All Posts By

Esther Van der Vyver

All posts by Esther Van der Vyver

Wonder Woman as a role model

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“Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”  Dr. William Moulton Marston, original creator of the Wonder Woman character.

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During Women’s Month, we consider the role of women in all areas of modern life. One of the most iconic women of our time must be the original Wonder Woman. This fearless female superhero has been fighting battles and serving as an icon of empowerment since 1941.

We know that all children need role models, but inspirational role models are sometimes hard to come by, and those that are available are often unsuitable. Who wants young girls ‘twerking’ on the playground?  But here comes Wonder Woman to the rescue! A fast-talking, strong and fearless woman, she took on male superheroes on their own turf, and kept them in line with her whip, her lasso of truth and her equally sharp one liners.

Her history is interesting, and is often seen as parallel to the history of the feminist movement, reflecting the changing role of women through the decades. The character first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in December 1941, and has been a presence in popular culture ever since. The Wonder Woman title has been published by DC Comics almost continuously since then except for a brief break in 1986. In 1944, Wonder Woman became the only superhero, aside from Superman and Batman, to make the jump from the pages of a comic book to daily newspaper syndication as a comic strip.

In addition to being a regular feature in comics, she’s also appeared in other media; most notably, the 1975–1979 Wonder Woman TV series as well as in animated series such as the Super Friends and Justice League. She has most certainly left an impression on our collective  imagination, and was named the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire magazine in its online ranking system.

Through the character of Wonder Woman, her creator Dr. William Moulton Marston, sought to change the gender stereotyping of his day. Writing in The American Scholar, in 1938 he discussed the negative effects of gender stereotyping in popular culture: “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power…. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

Luckily Wonder Woman is all of these things; a strong, beautiful woman of action, who has often reflected and supported the fight for female empowerment and civil rights during her long career. With strong female role models often in short supply in the media, we are happy to announce that Wonder Woman will be gracing the Silver Screen again in the near future, with an appearance in the new Batman vs Superman Movie, as well as a movie of her very own in 2016.

We can’t wait to introduce a new generation of girls to this inspirational woman.

The history of apps and their place in our lives

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“App”: noun, Computers, Informal. 1. an application, typically a small, specialized program downloaded onto mobile devices.

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Image courtesy of Pexels

 

We’ve all heard the catchphrase – ‘There’s an app for that’. Well, with the number of apps being developed on a daily basis, this might almost literally be true. These days, customers download more than 800 apps every single second from the iStore.  Let’s take a look at how apps started.

On July 10, 2008, Apple launched the App Store, with 552 apps available, of which 135 were free. Unprepared for the popularity of their invention, the App Store was overwhelmed with 10 Million downloads in the first week alone. By September of the same year, the store had surpassed 100 million downloads, and by the end of 2008  the most downloaded app of the year, with 5 million downloads, was Facebook.  Apps changed the way that people communicated and did business, and with the advent of the Smartphone, their influence and presence in our daily lives have grown exponentially. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that Apps have only been in existence for a few years.

‘The most significant AppStore development of 2010, though, came from Apple: The iPad launched in April 2010, ushering in a slew of novel and clever software categories.’ (see Xander Apps built specifically for the iPad here.)

Internationally, the App Store is available in 77 countries, but what makes it unique and popular, is the fact that content is not restricted, and apps can be accessed and downloaded from any country. According to recent research, app downloads could reach 98 Billion by the end of this year. Total  app revenue in 2010 totalled $2.15 billion. By 2015, that figure will grow to nearly $12 billion. That’s about 153 Billion Rands, to put things into perspective.

According to App Annie Stats, the most popular apps in South Africa make for interesting reading, with messenger apps topping the list, and  WhatsApp coming in first overall. Gridwatch beats out the news section of its parent company News24,  for 8th place overall.  One glance at these stats prove the point that apps have become an integral part of our lives, and that the type of apps that we download, reflect our lives and interests. The way that we consume and interact with news and media has evolved due to apps, and has definitely brought the world into our hands and living rooms, for better or for worse.

