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Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Tips for Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Look below for 10 timeless tips to help your kids to enjoy reading. 

By Kristi Jemtegaard

  1. The key to reading is words: hearing them, saying them, seeing them, and connecting them to everyday life. Simply talking—in the grocery store, on the way to school, before bed—guarantees a richer vocabulary for your child.
  2. Set aside a special time each day to read together. Find a quiet place where you can focus on the book. Pretty soon, your child will make the connection between the pleasure of undivided attention and the pleasure of reading.
  3. Expect disasters. Sometimes reading just isn’t in the cards. Don’t push it. The last thing you want is to turn it into a battle. But be prepared to grab unexpected opportunities. Always have a book with you—in your bag, in the car, at the pool: waiting is a lot easier on everyone if there’s a story to share.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo

  1. Read books you like. Your enjoyment will be infectious. Read books your children pick themselves … and praise their choices.
  2. Stop occasionally to ask your child questions about the pictures or about what they just heard. Try to ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “What do you think is going to happen next?” “Who do you like best in this story?”
  3. Connect stories to things that happen in your daily life. If you just read a story about a dog, point out all the dogs you see and talk about them: How big? What color? Who do you think they belong to? Make up a new story together about the dog … then find someone else to tell it to.
  4. Stop occasionally and point out an interesting word with your finger. Say it and have your child repeat it. Pre-readers don’t need to learn it … yet … but this reinforces the idea that those funny black lines on the page actually contain the magic of meaning.

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their offspring and to their society—is to read to children.” – Carl Sagan

  1. Capitalize on your child’s interests. If he or she likes bugs, find all the bug books you can. Read fiction and fact books. If they ask you a question, go together to a book to look for the answer—even if you know the answer already.
  2. Watch television together and talk about it. Compare what you see on the tube to real life and to real books. Ask questions. Make connections. Find books about things you’ve seen and read them as a follow-up.
  3. Visit the library. You don’t have to be rich to have a house full of books. Attend storytimes. Ask the librarian for books suggestions. And check out a book for yourself. You’re the best advertisement for reading there is!

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Awards Info and FAQ

What Makes A Parents' Choice Award® Winner?

The Parents’ Choice Awards program honors children’s toys and media that encourage children’s development, respects their intelligence, and offer many opportunities for learning through play.

Our judges are interested in how a product helps a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, and physically. We’re not interested in products that encourage commercialism, racial or gender bias. Above all, products must not extol violence.

Parents’ Choice Award winners have long-term learning value and play value. They’re innovative in concept, appealing, skillfully produced, and fairly priced.

Why Parents' Choice?


The Parents' Choice Awards is the nation's oldest and most respected nonprofit program created to recognize quality children's media and toysIt honors the best material for children: books, toys, music and storytelling, magazines, software, video games, television, websites and mobile applications.


The Parents' Choice Foundation's independent panels of educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents and, yes, kids themselves, use long established criteria and field tested methodology to identify quality media and toys designed for infants to young adults of varied skills and interest areas.


Parents' Choice Award-winning products are valued by consumers, coveted by industry professionals and promoted by retailers. Displaying a Parents' Choice Award seal shines a highly respected spotlight on your products.

The Parents’ Choice Foundation® website hosts your award-winning product information for as long as the product is on the market. We highlight our award-winning products in blogs, newsletters, on our social media, and in the many requests we receive for holiday lists. At no extra cost to the winners.

Got Questions?


Here are some of the most common questions, along with the complete answers from our support experts.

Product categories include: music, books (picture, fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks) toys and games (physical and digital), magazines, TV (broadcast, online, streaming), DVD, video games, podcasts, websites and mobile apps.

Annual Parents’ Choice Awards Calendars are published here. All “Call for Entries” emails clearly state submissions deadlines. If you are not subscribed to the Call for Entries emails, please click here.

