Top 5 Questions to Ask a Rainbow Loom-er!

Hi Kindoma community! I’m back with your Top 5 Questions, and this week I am super exited to talk about Rainbow Loom!

Have you seen your tots running around with beautiful colored bracelets piled halfway up their arms? Chances are these creations we made using the extremely popular Rainbow Loom! The Rainbow Loom is a toy that turns small colorful elastics into jewellery. In 2014 Rainbow Loom won the Toy of the Year award (TOTY) and continues to grow in popularity! It takes a lot of practice, and there are endless combinations and patterns to be made!

Lets find out more from our loved ones. Have they made any Rainbow Loom creations?

1)   What is your favorite creation you have made on your Rainbow Loom?

(Ask them to show it to you!)

2)   Do you ever watch videos with Mom and Dad to figure out how to make new designs?

3)   Do you make patterns when you make your jewellery?

(Now is a great time to talk about the different types of patterns: AABB, ABCCABCC, etc)

4)   Have you ever made a friendship bracelet?

(If not, talk about who they would make a bracelet for. It’s a great way to learn about the friends in their lives!)

5)   Can you teach me how to use the Rainbow Loom?

(Now that you have gotten them all excited about it, use this as an opportunity to have the children in your lives teach YOU something! They will feel super accomplished being about to teach you something you don’t already know, and it’s a great way to spend quality time together. If you’re long-distance, no problem! Have them show you over video chat!!)


I hope this helps to connect you to the kids in your life. You have been warned – the future may involve an abundance of colorful, stretchy bracelets!!!!!


And the research says...Grandparents ROCK!

Don’t you love it when something we already know is confirmed by valid research?

For those of us lucky enough to grow up with a beloved grandparent, or to have involved grandparents for our own children, we know that the grandparent-grandchild relationship is a unique.

Without the daily pressures of parenting, grandparents often experience pleasure and bring a sense of lightness and humor to things that stress us parents out!

However the impact of this relationship has never been proven ... until now. A recent study from Bringham Young University proves just how grandparent involvement is good for kids. Lead author Jeremy Yorgason set out to see how grandparents matter to children. He asked over 400 fifth graders questions about their relationship with their grandparents - the questions were followed up a year later.

The results found that when grandparents are involved in their grandchildren’s lives, kids are:

•       More social

•       More engaged in school.

•       More likely to develop pro-social skills such as care, compassion and kindness.

•       More able to think outside of themselves.


Interestingly, grandparents who do not live with their grandkids were found to have the strongest bond. As the study notes, this may be because “non-resident grandparents take on a role that encourages positive development rather than disciplining negative behavior.”

At Kindoma, we think a lot about non-resident grandparents, and how we can help them foster connections with their grandkids, whether around the corner or around the world. Video calls are awesome, but can sometimes be frustrating - big red hang up buttons, kids being out of screen, and erratic attention spans tend to be distracting. A thoughtful video call experience can bring the focus back to the relationship rather than the technology. A relationship that we now KNOW makes our kids happier and healthier.

So whether in person or at a distance, whether on Kindoma or over Skype, it's healthy to foster grandparent-grandchild relationships. And for grandparents, the message that you can make a difference in a grandchild's life should make you feel great. Although you already knew that!

Top 5 Questions to Ask a Minecraft Enthusiast!

Minecraft is truly a cultural phenomenon. Accoridng to Forbes, the word “Minecraft” is Googled more often than the Bible, Harry Potter and Justin Bieber. This video game was not originally targeted towards children, yet most children 6 years and up have played it or at least heard about it!

So what exactly is it? My short recap for you: 

A game of survival. You must build shelter using natural resources around you in this virtual world. There are other 'worlds' (ask the kids to elaborate), lots of bad guys, and tons of surprise elements that get discovered as you play.

So why do the kids in our lives love it so much? Could it be the element of exploration and craft? The minimal rules and instruction? It’s similarity to Lego? Every child loves it for different reasons. Lets connect with the children in our lives and listen to what they think about Minecraft!


1) How did you learn to play Minecraft? Did someone teach you, or did you figure it out all on your own?


2) What does your character look like in mine craft? Does s/he look like you?


3) What was one of the hardest problems you came across when playing Minecraft? How did you solve it?


4) Have you ever built something in Minecraft that you then tried to build in real life? How did it turn out?


5) What is your favorite part of the game? 


As usual, I want to hear how this conversation went! Let everyone know what you found out about Minecraft from the kids in your life.

