• The Smart Walnut Archive

    We always get psyched when TV shows make their debut. For the grown-ups, we’re head over heels for True Detective and holding our breath for Believe. For the kiddos, there’s a slew of new educational and entertaining TV series coming to Nickelodeon later this year/early 2015, with plenty of crowd-pleasing choices for your favorite preschooler. (We’re particularly excited for the latest Fresh Beat installment!) Here’s the scoop on what to watch and when: ·         Dora and Friends: Into the City!  is set in a fictional, pan-Latino city, where Dora is 10 years old, in school and at the center of a group that works together to give back to the community. This show aims to teach Spanish and introduces new educational areas to the curriculum, [&hellip

    Read More...

    My kindergartner came home from school recently with yet another tale of a classmate. The same kid who called her “stupidhead” last week wrote “big blue butt” during sentence-writing time…not exactly what their teacher had in mind, I’m sure. I saw my 9-year-old stifle a giggle when her sister shared the story. And so it begins (sigh…). As any parent knows, calling other kids names is a big no-no, but it’s hard for little ones to discern between which words are right vs. wrong, especially when the result of your actions is laughter throughout the classroom. One mom has set out to change all this and (hopefully) put an end to fresh talk or, at the very least, discourage it. Tapping into her own experience [&hellip

    Read More...

    Ever wonder what it’s like to zip-line through a rainforest? Or hike down a canyon? Kids will be able to find out for themselves on Monday–or, at least live vicariously through PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train Nature Trackers Adventure Camp. This one-hour television special will take viewers along for a journey with the entire Pteranadon posse as they travel various terrains, from canyons to mountains, learning about geography and paleontology along the way. The show is divided into four nature-themed segments–rafting, mountain climbing, zip-lining and canyon hiking–with plenty of adventure to get kids interested in the great outdoors. It’s the perfect antidote to the winter blues, and proof-positive that there’s a great big world out there to explore. In a Nutshell: PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train Nature [&hellip

    Read More...

    When I was a kid, I chopped off my Barbie doll’s hair and gave her a bob. I figured she’d need a sensible hairdo if she’d be blasting off into space. That may sound like the makings of a future scientist, but alas, I became a writer. I still like the fact that I was able to transform my doll into something that was more my speed: a thinking hot chick rather than a fashion doll who aspired to nothing more than acquiring 100 pairs of heels. Sure today’s Barbies have morphed into career girls and the like, but I still can’t relate to their kitten heels and tiny waistlines (and neither can my girls). Lucky for today’s kids, British-based Lottie Dolls have made their [&hellip

    Read More...

    My 9-year-old needs to get into the groove. A math groove, that is. Back to fractions, multiplication and all the other “fun” stuff that goes along with fourth-grade math. After a few months of fun in the sun, it’s finally back to the books, and I fear she’s not ready for all that lies ahead. Because the dollar store workbooks I picked up over the years don’t seem to hold her interest any longer (and I’d rather not always resort to apps and other PC games), we were on the lookout for something else. Well, when the Lakeshore Learning catalog arrived in our mail, it was like Christmas had come early. Ever the lover of playing school, my daughter happily flipped through the pages and [&hellip

    Read More...

    One more week of summer vacation, so naturally it was time to bite the bullet and take the kids backpack shopping. Amazingly, it was relatively painless; my 9-year-old grabbed the first blue bag she spotted, and my 5-year-old made a beeline for Hello Kitty. Not a big surprise there; all things kitty continue to reign supreme in this kingdom. So naturally, when we got wind of the new Hello Kitty Sweet Little Shops game for the Leapster Explorer, I knew she’d be in heaven. Designed for ages 4-7, this game teaches kids all types of basic (and not-so-basic) math, including how to estimate, recognizing numbers and shapes and even how to read a bar graph (wow, already?). Of course, the learning is cleverly disguised within [&hellip

    Read More...

    “Pure learning fun.” The new tagline for LeapFrog was a fitting greeting for the educational toy company’s holiday showcase this week in NYC. We were on hand to find out what’s big in teaching toys and from judging by the looks of the LeapFrog line-up, there’s plenty of opportunities to get kids excited about learning. First off, we had a chance to experience the just-released LeapReader. Bearing a striking resemblance to LeapFrog’s Tag Reader, this multi-level learning tool steps its up a notch or two, enabling kids to learn the basics of reading, begin to write their letters and enjoy the experience of listening to audio books. With so much functionality in one product, parents may wonder just how capable this product is in keeping [&hellip

    Read More...

    My 5-year-old had her kindergarten screening yesterday, and walked out with the biggest smile on her face. “I can’t wait to learn!,” she told me later. It’s moments like these that make you want to stop time, and bottle that infectious enthusiasm. To help my daughter get off to great start, even before September comes, we’ve been playing lots of simple learning games–using magnetic letters to spell out fun words, talking about the bugs and birds who’ve been making a home in our backyard–and I’m watching how they fuel her imagination. Just as important as these creative teaching moments are the opportunities to reinforce what she already knows and keep it fun. Just in time for back-to-school comes Priddy Books’ Schoolies, a line of educational [&hellip

    Read More...

    Today, my almost 5-year-old had kindergarten orientation, and couldn’t have been more excited (or me for her). After visiting a kindergarten classroom, meeting the principal and taking a spin around the school on a bus, she would have happily begun school today! Luckily I have a few months to prepare myself (read: stock up on Kleenex) and so does she. Before we leave the fun world of preschool, it doesn’t hurt to keep her already-active brain in tip-top shape. How apropos that we received a new board game to help get ready for September. HABA’s Loco Lingo Kindergarten is a visually-driven game that tests memory, storytelling and other basic learning skills that make a solid foundation for that first year of school. Picture cards make [&hellip

    Read More...

    When my husband was invited to choose some used books from a colleague’s retired collection, he brought home a treasure trove of reading materials. Among his findings was a well-worn copy of a guide to seashells, one that had yellowed with age and whose pages were slowly losing their binding. While it was the thought that counted, we wound up recycling the book after a cursory look-through–and long before having a chance to consult it on beach excursions with our young daughters. Having practically grown up on the beach myself, I was always collecting the jewels of low tide, but my knowledge of seashell classification never went beyond periwinkles and mussels. This summer, however, we’re going to do things right, thanks to the just-published Seashells: [&hellip

    Read More...