For more than 41 years, the Parents’ Choice Awards program has used a multi-tiered and multi-layered evaluation process. We examine the package as well as its contents. We look for well-conceived and well produced age appropriate products that help a child grow in many ways: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, creatively and physically.

We look for long term educational value and play value. We consider how innovative a product is and if the price is fair. And of course, the product must be fun to use.  

The evaluation process begins and ends with the core team. Parent testers participate in the weeks-long testing period, using a proprietary survey as a guide to our the rigorous criteria.

No, products that are NOT awarded a level of commendation are not eligible to be resubmitted.

  • The Parents’ Choice Awards program does not evaluate education franchises, curriculum or teacher materials. 
  • Toy or game prototypes, Beta versions of digital media, or unpublished manuscripts are not eligible for submission.
  • CD and DVD submissions must include all credits and liner notes.
  • Eligibility dates (publication and product release dates) are noted on “Call for Entries” emails and submission forms.
  • And above all, products submitted must not extol violence or bias.

Parents’ Choice Foundation send email notification letters to all Awards applicants regardless of outcome.

We do not release feedback about why a product was not selected as a Parents’ Choice Award winner. This policy ensures that testers and judges will always be free to give honest answers and opinions. 

There are specific guidelines for the legal use of the Parents’ Choice Award images, whether in advertising or to place on the packaging.

A licensing fee is associated with the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, which are trademarked property of Parents’ Choice Foundation.

To request the Seals Use Guidelines and Seals Order Form, please direct an email to: Please include your name and email address, company, product, year and level of commendation.

The Guidelines also include approved wording that you may use, without charge, in descriptions of your winning product.

These measures are in place to protect your Parents’ Choice Award-winning products as much as the Foundation’s intellectual property.

If you have additional questions about the use of the Parents’ Choice Award seals, please contact

Parents' Choice Awards®

Call for Entries

 Sign-up here to receive the latest news and schedule information about all of our Awards.


Parents' Choice Foundation®

Resources and Recommendations

Linking you to resources that are informative, useful, thought-provoking and fun.

We’re Here for Each Other

The LEGO® ‘Play Well Report​'

How to Travel With Children

How to Create a Family Media Plan

Reading to Your Toddler? Print Books Are Better Than Digital Ones

How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

Check on Product Recalls

What Teachers Should Know About the Science of Reading

The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy

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Charity Begins at Home

Charity Begins at Home

We asked financial literacy expert Susan Beacham, founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation, to share her thoughts on teaching children the concept of charity and why helping others and the experience of feeling generous, means charity really does begin at home.  Click here to read Susan’s thoughts on why Charity Begins at Home.

By Susan Beacham

Most people think the phrase “charity begins at home” means taking care of you and your family first.  It does. And taking care of your family includes teaching your children the concept of charity – helping others and the experience of feeling generous – should be taught at home. When forming your lesson plan, consider these three thoughtful points:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

―Winston Churchill

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” 

―Theodore Roosevelt

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

―Maya Angelou

Teaching our children how to be charitable, by giving to others in time, talent or money, is a wonderful and long-lasting gift both for the receiver and the giver.  To make the charitable experience more memorable, and thus more likely to happen again, turn the abstract concept of charity into a concrete experience.  Find a cause or organization where kids can have hands-on experience. 

Among the things we teach at Money Savvy Generation is to put the “do” in donate. Do what you can, not what you can’t. Charitable donations aren’t only for the mega rich.  Give a pair of socks, a package of crayons, or pet food to a local animal shelter. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk, bring the newspaper closer to their front door, or mow their lawn

Put screen time to good use. While wrapping presents, enlist your children to find a cause that resonates. Begin your search by reading the ConsumerReports article on charities. And before you finalize your giving, visit a charity watchdog  like BBB Wise Giving Alliance,Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to help you and your family research the organization’s financial soundness. 

Here are three organizations that help others near and far, and in different ways. DonorsChooseKivaUnicefMarketplace  

Happy Giving!