Any requests for future blogs, just let me know! 

Top 5 Questions to Ask Kids about MINIONS!

Hi everyone! Alexa here - and I'm back with my 'Top 5 Questions!' 

Keep these questions in your back pocket for next time you want to make a meaningful connection with a chid in your life, but just don't know what to talk about! 

The movie 'Minions' comes out this summer, so get refreshed on the subject now, and make a date to go see the movie with the kiddies in your life!

OK, So what exactly is a Minion? 

Minions are small adorable yellow creatures that were first introduced to the world in the hit movie Despicable Me, followed by Despicable Me 2 and now the latest self-titled movie Minions coming this Summer. They cause a lot of funny trouble but steal everyone’s hearts in the process!!

Now, 5 questions to get kids talking!

1) Can you tell me what a Minion is? 

Now that YOU know, see how a child describes them! 

2) What language do the Minions speak? What does it sound like?

Get the kids in your life to imitate how the Minions sound!

Answer: The Minions actually speak their own language called Minionese. It is a funny sounding gibberish language that kids have grown to love! Fun fact: ‘Bi-do’ means ‘I’m sorry’ in Minionese.

3) Who is the leader of the Minions? Is he bad or good?

Gru is the leader of the Minions. (Fun fact: Gru knows EVERY Minion by name…there are several hundred of them!) At first Gru is a villain, but later we discover he is misunderstood and loves the Minions!

4) How many eyes do Minions have? 

Trick question! Some have 1 eye where others have 2! There is even one special Minion with 2 different colored eyes (Bob)!

5) Can you name 3 Minions? Let’s think of some funny and unique names for Minions!

There are 3 main Minions that we are introduced to in Despicable Me, and that will be starring in the Minions movie: Kevin, Stuart and Bob! There are lots of Minions who do not have names, so have some fun and make up some names!

That's all for this weeks top 5! Let me know how this conversation went in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! 

Happy Chatting! 











Kindoma Strengthens Connection and Communication Between Hospitalized Children and Their Loved Ones


Dr. Michael Narvey MD, FAAP, FRCPC is a graduate of the University of Manitoba (Medicine & Pediatrics) who completed further training in Neonatology at the University of Manitoba.  He practices as a Neonatologist at the University of Manitoba and has a leadership position as the Section Head of Neonatology within the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health.  His interests are in Education and in minimizing pain in the newborn through the use of non-invasive testing.


     During my residency in Pediatrics I recall making hospital rounds at night very well.  What I also remember from that period in my life, is noting the separation that many of the children on our service experienced.  In many cases this was not a matter of neglect but rather reality, in which one or both parents were needed at home to take care of other children or simply had to continue working in order to make ends meet.  Many hospitals are blessed with Child Life programs whose purpose among other things is to reduce boredom and loneliness while children are isolated in the hospital. 

     The truth though is that nothing can compare to the touch, voice or seeing one’s parent to help with the periods of separation.  I often dreamed that one day there would be a solution to this and the reason for this post is that I believe that time is now.

     About 18 months ago I learned of a brilliant piece of software that could indirectly address the missing touch of a parent and enable both visual and voice contact with the parent of a child.  Kindoma Storytime is an app for mobile devices that allows audio and video connections between one or both parents and the child.  The software allows the child and person(s) at the other end to read a story together while seeing each other’s face on the mobile device as well.  Touch is addressed partly in that as a parent touches the screen to show a child something on the page of interest, the child on their end will see an outline of their parent’s finger moving on their screen.  I know what you may be thinking however.  We have Facetime, Skype and other options to do video calling so why do we need another?  The difference is in the engagement that you get with the Kindoma application.  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a 3 or 4 year old on a video link?  You are lucky if you get 15 seconds before they either hang up or are distracted and leave the screen.  Therein lies the key difference.  By engaging the child in an activity you are far more likely to keep them connected with you and more than that you share an experience that you would normally enjoy together.  It could help bring some normalcy to a very abnormal situation in the case of a hospitalized child!

     As a mother recently posted in her Kindoma review, the reverse is also true in that a hospitalized parent can have the opportunity to interact with their children.  So much of recovery from illness has to do with your mental state and how beneficial would it be to still take part in your child’s nightly bedtime story.

“This app was such a blessing to our family when I was hospitalized quite a ways from our home and kids. I was still able to read them stories at night remotely with video chat above the book pages. Thank you for creating this app!”  

