With Piper, Kids Make Minecraft Their Own

by Amy Kraft on March 29, 2015


Last week I went to Sandbox Summit, an inspiring conference at MIT that was focused on play. There I met Shree Bose, winner of the 2011 Google Science Fair. She showed what she’s been working on with her co-founder, Mark Pavlyukovskyy. Minecraft fans, get ready to head over to Kickstarter.


There are lots of different ways available now to teach kids to code, but with Piper, you even build the computer. It’s clear they’ve spent a lot of time with kids. Instead of using a manual to wire up a Raspberry Pi and construct a controller and power ups, they use Minecraft challenges. I played a challenge where I needed to make a bridge in my Minecraft world, but I needed to wire up the hardware according to what I was seeing on screen. After a couple attempts, I put the wires together correctly and my bridge was made. It’s a fantastic way to take kids’ understanding of computers and games to the next level. And did I mention it uses Minecraft?


You can learn more about Piper on their Kickstarter page. Their Kickstarted ends on Saturday, April 4. It’s already fully funded, but why not get in early and get yourself and your kids a Piper, starting with contributions of $149.


Bringing the NYICFF to You

by Amy Kraft on March 20, 2015


The New York International Children’s Film Festival wraps up this Sunday. (HURRY! There a a couple tickets left!) Every year we try to make it to at least one of the shows. We adore the various shorts program. Last weekend, we went to Short Films One, the best short films around the world for ages 5 to 10.

Nothing is quite like the experience of sitting and watching these curated shorts play back to back in a theater, but they’re also all too good to miss. Fortunately, through the magic of the Internet, I can share some of them with you here.

Here’s Eyes by Tom Law, a minute long master class in character expression.

In My Big Brother by Jason Rayner, I was so touched by this unusual brotherly relationship as told from the perspective of the little brother.

Leaving Home by Joost Lieuwma takes a little while to hook you, but then you’ll be drawn in by all of the hilarious sight gags. It’s also a cautionary tale about helicopter parenting.

If Esther Williams was a giraffe you’d have 5.80 Meters by Nicolas Deveaux.

I love PES videos, clever stop-motion videos that use everyday objects in unexpected ways. Being in a theater full of kids made this so much better as they screamed out with delight at all of the little surprises. This video is the making of a Submarine Sandwich. (Check out Western Spaghetti and Fresh Guacamole, too.)

Hands down the most beautiful animation was in Anatole’s Little Saucepan by Eric Montchaud. Stunning.

Me and My Moulton by Torill Kove won for our overall family favorite. It was nominated for an Oscar this year, deservedly so. It’s about a Norwegian girl and her two sisters who had to deal with their modernist architect parents in the 60s. All they want is a bike – a normal bike – but they get a Moulton instead, a designer modernist bicycle. If you have the opportunity to see this in its entirety, do it! Its charm can’t be captured by my description and this trailer.

Find more great videos on the GKids website.


Strongarmed into liking Transformers: Robots in Disguise

March 14, 2015

Another day on Earth, another threat from the Decepticons, amirite? Last week, my Transformer-loving 4-year-old and I got to see a preview of the new Cartoon Network show, Transformers: Robots in Disguise. In the Transformers universe, Robots in Disguise takes place after the timeline of Transformers Prime. That doesn’t mean a lot to young watchers like Ozzie, who’s only […]

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The Light Princess Defies Gravity

March 4, 2015

If you’re looking for something delightful to do with the kids this weekend, treat them to The Light Princess at the New Victory Theater. The Light Princess, a creation of Harvard’s A.R.T. Institute, is a classic fairy tale about a cursed princess that must find love. Of course, if you know me, that’s not all it is or […]

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Toy Fair: Best of the Rest

March 1, 2015

Let’s see… I’ve covered toys for makers, toys with girl power, cool tech toys, games, and what’s new from Lego. What about the rest of Toy Fair? There was so much other good stuff to see. Here are the rest of my Toy Fair favorites. Worry Eaters I can’t think of a more adorable way […]

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Toy Fair: Games

February 27, 2015

It’s like I’m not even close to being done with telling you about all of the cool things I saw at Toy Fair. Now it’s time for some games. Laser Maze Jr.  We love the original Laser Maze in our house. At 4, Ozzie discovered it and loves to set up the pieces just like it […]

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Toy Fair: Cool Tech Toys

February 25, 2015

It’s cool to walk the floor of Toy Fair and see how tech is added to toys for all different age groups, and with all different play purposes. I met some of our future robot overlords, too. Legendary Yoda Spin Master only teased this new Yoda toy at Toy Fair but I can tell you […]

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Toy Fair: Girl Power

February 21, 2015

As I’ve already shown with Lego, toymakers are happily starting to move beyond the if-it’s-for-girls-it’s-girly way of thinking. There’s nothing wrong with girly girl toys, but girls should have choices beyond them. Here are some cool finds from Toy Fair. I Am Elemental I not only want these for the kids, I want these action […]

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Toy Fair: New from Lego

February 20, 2015

After spending an hour in the Lego booth, it’s only logical that I’d need to devote a whole post to the new brick goodies. This is but a fraction of what you can expect this year. Now, I’ve been tough on Lego Friends in the past, but my view has softened a bit because the […]

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Toy Fair 2015: Year of the Maker

February 19, 2015

Toy Fair New York tapped into the Maker movement big time this year. I could tell you about many, many more than the ones I’ve listed here, but I’d like to showcase the toys that address my criticisms of the Maker movement: Entry points are often too complicated and way too expensive. Oh, your kid wants […]

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