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Thursday, April 18th, 2013
While we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, there’s never a bad time to start teaching kids about the environment. Young conservations can learn to care for the planet through interactive apps, educational programming on television and DVDs, and age appropriate websites. This guide featuring age appropriate suggestions for toddlers through teens is designed to provide engaging activities for everyon as they learn more about taking care of our planet.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Curious George Swings into Spring— From spring fever to spring cleaning, from a canoe ride to a hot air balloon journey, George and his friends get viewers ready to explore the outdoors this Earth Day in a one hour special airing on PBS stations on Monday, April 22. Curious George lovers who want to learn on the go will be interested in knowing that a new online game focusing on natural science concepts such as plant growth and butterfly metamorphosis will launch later this month.
- The Lorax— This interactive storybook app for iOS devices aims to create confident young readers thanks to three different ways that kids can interact with the well known Dr. Seuss classic. Children can choose to have the app auto play the story of The Lorax, have it read to them, or read it themselves as they work to build their reading skills. Words can be highlighted as they are read to help build sight word recognition in young children and kids can interact with the text and pictures with a tap.
- Sid the Science Kid— Through games, video, and printables, toddlers and preschoolers are exposed to a single scientific concept in a fun way. One of the themes is backyard science that encourages curious children to explore the homes of animals such as ants, birds, and squirrels that live outside their door since they serve as the building blocks for entomology, geology, and botany. PBS aligns available web content in order to allow them to learn more in parallel with available television programming.
Early Elementary Ages
- He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands —This DVD begins with a rendition of the American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and features a guide for parents and kids with tips on how to be green. Positive messages about diversity and beauty of the world are conveyed through stories like Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon” that is about a magical, night-time walk through the snowy woods in search of the Great Horned Owl, “Come On, Rain!” an ode to a good, soaking, and the appreciative Thanksgiving address, “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message.” With environmental issues top of mind, this DVD is perfect for a new generation of eco-conscious kids ages 5 and up.
- Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures: Lions — This story app lets young ones Explore, Create, and Play their way through incredible animal adventures as kids join Ricky Raccoon and his friend, Lars the Lion, on a trip to the African grasslands. Kids discover how lions spend their days, raise their young, and much more through interactive photo stories, engaging games and creative play activities centered around a specific animal.
- Wild Kratts— Brothers Chris and Martin Kratt combine science education with adventure as they teach kids about amazing wild animals through their adventures that feature live action and animation. Early elementary ages are exposed to scientific concepts that are relevant to the animals explored in the 30 minute episode.
- Ranger Rick’s Treehouse — This virtual tree house is packed with clickable animal stories, comic adventures, multi-level games, videos, nature activities and wildlife mysteries around every corner. Children have the incentive to learn by earning badges when the show what they’ve learned!
- National Wildlife Foundation Activity Finder— If you’re tired of hearing the words “I’m bored” from your tween, put them in charge of their learning by having them research nearby activities that will be fun for the family. From geocaching, hikes, and so much more, the Activity Finder suggests a plethora of activities that help families connect with nature.
- DisneyNature Chimpanzee— Families will enjoy sitting down to meet Oscar, a three year old chimpanzee who is orphaned and raised by another chimp through a visually stunning nature documentary filmed in Africa. Children get an inside look at the life of chimpanzees, relationship between those within the community, and their struggle for survival.
Boy embracing globe of world via Shutterstock
Friday, April 12th, 2013
The technology infused world that our children are growing up in includes social interactions that occur in real life and online through virtual worlds and mobile devices. As parents, we’re continually challenged to keep up with the newest forms of technology and methods to teach our kids about safe online behaviors. One of the best ways to teach kids about appropriate social interactions and social networking in an age appropriate way is through Club Penguin.
With over 200 million kids and their penguins populating the online game, Club Penguin is the most popular virtual world for kids. Often called a social network on training wheels, the game serves as an introduction to the online world for kids ages 6 and above. It also provides a multitude of learning opportunities for children and parents alike. During a recent visit to company headquarters, I received an inside look at this virtual world and discovered five things that children can learn through play in the Club Penguin world.
Online safety— From the start of game play, kids begin learning about online safety as they create their penguin name and avatar. Children can be as creative as they want as they name their penguin but each name is reviewed by a member of the human global moderation team that consists of over 200 people in four locations. Moderators check to ensure that kids aren’t giving up any personally identifying information, such as first or last name and address, in their screen name before being allowed to enter the Club Penguin community.
Creative imaginative play— Club Penguin is a world where kids can be creative and use their imaginations to decorate their igloos with an assortment of items, dress their penguin, and devise creative ways to use the props found in the environment. Chris Heatherly, Vice President of Disney Interactive Worlds (aka Spike Hike in the penguin world), believes “Club Penguin is like a cardboard box. We give kids the tools and let them make the play.” The team spends a lot of time listening to conversations between penguins in the online world to incorporate ideas into the products they make. “Anytime an idea comes from a kid, it’s more powerful than when it comes from us,” says Heatherly.
