Archive for the ‘ Big Kids ’ Category

4 Back to School Essentials for Organization

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

August is here which means the start of school isn’t too far away! Take a deep breath because there’s still plenty of time to buy school supplies and get organized before you send your little ones off on their learning adventures. Here are 4 back to school essentials that can help every family stay organized.

My Lunch Money ensures that parents never have to send another check or cash to the school cafeteria to pay for lunch.  Parents at schools who use My Lunch Money can use the website to add money to their child’s lunch account and receive an email when the balance is low and the amount needs to be replenished. Parents can also view the items that their child is purchasing for lunch to make sure that tummies are being filled with a well rounded meal and not just cookies.

Mabel’s Labels Ultimate Back to School Combo features custom durable labels for all the things that your kids can lose during the course of the school year.  Skinny Minis work well for pencils and USB drives, Tag Mates and Shoe Labels help lost clothing and shoes make it back to your child, while Teeny Tags are perfect for attaching to lunchboxes and backpacks.  Mabels makes plenty of designs to suit every personality.  Tweens will also love the new Tween Pack that makes labeling your stuff uber cool. While you’re ordering, pick up a pack of the new Book Labels too!

LaLa Lunchbox provides you and your hungry little ones with a fun, easy, and engaging way to plan and pack lunch. The iPhone app is designed to empower kids by allowing them to pick their own lunch using photo based icons, save money by allowing them to choose from items they love, and save time since there’s no more guesswork about what to pack. Add your own favorite foods by taking a photo and adding it to the app while keeping track of the number of servings of fruits, vegetables, proteins, etc. your child is consuming. LaLa Lunchbox is available from the iTunes Store for $1.99.

Cozi keeps families organized. This free app is available for Android, Blackberry, and iPhones and synch seamlessly with a web based version you can get to from any internet enabled device. Pull in calendars from your school, create recurring activities and appointments, and color code activities for various family members in your family calendar. Additional features include a to-do list, meal planning, family journal, and shopping list.  Cozi is breeze to use and even better since it’s free!

Back to school via Shutterstock

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Easy-to-Use Safely Monitors Facebook Activity

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Monitoring screen time and time on social networks is a tricky beast. On one hand, you don’t want to be the helicopter parents, always looking over your kids’ shoulder but on the other hand, it’s important to know what they’re doing in order to ensure they’re behaving safely and responsibly. Instead of spying, it’s important to create conversations about being a responsible digital citizen. Talk to them about why you need to know who they’re interacting with and who they’re socializing with on Facebook to ensure their safety and make sure they’re behaving appropriately.

Safely Social Monitor is a free, easy to setup service that provides parents with a wealth of information into their child’s Facebook world at a glance and allows you to create the kinds of conversations about what a good friend looks like online and off.  Safely allows you to quickly navigate through the information generated about your family’s Facebook activity thanks to the simple interface. A preview of the number of friends your child has, top friends, and photo thumbnails is generated and sent to your email. It also generates a Safely Report with a score out of 100 based on your child’s activity.

It also sends immediate alerts when the software picks up key words or questionable photos through scans. The easy-to-read web dashboard makes for a comprehensive service for busy parents who want to keep an eye on what their kids are doing yet help facilitate conversations about the daily drama of friendships both on and offline.

Signing up for and setting up a free Safely Social Monitor account can be done quickly and in four simple steps. You’ll need to provide your child’s Facebook credentials in order to link the accounts so be sure to talk to them about why Safely helps you keep your family safe.

Image courtesy of Safely

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Harry Potter Themed Games Debut at E3 for Fall Release

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Last week the gaming community assembled in Los Angeles for E3, the Electronics Entertainment Expo that served as the industry’s opportunity to take a look at the much anticipated game titles and systems that will be out this fall and in the near future.  The event brought together tens of thousands of attendees from all over the country and world for three days where Disney-like lines formed for the chance to try the latest video games. Companies such as Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo, Activision, EA, Sega, Capcom, and more provided sensory experiences designed to immerse attendees in the games.

What new family games and new gaming experiences can you expect to see this fall and throughout the holiday season?

Sony unveiled their new Wonderbook and the first title, Book of Spells.  This Playstation Move family title represents a collaboration between Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, to bring immerse young Muggles into the wizarding world in the comfort of their own homes.  Wonderbook uses augmented reality where a physical object is required for game play with the PlayStation and PlayStation Move controllers.

PlayStation Book of Wonder transports children to Hogwarts through game play

Sitting on the floor or couch, the camera associated with the PlayStation Move recognizes the child and the book but the technology transforms the ordinary physical book into a spell book on the screen akin to what Harry, Ron, and Hermione might use in their Hogwarts classes.  Using the PlayStation Move controller, players engage in various tasks to learn proper wand usage before tackling challenges that Potter fans will recognize from the books.

