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Baby Tech

Gadgets and new innovations for babies and their parents.

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Online homework helpers and learning activities
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Our last two columns reviewed some of the learning websites for younger children. This week we look at homework helper sites for older children.

Fact Monster includes homework help for a variety of subjects, from geography to writing to math to science. Each topic includes facts, timelines, quizzes and other self-paced learning tools. The site, which is free to use, is text-based and easy to navigate.

Scholastic.com’s School Success offers not only homework help pegged by grade level, but also helpful articles on how parents can best work with their children’s teachers, dealing with back-to-school jitters, and curricula guides for different grade levels. It also has a flash-card maker, a spelling wizard, and learning activities by grade level.

Enchantedlearning.com’s Zoom School has activities and quizzes for grade-school children across science, math, geography, and language arts. Although the site looks to be geared toward early-grade teachers, its activities can also be used by parents to help children directly.

BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper, created by a child and his dad back in 1996, is a site aggregator with links to other websites that offer help in math, English, science and computers. Links avoid websites with excessive advertising, and tend to be the “best of the best” when it comes to online learning. Homework Helper includes links to sites that help grade-school, middle-school, and high-school students.

No matter what age and learning level your child has attained, there are plenty of websites to help both you and your child.

Make learning fun: Part 2
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This is the second in our series on learning websites for children. Read Part 1 here.

A few more websites to acclimate the kids to the Season of School:

PBSkids.org is a favorite learning site among teachers and parents, but I found the navigation and sign-up process clunky (password authentication is a series of pictures, e.g.). Still, if you or your little one can figure it out, PBS kids offers lots of apps and games for preschoolers to teach letters, sounds, numbers and elements of science.

Sesame Street’s website, on the other hand, is a terrific, easy-to-navigate website for preschoolers, where kids can play learning games with their favorite Sesame Street characters. Many of the learning games mirror environments and activities that children learn in preschool, so this is a great site to familiarize younger children with the preschool experience.

The Kidz Page, which has been online since 1998, has thousands of free games, puzzles, art projects, and other various activities. Its learning-games page lists math games, word games, spot-the-difference games, and Sudoku games, among others. The interface is easy to learn, and navigation across the site is simple.

Next week: Homework help for older children.

 

 

Make learning fun: Part 1
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Now’s the time of year when the kidlets are either back to school or getting ready to go back to school. If their brains have turned to mush over the long, hot summer, here are some websites to pique kids’ interests and teach them at the same time:

ABCya.com was developed by a grade-school teacher and features hundreds of games and apps for children from pre-K to 5th grade. Games range from counting and letters for younger kids to ratios and geography for older ones. Banner advertising displays during most games, but a no-ad subscription is only $2.99/month.

highlightsThat perennial favorite of pediatricians’ offices, Highlights for Kids, has a terrific website at which kids can read stories from the magazine, hear and read listen-and-learn stories to develop reading skills, solve hidden-pictures games, and create science projects and crafts. Some of the games require adult registration, but all activities on the site are free.

Funbrain.com is another website with learning games that teach reading and math, although I found the navigation and rules for some of the games a bit confusing. I do like Funbrain’s index to games by type and grade-level, though, as well as its parents & kids intro to the site. Funbrain is free for users.

In the coming weeks Baby Tech will look at other learning websites that are popular among parents, teachers and children. If you have a favorite learning website that your child uses and loves, feel free to fill us in by sending an email to sue[@]babynames.com

 

 

Spectra Baby Pumps: Portable and Quiet

With the highest ratings on Amazon and raves from new moms, the Spectra Baby series of breast pumps are getting a lot of attention. Many even seem to prefer them to their comparable Medela counterparts. There are two models of Spectra pumps available, in vastly different price ranges:

The Spectra Baby USA S2 is a quiet, battery operated model, complete with night light. It boasts a “closed system” so the milk goes nowhere near the pump itself, ensuring hygiene and motor performance. It has a maximum suction strength of 300mmHg and the ability to be used as a single or double pump. You can customize the speed and rhythm settings to make sure its running at a pace that’s most comfortable for you. It starts in “massage mode” to stimulate the milk letdown, similar to your baby’s sucking technique. You can also adjust whether you want it in letdown or expression mode, so you can switch as-needed.  It is portable, running on a replaceable lithium metal battery. It can be used as a single or double pump.

The Spectra Baby USA S1 is a little pricier at almost double the price of the S2 on Amazon. This model comes with a rechargeable battery and has a maximum suction strength of 350mmHg. Like the S2, it can be used as a single our double pump and is equipped with a timer and nightlight. It can be used with the rechargeable battery for one hour on full charge or plug. This model comes with a wider pace range and a mobile tote. Not sure if that’s worth the extra $100 or not. Most reviews say to stick with the S2 model.

