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How To Choose Apps For Kids: Mom With Apps

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood.

 

Mom With AppsAs a mom of three boys I know how much kids love apps. As a parent, the process of finding the information I need about the apps was not only confusing but also incomplete because the current app stores don’t provide everything I am looking for. I have seen different figures on the number of apps out (and they change by the minute), but current numbers are around ONE MILLION APPS!  Most of all, getting the complete information I needed to make sure the app was safe for my kids has been challenging.

 

Enter Moms With Appsa first-of-its-kind destination that gives parents the power to choose the best apps for their kids“. I was more then thrilled to receive a press outreach email about getting more involved with Moms with Apps. Their website has been one of the sources that did provide the information needed to make decisions about kid’s apps. Now they are expanding the features on their website, and it could not have come at a better time (maybe they heard my S.O.S. pleas every time I search for apps online)!

 

Moms with Apps currently has 285 developers in its community and 885 apps in the discovery center. The website is also founded by parents who “who love using technology with their own kids, Moms With Apps only features developers who have committed to high standards for protecting kids’ privacy and building great family-friendly apps”.  The new Moms With Apps features will enable me to quickly find out what is inside each app which will make the decision process so much easier. Most of the apps they cover are from independent developers and you can edit your search terms for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Kindle Fire, Android Phone or Tablet or Windows Phone.  Moms With Apps is even looking into adding more features like the ability to rate apps.

 

Here is more information from the press release that explains the three things the Mom With Apps website offers:

 

 

1. Helps you find the rights apps for your children. All of these apps are meet a set of design and development guidelines, including the following:

 

Mom With Apps checklist

 

 

2. Know what’s inside the app before downloading!

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

Mom With Apps whats in app

 

 

 

Search for apps based on these specific requirements: 

 

Mom With Apps - app requirements

Mom With Apps - app requirements

 

 

3. Meet the developers behind the app. Find out what inspires them and share your feedback about their app with them! If you love a developer’s app, you can search for more by them under the developer’s page:

 

Mom With Apps - meet the developer

 

 

 

How are you been choosing kid’s apps? What information are you looking for about the kid’s app that help your decision process?

 

For more information, please visit momswithapps.com, Twitter @momswithapps and on Facebook at Facebook.com/momswithapps. Here is the Moms With Apps press release.

 

 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

High Tech Inspiration For Families: Chore-inator

Chore apps for kids: Chore-inatorBack to School is a time our family sets up school year routines and strategies. One of the routines that has been hardest for our family is a chore schedule for our kids. I set up our family schedule online and we are starting to set up a study routine. With a busy school day and after school activities there “seems” to be no time for our kids to do chores. But in reality, there is time but we have no way to organize when and how we fit in chores to our schedule.

 

When I received a press email about a new app called “Chore-inator” (Chore-inator.com), I was interested to check it out to help put structure into our family chore process. The Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations.com, have their own personal story on why they created the app. So I thought I would start by finding out about why they created Chore-inator, then trying for myself.

 

Chore-inator app

 

When I read the press release about the Chore-inator, I was happy to see that the app not only lists out chores but also a payout which I think is important for my boys.  In our family, earning screen time seems to always be a good inspiration to get things done.  For example, our current “payout” is our boys earn their screen time. We also offer our kids special family events when they do extra work. But we have never been able to organize or “automate” the chores to make sure it gets in our weekly schedule.

 

We asked the Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations, to share their story on why they created the app and more details about the app. Diane Hamilton responded with the information below.

 

The Chore-inator Story:
Our immediate family consists of Kevin, myself, and our six-year-old son Adam.

 

Chore-inator Founders

Chore-inator Founders

 

We are what the software industry calls indies. We are independent app developers. Our company, Binary Formations, is a small company building apps from ideas that come from challenges within our own family. Home Inventory, a Mac App for cataloging your household for insurance purposes or just to get organized and get rid of clutter, is our most popular thus far, plus we have handful of not so popular apps. This keeps us pretty darn busy and we are grateful to be doing something that we love and can share with others who may be facing similar challenges.

