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A Year of Children’s Conferences

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Photo of a conference hall

Where do you go to stay smart in the kids interactive industry? What conferences keep you on top of your craft, while also helping you grow your network? What events are vital to attend to learn the latest trends? There are so many conferences these days which ones are right for you? Look no further, here’s a compiled conference list to get you started! It covers areas of the children’s interactive media business like toys, eBooks, video games, children’s television, apps, play, research, consumer products, and more. The list below covers most of the big US and international shows in 2015, and just a few important smaller events.

You can download a PDF copy of this list here. Let us know what you think. Which events do you attend? What speakers draw you to an event? If there’s an event that’s not on this list, and you think it’s important, please let us know in the comments below.


# Conference w link Location Date(s) Focus
1 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Las Vegas, NV 1/6-9/15 Hardware, tech
2 Kids@Play Las Vegas, NV 1/7/15 KidTech
3 Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair Hong Kong 1/12-15/15 Toys
4 Digital Book World New York, NY 1/13-15/15 eBooks
5 FETC Orlando, FL 1/20-23/15 Ed tech
6 PAXsouth San Antonio, TX 1/23-25/15 Gaming
7 Nuremburg Toy Fair Nuremburg 1/28-2/2/15 Toys
8 NY Toy Fair New York, NY 2/14-17/15 Toys
9 Digital Kids Conference New York, NY 2/15-17/15 KidTech
10 Kidscreen Summit Miami, FL 2/23-26/15 Broadcast, Children’s TV
11 iKids Miami, FL 2/26/15 KidTech
12 Game Developers Conference (GDC) San Fran, CA 3/2-6/15 Gaming
13 PAXeast Boston, MA 3/6-8/15 Gaming
14 SXSWedu Austin, TX 3/9-12 2015 Education
15 SXSW Gaming Expo Austin, TX 3/13-16/15 Gaming
16 SXSW Interactive Austin, TX 3/13-17/15 Interactive
17 SXSW Music Austin, TX 3/17-22/15 Music
18 Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Philadelphia, PA 3/19-21/15 Research
19 Sandbox Summit Cambridge, MA 3/22-24/15 Play
20 Dust or Magic Masterclass Bologna 3/25/15 eBooks
21 Bologna Children’s Book Faire Bologna 3/30-4/2/15 Books
22 Early Education & Technology for Children (EETC) Salt Lake City, UT 3/15 Early ed, edtech
23 London Book Fair London, UK 4/14-16/15 Books
24 Games for Change New York, NY 4/21-23/15 Serious games
25 Dust or Magic eBook Retreat Honesdale, PA 4/15 eBooks
26 PlayCon Scottsdale, AZ 4/29-5/1/15 Toys
27 Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) San Fran, CA 5/3-5/15 Ed tech
28 Maker Faire Bay Area San Mateo, CA 5/16-17/15 Maker
29 Book Expo America (BEA) New York, NY 5/27-29/15 eBooks
30 AppCamp Pacific Grove, CA 5/30-6/2/15 Children’s Apps
31 “Content in Context (CIC, AAP) Wash DC 6/1-3/15 Ed publishing
32 NAEYC Professional Development conference New Orleans, LA 6/7-10/15 Early ed
33 Licensing Expo Las Vegas, NV 6/9-11/15 Licensing
34 Digital Media & Learning (DML) LA, CA 6/11-13/15 Ed tech
35 E3 LA, CA 6/16-18/15 Gaming
36 Interaction Design & Children (IDC) Medford, MA 6/21-24/15 Research
37 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Philadelphia, PA 6/28-7/1/15 Ed tech
38 Children’s Media Conference (Professional) Sheffield, UK 7/1-3/15 Broadcast
39 Playful Learning Summit Maddison, WI 7/7/15 Serious games
40 Games, Learning & Society (GLS) Maddison, WI 7/8-10/15 Serious games
41 ComicCom San Diego, CA 7/9-12/15 Entertainment
42 International Reading Association (IRA) St. Louis, MO 7/17-20/15 Education, reading
43 Serious Play LA, CA 7/15 Serious games
44 Casual Connect San Fran, CA 8/11-13/15 Gaming
45 Burning Man Black Rock Desert, NV 8/29-9/5/15 Art, mind
46 Digital Kids Summit San Fran, CA 9/15 KidTech
47 World Congress of Play San Fran, CA 9/15 Toys
48 Maker Faire New York New York, NY 9/26-27/15 Maker
49 MIP Jr. Cannes, France 10/2-4/15 Children’s television
50 MDR EdNet Atlanta, GA 10/4-6/15 Ed tech
51 MIPcom Cannes, France 10/5-8/15 Television
52 Fall Toy Preview Dallas, TX 10/6-8/15 Toys
53 Meaningful Play East Lansing, MI 10/15 Serious games
54 CineKid Amsterdam ~10/18-22/15 Interactive
55 Dust or Magic Lambertville, NJ 11/1-3/15 Kidtech, children’s apps
56 NAEYC Annual Conference TBA 11/15 Early ed
57 ChiTAG Chicago, IL 11/20-23/15 Toys
58 SIIA Education Business Forum New York, NY 12/15 Ed tech
59 Star Wars Episode VII release US 12/18/15 Entertainment

