Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

September 8, 2010

Introducing a new mode for Android phones – Kid Mode

Every smart phone today has an “Airplane Mode” which puts the phone in a state that is safe to use while flying on a plane.  Think about that, your phone has a simple mode that makes it safe to use on an airplane!  Why doesn’t your phone come with more “modes”?!?

Well today Zoodles is launching an entirely new mode for Android phones and we are calling it “Kid Mode”.  With our FREE Kid Mode app (available now in the Android Market) children 8 and under will have access to hundreds of age appropriate games and videos while parents will be able to relax knowing that their kids will no longer accidentally make calls, send emails or delete apps.  This is an app that the whole family will really love!

So here is how it works:
The Zoodles Kid Mode app is a really smart app that adapts to the child using it.  Games and videos are shown to a child based on their age and other optional information provided by parents (such as reading ability).  In addition to adjusting to the age and skills of the child, Kid Mode adjusts to the capabilities of the phone it is being run on.  For instance, on an Android device without Flash, the Zoodles app will detect the missing software and remove games from the system that require Flash.

Here is a sample 4 year old experience where Kid Mode is filled with letter recognition games, counting activities, and interactive storybooks:

4yroldAndroid

Here is a sample 7 year old experience where Kid Mode is filled with fun logic puzzles, language activities, and fraction games.

7yroldAndroid

Here is what a Flash game looks like in Kid Mode:

CaptainCarlos

Protecting your Android Phone:

The optional “Child Lock” feature of Kid Mode means you can hand your Android phone to your child without ever worrying about what they might accidentally do while on the phone (say good bye to random phone calls to the boss, erased emails and deleted apps).  To accomplish this we disable the built-in buttons on your phone, so your child can’t accidentally exit out while they’re playing.  While children can’t accidentally exit when our child lock is enabled parents will be able to exit easily by following on screen instructions that children can’t follow.

So head over to the Android Market on your phone and upgrade your phone with an entirely new mode – Kid Mode!

Finally, I want to say thanks to the team for working hard on this app and to all the kids who tested Kid Mode for us.

Best,

Mark Williamson
CEO & Co-founder of Zoodles
.

June 27, 2010

Six Tips for a Calmer, Happier Summer for Your Family

Filed under: Family Activities — Tags: , , , — Erin @ 2:00 pm

Guest blog by Renee Brown, owner of Restoration Organizationfamily image

There’s so much to love about summertime, but with all of that comes a new dizzy level of crazed activity for families of young kids. Day camps, swimming lessons and lack of school year structure can throw the best of us into a tailspin. Is there hope? Absolutely! With a bit of attention to creating new organized processes and systems, you can turn this summer into your best one yet.

  1. Write it Down: First and foremost, you must have one and only one calendar for everything. Think about what makes the most sense for you and your family. A huge monthly one posted in the kitchen? An electronic version on the computer? Perhaps the calendar on your phone? Whatever you pick, make it the one place you visit at least a couple times a day to enter new information and events, update details and of course, to see what’s on deck for the day. What will make this the most successful is if you train yourself to input everything: soccer, games, camps, weddings and family get-togethers. Train your family to check the calendar frequently to keep track of their own events.
  2. Mom’s Taxi: Since summer generally means an abundance of driving to and fro, think of your vehicle as a second home. What would be helpful and useful? Mandatory items include a hanging garbage bag (mine hangs behind the front passenger seat and gets emptied each time I gas up, so there’s never an overflow issue), a container of wipes (lifesavers!), a first aid kit, blankets for an impromptu picnic or for rain-drenched bleachers, box of tissues (summer allergies, anyone?), a small notepad and a few pens, activity items for younger kids, hand lotion, lip balm, bug spray and sunscreen. Look around your home for small boxes or containers (how about those gift-with-purchases bags that seem to multiply?) to corral the items in your car.
  3. House Rules: These will vary according to your children’s ages and stages, but ideas include no wet swimsuits on the floor, no running in the house, no TV or Zoodles until after breakfast, beds made immediately, etc. Summer is also a great time to teach kids new skills, such as how to do laundry and clean a bathroom. Remember, even though you know you can do these jobs faster and more efficiently yourself, your kids need to learn these all-important life skills and the sooner, the better. I taught my sons to do their laundry when they were in 4th grade and after a short learning curve, they never looked back! Now as teens they have learned to think ahead and wash their baseball uniform before the game. Success!
  4. Taking time to just enjoy: We all love to savor these three sunny months each year, so please don’t over schedule, jam-packing each day so everyone gets exhausted and crabby. Build in some fun, simple activities, such as lying on blankets in the backyard at night to view the stars, catching lightning bugs, or getting up early and watching the sunrise with a picnic breakfast. Remember, sometimes the most valuable moments are the simplest!
  5. De-Clutter: Summer is also a terrific time to go through kids’ clothes, books and toys. Set a goal and create a plan so that you have done this for all of your kids before school starts up, otherwise there will be no room for new fall clothes and the onslaught of new school papers and projects. Get your kids involved in this process and gently help them let go of things that are no longer relevant. To make it an even more valuable experience, bring the kids along when you donate the items to a shelter or non-profit. Make sure to go one step further and explain how their former belongings will be a blessing to someone else.
  6. Corral the Art: Another good summertime sorting-through project is going through your kids’ artwork. Make time to sift through a pile and let your child tell you about each one. Take pictures of them holding their favorites. Consider creating an art gallery of their best work. You can buy cheap frames at garage sales, and create a fancy show piece. Think about where the art could be displayed, perhaps the wall going downstairs? A big wall in the family room? Don’t forget about big wall spaces such as your garage. Another great way to use artwork is to gift it to family and friends or, use it as gift wrap or to make a card. Win-win for everyone!