 

It may be surprising that we in no way started off with the intention of creating Chore-inator. Why add yet one more chore tracking app to the pile that already exist? Seriously, we know exactly how difficult it is to compete in a store with more than a million other titles, especially in an area where there are other well-established apps.

 

Our intention was to find something that would help not only get and keep our son, Adam, excited and motivated to do his chores but also to get and keep my husband, Kevin, and I consistent and accountable for chore management. And quite frankly we needed a better way to limit the amount of T.V., computer, and iPad time Adam was getting. None of us were very good at any of this, at all!

 

We tried a variety of approaches, from the good old-fashioned chore chart to trying a few of the apps, but nothing was working for us. They were either too complicated to setup, too complicated for Adam to use before he could read, or too simple and cutesy that Adam quickly out grew it. Also, we are data privacy freaks, so a solution that requires signing into a website and sharing and/or tracking of data is unacceptable. And finally, like many others, we are on a tight budget and are unwilling to pay a subscription fee to manage chores, which is often required for a web solution.

 

Chore-inator app to help keep track of kids chores

 

It was at that point that we decided to do what we do best – build an app to help us. So we put some of our other app ideas on hold and got to work. We had three primary goals when designing Chore-inator:


1. It needed to be so easy to use that you knew intuitively what to do when you picked it up whether you were a toddler who couldn’t read but had 1 or 2 basic chores to do, a teen who just wanted to get in and out so mom and dad would quit nagging, or a busy parent who needed to get it all set up very quickly.
2. It needed to be engaging enough to not only get kids of all ages engaged and motivated to do their chores but to keep them engaged and motivated without being too cutesy that tweens and younger teens were turned off. It needed to be flexible enough to grow with our family.
3. It needed to be extremely quick and easy for parents to get a status of all the family’s chore activity for the day, all in one easily understandable view.

 

We didn’t want an app that was just the electronic version of a traditional chore chart. We wanted an app that really focused on streamlining the process of managing the household chores, an app that exploited the latest and greatest technology and design available to create a workflow that was pleasing to the task at hand and would keep us all accountable without being an extra burden.

 

Like every other parent out there, we are busy too and want to spend as little time necessary on managing the household while at the same time teaching Adam discipline and motivation for a job well done when contributing to the household.

 

Chore-inator launched at Macworld back in March. What started as a family discussion soon won “Best in Show” in addition to being twice named “Best New App” and top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store. The experience, as well as the media attention, was confirmation that we were on the right path so we went right back to work when we got home to finish Chore-inator 2.0, which was a top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store once again.

 

Chore-inator has been such a big help in our own family. From a parent’s perspective, it has really helped keep Kevin and I consistent with both making sure Adam is doing his chores but also that rewards, such as iPad time or special treats, are limited and tied to positive behaviors. And there is never any doubt whether or not allowance has been paid. Adam recently spent a few days at his Grandparents. He would not let us leave until we looked to make sure there were no rewards or allowance outstanding!

 

From Adam’s perspective, he loves to take pictures of his completed chores to show us. It makes him feel good to be contributing to the household by being responsible for completing a few age appropriate chores and he is learning the value of saving, whether it is saving allowance or saving stars to redeem rewards.

 
 
 

 

How do you setup a chore schedule (and “payout”) in your house?

 

 

Disclosure: Press post

 

For more information check out their website: Chore-inator.com, twitter @Chore-inator and Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/binaryformations and on iTunes: Chore-inator  iOS app.  .

 

 

 

 

Twitter Party 3/20: Making Screen Time Beneficial #SylvanPlay

One of the top daily struggles I have with my boys is with screen time. Luckily there are many new educational apps and websites to help make that screen time beneficial (a win-win situation!). Please join me (TechMama) and co-host Mike Johnson of PlayGround Dad for a Twitter Party on March 20 from 6-7pm PST. The topics we will discuss includes screen time, finding educational games and apps, how we can empower our kids to learn on digital platforms, helpful resources and more.  The Twitter party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, which has a personal approach to learning including the latest digital tools. I am excited to share that Sylvan Learning just launched a mobile game network for kids (the press release is below).  