Both Spectra models are considered “hospital grade.” Moms’ reviews say they are comfortable while pumping, extremely quiet (great for the office) and easily portable.spectra

 

A car-seat technology that alerts parents
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We’ve all read those horrible stories about babies’ being left in car seats by forgetful and/or overtired parents. Now Evenflo has come up with a solution to avert such tragedies wiScreen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.27.28 PMth its SensorSafe Car Seat Technology, debuting this month at WalMart stores and online.

The SensorSafe technology is a Bluetooth-enabled wireless system that reminds a driver that baby is still in the car upon arrival at a destination. The transmitter is embedded in the seat’s chest clip, and also pings the driver if the seatbelt becomes undone during travel.

The receiver plug uses the connector port for power to monitor the SensorSafechest clip, and to determine if the car is ON or OFF. The SensorSafe reciever plug will not drain your vehicle’s battery, as it only uses a tiny amount of power, the same amount required to run your dashboard clock.

The SensorSafe car seat isn’t compatible with all cars seats, or cars; it is compatible ONLY with Evenflo® Embrace Infant Car Seats that carry a weight rating of greater than 30 pounds. The receiver plug works with any 2008 or newer gas or diesel equipped vehicle purchased in the U.S. or Canada. (You can contact 800-233-5921 to order a hybrid- or Stop/Start-compatible receiver.)

Watch a video of the SensorSafe technology in action here, or download the product FAQs.

A “cell phone” for baby
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Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 3.49.46 PMTired of baby-drool on your personal cellphone? Maybe it’s time to give baby her own. LeapFrog’s Chat and Count Cell Phone, currently available at Amazon for under $14 with free shipping for Amazon Prime members, will keep baby busy with its 15 phone activities.

Geared toward babies 18 months and older (although Amazon reviewers report babies as young as 12 months are able to use it), the Chat and Count cell phone plays sing-along songs when the music button is pressed, and has animated Scout recite numbers for each of the number buttons.

Children also learn conversational skills such as saying hello, how are you, nice to talk to you, and goodbye, and can trade messages and voicemails with puppy Scout by pressing the call button.

The phone, which runs on three AAA batteries (included), is made of durable plastic and the buttons are sized right for young fingers.

The LeapFrog Chat and Count Cell Phone is available here.

Baby will laugh & learn with this play puppy

 

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Fisher-Price’s Laugh & Learn Play Puppy with bonus CD will provide your little one with hours of creative learning play.

Geared toward ages 6 months through 3 years, the play puppy comes with two interactive modes that introduce baby to numbers, alphabet and parts of the body as well as singing songs like Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, This Little Puppy (This Little Piggy), Patty Cake and Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The Play Puppy runs on 3 AA batteries (included) and includes an on-off button located on the puppy’s left foot. The Play Puppy’s “heart” lights up when the sound is activated.

The Laugh & Learn Love to Play Puppy is currently available on Amazon for under $30 + $6 shipping. Purchase it here.

Jumperoo provides safety, promotes learning
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Fisher-Price’s Rainforest Jumperoo, currently under $80 at Amazon, is an all-in-one bouncy seat, play center and learning toy.

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The Jumperoo, which runs on 2 AA batteries (not included), is designed for babies who can hold their heads up, but who cannot yet walk, and who weigh less than 25 lbs. The seat rotates 360 degrees, and has three height adjustments so it grows along with baby.

Babies will also enjoy playing with the Jumperoo’s many animals and toys, including a bobbling elephant, a monkey swinging from a vine, a parrot hanging from a bead bar, a clear spinning bead ball, a tiger that plays hide and seek, a spinning lizard that makes rattling sounds, a tethered chew toy, and a stack of chips with eye-catching graphics for baby to explore. A motion sensor rewards baby’s movements with lights and sounds.

The Rainforest Jumperoo is available here.

Travel Toys: LeapFrog’s Scribble and Write
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The final item in our series on travel toys for summer learning and fun is LeapFrog’s Scribble and Write, portable and lightweight at 1.2 lbs and running on 3 AAA batteries.

The Scribble and Write, geared to ages 3 through 5, guides young ones in learning how to recognize and write the alphabet and numbers. It comes with two learning levels and includes learning games such as clapping in count to numbers.

The included stylus, designed to work with either left hand or right hand, is attached to the Scribble and Write and designed for younger hands and grips.

LeapFrog’s Scribble and Write is currently selling on Amazon for under $20, and is available here.

Travel toys: InnoTab Max Kids Tablet
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Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 12.29.01 PMVTech’s Innotab Max Kids Tablet, currently around $85 on Amazon, is the third addition to our series on toys for summer travel.

The tablet, recommended for children ages 2 to 9, includes 18 learning, play and art apps, a rotating camera and video recorder, and an easy-to-use 7-inch touchscreen interface. Parents can purchase up to an additional 650 educator-approved Innotab apps and cartridges. (Two free downloadable apps come with the purchase of the tablet.) The tablet runs on a rechargeable lithium battery that’s good for eight or nine hours.

The stylus can be attached to the tablet so keeping track of it is easy. The tablet comes with a protective top case with a carry handle, and also serves as support for easel mode so that the tablet stands on its own.

The Innotab Max Kids Tablet is available here.