Thursday, May 29, 2008

Moms Help Families Stay Connected with "Kids Off The Couch"

Staying connected to today's busy kids who are balancing school, sports and social schedules is a challenge most parents face. Two moms, Sarah Bowman and Diane Shakin, have launched a new website called Kids Off The Couch that gives parents great ideas for creating family time beyond soccer games and birthday parties. These two moms have spent years exploring kid-culture with their kids, from chocolate tasting and gallery visits to butterfly pavilions and voting booths, figuring out what's cool for kids. What makes their ideas unique is that each of their adventures is inspired by a fantastic film, book, or media. After screening A Secret Garden, they explored their city's celebrated gardens. After watching All The President's Men with their sixth graders, they toured their local newspaper's printing and editorial offices. After reading this year's Caldecott Award winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret, they pulled up You Tube links of silent film clips that inspired that book's illustrator.

Every week, Kids Off The Couch offers families a new adventure idea and provides plenty of details for parents to go beyond the basics. For example, the moms suggest conversation starters about each film: Freaky Friday turns out to be a perfect conduit for discussing body image with pre-teen girls and Ratatouille serves up a fun way to talk about career dreams, as well as cooking.

In addition, each week subscribers will find book lists that relate to each film. If the
adventure involves watching E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and visiting a planetarium, parents will find hand-picked books on outer space appropriate for kids in pre-school, elementary school and middle schoolers. Books can help inspire adventures for younger kids, or siblings, too young to watch a feature film.

While it may sound unusual to advocate getting on the couch to get kids to unplug, Bowman and Shakin insist that great media opens the door to culture and family discussions. After a long week, it's cozy to flop on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and watch a film that makes everyone happy. From husbands to grandparents, family film night has become a cherished part of these moms' family life. As the two moms are fond of saying, "sometimes you've got to get on the couch to get off the couch!"

Since launch
ing the site, Diane and Sarah have written over 100 film and adventure pairings they've road-tested with their families. Past adventures are listed in the Archives section of the site, and if parents sign-up, they'll receive a free, e-mail every week with a fresh idea to get kids off the couch and into their world.

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