Hollywood App Prompts Mother-Daughter Conversations

I saw the richest mom-with-app on the cover of Forbes magazine while browsing through an airport bookshop this summer. Intrigued, I purchased the reading material for my next flight. By the end of the day, I joined millions of others who downloaded Kim Kardashian’s app to my iPhone. Let’s see what it takes, I thought, to play the game of fame.

According to the Forbes article, the app called Kim Kardashian Hollywood is a remake of a preexisting app called Stardom. Glu Mobile, the company who made Stardom, approached Kim with the opportunity to rebrand the app. She went for it, and according to her remarks at the BlogHer16 keynote, she really enjoys the creative process of bringing app ideas to life.

Hollywood app prompts mother-daughter conversations

Sometimes I get so caught up in what’s educational for my kids, that I forget about what’s conversational for my kids. Hot mainstream topics, like the Kardashians, can be interesting to talk about with young teens. Instead of ignoring these types of media choices, I’d rather learn more about what makes them so popular, and then debate the findings with my girls.

Playing the app myself, I was faced with making choices about clothes, photo shoots, meeting with agents, and decisions about whether to attend a party or go to work. Within 30 minutes, I had over a dozen family discussion points. That does not include tidbits the girls found, like whether to make the game character be snarky or apologetic.

Hollywood app prompts mother-daughter conversations

Before getting carried away with our characters, we stopped the clock and had mother-daughter conversations based on the following questions:

  • What do you think about skipping work responsibilities to be more famous? 
  • What is snark? Why would a snarky comment be valuable in the game?
  • What are your favorite clothes in the game? Do you feel they are appropriate? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the app is so popular?
  • If you made the game, how would you change the app?
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of being famous? Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?

Before long, we forgot about the app and resumed our regular summer routines. No one in the family wanted to sacrifice their chore money for virtual clothes. And that was fine with me. But meanwhile, we got to benefit from some girl talk by playing Hollywood for a day.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

10 Discussion Questions for Kids Who Play Pokémon GO

Commentary about Pokémon GO has turned into a national conversation, and opinions about real life gaming have been prolific on tech and parenting blogs. As a blogger myself, I’ve been reading about the advantages and disadvantages of being able to catch Pokémon with an iPhone. But one comment that really caught my attention simply stated the importance of discussion during the gaming experience, which is a helpful reminder worth sharing more broadly.

In the August 2016 issue of Children’s Technology Review, Warren Buckleitner published his thoughts on Pokémon GO:

“The game is loaded with local history facts, which are tied to earning the Pokéballs needed to catch Pokémon. But without discussion they’re only facts. Ask your child to share and discuss what they find.”

When reading Warren’s comment, it felt relevant not only for gaming, but also for parenting. Having discussions with my kids helped me progress through 13 years of parenting. A consistent back and forth exchange of ideas enabled me connect with them to reach agreement and understanding.

In that light, Pokémon GO can be a great source of conversation starters for families.

Here are 10 Pokémon GO discussion questions for kids

  1. Can you show me how to play Pokémon GO?
  2. What are Pokéstops?
  3. How do you catch a Pokémon?
  4. Who are your favorite Pokémon? Why? How many have you collected?
  5. Where have you found the most Pokémon? Why do you think they like that location?
  6. I keep hearing about Pokémon game terms, like gyms, eggs and leveling up. Can you explain those terms to me? What do they mean?
  7. Have you ever been in a Pokémon battle?
  8. What is your Trainer name? Why did you choose it?
  9. What are some ideas you have to stay safe and sensible while playing the game?
  10. When would be a good time to turn the game off? Or on?

Next time you find yourself in the virtual reality of Pokémon GO, remember to ask a child these Pokémon GO discussion questions to start a conversation about what they think!

For more information about Children’s Technology Review, visit www.childrenstech.com or follow them on Twitter or Instagram at @childtech. Don’t miss CTREX, their massive online database of over 12,000 academic reviews of children’s interactive media products. CTREX is an ideal search tool for teachers, librarians and parents who are constructing their digital learning initiatives for the new school year.

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr

Shark Week Educational Apps for Kids

I’ve been a fan of Shark Week since it was first created as a TV programming series in the late 1980s to dispel myths about sharks. Its success enabled viewers all over the world to appreciate these awesome creatures as way more than just predators circling divers in a cage.

Although Shark Week has recently slid into sensationalism (which has appalled the scientific community because of fictitious and non-factual shows), the result of having a dedicated week to be reminded about the ocean’s wonders can serve as a positive benefit for environmental awareness.

Let’s continue the awareness by considering educational apps that are fun for young summer learners during Shark Week.

shark week
“Murky Reef” (critical thinking activities for elementary students in 1st and 2nd grade)
shark week
“Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” (interactive book app)
shark week
“A to Sea” (alphabet app with sea creatures for early learners)
Shark Week
“A Shark Knocked on the Door” (animated storybook app in Spanish and English)

I curate apps by searching the Know What’s Inside App Discovery Center, reading Digital Storytime’s reviews, researching what’s new on the App Store, reading the App Friday newsletter, and from keeping in touch with the network of family-friendly app makers I’ve known throughout the years. If you have a favorite Shark Week app for kids, please let me know in comments, or tweet to me at @LorraineAkemann.

Happy Summer Learning!

Lorraine Akemann | Co-founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Matt Kowalczyk]

Environmental Education Comes To Life On Steam

At the annual AppFest event in San Francisco, I met Lindsey Tropf, CEO and game developer who is applying game based learning to environmental education in a game called Tyto Ecology. Although I’m mostly involved in the world of mobile apps, I was curious about this title because in addition to her iPad app, she also launched Tyto Ecology on Steam, which is a PC gaming environment.

What is Steam?

Steam is a digital distribution platform for PC games, which also offers multiplayer and social networking features for its community. It can be accessed at http://store.steampowered.com, and requires a software installation for Steam software and for any purchased games.

According to an article on GeekSquad, 70% of PC gaming since 2012 has been Steam powered. Instead of using a game console or CD/DVD, I’m starting to think of Steam as a gamer’s cloud, or a gaming environment that enables downloads, gaming and account management from a central online marketplace.

Steam
Tyto Ecology on Steam PC Gaming Platform

How do you play Tyto Ecology?

Tyto Ecology is about building and managing your own ecosystem. As the player, you can choose between desert, rainforest, and grassland habitats. These habitats, or biomes, have certain species like predators, prey, pollinators and decomposers which construct the game dynamics. Can you keep the mix in balance? Will the environment you create die or thrive? The process of constructing a sustainable environment represents how the game supports active problem solving.

The tools and information for managing environments are aligned with academic science standards. Every species added to the game has a data profile, along with data tools and statistics to manage the biome’s health.

Why pay attention to Immersed Games?

Tyto Ecology is made by Immersed Games, and I think it’s interesting to see their vision beyond this standalone game. Their goal is to build out Tyto Online, a massively multiplayer online game where players complete quests. These players would be Tyto Academy Students who are recruited to help scientists build life on a new planet. 

In my opinion, the concept of Tyto Academy sounds incredibly appealing to explore sustainable life on earth! Although my kids are not avid PC gamers, Tyto Ecology is a point of entry I would consider to build our experience with connected online games.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Adam Schweigert]

Spring Into Learning With Easter Apps For Kids

App makers enjoy celebrating the seasons, and springtime is ideal for adding bunnies and eggs to the mix. Here is a selection of Easter apps to compliment spring learning themes. Let’s start with two sweet storybooks, continue with a few early learning games, and end with a festive easter egg hunt. Are you ready for spring? Let’s go!

