Suessian Summer App Sale!

July 14th, 2014

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Aw, summer. The best time of the year for family vacations, relaxing outside, visiting friends, and neighborhood barbecues. Your kids will be busy with sports camps, swim lessons, and playdates- but don’t forget to make reading part of the summer fun! As parents, we know this time of year makes it more difficult to motivate your kids to read, and studies show that children who do not read during summer break can be up to three months behind their peers come September. Prevent summer learning loss by making reading fun with interactive Dr. Seuss book apps from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library! Written in Seussian rhyme, these apps cover basic science tops such as the human body, outer space, dinosaurs, and more, to make learning fun for kids ages 5-8.

All apps in the series are $1 OFF all summer long, so stock up your iPad and bring the Cat in the Hat with you everywhere you go! BROWSE NOW

Outside Your Door! Learning Library Collection
A Great Day for Pup: All About Wild Animal Babies
A Whale of a Tale!: All About Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales
Clam-I-Am!: All About  the Beach
Fine Feathered Friends: All About Birds
Hurray for Today!: All About Holidays
I Can Name 50 Trees Today!: All About Trees
Ice Is Nice!: All About the North and South Poles
If I Ran the Horse Show: All About Horses
If I Ran the Rainforest: All About Tropical Rain Forests
Inside Your Outside : All About the Human Body
Is a Camel a Mammal?: All About Mammals
Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles
My, Oh My-A Butterfly!: All About Butterflies
Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur?: All About Dinosaurs
Oh Say Can You Seed?: All About Flowering Plants
Oh, the Pets You Can Get!: All About Our Animal Friends
On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects
There’s No Place Like Space!: All About Our Solar System
There’s a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps
Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?: All About Deserts
Wish for a Fish: All About Sea Creatures

 


Celebrating 25 Years of Elmer!

June 16th, 2014

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2014 marks the 25th year since Andersen Press published David McKee’s very first book about everyone’s favorite patchwork elephant. Elmer has since become an emblem of diversity, teaching kids to celebrate and embrace individuality. This milestone anniversary is being celebrated with events all over the world, including a summer exhibition of Elmer artwork at Illustration Cupboard in London , storytelling events, and Elmer’s Anniversary Parade, inviting children to join in and “show their colors”.

As part of the celebration, all three of our Elmer apps will be on sale from June 16th through June 30th. Stock up your library and celebrate 25 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant!

Elmer’s Special Day: $0.99
Elmer and Rose: $1.99
Elmer and the Lost Teddy: $1.99

We also invite you to join in the fun by using the hashtag #Elmer25 on twitter and Instagram.

More Information


A Summer of Learning with the Cat in the Hat

June 4th, 2014

Summer break is upon us and for many families, that means three months packed with fun activities with the kiddos! But just because your little ones have a break from school doesn’t mean they have to take a break from learning. Below are some suggestions of how you can utilize apps from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library to complement some of your summer activities. Whether you are splurging on a sunny beach vacation or just keeping it mellow at home, your kids will have so much fun, they won’t even know they’re learning! In fact, you might even learn something too.

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Activity: Traveling somewhere
App to Download: There’s a Map on My Lap!

Whether you are going on a family road trip or flying across the country on an airplane, reading There’s a Map on My Lap! is the perfect way to teach your kids how to use and read maps. This app introduces youngsters to different map formats (globe, atlas, puzzle), as well as tools (symbols, scales, grids, compasses). Read it together while you are stuck in the car or airplane, then allow them to practice what they have learned by analyzing a real map when you arrive at your destination!

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Activity: Visiting an aquarium or whale watching
App to Download: A Whale of a Tale!

If a visit to the aquarium or whale watching on the open seas is on your summer itinerary, Whale of a Tale! is a must-have. In this story, the Cat in the Hat teaches kids all about cetaceans- whales, dolphins, and porpoises- with interactive diagrams and glossary words. Read the app before you leave the house, then talk to your kids about what they learned when you see the animals in real life!

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Activity: Going to the park
App to Download: My, Oh My-A Butterfly!

An afternoon at a park is the perfect way to spend a warm summer day, especially with all the beautiful butterflies that emerge this time of year. Teach your kids all about the different types of butterflies, their life cycles from caterpillars, and much more in My, Oh My-A Butterfly, then see if you can identify the species of the ones you see in the park!

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Activity: Beach Vacation
App to Download: Clam-I-Am!

Headed to the beach this summer? Be sure to add Clam-I-Am to your kids’ reading list and have the Cat in the Hat teach them all about beach wildlife and their habitats. Once beachside, talk with your kids about what they have learned when you come across hermit crabs, jellyfish (don’t get stung!), sand fleas, starfish, seagulls, and more!

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Activity: Camping (or any outdoor activity)
App to Download: Fine Feathered Friends

If you’ll be spending some time in the great outdoors this summer, be sure to read Fine Feathered Friends- a delightful story that will take your kids on a bird-watching tour with the Cat in the Hat to teach them about a variety of bird species. Then, see if you can identify the birds you see while you are camping or spending time outside.

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Activity: Horse-back riding
App to Download: If I Ran the Horse Show

If you’re planning a horse-backing riding outing (or if you just have a horse fanatic in your house), If I Ran the Horse Show is the app for you! This app takes kids to the Cat in the Hat’s Super-Tremendous-Studependous Horse Show to teach them about all things horsey- including fun facts about 13 of the most popular breeds. Load up on facts before you get on that saddle and then get your kids to tell you what they learned.

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Activity: Hiking
App to Download: I Can Name 50 Trees Today!

Hitting the trails this summer? Make a game out of it by reading I Can Name 50 Trees Today- an app that introduces kids to many, many different types of trees- and then challenging your little hikers to identify the trees they see based on what they have learned.

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Activity: Going on a tropical vacation
App to Download: If I Ran the Rainforest

If you’re lucky enough to be going on a tropical vacation with your family, 1) we are jealous; and 2) make sure you bring If I Ran the Rainforest along! In this app, the Cat in the Hat takes Dick and Sally for an “umbrella-vator” ride through the understory, canopy, and emergent layers of a tropical rain forest. Teach your kids all about some of the plants and animals they might see on vacation!

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Activity: Visiting the Museum of Natural History
App to Download: Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur or There’s No Place Like Space!

The Museum of Natural History is a great place to take your kids during the summer, and we have two apps that will help enhance their learning! If you’re planning on strolling through the dino exhibit, read Oh Say Can You Di-no-saur to learn some interesting facts about dinosaurs. If your kids love the planetarium, try There’s No Place Like Space!, which comes complete with an interactive telescope. Read the books again after your visit and talk to them about what they saw at the museum.

We hope everyone has a fun and safe summer break with their families! Tell us what your plans are in a comment below.


Blogger Spotlight: Mommy Tech Bytes

May 8th, 2014

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Today we are excited to feature Shoshana Stopek of Mommy Tech Bytes for the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight. A media professional, author, and mommy to 4-year-old Sasha, Shoshana shares some insightful thoughts about kids apps and parenting below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Mommy Tech Bytes? What was the inspiration behind it?

Shoshana Stopek (SS): I launched www.mommytechbytes.com in December 2012 – when my daughter turned 3. I had been using educational and storybook apps with my daughter for several months and found a great deal of value in how they supported her early learning development. I wanted to share that experience with other parents and help them find apps and technology they might enjoy using with their children.

I was also inspired by the knowledge I had gained from creating content for kids for many years at Warner Bros. Global Publishing. Technology is a tremendous resource for parents and children, but the marketplace is flooded with digital content and that can be overwhelming. My hope was to develop a user-friendly site where I could curate and recommend apps geared towards the younger audience.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

SS: The main goal of Mommy Tech Bytes is to help parents incorporate the best of technology into their children’s lives in a healthy, positive and meaningful way. My site features app reviews and giveaways, interviews with experts in the media industry, and some of my own tech parenting insights and curated content recommendations.

OM: How do you think technology has made parenting easier?

SS: Really interesting question! I don’t know if technology has made parenting easier or just different. I think technology has empowered parents with new ways to educate, entertain, and engage kids.

Social media has also provided parents with online communities where they can ask questions (at all hours of the night), make friends online with other parents, and follow parenting blogs. In this way, technology has united parents in an interconnected support system that didn’t exist before. That’s pretty cool!

OM: What is your favorite thing about being a parent in the technology age?

SS: At the moment, my favorite thing is trying out new apps with my daughter. We have a lot of fun together! I also love to watch her navigate devices and apps on her own. It’s amazing to me how quickly she is able to teach herself new skill sets.

OM: What are your daughter’s favorite apps right now?

SS: My daughter has become a very proficient hairdresser and creative concert conductor, thanks to the folks at Toca Boca. She’s also worked her way up the levels on Bugs and Bubbles, a game that reinforces early math skills, fine motor skills and STEM-oriented thinking. She also loves Oceanhouse Media’s Dr. Seuss Learning Library, which is a super fun way to learn new science concepts. Here’s a short list of her current faves:

Games:
Toca Boca Hair Salon
Toca Boca Band (she loves “Cello Guy”)
Bugs & Bubbles
Ariel Numbers & Counting
Dr. Pet Play (encourages pretend play)
Barbie Fashionistas Endless Closet
Play & Learn with Wallace

Storybook Apps:
Dr. Seuss Clam-I-Am!
Another Monster at the End of this Book
Curious George: The Perfect Carrot

OM: What are the most important features you look for when choosing kids’ apps?

SS: One of the most important things I look for in a kids’ app is whether the content is engaging and exciting to kids. I think about how concepts are presented and whether kids will want to return to the app again and again.

Depending on the app, here are some questions I may consider when choosing a quality kids’ app:
UI – is the user interface well-designed with user friendly navigation?
Graphics – are the graphics / artwork appealing to the child’s eye? Do they enhance the story content?
Is the content engaging – will the child return to the app after one play?
Educational value – what is the child learning and how are concepts presented?
Added value – does the app include interactivities such as stickers, coloring, puzzles, etc.?
Reward motivation – what is motivating the child if there’s educational content (sticker rewards, verbal motivation)
Are activities age-appropriate, or are they too easy or too hard?

OM: Do you think apps have revolutionized education?

SS: Absolutely! Apps have made education more accessible in and out of the classroom. Apps have melded the learning of technology with curriculum found at every grade level. In addition, apps have made learning more fun and interactive for children. I’ve seen this first-hand with my daughter.

Educational apps allow students to take their learning home with them, making the classroom more accessible than ever. When you add interactive technology found in many classrooms, such as the Smart Board, it is easy to see how technology has shaped a new era of education. I’m excited to see how apps will continue to make a difference in education as technology evolves.

OM: What are some of your favorite tech parenting sites?

SS: I follow various tech parenting sites to get different perspectives in the industry, and I really admire the hard work that all bloggers put into their content. Here are a few of my favorites:
www.coolmomtech.com – perfect mix of lifestyle and tech parenting
www.commonsensemedia.org – awesome nonprofit organization that reviews kids’ media across all platforms for parents using a ratings system based on age appropriateness and learning potential
www.theappyladies.com – amazing special needs-focused tech parenting site
www.teacherswithapps.com – app and tech-in-the-classroom recommendations from two tech-savvy teachers
www.theimums.com – great app and tech product reviews and giveaways (UK-based)
www.blog.momswithapps.com – thoughtful articles for parents and app makers from the brilliant Lorraine Akemann, Co-founder of Moms with Apps and App Friday
www.appsplayground.com – excellent roundups of apps by device and age group (UK-based, led by journalist Stuart Dredge)

OM: Who is the most tech-savvy person in your house?

SS: I swear I’m not trying to toot my own horn when I say that, at the moment, it’s me. But, both my husband and I read a lot and we embrace technology in our home. And, at the pace my daughter is learning, we are definitely going to stay on our toes! Just the other day, I paused while playing with a new app and my daughter said, “Mom, you have to click the back arrow.” I thought that was really awesome.

Thank you very much for participating in our Blogger Spotlight, Shoshana!

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Blogger Spotlight: Geeks with Juniors

April 30th, 2014

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Today we are delighted to feature Eric and Camila (and their adorable elephants) from Geeks with Juniors for the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight! Discover their favorite apps for kids, how they think apps have revolutionized education, and more below.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Geeks with Juniors? What was the inspiration behind it?

Geeks with Juniors (GWJ): We launched Geeks with Juniors on Jun 22, 2012. We started the site because we believe we can offer a unique perspective to reviewing educational apps for kids. We are both developers, and Eric is a lecturer and a parent. We believe the intersection of our backgrounds in technology, education, and parenting makes our reviews unique.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

GWJ: We want to focus on the intersection of technology and education because we believe that’s how our future is being shaped. And, we will always try to be in the forefront. For now, the fastest growing platform is the iPad, but we keep our eyes open to shift to where the future takes us.

With this in mind, our current goal is to help parents discover the best educational apps for their kids through our reviews and guides.

OM: How do you think technology has made parenting easier?

GWJ: Ever since the beginning of time and into the foreseeable future, parenting is always challenging. Technology in itself is a double-edged sword. If we use it properly to aid our parenting goals, technology can have an astounding impact.

No matter how good we are as parents and our kids’ teachers are at teaching, we can all use a bit of help. The iPad and the internet have made parenting and homeschooling resources easily accessible. It’s inspiring to see how developers, parents and teachers share their techniques and resources with us. Now, it’s up to us and our curating skills to make the best use out of it.

OM: What is your favorite thing about being a parent in the technology age?

GWJ: We believe it’s our job as parents to introduce new concepts to our kids, and teach them how to learn new skills. We need to be continually inspired in parenting. The internet has made it possible for parents to learn from their peers and adopt the most suitable educational tools for their kids.

OM: What are your kids’ favorite apps right now?

GWJ: Eric has two sons: Philip (4) and Noah (2). Philip loves to play puzzle games and create his own music. His favourite apps are Beyond Ynth, Amazing Alex, Toca Builders, and GarageBand.

Noah loves to sing and play with alphabet apps. His favourite apps are LetterSchool, Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet, Talking ABC, and Endless Alphabet.

OM: What are the most important features you look for when choosing kids’ apps?

GWJ: First and foremost, it has to be a fun app to play. Kids learn best through playing. If you can keep them engaged, they will eventually learn new things as they play.

We tend to avoid freemium apps. Even though there are a few freemium apps that are well designed, most are not. Nowadays we also emphasize more on an app’s unique value — what does this app offer that other apps don’t?

OM: Do you think apps have revolutionized education?

GWJ: Yes, of course. Here are some examples:

* Alphabet and number apps have made flash cards obsolete. Kids can recognize letters and numbers at a younger age than ever before.
* High quality voiceovers from native speakers make it possible for ESL kids to learn phonics and spelling correctly and easily.
* Many apps have made it easier for kids to experiment with coloring, word building, jigsaw puzzles, storytelling, and even various jobs/roles.
* Several apps even make it possible for kids to explore different parts of the world: new countries, the forest, and even the deep blue sea.

OM: What are some of your favorite tech parenting sites?

GWJ: Eric and Philip are now into playing LEGO with the basic bricks. If you have a bunch of bricks and looking for ideas to build, you might want to check [Brick Instructions].

