Parents' Choice Awards

Designed to help parents and caregivers of all achievements and backgrounds make informed decisions about which new products are right for their children, the Parents' Choice Awards is the nation's oldest nonprofit program created to recognize quality children's media. The Parents' Choice Awards program honors the best material for children: books, toys, music and storytelling, magazines, software, videogames, television and websites. Parents' Choice Foundation's panels of educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents and, yes, kids themselves, identify the very best products for children of different ages and backgrounds, and of varied skill and interest levels.

Spring 2016 Television - Gold Medal -

STEM education - science, technology, engineering, and math - got a twist in recent years as the Maker Movement noted the importance of art and design in the world of engineering. Behold - STEAM-which stands for science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and math education - and nowhere it STEAM education more evident than in Tumble Leaf, an original series from Amazon Studios.

This inventive program blends genuinely spectacular stop-motion photography with lovely music, stylish dialogue, and a cast of unusual animal characters, all of which will likely mesmerize the target preschool audience.

Each half-hour program includes two separate stories, starring Fig the Fox, in which adventures are themed around artifacts retrieved from an abandoned shipwreck off the coast of the community of Tumble Leaf. Fig's treehouse home includes a room called The Finding Place and that's where the artifacts are stored, admired, and studied. A set of cymbals inspires lessons about properties of sound, teaching concepts such as "loud" and "quiet." A notebook helps Fig and his friends imagine theories to explain an unsolved late-night mystery. Mirrors, pocket watches, holiday decorations -- each new item that turns up in The Finding Place inspires curiosity and encourages observation skills.

As always, the educational "footprint" it leaves will make a bigger impact when parents provide reinforcement and explanation both during and after the program. Very young viewers may need help distinguishing the whimsical elements from the program's nod to scientific inquiry.

This gently-paced and fanciful program will provide a springboard for further learning while it also stimulates imagination, celebrates creativity, and points out the exciting intersections between play and discovery.

Gina Catanzarite © 2016 Parents' Choice

Spring 2017 Television - Gold Medal -

We know that television viewing (time and shows) for young kids should be monitored and limited. But watching Tumble Leaf should not only be allowed, it should be encouraged; it's charming, inspiring, educational and just plain delightful.

Fig is a curious, kind blue Fox who knows how to turn a phrase, looks out for his friends and regularly solves problems. He lives in a boat-treehouse hybrid, perched on the edge of the shore.

At the start of each episode a crab - with one wooden claw -pops up out of the sand and pulls in his net to inspect his catch. The items are unusual and funny - a pair of rain boots, an egg carton, an elastic band, some glasses. The crab uses the items in some amusing way and tosses part of his "treasure" up into a chest for Fig.

When the breeze blows and the wind-chimes sound, Fig knows there's something in his chest. Or as he says, "Something new is in the Finding Place." And so starts another adventure.

When Fig discovers the rain boots, he decides to wear them and goes stomping in mud puddles. He comes across Buckeye, a beaver who needs help fixing a dam that has sprung a leak. Mushroom caps make for bigger boots that splash bigger piles of mud and help plug bigger holes. "Leapin' lunger plunger!" says Fig. And after a group of beetles create a statue out of mud in tribute to Fig and Buckeye, Fig says, "you've created a mudsterpiece!"

Other storylines involve a caterpillar party, a trek to Tumble Park and a hose. The characters are colorful and diverse - you really need to see Auntie Pine's hair. The language is pun-filled and delivered with just the right pacing. The music perfectly suits each moment. And the characters show each other respect, politeness and sharing.

Rarely does any TV show get it so right.

Ann Oldenburg © 2017 Parents' Choice