     We live in a connected world.  In fact, we now know that children as young as 6 months are capable of playing on a tablet device (as was recently presented at a North American Pediatrics Conference I believe we are witnessing the dawn of a novel means of interacting and communicating with our children when we simply can’t be with them.  According to the Kindoma website they will soon have shared drawing with video talk connection as well.

     I have no doubt that we will be hearing more about Kindoma as the company continues to expand.  This short post was just an attempt to plant the seed in parents and other health care providers minds that we can and should do a better job of connecting our hospitalized children with their families.   I happen to think Kindoma can and should play a role in this and would invite you to share this with your local hospital to see if Kindoma is something that could help them improve the patient experience.  I know I have! 


Top 5 Questions To Ask a Frozen Obsessed Child!

         Hello Kindoma community! My name is Alexa, and I am the newest member of the Kindoma team. I primarily handle all the marketing and communications for Kindoma, but also will be guest blogging on topics that affect all of us who have kids in our lives!

        As one of the only members of Kindoma who does not have children, I look at things through a different lens than the rest of the team. In reality, a lot of us do not have children of our own, or we do not have children of the age demographic we are trying to connect with. Whether you’re an aunt, cousin, grandparent, god-parent, care-giver, (the list goes on!), we all want to connect and be relevant to the children in our lives.

        On this topic, if you know any child at all, you have most likely heard of Disney’s newest (and highest grossing of all time) animated movie – Frozen!!!! Just say the word and you’ll probably hear the movie’s majorly popular song ‘Let it Go’, which knocked Beyonce out of the number one spot on the Billboard charts, ringing through your ears! Needless to say, this movie is HUGE. And kids are obsessed. Super obsessed. So naturally for you to stay the coolest aunt/cousin/grandma…(you get the point), EVER, you need to be up to date on all the questions to ask.

           First things first. We’re assuming if you don’t have children at home you haven’t seen Frozen. If you have, good for you, you’re awesome!! But if you fell asleep or need a refresher, I’m going to try to give you a quick synopsis of Frozen.

        Princess Elsa has (secret) magical powers that make everything she touches turn to ice. Elsa spends most of her life in isolation fearful she may hurt someone else, particularly her beloved younger sister, Princess Anna. Years go by, Anna meets a prince charming, Elsa doesn’t want to be a part of it, and flees to the mountains to create a magical private ice palace. Problem: she accidentally froze the whole land (ie. ‘Frozen’). Prince charming turns out to be the villain, and puts Anna in peril only to be saved by an act of true love. Anna saves Elsa, and it turns out the act of true love was not from the prince as expected, but between sisters! Elsa and Anna rekindle their special sisterly bond! THE END.

Ok obviously lots happens in between. But you get the idea.

Here is a list of 5 questions to ask your Frozen-obsessed child next time you speak to them:

I understand that you love the movie Frozen.

1) What is Elsa’s special power? If you could have one special power, what would it be? Why?

Answer: She has power over the ice and snow.

2) Who do you like best, Elsa or Anna? – Dig a little deeper. What do you like about Elsa? Does she remind you of anyone you know?

3) What was the snowman’s name? Does he love hugs? What else does he love?

Answers: Olaf, yes he loves hugs, and he also loves Summer.

4) Were you sad when Olaf started melting? Do you remember what he said to Anna? It was so nice!

Answer: Some people are worth melting for.

Who do you think is worth melting for?

5) What was the act of love that saves the kingdom?

Answer: When the evil Prince Hans tries to kill Elsa, Anna jumps between them and saves her!

Hopefully this will help you have a great conversation about Frozen! Let us know how it goes in the comments below, or on social media!! Also feel free to request a topic you would like covered - we're always looking for ideas! 

Until next time... 


Welcome Alexa to the Kindoma Family!

We are thrilled to welcome Alexa Solomon to the Kindoma Team! Alexa is a recent graduate of the amazing marketing program at Ryerson, and has spent time working at both Etsy and eLUXE.

Alexa will be managing our social media, so if there are tweets you want tweeted, posts you want posted, or blogs you want written, she's your lady.

At Kindoma, we believe that talking to family makes kids happier and smarter. Alexa is the only member of our team who doesn't have young children (although she insists that her dog Duke counts), BUT she does have 4 young cousins under the age of 5 who live in different cities. So, as she knows all too well, it can be hard to find something to talk about with young children when you don't live in the house with them. Though you love them deeply, you likely haven't watched their favorite show, played with their favorite toy, read their favorite book, or listened to their favorite song ... again, and again, and again.

