Summer is here and while there are many phrases to describe what happens to student learning over the months your children are out of school, you can prevent the summer brain drain and summer slide by making reading fun, interactive, and involving technology that will serve as a huge motivator. According to the National Summer Learning Association, “all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.” To prevent this, do a little bit each day to make the tasks manageable and fun. Here are three ways to incorporate technology to reinforce the reading that is being done at home throughout the summer months.
Designed for children 3-9 years of age, the Reading Rainbow app delivers a library of hundreds of curated books and all new videos presented in a world of adventure and discovery. Traveling to themed islands, such as Animal Kingdom, My Friends, My Family and Genius Academy, kids find a variety of books and videos customized to their age and interests. Each book from acclaimed children’s publishers comes alive with audio storytelling by celebrity actors, including spoken word Grammy winner LeVar Burton, and features light animations and related activities to enhance the story. Children also journey with Burton on exciting real-life adventures through in-app video field trips that connect the stories children read to the world they live in. The app includes more than 50 books and 16 video field trips with new content added frequently.
Kindle Free Time appeals to toddlers and early elementary ages thanks to a wealth of content that is easy to navigate through this subscription based service that is available to Kindle owners through a monthly fee. Kids can choose from thousands of hand-picked books, games, educational apps, movies, and episodes of television shows featuring favorite characters to encourage learning in many different ways. Content is sorted according to type, subject, and characters to make it easy for 3-8 year olds to find what they’re looking for quickly.
Scholastic’s Storia app provides an easy to navigate experience where reading content can grow along with children. Storia allows parents to purchase age appropriate eBooks through the ability to shop by age. Parents can assign eBooks to each child’s shelf to ensure the content is just right for them. Young readers benefit from words being highlighted as they’re read in order to help build sight word vocabulary while older readers can find many of their favorite titles in digital form.
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June may be Internet Safety Month but in honor of the start of summer and kids clamoring to play on devices more than they do during the school year, it’s not a bad time to review online and mobile safety policies in your home. Having a conversation together rather than laying down the gauntlet about the dos and don’ts is always preferable. Kids need to feel empowered and like they have a say in the decisions in order to take more ownership of the rules.
If having a conversation seems scary and you’re not quite sure where to start, here are five helpful resources that can provide conversation starters and guidelines for your discussion.
Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) is an international nonprofit organization that works with government, educators, as well as businesses and other nonprofits to make the online and mobile worlds safer for kids and families. Free downloadable materials available through the Parent Resources include Internet Safety Tips for Kids, Top Internet Safety Tips for Parents, and a Family Online Safety Contract with a side for parents and kids that is reasonable and realistic for today’s families.
Common Sense Media can help provide guidance about that hot new game that your child insists that all their friends have and is a must-have for your home. Before jumping into any purchase, stop at Common Sense Media for helpful reviews on apps, games, and movies to make an informed decision about the media that is part of your child’s life. Common Sense also reviews TV shows, websites, books and music, making it the most comprehensive and unbiased source of information online for families.
Recent survey results published by Cox Take Charge! found that tweens openly admit to engaging in risky online behavior including breaking family rules, accessing inappropriate content, and covering their tracks as they go to hide their activities from their parents. More than anything, parents of tweens need to create conversations that involve their tween. Start by getting up to speed on the latest terms your tween may be using through the Take Charge! glossary of terms. Then swallow some pride and ask your tween to teach you what they know. They’ll love the role reversal and being the teacher and chances are, you’ll learn a lot from them that will be beneficial to your relationship in the long run.
If a conversation about a mobile phone is happening in your home or comes up during the summer months, the thoughtful individuals over at Safely have developed a family smartphone agreement to serve as the springboard for that must-have conversation you need to have with your child before you take the steps to purchase a device. This five step contract incorporates important talking points but includes humor with each rule. For example, the agreement outlines how a phone is a privilege but “ownership of a phone is not guaranteed” and encourages kids to make good decisions or else they “may have to resort to tin cans and string to get in touch with anyone.”
NetSmartz acknowledges it can be hard to have conversations with know-it-all teens but older kids need to be mindful about things like their digital reputation when posting on their social media networks. It’s often hard for this age to realize that the things they post to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and other online sites are there to stay and what this could mean for their digital reputation. Through their Real Life Stories section, NetSmartz has content tailored to teens about topics that take on a serious tone and feature stories from teens who have been victimized in real life. Videos like Your Photo Fate that details what could happen with a photo once it leaves their control and Cyberbullying: You Can’t Take It Back encourage teens to learn from their peer’s mistakes, recognize risky behaviors, evaluate their choices, and encourage communication with trusted adults.
