Apps, Easter, Gift Ideas, Kids, Spring 2017

Skylanders News: New from The Skylanders Imaginators Game

Sample toys sent for feature

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Skylanders news from Skylanders Imaginators are some fun new Sensei characters, a new platform to play on and new guest characters. Lets’ take a deeper look

NEW Skylanders Imaginators Sensei Characters

  1. Pain-Yatta: Magic Sensei with a Smasher as his weapon of choice
  2. Grave Clobber: Water Sensei with a Brawler as his weapon of choice
  3. Hard-Boiled Flare Wolf (Easter edition): Fire Sensei with a Bazooker as his weapon of choice

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NEW Skylanders Imaginators Guest Characters

  • Crash Bandicott and Dr Neo Cortex: play a level dedicated to the famous bandicoot, Thumpin Wumpa Islands, which pays homage to be beloved ‘90s video game icon.  

Skylanders Imaginators is on Nintendo Switch

  • Easily load and store your 300+ toys
  • Take your play wherever you want-internal library

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Learn more by visiting https://www.skylanders.com/

Apps, Best Buy, Gift Ideas, Home

Experience Google Chromecast Audio Streaming

I was compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Google Chromecast Audio

Brand new at Best Buy is a small black disc used for audio streaming called the Google Chromecast Audio. You may have heard of Google Chromecast in that there is a device you plug into a TV USB input so you can take your tablet and computer shows and apps and watch on the large screen at home. This is Google’s same idea but for music.

chromecast audio set up

This is not a bluetooth device. With bluetooth streaming you need a music source like your phone or tablet and a bluetooth speaker to pair. This is music over Wi-Fi. This is very different. How is listening to music over Wi-Fi different than using bluetooth?

  • You can still text or call without interrupting what’s playing or draining your battery
  • Higher sound quality with sound that is crystal clear and powered by the cloud
  • Find many song and artist sources at chromecast.com/apps that work using the Google Chromecast Audio
  • Built-in 2.4GHz/5.0GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi connects to the Internet through your wireless home network
  • Just plug Chromecast Audio into your speakers via the auxiliary input, connect to Wi-Fi and tap the Cast button from your favorite apps.

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If you are more familiar with listening to music via bluetooth speakers, there are still the same features you can enjoy while using the Wi-Fi connection of this new device such as pairing where you can group Chromecast Audio devices together so you can listen to the same song on multiple speakers. You can also control the volume, play, pause, song selection, etc.. on your phone or device. It will work with the popular apps-You Tube, Pandora, Spotify, etc.

Google Chromecast 2

The Google Chromecast Audio will pair with your Apple® iPhone® or iPad®, Android phone or tablet, Mac or Windows laptop or Chromebook. It works with your existing High-Speed internet. So let’s put it to the test:

Sound: I was very impressed with the sound quality. I have a new speaker set up for our TV, but also connected one to my son’s decades old Sony boombox because it had a line-in jack in the back (amazingly enough). The sound was so clear and even my 8 year old walked in when I had it turned up and asked “Is that coming from my radio?!!”

Pairing: so easy. Once I plugged the unit into the speakers I went to Chromecast.com/setup and it had me download the app and immediately searched for the chromecast device and found it in seconds. Once both were set up (TV speaker and my son’s radio) they automatically connected and began playing together

Using phone with music on: I can surf the web, take calls and do anything I would need to on my phone and the music stays on. The photo below shows me surfing my Facebook page with Luke Bryan playing through an almost 20 year old boombox with clear sound.

chromecast sound

Set up and Loading: I started the set up process at a time of 2:49pm and had a station on Pandora playing through the boombox at 2:53pm. That was from plugging in the device, going to set up, updating and playing.

chromecast audio connect

This is truly an experience unique in that all those old speakers you thought you needed to replace or Dad’s old garage boombox he never wants to part with can now play music and audio from your favorite apps. The sound will be clear and set up took under 5 minutes for me. Plug in and start listening throughout the entire house on any speaker with a line-in or AUX port.

Do you have a speaker or speakers in your home you’d be anxious to connect to your favorite music and audio apps?

Apps, Education, Kids, Parenting, STEM Learning

Use the Game of Minecraft to Build Your Own Computer with Piper

Sample sent for feature

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If you have a child, chances are Minecraft has made it into your home. We have 3 boys ages 8-24. When the 2 older boys were young the games were simple, mind numbing or combative and we had strict rules on when they could play or not play and time limits. As our youngest grew into gaming age he wasn’t as engaged or interested until Minecraft. Piper saw that too and has developed a DIY STEM learning kit that uses the game of Minecraft to build your own computer.

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I immediately went into time limits and rules until……

I realized that Minecraft was genius in every possible way. This is more than a game, it is a step into an engineering and mathematical world that is brilliantly instilling these skills in our youngest children as they play, or build. My son knows rock types, building matter, stone types and properties. He can calculate building with height, weight and durability. He knows what withstands storms, fire and keeps intruders out. He has built rooms that would blow a standard home blueprint out of the water. He even build an elaborate Goosebumps Mansion in his game of Minecraft world. Now this STEM activity has turned into a passion to learn coding.

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I have all boys so I only know boy stuff. His school offers fun after school programs and the last set offered a coding class. He did not win the lottery to be in that class but other kids did and the amount of girls volunteering was amazing. They know and love Minecraft too. Nothing excites me better then when a common love for science and math between both boys and girls develops and gaming and schools have encouraged this genuine passion for building. Piper obviously sees the passion growing as well with the DIY computer.