So you see, with a little planning and a little project management, before you know it, things will feel a lot less crazed. After all, summer is meant to be savored not just survived. You never know when you are making a new memory!

Author Byline

Renee

Renee L Brown, Owner Restoration Organization

Renee Brown was born organized and after helping friends and family through the years, she finally began a freshly minted career as a professional organizer with her company Restoration Organization. Her specialties include whole-house de-cluttering, management and organization. She loves working with busy families and professionals, helping them create more space and peacefulness. A former editor for TV Guide Magazine, Renee has juggled many communications gigs through the years, all while single-handedly raising her two teenage boys. Her website is www.restorationorg.weebly.com and you can find her blog at http://mom-interrupted.blogspot.com

June 23, 2010

Home Security During the Summer Party Season

Filed under: Family Activities — Tags: , , , , , — Erin @ 2:56 pm

pool bbqWith the warm weather here, you’re probably cleaning out your swimming pool and pulling out the patio chairs. As kids get out on summer break and the days get longer and hotter, it’s the perfect time to plan a summer barbecue or a party. Entertaining outdoors during the summertime is certainly a lot of fun, though it also comes with some responsibility!

Open house for burglars?

Unless you have a doorman, it’s impossible to personally greet everyone as they walk into your home. During the party, you’ll probably end up leaving both the front and back door unlocked and open so that guests can come and go. Though this is certainly convenient, it isn’t always prudent. Doing so may invite unwanted elements into your home because they can tell that you’re having a lot of people over, and with that comes the potential for them to get lost in the crowd. Consider buying a hidden camera or “nanny cam” to record what goes on when you aren’t there.

Introduce yourself

If you plan to host a summer party, don’t take this as a warning to keep your home shut off from the outside. Instead, keep in mind that you need to pay attention to the faces in the crowd. Perhaps your Valuablesfriends or coworkers have brought someone you’ve never met to your summer bash. If you haven’t been introduced to someone you see inside your home during the party, now is the time to do so. If someone has slipped in unbeknownst to the host or guests, everyone might assume that they are there with someone else, and they will be free to rob small valuables left lying around, as well as scope out your home for a future robbery.

Lock your private rooms

None of your guests will feel offended if you lock up certain rooms of the home, such as your bedroom or home office. Use locks or motion alarms to keep guests away from these areas during the party. After all, guests shouldn’t be wandering into these places anyway, when they could be outdoors enjoying the party. It also makes sense to do a quick sweep of your home before the guests arrive to remove any small and valuable objects from the areas guests are likely to be.

Remember your swimming pool

pool alrm picFinally, if you do have a backyard pool, it is your duty as the homeowner to keep your guests safe around it. Even if the pool is off-limits for swimmers during the summer bash, the possibility still exists for someone to fall in. A pool alarm will alert you to a child or adult in the pool, whether you have dozens of guests over for a party or are home alone with your family. This simple device is a must-have security feature for any pool owner to install. With the start of summer and the swimming season, now is the time to buy a pool alarm.

