Huzzah for the Aardvark!

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Fresh from his time in the Internet’s headlights as a meme, Arthur has been recognized by Parents’ Choice for his website which this year went through an awesome redesign and added some great new games.

The award review:

Everyone’s favorite aardvark, Arthur, has a website that is just as fun and quirky as he is! The PBS Kids Arthur website is filled to the brim with entertaining and educational games, activities, and printables designed for preschoolers. And, because the material changes periodically, users could, literally, spend hours on the website and always find things to do.

During our review period, my son became a Treehouse Designer as he helped various characters design the inside and outside of their treehouse based on key adjectives; for example, Binky wanted an “artsy” treehouse, so my son got to pick and choose the furniture and accessories that he believed met that description. This gave us an opportunity to discuss adjectives and how they are used. He also used the Lunch-o-Matic with the Brain as he selected items to complete healthy lunches for his friends. This was a great way to talk about not just which foods are good choices, but why. The game taught him about vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and more – much more than the standard “What are the food groups?”

Beyond the game-style activities, children can also create comic strips, write poems, and send letters to Arthur and his friends. All of these activities offer opportunities to practice early reading and writing skills in a fun and safe venue. Another activity, which we particularly enjoyed was Family History Fun in which he created and conducted an interview about how I grew up, what my family was like, what my favorite items were, and so forth. He then added a picture, designed the layout and printed his work.

In addition to the website’s long-term play and learning values, we greatly appreciate that the instructions for nearly all the games and activities on the website are narrated and/or illustrated. This allows children to navigate the site with minimal parental assistance (not minimal parental involvement, mind you). This, in turn, increases a child’s sense of independence, self-efficacy, and self-confidence, all of which are critical developmental skills for social and academic success.

The website also features several types of printables including coloring pages, trading cards, and bookmarks, extending the many screen-based activities to plenty of screen-free fun.

Congrats to the site’s longtime senior producer, Gentry and his terrific team.

WGBH Kids Digital: Triple Threat

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The kids team picked up three Kidscreen Awards at the 2016 annual event in Miami.

Congratulations go to the digital team responsible for these fine works:

and to Exec Producer Marisa Wolsky who oversees these important science projects.

Congrats also go to our pals at PBS KIDS for yet another channel-of-the-year win and to Chris Bishop and his team at PBS KIDS for best design.


In Among the Soaps


… are the 42nd Annual EMMY nominations for childrens projects. This years nominations include our very own Plum Landing and Design Squad in the Outstanding New Approaches – Original Daytime Program or Series, Arthur for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program and many of our friends working on Wild Kratts, Peg+Cat, Odd Squad, Sesame Street, Dinosaur Train and Daniel Tiger.

Parent’s Choice Gold in TV Category for Ruff

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The review says:

PBS Kids has launched Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius, a digital literacy project aimed at kids ages 6 – 11. According to the PBS website, these video shorts explore “the constantly changing world of media, and how kids use technology, to help families become more media literate.”

Ruff Ruffman is the top-dog in this series, providing tips accompanied by spare (and delightfully quirky) animation. Also according to the website, the series developers surveyed more than 4,000 children and 250 parents to come up with the questions that are the basis of Ruff Ruffman’s Q&A show format.

How much time should I spend on the computer? How do you know if a web site is safe? Can hackers get on your texting conversations? Is searching for web sites bad for kids? Ruff, do you have a girlfriend?

Okay, some of those questions are played for comic relief but they’re handled quickly and don’t overshadow the real point of the program-which is to help kids navigate potholes and even outright dangers when using new communications technology.

Even very young kids these days are likely to consume some sort of new media and use digital and mobile technologies for school and personal purposes – and corny, wacky Ruff Ruffman delivers clear and age-appropriate technology tips, often reminding kids to ask grown-ups for help on more complex tasks, such as setting up search engines with kid-friendly filters.

These video tips are just the right length, and pear-shaped Ruff is just the right messenger, to deliver the invaluable information. Parents hoping to teach kids about media literacy and set safe and acceptable limits on media consumption would do well to let Ruff Ruffman launch the conversation. His “humility” is questionable but his advice is top-notch.


Parent’s Choice Silver for Plum’s App

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Plum’s Photo Hunt is a PBS Kids app that challenges children to get outside and observe the world around them. A series of “Photo Missions” send children out with a camera-equipped mobile device to look for life under rocks, insects and spiders, signs of a change of seasons, something dry, water, or a wide range of other things to experience in nature. For more fun, kids can add characters from Plum Landing to their photos, and when they take a special picture they can send it to Plum from the app for inclusion on the Plum Landing website. The app is intuitive to use and provides the inspiration many of us (kids and adults alike!) may need to start exploring.

Plum’s Photo Hunt encourages creativity, inviting children to see things they never thought to look for before. The developers have taken pains to protect privacy; parents will still need to offer oversight to make sure that their children submit nothing inappropriate, but PBS promises that anything they shouldn’t see (children’s faces, addresses, identifying information, etc.) will be deleted on receipt. The website accompanying the app can offer reassurance on this front, as a gallery of hundreds of photos from children bears out this promise — it is full only of other kids’ successes and motivation for more adventures.

ARTHUR Writes & Wins


Congratulations to ARTHUR for taking home an Emmy this weekend at the 41st Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards. ARTHUR was recognized with a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.