SO, to help you out, Alexa will be writing a column with specific questions to talk about related to something that is HOT in the kids world. This weekly top 5 will give grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other eager family members 5 questions that will help them strike a conversation with your kids, whether in person, on the phone, or over videochat. 

Keep an eye out for her first post, as it's gonna be a good one! If there's a little one in your life who is obsessed with Elsa and Anna, yet you still think Anna rhymes with Banana (tip, it rhymes with Sauna), watch for her first post "5 Questions to ask a child who's obsessed with ... Frozen".

Please feel free to reach out with suggestions, questions, comments, or a warm hello at


Kindoma Storytime wins a 2015 Parents' Choice Gold Award!

We are so, so, SO excited to announce that Kindoma Storytime has been awarded a Parents’ Choice Gold Award! This is a huge honor, as according to their website only 20% of products submitted to the Parents’ Choice Awards™ program receive a recommendation, with Gold being the highest honor for a new product. According to reviewers, Kindoma video calls averaged between 10 and 15 minutes, which is great considering Skype calls with young children average about 3 minutes. "We strengthened our bonds, built our vocabulary, and asked a lot of questions." Boom!

Read the entire review here. Thank you to Parents' Choice for supporting our mission to keep families connected.

We're looking for analytics experts

Kindoma is a startup that creates video calling apps for young children and their loved ones. We are looking for someone with deep expertise in app analytics to help us develop and implement a robust analytics plan for our suite of apps. Specifically, you will be responsible for:

  • Developing an analytics plan
  • Ensuring all analytics are COPPA compliant
  • Choosing the analytics platform(s)
  • Setting us up in the platform(s)
  • Creating analytics reports

Experience with the following tools is a plus:

  • mixpanel
  • mongodb
  • python
  • tornado
  • iPython Notebook

We are a small, well-funded startup based in Palo Alto and Winnipeg, Canada, and are flexible about location. This is a short-term consulting contract with the potential to turn into something longer term.

Interested? Shoot us an email:

Quality Over Quantity

Deisy Ixcuna-Gonzalez, 16 months old, is in a new literacy development program in Providence, R.I. (Photography: Katherine Taylor for the NYT)

Deisy Ixcuna-Gonzalez, 16 months old, is in a new literacy development program in Providence, R.I.

(Photography: Katherine Taylor for the NYT)

Children’s literacy is taking center stage in the media today (yay!) since yesterday's White House conference on bridging the word gap. The conference focused on the latest findings from a study lead by the wonderful Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, which found that among low-income 2-year-olds, quality interactions with words were a better predictor of language skills than quantity of words. You can read more about the study in this article from the Times.

The main question this raises is how can we help kids and their loved ones have “quality interactions” with words.  And for us at Kindoma, how we can tap into the power of technology to help long-distance loved ones such as grandparents share the load of such  interactions.

The study’s author defines quality interactions as the use of shared symbols (“Look, a dog!”); rituals (“Want a bottle after your bath?”); and conversational fluency (“Yes, that is a bus!”).

Books provide a lovely venue to have such interactions.  Here are a few suggestions for engaging your child in quality interactions around books:

  • Leave words out and get children to fill in the word: “This pig built a house out of __”
  • Get children to recount what has happened in the story: “Can you tell me what happened to the three little pigs?”
  • Point to illustrations and ask about them: “Tell me what’s happening on this page”
  • Ask questions that start with what, when, where and why: “What material is this pig using to build this house?”
  • Help kids relate stories to their own lives: "Remember when we went to the farm and saw a pig? What other animals did we see?”

We really hope that Kindoma Storytime is key tool in promoting quality interactions around words!

Introducing Story Bug, our first “powered by Kindoma” app!

We are thrilled to introduce the very first “powered by Kindoma” app with our wonderful partners at Cricket Media. The new app, Story Bug, features Cricket's beloved children's publications, and is powered by Kindoma’s award-winning remote reading technology. Users of the Story Bug app see and hear each other via video chat while viewing the same digital book. A "shadow hand" shows where your counterpart is pointing, so grown-ups can challenge their young readers to point to items on the page, and children can ask questions about what they see and hear.

At Kindoma, we all personally remember reading Cricket’s magazines when we were kids. When we first partnered with the educational media company to get their content up on Storytime, it quickly became clear that we both shared a deep value for enabling and encouraging young children and their loved ones to connect around quality educational content.