 

Sylvan Learning

 

 

#SylvanPlay Making Screen Time Beneficial Twitter Party Details:

 

  • Twitter Party name: Making Screen Time Beneficial
  • Twitter party hashtag #SylvanPlay  ( @SylvanLearning  )
  • Time and date of the event: 6pm PST/9pm EST Thursday March 20
  • Host’s: Mike Johnson (@Playgrounddad) and Beth Blecherman (@TechMama)
  • How to join the party: Follow join in our discussion by sharing tweets with the hashtag #SylvanPlay on Twitter.  Party hosts will share the party questions. 
  • Prize details (optional)– Three $50 iTunes cards will be randomly be awarded to those participating using #SylvanPlay hashtag.
  • Rules: No purchase necessary to participate. A purchase will not improve your chance of winning. Winners will be randomly selected from those who participated during the party and answered at least one question using the Hashtag #SylvanPlay. Winners from the Twitter Party must be 18+ Years of Age and must have a valid USA mailing address and email address to receive the prize.

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Sylvan Learning Launches Mobile Games Network For Kids

SylvanPlayHelps Kids Build Critical Grade-Level Skills Through Fun, Educational Apps

 

BALTIMORE (March 13, 2014) – Is it ok for kids to binge on mobile games? Sylvan thinks so – as long as they are the right ones. But how can parents find games that guarantee their kids’ screen time is actually beneficial? To help take the guesswork out of choosing from the thousands of apps available, Sylvan Learning introduces SylvanPlay – a comprehensive, educational mobile games network for kids in 1st through 4th grade. SylvanPlay provides the best collection of educational games that reinforce grade-appropriate lessons in fun and engaging ways and enhance what kids are already learning in the classroom while on-the-go.

 

Rather than just one individual app, SylvanPlay is launching with a library of eight fun, Sylvan-approved edutainment apps all packaged together in one network. The games, which have been developed to help students build critical skills in reading, math, science, geography, strategic thinking and more, include:

 

  • Critter Cruise (ages 6 – 9): Inspires math and language learning as kids take a landmark filled road trip across North America, filling up their gas tank by correctly answering questions.  This game was developed exclusively for SylvanPlay and aligns to specific grade level content and the Common Core curriculum.
  • Battle Station (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids improve number sense as they defend their ship from enemy submarines by estimating their location using marker buoys. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Angle Asteroids (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids develop an intuition for angles as they position their laser to blast away the incoming asteroids. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Pizza Party (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids master fractions by splitting up the treats at a pizza party with fun tools like the Slice-o-matic. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Sushi Scramble (ages 6 – 9): Develops language skills through a multiplayer word-building game where 2 to 4 players collaborate or compete to “serve” up the most words or longest word.
  • Get Rocky (ages 6 – 9): Inspires an interest in science through a geology-based racing game that takes kids to the core of the earth.
  • Not Lost in the Universe (ages 6 – 9): Kids learn about how wind, the sun, water, and heat create lasting sources of energy while helping the brave explorers on the Planet Blarp refuel their power cells.
  • Wonder Bunny Math Race (ages 3 – 8): Helps younger kids ages 3-8 learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction as they help Wonder Bunny win the race and collect carrots along the way.

 

“Sylvan Learning is focused on providing a personal learning experience using the latest technology to engage and connect with kids,” says Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning. “We developed SylvanPlay as a way to extend the learning that happens in our centers and provide parents and kids with Sylvan-approved games they know will be fun, educational, and grade-appropriate. With SylvanPlay, parents can be confident that their kids are turning game time into brain-building time.”

 

The SylvanPlay network will continue to expand on an on-going basis and the content range will soon be available for kids up to 6th grade.  Additional edutainment apps and subjects will inspire more kids to play anywhere and learn everywhere in new and engaging ways.

 

SylvanPlay is available for both iOS and Android operating systems and offers an assortment of free and paid content ranging from $.99 to $4.99 To download to any mobile device, parents can type in “SylvanPlay” or any of the app titles into the search function of either the Apple App store or Android’s GooglePlay store to locate the educational mobile games network. All apps within the SylvanPlay network are free for current Sylvan Learning customers.