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These days parenting blogs are written by moms and dads with one to suit every mood and parenting style but Adrian Kulp’s Dad or Alive provides a humorous slant about the ins and outs of raising kids that those who have been in the child-rearing trenches can easily identify with. The popular blogger recently published his first book, a comedic memoir titled Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-home Dad. In honor of Father’s Day, we had a chance to talk to Adrian about parenting, his former career in comedy, and life as a full time stay at home dad.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Your background is in the entertainment industry. Who is funnier? The A listers you’ve worked with or your kids?
Adrian Kulp (AK): After spending the better part of 12 years in the back corners of the Hollywood Improv, Laugh Factory and Comedy Store on Sunset, I’ve always thought that it takes several years for comics to build the confidence, timing and delivery that it takes to destroy an audience. Their life experience serves as the foundation to make you laugh.
Funny how my two toddlers have literally NO life experience, yet still have me doing a spit-take over one-liners like ‘Daddy, you have a wenis!’ or ‘Charlie has a crack in his hiney.’
TSP: Do you find that you use comedy in daily parenting situations?
AK: I don’t know that I use comedy per se, but humor has certainly helped me navigate survival as a full-time stay-at-home dad. I’ve always known comedy as the easiest way to disarm someone, to make them drop their guard. The same has been true with my kids. I can usually shut down a tantrum pretty quickly by using some chopsticks as buckteeth or wearing a bra over my eyes and pretending to be a bug.
TSP: Who in your home appreciates your humor the most and why?
AK: My wife is pretty much over it. I can push the envelope and say the most inappropriate thing you could imagine (even in front of company) and it wouldn’t even faze her. My youngest, Charlie, is only two so he’s not quite there yet. I’d say my biggest fan is Ava, who is 3½. I can have her crying on the floor for an hour. Sometimes that’s my tactic to tire her out if I’m looking for an early bedtime.
TSP: My husband loves that our kids laugh at his jokes but know that there will be a time when they roll their eyes at him rather than laughing. Is this something you think about?
AK: I hope I never lose my edge, said probably every comedian or writer, ever. I’d like to think that I’ll always be able to make them laugh, but I’m sure there will inevitably be a time when even the funniest shtick will send them slamming their bedroom door in my face.
TSP: You’re an LA transplant now living in the DC area. Which teams do you root for?
AK: I’m an LA transplant by way of Philadelphia, but yes, now living in the DC area. I’ve always remained loyal to my Eagles and Phillies. I’ve never waivered. It’s certainly wasn’t easy walking into Dodger Stadium wearing a Chase Utley jersey, but so long as I kept an eye out for the flying Corona bottle and occasional butt end of a Dodger dog, I did just fine. And if my guys eat it before the end of the season, I’ll always root for the underdog in the playoffs. Something about it that just makes you feel good.
Adrian Kulp contributes to The Huffington Post and was recently named one of Kids in the House top 15 social influencers of 2013. His first book, a comedic memoir titled Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-home Dad and published by Penguin, is on sale now. Keep up with Adrian’s adventures in parenting by following him on Facebook and Twitter.
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This Father’s Day splurge on the gadget loving man in your life with a gift that aligns with his interests. Whether an adventurer, traveler, photographer or music lover, these six gifts are sure to delight any man.
Adventurers will appreciate the GoPro Hero 3. Some of the most incredible footage from GoPros come from extreme athletes who like to catch their best moments on the slopes, water, and air but they’re just as incredible for capturing everyday moments. The compact GoPro Hero 3 is a camera that can be worn, held, or mounted to your sporting equipment for ultimate versatility. Exceptional video quality, waterproof housing, and ability to operate it through an app makes it a fun gadget for dads who want to preserve all of life’s important moments. This incredible camera is available in-store at Target Electronics for $199 for immediate gratification.
Dads on the go will relish having a Mophie Juice Pack, Nothing is worse than being incapacitated by a dead cell phone. Make sure dad can stay in touch constantly thanks to extra juice from the Mophie Juice Pack Helium. This battery fits on Dad’s smartphone and functions like a case but fits like a glove to provide an extra charge when needed. With one cable, users can charge their smartphone and Mophie at the same time but know that your phone’s synch cable will be needed to transfer any photos on to your computer. Mophie Juice Pack is available for many model of Android phones and also iPhones. iPhone users will find a good selection at their local Apple Store while Android users can shop in store at Best Buy.