This deepened partnership combines archives of Cricket’s high-quality educational content with our innovative shared reading technology to help children and their loved ones share the experience of reading educational content, whether they are cuddled together on a couch, across the town, or around the world.

Story Bug is the second product in Kindoma’s evolving ecosystem of communications apps developed specifically for young children and their loved ones.

The Story Bug App is available for free from the App Store on the iPhone or iPad.

Read the full press release.

Rising to a design challenge

At Kindoma, we create apps for kids that connect families when they are apart. When tackling design for our first product, the iPad seemed like the perfect device. The tablet’s large screen is ideal for little fingers, it has a forward facing camera that allows for video-chat, and ownership amongst young families is on the rise. Storytime for the iPad was born. Since launching last March at Bologna Bookfair, our focus has been on developing the concept. Do families want to read together from afar? The good news is that they do. With no marketing budget, we've had almost 50K downloads, and thanks to our recent holiday feature in the App Store (thank you, Apple!) downloads are now averaging about 1k/day. What we are most proud of, however, is the engagement. Calls on our system are averaging about 20 minutes; much longer than a young child will typically engage in traditional call or video-chat. Proof of concept - check!

But in the last month or so, we have shifted focus. The word concept became less important, as the word impact started to bubble to the top. We were accepted into the Points of Light accelerator – a social impact incubator that supports seed stage social ventures that solve pressing social issues by engaging people. They have been pushing us on what defines social impact, and maximizing the number of families reached has to be part of that. Furthermore, as we actively seek our first round of funding, investors are stressing the need to maximize market size.

Ownership Zero to Eight
Ownership Zero to Eight

According to Common Sense Media’s most recent report, 40% of children have access to a tablet, but when you add smartphones to the mix access increases to 75%. Furthermore, when it comes to reaching the kids most in need, over half of lower-income families have access to smartphones (51%), while tablet ownership is just 20% among the same group. Considering the Kindoma experience requires not one but two devices, it became clear that we needed to expand Storytime to the iPhone.

I’ve often advocated that you can’t design for a large screen and then put it on a phone and expect it to work, and for no product is this truer than ours. How do you combine two video-chat windows, two shadow-hands, and a children’s book on one small screen? You don’t.

We removed one video-chat window (the user can’t see herself), made the other one small and moveable, and hid the menu. We designed it under the hypothesis that in two-device families, the child will be on the larger screen, but we needed to be cognizant that many children will be using the iPhone version as well. Admittedly, it works better with some books than others, but after much iteration and testing, Kindoma Storytime for the iPhone is live!


We are excited to finally have an iPhone version of Storytime. It was a design challenge to make it work on a smaller screen, but was imperative in fulfilling our mission of connecting families who live apart. We rose to the challenge, and are pleased with the result.

That being said, the beauty of this market is that we can quickly respond to feedback, and we would really and truly value yours. Please take the time to download Storytime, and share your thoughts. We welcome your feedback. Happy reading!

Kindoma launches our premium catalogue, featuring over 100 books for families to read together!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our premium catalogue! Now, families are able to select from a growing library of over 100 children’s books, giving them much greater choice in what they read together. Our mission to connect families that live apart over shared reading experiences relies on both great technology and great content. Giving children and families the chance to connect over beloved tales such as Humpty Dumpty and Old MacDonald, as well as universal themes like letters, numbers and emotions will strengthen the family connections and conversations that we hope to facilitate.

You can read our official press release here. Going forward, we have exciting plans to continue to grow our library, so keep watching for great new books to be added every month!

Kindoma welcomes Carly Shuler to it's founding team

I'm excited to announce that Carly Shuler is joining Kindoma as a new co-founder. Although Carly is just now joining as an official member of the Kindoma team, she has long been involved in the development of the connected reading ideas as part of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop during the early collaboration between Nokia and Sesame (see From Family Story Play to Kindoma Storytime).  Carly will help accelerate our mission of connecting families through products that promote early childhood learning. Carly is a recognized thought leader in the space promoting early childhood learning through technology; she has authored a number of renowned reports, including D is for Digital, the iLearn Series and The ABC’s of Kids & e-Reading, and given TED talks on the subject. Carly also brings business and marketing expertise from her former role as Brand Manager at Spin Master.  I'm looking forward to what we will accomplish together.