Piper Minecraft

Inside the Piper box:

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • laser-cut case
  • wires
  • buttons
  • lights
  • switches
  • sensors
  • breadboards
  • everything else needed to start exploring DIY electronics

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In order to successfully complete Piper, users must build components and circuits to advance through Minecraft which rewards the user with power ups and special abilities throughout the game. Piper gives real-time feedback to ensure each component is built correctly and is completely safe since there is no dangerous soldering.  It is a start for this world of building and inventing. Once built they will proudly have fun with Piper using the contents from their build to perhaps invent home devices or power and charge things around the home. The possibilities are there.

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Once you construct the actual box and complete the blueprint instructions, you will power on the computer to a version of the game of Minecraft. We had no issues as it turned right on and it will walk your child through a set up of the remaining items and a bit of education so they know what they are and why they are connecting such pieces. We had a blast and I believer every classroom needs this for STEM learning. My son stayed thoroughly engaged through every screw he turned. Visit BuildPiper.com to learn more

Apps, Books, Kids

Books and Music Lyrics for Story Time with Kidioke

Sample book sent for feature

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This month I have been focusing on Reading with Children and have been offering tips, free resources, book reviews and more. With this Kidioke feature we are talking about engaging books and music that kids will want to read and sing along to. Some of the best lullabies are not kid in nature, but those popular songs our parents and grandparents would sing us.

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With Kidioke the songs that are the inspiration for the books are songs we love as parents and can share with our children in the most engaging way. I do a lot of book reviews, some interactive some online and I have never seen books quite like this.

The book’s title is the song featured:

  1. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
  2. Lullabye Written by Billy Joel
  3. My Girl by The Temptations

books-and-music-for-kids

There is an app you can download. The Kidioke Media app is free and the song downloads are only $2.99 each. You can record your child’s reactions to the stories or their singing talents and play back saved versions for friends and family. Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad. Visit Kidioke to learn more. The books are available on Amazon as well.

Apps, Education, Kids, Parenting, School

Kids Online Math Games with Smartick

I was compensated a 3 month subscription for feature

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With the school year about halfway through you would know by now how much help your child may need in math at school no matter what grade level. Smartick is an engaging online math game for ages 4-14. Even if your child is not struggling at math but is unmotivated Smartick has a system just right for them too.

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I set up an account for my son who is in grade 3. He does very well in some aspects in Math and ok in other areas. Even though he is not behind, I use this to motivate him to get extra practice. How? By installing incentives via the parent control panel.

math

There are 2 ways to log in- child and parent. In parent mode you can see your child’s progress, create incentives per number of ticks you set, and get performance reports. For various activities like completing without errors, playing multiple days in a row, completing sections and more they get ticks. These ticks can be used in their virtual world to buy items and upgrade their world. They can buy a home, add to it and other fun world items with their Avatar they can personalize. As a parent, you can set tick rewards, like movie time or choice of dinner after so many ticks as incentive.

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In child mode they do 15 minute daily sessions. First they will take a placement test. It is a bit difficult by design to really guage the level of your child and create an accurate profile of games for them. Each day they come back for a 15 minute session. That is enough time to get some practice in yet not too long that they become bored or frustrated.

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The Results:
  • 94% of Smartick students improve their mental calculation and agility
  • 83% of Smartick students improve their grade in math, and half improve in other subjects

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You can start a 15 day free trial right now at Smartick

Amazon, Apps, Brands with a Cause

Use your shipping boxes to send back donations to Goodwill for free

Christmas is right around the corner! Many of us are still scrambling to complete our shopping lists, running store to store or finalizing our shopping online. Often, with the hustling and bustling this time of year we can lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas or start to feel a bit of the bah humbug creeping in. When this happens, it’s time to stop, and reflect on the true magic of the season, giving back. This doesn’t mean you have to drain your wallet on gifts for other people. Giving back this year can be as simple as decluttering your house and shipping those items to Goodwill. The best part, you can do this for free.

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This year Goodwill stores have teamed up with Give Back Box to enable you to reuse your online shipping boxes to donate your unwanted household items (such as gently used clothing, handbags, shoes, etc) to Goodwill at no cost to you.
Here’s how it works:

Give Back Box gives every cardboard box a second life to help people in need. Some of the international partners in support of the Give Back Box are Ann Inc, Asics, Ann Taylor Loft, Overstock, Dockers, Levis, Bon Ton and StyleUpGirl.com. These retailers are leading the way towards finding innovative solutions to widespread social and economic issues. You can see all of the participating retailers at givebackbox.com.

goodwill

By gathering your unwanted items that are stuffed in the back of your closet, under your bed, in your attic or garage or wherever it is hiding, you can pack it up and ship it to Goodwill to help create jobs.

Thanks to the job training programs made possible by donations of clothes and household items, Goodwill helped place more than 312,000 in jobs in the United States and Canada in 2015 — that’s one person finding a job every 23 seconds of every business day. So you’re literally donating your stuff AND helping to create jobs.

Did you know, you can even calculate how much your donation helps your local community by using Goodwill’s donation impact calculator, a feature available within the Goodwill Locator App and at Goodwill.org (click “Explore Our Map” on the homepage to access the calculator). Simply input the items you’re donating to calculate the number of hours of career counseling, on-the-job training, résumé preparation, financial planning classes, and other services you’ve helped provide people facing challenges finding employment.

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