Tag Archives: children

Improve Your Child’s Test Scores

Ready For TestingChester Creek is all about color and kids. Color helps kids learn. It improves memorization and comprehension. It engages students and keeps their attention. Color makes learning less frustrating by breaking up the solid, black field on most keyboards. It helps children better cope with Dyslexia about 85% of the time. These are just some of the reasons why we LOVE color and what we do here at Chester Creek Technologies.

Did you know that standardized testing is starting as early as the 3rd grade? And included in those tests is Keyboarding? But, many schools don’t start teaching keyboarding or touch-typing until middle school, if it is offered at all. To us, that can be frustrating for all involved. The child gets discouraged and loses interest in keyboarding, the parent gets frustrated at the school system, and the educator doesn’t get high test scores which can mean loss of funding. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.

We believe that proficiency on a keyboard will help with the proficiency on the test scores. There are many advantages to children learning keyboarding at a young age versus later in on middle school, junior high or high school. Some of them include: learning proper finger placement, learning the correct layout, learning touch-typing versus hunt and peck. It is much easier to start teaching them younger with good keyboarding habits then trying to break bad habits that they’ve picked up over time by not taking a keyboarding course.

Chester Creek Technologies offers a variety of beginning keyboards for a parent to start teaching their child or for the educators to place in their classrooms. The LearningBoard is color-coded by vowels, consonants, numbers and function keys. This keyboard is great for learning the very basics. The LessonBoard is color-coded by zone to support state CORE standards for teaching keyboarding/typing and the color-coding supports correct finger placement. This keyboard helps improve precision, speed and accuracy. CCT also designs large key keyboards such as the KinderBoard and MyBoard-lc. Both are great options for a child’s first keyboard.

To learn more about children’s keyboards from Chester Creek visit our website: http://www.chestercreek.com/childrensProducts.html


Tricky Terms, part two: CPSIA

Earlier this week, we discussed RoHS, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive, as well as what that means for you and for us.  Today, I’d like to take a bit of your time to take a look at another acronym you will find on most Chester Creek products: CPSIA.

CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  This act was passed in 2008 in the wake of several recalls and scares involving faulty toys and products with high lead content.  It authorizes a higher budget for  the Consumer Product Safety Commission, creates stronger restrictions, imposes deadlines, and calls for increased penalties for failure to comply.

The CPSIA calls for reduction of lead in children’s products to fall first to 600 ppm, then 300 ppm, then 100 ppm, and sets deadlines for these standards.  The standards apply retroactively to everything on store shelves.

The CPSIA also make testing of all products meant for children mandatory.  Products must be tested for restricted substances and must have certificates of compliance that provides standard information, including applicable rules, dates of manufacture, etc… in English.

Chester Creek diligently ensures that all of it’s children’s products meet or exceed requirements set out by not only the CPSIA, but RoHS as well.

Summer Learning Loss

Summer is on its way.  Can you smell it in the air?  I can smell it in the fog rising off the lake.  Even out here in the Northland, the snow is all but gone and the first flowers are blooming, little green and purple surprises.  Accordingly, kids all over are feeling that anxious itch for summer vacation.  To be honest, I am too, even though it doesn’t mean vacation for me anymore.

Summer has one downside, though.  Summer learning loss.  Studies have found that on average, students lose about one month’s worth of learning over the summer.  This number varies across demographics, location, and subject.  In fact, students tend to lose just over two and a half months of math knowledge.  Low income students tend to be set back about two months of reading.

Only about 9% of students K-12 in the US attend summer programs.

So how can you keep your students on track through their summertime adventures?  How about incorporating it into their daily life?  Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom.  Have them pick up a book, and talk with you about it when they’ve finished reading.  Take them on nature walks and explore the wonder of the world around you.  You can learn together.  Educational computer games are fun for a rainy day, too.  Check out Chester Creek’s new educational software packs for computer adventures through science, logic, math, and more! Throw in a LessonBoard to teach them good typing skills while they’re at it – a skill sure to come in handy next fall, giving them a leg up over their peers.


The last few days, I’ve been doing research on germs (ewwwww) and bacteria and the like.  I am officially considering germaphobia as a life choice.  Although, really, that seems like a lot more effort that I would want to put forth.  Anyways, here is some of what I’ve learned.  (Those with children in school may not want to read the following.)

Forty percent of parents say that they have sent their children sick to school in the last year.  That is a lot of sick kids running around in school.  In fact, in Minnesota, where we are located, thirty-two schools have reported outbreaks of influenza-like illness in the last week alone.  That includes only cases of illness that were reported.  There have also been more than thirty hospitalizations and one death in MN in the last week due to the flu.  In a report from England, the median length of stay in a hospital for influenza was over 10 days. Ten days of serious hospitalization!   In the US, thirty-five percent of children under five who contract the flu suffer from serious complications.

The average American child will have 6.5 colds a year, and each will last three to five days. One person each second catches the common cold in the US alone.  Children are more than twice as likely as adults to contract a cold.  This is because as adults, we have had many of these strains of colds before and our bodies have immunities built up.  We don’t get sick as often, because we got sick a lot in the past.

Parents – ready for the scary stuff?
Seventy percent of classrooms are not regularly disinfected by custodians.  Classrooms are the number one workplace for germs.  Contrary to popular belief, floors and toilets are some of the cleanest surfaces in school.  The yuckiest include desktops, paper towel dispensers, water fountains, and computers.  A keyboard actually has on average three times the concentration of bacteria as an animal cage.  Bacteria found on the above listed surfaces include high concentrations of e. coli, pneumonia, streptococcus, salmonella, and staph.   Some of these bacteria can live for days and even grow if left unchecked.  Even disinfecting can be tricky, as the more effective products must be left on a surface for approximately ten minutes - hardly practical on computer equipment and between classes.  And its important to disinfect throughout the day when items are in use almost constantly; tests have shown that germs build rapidly throughout the day,.   In one tested environment, influenza A was found on 13% of surfaces in the morning and on 50% by afternoon.  An even more startling statistic – at least for me: only 58% of girls and 48% of boys in high school wash their hands after using the lavatory.

Are you as freaked out as I am?

Some solutions include seals for keyboards and mice that can be sanitized, placing hand sanitizer at every doorway in schools, and washing, washing, washing of hands.

But still.

Colors of the Wind

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
-Georgia O’Keefe
We see the world around us through an array of colors. Red apples, green grass, blue skies. The colors we see affect our impression of the things that we are seeing, whether we know it or not. For instance, a bright red has been shown to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, creating a slight change in pulse and blood pressure. These effects occur because color is perceived, not only on the surface of the brain, but also in the limbic system, which is often referred to as the “primitive brain.” Red, given this fact as well as its cultural associations, can influence people to be more risk-averse and detail-oriented. Even blind, color-blind, and blind-folded individuals have been shown to experience different physiological sensations under different color lights.

Blue and green, conversely, have been shown to have a calming effect on individuals and to stimulate creative thinking. Certain shades of blue have even been shown to slow the heart rate. It is for this reason that “cardiac blue” is so frequently used in medical centers and hospitals. The debate about certain color improving productivity has gone on for a long time. The truth is, different colors can encourage different types of productivity: red for detail-oriented work and blue for creative work. Blue has also been shown to act as an appetite suppressant. Yellow caution signs and the like work well because yellow is an attention-getting color. Too much yellow, however, can cause headaches and irritability because it over stimulates the eyes.

Similarly, experts advise refraining from over use of color. More than six bold colors in any one piece (wallpaper, for instance) can be overwhelming and inhibit cognition.

Children are usually drawn by warm, bight colors. Using these colors in learning environments can have very positive affects. A classroom decorated in friendly colors can reduce stress, improve visual processing, increase focus and attention span, and aid brain development in visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity.  In fact, color speeds up learning and retention by as much as 78% and use of bold colors (as oposed to black and white) can increase IQ by up to 12 points.

For special needs children specifically, color can be either helpful or harmful, depending on how it is used. Regular, geometric patterns can be used to stimulate the pattern seeking part of the brain and reduce visual stress (in comparison with irregular or more complicated patterns). Autistic children in particular can be overwhelmed easily by color. Researchers have found that approximately 85% of autistic children see colors with greater intensity than do their neurotypical peers. This is not to say that the learning environment of a child with an ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) should be devoid of bright colors or decoration, but rather that bold colors should be used carefully, in that setting. In fact, we have heard from several parents and instructors that children on the spectrum benefit greatly from our colored keyboards because of the color-coding.

Dyslexic children generally benefit from well-used color.  A study has shown that 80% of dyslexic children showed increased understanding of read materials when displayed with a colored overlay.  Color-coding by character set can help with spelling on keyboards for those with dyslexia. Those with ADD and ADHD are also helped by the use of color.  Color has been shown to help with focus for these individuals as well as individuals with Down Syndrome by maintaining interest and breaking monotony.

The benefits of using more color are not limited only to children; repetition of colors has also enhanced the memory of nursing home residents and productivity across most demographics.

Software Bundles

I know, I know.  We’ve been telling you all about new products that we’re coming out with, but actual introduction of the items for sale has been slow.

TextSpeak is up. This is a great, ultra-portable little Augmentative Communication keyboard device that allows people to talk through their keyboard, no computer required.

Braille Stickers are up.  These are the only Braille stickers for large-key keyboards, and are clear so that the large-print legend remains visible.

Headphones and the LittleMouse are new.  Chester Headphones are sturdy and adjustable enough for everyone, plus comfy and with convenient inline volume control.  The LittleMouse is perfect for kids still learning (color-coded!), or anyone who doesn’t want to worry about a scroll wheel.

Large-key numeric pad is up coming soon. This keypad is intended as a companion to any of our large-key keyboards for those who prefer the grid layout of numbers, but is also useful paired with any keyboard for those who like or need larger keys.  The keypad should be available by the end of the month.

The Wireless VisionBoard should be in by the end of the month, as well.  This keyboard is very similar to our VisionBoard, but includes f-keys, and will be available in black and white to start with.

We also have some great educational software bundles coming in soon.  We will be offering a pre-K bundle and an early elementary bundle, both of which will feature five titles.

The pre-K bundle will feature:

Baileys Book House
Millie’s Math House
Trudys Time and Place House
Sammy Science House
Thinking Things Toony the Loons Lagoon

Our early elementary bundle will include:
Mighty Math Carnival Countdown
Reader Rabbit 1st Grade
Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum
Reader Rabbit 2nd grade
Zoombinis Island Odyssey

Charter Schools

Yesterday, I wrote a little about homeschooling as an education option.  This is one route that provides huge flexibility and choice regarding structure and content.  Another non-traditional education path is the charter school.

Definitions for charter schools vary from state to state, as do laws, but generally a charter school is the following:

  • A public School.
  • Created when a group individuals petition a local school board or county board of education for a charter to open an independent school in their community.
  • Sponsored by another organization, such as a local university.
  • Typically founded by educators, parents, community groups or private organizations.
  • Operated under a written contract with a state, district or other entity.
  • Required to meet local, state, or federal standards of education.

Furhter definitions can be found at US Charter Schools.  These schools can be part of a larger public school district, or an independent district supported by the state and sponsors.The National Charter School Study has found that the top three reasons charter schools are created is to gain autonomy, realize a vision, or serve a specific group. These goals are met in a variety of ways.  Charter schools’ freedom allows them to structure the learning as they like.

Parents and teachers choose charter schools primarily for educational reasons–high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, or educational philosophies in line with their own. Some also have chosen charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students).  -US Charter Schools

The charter school which I used to work for, Avalon School, for instance, accepts 180 students from grades 7-12 and emphasizes growth through project-based learning — very different from the traditional public schools in the St. Paul area.

There are so many options for education available; what works best for your family?


Homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice among American families.  The number of homeschoolers increases by over 8% annually, and about one million US families already homeschool, according to numerous studies by individuals, organizations, and the census bureau.  Why do people homeschool?  For a number of reasons, whether it be displeasure with the public option or a desire to build stronger family bonds.  As many reasons as there are for homeschooling, there are just as many approaches.  Some of the typical homeschooling approaches are listed here.

Two of the main concerns about homeschooling are whether the children will earn to socialize and whether or not they will match traditionally schooled peers in learning.  Studies have shown that contrary to the belief of some, homeschooled children tend to be more confident in social situations and less peer-dependant. As to the speed and quality of learning, every child learns differently.  This is true of homeschooled children as well as traditionally-schooled kids.  The quality of their learning depends entirely upon their natural abilities and the parents’ commitment.  There is no reason a homeschooled child cannot have an education as good as or better than any public-school student.  The other worry is cost.  According to homeschool.com, one of the internet’s largest homeschool networks, homeschooling can cost as little or as much as the parent’s decide.  Resources include free work sheets and expenszive boxed curriculum.  Peripheral educational devices like computers can also be very important to learning.  Much of the free curriculum is available through the web, after all, and skills like typing and research are indispensable in today’s world.

To help both traditional and non-traditional educational programs, Chester Creek offers a 10% discount for orders that can be verified as part of a library or education program.

What techniques do you use in your homeschooling adventures?

Learn to type

Typing was once a specialized skill reserved for the business, secretarial, and writing communities.    These jobs were high paying and considered high skill.  With the advent of the internet and the propagation of computers into every facet of life, this is no longer an optional ability.  Employers are demanding this skill, even for low-wage, entry-level work.


Learning to type does not have to be difficult.


Finger position and muscle memory are at the core of typing.  Traditionally, a student must first memorize all of the keys on a keyboard and how they are arranged.  Remembering exactly which fingers go on which keys is the next important piece of memorization.  In many classrooms, papers are handed out that diagram proper placement.  This leaves students repeatedly checking screen, keyboard, and chart, losing momentum, and constantly making mistakes.  The color-coded keyboards of Chester Creek present the perfect solution.  Start your children out with a colorful FunKeyBoard or LearningBoard to help them learn key locations.  For even younger kids, we offer the large-key kids’ KinderBoard.  For the budding touch-typist in your life, we offer the LessonBoard.  This keyboard naturally guides learners into correct typing habits by simple color-coding.  We have also just added the LessonBoard Pro to our lineup. Color-coded, but lacking labels, the Pro forces students to memorize location of individual keys, but continues to encourage correct finger placement, reducing the urge to “peek” later in life.  The Pro is actually my personal favorite of all of our keyboards, because it is such an interesting but obvious way to encourage kids and adults to learn more quickly and learn “better.”


Kids’ Keyboards

Children, in some cases even toddlers, are now using computers at home and in school. However, learning the keys can be very frustrating for a child. All the keys look the same, the typeface is small, and the keys are often hard to reach. Children become discouraged and confused trying to remember the location of specific letters. Chester Creek’s keyboards for kids are great tools. Specially designed, with bold color-coding for vowels, consonants, numbers, and function keys, our children’s keyboards eliminate frustration and stress, providing a valuable, fun, and successful learning experience.

Teaching a child to use a computer at an early age can give them a head-start advantage. Knowledge of computer use and navigation can help stream line the process of creating projects and doing research for school. Later in life, good typing skills can cut work time in half for essays and papers, and in the work environment computer skills are a must.

An investment in your child’s computer skills is an investment in their future. One of the best values on the market today is a keyboard from Chester Creek. Chester Creek produces keyboards that are safe, sturdy, and practical. With boards in both standard and large-key layout, color-coded by character-set or finger placement, CCT has everything your child will need to learn to type quickly and correctly. Additionally, Chester Creek mice are designed specifically with a child’s hands in mind. Smaller and easier to grip and use, a CCT child’s computer mouse is also long-lasting, well-constructed, and color-coded. Our mice come with one or two buttons and with or without a scroll wheel, depending on what you, the consumer, need.