 

“As kids became more comfortable working with technology, Sylvan has moved its curriculum to iPads® with the SylvanSync platform,” continues Fitzgerald. “Sylvan continues to follow what families are doing and adapting the curriculum to the devices they prefer.  Why make parents say “no” to apps and games if we can turn them into educational tools that help their child succeed?”

 

To build the new educational game network, Sylvan Learning partnered with Fingerprint, a global technology company, to leverage its well-established mobile technology platform and proven network model. Now SylvanPlay can provide a fun and safe edutainment hub for kids and parents alike.

 

For more information on SylvanPlay and Sylvan Learning log on to http://www.SylvanLearning.com/resources/SylvanPlay or www.SylvanLearning.com.

 

# # #

 

About Sylvan Learning, Inc.
With more than 30 years of experience and more than 800 locations throughout North America, Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K–12. As the leader in supplemental education, Sylvan is transforming how students learn, inspiring them to succeed in school and in life. Sylvan’s proven tutoring approach blends amazing teachers with SylvanSync™ technology on the iPad® for an engaging learning experience. Sylvan programs include study skills, math, reading, writing and test prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also provides educational services to public and nonpublic schools. The company was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS, or visit www.SylvanLearning.com or Sylvan’s Mom Minded blog at www.SylvanLearning.com/blog.

 

About Fingerprint

Fingerprint is a mobile technology company offering a dynamic technology platform through customer networks. Fingerprint’s enterprise platform solution, with an easy-to-use SDK and curated play-and-learn content from top developers around the world, enables global brands to license and develop customized and localized networks of their own. Fingerprint is funded by leading consumer tech investors including Corus Entertainment and K2MediaLabs. For more information, visit fingerprintplay.com or facebook.com/fingerprintplay.

SylvanPlay and SylvanSync are trademarks of Sylvan Learning

iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

 

Disclosure: The Twitter Party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning.

 

Guest Post by TheGoToMom : Tips for the Post-it Note Obsessed Mom

The following is a guest post by Kimberley Clayton Blaine of TheGoToMom.TV:

 

Visualize a more productive you. Now visualize the Post-it Notes that are all over your desk and cabinets perfectly organized in your phone! The Evernote camera allows you to snap a picture of each note and organize it. Now, here’s the doozie… and don’t get too worked up, but, whatever you write on Post-it Note that’s in your Evernote app is searchable! Yowza! This app has the ability to search even your handwritten notes. And you can also tag your Post-it Notes by color. Because I’m a social media mama, I love to share everything, there’s a share option in the app too, so you can share your Post-it Notes on your platforms. Not that you want to post your grocery list on your blog, but I do post fun inspirational notes if I’ve captured them in the app!

 

 

Easy Ways to Organize with the Post-it Brand and Evernote app:

 

 

1. Keep a Post-it Note list of your main grocery staples

2. Manage expiration dates for food

3. Take notes on Post-it Notes while in meetings, at playgroups or brainstorming sessions with colleagues

4. Keep track of important times lines, dates/deadlines(i.e., blog/book chapter)

5. Keep a line of Inspirational Post-it Note messages for yourself that you can tweet out or share on FB

 

 

 

 

The Post-it Note mode in Evernote  is specially designed to enhance and transform your Post-it Notes into beautiful, digital replicas of all your Post-it Notes.

 

How to capture Post-it Notes using the Post-it Note mode

Write clearly and legibly on a Post-it Note with any type of pen or ink. Then, go through the following steps to capture your Post-it Notes into Evernote:

 

  1. Start the Evernote camera and swipe anywhere in the image capture area to select the Post-it Note mode.
  2. Position the Post-it Note, including the edges, so that it is visible inside the frame
  3. Tap the Snap icon to capture the Post-it Note. You can snap multiple notes one after the other and save it to the same Evernote note.
  4. To preview the captured note(s) first, tap the Image Gallery icon. From here you can select particular pages to keep or discard. To discard a note, tap the Discard icon.

 

 

You can get the Post-it Note Desktop Dispensers co-designed by Post-it Brand and Evernote at the Evernote Market, www.evernote.com/market, and at office supply retailers nationwide. Additionally, Post-it Super Sticky Notes and Post-it Big Pads with a limited-time subscription to Evernote Premium are available nationwide starting today at select Staples retail stores and at Staples.com, OfficeDepot.com, OfficeMax.com and Quill.com.

 

The sheer beauty of this app is it’s clean, streamlined and easy to use. I no longer have three Post-it Notes stuck to my face when I leave the house. All my notes are organized in my phone all in one app and easily accessible.  Yes, my entire home will always have new Post-it Notes reappearing each day – just waiting to be photographed. But hey, that’s what we signed up for right? Motherhood  — The ultimate keeper of the calendar.

 

Since technology will always be a part of our lives, get the free app and simplify your life. Isn’t about time you finally remember the things you like, your favorite websites, research better, organize your business or household better and plan your next relaxing trip? And you can do it all with mom’s new little helper. Evernote. Learn more about Post-it Brand and Evernote by visiting your local office supply store or by visiting Postit.com/Evernote , Post-it Brand on Twitter (@postitproducts ) or Facebook  (http://facebook.com/postit ).

 

Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, MFT, is the executive producer of the online parenting shows www.TheGoToMom.TV and author of The Go-To Mom’s Parents’ Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children and The Internet Mommy. When she’s not chasing her kids, she filming them on her iPhone with ptch.com app.   Disclosure: The Go-To Mom Productions was compensated for the production of this episode/an or blog post by 3M/Post-it Brand. Kimberley Blaine will only promote, endorse and support companies she believes to have the highest standards in products and/or services that contribute to or enhance the well-being of families.

 

 

 

Vilynx – a busy mom’s best friend in managing family videos

**GUEST POST**: Winnie Root is a busy mom trying to balance between chasing after two very active boys and Director of Communications at a fast-paced Silicon Valley-based startup, Vilynx. She was invited to guest post at TechMamas.com to discuss Vilynx, a video management app for busy moms.
_______________________________________________________________
 

Over the winter holidays, we took a couple of weeks and travelled to the mid-west to visit family and friends. It was always such a treat to visit and this year the weather even cooperated. We had the perfect snow to make a snowman and snow angels. The boys even got to sled.  Oh what fun! I could show you snapshots but a video just tells so much more.

 

 

I love family videos. We’d sit and watch family videos for hours on a Friday night. The kids love to see themselves when they were just learning to walk or sitting on a high chair making a big mess. I remember in the old days I used to have to connect my camera to my computer to upload the videos, or physically take out the card and plug in into my computer. That was so last year. These days, I use a mobile app called Vilynx to take, organize and share all my family videos.  I have Vilynx on my Android phone, my iPad, and my Nexus 7. The app allows the users to access their family videos that are stored across devices. When I take a video using Vilynx on my Android phone, I can view it on my iPad, my Nexus 7, on my computer browsers, and even on Google TV! The best part is the videos are stored in the cloud account(s) of my choice, automatically. I no longer have to worry about losing my videos or maxing out the storage on my phone.

 

 

The 5-second summary display makes it so much easier to find a particular video. The traditional thumbnail view from my film strip doesn’t always tell me what the videos contain. The Vilynx summary technology solves this problem I had.

 

 

There is also the sharing option which we all can’t live without these days. I can share my videos easily via email or on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the same 5-second summary format as well as sharing the entire video.

 

 

 

 

 

Vilynx works on my browsers which makes it so easy to insert videos on my blog. I can now simply go to the share option on the web app, copy the iframe and paste it onto my blog. Again, the same 5-second summary format appears. See a tutorial here. If you use WordPress, you’ll have to install the iFrame Widget first.

 

As a mom, I find myself taking more and more videos. Vilynx has been a great way to capture those precious memories.

 
Disclosure: This is a guest post/ press update. This is NOT a sponsored post.
 