Continuing with the Harry Potter theme, Xbox with Kinect owners will enjoy the new Harry Potter for Kinect. With your body as the controller, Harry Potter for Kinect immerses players in challenges that require whole body movement.  Those who have always wanted to play Quidditch will love mounting a broom and flying as Harry as he takes on the Slytherins in a Quidditch match.  Game play is fun and easy for the whole family as your body serves as the controller.  Lean left or right to turn and follow the golden path around the stadium, side jabs at Draco Malfoy help to throw him off your shoulder as he tries to interfere, and when you spot that Golden Snitch, simply reach out to grab it to win the match.

Image courtesy of Sony PlayStation.


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Digital Family Summit Provides Interactive Learning for Tweens, Teens, and Parents

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Tweens and teens naturally gravitate towards the digital space and are often far more comfortable with the plethora of new tools than their parents.  If you’re interested in learning along with your tween and teen, the new Digital Family Summit being held in Philadelphia from June 29-July 1 is a new interactive conference designed for families with hands-on workshops and activities for everyone to learn together.

Conference organizer, Stephanie Schwab, created the conference after realizing that her kids, nieces, nephews and friends’ kids were getting more and more engaged in creating blogs, digital video, Etsy storefronts, pinboards on Polyvore and Pinterest, and tweeting and Facebooking up a storm. As a social media strategist and digital entrepreneur she says “digital natives seem to live and breathe on the Internet – some of us parents can keep up; others have tried, but thrown up our hands and cried “uncle.”

Schwab sees Digital Family Summit as a place where tweens, teens, and parents at all levels of digital activity can come together to learn and grow as individuals and as a family. She views digital creation and engagement a healthy, fun, expressive activity that encourages kids to share: with their parents as well as with their friends.

Digital Family Summit is planning to convey content in innovative ways that will engage tweens and teens and meet the various skill levels of attendees. Topics such as digital safety, kids’ privacy, and online bullying will be covered in thought provoking ways that will encourage families to have conversations both during the conference and after it ends.  Schwab hopes the conference will allow both parents and kids to explore new means of expression and gain confidence in their online personas.

For more information about Digital Family Summit, visit their website.  Interested attendees can receive 30% off registration with the code FRIENDS.

Artwork courtesy of Digital Family Summit

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5 Disney Themed Learning Activities

Monday, May 21st, 2012

If you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, chances are your kids are pretty excited about your upcoming trip.  Seize upon their excitement to sneak in a little learning. Kids will be highly motivated to complete activities involving their favorite characters or to learn more about the parks. Here are 5 wonderful websites that contain free printables and tutorials that can help you integrate learning into your upcoming Disney vacation.

  • Earlier this month, Disney launched their Spoonful site that serves as a wealth of free content available for kids of all ages on a daily basis. Visitors can always browse through the tabs- cook, create, play, and celebrate- or subscribe via email to keep up to date with the changing content.  The printables section is where to find Disney themed coloring pages that are perfect for preschoolers who are practicing fine motor skills like how to hold a pencil or crayon and coloring.  Older children will enjoy helping with Disney themed cooking activities that serve as a way to practice math and reading by having to measure ingredients and practicing sequencing to add them in the right order.
  • Creating a countdown paper chain out of paper rings not only provides younger kids with a very concrete visual about the number of days left until your trip but also gives them practice in counting backwards. has a free PDF with numbers on one side and trivia on the other to integrate a little math and reading into your pre-vacation excitement or create your own. Cut colorful strips of construction paper and have your kids practice patterning (another math skill) to create your paper chain.
  • Visit your local craft store to assemble supplies to make your own Disney autograph book. You could purchase one in-park but save yourself some money and have fun making your own with thanks to the tutorial on Juliverse.  Labeling the book with your name and address in case it get lost not only ensure that it will find its way back to you but is a way for children to practice knowing and writing their name and address.
  • Teach your kids fun facts about the parks before you leave.’s Amy Mascott created free Disney trivia printable lunchbox notes with fun facts to teach your kids a little park trivia.  Cut out the strips and put them in your child’s lunch box for a little meal time trivia or print, cut, and place in a basket on your dinner table to read them together as a family.
  • TeachMama also has free printable word searches available based on Disney characters and one for each of the following parks: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom. These are a wonderful way to help kids practice word recognition amid the excitement over their Disney vacation.

 Mickey Mouse at a benefit screening via Shutterstock

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