contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Figaro’s 5 ways to teach a kid to argue

Posted by contentgrrl on January 26, 2012

Years ago, I ran across a site that put Aristotle firmly in mind for his three Rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. The site, which is lost now, gave some wonderfully homey examples of how a child could use the three appeals to convince her mother to let her go to a certain party.

Recently I ran across FigaroSpeech’s Teach a Kid To Argue.

What?! If you teach your kids to argue, they’ll talk back! They’ll second-guess you! They’ll question everything! They might think independently…oh, wait. I actually want that.

Here is Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse, according to Jay Heinrichs:

  • Argue to teach decision-making, by playing devil’s advocate. “You seem to have good reasons for what you want to do. But what’s going to happen next? What happens down the road? How does that affect your friends and family?”
  • Focus on the future. “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”
  • Call fouls. “Calling names is not going to win anyone over.”
  • Reward the right emotions. “Expressing anger with whining and shouting is not pathetic enough, because it doesn’t persuade me to empathize with you. Try using a calm, big boy voice.”
  • Let kids win sometimes. Reward a good argument.

Liking this better and better. Aren’t you?

Yep, I got the book: Thank You For Arguing. Chock full of pop culture examples to illustrate rhetorical devices. Thinking of getting his Word Hero once I have time to get through dozens of similar books on my shelf. Anyone read Heinrich’s latest?

And if any of you English & Rhetoric teachers out there can find me a great source on the three appeals, please share.

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free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: honorable mention

Posted by contentgrrl on December 16, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Here are our honorable mentions, which don’t get visits from us every week:

Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge site:

Over The Hedge site

Great characters, great animation. But not the most creative games: There’s a maze, a matching game, a “collect-the-nuts” game, and so on.

NickJr Playtime for Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go.

Funschool for a fairly engaging curriculum for many ages, and lots of variety of games for each level.

BoowaKwala for games up to age six, on a site that also offers games and craft activities up to age 10.

The Land of Cyke for games that focus on healthy emotional development for children.

Meddybemps for simple activities designed to prepare young children for learning across many different concepts and skills.

Posted in games, heroes, learning, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 5

Posted by contentgrrl on December 14, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Fifth on my list is Hasbro MonkeyBar TV:

Hasbro Monkeybar TV site

Between Star Wars Jedis, Transformers, and Spider-Man, this is fast becoming my boys’ favorite site. The older brother likes when Spider-Man gets shocked while climbing up a building of boobytraps.

But I was most impressed with the Video Mash-Up, where you can drag-and-drop video clips, sound clips, transitions and stills to create your own Transformers video. What a great skill to have!

Posted in heroes, learning, marketing, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 4

Posted by contentgrrl on December 12, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Fourth on my list are two similar sites from HiT Entertainment: Not the most creative of games, but nice brand-wise.

Thomas Train

Thomas Train site

Of course my boys love trains, and play with their cousins’ set at Grandpa’s. This site has their favorite characters, and like my brother at their age, they love to learn the parts and vocabulary of trains and other vehicles.

So there’s a race, jigsaw puzzles, a matching game, building with drag-and-drop Legos, and more.

I like the fact that this brand emphasizes the value of being Really Useful.

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder site

Of course my boys love those big construction machines!

Again, there’s a race, a “collect-the-sunflowers-for-points” game, more jigsaw puzzles, building with drag-and-drop Legos, and so on.

Posted in games, heroes, learning, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 3

Posted by contentgrrl on December 10, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Third on my list is PBS Kids:

PBS kids site

Like Playhouse Disney, PBS is also high on my list, but not as popular with my boys. Curious George unfortunately keeps getting in trouble, so I’m not sure I want to encourage sneaky unsafe behavior; but some of the games are nicely challenging in terms of pattern recognition (skates) and animal-sound matching. Much to my husband’s chagrin, they discovered Teletubbies, which plays on my boys’ love of babies to a cloying extent. But then there’s the Sesame Street, Between the Lions, and Mister Rogers. There are dozens of other show-related subsites for older kids too.

Posted in culture, games, heroes, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 2

Posted by contentgrrl on December 8, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Second on my list is Playhouse Disney.

Playhouse Disney

When we watch TV or record shows for the kids, typically it’s from Playhouse Disney because they don’t have to watch third-party commercials for things they don’t need like toys that make noise and junk food. Little Einsteins is for learning about music, instruments, composers, dancing, and art. Handy Manny is about being helpful, solving problems, and using the right tool for the job, with some Spanish sprinkled in. Of course, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a new classic. And Captain Carlos is my hero, for encouraging my kids to avoid junk food in favor of a healthy diet, so they can have more energy, sharper thinking, and better sleep. Some of the games on this site are really creative, and that’s why it’s high on my list.

Posted in games, heroes, heroines, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 1

Posted by contentgrrl on December 6, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

First is Starfall.