Inviting dozens of guests over to enjoy a summer evening at your home is 2834603121_pool nitecertainly an enjoyable occasion, but the night could take a sudden turn if you return indoors to find that you’ve been robbed while you were on the patio entertaining your guests. Whenever you have a large number of people in your home, be mindful of the security threat that this presents, and take the necessary precautions.

Author Byline

Tara-HomeSecGuest Blog by Tara Shaw, a mother of three happily living in Austin, Texas.Tara was born in England and moved to USA in 1998. Together with her husband James she started the Resist Attack website in 2009 to make available a wide variety of personal safety products and to educate families on how to stay safe. So far they have published over 250 articles on the subject.

June 14, 2010

7 fun and frugal summertime activities

Filed under: Family Activities — Tags: , , , , , , , — Erin @ 10:18 am

Contributed by Danae G.

Contributed by Danae G. Zoodles Marketing Team

Wondering what to do with your children this summer that won’t break the bank (they can’t play Zoodles all day now that we’ve added our play timer!)? Creativity and advanced planning are your best bets for building fun family memories that you can enjoy, guilt-free.

Visit the library.

libraryThe library is not what it used to be! But they’re still completely free. They have kiddie computers, child soft seating, and baskets of toys to encourage free play. Children have their own DVD section, books on tape (great for car rides), and story time is quickly being rivaled by the library’s free summer reading program. This is an excellent program that gets kids really excited about reading books (they can even win prizes!). This summer my local library’s having Rubber Band Car Races, a puppeteer show, and at some point, a fireworks display. All really fun stuff that I wouldn’t have thought would be available through a library.

Dollar movies.

Check with your nearby theaters to see if they offer summer movie clubs. This typically means you pay a reduced cost if you take the kids to a movie during the week. No, you’re not going to see Disney’s latest release, but they usually show pretty good children’s movies that most kids will enjoy. Word to the wise, if you don’t want to spend all that you just saved at the concession stand, pack some snacks to enjoy once you are inside the movies.

Turn on the sprinklers.

Tsprinklershis is one of the best ways to cool off when it’s hot out! Delay the sprinklers so they come on later in the morning than usual. Kids love getting wet and will be entertained for hours (assuming your local water supply and water bill allows!). Besides watering the grass, there is really no clean up like you would have if you pulled out the kiddie pool. And I don’t know about you, but I like NO CLEAN UP!

Explore your neighborhood.

When my kids were little we walked around the block almost everyday. Granted, they are likely to say “that sounds boring”, but once they’re on the walk, they usually change their minds. When you’re at the library, pick up a book on edible plants and trees so when you go on your walk, the kids can try and identify what they could live on if they were “lost in the forest.”

Set up a lemonade stand.

lemonadeI just love the entrepreneurship lessons involved in this one! Loan the kids some “seed money” for supplies. Take them to the store and have them pick up the necessities like cups, lemons, and sugar. A powdered mix is fine but it’s a lot more expensive, less authentic, and not nearly as fun to make. Whether the kids are inside (preparing the world’s best lemonade) or outside, remember to have an adult with them at all times. And not just because they tend to drink up the profits!

Check out local museums.

There are probably several museums nearby that you’ve never heard of before. And most of them are free.  Do a search on Google or post a question on your Facebook and let local friends and family share their favorite spots. Spending time together as a family and learning about new things is a wonderful combination any time of year. Plus, if you walk the kids around long enough, they are likely to fall asleep in the car on the ride home!

Smores and backyard camping.

smoresWhat kid doesn’t like building a fire after dark and roasting marshmallows? This, in and of itself, makes for a fun and exciting evening any day of the week. But why stop there? Dust off your tent, unroll those sleeping bags, and sleep under the stars to create an unforgettable experience for children of all ages. No need to pack the car, drive for 2 hours, or make reservations a year in advance. Just open your back door! Build a campfire, tell silly stories, and play flashlight tag. Don’t forget your cell phone (no reception problems here!). There are some great constellation apps available that are sure to thrill even the finickiest of children. It’s amazing what we can teach our kids these days, right from the comfort of our very own backyards.

backyardDo you have any ideas to share? Please leave us a comment, We’d love to hear from you! And remember, the kids will be off to college (or at least back in school) before you know it. Make the most of the short time you have with them by building fun family memories that can be cherish for years to come.

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