Welcome to our KidDesktop blog!

KidDesktop is a kid friendly Windows desktop alternative providing a safe PC learning experience without allowing access to inappropriate files, programs, or Internet content. This blog provides information parents and teachers can use to help children get the most out of their computer experience, including updated information about KidDesktop and reviews of kids’ websites and kid friendly YouTube videos.

Archive for January, 2009

“Rock”ing it Old “School”

I love finding YouTube videos that are not only fun for the kids, but also sneak in something educational.  So you can only imagine how excited I was to find Schoolhouse Rock on YouTube!

Anyone who watched Saturday morning cartoons between 1973 and 1985 watched their share of Schoolhouse Rock (more information here).  Michael Eisner (yes, the one who went on to run Disney) got ABC to cut three-minute segments out of its Saturday morning shows by convincing General Foods to sponsor the segments.  All the business folks were happy, and so were millions of children and parents across the country.  They made 41 segments in total, compiled in albums called Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock, and Science RockBest of Schoolhouse Rock and other albums came later.

Returning to 2009, I have to say that my boys love Three is a Magic Number, and as a result of hearing & seeing it they have both begun chanting multiplication tables.  I don’t think they even understand the concept of multiplication (they’re only 6 & 4!), but all of us get a kick out of their renditions of the song.  Another good one is Interplanet Janet, reminding Dan and me that not too long ago Pluto WAS considered a planet.  Conjunction Junction is great for any child who loves trains (don’t they all?), and kids learn perseverance while possibly even absorbing political know-how from How a Bill Becomes a Law.  A few more to get you started: Bones, Electricity, and Where Money Goes, and now I’ll leave you to your own nostalgia and surfing!

Your littlest one “needs” KneeBouncers.com!

If you have a little person (1 or 2 years old) you should definitely add kneebouncers.com to their Activity Bar!  This site contains more than a dozen games, with more on the way, directed at the littlest computer users.  Each game is a study in cause-and-effect: every time the child pushes a button or clicks the mouse, something happens.  In one game, cartoon animals splash in puddles at each click or keystroke; in another game, a helicopter and its animal passengers do tricks with each click.  The graphics are designed to engage and delight babies or very young children, as are the sound effects.

“Chief KneeBouncer” Jim Robinson explains that the site “was created out of necessity.”  His older children — then 3 and 4 — were having a blast exploring the Internet.  Unfortunately, their 9-month-old baby sister was only frustrated when her turn came, since she couldn’t play any of her siblings’ sites.  As anyone with a baby knows, a frustrated baby often results in a frustrated family.  Luckily, Jim had experience creating websites, and he embarked on a mission to return peace to the household.  Hence, KneeBouncers.com was born!

KneeBouncers.com is definintely a great site for little computer-philes.  But, especially with kids this young, you REALLY want to make sure all your KidDesktop protections are in place.  Create an account just for this child, and make sure all other accounts on your computer are protected.  Using the General Options in KDBuilder, have KidDesktop start in Full Screen Mode to hide the Windows Desktop and Start Menu, and have KidDesktop log out of Windows when the child exits KidDesktop.  And, of course, be sure to supervise your little one at all times.  KidDesktop protects your computer and your child, but we make no guarantees about anything else in your office!

“CYKE”-out

My December/January Parenting magazine mentioned a website called CYKE.  CYKE, which stands for CYber Knowledge Emotion, has some good resources for parents, but I do not recommend it for kids.   CYKE is a new media design company which wants to improve kids’ emotional and physical health through websites, CD-ROMs, books, and videos.  The media are targeted to kids, parents, teachers, and health professionals.

The part of the site targeted towards parents includes information on emotions, child growth (babies to 8-year-olds), conditions, situations, therapy, medications, and resources.  Topics as diverse as Post Partum Depression, school, developmental milestones, and ADHD are covered.  Although not exhaustive, the site contains good information and is worth surfing through.

The part of the site targeted towards kids has some gems, such as the snowman activity, where kids can create their own snowman, name him (or her), and print out their artwork.  But the Land of Cyke, although full of good ideas and good intentions, is fair at best.  This is tough for me to say, because I love the concept of teaching kids about peer pressure, keeping their temper, and depression through interactive games.  But without spoken-word-help young kids can’t play independently, and kids old enough to read will get bored quickly.  Even worse, the games don’t work very well.  The Music Hall seemed very promising, but dead and broken links made it an exercise in frustration.  (For me!  And I am better at controlling my temper than either the Monkey King or my kids!)

CYKE has so many good concepts that I will continue to check back on it.  I hope they can fix some of their technical problems and –through spoken-word-help — make it more accessible to the younger kids for whose attention they are aiming.  But for the moment it is, unfortunately, a “CKYE-out” as a kids’ site.

Kingly Sites

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day tomorrow, I searched for kid-appropriate websites about one of our greatest civil rights leaders.  I didn’t find much for toddlers, preschoolers, and other pre-reading kids, but I did find some interesting sites for parents and older kids.

For parents of young kids: http://holidays.kaboose.com/martin-luther-king-jr-day.html

This site has lots of information about Dr. King.  If you click on “Martin Luther King Jr Day Activities,” you’ll get ideas for crafts and coloring pages, as well as quotes and clip art in honor of Dr. King.  I want to stress that parents should explore this site either alone or with their child.  It is not a kids’ site with games, graphics, etc.

Older elementary school kids should visit: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/special/mlk/

This is the place to direct your child if he or she has to do a report on Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s also a place where you and your child can together explore Dr. King’s speeches, timeline of his life, photographic history, etc.  The two of you can even test your knowledge with a quiz about Dr King.

Another site for older kids is FactMonster.com.  The link to the Dr. King page is: http://www.factmonster.com/spot/mlkjrday1.html

FactMonster is great for older kids.  The Dr. King page includes links to his history as well as the history of the civil rights movements & civil disobedience, excerpts from his “I Have a Dream” speech & other quotes, a history of the MLK Day holiday, Black History Month, and much more.  Again, this is a site designed for older children.  Don’t expect the cool graphics, games, and spoken word help found on sites for toddlers and preschoolers!  But older kids and their parents can really learn from this site.

What should you do with your civil-rights-charged child who has now learned about Dr. King and the civil rights movement, and who wants to change the world?  One last site to visit: http://www.mlkday.gov/about/how/index.asp

This site encourages readers to give back to their community in dozens of different ways.  It links to websites of organizations coordinating nation-wide volunteer opportunities on Monday, January 19, 2009.  If you and your child want to find other ways to volunteer in your community, this site provides those links as well.

You want a great website?  One of the best for teaching and/or reinforcing reading and pre-reading skills is www.starfall.com!

Although designed with 1st graders in mind, pre-K, K, 1st & 2nd graders will all find plenty of skill-appropriate activities.  Younger readers can start with “ABC” pages that explore each letter and the sounds they make.  Kids beginning to read can easily gain confidence with “Learn to Read” pages.  The next-level-reader can enjoy “It’s Fun to Read” pages which include a book called “All About Me;” music by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and others; poetry; tongue twisters; and more.  Kids who are already reading can follow along with the “I’m Reading” pages, including plays, non-fiction, comics, folk tales, and others.   All the pages have kid-friendly animation and spoken-word help.

If you doubt me — and my 2nd-grade-teacher-friend who recommended the site — you should know that Starfall.com has won accolades from parents and educators alike.  In May of 2006 The Reading Teacher named Starfall.com one of “Five Internet sites too good to miss.”  Homeschool.com has twice ranked it as one of their top five educational sites.

Starfall.com is made possible by the Polis-Schutz family, who founded Blue Mountain Arts publishing company more than 35 years ago.  Father Dr. Stephen Schutz (now a PhD in phsyics who struggled with reading as a child), mother & poet Susan Polis Schutz, and their son Congressman Jared Schutz Polis (CO — yes, my home state!) share a passion for education and teaching which shines throughout this site.

One last thing I really like about Starfall.com: the “Parents” page.  Not only does it explain how to use the site, I LOVE that it urges parents to regularly sit with their child and explore Starfall.com together.  (So do we at KidDesktop…great minds think alike!)  But this paragraph absolutely iced the cake:

Turn off the television and the computer and read to your child. Establish a regular reading time every night. Have fun with the books you read, by giving the characters distinct voices, or acting out scenarios from the stories. Have conversations about what you read. Ask your child questions about the stories and encourage him to ask questions in return.

I urge you to explore Starfall.com on your own and with your child.  It’s a great addition to any child’s Activity Bar.  But even more than that, no matter how young or how old your child is, sit down and read with them.  Both of your “stars” will shine a little brighter as a result.

Thanks, Mom, for the Spoonful of Sugar!

The impetus for this posting goes entirely to someone I respect, trust, and love as much as anyone: my own mom!  A few weeks ago Mom suggested we all watch Mary Poppins while she was visiting.  Now, you have to understand that my boys do not do well with movies.  They were terrified of Pinocchio and Happy Feet, and — despite seeing Cars dozens of times — they still cover their eyes and whimper during the Frank the Tractor scene.  I must admit that I had my doubts.  But Mom’s suggestion was right on, because the kids LOVE Mary Poppins!  The 4-year-old walks around the house singing “Chim Chiminy” and they both recite “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…” over and over again.  (I guess this is my just reward for endlessly serenading Mom with the entire Annie soundtrack when I was a kid.)

But here is the best part:  Mary Poppins is truly a wonderful movie!  It is a story about kids, written with kids in mind.  It has wonderful music and dancing.  The plot is neither too simple nor too complex for young children.  There is no swearing, no innuendo, no violence.  All the characters find happiness in the end by doing kind things for one another.  And let’s not forget that “when Mary Poppins in around, magical things just seem to happen!”  Watching the movie with my boys, I remember why I enjoyed it as a child, and I savor it all again as an adult.  Thanks, Mom!

I was so happy to find the Mary Poppins song clips on YouTube, and to add them to my boys’ YouTube playlists.  Some clips were pretty blurry with the words unfortunately slurred together, but I found others that were relatively clear (both visually and audibly).  Some of these even include the lyrics so reading kids can sing along.  Now they can listen to the songs and watch the dancing on KidDesktop.  Maybe they’ll even learn more of the words so they don’t have to repeat the chorus over and over and over and over and over (get the idea?) again.  Which reminds me, Mom, I really am sorry about the Annie songs!

To add the same clips I found to your child’s YouTube playlist, search for these codes in the YouTube part of KDBuilder:

  • 4b-Z0SSyUcw (Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious)
  • HKSPxsX4MDM (Step in Time)
  • djQdI1t9_Ag (Spoonful of Sugar)

What a character!

Two blog posts in one day…wow!  Trust me, though, this will be a short one.

If you have just begun with KidDesktop, you may be wondering what websites to put onto your child or children’s Activity Bar.  It may seem obvious, but start by looking at websites with characters your child knows and loves.  Sesame Street is a great one, as is Word World and anything else in the PBS family.  Our boys have always liked Thomas the Tank Engine , Bob the Builder and Cars.  Our friends with girls say that they like Angelina Ballerina, Dora the Explorer, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.  Honestly, I think kids of both genders probably enjoy all of these!

  • http://www.sesamestreet.org
  • http://pbskids.org/wordworld/index_flash.html
  • http://www.thomasandfriends.com/
  • http://www.bobthebuilder.com/usa/
  • http://disney.go.com/disneyvideos/animatedfilms/cars/main.html
  • http://www.angelinaballerina.com/usa/home.asp
  • http://www.nickjr.com/playtime/index.jhtml
  • http://pbskids.org/clifford/index-brd-flash.html

2009, Here we Are!

Everyone seems to be reflecting back on the past year and looking ahead to the new year, so I figured I should join in the fun!  (No top ten list, I promise…)

The past year has been very exciting for us, what with officially launching KidDesktop and seeing our hard work come to fruition.  Although we occasionally wish our launch hadn’t coincided with the current economic downturn, we are dedicated to making lemonade out of lemons.  We know KidDesktop is a fantastic product.  We regularly see how our own kids enjoy it, and we love both the protection it affords them on the Internet as well as the protection it provides for our computer.  We are also excited by the press KidDesktop has received, and we really appreciate our customers who have purchased it, told their friends about KidDesktop, and especially those who have purchased it again as gifts.  Thanks, Everyone, for all of your support!

In 2009, we hope to continue improving KidDesktop, as well as to continue publicizing this wonderful software.  On the improving point: we have worked really hard to put together a simple, safe, and easy-to-use product.  If you experience ANY problems, please let us know.  We are dedicated to supporting our customers and to continuing to make every child and every parent’s KidDesktop experience a positive one!  And, on the publicity point: we know that happy customers are our best form of advertising.  So please continue to tell your friends and family about us, and if you know of a magazine, blog, list-serve, or other publication where we should plug KidDesktop, please let us know!  You can always contact us at support@kiddesktop.com.

Thanks again, and happy New Year!