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Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Here are some of our favorite new movies, games, and more!
Movies and Television
How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up five years after the original film ended, but Hiccup and Toothless are still an inseparable duo. This sequel promises plenty of adventure, a mysterious Dragon Rider, and an epic battle to protect the peace on the island of Berk. PG, opens June 13
Thanks to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Around the Clubhouse World, you can take your little one all over the globe without ever leaving the couch. Join Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto on a trip to France, Italy, Egypt, and China—and keep an eye out for Monsieur Donald Duck and Gondolier Goofy along the way. 3 years+, $20
Disney XD is airing a fresh take on the seven dwarfs this summer. The 7D is an animated comedy series set in the world of Jollywood, where the dwarfs help Queen Delightful keep her kingdom in order and protect it from two hapless villains. 3 years+, premieres July 7
In SpongeBob, You’re Fired!, our hero must try out new kooky occupations—including working at the Chum Bucket, picketing with Squidward, and modeling in a commercial. The DVD release features 14 funny episodes of the hit Nickelodeon show. 6 years+, $15
Soccer lovers can get in on the action with EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. New features allow better control of the ball and make the physics more realistic. Plus, you can play with up to 32 gamers through the qualifying rounds in tournament mode. 6 years+, $60 for Xbox 360 and PS3
Immerse yourself in Disney Magical World. Players can customize their avatar, interact with dozens of their favorite characters, and explore various Disney universes. Some activities include managing a café, planting crops, and helping to solve challenges. 7 years+, $30 for 3DS
Putty Squad, the early 1990s video game, is getting a makeover! Help a little blue blob rescue his friends by stretching, squishing and morphing through obstacles. New moves and modes add a modern twist. 10 years+, $30 for PS4, 3DS and PS Vita, $20 for PS3
Become a master of plants with Gardening Mama 2: Forest Friends. Choose from more than 50 flower, fruit, and vegetable seeds, and then care for them with water and fertilizer. And when your animal friends ask for help, harvest and deliver your crops to their restaurants and shops. 7 years+, $30 for 3DS
Fans of the PBS Kids show won’t want to miss Cyberchase Shape Quest. The app uses augmented-reality technology to help kids develop geometry, problem solving, and spatial-reasoning skills. Print out the free game board online, and when the camera focuses on it, characters pop up onscreen. 6 years+, free for iPad
Make basic arithmetic exciting with Wonder Bunny Math Race. Players must solve addition and subtraction problems quickly to help the rabbit beat opponents. Three levels of difficulty make it interesting for older kids too. 3 years+, Free for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android
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Kids can engage with a story in a whole new way with I Imagine. This interactive e-book lets your little one create the characters by choosing names, adding photos for faces, and customizing outfits. Then, he can join in the fun by helping the hero dance, build sand castles, draw pictures, and more. 3 years+, free for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
It’s time for a Wild Kratts World Adventure! The app, based on the PBS KIDS show, lets young explorers virtually swing with orangutans, swim with dolphins, and hunt bugs with woodpeckers. Earn stickers as you complete levels—and don’t forget to take a “Creature Power Selfie,” which inserts your face on an animal’s body. 4 years+, $3 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
If your child is always begging to use your tablet or smartphone, teach her some boundaries with The Adventures of Ash & Ollie: ScreenTime. The interactive e-book introduces some manageable rules for using devices, and encourages an active lifestyle too. The photo-album feature lets her take pictures of herself having fun. 4 years+, $3 for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android
Image courtesy of Dreamworks Animation
Monday, June 2nd, 2014
When we heard that Apple will refund at least $32.5 million for in-app purchases made by kids without their parents’ knowledge, we couldn’t help but think of a few other items we’ve bought that should be refundable.
$56 The stuffed animal-hat, -slipper, -flashlight, and -pillow hybrids that our kids “needed” after seeing them on infomercials.
$660 The annual gym membership we thought would help shed the baby weight, but were too tired to use.
$357 The Pinterest-worthy first birthday party we threw with printables, favors, and balloons that our kid won’t remember and pretty much hated anyway.
$675 The price of every DVD we bought for our kids before Frozen was released that we can toss now that they’re obsessed with Elsa, Anna, and Olaf.
$53 The super plush crib bumper we bought to protect our baby that we wanted to torch once we found out it’s actually dangerous.
$42 The loom kit and bajillions of extra rubber bands still hidden in the crevices of our home that were used to make more bracelets than our entire family could ever wear.
$150 The toddler and preschool tech gadgets we bought hoping (praying) they would replace our smartphone as his favorite toy ever. Nope.
A hefty refund that more than makes up for watching LoomBoy99’s Snake Belly bracelet tutorial on repeat for hours indoors on a sunny day. Well, almost.
Image: Mom gives child money via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Based on the number of people who own smartphones and tablets, everyone appears to be a tech enthusiast these days. The latest must-have–Google Glass–recently became available to the public, allowing users to navigate town wearing a small, computer-like device (if they’re willing to shell out $1,500, that is).
A few weeks ago, at Google Glass’s Travel Event, I had the chance to test out the glasses themselves and explore some of their travel-themed features, apps which many smartphone users may already utilize via their handheld device. Restaurant enthusiasts, take note: Glass users can access reservation service OpenTable and set dinner plans in stone using taps and a few simple commands. While the program had some difficulty understanding my requests (my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, didn’t register even when one of the pros tried!), it was neat (and a little silly) to stand in a room and have Glass “listen” to my voice as I navigated the app. Got a little one? App-using moms who wish to complete tasks hands-free will enjoy the accessibility Glass provides while on-the-go with Baby.
Perhaps the most interesting–and possibly most helpful–feature I tried was Word Lens, which translates words and short phrases, such as those that appear on street signs and buildings. While wearing the glasses, I viewed signs that were written in Russian, and if I looked at the text from the correct angle, Glass could translate the word in front of me into English. What was especially interesting was that Glass didn’t change anything else about the building or background on which the phrase appeared. Note to self: This would have made my travels in Prague much less confusing!
While obviously the most important aspect of Google Glass is what it can do, the way the device looks is customizable. Buyers can purchase glasses with colorful components, order prescription lenses, and more. Still, the look is more techy than fashionable–if form is more important to you than function, you may not wish to sport these flashy frames.
Has your kid had an eye exam recently? Here’s why these tests are so important:
Photo by Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo
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Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Here are some of our favorite new movies, games, and more!
Movies and Shows
A familiar world is explored in a new light in Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return when our heroine (Lea Michele) travels back to Oz to find her old friends. On her journey, she meets a quirky cast of characters, including a man made out of marshmallows and a talkative tugboat. PG; opens May 9
Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the story of a sports agent (Jon Hamm) who recruits talented cricket players to play Major League baseball.
What’s in it for you: Jon Hamm!
PG; opens May 16
Sleeping Beauty’s infamous antagonist tells her side of the story in Maleficent. It turns out she wasn’t always a villain—an act of betrayal when she was a young woman turned her heart to stone.
What’s in it for you: Angelina Jolie does a deliciously evil take on the character. And watch her daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt in her acting debut.
PG; opens May 30
Remember Fraggle Rock? The Jim Henson series from the ’80s now has inspired an animated show called Doozers. The show focuses on the tiny hard-working characters as they design and tackle engineering problems in the community. More than 50 episodes—each is 11 minutes long—were just released on Hulu for your preschooler’s viewing pleasure. 3 years+, available on Hulu
It’s party time in Happy Birthday Barney! The lovable dinosaur’s friends are working hard to throw a surprise bash. 1 year+, $10
Go wild with the high-definition debut of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The animated film—which was nominated for an Academy Award when it was released in 2002—follows a stallion as he travels across the Old West, finding friendship and love along the way. The Blu-ray release features commentary, a drawing tutorial, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. G, $20
Jump into action with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem. The first six episodes of the popular Nickelodeon show’s second season are now available on DVD. When our crime-fighting heroes accidentally drop mutagen all over New York City, they have to rescue the citizens—and take on villains while they’re at it. 7 years+, $15
Take your film collection on the go with Disney Movies Anywhere. The app works as a cloud service for Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movies. Simply link your iTunes account to watch already purchased movies and check out other films to buy. Exclusive video is also available for free. 3 years+, free for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Keep track of your child’s household contributions with ChoreMonster 2.0. When kids help out, they earn virtual points, which can be cashed in for real-life rewards like extra allowance or an hour of TV time. Plus, interactive monster characters make the experience more engaging. 3 years+, free for iOS, Windows 8, and online
Dexteria Dots makes practicing math both fun and visually appealing. Each circle on the screen represents a number, and players must combine or divide them to solve math problems. As the challenges become more difficult, the dots are no longer numbered, so kids must rely on memory and other clues to complete the tasks. And when the correct answer is reached, entertaining characters pop up to reward children for the hard work. 3 years+, $3 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Your kid can virtually explore all over the United States and Canada with Critter Cruise. Players drive along four different routes—including the Pacific Coast Highway and Route 66—while admiring the colorful scenery and learning facts about the different areas. While making stops at famous roadside attractions, kids answer questions on math and language arts to fill the gas tank and collect digital bumper stickers to admire later. 6 years+, Free for basic version or $2 to unlock all routes for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up is perfect for aspiring animators. The interactive story takes users on an adventure with Mickey and Donald Duck—but our heroes often need help, so kids are asked to draw props, assist characters, and record sound effects throughout the journey. 4 years+, $2 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
It’s munch time at the Lazoo Zoo! The animals here include giraffes with spots that change depending on what they eat, and an ape that develops a new hairstyle when he has indulged too much. Little kids can use the game’s snack dispenser to feed the creatures, or draw a new appetizer to hand out.
3 years+, Free for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Play along with the classic J.R.R. Tolkien story with LEGO The Hobbit. Gamers can recreate their favorite scenes as Bilbo Baggins accompanies Gandalf and the dwarves through Middle-earth. Each dwarf has his own special ability—such as using his stomach to “belly-bounce” his companions out of danger. 10 years+, $60 for Xbox One and PS4; $50 for Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U; $30 for PS Vita, 3DS, and PC
Go retro with Shovel Knight, an exciting action game with ’80s-style 8-bit graphics. The hero of the game has a straightforward quest: Defeat the evil Enchantress and find his missing beloved. Luckily, he has a ShovelBlade to help him dig and slash through the challenge.
6 years+, $15 for Wii U, 3DS, and PC
Classic arcade play gets a new look with Siesta Fiesta. Bounce the ball-like character to smash blocks and activate power-ups while exploring the game’s different modes and regions. The interactive blocks—which do everything from release confetti to launch fireballs—keep the fun going.
6 years+, $8 for 3DS
Image courtesy of Clarius Entertainment
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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Here are some of our favorite new movies, games, and more!
Movies and DVD
In Rio 2, Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway), and their kids leave Rio de Janeiro for an adventure in the Amazon rain forest. They soon discover that the jungle is under threat and that their nemesis, Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, from Flight of the Conchords), is seeking revenge.
G; opens April 11
Embrace Earth Day with Disneynature’s newest wildlife documentary, Bears. Follow a mother and her two cubs for a year, as they emerge from hibernation and evade predators. G; opens April 18
Spring may be here, but there’s still time to enjoy Disney’s Frozen. The hit movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” warmed hearts of all ages over the holidays. Now, Blu-ray bonus features include deleted scenes, music videos, and behind-the-scenes footage. PG; $45
Set sail on a magical journey with Sofia the First: The Floating Palace. When our heroine visits the mermaid kingdom, she soon becomes involved in an attempt to rescue her friend Oona. Luckily, Princess Ariel is on hand to help. 3 years+; $20
Jump into action with Power Rangers Megaforce: The Great Dragon Spirit, out on DVD. In their latest endeavor, the group of young superheroes from the popular Nickelodeon series works to earn new ultra powers. 7 years+; $15
Doc McStuffins: Mobile Clinic teaches that helping others is a delight. Doc and her dad have built a mobile clinic, and they’re now making house calls to fix toys in need—and singing some songs while they’re at it, of course. The DVD comes with a reusable tote bag too. 4 years+; $20
BatteryPOP is a new and free kids entertainment platform—and a safer alternative to YouTube. All of the videos are curated by Nickelodeon vets, so content is age-appropriate. Your kid will enjoy watching tutorials and sharing videos with friends.
Answer your kid’s toughest questions, such as why people speak different languages, with the Handy Answer Book for Kids (and Parents) app. Or click “Surprise Me” to learn new info. 4 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Make meals more fun for little ones with Yo Gabba Gabba! Party in My Tummy. The colorful characters encourage both healthy eating and trying new foods in this cute animated app. After feeding time is over, your child will need to help his friends clean up—and join them with a song and dance too.
3 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Young Luna visits her grandfather and learns all about his exciting job in The Cloud Factory, an interactive storybook. Help gather ingredients for the clouds by swiping and tapping the screen. The black-and-white illustrations and smooth accompanying music give the app a classic and inviting feel.
5 years+; $2 for iPad
If your preschooler is interested in cars, she will love Things That Go ~ Touch, Look, Listen. The visual dictionary features interactive 3D-style animation, cheerful narration, and bright photographs of more than 55 vehicles such as trucks, tractors, and trains. And if your kid is bilingual, you can also let them learn in French, German, Spanish, or Chinese. 2 years+; $2 for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android
Anglophiles won’t want to miss Alph and Betty’s Topsy Turvy World, a charming storybook created by a development team that includes those who worked on the Harry Potter movies and Doctor Who. The tale follows an older British couple living in a house full of gadgets and inventions. Puzzles and mini games encourage letter recognition, rhymes, and alliteration. 3 years+; $3 for iPad
Fans of the TV series will love Lego Legends of Chima Online. Customize your outpost and your armor, complete missions, and explore new environments. Plus, a variety of parental controls provide peace of mind for Mom and Dad. 7 years+; free for basic version, with membership options available for extra features, for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and PC
Get three games in one with Cut the Rope: Triple Treat. Help the green monster Om Nom fill up on candy by avoiding obstacles and collecting bonus stars. With more than 650 levels to defeat, the challenges are exciting enough for adults, while still entertaining for young kids. 7 years+; $30 for 3DS
Help a little armadillo named Armillo travel through space while protecting the galaxy from Darkbots. Gamers roll and jump through different worlds, solve puzzles, and gather power-ups and orbs to gain more power. A variety of 2-D and 3-D graphics make the action even more interesting. 6 years+; $8
Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
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Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
Need something to entertain your kids while the family is stuck indoors this winter? Here are some of our favorite new movies, apps, and more!
A squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) is banished from his park and must learn to survive in the city in The Nut Job. He stumbles upon Maury’s Nut Store, and wacky heist hijinks ensure.
*What’s in it for you Adults will get a kick out of stars such as Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, and Liam Neeson voicing the crazy critters.
PG; January 17
In The Lego Movie, a case of mistaken identity takes Emmet (Chris Pratt) on a quest to defeat evil President Business (Will Ferrell) with the help of an old mystic (Morgan Freeman), tough girl Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett again!).
*What’s in it for you This flick is a fun Lego experience for the family — sans cleanup!
PG; February 7
DVDs and TV
Big is turning 25! In his first Oscar-nominated performance, Tom Hanks stars as a 12-year-old who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s turned into an adult. The special anniversary edition offers plenty of bonus features including deleted clips, extended cuts, and behind-the-scenes footage. Rated PG, $20
Celebrate the season with Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Ice Skating Spectacular! Our heroine comes to the rescue of the Snow Princess and the Snowy Forest creatures when the Ice Witch steals their skates. The DVD comes with two other bonus episodes for extra fun. 3 years+, $15
Flint Lockwood’s infamous machine cause enough trouble the first time around, but in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, the mayhem has only just begun. Now, the device has started creating crazy food-animal hybrids such as Wild Scallions, Shrimpanzees, and the fearsome Tacodile Supreme. Rated PG, $31
Based on the beloved children’s book by Sam McBratney, Guess How Much I Love You: Hidden Treasure explores the world of Little Nutbrown Hare and his father. This debut DVD release features seven episodes of the Disney Junior series, in which the son learns important life lessons, like embracing others’ differences and the value of friendship. 3 years+, $13
All aboard the Dinosaur Train! PBS KIDS is airing a new hour-long special called “Nature Trackers Adventure Camp.” Watch the family of pteranodons participate in fun activities ilke rafting and ziplining as little ones learn all about paleontology and geography from the lovable characters.
3 years+; January 20
Educate on the go with Sesame Street Family Play, which offers more than 150 games organized by curriculum, location, character, and mood. Simply input where you are — such as at the grocery store or in the kitchen — and the app will suggest a learning activity that doesn’t require screen time to play, such as organizing food items by size. 3 years+, $1 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Turn learning a language into a game with Quick Tap Spanish. Players gather around the device and race to match Spanish vocabulary words — in categories such as numbers, colors, and time — with the English translation. The app is also available for French, German, and Portuguese.
5 years+, free for iPad
Toddlers and preschoolers pick up knowledge while feeding their virtual pet with Sago Mini Pet Cafe. Games such as sorting treats and creating fruit smoothies teach about shapes, numbers, and colors. The critter animations are adorable and there are no in-app purchases, making this a great app for young children. 2 years+, $2 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch
Fans of the PBS Kids’ series can join in the fun with Peg + Cat Big Gig. Your child can make music by solving simple addition and counting problems — hitting the correct answer plays the next note. Aspiring composers can create original songs as well in Sound Check mode. 3 years+, $2 for iPad and Android
Snuggle up in bed with Goodnight Mo and your little one. The e-book — which features pop-up-style illustrations — tells the tale of a friendly monster winding down and preparing for sleep. The soft music will have everyone yawning in no time. 15 months+, $3 for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android
Animal lovers can get up close and personal with Zoo Tycoon, available on Xbox for the first time. Design and manage the zoo, and take care of all the different species — and your customers too, of course. The game’s development team worked with experts to make sure everything is scientifically accurate, so kids can learn about the real environments and feeding habits while they play. 6 years+, $50 for Xbox 360
Explore the paper world of Tearaway. Gamers will meet a variety of friends and challenges while on a quest to deliver a special message. The technology of the PlayStation Vita allows players to actually see their fingers appear inside the game when they place them on the back touch panel.
6 years+, $40 for PS Vita
Get your groove on with Just Dance Kids 2014. For the first time, the hit franchise features original recordings of popular songs by artists such as Selena Gomez, One Direction, and The Wiggles. Younger children can develop their skills by moving to nursery rhymes and the Family Fun mode lets gamers play cooperatively. 6 years+, $30 for Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U
The Nut Job image courtesy of Open Road Films/Toonbox Entertainment
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Monday, October 28th, 2013
If you’ve been on Facebook over the last few days, you may have noticed that your Newsfeed is now inundated with cartoon comic strips about your friends. At first, I thought my old college buddy had suddenly become very artistic, but as more and more people began posting the images, I started to wonder what the deal was.
It turns out that the images are from a Facebook mobile app called Bitstrips. It allows users to customize an avatar, choose a scene and then add text to the bottom. (Check out my first attempt on the right!) You can also select a Facebook friend (or your child, if she has an account) to appear in the scene with you. And of course, once you’re done, you can share on your social media accounts. New background images are added every day, so it’s no wonder my friends have been so busy lately.
Bitstrips actually launched on Facebook back in December 2012, but thanks to its recent releases of iPhone and Android apps, it is now seeing a massive surge in popularity. Currently, it is the top free app in the iTunes store, and when I first went to check it out, the site was unavailable due to “unprecedented user growth.” According to the official Twitter account, the team is working hard on fixing the program so it will be available on all platforms again. Still, the delays and crashes do not seem to be deterring users. (FYI, if you’re receiving error messages on the website, you may want to try the phone app instead, as it seems to still be running.)
Have you tried Bitstrips yet? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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Friday, October 11th, 2013
With the hefty mix of apps and games available, it can be hard to determine what’s not only fun, but also appropriate for your child.
If you use LeapFrog products, they’re helping parents decipher the daunting world of gaming with their recently-released Parent’s Guide . From skill-building to privacy concerns, six key points help you decipher what to consider the next time you’re purchasing Leapfrog games or apps for young ones.
Another way to keep track of kids’ games, especially for the older crowd, is a free mobile app from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Search for titles by age rating and filter out apps that share personal information or location. You can also flag options that contain violence, strong language or other mature content. Check out how to navigate through the app below.
If you’re still at a loss, ESRB’s Resources for Parents offers even more websites to decode everything gaming for your son or daughter.
What ways do you check for fun and safe games and apps for your tyke? Do you try every app yourself? Ask other parents for their reccs? Share your strategies below and help other parents!
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