Dad Approved: School Zone’s Award-Winning ‘Little Scholar’ is Pure Money

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Little-Scholar-TabletRegardless of what side of the fence you sit on when it comes to technology in the hands of our children, the Little Scholar tablet is sure to make you and your kids smile.

With each new holiday season comes a tidal wave of new gizmos and gadgets that do their best to separate you from your money. I’ve lost count of how much I’ve spent on toys, games, and apps that promised to turn my kid into the next Jamal Wallace. Nevertheless, not all so-called “educational” toys are created equal. Some will teach your kids basic math skills in a style reminiscent of Ben Stein. Others are all sizzle and no steak (Baby Einstein, anyone?). Sure it makes your son laugh so hard milk erupts from his nostrils, but don’t count on that to help his test scores.

Since before preschool, my kids enjoyed going through workbooks, doing science experiments, and playing online games designed to elevate their academic performance – each a helpful step in raising a lifelong learner. While your mileage may vary, it’s safe to say that our kids would rather play games on the iPad in all their magnificent glory instead of picking up a book that “doesn’t even make any sound.” (4-year-old logic at its best) As a concerned parent, though, I’m often left worrying about in-app purchases, in-game advertising, and the ability to stumble upon the seedier parts of the internet. But what’s a guy to do?

Behold! Creative Child Magazine’s 2014 Preferred Choice Award winning Little Scholar tablet by School Zone. Consider your Christmas shopping done, dad.

A company like School Zone (kick-butt company that’s been producing children’s educational products for more than 30 years) needs no introduction, but here’s what you need to know about the Little Scholar:

  • It’s jam-packed with over 150 premium preloaded learning apps, including educational games, videos, e-books, and songs.
  • All of the content on Little Scholar was created by School Zone and covers an essential curriculum that builds kids’ skills in areas such as reading, math, spelling, science, logic, geography, and creativity.
  • The intended target is children ages 3 through 7, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not totally digging “Napoleon Bone Apart.”
  • The built-in wifi grants you access to the School Zone Market – an app store for additional content – but it’s completely unnecessary to your use and enjoyment of the tablet.
  • Covers Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade
  • Built-in 300KP front & 2MP back camera
  • Has parental control options
  • Google Android™ OS
  • My son LOVES the “ABC Train” and the movies

littlescholarstatsThe A+ Report Card app is one of my favorite features because it tracks and guides progress. This is crucial if you’re looking for a way to get in a little extra practice in a particular subject like reading, science, or problem solving. Now you’ll know exactly how much time is spent in each category and can encourage or reward Little Man’s dedication to improving his grades.

The Little Scholar comes with a surprisingly high number of songs ready to groove to. Unfortunately, the built-in mono speaker does little more than aggravate the user despite having the volume maxed out. This is my biggest (dare I say only?) complaint – the speaker sucks. If you only have one kid in the house and there are no other living things doing anything at all whatsoever, the speaker might be able to overcome the deafening silence. It’s a shame, too. That James Vanderbeek Ark looks like he could shred a Gibson in his sleep.

For all of the tech specs and detailed info about the rest of the features the LS offers, you can check out School Zone’s website. That’s also the place you’ll head to place your order for the tablet and any additional accessories (stylus, headphones, carrying case, screen protector, etc.) you want to stuff in the overpriced, officially licensed character stocking.

You want a big bang for your buck? You want to give a gift your kid’s won’t outgrow or get bored with before Spring Break? You want to invest in your child’s academic future… and have a blast in the process? Then drop a little extra coin buy the Little Scholar. It’s the best way to insure your kids know more about the alphabet than they do Angry Birds.

Order it at Toys R Us today!

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Like Sands Through the Hourglass

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… time is steadily slipping through my hands. The way I see it, I have ten years left – and the clock is ticking down. I’m running out of time. As of this writing, you will turn eight tomorrow. You’ve been with your mother and I for over 3,000 days and not a single one of them have ever been less memorable than the one before. Try as I might, though, with every ounce of  strength and selfishness, I am humanly incapable of stopping you from growing up. That, my dear daughter, is bittersweet at its core.