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Parents’ Choice Awards: The “Helpers”

Parents' Choice Awards: The "Helpers"

In these topsy-turvy times, we all need to sing, and dance, and learn something new.
A BIG thank you to the Parents’ Choice Award winner “helpers” for providing these wonderful resources.

By Parents' Choice

Copy of Learn


Justin Roberts is performing a “live concert” on his Facebook page – . And on his website, he has a page where he teaches kids how to make homemade musical instruments and other craft projects –
For Parents’ Choice review –

Bill Harley is doing free concerts for kids! For more details, go here 
He’s also released The Wash Your Hands song as a free download: 
For Parents’ Choice reviews – and

Mi Amigo Hamlet and Alina Celeste are performing daily free bilingual concerts together on their YouTube and Instagram channels!

Mi Amigo Hamlet – and

Alina Celeste – and

For Parents’ Choice reviews of their music go here – and

Aaron Nigel Smith is launching a YouTube program later today called The Big Up Show. It’s a music based variety show that promotes peace. To watch, go here –
For Parents’ Choice reviews –

Laura Doherty Music is performing “live concerts” on her Facebook page
For the Parents’ Choice review –

Maria Rossoto is making lyric videos from the songs on her CD!She started with “The Rot Thing to Do”, which teaches about composting – 
For Parents’ Choice review –

Animal Farm are hosting Music Circle Time and other activities on our Facebook page every day –
For Parents’ Choice review –


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ “

– Fred Rogers

Learning for All Ages:

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood offers advice about ways to stay healthy as well as helping young children navigate new things, including at the following links –  Germs, Germs Go Away Handwashing and A Germ Fighting Superhero videos; Draw Your Feelings activity page; Doctor Daniel  game; and article on How to Prepare Children for Unexpected Events.
For Parents’ Choice review –

Yellow Scope Science Kits website, they have lots of free and fun science experiments that can be done at home with everyday items! Go here to start experimenting –
For Parents’ Choice review –

Ranger Rick Mags is giving free access to their website and digital magazines thru the end of June. Go here to access –
For Parents’ Choice reviews –

Bravery Mag presents Bravery School – a free 4-week daily curriculum delivered right to your inbox! Go here to access –
For the Parents’ Choice review of this Gold Award winner, go here-

Todo Math by Enuma is offering up a 14-day trial code! Go here to access –
For the Parents’ Choice review go here –

KidLit TV has free read aloud videos and other resources for homeschooling – 
For Parents’ Choice review –

WURRLYedu. is offering schools free access to their music education program until July 1st.Go here for more information –
For Parents’ Choice review –

Kodable is offering up free resources here: 
For Parents’ Choice review – 

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Girls Have Autism, Too

Girls Have Autism, Too.

This post comes from Roberta Scherf, parent of a young adult with autism, and the creator of MeMoves.

By Roberta Scherf

I’ve read a number of articles about Sesame Street’s groundbreaking introduction of Julia, a Muppet with autism.  As the mother of an incredible young woman on the autism spectrum, I think what’s most groundbreaking is that Sesame Street’s new character is a girl.

Current statistics show that of the 1 in 68 children in the US challenged by autism, boys are diagnosed five times more often than girls. 

It’s not that girls don’t have autism, they do. It’s that, for a variety of reasons, girls are often misdiagnosed.

The criteria for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (a developmental condition marked by social and communication difficulties, repetitive/ inflexible patterns of behavior, and restricted interests/ intense fixations) are based on data derived almost entirely from studies of boys.

It can be difficult to identify girls on the spectrum. On a measure of friendship quality and empathy, research shows that girls with autism scored as high as typically developing boys of the same age – but lower than typically developing girls (Head, McGillivray, & Stokes, 2014).

Girls on the spectrum can show a much higher interest in socialization than boys, which can make them more adept socially, but also makes social exclusion (which becomes inevitable during adolescence) especially painful.

Social life does not come naturally. Girls may painstakingly study people to imitate them, developing a greater ability to hide their symptoms – yet another reason girls with autism may be hiding in plain sight.