Empowerment through community— Club Penguin recognizes that kids need a place where they can play and be who they are. Heatherly “encourages kids to be wacky, crazy, be themselves” because “the more YOU you are, the better.” Kids are empowered to express themselves through online game play in a world that’s free of judgment. Creative Lead, Charity Gerbrandt (aka Grasstain), shared Club Penguin “will love and support you and want you to share your crazy ideas that inspire you.”
Appropriate online behavior- Despite the freedom to be creative, Heatherly recognizes that “kids need to feel safe to have fun.” Heatherly recognizes that kids will be kids and test the boundaries of what is acceptable versus what crosses the line but Club Penguin has a variety of tools in place to ensure safety in the community. Players in the Club Penguin world have the ability to report other penguins for inappropriate behavior with the click of a button on a penguin’s profile. Reports are reviewed by the global moderation team who specializes in pop culture with an eye on trends in music and television to ensure that conversation is appropriate. Reminders about behavior are sent but kids can also be banned from Club Penguin. The first infraction comes with a 24 hour ban, a 72 hour ban for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third.
Charitable giving and social good— Since Club Penguin was founded in 2005, the company founders have given a percentage of membership fees to charitable projects that help children and families around the world. The company works to empower employees to participate in community projects while Club Penguin inspires kids to make a difference through their Coins for Change campaign. Coins earned during game play can be used personally to purchase items to personalize their igloo, outfit their penguin, take care of their pet puffles or donated through Coins for Change. Kids vote about what causes to support through their coin donations. To date, Club Penguin has donated over $10 million since 2007 to help over 200,000 children and their families each year in over 40 countries around the world. The impact of Coins for Change demonstrates that kids don’t have to wait to be adults to make a difference. Nicole Rustad, Club Penguin’s Corporate Citizenship Program Director who heads up the Coins for Change, says “we believe that kids can be leaders today and they can change the world through what we do on a daily basis and around the world.”
Club Penguin logo courtesy of Disney Interactive
Monday, March 25th, 2013
Seasonal transitions often cause the desire to clean out the old to provide a fresh outlook for the coming season. While it’s great to write off donated items on the following year’s taxes, sometimes it’s better to recoup money spent on items.
Where do you start and how do you know what items might be worth your time to sell versus donate? eBay makes selling easy for novices and experienced sellers alike but sometimes to fetch top dollar, it’s good to look beyond eBay to more specialized sites focusing on niche items that appeal to fellow consumers. Here are 7 sites worth looking into as you look to declutter your home.
thredUP.com— This online consignment service provides a way to clean out children’s closets and turn outgrown clothes into cash. Start by ordering a thredUP bag and when it arrives, fill it with kids’ clothes and earn up to 40% of the resale value. For those who are looking to buy items from thredUP, rest assured that consignors inspect every item and resell only the best clothes.
EcoATM— As you look to replace outdated technology with newer and faster models, what do you do with your old items? It’s true that even broken computers sell on eBay, often to buyers who are looking to purchase parts, but if you’re looking to reduce time spent listing, packing, and selling, try EcoATM. This easy-to-use service is an automated, self-serve kiosk that quickly evaluates your items before buying them back and giving you cash. The best thing about it is that EcoATM makes it easy. EcoATMs can also be found nationwide through their website.
Chairish.com— Furniture can be a trickier thing to sell because of its size but if you’ve inherited valuable pieces that just don’t quite match your décor, try Chairish. Submit your furniture details through the site and Charish will take care of payment, insurance, and even white glove shipping for grandma’s curio cabinet. If you’re in the market for new furniture, Chairish’s curation team approves listings to ensure the best furniture quality for their buyers.
GoldFellow.com— Chances are you’ve seen the Cash for Gold advertisements and heard of gold parties where people bring their jewelry to parties and leave with cash but GoldFellow.com is another option for pieces that were once favorites. GoldFellow even takes broken jewelry!
BookScouter.com— Book lovers who just have too many titles around the house can use BookScouter.com as their book broker. Simply type in the ISBN and Book Scouter searches all the sites that are currently paying for used books and gives you a quote.
GiftCardGranny.com: Gift cards can be a welcome gift until you get the odd one that you just can’t seem to spend. GiftCardGranny.com is a gift card exchange that helps you trade in gift cards you aren’t planning on using for gift cards you will use or cash.
UsedInstrumentBuyer.com— Musical education in schools is wonderful until your child loses interest in playing and you don’t know what to do with the instrument you’ve purchased. You could pass them along to another family or try selling them on CraigsList but why not find out how much you might be able to get for them on UsedInstrumentBuyer. You’ll get a quote from the site and if you choose to sell through them, the used instrument will ship for free.
Secondipity.com— Large items like TVs aren’t easy to sell other than through local listings on Craigslist or eBay Classifieds but Secondipity.com provides a third option for bigger items. You can also feel good about selling through Secondipity because for each item you sell, they’ll make a donation to a classroom in need.
Volunteer with clothes donation box at second hand store via Shutterstock
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
1099s, receipts, bank statements, tax deductions, and medical spending are just some of the documents that a family needs to pull together come tax time. The sheer amount of paper can be overwhelming but free online tools that have accompanying apps can assist with tracking expenses, storing copies of important documents safely, and capturing expenditures so you can throw away receipts.
Tax season doesn’t have to be daunting if you are good about keeping track of expenses throughout the year. Streamline your taxes by going paperless with these six helpful tools, which can be accessed through apps for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device and also on the Web.
Mint— If you’re a family that struggles with budgeting or likes to account for every penny spent, Mint helps pull together your bank accounts so you can view all of your financial information at the same time. Take a look at balances and transactions on the web or on your smartphone to get a big picture view of your family’s finances.
Expensify— Technically designed to assist with expense reports, Expensify can also be used to organize a freelancer or consultant’s business expenses and helps eliminate endless receipts. Start by logging into the website to create an account and then download the mobile app to use Expensify to capture and upload receipts. Use your smartphone’s camera feature to take a picture of your receipt, fill in information such as expenditure category, add some notes, and save it in a report that can be viewed online at a later date.
Slice— Slice works with your email inbox to pull information from your e-receipts and organize them all in a single, easy-to-access record of past purchases. Slice keeps a record of online purchases through e-receipts so it can instantly assist you in finding lost or forgotten deductions and receipts such as textbooks, small business expenses, and travel. Slice presents purchases in an easy-to-browse list and stores your receipts so you can print them out or take a screenshot for your records. It also allows you to download and export purchase data to a .csv file.
Freshbooks— Small business owners or consultants who need to keep track of invoices and payments will appreciate the ease of Freshbooks. This cloud accounting service makes billing painless thanks to an easy to use interface. Freshbooks helps business owners create professional invoices and then send, receive, print, and pay them too. For added convenience, Freshbooks integrates with Expensify.
Evernote— If you’re in need of an organized, paperless tax process for your personal finance documents, Evernote can help. Scan and save documents such as receipts and financial statements, save logins for online accounts, or store contact info for tax professionals and accountants you work with. All information can be organized in a notebook or with a tag before sharing it with your spouse or partner if filing jointly.
Master Lock Vault— With so many online accounts and apps to help reduce the paper associated with tax season, it’s easy to forget each site’s login credentials. Master Lock Vault is a free service that works online through your desktop computer and a mobile app as a way to store and organize important information. It securely stores logins and passwords but also digital copies of your passport, social security card and other confidential data such as debit or PIN card numbers or online credit card account log-in information.
Closeup woman’s hand writing messages on business desk via Shutterstock
Categories: Apps, Must Read, Tech Savvy Parents, Website | Tags: accounting, Expensify, free, FreshBooks, invoicing, Mint, online tools, receipts, tax preparation
Friday, January 18th, 2013
On Monday, January 21, Barack Obama will be sworn in during our Nation’s 57th Inaugural Ceremony making it a great time to teach kids about the pomp and circumstance surrounding inauguration day as well as the role of the president and about our country’s past presidents. Where to start? Websites that are chock full of information satisfy curious learners while interactive apps engage kids of all ages.
Inauguration Day has many parts. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has a fantastic page about each of the Inauguration Day Events and the history behind them. Learn about the Procession to the Capitol, Vice President’s Swearing In Ceremony, President’s Swearing In Ceremony, Inaugural Address, and everything leading up to the night’s many Inaugural Balls.
For children who are interested in learning more about our country’s past presidents, an engaging way to learn is through iPad apps. Basher Presidents features fun facts and a bit of trivia about each of our presidents using text that is appropriate for first grade and up.
Upper elementary ages who are interested in a deeper dive into our nation’s leaders will enjoy the Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook iPad app. Based on the award-winning educational DVD series The American Presidentsfrom Disney Educational Productions and developed with the help of a producer from The Daily Show and Colbert Report, this app features an interactive scrapbook, cartoons, and animations that incorporate music, videos, art and more that makes for a fun learning experience for kids. Parents will also enjoy getting a history refresher course through real life testimonials from Mo Rocca, Bob Woodward, Paul Begala, Wesley Clark, Sam Donaldson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Robert Reich, and Jon Meacham.
If you happen to be traveling to Washington, D.C. to be a part of this historic day but are without inaugural ball tickets, The Washington Post shares 10 ways to celebrate for $20 or less. Consider involving your family in Inauguration Day of Service if you’ll be in town on Saturday to engage in charitable acts together. Also be sure to sign up for text alerts for real time information about Inaugural activities on the National Mall and parade route from the U.S. Park Police by texting INAUGURATION to 888777.
Faces in the crowd on Bill Clinton’s Inauguration Day January 20, 1993 in Washington, DC spirit of america via Shutterstock.com