You see, I’m stoked to think of the adventures we’ll have and the memories we’ll share as your courage, intelligence, and abilities increase. At the same time, I really dig the person you are now. We talk about your favorite cartoons, pretend to be on epic quests, create silly refrigerator art, and share our thoughts and goals with one another. It’s not that I want you this young forever (well, part of me does. What 24-year-old still builds forts with her dad or excitedly asks him to take her out to the buoys?), it’s just that, well, I’m scared.

I’m scared that this will all someday change… that somehow, you will outgrown me the same way Andy does Woody and Buzz. Terror creeps over me as my thoughts move toward the road that lies ahead. Watching the world around me, it seems if it’s a foregone conclusion. But this daddy isn’t going down without a fight.

I must be intentional with the precious little time I have remaining. Therefore, as I’m prone to do, I’ve created a plan that will help me make the most of the time I have with you before you head out into a brave new world.

My plan is this: Live in the “Is,” not the “Was.”

As each new day brings about its own unique experiences, challenges, and choices, I will do my best to be present in this moment. I hope to teach you new things at every turn of life, and when the moment arises, challenge what you think you know just to keep you on your toes. Instead of longing for days gone by, like the first time you went to the beach or when you first realized how talented of an artist you are, I will realize that no memory could ever hold a candle to today because I have the real you, not just a memory. What could possibly be better than that?

 

Illustration courtesy of  lookoutforhope.

Milestones: Teaching Your Son How to Pee Outside

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There are few moments as monumental as learning how to take a leak in the great outdoors. Since the beginning of time, man has been relieving himself on trees, rocks, and whatever else he can aim at. What, you thought God gave Adam a toilet in the garden? If you haven’t yet experienced this wonderful occasion, take a few pointers from the guys above: Perfect stance with legs shoulder width apart, pants still around your waist (depending on age) and no eye contact. Dad even takes the time to look over his shoulder to make sure his boys are doing it right.

The only problem with teaching your son how to pee outside is getting him to stop. Could be worse, I guess. He could’ve learned how to twerk. What’s the most embarrassing story about you or your kid answering nature’s call outdoors?

I Need Coffee Because… (A Kid’s Perspective)

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Coffee has bean the grounds of many a heated and strong discussion – and not just amongst coffee snobs (I’m looking at you “I grind my own beans”, French press guy). Now it’s being talked about with our children.

My friend’s eight-year-old daughter passed this note to him, possibly with a twenty she swiped from his wallet (hey, it worked with the babysitter) in an attempt to convince him to pour her a cup of java.  It reads:

I NEED COFFEE BECEUSE…

  1. I love it
  2. I need it
  3. I want it
  4. U get to have it
  5. Mommy gets to have it
  6. It is healthy for U

THE END

I say give her some. Her letter is just as good as the kid from summer camp and there are far worse things to be addicted to. Besides, insomnia builds character.

What it’s Like Being A Dad

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Being a dad is the greatest thing in the world. That much I know is true, and I’m sure you would likely agree. But what do we tell our friends who ask us what it’s like actually being a dad? The guy whose lucky lady have a bun in the oven and the guy who doesn’t, but someday might, are curious to know your take on fatherhood. They ask you because you’re in the trenches, fighting the good fight to raise your kids well. What do you tell them?

If you’re at all like me, you fail to find the words to adequately describe the intense highs and debilitating lows of fatherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I have an answer. It’s just that, I don’t know… it never seems to be as powerful as say, a heartwarming video. Roll the film.

“What Do You Want For Father’s Day, Daddy?”

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Realizing that #OperationMothersDay was a smashing success, my kids quickly started interrogating me as to what I wanted for Father’s Day.

It was no surprise to them that The LEGO Movie was on my wish list, but with its release date two days late, they needed a solid replacement if they were to celebrate my very existence in their life on the same day as the rest of America (June 15th for the uninitiated). What their approach lacked in subtlety was made up for in their amusing suggestions.

“I bet daddy wants to go back to Great Wolf Lodge!” “Where can we buy a Batmobile?” “Daddy, I know you want ice cream for Father’s Day!”