Easter apps
Breezy Bunnies: springtime storybook with charming illustrations *KWI Member
Spring themed app for kids
Play and Learn with Corabelle: 11 early learning games for kids
Easter apps
Happy Easter Little Critter: interactive book app (original book by Mercer Mayer) to celebrate Easter
Easter apps
Holidays Junior: enjoy classic games like Tic Tac Toe and Simon Says with an Easter theme *KWI Member
Easter apps
Holidays 2: educational games like Connect 4 and Sliding Puzzle are presented with springtime appeal *KWI Member
Easter apps
Find the Differences: spot the difference in these springtime wildlife puzzles *KWI Member
Easter apps
Easter Word Match: bugs are buzzing with excitement over these word match and coloring page activities *KWI Member

This list is just a small sampling of the educational apps that exist. For more kid friendly app ideas, head to the Know What’s Inside Discovery Center. Here you can search for apps by subject, age range, and privacy preference: https://knowwhatsinside.com/discover.

*Apps with KWI Member belong to the Know What’s Inside community. 

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr [Peter Pham]

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Spring apps for kids

Let’s Take A Closer Look At Pretend Play

I’m hearing lots of buzz from the annual Toy Fair in New York City, a time for showing the latest in gear and gadgets for kids. As my children grow, I keep wondering when they will start asking for connected gadgets and gizmos. Have I kept them in the dark for too long? Am I an old-school dinosaur disguised as a Bay Area Mom? Maybe so, maybe so. But when my girls have days like this, just playing with their dolls…well, I’m just not going to fix what isn’t broken.

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The images above represent a “school day” for the dolls. It started with making and painting doll food out of clay, continued with a schoolhouse and homework, and ended with a smoothie bar complete with granola bars and snacks. If these dolls were connected (for example, smart toys associated with an app or online portal) my concern is that ideas from toy designers would trump organically grown ideas from kids.

If pressed about digital equivalents for this type of pretend play, apps that let children set up scenes and do the talking come first to mind. My favorite has always been My PlayHome, but I would also add Toca City Life or even Dr. PetPlay to that recommendation. All of these apps offer open-ended scenarios for children to explore, and try to let kids dictate the outcomes. I also think it’s encouraging to see companies like Toca Boca advocate for creativity through efforts like “Take a Stand for Play”, which is a campaign to highlight the importance of unstructured downtime.

It is truly amazing to see what happens on a regular day at home with a real-life playmate, a few dolls, and some materials for pretend play. May all families delight in this youthful ingenuity, and make the time and space for it where possible.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

The Sweetest Little Apps For Valentine’s Day

It’s still a cozy time of year, a season that’s perfect for sweet storybooks and paper heart crafts. For years I’ve known app makers who capture the spirit of family time, and I’ve listed some of their apps for Valentine’s Day below. Whether you have a paper copy of the books, or just want to reread them on your device, I hope this list gives you plenty of activity ideas for the cold winter months. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Apps for Valentine's Day
Biscuit’s Valentine’s Day (storybook)
Apps for Valentine's Day
Draw With Hearts (open-ended drawing with heart themes) *KWI Member
Apps for Valentine's Day
A Little Book About Feelings (social and emotional learning)*KWI Member
Apps for Valentine's Day
Valentine’s Coloring Book (coloring) *KWI Member
Apps for Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine’s Day, Little Critter! (storybook)
Apps for Valentine's Day
PostMarked (Craft Your Own Love Note)
gifoodles! (make your own animated GIFs – updated for Valentine’s Day, see example below) *KWI Member

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More apps are being released as Valentine’s Day approaches. Please check back if you’d like to add another to your list. Apps with *KWI Member belong to the Know What’s Inside community. 

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit [Flickr creative commons]

Gifting Apps for the Holidays

With millions of apps in the mobile marketplace, chances are likely that a specific interest can be matched to a specific app. Gifting apps for the holidays is a way to deliver thoughtful and contemporary content to friends and colleagues. Do you have a favorite app that enhances your daily life? How about gifting it for your best friend? Ideal for simple and tailored seasonal giving, apps can be sent directly to the recipient. Let’s review how it’s done.

All you need to get started is an app store account, the email address of the recipient, and a link to your favorite app. I am an iPhone user so this tutorial will cover gifting from Apple’s iTunes Store directly from the phone, but all mobile platforms should support app gifting.

Find your app of choice from the App Store app, and press the share icon (circled in red)

Share

Select the gift option (also circled in red)

Gift

Type in the recipient’s email address

Send Gift

Pick a theme for your gift!
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Confirm your purchase

Confirmation

There you go! App gifting can be fun and easy. For kids app recommendations, check out my blog post featuring a list of holiday themed educational apps. For tweens and teens, you may want to read about Apple Music memberships or ways to set up an iTunes allowance. Whatever your preference, app gifting is a great way to check off your to-do list in a friendly and helpful way.

@LorraineAkemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

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Holiday Cheer Comes to Apps for Kids

Welcome to a wholesome and handcrafted collection of holiday apps for kids. These choices are ideal for upholding family traditions during the coziest time of year. Storybooks, songs and games are among the options to capture your attention. Cuddle up and settle in, because after browsing the selection you‘ll be ready to celebrate the season…

holiday apps for kids
Snowflakes are Falling (storybook)
 holiday apps for kidsWee Christmas Puzzles (drag & drop puzzles for toddlers)
holiday apps for kidsChristmas with Corabelle (5 games for preschoolers)
holiday apps for kids
Reading Train Christmas (foundational reading skills)
holiday apps for kids
Christmas Songs (gentle tunes for toddlers)
holiday apps for kidsFelt Board Christmas (create seasonal scenes)
 holiday apps for kidsChristmas Kids Piano (create holiday music)
 holiday apps for kidsHolidays 2 (festive educational games)
 holiday apps for kidsFind the Difference (classic holiday puzzle game)
 holiday apps for kidsFar to the North (Snowy Arctic storybook)
 holiday apps for kidsChristmas Games for Kids (toddler puzzles)
 holiday apps for kidsChristmas Jam (Interactive musical scenes)

holiday apps for kids

Christmas Gift Hunt (find the hidden gift game)

Check back when you can, because more apps are released on a regular basis. Looking for something specific? Try the Know What’s Inside app discovery center, or sign up for App Friday’s weekly newsletter.

🎄 Happy Holidays! 🎄

Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Halloween Apps to Delight Young Learners

This post started as a core selection of Halloween apps for an article on SheKnows.com. I wrote the post to let parents know that even apps get dressed up for Halloween, making learning more festive as the holidays approach. But after I worked on the post for SheKnows, more apps came to my attention. Now there are over 20 apps listed and ready to celebrate Halloween!

Boo! HD for storytime

Mystery Math Town for math practice

Easy Studio for cartoon making

Halloween Kids Puzzles for jigsaw fans

Guess and Spell Halloween for spelling activities

Spooky Story Dice for creative writing prompts

Monster Mingle for open-ended play and exploration

Harry and the Haunted House storybook

Witches Brew for potion making

Holidays 2 Spooky Games for game night

Zombies iMake for monster making

Felt Board shapes for making scenes

News-O-Matic’s Spooky Story Contest

Zombie Challenge Adventure for some grueling competition

Easy Brainteaser Halloween true/false questions

Annie’s Picking Apples 2 in app mini game with Halloween theme

The Unknown Number for solving math equations

Wee Halloween Puzzles for toddlers

Halloween Dress Up Costume Party for getting dressed up

Holidays Junior Halloween games for kids (tic tac toe, thimblerig, whack-a-monster, pumpkin says)

Labo Halloween Car to design, build and drive your haunted car

Boo Numbers for handwriting and number fun

Wee Halloween Bundle from Night & Day Studios includes Go Away Big Green Monster, Peekaboo Trick or Treat, and BabyLit Frankenstein

If you check these out, let me know what you think. I know there are many more apps participating in Halloween, and invite comments to hear about any you especially like. Or, if you’d rather just read some Halloween joke printables from a fellow app maker, that’s fine too!

@LorraineAkemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps