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Zoodles to the Rescue! Five Stressful Moments When Kid Mode Has Your Back

Monday, August 26th, 2013

By Giselle Berwald

As parents, we know there are those inevitable moments in life when our toddler will have a meltdown, or our first-grader will be overtaken with boredom. Some of these moments are easy to avoid, but below are a few moments that we parents here at Zoodles didn’t see coming. So read on and be better-prepared than we were, just make sure to have your fully-charged phone with you at all times!

1. The Required Bathroom Stop
You try to avoid bathroom runs at all costs when you’re solo with your two-year-old son, but when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go! Just when you’re seated and most vulnerable, he discovers that he can both peek and crawl under the stalls in public restrooms. Before your son can elicit a shriek from the lady seated next to you, turn on Kid Mode and entice him back with that familiar Zoodles jingle.

2. The DMV Drama
You responsibly scheduled an appointment to renew your driver’s license at the DMV, so you’ll surely be in and out in no time. But when a cranky octogenarian refuses to accept that she failed the driving test, you cringe at the parade of foul words headed straight for your child’s impressionable ears. Luckily, Kid Mode is just a few button taps away, where furry monsters who sing about eating their vegetables can drown out even the loudest potty mouths.

3. The Barista-in-training
You’re sure that you recited your drink order clearly to the cashier, yet for the second time this morning, the new barista has whipped up the wrong concoction. Your hungry child is starting to eye the sugar-laden treats in the glass case, and if you don’t distract her soon, the whole cafe is in for a high-wailing, arm-flailing performance. Hand her your phone in Kid Mode and you’re good for at least another five attempts at the correct order.

4. The Mandatory Toy Store Errand
You waited until the last minute to purchase a gift for your niece’s 4th birthday party. So with just hours to spare, you now must venture to the toy store with your own child in tow. Entering a toy store with a child who won’t be receiving anything himself may not have been the best parenting decision you’ve ever made, but there you (both) are. Just find a game in Kid Mode featuring your child’s favorite character and he’ll never even notice that, right next to him, there are thirty items featuring that friendly talking train.

5. Sibling Envy
You encourage your children to follow their interests and you like to sign them up for a variety of activities. But although your oldest claims to have no desire to practice that saxophone you bought him, he always has a sudden interest in shaking a maraca when his little sister is at toddler music class. And even though you bring glitter stickers to her brother’s rock-climbing camp, your toddler simply can’t grasp that scaling a wall dotted with bolted shapes will probably end in tears. You can always be sure that Zoodles has age appropriate games and videos that turn whines into smiles.

The Secret Power of Reading and How to Encourage It

Monday, April 8th, 2013
By Rebecca Butler Global Content Manager

By Rebecca Butler, Global Content Manager

Kids are natural storytellers. They narrate their worlds as a series of adventures and they haven’t forgotten the wonder in everyday experiences. Because of this, showing children the joy of reading is a great way to encourage learning. Young children especially are primed to absorb the lessons woven into classic tales: they learn about the value of quality work while reading “The Three Little Pigs”; they learn about vanity in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; or they read stories about other places and times and these stories can burst open their understanding of the world and of themselves.

The secret power of reading is that these lessons are woven into the stories themselves. Children discover values and facts through experiencing the story, through imagining and immersing themselves in it, rather than by someone else telling them the answers. This doesn’t mean that caregivers and teachers don’t have an important role in fostering children’s engagement with stories – they do! When you read to your child, or talk to your child about what they’ve read, there are many questions you can ask and conversations you can start that will help deepen their learning.

With very young kids, questions can be as simple as pointing to an image in the book and asking, “What’s that?” Give your child a moment to figure it out – watch that brow furrow and imagine the neurons firing and connecting underneath. “And what sound does a cow make?” you might ask as a follow-up (get ready to moo). Or perhaps, “Yes, an airplane! Do you remember when we saw an airplane in the sky when we were at the park?” No need to ask a question every sentence – you can take your cues from your child. You may find that as you start asking questions during storytime, your child will start asking questions as well, and a new rhythm to your reading may emerge.

A reading warning: young children, especially preschoolers, love hearing the same story over and over…and over. This can be challenging for us adults. The best way I’ve found to overcome the tedium of reading “Goodnight Moon” for the fourth time in a row is to remind myself of the amazing learning process happening inside their brains as they listen to their favorite stories multiple times – how they’re taking in syntax and vocabulary, how they’re noticing the way certain words on the page correspond to certain sounds even before they can make sense of all those squiggly lines. (That said, sometimes storytime needs to be over, and we’re only going to read “Goodnight Moon” once…okay twice.)

Slightly older readers can be challenged to think about the more subtle messages contained in stories: “Why do you think everyone pretended to see the Emperor’s clothes? Were they pretending? Or did they actually think they saw the clothes?” You can encourage them to think beyond the confines of the story: “Where do you think the weavers went after they disappeared?” And you can tie elements of the story back to their own lives: “Remember when it took you a long time to finish your homework, but you stuck with it? That reminds me of the Tortoise. Did you feel like him when you were working so hard?”

These are just a few jumping-off points. The more you engage in the magic of stories with your child, the more you’ll discover about what lights them up, and what kinds of questions pique their curiosity and delight. Reading is one of the keys to the secret garden of our imagination – what a wonderful gift to give to your child.

Happy Reading!

momandsonreading

Nine Great Music Apps for Kids

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
By Rebecca Butler Global Content Manager

By Rebecca Butler, Global Content Manager

Looking for some new ways to hone your child’s musical ear? Check out these great apps that introduce the fundamentals of music as children play and create.




Ages 2 – 3

Wheels(2)

Wheels on the Bus

Your child will engage in musical exploration by singing along to music played on different instruments and by clicking on parts of the bus to make them move.



Sesame(2)

Sesame Songs

Your child will practice letter recognition and character development while listening to Sesame Street tunes sung by Elmo, Cookie Monster, and other familiar characters.


BabyPiano(2)

Baby Piano Lite

Your child practices a recognition of rhythm and learns three classic nursery rhymes while playing a piano. Children can follow along with the highlighted keys, play freely, and even record themselves!



Ages 4 – 6

MagicalBox(5)

Magical Music Box

Your child develops curiosity and exploration by cranking a box and listening to music play. The free version includes 8 instrumental songs and 3 themes, while the paid version includes 26 songs and 7 themes.


KidsGames(5)

Kids Games

Your child will explore graphic design, number recognition, music and more by playing four games designed to target different learning skills.



SightWords(5)

Sight Words for Reading

Your child will practice common sight words while watching music videos. Words in the videos are introduced in context to help teach their meaning. Your child will also practice vocabulary skills with the help of a flash card quiz.



Ages 7 – 8

SingSing(7)

Sing Sing Story

Watch your child read or follow along as stories, chants, and songs are read and sung aloud. There are three stories available: “The Sun and the Wind,” “As Big as the Ox,” and “The Red Shoes.”

PianoPro(7)

Little Piano Pro

Your child will play music on a miniature piano with 13 keys and 1 octave. The app features simple melodies like “Happy Birthday,” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Old McDonald,” and more. There are over 20 melodies to learn and 7 additional instruments to play.

JunoMusic(7)

Juno JR Day the Music Stopped

Your child will follow Juno and her brother Rai Rai on a journey to Harmonia Springs, a 3D world where everything is made of music. Your child can read or follow along as a musical eBook reads out loud. There are interactive pictures, two short games, and music videos embedded into the story.

Why Play Is Great for Kids

Monday, February 11th, 2013
By Rebecca Butler Global Content Manager

By Rebecca Butler
Global Content Manager

We at Zoodles are all about bringing fun and education together. Every day, we hear feedback from parents who are thrilled to see their kids happily playing while learning. Even so, Play tends to get a bad rap as something that eats into “real learning” time. So we thought we’d give Play some of the praise it deserves.

It Encourages Initiative and Intrinsic Motivation

We all tend to work harder and longer at something when we enjoy doing it, and it turns out that kids are no different. A classic study by psychologists Mark R. Lepper and David Green split preschoolers up into three groups: one group was told they’d get a reward after finishing a drawing activity, one group wasn’t told anything about a reward, and one group received a surprise reward after the activity. It turns out that the kids who were told they’d get a reward were much less likely to draw in the future than children who weren’t given a reward, or who were given a surprise reward. (You can read more about the results of the study here.)

The study showed that play initiated by children is more likely to support intrinsic motivation (doing something because you want to do it rather than doing something for outside rewards). Intrinsic motivation is linked to higher levels of satisfaction and longer periods of engagement – two qualities that help kids do well in school.

It Stimulates Creativity

Play blog pic

In another study discussed in the book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, 4 and 5 year olds were tested on their ability to complete a simple task that seemed impossible: a piece of chalk, a jewel, or another little treasure was placed by researchers inside a box. The kids sat in chairs around the box and were asked to get the treasure out of the box without leaving their chairs, or even leaning forward. (The solution was to attach nearby sticks together in order to pull the box toward a chair.)

The kids were split into three groups: one group was given the solution right before trying to solve it, one group wasn’t given any instructions, and one group had free time to play with the sticks before the experiment started, but they weren’t given the solution. The results? The kids who had played with the sticks before the experiment started worked enthusiastically until they’d solved the problem. Kids in the other groups were much more likely to try briefly and then give up. It seems, the researchers decided, that play can help teach a concept before it’s formally introduced, and can help increase creativity and imagination.

It Helps Kids See the Wider World as a Place to Learn

Learning happens everywhere, not just inside the classroom. When a child in the supermarket plays an educational game on their parent’s phone, the child begins to see learning as something that can happen in many different forms and in many different places. Suddenly, school doesn’t have to be the place where you learn (or worse, “work”) and the outside world the place where you play. Both play and learning can happen together, and they can happen anywhere!

So next time you see your child “just playing,” no need to worry that they’re losing valuable learning time. Often, “just playing” has wonderful educational benefits for young kids.

New updates to our Video Mail feature

Monday, January 7th, 2013

To ring in the new year, we’ve made a long-awaited update to our Video Mail feature.  New in the update:

  • Parents can now send video messages from their Android device
  • Parents can view / manage messages their children have sent or received on their Android device
  • Kids can now view the messages they create

This update includes some of our most highly requested features, so we hope you’ll check everything out and let us know what you think!

To explore the changes, launch our Kid Mode app, tap the Parent Dashboard, and tap Video Mail.

Zoodles is joining the HTC family

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

We started Zoodles in late 2008 with the ambitious mission of improving the lives of children across the world.  Since our launch in early 2009, the feedback from parents, teachers, and children has been incredibly positive and over 2 million children across the world have used Zoodles to safely and independently play and learn on phones, computers and tablets.

zoodles-htcToday we are excited to announce that we will be joining HTC with the goal of bringing Zoodles to the billion+ children in the world who haven’t yet played and learned with our product.  Like Zoodles, HTC puts users at the center of everything they do, and we have a shared passion for creating a safe and educational environment for children across their products.

We know that parents have many different types of devices from many different manufacturers, and we want to make sure that all those devices continue to have Kid Mode.  Therefore, we will continue with our strategy of making Zoodles available across different devices (smartphones, tablets, computers) and different platforms (Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Windows, etc.).  Simply stated, Zoodles will continue to be available on both HTC devices and non-HTC devices.

Having said that, we’re really excited about the unique and deeply integrated experiences we can create for kids using HTC devices.  On the HTC Flyer, for instance, we’ve been able to combine the innovative HTC Scribe technology with our Art Studio feature!

We have a lot of work ahead of us and so we have a simple favor to ask of you… if you know any great engineers, designers, product managers or business development professionals please encourage them to contact us at careers@zoodles.com since we will be hiring aggressively in the coming months!

Finally, we would like to thank all our users, team members, advisors, and investors (especially Michael Dearing from Harrison Metal Capital) who have helped us get to this point.  You helped us put smiles on the faces of millions of children and we intend to make millions more smile over the years!

Best,

Mark Williamson & Rich Humphrey (co-founders of Zoodles)

Most Popular Android Apps for Kids

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

A little over a month ago, we released an awesome new feature that lets parents add any of the apps on their phone to Kid Mode.  Before, your three year old had to leave Kid Mode to play their favorite matching app.  Now, you can simply add that matching app to Kid Mode and your child can play it, and everything else their little heart desires, all from one place!

In the days that have followed, we’ve collected some brand spanking new data on what the most popular Android apps for kids are!

Without further ado, here are the top 5 most-played apps inside of Kid Mode:

hi-512-3 Angry Birds -  This might not come as much of a surprise, but Angry Birds, Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Seasons, and every other addictive version of this app lead the pack in what’s being added and played inside Kid Mode.  If you’re one of the five people who haven’t done so already, give Angry Birds a whirl and start slinging some birds inside Kid Mode!

hi-512-6

Ant Smasher – Here’s an app you might not have expected… Introducing Ant Smasher, a game that is all about exactly what it sounds like…smashing ants.  If the concept strikes your fancy (or more likely, your child’s), make sure the mayhem of Ant Smasher goes on within the safety of our app.

hi-512-4

Kids Doodle - The third most played app in Kid Mode is Kids Doodle by Bejoy.  With Kids Doodle, even the youngest kids can have fun drawing!  As your child draws, the colors, textures and tools randomly change so their drawing is different every time.  If your child likes art and neon colors, hook them up with some Kids Doodle in Kid Mode!

hi-512-5

Kids Connect the Dots Lite - Published by educational app maker Intellijoy, Kids Connect the Dots is a simple game where young ones connect numbers and letters to make fun shapes and pictures come to life.  If you haven’t checked out Intellijoy’s apps already, definitely try Kids Connect the Dots Lite and include it in Kid Mode!

talking-tom-catTalking Tom Cat - Introducing Android’s favorite virtual pet, Talking Tom Cat!  Not much to say here except that kids love animals and boy, don’t we know it :-)  [Insert plug for the adorable puppy in our Zoodles computer app.]  If you’re interested in adopting a new messless pet, check out Talking Tom Cat and make your Kid Mode menagerie complete.

1 Million Kids Using Kid Mode!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011
Mark Williamson, CEO & Co-Founder of Zoodles

Mark Williamson, CEO & Co-Founder of Zoodles

Our mission at Zoodles is to create the best digital experiences for children across the world.  Children using a computer, phone or tablet should be treated as first class users and given the opportunity to leverage all the possibilities that these devices offer.  We believe our Kid Mode apps live up to this mission, and in the last few months we’ve seen a great response from families across the world.

Today is a proud moment for all of us here at Zoodles as we announce that 1 Million children are using our Kid Mode apps!  As the graph below shows, we’ve been experiencing tremendous growth recently, with more than 500,000 children joining just in the last few months:

Zoodles Growth

One of the things I love about the increased usage of our apps is that we can measure, in the aggregate, what children are learning.  Since launching Zoodles, over 3 Million hours of games and videos have been played, with over 1 Million of those hours spent in math and reading.  1 Million hours is more than 110 years of time!

This growth is directly related to the launch of our mobile offerings as well as the new family features that allow kids and relatives to stay in touch through digital storybooks and video mail.  There’s just nothing better than watching a child on Zoodles go from learning and playing one minute to connecting with family the next.

Reaching 1 million kids is huge for us, and when you combine that with crossing 10,000 fans on Facebook, our team has really been jumping for joy.  Stay tuned for more coverage on our celebration event!

Zoodles1MillionJump

We have a lot of work to do before we reach the 1.2 Billion children in the world who still don’t have Kid Mode.  But before we get back to work I want to personally thank all the parents and children using our apps.  We appreciate the trust you’ve placed in us.  I also want to thank the entire Zoodles team that has been building this product.  Rich, Michael, Jeff and Adrian (our engineering team) can build any concept that Dave (our designer) and Rachel (our product manager) can come up with.  Often the founders or the executive team get all the credit when it comes to the success of a start-up, but success in our case is due to the dedication of this team and the passion they have for changing the lives of kids.  So if you have a minute and love the product feel free to leave the team a note on our Zoodles Facebook page.

Best,

Mark
CEO & co-founder

Kid Mode now with Art and Storybooks

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Today we’re excited to share that two of our most popular features — the Zoodles Art Studio and Zoodles Storybooks — are now available on phones!  Now all of our budding artists and eager readers can do more with their phones (oops, we mean your phones)  no matter where they are.  Whether they’re riding in the backseat, fidgeting at dinner, or lying out in the grass, Zoodles is there in full force with Art and Storybooks!

Since phones do have smaller screens, we’ve adapted both features to work a little differently than usual.  Let’s take a look.

Zoodles Art Studio

ArtTab

Here are some pictures of the experience on your phone.  The first thing you’ll notice is that there are now more “tabs” at the top of the screen, and the tabs don’t have labels anymore!  Your child can use these tabs to navigate to the different areas of our experience, just like with our computer and tablet apps.  They might need a little guidance at first, but let us know how it goes!

To get into the Art experience, all your child needs to do is tap on the Art tab at the top and then select the first thumbnail.

ArtStudio-Drawing

The Art Studio has changed a bit, but not by much.  There are fewer colors and we’ve removed the ability to toggle brush strokes, but it is all in the name of giving your child the most drawing space possible!

Every new drawing your child creates will automatically be saved to their Gallery and synced to your account.  All your child’s drawings — whether they’re done on the computer, tablet, or phone — are visible at http://www.zoodles.com/parent.   Be sure to star your favorites!

Zoodles Storybooks

Our Storybooks feature is just as exciting.  For the first time ever, we’ve made it incredibly easy for little ones to “bring their relatives along” on the next vacation or car ride.  Family will never be forgotten again!

All you need to do is have relatives record a reading for your child and the reading will appear in your child’s Books tab.  As usual, the recordings that your relatives make are shared across all our devices, so you and your child can watch them no matter you are.  Now Grandma can be a lifesaver without even being there!

BooksTabOur Books interface on the phone is very similar to what it looks like on other devices.  We give every child an example recording of Mark and his kids reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the rest of the books available are displayed alongside it.

BookViewerOnce a reading has been recorded, your child can tap on its book cover to have the story read to them.  Again, with such limited screen space, you’ll notice that the illustrations are slightly smaller and that in lieu of text, we decided to include the relative’s video instead.

All in all, we couldn’t be more proud of our team’s efforts to bring these features down to phones and make the Zoodles experience better and better across all devices.

We’d love to hear your feedback, so please do leave us a comment or shoot us an email at feedback@zoodles.com!

Create an educational kids video for Zoodles!

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Contributed by Debbie Heimowitz

Learn how the Zoodles Education team screens their video content. Then, create videos of your own for a chance to be featured in Zoodles!

Behind the Scenes

When we started our quest to find the best YouTube videos for kids, our first results were…well… questionable. Finding great content is our team’s central mission, and it is also one of our biggest challenges. For every hundred videos we evaluate, it can be tough to find even one that’s worth adding. So why does this happen? And what do we look for?

The first reason it’s a challenge to find high-quality video content is that the content itself is scarce, and it’s also hidden amongst a ton of other content that’s not always appropriate. We run across an unbelievable number of videos that are supposedly for kids, but are inappropriately named, have foul language dubbed over them, feature bizarre characters, or are even so misleading that they connect to shady spam or porn sites.

The high-quality content we look for is harder to find, because less of it exists to begin with.  Educational kids content can be expensive to produce and design. When companies do produce children’s content, it tends to be in formats that are unusable to Zoodles, like thirty-minute television shows. So, when we do find great content in short formats, we definitely try to promote it and find other content from the same filmmakers.

Here’s what we look for:

yoga-for-kidsEntertainment: First, the videos must entertain us. We know that if it’s not fun, your kids won’t want to watch it. Specifically, we look for bright colors, high concepts, and ideally a strong production value. In our team discussions, questions like “Was this only funny to me?” get tossed around as part of our evaluation process.

The ElementsEducational Value: Secondly, we want to know what your children will learn from watching the videos. Will the video help reinforce concepts about the alphabet? Will the video bring your kids to another planet? Does it tie into the national standards for education?

We love when videos focus on specific learning standards, but we also value concepts that aren’t as obviously educational.  We place just as much importance, for instance, on videos that encourage physical and emotional wellness like this yoga video for kids or this video about cyberbullying.

If a video is able to meet our educational and entertainment standards, we know we’ve found something for our Zoodles families!

Now create your own!

Are you interested in creating your own educational videos and being featured in Zoodles? Here are some ideas to think about as you start your process:

  1. Pre-design the show. What is the “learning problem or learning need” you are solving? For example, do you notice your child struggling with spelling concepts that you’d like to teach in the video?
  2. Set learning objectives. What do you hope the audience will gain from watching your video? How will you measure these results?
  3. Think about what techniques you would like to add. Filmmakers use several tools to help reinforce educational concepts including: relatable fictional characters, the use of repetition and rhyme, music, dance etc.
  4. How long do you want the video to be? We will accept any videos less than 3 minutes in length.
  5. Have fun!

If you’ve created a video that you believe meets our standards, send us the link at feedback@zoodles.com!


Debbie Heimowitz is on the Education team at Zoodles. She is the co-creator of the Internet safety DVD series Adina’s Deck. Check out www.adinasdeck.com for Internet Safety tips and more high quality educational videos!