Starfall site

My neice-in-law turned me onto this site, after her daughter learned to read on it. It is absolutely the best program I’ve seen for teaching regular* kids letter sounds and letter combinations, building skills along an excellent curriculum with fun games, songs, stories to click around, and more.

There’s even a lesson on the alphabet in American Sign Language. And there are activities for every season and holiday on the Calendar: Earth Day’s cleanup is one of our favorites.

The lessons may be low in production value, but it’s very lightweight bitwise, so it can work in low bandwidth, while still being very colorful and full of great animation. I don’t know how they fund it (well, there’s a store with games, books, journals, plush dolls, and phonics packs), but bottom line, it’s a wonderful site, and I give a lot of credit to Starfall for making it easy for my sons to learn phonemes.

* The exception is one of my former employers, Creative Education Institute, which has the best program around for evaluating people with special learning needs and tutoring them in reading, English as a second language, and mathematics from number recognition to fractions. But unlike the Starfall site, the CEI systems are not free.

Posted in games, learning, reading, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

5 ways we’re trying to build our kids’ social skills and moral development

Posted by contentgrrl on November 30, 2007

Although Brazen Careerist inspired my last piece on 10 social skills to help our children build, I have to give due credit to Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg for the stages of moral development, and to Dr. Dale McGowan‘s book, blog, and forum for reinforcing the need to focus on raising ethical, caring children.

To me, those 10 social skills are important to transfer before my dear sons get lost in the mob of the classroom.
So here are five ways we’re working to build our kids’ social skills and moral development:

  • We take opportunities to discuss the choices facing us, the plausible results of each option, and how we’ll feel about those results. Not in so many words with the kids. More like, “You can do this, or that. If this, these next things happen. If that, those next things happen. Which do you want to happen, these or those? OK, then, should you choose this, or that?” (Still working on being consistent with this.)
  • We praise our boys highly when we notice them making good moral choices. We try to reinforce their pride in specific behaviors and rewards. Again, not in so many words. More like, “Thank you so much for helping to pick up your toys! Look what a great clean floor we have to run and roll around!” and “Thank you for helping to brush your teeth! Go show Daddy how fresh you are!” (Also working on consistency here too.)
  • Before we go out, we discuss what we might encounter and review the rules (such as safety precautions, responding to strangers, taking turns, standing in line, holding hands, voice volume).
  • We remind them to use courtesy with everyone we meet, and with all friends and family we visit.
  • Both boys are getting to the age where they need more socialization opportunities outside the care of their stay-at-home dad. Sure there are always little field trips to museums, zoos, the woods, the playground, the front yard, and visiting friends and family. After this summer’s Bible boot camp with the neighbors, we’re also starting the boys in a very liberal, Montessori-type Sunday school, using the SpiritPlay curriculum. And we’re looking into a summer pre-K program to ease the separation and grow more accustomed to classroom society. And down the line, I’m looking forward to some kind of scouting troop, to follow in the footsteps of my father, who it seems has always been at home in uniform.

Example: The other night, my husband found a teachable moment. Little brother was taking away toys, so big brother hit him. Sigh. Daddy admonished big brother, “Why do you think he is taking the truck away? Because he wants attention. Give him a little hug or a tickle, and say, ‘Do you want attention?’ and play with him.” Guess what? Little brother’s response was to laugh and they both played with a sunnier disposition.

Another example that comes up all the time? We talk about what goes on in the games we play and the shows we watch, and whether we would want to behave that way in real life.

These steps don’t guarantee good behavior. They don’t guarantee I can keep complete control of my children or keep them completely safe. And there are a few social skills my husband and I are still working on for ourselves.

But I hope that these steps will give our children the building blocks for making both great friends and ethical choices all their lives, and be my little heroes.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, heroes, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

12 social skills for kids to balance with the 3 Rs

Posted by contentgrrl on November 29, 2007

In Stop thinking you’ll get by on your high IQ, the Brazen Careerist compels me to see some social-skill gaps in my family. Will one of my boys be a wallflower with outlets in academics and stage like I was in gradeschool, or merely be aloof and mysterious? Will one of them be caught fighting every day like my red-headed husband was, the minority in a mostly dark-haired southwestern community? Will they feel more of a sense of alienation, or a sense of belonging? Will they be great-hearted and wise?

Our kids are not currently in daycare. My husband opted to become a stay-at-home dad. The big brother, almost 5, can count really high, read almost anything fast including movie subtitles and play all sorts of computer games. But he’s not unabashedly friendly like his 2-year-old little brother, who is just learning his songs, colors, and ABCs, and working so hard to keep up with big brother in art, make-believe, games, and roughhousing. Both are charming in their own ways. Their conversations are peppered with obscure quotes from movies, books, games, and songs. It’s puzzling to anyone who isn’t there playing with them on a daily basis.