NOTE: Items highlighted in red indicate specifics about an event that have yet to be announced as of 11/10/2014.

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Cooney Study Leaves New Questions for Educational Media Creators

Monday, January 27th, 2014

[The following is an article I wrote for the Jan. 24, 2014 issue of KidScreen.]

Vicky Rideout during her survey presentation at the Cooney Center Breakthrough Learning Forum.

Media research reports are great for offering insights about an industry. They help media creators take stock in where they are today with their media creation efforts on different platforms, and they also provide ideas on how we can best serve an intended audience. At the same time, what is gained from a new study almost always leads to many more new questions that can’t immediately be answered.

That’s certainly the case with the latest Joan Ganz Cooney Center report entitled Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America. According to Vicky Rideout, children’s media researcher and the report’s main author, this is the first time “we have tried to quantify, on a national basis, what portion of kids screen time is devoted to educational content.”

The report digs deep into parents’ thoughts on their child’s use of educational media across a number of different platforms. One big finding that will not be a big surprise to broadcasters: Television is still king when it comes to delivering educational content, even though access to alternative platforms like mobile, computers and videogames has increased greatly in recent years. Television is the preferred platform by a long shot for educational media. Granted, the television industry has also had decades more time, almost 50 years’ worth, of creating and delivering educational content to young children than its younger media platform relatives. Still, with the explosive growth of mobile, this data point begs the question if parents are aware of the educational opportunities available to them on other platforms?

Among the many insights offered, children engage with educational media less as they age. Two-to four-year-olds consume 1:16 (one hour and sixteen minutes) of educational media daily, dropping to 0:50 for five-to seven-year-olds, and further still to 0:42 for eight-to 10-year-olds. Even at this lower end for eight-to 10-year-olds, you could consider their educational media use as an added class of learning material each day. However, as a child ages they also spend more overall time consuming media, educational or not, to the point where eight to 10-year-old media usage almost doubles compared to that of two-to four-year-olds. Surprisingly, while this older group consumes less educational media content daily, their parents report seeing their child demonstration of “a particular action as a result of something they saw or did with educational media” more so than the younger age groups. This could very well be a cumulative effect of educational media use consumed over many years, but still, it’s striking data point in the research. One could strongly argue, this “particular action” is evidence of mastery of the educational content that is consumed.

Other noteworthy findings:

  • Parents see a greater perceived learning impact in the areas of cognitive skills, reading, and math from educational media use but less impact with learning science or anything related to the arts.
  • The greater a parent’s education, the less educational media is consumed.
  • The greater the family’s income, the less educational media consumed.
  • Hispanic/Latino households reports less “actions taken” from educational media use than Black or White families.

These are just a few of the many findings called out in this report. There’s also data on parent and child sharing in the educational media experience together (often referred to as “joint media engagement”) as well as findings on traditional book reading and eBook use.

With just these few items I’ve called out above, the report forces us to consider many big, unanswered questions:

  • As children grow, why do they engage less with educational media, yet consume more media at the same time? Is there a need to create more engaging educational content for this age group than what is currently being offered?
  • What is it that we’re doing wrong, or not doing at all, to better engage Hispanic/Latino families with educational media?
  • Are parents less aware of the educational offerings available through mobile, computers and video games? If so, should we get behind a national awareness campaign to make ratings and reviews websites like Common Sense Media and Children’s Technology Review better known to parents?

Perhaps the biggest question raised in this report is whether educational media use, which appears to have great benefit at an early age, leads to greater media consumption that is of less benefit to children as they age?

Michael Levine, the executive director of the Cooney Center shares this report is the beginning of a larger conversation around educational media use. “There’s a lot of interest in having children view educational media, but less fulfillment of the wish as illustrated by this report, particularly for low income and Hispanic and Latino families,” he says.

As media creators, it is imperative to understand what can be done to up our game in the educational media space, no matter what the delivery vehicle. Part of that entails informing parents about resources available to them today to help them find the best educational content broadcasters and software publishers have to offer. The Cooney Center as well as many other interested groups, foundations, and policy makers are already quickly working on the next new report, and latest research findings that will one day in the near future move the industry needle even further ahead, as well as create many more questions we’ve yet to imagine, as evidence by the volume of questions this report is sure to generate.

Additional video links:
1.) Vicky Rideout – Learning from Home report overview
2.) Michael Levine – Learning from Home report overview
3.) Playlist of all Learning from Home speakers
4.) The complete Learning from Home discussion (speakers with audience discussion)

[Scott Traylor is the CEO and founder of 360KID, a youth-focused organization that specializes in developing interactive content, apps, and games for broadcasters, publishers and organizations that wish to engage kids of any age.]

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A Conversation With Vicky Rideout

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Summarizing “Zero to Eight Children’s Media Use in America 2013″

[The following is an article I wrote for the November 2013 issue of Children’s Technology Review. A PDF copy of the article from this magazine can be downloaded here.]

A photo of Vicky Rideout from an earlier 2013 presentation

For those of us that work in children’s media, there’s nothing like finding a fresh, data filled report.

Zero to Eight Children’s Media Use in America 2013” is Vicki Rideout’s latest in a series of reports commissioned by Common Sense Media. Having followed Vicky’s work for more than a decade, I asked her for an overview of her findings.

The first key finding is this: Television and video game use is down for children compared to just two years ago. (Yes, down, not up!) In addition, overall screen media use is down compared to what was recorded just two years ago.

Television viewing in the bedroom is also down by a sizable amount. As with the television and video game drop Vicky says “I’d like to look back on these data points from a future report to see if this is a bump or a trend.” This finding does beg some additional questions that cannot be answered through the report, like has there been a drop in the number of televisions owned in the home? Has the drop in television viewing in the bedroom shifted to video viewing on a tablet in the bedroom? Vicky says it is too early to tell if this is a trend.

According to Rideout “Little drops in each platform add up to a half hour of less screen time per day on traditional screens. Then when you add in the increase in mobile use it brings that number down to 20 minutes less screen time per day. While this drop in overall screen time is significant and noteworthy, I’d like to see what the research says in another two years.”

There’s a lot of material in this report about tablet and related mobile media use. For example, two years ago only 8% of parents owned a tablet. “Today it’s 40% and children’s tablet ownership is nearly similar to that of their parents from the 2011 report. Years ago handheld video game manufacturers noted that when an older sibling purchased a new handheld gaming device, a younger sibling would ultimately receive the older device. Could the same thing be happening here with parents purchasing a new tablet and giving the children their old one? This report can’t answer that question specifically, but one thing is clear: Tablet ownership by children will increase in the years to come.

Another key trend: there is a giant shift in media use, and “the tablet is a game changer.” Vicky told me that there is “some computer use among young children, starting as early as four years of age, but because the tablet has simplified the interface so much and made things so intuitive, we see really young children successfully using this platform. If a one or two year old child can turn the pages of a board book, that same child can touch and swipe a tablet. If that child can point to an image on a board book, then that child can launch an app. As a result, a large world of content is made available to these young children. The floor for how young children use this platform has gone way down compared to other technological innovations, even compared to the Wii, which was a huge leap forward in terms of intuitive use and interface deign.”

In addition Vicky notes: “People keep saying how children are so technologically smart. We have that notion backwards. It’s the technology that’s become smart, so smart that a kid, or even a baby can use it. This change is also opening up access to content that is not just about passive video watching.

“People keep asking me ‘Is this a good thing or a bad thing?’ Unless you believe that a screen per se is a bad thing for kids no matter what, I usually respond that this is just a thing, it’s just a tablet. The good or bad about a tablet depends on the quality of the content you share with a child through this new medium.”

Vicky’s comments just begin to scratch the surface of what’s included in this new report. However, Vicky also shared she is working on a new report, focused on the same zero to eight demographic, but this time she’s writing it for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. This report will take a deep dive into educational media, eBooks, and joint media engagement (a fancy term for parents who share in the same media experience with their child). The scheduled date of release is January 23, 2014. We look forward to reading more!

Related links:

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013
Common Sense Media

VIDEO – Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology – Vicky Rideout interview (2013)
360KID

Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology (2013)
Northwestern University


VIDEO – Vicky Rideout interview – Zero to Eight Children’s Media Use Research Overview (2011)

360KID

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America (2011)
Common Sense Media

Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds (2010)
Kaiser Family Foundation


Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Yr-olds (2005)

Kaiser Family Foundation

The Effects of Electronic Media on Children Ages Zero to Six: A History of Research (2005)
Kaiser Family Foundation

Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers (2003)
Kaiser Family Foundation

Kids & Media @ The New Millennium (1999)
Kaiser Family Foundation

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View from the Sandbox through the lens of Scott Traylor

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

[Wendy Smolen is a contributing writer to the KidScreen blog. She is also a friend and the co-founder of the annual children’s conference called Sandbox Summit. Wendy asked if I would share some thoughts with her regarding the latest Sandbox Summit event held at MIT. Originally published to the KidScreen blog on April 25, 2012.]

Scott Traylor, Chief Kid at 360KID, had the daunting job of taping the recent Sandbox Summit@MIT, Going Mobile, Going Global, Tracking the anywhere/everywhere state of play. While this gave him a front and center seat, it also meant he had to listen to every word (no bathroom breaks!) I asked him to comment on a few of his favorite presentations.

Generally I find conferences don’t provide a helpful starting point about how kids are changing. Not so here. Allison Arling’s presentation from The Intelligence Group covered uncounted aspects of generational preferences with Gen Y and Gen Z. I found myself nodding in agreement as she communicated subtle differences in media consumption, messaging that resonates with a generation, and triggers for engagement across generational divides that can make or break any media plan. Clear, crisp, exact. (Or whatever.)

Allison’s presentation provided the scaffolding used by many of the other speakers. On day two, Jane Gould of Nickelodeon delivered a resounding kids’ media data punch . Jane always has access to great info, and she’s willing to share! Ever wonder what apps are most popular with kids, and why? What kinds of media do kids consume on tablets? What barriers will prevent media consumption on a tablet but not on television? What is consumption like on non-Apple devices? The answers were startling and maybe the most detailed and in-depth I’ve seen in the mobile/tablet/apps space ever. Jane made understanding the drivers of mobile media consumption a no-brainer.

Gaming and learning was a common thread in conversations both inside and outside the auditorium. Eric Zimmerman, game designer and industry thought leader, challenged us to rethink long-standing assumptions about learning games. Eric delivered one media mind bomb after another, the biggest being why educators challenge the value and potential for learning in games at all. Why is this one tool for creative expression challenged more than others? Why is it so many in education, as well as in business, wish to “gamify” learning? Should we have similar concerns about books in learning? Should we “bookify” learning? That’s crazy talk, and so is the current conversation about the potential games have to teach. Books are just one element of learning, why aren’t games?

These are just three small samples of a larger conversation. There’s no way I can do justice to all the intriguing thoughts each presenter brought to the conversation over the two days. If you missed attending this event, watch one—or all—of the videos here. You’ll be as amazed as I was at what you‘ll learn.

Disclosure: Scott Traylor is the founder of 360KID, a children’s interactive media company. Scott is also on the Board of Advisors for the Sandbox Summit. He captured the video being shared in this article’s links.

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Finding Fun with Children’s Books

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Every now and then I’m asked by a new parent or friends of new parents for children’s book recommendations, so today I thought I’d take a short break from kids tech-talk to post some of my favorites. I want to thank Amy Kraft over at Media Macaroni for introducing me to the No Time for Flash Cards blog. This site’s a great find that promotes play, discovery and learning with preschoolers in mind. A recent post asking for favorite children’s books reminded me that I’ve been keeping an ever growing list of my own. I think every new home library should include these “must have” starter books, and chances are if you’re looking to give a children’s book as a gift, these will already be in the collection:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and Archambault
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Now that we have those great ones out of the way, here are some of my personal favorites for young and growing children. I’ve simmered my list down to just these 10 books:

  • Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton
    Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton A delightful rhyming story of barnyard friends that go to a dance. The rhythm and meter of this story will keep you reciting sections from this book for days on end. Another great find for our family was discovering that there’s a Sandra Boynton CD available with this book’s lyrics set to song.

  • How Are You Peeling? by Joost Elffers
    How Are You Peeling? by Joost ElffersElffers is a fantastic photographer with a talent for bringing personality and emotion out of common everyday fruits and vegetables. Each page is filled with wonderful facial expressions from his creations. Light copy, lots of unique and interesting faces to enjoy.

  • Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
    Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen CroninFarmer Brown runs a no-nonsense farm, but things change once the cows who live there acquire an old typewriter and learn how to express there wishes on short notes. When Farmer Brown doesn’t comply with the cows requests, the cows decide they will go on strike. Fun, fun. fun!

  • Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells
    Bunny Planet by Rosemary WellsThere are so many great books written by Rosemary Wells that it’s hard to pick even just a few, but the Bunny Planet books (a small collection of three books sold together as a set) have a wonderful Zen-like story quality to them. Ms. Wells explores the idea of a perfect world that lives inside our heads when things outside don’t go quite as well as we had planned.

  • Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh
    Martha Speaks by Susan MeddaughThe story of a family dog named Martha who likes to eat alphabet soup. The interesting twist in the story is that when Martha eats the soup, the letters go up to her brain instead of down to her tummy! There are many Martha Speaks books available and the first is the one that sets up the story for the entire series.

  • The Monster at the End of This Book by John Stone
    The Monster at the End of This Book by John StoneI think everyone in the entire world loves Grover, the fuzzy blue character from Sesame Street. In this story, Grover asks, even begs, the reader not to turn the pages of this book because he’s afraid there’s a monster that might scare him on the very next page. You will read this one again and again with your young child.

  • The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller
    The Scrambled States of America by Laurie KellerWhat would happen if each state in the nation could move to a new location? This book explores the fun and mayhem that ensues when each state moves to where they think they would really enjoy living. A funny story for children who are learning to memorize the US states.

  • I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
    I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato by Lauren ChildThis is the first book that began the popular Charlie and Lola series of books and television shows. Lola is a very finicky eater. Her older brother Charlie presents familiar foods with funny names and stories that make Lola curious about what she might be missing. Just where do peas and fish sticks come from? And what sort of story would you tell to make eating these items more appealing?

  • Owly by Andy Runton
    Owly by Andy RuntonThe Owly book series are a charming collection of graphic novels starring an owl and his woodland friends. Together they go on many adventures, making new friends and helping other animals and friendly insects along the way. These books require a parent to imagine and invent the dialog alongside the visuals which I believe fosters an even closer story telling experience between reader and child.

  • Police Cloud by Christoph Niemann
    Police Cloud by Christoph NiemannThe graphic design approach to this story is just beautiful. Christoph Nieman is an artist for the New Yorker magazine and now shares his visual talents as a children’s book author. Nieman tells a captivating story about a cloud that wishes to become a policeman.

    I hope you find this list helpful and enjoyable. Happy reading with your young friends!

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