In addition, the criteria for an autism diagnosis in girls is often masked by overlapping diagnoses. Autism and ADHD frequently occur together – and because people diagnosed with ADHD tend to have higher levels of autism traits then typical people do – girls who seem easily distracted or hyperactive may get the ADHD label, even when autism is more appropriate.

A misdiagnosis for girls on the spectrum can be particularly difficult, especially as they enter adolescence.  Meeting the “mean girls” of junior and senior high school (and trying to decipher this new behavioral code) can be incredibly painful. Moreover, puberty involves unpredictable changes (horrifying to those with autism) that include breast development, mood swings, and menstruation.

The world is more dangerous for girls with autism as they develop sexually.  Their tendency to take things literally, their social isolation, and their deep desire to connect and to belong, can make girls and women easy prey for sexual exploitation.

People with autism who do not seem interested in social life may not obsess about what they are missing – but those who want to connect socially and cannot are tormented by loneliness.  In this way, autism may be much more painful for girls – and for women.  71% of adult women with Asperger’s reported suicidal thoughts; more than 10 times higher than the general population (Cassidy, et al., 2014).

 “As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that [Julia] had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age,” 

-Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia

Me too.

 About the Author: Roberta Scherf is the parent of a young adult with autism, and the creator of MeMoves. See Roberta’s work at:



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The Benefits of Free Play

The Benefits of Free Play

Parents’ Choice Foundation President, Claire Green fills us in on the latest prescription for play.

By Claire Green

Free play is just what it sounds like. There are no prepackaged instructions, no game pieces, no specific goals – unless the children make it so.

Free play flings imaginations wide open, explores backyards, unleashes enthusiasm, and tests life lessons.   

Free play is what childhood is all about.

The benefits of free play fills conversations and scholarly work. Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play founder, author and professor David Elkind, PhD are among those who have charted their courses based on play’s role in child development. Journalist Jessica Lahey reports on play in the Atlantic. Peter Gray writes about it in books and articles. And they all agree: free play helps children develop socially, physically and cognitively. A visit to the National Museum of Play shows that many a career has been mapped by play.

But what does free play mean to a parent? What should it mean? What should it do?

First to know is that free play is vitally important to your child’s development. Free play is how children learn to negotiate roles (you’re the boss, I’m the customer) and develop and follow rules (count to 10 then jump on one foot, then). Free play is about problem solving (that didn’t work; let’s try this), scientific discovery (where did you find that bug?) and creative expression (I’m flying on my magic dragon to the kingdom of …).   

Next, don’t panic. You don’t need a PhD to raise playful, well balanced and inquisitive kids. Kids are born ready to play – and learn. You do need to know that free play is a valuable commodity.

Free play isn’t expensive It’s less about being equipped with specific playthings than it is about the providing the time, space and encouragement. Free play is a great gift.

Give up control, not supervision. Just because free play isn’t a scheduled and scripted activity doesn’t mean that you should abandon parenting. Keep an eye and an ear tuned in. After all, Moms do have eyes in the backs of their heads and extraordinary powers of hearing. Just give the kids a chance to work things out. Don’t jump in to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Free play is an enrichment activity. Ditch specific learning goals. Free play breeds all kinds of success. On the playground or the playroom floor, free play is child directed and that’s the best kind of learning.

And as many pediatricians say, play is powerful medicine.

So fill the prescription for free play – and call me in the morning.

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Brady Rymer Presents: “Drop in the Bucket”

Brady Rymer Presents:
“Drop in the Bucket”

The song, off of Brady’s Parents’ Choice Award-winning album “Under the Big Umbrella” offers an important message about how easy it is to be kind, and how even a small gesture can mean a lot.

By Parents' Choice


Conceived and filmed by young students, the video offers a genuine look inside the school community and the challenges and effort it takes to be a kind and conscientious individual.