So in addition to working on the fine motor skills like drawing shapes and letters, we’ve started to focus on social skills:

  1. Using courtesy (greeting, introductions, flattery, helping, please and thank-you, welcomes, bless you, excuse me, farewell).
  2. Keeping eye contact during a conversation (this is possibly more of a Western thing).
  3. Listening and reflecting what people say.
  4. Sharing and taking turns.
  5. Obeying rules, learning the consequences of guilt and exclusion for infringements.
  6. Choosing good, moral or helpful behaviors, and learning the rewards of pride and inclusion.
  7. Unlearning or avoiding nervous or offensive habits, like nailbiting, eating hair, nosepicking, tapping, foul language, and other behaviors that tend to alienate other people.
  8. Singing and playing along.
  9. Dealing with strangers. Some might become friends (and should be introduced repeatedly by parents). Some might be dangerous people we should stay away from.
  10. Distinguishing between truth vs. pretend. “Your name’s not really Spider-Man. Give them your real name.”
  11. Using humor to break the ice (something I need to work on myself).
  12. Reading nonverbal cues. For example, know to stop making that NOISE when somebody sighs heavily. Or change aggressive/coercive behavior to caring behavior when an expression changes to fear, pain, or sadness. Or empathize with a nervous new kid and say, “Hi, wanna be friends?”

Posted in community, culture, environment, heroes, learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

scoop on new parent site reviewing games kids play

Posted by contentgrrl on November 9, 2007

Yesterday, LA Times reporter Alex Pham asked (LinkedIn members click here for all answers), “As parents, do you ever wonder what exactly is in those video games your children are playing? How do you go about finding whether a game is appropriate for your child?”

I responded as follows:

I wouldn’t leave my kids completely alone to do whatever they wanted on their computers. Parents are responsible for their children’s welfare, offline and online.

There are cyberstalkers who may show up in online games sometimes known as massive multi-user games (MMUGs), which include online chat functions. Some of those deviants can persuade a child or teen to reveal information that could result in dangerous consequences.

Also, keep in mind that in addition to whatever the original game designers released, there are folks out there who offer skins, hacks, and cheats for download. I remember one first-person shooter where you could change the monsters into snacks like ice cream cones. I think I remember a story about another hack that allowed the San Andreas guy to see more skin than clothes on his “dates”.

Otherwise, I agree with most of these comments: Read others’ reviews, check the ESRB rating, and play it, or at least watch while your children do so. I rely heavily on Amazon.com’s reviews, as well as Gamespot.

Pham followed up with a few questions:

Q: Do you think that there are adequate resources out there for parents to make informed decisions about games their children play?
me: For all the games on the market, there are a multitude of resources. Perhaps not all in one place, which may make it difficult for parents. Opportunity may knock here.

Q: Do the ESRB descriptors tell you much of what you need to know as a parent?
me: I wouldn’t rely wholly on ESRB. ESRB is not likely to review anything outside of the game per se. But since cheats, hacks, and skins are not always tied to the game producer, it’s difficult to monitor them to standards. There is a lot that remains out of the control of the ESRB.

Q: Are traditional game reviews informative in that regard?
me: To an extent. Most reviewers follow a certain structure of software or game review, and most modern review sites offer community features such as user ratings and comments.

After that, it turned into a phone interview for an article on a site Pham said was called What They Play (I now have the link), to be launched Monday by (correction: former) executives of Ziff Davis.

I’m a long-time fan of ZDNet’s reviews for all sorts of software and technology products. They already have a site, 1up.com, that includes the latest game reviews, news, previews, codes, cheats, contests, guides, and q&as. But 1Up is mostly geared for the gamer.

Apparently, What They Play is for the parents. I’d say it’s also good for grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and other caregivers. Anyone who may be concerned about objectionable content and other details that would help them make decisions about whether to buy a particular game for a child. Anyone who wants more detail than what they find on the ESRB label on the retail box.

I’m hoping it will include information about the educational value of certain games. Sure, I’ll watch for objectionable content for my nephews aged 8 and 12, but more importantly, what will they learn? Will I find everything I need to make a decision in one place? Will games be filtered or categorized according to content appropriate for different age groups? Will that be more detailed than E for everyone, T for teen, and M for mature?

I’m also interested in more specific violence statistics or descriptors. On Buffyverse‘s episode synopsis, you could see how many humans, vampires, and demons were killed, as an indicator of just how violent Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel the Series was. I know that a game is not that static, but some kind of rating for each kind of violence would be helpful. Assume it’s more disturbing to see a human killed than a big Bad. Is bad behavior rewarded in various quests, as in Grand Theft Auto, Thief, and Oblivion? Or is heroism rewarded, as in Spider-Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Is it easy to find games that encourage reading, moral decision-making, applications of what you learn in school, creative problem-solving, environmental stewardship, and political activism?

I wonder, who else has heard of What They Play? I’m looking forward to the launch, and to the LA Times story on Monday.

Posted in community, culture, games, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »