Kids Build Character with Life’s Building Blocks

lifesbuildingblocks-108x300One of the trends I’ve noticed in children over the years – in my classroom and elsewhere, and it’s not a good one, is that many of them are less than empathetic (insert your own pet peeve here – respectful of adults is another one I’ve noticed). I don’t know the reason. More parents working long hours? Parents trying to be friends instead of parents?

Whatever the reason, the things that are suffering are all character traits that we, as a human race, should be concerned about.

Life’s Building Blocks is a company founded by Vikash and Juli Sanyal, two SoCal parents. Their goal was to develop character building products that would be fun for kids and easy for parents to use and they’ve succeeded with their award-winning lineup of age appropriate products.

In addition to creating Zaki, my child’s favourite lovable, talking, plush “character chameleon,” they placed Zaki in the midst of the Spruce Street Six — a group of best friends in the third grade. In the stories, the friends who make up The Spruce Street Six encounter many of the common ethical challenges that confront children everywhere. The stories highlight both the strengths, weaknesses and virtues of each of the children making them seem very real to the children reading. Because of that, the ethical decisions made in the book are easily transferred to the decisions they are faced with in their daily lives.

Zaki himself is geared toward children aged 3-6. My three year old is just at the youngest appropriate age and he loves it, but I can see how he will grow into using it more often. Actually I can see us pulling out Zaki as a teaching tool when we need to readdress some of the basic character issues. He sings “Zaki’s song” and has six short stories and rhymes starring the Spruce Street Six programmed into his innards. The best part of “Storytelling Zaki”, in my opinion, are the fins on his back which change colors when the kids are in situations where they should stop (red), slow down and think (yellow), or go for it (green)! It was the first thing to get the attention of my son and definitely the part that kept it. It gave us the opportunity to chat about the situations in the stories and ensure that he actually understood the thought processes going on in the characters. Zaki sells for $30.

The Spruce Street Six Chapter Books, for ages 6-9, feature characters Honest Jake, Jessica the Brave, Calm Carlos, Lauren Never Quits, Jarrett the Just and Kind Shawnie who, with Zaki’s help and their own consciences, take readers on fun adventures that use real dilemmas & ethical problem solving skills teach character building while they enjoy a good book. They sell for $6 a piece.

The related Spruce Street Six Activity Books help reinforce the moral lessons learned in the books via puzzles, short stories, word searches and crack coded messages. They also sell for $6 each

I’m glad to see more products that do more than sing songs and blink, and character building is one of the most valuable goals for a toy that I’ve seen yet.

Kids Are Turning Green

imturninggreenIt was only a couple of months ago that we reviewed the first book from The Little Environmentalists. Their new book, I’m Turning Green, is perhaps even better than the last.

Retailing for just $7.95, the newly released I’m Turning Green is a great book to educate even the youngest of children about the ways even someone their size can make a positive impact on our beautiful planet. It gives kids tips to conserve energy, water, and natural resources. As a little girl turns green from head to toe, kids learn that the little things that they do around the home can actually help save the planet that they live on. Each page consists of a statement about something a child can do…“I help to recycle our glass, aluminum and paper. What do I see happening to me? All of a sudden I see my arms turning green!” and an additional ‘Did you know?’ fact that can start some great ongoing conversations around environmental protection at the child & family level. We’re thoroughly enjoying this book and I’m sure your family would too. Just be prepared to be nagged whenever you forget to be a good environmental steward.

Pediped – The Next Best Thing to Bare Feet

I’m the first to admit that I’m a shoe snob. Not for myself, as is evident by the worn out Birks in my closet, but for my kids. Pedipeds are an awesome combination of comfort, quality & style that passes even my perfectionist standards.

pedipedsPediped™ footwear is designed to be the “next best thing to bare feet.” They allow children’s feet to develop naturally and provide optimal support and protection during the developmental stages of babies’ feet – from initial crawl to the first steps and beyond. It’s made with premium, non-toxic, ECO grade leather and has foam insoles & padded heels for a comfortable fit & shock absorption. The distinctive styling – over 45 styles – is nothing short of exceptional. Whether you like Mary Janes, patent holiday shoes, traditional penny loafers, breezy sandals or ultra‐cool athletic shoes, Pedipeds is sure to have a style – or ten – that you’ll love and can’t resist.

Shipping is only $5 within the US and $10 to Canada.

Win it! You could win a pair of Pedipeds Originals of your choice. To enter, go take your pick and then leave a comment on this post with your fave style & size. Contest closes at noon mst on December 11, 2008.