“A few of the songs on our latest album, Under the Big Umbrella were inspired by the collaborative work that I had done with HC Johnson Elementary School’s music teacher, Missy O’Keeffe and her students. The students contributed lyrical ideas, song titles and even sang on a few tracks. While working with Missy on the recording, I was introduced to the High School award winning film department and the instructor, Ethan Noble. I asked if his high school kids would like to get involved and produce a music video for one of the songs on the album. We all agreed on “Drop in the Bucket” as a good choice because of the universal message of showing kindness in the schools. The kids took the idea and ran with it – creating different scenarios that explored kindness in the schools and community. The video was shot in two days with 300 elementary school extras and thousands of kindness balls.” – Brady Rymer

Produced and Directed by Jackson Liberty High School (NJ) Seniors: Rebecca Chiafullo and Lianne Richards.

Based on Bucket Fillers, the national elementary school initiative designed to promote kindness and compassionate behavior in the schools.

Produced and directed by two award winning Jackson High School seniors, Rebecca Chiafullo and Lianne Richards, the music video includes over 300 kids from the HC Johnson Elementary School as actors and extras. The video explores various scenarios on how to be kind and inclusive in the school environment.


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Food for Thought

Parents' Choice Foundation

Food for Thought

Welcome to FOOD for THOUGHT – a Parents’ Choice Foundation book donation program designed to nourish young minds and imaginations. 

As we watched COVID-19 upend lives and livelihoods, schools, and spirits, we saw families waiting in long lines for donations from food pantries, restaurants, or grocery stores.

The pandemic has not just removed many families’ ability to put a meal on the table. It has also separated many children from a different kind of nourishment – that which comes from books.

For many kids, the classroom is their only access to ­­­­holding a book in their hands.  School libraries are often the only place where imaginations can soar while pages are turned.

Parents’ Choice Foundation has championed children’s literature since 1978. We believe that children need good books as much as they need good food.

We wondered: What if we could combine nutrition for the body with nourishment for the mind and soul? What if we could pair a book pantry with a food pantry?

Yes, we can.

Our pilot program is launching with a generous gift of 3,000 books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt book publishers.

The logo is courtesy of Peter H. Reynolds, aka The Word Collector.

Powered by the Baltimore City Public Schools, books will be distributed via its 18 emergency meal sites. 

We’ll keep you updated as this program grows.

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Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

Fiction is Alive and Page Turning

 Parents’ Choice Foundation contributor Kemie Nix writes about the value of fiction books for children.

By Kemie Nix

First, let’s all acknowledge that the kerfluffle about the demise of books was not only premature but wrong. There. Now let’s ponder the role of fiction in books in general and as it pertains to the young in particular.

Because it is not medicinal, fiction is deemed to be less valuable and more frivolous than nonfiction. The theories seem to be that nonfiction is more educational. Children are encouraged to read nonfiction to increase their knowledge of various subjects. Nonfiction is generally deemed more “intellectual” than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.

​”Nonfiction is generally deemed more ‘intellectual’ than fiction. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

In most schools in the United States, children are taught decoding skills from textbooks. Once the purpose of  these textbooks was to teach children to read so that they could start reading “real books”as soon as possible. As usual what was designed to serve people has run amuck. Children are taught decoding skills so they can read harder textbooks and/or nonfiction.Trade book literature – stories – have been pushed to the periphery of reading.

For children affluent enough to have access to books, the emphasis has moved away from stories into acquiring knowledge through nonfiction. While the reading of any book is to be encouraged, fiction gives gifts of inestimable value to children which are not to be found anywhere else in all the world beyond fiction. The premiere gift of fiction is long-range thinking abilities. Nothing, absolutely nothing, trains long-range thinking skills like stories.  A young reader – or listener – must keep ideas, a plot, characters, setting, and emotional content in  mind from the beginning of the book to the end. This process frequently extends over many days. (This explains the great appeal of series books.The characters and setting are known quantities, and readers can focus on the fun part – the plot. Reading speed will increase in series, however.)

There are also many gifts given by children’s authors and illustrators. These people care about the concerns and sorrows of childhood and can and do teach children that they are not  alone and that there is hope.  They often teach through laughter – also not medicinal. When children discover that  characters feel their same emotions, they frequently respond with love. The first book that any child identifies  with and loves, I have dubbed the “AH-HA book.” The reader has crossed a major bridge to significant, life-long literacy thanks to an author. They teach without preaching.

Another gift is empathy. Young people are too smart to read about anti-heroes. They identify with good characters and correctly identify and reject the villains. While identifying with good characters, children learn to understand, and care for the travails of others: and they are quite capable of transferring these insights into reality.

While society is rightfully concerned about dwindling attention spans, an antidote is at hand – fiction.

Any method to get children into fiction is helpful, but the best entrance is one that most of us can enter – reading aloud. People who read aloud, including parents and teachers, freely give all the gifts embodied in fiction and are to be treasured.

Visit some of our favorite fiction books here.

Kemie Nix is the founder of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.

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Thank You, Mister Rogers: Music and Memories

Music—comforting, reassuring, and specific to the concerns and anxieties of young children—was a staple of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. The deceptively simple songs were written and performed on the show by Fred Rogers, who not everyone knows was an accomplished musician (and who met his wife, Joanne, at the conservatory where they both studied). In this fine tribute album, award-winning artists offer a treasure trove of well-matched interpretations of several of Fred Rogers’ child-affirming songs, arranged with care by Dennis Scott. In the first track, the smooth, signature harmonies of 1960s pop group the Cowsills perfectly complement “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Actress-singer Rita Wilson (whose husband, Tom Hanks portrayed Fred in the 2019 film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) delivers a thoroughly lovely rendition of “Sometimes People Are Good,” and Vanessa Williams’ oh-so-tender “Many Ways to Say I Love You” is deeply moving. Among the several other artists featured: Micky Dolenz of Monkees fame (“It’s a Perfectly Beautiful Day”), Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (“Let’s Be Together Today”), Kellie Pickler (“It’s Such a Good Feeling”), and Grammy-winning, Latin crossover artist Jon Secada singing “Podemos Ser Amigos?” The album ends with the ensemble performing “Thank You for Being You,” an original song very much in the Fred Rogers vein, written by Scott as a touching appreciation for what Rogers meant, and still means, to so many: “Thank you for helping us stand on our own/ thank you for bringing the world to our home/…thank you for being you.”


Lynne Heffley ©2020 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

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Jessa Campbell & the Saplings “T-Rex in the Forest”

"T-Rex in the Forest"

Jessa Campbell & the Saplings are a Portland-based family music band. Her latest album is a celebration of nature and the seasons. “T-Rex in the Forest” is a fun song for kids to expand their imaginations while continuing to explore nature.

By Parents' Choice

Jessa Campbell & the Saplings are a Portland-based family music band. Her latest album is a celebration of nature and the seasons. “T-Rex in the Forest” is a fun song for kids to expand their imaginations while continuing to explore nature.
The song is featured on the Parents’ Choice Award-winning album “Can You Feel It?”
Production was done by Trifasic Films, directed by Paola Suculima De La Concha, a Mexican-American artist, who is a longtime friend of Jessa’s and the creator of the album artwork for “Can You Feel It.”

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Privacy Policy Privacy Policy
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Parents’ Choice Foundation/Michael Cohen Group Survey

Parents' Choice Foundation & MCG Survey Shows Similarities in How Parents Select and Choose Toys

Findings from a recent Parents’ Choice Foundation/Michael Cohen Group survey highlight the similarities in parental and caregiver concerns about their children – and their recognition of the positive role of toys and play in their children’s’ development and learning.

By Parents' Choice

Timonium, MD — February 12, 2019 – Parents’ Choice Foundation and the Michael Cohen Group (MCG) have released the findings from an online quantitative survey of 332 primary caregivers (parents, grandparents and teachers) of children (ages 1-10) conducted in December 2018. Focused on toys and learning, the survey findings reveal a striking consensus regarding parental concerns about their children, the role of toys, and toy purchasing behaviors. Key findings include the following.

Shared beliefs, concerns, and purchase behaviors across all demographic variables

A major finding is that the vast majority of parents – regardless of age, locale, or household income – share similar concerns about their children, have similar expectations and goals for the toys they buy, and report similar shopping and purchase behaviors.

Shared emphasis on safety, fun, and learning

The top three criteria that parents and caregivers use when selecting toys for their children are “toys that are safe” (90%), “toys that are fun” (80%), and toys that “help children learn” (72%).

Widespread belief that toys contribute to learning 
The vast majority of parents (over 80%) believe that toys facilitate their child’s learning of important skills and knowledge. Seventy percent (70%) classify the toys that they purchased during the past year as “educational” or “learning” toys. Overall, parents report the highest interest in toys that facilitate the acquisition of problem-solving skills (72%) and engender positive social-emotional development (69%).

A growing concern about children’s social and emotional development
Two-thirds of parents (65%) report that the development of “social and emotional skills” represents their greatest concern regarding their children’s learning and development, followed by “problem-solving skills (51%), “school-related language and early reading” (35%), and “school-related STEM” (30%). These findings support other recent MCG research findings highlighting parent and educator concerns regarding young children’s social skills and social-emotional development.

Widespread interest in third-party labeling
The majority of parents (71%) report that they would welcome a “third-party labeling system that displays the learning value of toys.” Two-thirds of parents (63%) report a preference for third-party labeling displayed directly on the packaging. This finding supports the recent activities and efforts of Parents’ Choice Foundation to meet this need.

“For the past five years, we’ve been developing and refining the PlayAbility Scale ™, a scientifically based measurement tool – akin to nutrition labeling – for toys and games. We’re delighted that the survey data confirm parents’ interest in using the PlayAbility Scale to help with toy and game purchasing decisions.”

Claire Green, Parents’ Choice Foundation president

“These findings highlight several important trends. The first is that parents – no matter where they live or where they fall on the income scale – are more like each other than not — they share similar concerns. The second is parents’ universal appreciation of the role of toys in their children’s development and learning. The third provides confirmation for the increasing concern about young children’s social-emotional development. The fourth is parents’ desire for third-party assessment and package labeling of toys’ play and learning value.”

Michael Cohen, PhD, President, MCG

Note on the sample for the survey: The survey was conducted with 332 U.S. primary caregivers (including parents and grandparents), representing toy purchasers for 453 children. The sample, which was recruited from Parents’ Choice Foundation’s subscribers and followers represented the full range of socioeconomic status; locale (urban, suburban and rural); children’s ages from 0 to 10; familial configurations (single-parent and dual-parent households); number of children per household (1-5); and preschool and non-preschool attendance.

About Parents’ Choice Foundation
Established in 1978 as a 501c3, Parents’ Choice Foundation is the nation’s oldest nonprofit guide to quality children’s media and toys. Best known for the Parents’ Choice Awards® program, the Parents’ Choice Award® Seals are the Foundation’s internationally recognized and respected icons of quality. The PlayAbility Scale ™ is a scientifically based tool that measures the skill building properties of toys and games.

About the Michael Cohen Group, LLC (MCG) 
The Michael Cohen Group, LLC (MCG) is an applied research, evaluation and consulting firm headquartered in NYC. MCG has conducted research in over fifty countries with children, parents, and educators on a range of topics, including: toys & play; education & learning; media: entertainment; and health & safety. MCG clients include The U.S. Department of Education; YouTube; LEGO; The New York State Department of Education; Nickelodeon; and Hasbro.

For additional information please contact:

Claire Green
President, Parents’ Choice Foundation
+1 410-308-3858

Michael Cohen, PhD
President, Michael Cohen Group LLC
+1 212-431-2252

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