Music lovers who want to be able to listen to their favorite songs throughout the house need Sonos Play 3. Sonos Play 3 is a streaming audio player that provides instant access to your digital music library and streaming internet audio settings from anywhere in your house. Sonos pulls music from your home computers (PCs and Macs) and has the ability to stream internet radio and music from many of the popular online music services such as Pandora, Rhapsody, SiriusXM, Spotify, and iheartradio. The real beauty of this system is the ability to expand by adding as many speakers as you want, being able to control the music you want to listen to through the free mobile app for Android and iOS, but also the exceptional sound quality that emanates from the speakers. Sonos Play 3 is available in-store at Target Electronics for $299 where it comes with a free Sonos Bridge and 90 days of Rhapsody with purchase.
Foodie Dads who love to be involved with meal prep will love the addition of a BlendTec Designer Series Blender into the kitchen. Made popular by the Will it Blend YouTube videos depicting BlendTec blenders blending anything from a pool cue, iPhones, glow sticks, and more, this series demonstrates the at-home power that can be unleashed as BlendTech’s dual blades spin, crushing anything that may get in the way. It’s the perfect appliance for whipping up a cold beverage as refreshment on a hot summer day, tasty marinades for whatever may be on the grill, and pulverizing summer’s fresh fruits into ice cream. Available through www.BlendTec.com or at some Costco Warehouse Stores.
Photo happy dads who are constantly sharing artsy pictures via Instagram will enjoy the effects from the Olloclip Lens System for iPhone 5. Simply snap the fish-eye lens over the camera of your iPhone and begin capturing panoramic-like photos with the wide angle, close ups with the macro lens, and putting a new spin on favorite subjects thanks to the fish eye. Target Electronics sells Olloclips for iPhone 4 and 5 for $69.99 each.
Frequent fliers will love the efficiency of SkyRoll On Wheels, an innovative carry-on size rolling suitcase that allows travelers to lie suits and dress clothes flat before rolling them around the outside of the bag. Not only will clothes arrive less wrinkled, but this packing system is designed to hold everything Dad needs for a short business trip. Available online through Skyroll.com.
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There’s no doubt that technology has the power to keep us connected while providing a wealth of interactive learning experiences but with our kids spending more time in front of screens of all kinds, there’s an increased risk of digital eye strain. According to The Vision Council, digital eye strain is “caused by the overuse of digital devices.” Since devices such as tablets, smartphones, and other hand-products are designed to be held at close range, our eyes are always refocusing to process the graphics and text on the screen.
Research conducted by The Vision Council determined that over time, extensive time spent on devices causes our eyes to become fatigued, irritated, dry, and more likely to be subjected to vision problems. In their recent report, Screens, Phones, Tablets and More: Keeping Your Eyes Safe in a Digital Age, The Vision Council found that 70% of Americans are experiencing a form of eye strain but less than half do anything to remedy the problem.
In order to keep your eyes healthy, The Vision Council suggests following the rule of 20-20-20 that suggests for every 20 minutes you spend on your computer, take 20 seconds to look away at something 20 feet away. Since it’s easy to forget, set the timer on your smartphone to sound every 20 minutes as a reminder to take a break. Segmenting device usage into 20 minute segments is also beneficial to children especially since it’s too early to tell how time spent on devices could impact their vision in the future.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a pair of specialized computer eyewear. Sunglasses protect our eyes from the harsh rays of the sun and computer eyewear is designed to provide clearer near and intermediate viewing thanks to specialized lenses and an anti-reflective coating that softens the glare of harsh overhead lights.
Prescription computer eyewear is available through eye care professionals in your area to fit favorite frames. Another great source is Gunnar. Gunnar provides single vision prescription and non-prescription lenses in a wide selection of fashionable choices most of which are between $79-99.
In addition to the 20-20-20 rule and prescription and non-prescription computer eyewear, The Vision Council also suggests the following solutions for healthier eyes:
- Create ergonomic computer workstations and at-home gaming stations
- Enlarge the fonts on your web browser, frequently used applications, eReader, and smartphone
- Use ambient lighting. The American Lighting Association defines ambient lighting as “an area with overall illumination” with a “comfortable level of brightness without glare” that generally comes from indoor light sources such as chandeliers, ceiling or wall mounted light fixtures, and recessed or track lights.
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