If you’re looking for ideas and inspirations for DIY crafting activities with your kids, we’d suggest Pinterest. If you’re looking for app recommendations, we’d suggest subscribing to our RSS feed or following us on Twitter.

OM: Who is the most tech-savvy person in your house?

GWJ: Both of us are the most tech-savvy members of our respective families. Eric has high hopes that will change when Philip and Noah reach their teenage years.

Thank you so much to Eric and Camila for participating in the Blogger Spotlight!

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Blogger Spotlight: Deanne Shoyer

April 24th, 2014

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Today we are thrilled to feature Deanne Shoyer for the next installment of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month. Deanne was an admin and founding editor of AppAbled.com, as well as the author of Small But Kinda Mighty, a blog about her experiences raising twin boys who happen to be autistic. See what she has to say about using tablets with autistic children, her favorite apps and more below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): I understand that you prefer to refer to April as Autism Acceptance Month. Why is that?

Deanne Shoyer (DS): In short, it’s because awareness campaigns have had a negative impact on autistic people. In one of my blog posts I wrote that, “awareness stigmatizes difference but acceptance values it. I value my boys, just the way they are.”

One of my favourite pieces explaining the detrimental effect that “awareness” campaigns have had on autistic people is “A Call for Accountability”.

(OM): When and why did you create Small But Kinda Mighty? How did you come up with the name?

(DS): I first started blogging 3 years ago using a free WordPress site. My partner and I had recently started dating and he asked why I didn’t have a blog. I couldn’t think of a good reason so I figured I’d better get cracking. As to the name, I wrote a post explaining that.

(OM): How did you find out about tablets helping autistic children? What has been your experience with this?

(DS): In February 2011 I heard an interview on the Autism Women’s Network blog talk radio show in which Shannon Rosa and Melody Latimer talked about the huge positive impact that iPads have had on their children’s lives. I started following Shannon via Twitter and her blog posts at Squidalicious were instrumental in my decision to get iPads for my boys.

iPads have been life changing for my children in so many ways – their communication, fine motor skills, language acquisition and ‘academic’ learning have all improved. The iPad has been a bridge that has helped them make sense of, navigate and connect with a world that isn’t designed with their neurology in mind.

(OM): Tell us about the fundraiser you did to purchase iPads for your kids.

(DS): At the time a 64GB iPad 2 cost about $1,000 and I didn’t have the money to buy one of them, let alone two. So I decided to see if I could use crowdfunding to raise some money. I emailed friends, family, work colleagues and spread the word via Twitter and Facebook asking people to help any way they could. I had a yard sale and made leaflets explaining what I was doing and why. My neighbours stepped up in style and I got a few hundred dollars just from the yard sale alone. People blogged and shared on my behalf and I was so impressed and grateful for the support I got, including support from people I’d never met other than through social media.

(OM): What are some of your favorite apps for autistic children?

(DS): This is a tough one to answer as there are so many. Two years ago I wrote a post listing my top ten favourite free apps for autistic kids.

Another way to check out my favourites is to look at the ‘apps for autism’ tag on my blog.

There are also some developers whose apps just seem to ‘click’ with autistic children. OMBooks, especially the Dr. Seuss and Byron Barton book apps are very popular as are most apps by Toca Boca, Little Bit Studio, Busy Bee Studios and Spinlight Studio.

Thank you so much to Deanne for taking the time to participate in our Blogger Spotlight. Tune in again next week for the last spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month!

More Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlights


Blogger Spotlight: Autism Plugged In

April 17th, 2014

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So far we have featured Smart Apps for Special Needs and Shannon Des Roches Rosa in our Blogger Spotlight for Autism Awareness Month, and today we are thrilled to talk to Jack Kieffer from Autism Plugged In about his experience using ACC apps with autistic children. Read about his favorite apps and tips for parents below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you create Autism Plugged In? What was the motivation behind it?

Jack Kieffer (JK): I started volunteering with special needs individuals through a local organization, Northwest Special Recreation Association a few years ago, during the summer after 8th grade. I worked with several non-verbal autistic kids, and most of them had to carry around bulky communication boards in order to express themselves. Shortly thereafter, I started hearing about the benefits of technology like the iPad and decided to launch the website, Autism Plugged In, as a way to help parents find the apps that they need! Essentially, Autism Plugged In was created to help with the navigation of the digital app marketplace.

(OM): What has been your experience using apps with autistic children? How do you think it has helped them?

(JK): My personal experience has primarily been with AAC applications (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). I have found that children on the spectrum have much more going on in their minds than they are able to express. In particular, I have worked with a non-verbal teen now communicates quickly and at a relatively high level with the Proloquo2Go application, and this has really improved his life. When kids can express themselves more easily, there’s a lot less frustration.

(OM): What are some of your favorite apps for autistic children?

(JK): I’m glad you asked! We get a lot of parents asking about apps that address specific issues. For instance, communication apps, or AAC apps, allow non-verbal kids to communicate by tapping pictures on their iPad. Proloquo2Go is probably the most comprehensive AAC app available for the iPad, but it’s a bit pricey for some families. So, I like to offer alternatives such as Alexicom AAC or LetMeTalk – for Android. A wonderful scheduling app is First Then Visual Schedule HD, which lets kids see and plan for “what happens next” in their daily routine. Another group of essential apps for kids on the autism spectrum is social skills apps. i Create… Social Skills Stories is an iOS app that lets parents create sample storylines that demonstrate a particular activity, like feeding the family dog. By adding sequential photos of the child opening the dog food container, then a picture of he or she scooping dog food, and finally a photo of the child pouring the food into a bowl, it creates a visual step-by-step guide to everyday activities. Readers can also check out a list of my favorite applications on the website.

(OM): What tips do you have for parents, teachers, and therapists when selecting and using apps with autistic children?

(JK): Remember that one of the huge benefits that technology brings to the table is “fun!” If you are trying to use the iPad and its apps in a very conventional and rigid way, you’re not going to see the benefits – you might as well be working with a low-tech chalkboard. Apps work because they’re stimulating, interactive, colorful, and easy-to-use. As a parent, teacher, or therapist, your job is to facilitate the use of these apps and chime in where necessary. I would also say this: have your child try new apps, instead of letting them use the same one or two over and over again, but don’t force it. If your kid doesn’t like a particular app, for whatever reason, let it go and move on! If you keep pushing that program, kids will associate those negative feelings with the iPad as a whole, and they won’t want to work with the technology.

(OM): What is your favorite thing about Autism Awareness Month?

(JK): Autism Awareness Month is an opportunity for innovators to showcase their work, whether that is from a sociological viewpoint or from a medical perspective. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to learn about new technology, research, and therapies that they didn’t know about before.

Thank you so much to Jack for sharing his insight with us! Tune in again next week for another Blogger Spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month.

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10 Ways to Spend Time with Family This Spring

April 11th, 2014

The days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and flowers are starting to bloom- spring has finally arrived! This is a wonderful time to plan a heap of outdoor activities to get your family physically active and healthy, all while strengthening your bonds and making unforgettable memories. Below are 10 of our favorite spring activities to get your kids outside in the warm weather, utilizing their creativity, and learning just how fun being healthy and active can be!

naturehike
1) Take a nature hike or walk together.

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2) Plant a flower garden.

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3) Enjoy a healthy picnic at the park.

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4) Visit a farm to see the animals.

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5) Draw with sidewalk chalk.

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6) Go on a bike ride.

farmersmarket
7) Visit the farmer’s market.

kite
8) Fly a kite.

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9) Build a bird house.

botanicalgarden

10) Visit a botanical garden.

After the sun sets, we encourage you to snuggle up together with some of our favorite springtime book apps!