Grandparent involvement promotes well-being in children

Grandparents play an important role in their grandchildrens’ lives.  In particular, two recent studies demonstrate the positive impact of grandparent involvement. In the first study, lead by Prof Ann Buchanan from Oxford University, highlighted several benefits of grandparent involvement [1]:

In this study it was interesting that a grandparent’s active involvement was significantly associated with better adjusted adolescents. In particular, taking part in grandchildren’s hobbies and interests was significantly associated with fewer emotional and behaviour problems, and fewer peer problems. Grandparent involvement in schooling or education was also related to a lower maladjustment score and fewer conduct problems, and talking to grandparents about future plans was associated with fewer overall emotional and behavioural difficulties, and fewer peer problems.

A second study, lead by Jeremy Yorgason from Brigham Young University [2],  linked grandparent involvement to greater care and concern children demonstrated for people outside immediate family and friends.  Financial assistance from grandparents was also associated with higher engagement in the classroom for kids in single-parent homes.

Although benefits for both of these studies were demonstrated for adolescent children, the relationships should be forged at a much younger age.  For distant grandparents, the relationships cultivated through shared book reading in Kindoma Storytime lay the groundwork for continued involvement later in life.

[1] Buchanan, A (2008).  Involved Grandparents and Child Well-Being. 

[2] Yorgason, J. B., Padilla-Walker, L., Jackson, J. (2011) Nonresidential Grandparents' Emotional and Financial Involvement in Relation to Early Adolescent Grandchild Outcomes.  Journal of Research on Adolescence.  (21) 3.  Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

Support Learning through Joint Media Engagement

In the late 1960's, Sesame Street pioneered the idea of coviewing by designing television programming to be enjoyed by both children and parents together. Since then, research has validated this approach by demonstrating learning benefits for children that coview television media with their parents [1]. More recently, research on joint media engagement has broadened our understanding of the benefits of joint attention and meaning-making amongst families to encompass more of the modern media landscape (for an overview see: [2]). Unfortunately, many families consider tablets and mobile devices to be personal devices and are not using them for coviewing. A 2011 report by PlayScience found that a majority of parents felt that the mobile devices “helped teach new things” to their kids, but 26% were concerned that it “isolates family members” [3].  At Kindoma, we are turning this around by taking advantage of the fact that these devices are communication devices. Kindoma Storytime enables a new form of joint media engagement across distances by combining videochat with books.


What children learn from media depends as much on the context in which they are consumed and with whom they are consumed, as the actual content of the media. Children need family support for sense-making and learning. We built Kindoma Storytime to bring families together in support of children’s learning.

[1] Reiser, R. A., Tessmer, M. A., & Phelps, P. C. (1984). Adult–child interaction in children’s learning from Sesame Street. Educational Technology Research & Development, 32(4), 217-223

[2] Takeuchi, L., & Stevens, R. (2011). The New Coviewing: Designing for learning through joint media engagement. In New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

[3] Playscience. (2011) Mobile Playgrounds: Kids, Families and Mobile Play.

Get the most out of your Kindoma Storytime sessions using dialogic reading techniques

Educational research demonstrates that the more children talk about a book during the reading experience, the better their vocabulary development.  Russ Whitehurst and his colleagues at The Stony Book Reading and Language Project have pioneered a method of reading with preschoolers known as dialogic reading.  Dialogic reading is a method designed to get children to talk more during book reading sessions.  At a high level, the technique involves prompting the child with questions, and then building upon their responses by rephrasing and adding information.  Each time you read the same book using dialogic reading, the children should be doing more and more of the storytelling. The key to effective dialogic reading is how to prompt children to say things.  Whitehurst and colleagues have identified five types of prompts, represented by the acronym CROWD.   Here is an explanation of each type of prompt including ideas of how to leverage them inside Kindoma Storytime.

  • Completion prompts:  These prompts use the classic ‘fill-in-the-blank’ mechanic.  Parents leave words out and get children to fill in the word.  For example, “This is a cat, he has a ____”, letting the child fill in the blank hat. These prompts help children grasp the structure of language.  In Kindoma Storytime, you can also point to the image of the hat to help children identify the matching word.
  • Recall prompts:  These prompts get children to recount what has happened in the story.  For example, “Can you tell me what happened to the three little pigs.”  Recall prompts help children grasp story plot and event sequencing.
  • Open-ended prompts:  In books with rich illustrations, you may ask a child “Tell me what’s happening on this page.”  Model using the pointing finger for the child and encourage the child to point to things as they are discussing them.  These prompts help promote expressive fluency and attention to detail.
  • Wh- prompts: Asking kids questions that start with what, when, where, why around illustrations helps to develop a child’s vocabulary.  For example, “What material is this pig using to build his house?”  while pointing at the house.
  • Distancing prompts: These prompts help relate images and words in the stories to their own lives.  While pointing to an image of an alligator, say “Remember when we went to the zoo and saw alligators?  What other animals did we see?”

