, the bulk of this work is in the core subjects -- language and reading, math, science, and social studies. Tackling new concepts and engaging in schoolwork can be difficult for some kids but exciting for others, and it can vary from subject to subject. Look ahead for what's to come with these 15 engaging apps, websites, and games from Common Sense Media's new Back-to-School Guide. From letter writing and counting to quadratic equations and the water cycle, these enriching activities help kids build a range of essential academic and 21st-century skills -- and have fun at the same time!

    For nearly 100 apps, games, and sites that help kids of all ages sharpen core skills, check out our full Back-to-School guide!



    **READ AND WRITE WITH A PURPOSE**

    Curiosityville

    For ages 2-6
    Charming site tracks kids' progress in learning games.

    Scribblenauts Unlimited
    For

    Read More »from 15 Apps, Games, and Sites to Start the School Year Right
  • 4 Apps to Boost Math Skills Before School Starts

    4 ways to keep math practice fun.4 ways to keep math practice fun.By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media editor

    Want to sharpen your kids' math skills before school starts? Luckily, daily math practice doesn't have to be drill-and-kill. We found four highly engaging math apps that will help kids brush up their skills in a fun -- and totally painless -- way.

    1. Marble Math: This fantastic app is a winner of the Common Sense Media ON for Learning Award. In it, kids see math problems at the top of the screen, such as "Collect fractions that add up to 2," and then navigate through a maze with their marble to pick up answers to the problem.
    Skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, Roman numerals, decimals, negative numbers, and more

    --> Why We Like It

    • The tricky mazes are fun to move through and solve.
    • It empowers kids to customize the experience to their needs by selecting their level of difficulty, the specific skills they want to focus on, and more.
    • Kids get good feedback and help; the "show me" button lets kids see the
    Read More »from 4 Apps to Boost Math Skills Before School Starts

Pagination

(323 Stories)