We’ve all played addictive and senseless app games but what can be considered the most useless app ever to grace our screens? Probably this one:   Zips, a strange app that falls into the category of apps  performing an activity online, that would be boring in real life. On a handheld device, it is nothing short of excruciating, enthusiastic reviews notwithstanding. The app allows you to drag the zipper up and down to open and close.  Voted number one dumbest app by CNN Money in 2014, and we can see why.

Then there are apps that seem silly at first glance, but turn out to be absolutely indispensable.

What apps have saved your life? Whether it is just a relaxing time waster like Angry Birds, or something more useful and functional that makes your life easier in unexpected ways – we would love to know. We might even share your answer online and send you a voucher for one of our very own  #XanderApps. In the meantime, click through and see what Parents.com think are indispensable apps for families.

Raising girls to be powerful women

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Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney

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As we start Women’s Month 2015 let us not forget that all women start out as little girls. It’s up to us as parents, guardians and role models to raise girls who will become strong, independent and groundbreaking women. But how do we do that? If girls can be anything, how do we help them to choose and how do we encourage them to reach their full potential?

  1. Acknowledge them for who they are, and allow them autonomy. They have to think for themselves, and sometimes they might not agree with your point of view. Its important to find a way that allows autonomy without undermining parental authority.
  2. Encourage them to take risks and be physically adventurous – think beyond stereotypes and gender. And don’t be too quick to jump in and help them – they might surprise you with what they are capable of. Solving their own problems will build confidence and self-reliance.
  3. Lead from the front and be a good role model – this is possibly the most difficult one. Children learn so much from their environment, and from what they observe and experience. Are you a strong woman, who achieves her objectives and make a difference? As a father or guardian, do you actively support and encourage strong women?
  4. Introduce them to strong female role models in the media and in your community. Don’t know of any? Then make a point of finding out, and sharing this with your children. We found a list here, which includes diverse women such as Michelle Obama and Audrey Hepburn, but how about making your own South African list?  Decide what  strong female role models looks like to you and introduce them to your children.

We have also found a list of books that celebrate differences and encourage adventure and growth, suitable for both boys and girls here.

Possibly the most important things we can do for our girls, as for any of our children, is to listen to them, keep an open dialogue and be the role models we want them to admire. Which uniquely South African female role models do you admire? Do share with us on Twitter and Facebook.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou

Mother tongue learning – A bridge to multilingualism

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Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

“Educationally, a child cannot learn the facts and ideas of what is been communicated unless he has an understanding of the language of instruction.” – European Journal of Social Science, 2009

At Xander Apps we are passionate about the importance of mother tongue education, and we make it our mission to develop and offer a variety of Apps to African early learners in their mother tongue. But why exactly is this so important? Let’s explore the issue.

The mother tongue can be defined as the first language that a child comes into contact with, and as the dominant language in that child’s immediate environment. Psychologists believe that children acquire the basic structures and rules of their mother tongue even before they can verbalise and communicate in it, through what is termed the Language Acquisition Device. The Language Acquisition Device, or LAD for short, is a hypothetical tool hardwired into the brain which helps children rapidly learn and understand language.

The mother tongue is thus effortlessly learned, and becomes a part of a child’s experience of their environment, and a natural part of who they are. The structures and rules of the mother tongue also act as a template for the acquisition of second or third languages later in life, in that most languages follow similar structural rules.

“Using the mother tongue, we have (1) learnt to think, (2) learnt to communicate and (3) acquired an intuitive understanding of grammar. The mother tongue opens the door, not only to its own grammar, but to all grammars, inasmuch as it awakens the potential for universal grammar that lies within all of us.” – Language Learning Journal, 2003.

If we then consider how integral a part the mother tongue plays in a child’s experience of its initial environment; then we realise the importance of this language as a medium of education.

If children learn something new in their mother tongue, they learn it effortlessly, without having to struggle with the medium. Learning is direct, faster and more easily integrated. Psychologically also, children are more at ease in communicating in the language of the immediate family circle, which adds to general confidence.

The importance of the mother tongue, and early learning in the mother tongue, can therefore not be overstated. The Xander Apps team continues to develop education apps in African languages, so that children can not only learn in their own languages, but have the opportunity to learn second or third languages as well. We support mother tongue education and will continue to work towards a multilingual future.

Share your thoughts with us on Facebook & Twitter

Tantrums and Tears

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Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/

There is nothing more embarrassing than being that family – the one with the red-faced toddler throwing the mother of all tantrums in a restaurant. Or at the checkout aisle of the supermarket, or the car park. Anywhere, really. Every parent dreads that moment when their child loses all semblance to the toddler they know and love, and turns into a little monster, eliciting pitying, judgemental or irritated looks from strangers.

What to do in these situations? Of course disappearing into the earth’s core is not an option, so we all need tips to help us cope. The first line of defense is to be proactive. Avoid situations or places where you know a meltdown is likely (read more here) .

Avoid a hungry, tired child in a shopping mall at all costs. If that is unavoidable, plan for the inevitable scene – think about how you would normally handle tantrums and demands, discuss these rules with your child, and above all – stick to your guns. If treats aren’t normally allowed during the week, don’t grab something sweet just to keep them quiet. This is detrimental in the long run, as children quickly learn that they can manipulate you into giving them what they want.

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“I stirred his ‘fruit on the bottom’ yogurt.” Image and link from “Reasons my son is crying”.

Of course, the best weapon of all, is to retain your sense of humour. Children can sometimes be mysterious creatures, as proven by this hilarious collection of seemingly nonsensical reasons ‘why my son is crying’. Reasons include ‘He really, really wanted to pet an elephant’ and ‘He couldn’t fit all the crayons into one hand’.

So when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your crying toddler, why not take a look at what other parents have to cope with, and take heart. Perhaps your little monster isn’t so bad after all?

We would love to hear how you plan for and cope with toddler tantrums, so do share on Facebook and Twitter.

Xander Xhosa Apps turn one on Mandela Day 2015

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We can hardly believe that our Xander Xhosa apps are one year old on Mandela Day.  What started as one entrepreneurial idea has turned into a suite of 18 educational Apps for children in five African Languages. Sibella Knott-Craig’s vision was to create an opportunity for mother-tongue learning through the medium of interactive play, and to allow South African and African children access to apps on a par with those of their international peers. This vision has been more than realised, and the App studio is now also developing read-along children’s books and continually exploring new avenues in the field of educational Apps.

Xander Apps by Tribage is part of the EverAfrica Group and was launched in July 2014, with the Xhosa 123 and Xhosa Shapes and Colours Apps.  The original Afrikaans apps were launched in April of the same year at the Cape Town Baba Indaba, and received the Award for the most innovative new product. Watch the interviews with Kyknet’s ‘Dagbreker’ here.

The apps featuring Xander the friendly T-Rex have been well received by a growing and enthusiastic following of moms and toddlers.

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The Xander apps motto is one of technical innovation and excellence, along with intuitive and beautiful design, that refrains from in-app purchases. The apps are created by professional parents with many years of joint experience in business and technology. The apps are also aligned with CAPS, the school curriculum, to prepare young children between three and six for school in an engaging way. These Apps, which promote early childhood development, can therefore be downloaded and enjoyed with total peace of mind.

In honour of our one year anniversary, and in the spirit of Mandela Day, with which we share our birthday, all our Xander Apps can be downloaded for  free for the full day. That’s right, on the 18th of July 2015, all Apps, including the one-year old Xander Xhosa Apps will be free. This is one small  way in which the Xander team can honour the memory of Madiba, whose vision for Africa and South Africa has inspired so many.

In Madiba’s words: If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Why don’t  you let us know what you are doing for Mandela Day this year. Share your contributions on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Role Models in the Media: Who do your children look up to?

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“In today’s 24/7 media environment, in which kids may be spending more time with media than they are with their parents, choosing positive role models is more important than ever.” Commonsense Media

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Image courtesy of Public Domain Images

We all know the child in preschool who is so fascinated with Spider Man that he comes to school dressed in a red suit for three weeks straight. It is amazing to see such a small child completely identify with their hero, not only wearing the spider-suit, but jumping around and staying completely in character at all times. To say that they are obsessed, would be an understatement.

Once you’ve seen the overwhelming influence that a role model such as a superhero or animated character can have on a small child, you realise just how impressionable they are, and just how many opportunities for influence, both good and bad, there are in the media today. If your child likes “Frozen”, they can practically live in a Frozen world – outfits, music and sing-along videos, not to mention themed parties and elaborate cakes. Do we indulge this (often expensive) fantasy world, and where do we draw the line when it comes to violent or otherwise unsuitable media figures?

Here are some tips for dealing with, and encouraging a positive media diet that includes good role models:

  • Keep track of what your child is watching.  If you don’t know what they are being exposed to, you cannot protect them. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug on material that you feel is unsuitable.
  • See that media content is age-appropriate. At the very least, this should be your benchmark. Children are blank slates and impressionable, so make sure that they are exposed to media items that are tailored to their age-group, and not being overwhelmed by content that they cannot understand or process.
  • Talk to your children about what they see and hear. If your child suddenly comes up with a new catchphrase, or a saying that is unfamiliar to you, find out where it comes from. Whether good or bad, a dialogue offers you the opportunity for discussion and allows you to convey your point of view.
  • Give them positive role models. Take the time to find some material that features positive role models that can teach your children about overcoming obstacles, about tolerance and doing good. With Mandela day coming up this month, we can think of no better role model to share with your kids.

Lastly, we as parents must remember that we are role models for our children in the real world, and that it’s up to us to embody those traits that we want to encourage in them.

Basic Computer Skills for Kids

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“Teaching in the Internet age means we must teach tomorrow’s skills today.” – Jennifer Fleming

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The world is moving impossibly fast, and it can be intimidating to prepare and equip your children properly. But one thing we do know, is that computers and the internet are here to stay and that our kids will be using them on a daily basis. Like driving lessons and taking a driving test, there are a few basic skills that they will need in order to function effectively in this tech-driven future.

Like learning to drive, you won’t always be there to hold your childrens’ hands when they need to figure things out for themselves. As parents we should encourage our children to master not only typing, but also less obvious skills such as routinely saving and backing up their information, and some basic troubleshooting in order to be able to solve the most common software problems that they might encounter.

Here are a few basic technical skills that they will need in order to use their computers effectively.

  • Touch typing. This is an essential skill, and will save your children time and frustration. Find some useful touch-typing games online here  or here.
  • Using shortcut keys for basic commands that are used often will save time and make life easier. In fact, some parents might also need pointers. Find a useful tips here.
  • Saving and backing up – to an external hard drive, or to a cloud-based memory. We should all back up and regularly save information, but this becomes essential as more and more school tasks are done digitally and work is performed online. Read more  here.
  • Usernames and passwords – need we say more? Read this article and help your children  protect accounts and sensitive information.
  • General Troubleshooting for children – Try this site.

For more tips on how to ensure our children grow into responsible computer users and good digital citizens, click here to read an article from High Impact Mom

Can children still just be children today?

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I was privileged enough to grow up on a farm, where we literally had stones that we pushed around in lieu of toy cars, while making excited revving noises. Not for a minute did I feel that I was missing out, or that my life was anything less than fulfilled, happy and carefree.

But what about our children, have they forgotten the simple joys of floating a stick in a stream, in favour of being up to date with the latest, best and flashiest thing with a massive price tag? And what are we as parents doing to encourage or change this attitude?

Our lives have become so busy, with pressure for children to conform and achieve from a young age.  For many busy parents, complex and expensive toys can be a wonderful asset and a means of engaging and keeping children stimulated and occupied while they get time to do some housework, or catch up on some well-deserved screen time of their own.
But are we forgetting the simpler joys of childhood? In South Africa, we are blessed with wonderful weather, lots of space and a culture that encourages sports and outdoor activities. Expensive, well-thought out toys can be wonderful , but why don’t we hide the bells and whistles once in a while and allow kids to unplug and just be themselves? There are wonderful ways in which kids can use recyclables and found objects to fashion their own toys, or – if we know kids –  just play around with the box that the appliance came in.

Here are some creative examples of simple (and inexpensive) ways of keeping your children entertained, while also doing your bit for the environment:

Let us know (on Facebook or Twitter) how you keep your child(ren) creatively entertained.

#XanderMoms winter recipes

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We’ve previously asked our #XanderMoms how they use and manage technology in their lives. Now that the days are shorter and we are spending more time indoors, we thought we would ask them to share some of their favourite go-to recipes with us. We’re keen to know how they keep their families warm and cosy in winter.

Tanya Kovarsky (@tanyakovarsky) shares this vegetable soup from cooking teacher and chef Sharon Glass. As Tanya says, ‘this soup keeps well, and I find that even if I omit some ingredients, such as celery or potatoes, it’s still delicious.’

COUNTRY MINESTRONE SOUP  

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Although this recipe may be daunting because of its length, it is so delicious, that it’s worth the effort.  Sautéing the vegetables in the butter and oil will give them much more flavour than simply adding them to a pot full of water.

PREPARATION TIME: 20 minutes | COOKING TIME: 3 hours  | Serves 10

60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil  
30ml (2 T) butter or margarine  
2 onions, chopped coarsely
3 large carrots, chopped coarsely
3 sticks celery, chopped coarsely
3 potatoes, chopped coarsely
4 zucchini, chopped into chunks
200g (7oz) green beans cut into small pieces
¼ cabbage, shredded very finely
1/2 butternut, diced
1 x 225g (8 oz) butter beans  
2x410g (14oz) tins diced tomatoes
125ml  (½ cup) tomato puree  
4 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
3 litres (12 cups) a boiling water  
Coarse salt and black pepper to taste  

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot.  Add the onions and cook over a medium heat until golden brown.  Add the carrots, and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Add rest of vegetables, sautéing slightly to coat them.  Lastly add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock and water, salt and pepper for seasoning. Bring to boil and simmer for 1+1/2 – 2 hours or until the soup is thick.  If desired, halve the soup and liquidise to thicken, then add it to remaining half.  

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and crusty French bread.  

CHEF’S TIP: Can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated. Freezes very well.  
Copyright © 2009 Sharon Glass, All rights reserved.    

Leslie Maliepaard (@mydesio) of Charge-Energy  has a three-year old fussy eater to contend with, so loves these meatballs made with hidden veggies, which she pairs with home-made spaghetti.

‘I love making the spaghetti too as it becomes a family affair and my little one helps with turning the pasta and hanging it up.’

MEATBALLS WITH HIDDEN VEGETABLES

Meatballs with veggies

 

500g  ground beef
½ cup plain bread crumbs
½ cup grated carrot
1/2  cup grated zucchini
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 250°C. In large bowl, mix all ingredients. Shape mixture into 3cm balls. Place in an ungreased baking  pan of suitable size.

Bake about 20 minutes or until no longer pink in center and meat thermometer inserted in center of meatball reads 80°C.

Serve meatballs over spaghetti with marinara sauce, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, if desired.

Courtesy of the Betty Crocker Website.

Leslie cleverly substitutes ground oatcakes for the breadcrumbs, (she uses Nairn’s Organic oatcakes, but feel free to experiment)  and adds aubergine to the mix of hidden veggies.

Why don’t you share some of your family favourites recipes with us?

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