Lots of research demonstrates that dialogic reading works!  As Russ Whitehurst says himself:

“Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. We have found these effects with hundreds of children in areas as geographically different as New York, Tennessee, and Mexico, in settings as varied as homes, preschools, and daycare centers, and with children from economic backgrounds ranging from poverty to affluence.”

We hope these tips improve your Storytime!  Remember to have fun and follow your child’s interests to get them talking.

Support children’s learning by talking with them over a book

It is intuitive that children learn from their parents and grandparents, but it’s easy to underestimate how much.  We at Kindoma strongly believe in the power of combining families and books to promote childrens’ learning. Talking to your child helps prepare them for school:

Almost two decades ago, in 1995, Hart & Risley published the results of a landmark study [1] that linked success in school at age nine to the amount of talk they hear from birth to age three.  The actual difference in the amount of words children hear is astonishing; successful children heard on average 8 million more words per year than their struggling peers, leading to what was termed the “30 million word gap” by the time they turn four.

Distance makes talking even harder:

To make matters worse, many families today live apart. In the US alone, 1 in 3 children live apart from one biological parent.  Even families that live together can be separated because of their parent's work, whether they are on a military deployment or just frequent business trips.  Grandparents also want to be involved in their grandchildren's lives, but around half of them live more than 200 miles away.

Our own research shows that long-distance families are struggling to find ways to communicate with the children that they love [2,3].  It’s difficult to maintain a conversation over the phone or videochat with children under the age of 7.   There are several different types of challenges that often lead to communication breakdowns over the phone.

  • Cognitive challenges: Children’s difficulty with perspective taking leads to a class of problems such as gesturing to things unseen by the other side.
  • Social challenges: Young children haven’t mastered the art of conversation.  They aren’t yet good storytellers, and they haven’t mastered turn-taking or asking questions.  Even children who are normally talkative face-to-face are often reported to digress to just “yes” and “no” responses over the phone.
  • Attentional / Motivational challenges: Children have difficulty staying engaged and sitting still for a long time.  They don’t feel connected to the remote party, and as a result they view talking with their family on the phone as a chore.

Videochat is an improvement over the phone because you can show rather than tell, and use gesture instead of words.  However, videochat is still oriented towards conversation. Most children run away from the videochat after a few minutes. When you are with a child you typically don’t try to engage them with conversation, instead you find a way to play with them!

Why Kindoma Storytime works:

We at Kindoma have reimagined videochat to be more engaging, playful, and fun using books.  Books give families something to do together, and something to talk about, leading to much longer and richer interactions with their children.  Book reading is familiar to both the young and old, and it resembles what families already do when they are physically together.

So show your love by reading a book with your child using Kindoma Storytime!  Reading with them today will help them be better prepared for school later.


[1] Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Brookes Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, MD.

[2] Ames, M., Go, J., Kaye, J. “J.”, & Spasojevic, M. (2010). Making Love in the Network Closet: The Benefits and Work of Home Videochat. CSCW  ’10: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. pp 145–154. doi:10.1145/1718918.1718946

[3] Ballagas, R., Kaye, J., Ames, M., Go, J., & Raffle, H. (2009). Family Communication: Phone Conversations with Children. Proc. Interaction Design for Children. pp 3-6. ACM. doi: 10.1145/1551788.1551874

From Family Story Play to Kindoma Storytime

Since our announcement of the Kindoma Storytime app for iPad last Monday, many people have asked us how Kindoma Storytime came to be. Our road to this point has been an interesting one – we have pursued this path for almost 5 years, initially at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, where we started the Family Communication research. How do families with young children keep in touch?

We asked this question during a broad study of families and their use of tech, carried out in the summer of 2008.  In home visits, we observed many difficulties of communicating remotely with young kids. Most of the families were using phone for communication and a few were adopting Skype, too. But these interactions were usually brief since kids didn’t have the conversational skills, nor were they interested in chitchat!