Just A Day at the Pond – Little Critter
A Great Day for Pup (Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat)
My, Oh My-A Butterfly! (Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat)
Ladybug at Orchard Avenue – Smithsonian’s Backyard
The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

And don’t forget take advantage of our Easter app sale through April 21st!

The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule: $.99
The Berenstain Bears Go to Sunday School: $.99
The Berenstain Bears Faithful Friends: $.99
The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You!: $.99
The Berenstain Bears Discover God’s Creation: $.99
The Berenstain Bears Living Lights Collection #1: $7.99
All other Berenstain Bears Living Lights apps: $1 OFF
Happy Easter, Little Critter: $.99


Blogger Spotlight: Shannon Des Roches Rosa

April 9th, 2014

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Today we are honored to have Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and Squidalicious for the second installment of our Autism Awareness Month Blogger Spotlight! We featured her back in November, but this time we wanted to talk to her specifically about her experience using apps with her son Leo. We also encourage you to read this article she published last week: World Autism Awareness (or Acceptance) Day: Hope and More Hope for Autism Parents Like Me.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): How did you discover that iPads and tablets are great tools for autistic kids?

Shannon (S): Completely by accident. Leo won an iPad in a raffle, about a month after they were released in 2010. I’m not an early adopter, so I was skeptical. But he dove right in and hasn’t stopped learning and having fun with iPads & apps in the nearly four years since. It was amazing how suited the iPad is to Leo’s visual learning style, how easy the touchscreen is for him to use (compared to a mouse), not to mention how competent he feels when can entertain himself with favorite videos and apps, completely independently (though of course if he needs help, we help him).

(OM): What is the first app Leo ever tried?

(S): I believe it was the drag-and-drop spelling app FirstWords. At the time, I wrote that “Leo loves First Words because it’s fun and easy. I love it because he’s learning to spell words, and the interface makes that learning error-free.” Leo and I both still really appreciate well-designed apps like FirstWords, and Oceanhouse Media’s OMbooks, of course.

(OM): What are some of Leo’s favorite apps right now?

(S): He’s a thirteen-year-old boy, so he loves the YouTube app. He especially enjoys watching videos of rollercoasters, and somehow finds the rollercoaster channels, even though he’s still working on reading. But he’s interested in Lego, and really enjoys their Duplo: Food app. He also likes to revisit favorites he’s had for a while, like Oceanhouse Media’s Rudolph Run! game, and Byron Barton’s Trains. And he really loves reading the custom photo and story books we make for him with Kid In Story.

(OM): If you could snap your fingers and instantly create the app of your dreams, what would it do?

(S): We’re lucky in that some of those apps are already here, like Oceanhouse Media’s Mr. Brown Can Moo, which lets Leo read one of his favorite books of all time to himself. I suppose I’d like a really flexible visual scheduling app that would be easy for Leo to use himself. Good basic-to-complex visual scheduling apps do exist, like First-Then Visual Schedule and ChoiceWorks, and their interfaces work for me, but they don’t work for Leo.

(OM): What tips do you have for parents using apps with their autistic child?

(S): Heh. I have a lot of tips! Remember that you are the parent, and need to set reasonable limits with the iPad as you would with any other media. I say this because I think there is too much brouhaha in the news about parents using iPads as babysitters, when in fact iPads are just another tool — and it seems silly to blame tools.

Be careful about buying apps, especially those specifically for autism. Do your research first, as apps can be expensive, and app purchases can pile up quickly. To help people with their app decisions, I work with an SLP, Jordan Sadler, and an autistic adult, Corina Becker, to maintain a curated spreadsheet of recommended autism apps. But there are other good resources, like CommonSenseMedia.org, MomsWithApps.org, or TechInSpecialEd.com.

Make sure you buy apps that your kids find fun as well as those just for learning! Sometimes parents of autistic kids feel as though everything in their kids’ lives has to be therapeutic or educational. Don’t forget that autistic kids need opportunities to chill and relax, too.

Thank you so much to Shannon for sharing her insight and experience with us. We look forward to following her family’s journey in the future!

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Team-Building: Kitchen Edition

April 4th, 2014

Another fun and successful quarter is in the [digital] books at Oceanhouse Media, which meant we got to celebrate together at our quarterly team outing! Last quarter, we celebrated by volunteering at Feeding America San Diego, and this quarter we were very lucky to feed ourselves at a completely out-the-box experience: a group cooking class at The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle.

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The majority of us had no idea where we were going or what we were doing when we showed up to the office before the outing. Last time the team outing was a secret, we ended up at a high-ropes course, so those of us who are scared of heights were happy to hear that we would be spending the afternoon in a sunny garden rather than suspended 50 feet above the ground!

The Boys & Girls Clubs’ Center for a Healthy Lifestyle is an adorable, sunny yellow cottage nestled in Solana Beach, California. The center is dedicated to “inspiring children & adults to live healthier lives through cooking, gardening and fitness”. Complete with a beautiful kitchen space, communal organic garden, and peaceful patio, the center was the perfect place to spend a sunny morning in Southern California!

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We were very lucky to have Amanda Mascia of The Good Food Factory, an Emmy-award-winning healthy cooking show for kids, as our joyful and energetic teacher. She curated a menu to coincide with our 5 core values:

-Creative problem solving: brown rice (she taught us the perfect way to bake it)
-Efficient excellence: carrots & thyme
-Always learning: blueberry vinaigrette for our salad
-5 stars or no stars: salmon
-Passion for the work: whipped cream and berries

Yum!

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The first item on our to-do list was to peel a giant box of carrots (not as giant as the box at Feeding America San Diego!), so we all grabbed a peeler and got to work. With all of us chipping in, we were able to peel and chop the entire box in just a few minutes! Amanda had all the recipes we needed printed out so she instructed us just to start cooking and let her know if we had any questions. We all loved that she let us take initiative and figure things out on our own. We were able to modify some recipes to fit certain team members’ dietary restrictions, create our own perfect marinade for the salmon, and pick anything we wanted from the garden to add to our fresh salad! We self-organized into groups to make various items such as the salad dressing, salmon, croutons, whipped cream, etc. It all tasted absolutely delicious! So often in today’s world, meals are rushed and “convenient”, so it was relaxing to slow down and really savor the process of cooking, especially with a group of people. Working together outside of the office was so much fun and really helped us to get to know each other better.

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As we ate our lunch on the beautiful patio and took in the gorgeous day, we discussed how the experience relates to our company culture. One aspect we really value at Oceanhouse Media is getting the chance to take initiative on projects, just as Amanda let us do with the recipes. Team members are always taking the lead on new ideas or processes, applying forward-thinking knowledge (always learning), and trusting of one another to try something new- even if it fails. When one team member told the group how much he learned about gardening after one season of an unsuccessful garden, we discussed how important failure is in the learning process (FAIL = first attempt ilearning), and how if you are not failing, you are not taking enough risks. Finally, the carrot peeling resonated with us because of how quickly we were able to power through a huge task when we all pitched in and helped. The exercise was demonstrative of how much more efficient we are as a group. Now when an individual employee has a big project to tackle, we all pick up our theoretical carrot peeler and help out!

“Building software is like making whipped cream. Things get mixed up for quite some time and then voila!, something magical appears.” – Greg U.

“Seeing our team in the context of a kitchen made it clear to me that the sweetest things come from working in tandem with one another.” – Chandler

“Our morning with Amanda at The Good Food Factory was really fun and educational. It was so nice to take time as a team to make a healthy and delicious meal together in a beautiful setting where we could grab anything we needed for the meal right from the garden. Working together made the job easy and we all brought great, tasty ideas to the table that resulted in a a fresh and delicious lunch!” – John C.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle and Amanda for making our team outing a wonderful experience!

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