Saturday, June 27, 2009

Scout the Iddy Biddy Cloud

NMC Toys, through Parent Reviewers, sent us a cute little Scout the Cloud to check out. Scout is one of three stuffed toys in the Idbids series, designed to help kids take iddy biddy steps (get it?) toward a greener life.

Each Idbid comes with a code that lets you access a protected part of the Idbids website. I didn't think my 3 1/2 year old was old enough to appreciate that feature, but to my surprise he got really excited about it. In Scout's section, we met three animals that live in the rain forest and learned a little bit about why their habitat needs protecting. My son's favorite part was getting to name the animals and print out certificates with their pictures on them. (Thanks to Idbids from this adoptive parent, by the way, for not making it an "adoption" certificate like so many toys do.)

The tag also said we'd be able to explore more of Scout's world online, but, alas, that part of the site is still under construction. My son was mightily disappointed and I'm still fielding questions a week later about why it wasn't available. (I guess I learned a parenting lesson about verifying a toy's claims before reading them aloud to my kids.)

Scout and friends (a friendly raindrop and a pleasant flower) are made from organic cotton and colored with vegetable dyes. If you're looking for a non-toxic, eco-friendly stuffed toy, these are three cute options. Very soft and cheerful.

If you want the full benefit of Idbids' environmental ed piece, I think you really need to get the starter kit. The starter kit includes, among other things, a children's book that uses the Idbid characters to talk about environmentalism and a chart that lets kids track their progress in making iddy biddy steps to help the Earth. The toy alone, even combined with the website, just didn't really convey Idbids' stated environmental mission.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Obama: The Historic Journey"

Thanks to a Mother Talk book tour, I got a chance to look at Obama: The Historic Journey (Young Reader's Edition), a new book from The New York Times/Callaway with text by Jill Abramson. It takes kids through President Obama's story from his childhood and early career, then moves into a more in-depth look at the campaign and election, culminating with Inauguration Day.

It is a visually engaging book, packed with stunning photos from flyleaf to flyleaf. The text, adapted for elementary school readers from the adult version, is easy to read and covers a lot of ground, including everything from personal stories to a breakdown of Obama and McCain's positions on major campaign issues. I appreciated that the author was willing to reference class issues and racism in an age-appropriate way. I was also happy to see his daughters (who, like my daughter, were born to an African-American parent and a biracial parent) included several times in the story and pictures. There was even a brief section devoted to them (did you know Sasha's Secret Service name is 'Radiance'?).

Reading through this brought back so much of the lump-in-the-throat emotion of that whole long season of Obama's candidacy and inauguration. My kids are still too young really understand everything that happened last year. This book will be a helpful resource for them in the future, as it does a good job of capturing for them just why Obama's election was so significant for our country. It will give them some of the context for his declaration from the day he decided to run:

This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.

(For approx. ages 8-12. Available for $16 at Amazon or $25 at the NY Times Store. My review copy was free via Mother Talk. is an affiliate)

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