Video was an improvement over phone calls since kids were able to show things and invent new practices, such “skype kisses” (kissing the camera). Seeing these intimate family moments, we asked ourselves: how can we reimagine video chat for families in a way that supports co-operative play and learning, while also focusing on building relationships?

Family Story Play

In parallel with our research on families and communication, we struck up a collaboration with the Sesame Workshop and their research group at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. We found so much in common: Sesame has pioneered ideas around Joint Media Engagement (JME), the notion that children learn more when they consume educational media with adults in their lives, by designing their shows to be enjoyed by both young and old together. We brought to the table the technology expertise to help extend these ideas to family interactions at a distance.


Our first prototype, Family Story Play, combined physical books, video chat and kids favorite friend Elmo. This system allowed grandparents to read physical books to their long-distance grandchildren. Interestingly, Elmo didn’t read the story, but listened intently to the reader modeling an interest in reading for the children.  Elmo would also ask questions about each page, modeling dialogic reading techniques for the reader, and encouraging children to talk about the book.  Research on dialogic reading demonstrates that children learn more by talking about a book during the reading experience. Family Story Play allowed us to rediscover the natural links between family communication and children’s learning.

While our research prototype was not easy to scale, we extracted important lessons from this work, in particular how to create shared activities at a distance and how to engage both kids and adults.

Story Visit

The Story Visit web service was the next in the iterative evolution of our ideas. To make content coordination on both sides easier, we used ebooks, instead of physical books. In the summer of 2010 we were able to deploy the system and study it “in the wild”. We observed families using our service in their homes. We found that these connected book reading session were significantly longer than typical video chat sessions and it was clear to us that the kids were enjoying them, too.


Over the next few years, we transferred these ideas into a set of products, such as Rich Reading apps for Symbian and Windows 7 phones and supported important educational initiatives, such as Read For the Record 2011 event with Pearson Foundation. We also continued the research on prototypes for book reading: People in Books suggests a new ways of using depth camera for immersive videochat.  A full list of our projects can be found at

Kindoma: A place for families

Last year, with the support of our former employer, we started Kindoma. The name of our company comes from two German words: kind = child and oma = grandma. The name Kindoma is also designed to sound like ‘kingdom’, a magical place where families can be together even when they are apart.

We want Kindoma to be a communication hub for families. As technology rapidly improves, we know that there is a space to reimagine inter-generational communication and make it more playful, educational and meaningful. Our first product, Kindoma Storytime is only the next step on this journey to improve children’s engagement with their family.

Kindoma Storytime Now Available on iPad

Slide1 Starting today, families who live apart can connect and read stories together using Kindoma Storytime. Our free iPad app, available in the iTunes store, combines real-time video chat and ebooks to structure long-distance interactions. In Kindoma’s communication hub for families, both sides see the same view of the book library and anyone can select a book to read. Turning the page of the book on one side is instantly reflected on the other side. And when a reader points to something on the page, a shadow hand will appear on the other end. Families with young children who struggle to keep in touch, now can read books together and share personal stories.

How can this help families?

Today, roughly half of 65M grandparents in the US live more than 200 miles away from their grandchildren, and families are struggling to keep in touch. Phone conversations are too awkward for children. Videochat is better, but still oriented towards conversation. Children don’t want chitchat; they want to play! Kindoma is reimagining inter-generational communication to be more playful, educational, and meaningful. Unlike other social networks like Facebook, Kindoma is designed to support the needs of families first. Great books give families something to talk about, and keep children engaged. Research shows that children learn more when they use educational media with adults in their life. Children also learn more when they talk about a book while reading together. Kindoma promotes the synergies between children’s learning and family communication.

Library View

Our Library: Back to the Basics

Kindoma’s initial library consists of books aimed at children aged 2-7. In addition to books from two partner publishers, Cherry Tree Media and Twin Sisters Productions, we offer books from independent authors and well known public domain books with new illustrations. The books in the library are selected for their timeless appeal and the ability to encourage a conversation and stimulate young minds. Rather than offering a rich set of interactive features, in Kindoma we help you, the reader, bring the book to life.

The Future

Our goal is to help families connect and spend time together, no matter where they are. Look for Kindoma to support a wider range of devices in future versions. Let us know what devices you would like to use.

Also, we know how important good content is to making the reading sessions great. We will be continually evolving and improving our selection of books. Keep checking our iPad app for new books.

Your feedback is very important to us. Let us know how we can make Kindoma Storytime better for you!

Download from iTunes here.