These kids, they remind me of me when I was in their shoes; always wondering what I could get for my dad that I would also like having around the house. Like the time I bought him the ‘Led Zeppelin Greatest Hits’ CD or the time I took him to see Styx and REO Speedwagon.

My answer was the best I could muster, knowing that the money they use to buy me a gift is coming out of my wallet (there goes the crossbow) and that no kid wants to buy their dad a gift they never see him use like, say, an iTunes gift card so he could update his running playlist.  Still, my answer was truthful – just not particularly helpful.

I told my kids that daddy wants something no store can sell. Something no one can create – no matter how many bottles of glitter glue and googly eyes are in the craft bin. Daddy wants time.

Time. That’s it.

I want more time to enjoy them all at such a creative, adventurous, and precious age. I want time to read them their favorite books, build the biggest fort, and have the best campfire s’mores the world’s ever tasted.  I want time to stand still, if only for a moment, so I can be sure I never forget how proud of them I am and the people they are becoming. They’re compassionate, ambitious, and sarcastic – three characteristics no person should ever be lacking.  I want to live these days over and over again.

Daddy wants time. Lots of it. He wants time to tell you about God, how much mommy and I love you, and how to do this thing we call life without making the same mistakes I’ve made. Well… most of them anyway. Daddy wants time to just be with you, because you’re awesome and without you he wouldn’t even be qualified for this special holiday.

I told my kids I wanted time for Father’s Day… either that, or LEGOs. At least then I can spend the day having fun with the people I love most.

 

What did you tell your kids you wanted for Father’s Day this year?

Discover and Master ‘The Art of Roughhousing’

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I never knew someone would actually write a book about roughhousing with the kids let alone actually defend the time-honored tradition of putting a toddler in a rear naked choke, but they did (okay, not the sleeper hold part but you get my point). In fact, The Art of Roughhousing even encourages you to try think outside the box with their colorful full-page depictions of various “moves.”

“Everywhere you look, physical play—what some might call “roughhousing”—is being marginalized. Gym classes are getting shorter. Recess periods are being eliminated. Some new schools don’t even have playgrounds. Is it any wonder children retreat to “virtual horseplay” via video games?

But Drs. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen are here to shake things up—literally! With The Art of Roughhousing, they show how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more. Drawing inspiration from gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports, and even animal behavior, the authors present dozens of illustrated activities for children and parents to enjoy together—everything from the “Sumo Dead Lift” to the “Rogue Dumbo.” These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble!”

When my daughters were younger, I needed to be reminded that they weren’t made of porcelain and that it was okay to wrestle, spin, or tumble with them. When I finally was, they loved every minute of it and jumped at the chance to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you happen to share my feelings towards your own princesses, this book will help subdue your uneasiness. The authors do a great job explaining the mental and health benefits for children and adults that stem from roughhousing. Did you know that physical play promotes emotional intelligence and helps prevent your kid from dying from obesity at age 9? Yes, that’s your cue to buy and read the book then prepare for all out chaos on the couch cushions!

Everything is Awesome at LEGO KidsFest!

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I’ve never seen as many LEGO bricks as I did while attending LEGO® KidsFest.

Innumerable as the grains of sand in the Mojave, bricks of all colors possible paint the floor everywhere you step. But first, our recently minted heroes, Emmet and Wyldstyle, greet you at the entrance.

Covering more than 150,000+ square feet of space, the North American LEGO KidsFest tour consists of five sessions over three days. Each of the sessions offers the same interactive activities and play areas for all ages, including:

• LEGO Model Gallery: dozens of life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks
• LEGO Master Builders: live demonstrations and activities from professional LEGO builders
• Creation Nation: build your own creation to add to a custom map of the U.S.
• Race Ramps: build your own custom car, and race it down the ramp against friends and family
• Construction Zones: creative free build, play, and display areas
• LEGO DUPLO®: younger visitors can explore imagination through building
• LEGO Retail and KidsFest Marketplace: purchase LEGO and official KidsFest tour merchandise
• Brick Pile: a gigantic pile full of LEGO bricks for creative play and enjoyment
• Monochromatic Builds: bricks of a single color to foster group creativity
• Brickscapes: fantastic displays that combine lots of LEGO and DUPLO sets
And much more!

Even after four hours of walking around posing for pictures with the incredibly awesome LEGO models, racing their own four-wheeled creations, and building towers, ships, and Picasso-esque Mixels, my kids still weren’t ready to go home. Who could blame them? LEGO tossed Chuck E. Cheese out the window – KidsFest is the place a kid can be a kid. And so can you, Pop.

From drool covered Duplos in the hands of tots still in Pull-Ups to the software running Mindstorms EV3 robots in the hands of tweens doing their best to reboot Battlebots and every awesome thing in between – the kids were in a state of nirvana. I know this because I witnessed it firsthand. People of all ages found something that interested them and they camped there to explore, create, imagine, and enjoy themselves in a way that many are seldom ever allowed.

I saw teamwork rue the day in both the Brick Battle Zone and the Challenge Zone and lone wolves dominate the race ramps. I saw moms, dads, and grandparents laughing and smiling with their kids. Sure, I saw a disappointing number of people goofing around on their iPhone as their son or daughter’s childhood slipped away, never to be repeated. But I saw far more parents side by side with their kids having a good time. I was encouraged greatly by that. And thanks to LEGO, they’ll have these memories for a lifetime.

Did you know that LEGO minifigures (4 billion produced in the last 30 years) are the world’s largest population? Did you know that there are 915 million+ possible combinations for six 2X4 LEGO bricks of the same color? Did you know that there are over 2,500 different LEGO Star Wars minifigs? Yeah, me neither. At least not until I picked up the event program. I bet I can win enough bets at the office to cover a return trip to KidsFest the next time it returns with the trivia packed into that little bad boy.

Speaking of bad boys… let’s say “mini you” can’t wait for you to finish helping your daughter put her chariot next to Cinderella’s castle and runs off after the ginormous Hulk LEGO statue. Great! Now you can’t find him, not with all of these little people running around like a pinball off the bumpers. All you have to do is go to the ‘Lost Parent Zone’ and security will help you find your son who will, as long as you filled it out, have a Lost Parents Contact Card in his back pocket so you can be reached by phone.

LEGO KidsFest was a great way to spend time with my kids. If you and your kids are already brickheads, have seen The LEGO Movie multiple times in the theaters, or have ever made someone a Christmas gift out of LEGO, you’ll love it just as much as we did. If you’re a casual fan of the popular building toy, it’s safe to say you’ll still probably find something that sparks your interest, even if you never thought it would. You’ll never see that many LEGO bricks on the floor again in your life. Thank God they don’t make you clean up your mess.

All photos courtesy of LEGO® KidsFest

I’d Give Anything

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They say that it’s something all dads experience, that it’s normal. An unavoidable part of life. Something to be worked though and learned from. They may be right, but that does nothing to lessen the sting of rejection. These emotions need to be unshackled. Soon. I haven’t written poetry since my goth phase in high school. It sucked then and it sucks now. Still, I feel the need to write, and so I do.

I’d Give Anything

I’d give anything to bring back

The smile you used to have

I’d give anything to return

To the time we used to get along

But you keep pushing and pulling and running away

I’d give anything today

I’d give anything to hold you

While we laugh and play

I’d give anything to hug you

And wipe your tears away

But you keep pushing and pulling and running away

I’d give anything today

I’d give anything to know why

You can’t seem to stand me

I’d give anything to know just

What it is that I did wrong

But you keep pushing and pulling and running away

I’d give anything today

I’d give anything to have back

My special little dude

I’d give anything today

Resistance is Futile. Embrace the Chaos.

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As any co-sleeping parent will tell you, the hours between the time you lay your head on the pillow and the moment your alarm clock starts playing ‘Everything is Awesome‘ to wake you for the new day can be the most dreaded, frightful, rage inducing part an your life. And like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day,’ you must relive it day after day after day.

The cause of such torment? Your heir apparent and his manifest destiny to rule the land of Serta by any means necessary. Resistance is futile. Embrace the chaos.

 

Tell me your funny stories about co-sleeping in the comments below.