 

RedRover Expands To Local Event Listing Streams

Red Rover appWhen I hear of apps and websites that make parents lives easier, I always love to share the details. I just received the press release for a new feature the site RedRover. RedRover offers a fun and social way to search for local activities.  The press release explained “RedRover users follow event listing streams from their favorite places or brands  — kind of like Twitter, but for time-based activities.  The mobile app and website then give the user the ability to sort by date, distance, age groups and categories. The result is a swift and pain-free decision-helper.” I look forward to checking it out and will share more details soon as it comes to San Francisco. RedRover’s Founder and CEO, Kathryn Tucker, shared information about Founding a startup as a single mom on Huffington Post Parents. RedRover currently covers New York City and will be expanding to other cities soon.

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE:

RedRover Introduces Brand New Service So Families Can Have More Fun

 

NEW YORK (March 8th, 2013) – Today RedRover launches a revolutionary new platform to make parents’ lives easier and more fun. Offering parents a new and truly innovative way to discover the things going on in their town that are just right for them, RedRover has broken new ground in social software by launching a unique and clever platform into a demographic long underserved by innovative software.

 

RedRover users follow event listing streams from their favorite places or brands  — kind of like Twitter, but for time-based activities.  The mobile app and website then give the user the ability to sort by date, distance, age groups and categories. The result is a swift and pain-free decision-helper.

 

“Parents lives are hard enough,” says Kathryn Tucker, RedRover’s Founder and CEO, and mother of two. “I wanted to build a service that eases the burden around trying to figure out what to do — there is too much information out there and no easy way to reduce it to just what’s right for me. My goal is to find the easiest way to connect parents with the kind of high quality, fun events they are looking for.”

 

Partners like The American Museum of Natural History, 92Y, and the New York Public Library were quick to sign on. Tucker reached out to more than 200 institutions nationwide and was met with a warm reception. “These non-profits, which have wonderful programming for kids, saw the point of RedRover immediately. The inefficiency of search for parents has kept traffic from their doors. It took no time for them to see the value of a service which consolidates all the available choices and suggests events to the people most likely to enjoy them.”

 

From the New Victory Theater and Central Park in NYC, to the Denver Zoo, The Pennsylvania Ballet, The Bay Area Discovery Museum, The International Spy Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art, RedRover is filled with high quality kid-friendly things to do. Museums, libraries, sports teams, film festivals, farmer’s markets, and nature centers are all publishers on the platform.

 

RedRover partners have the opportunity to publish events in real time and color their event listings with descriptions, photos, directions, and even offers the ability to buy tickets. RedRover gives partners, venues and marketers, a brand new mobile way to reach their customers.

 

“The New York Public Library is proud to be a founding content provider of RedRover. RedRover will promote the diversity of programs available to parents and children, and the Library is excited to share the thousands of free family and educational programs offered by the Library throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island,” said Johannes Neuer, NYPL’s Associate Director of Marketing.

 

RedRover is available on iPhone and iPad as well as on the web at https://redrover.co.

 

The new platform is launching first in New York City with plans to launch in Atlanta, San Francisco, and across the country in the coming weeks.

 

CES 2013: 5 Tech Trends That Will Simply & Automate Busy Life of Any Mom


Attending this year’s 2013 CES helped me conclude that there is hope for my house and my exercise routine to become even more efficient and enjoyable. In the past, companies would showcase their products with a general message of “here’s this new high tech thingy”. This year the messages focused more on value, communicating “here is how you can simplify your life by using this new technology”.  I have been waiting to hear the word simplify for years. If new tech adds any additional steps to my daily routine, then it does not fit into my busy life as a mom. But if it helps streamline and automate any of the processes I do each day – then that is technology I will embrace in a heartbeat. I will be covering my picks for CES 2013 top trends over the next few weeks. Here are some of the top tech trends from CES that will simplify (and automate) the life of any mom.

 

 

1. Mobile Health Tech:   Fitbit, Fitbug, iBitz and Withings (to name a few) offer activity, sleep, medical and weight management information automation as well as environmental feedback (i.e. The Withings scale also measures indoor air quality). Utilizing mobile health tech will help me get the information I need for weight and health management from mobile devices so I can just incorporate it into my day.

 

DSC05149_zps9b4166d8

 

 

2. Home Monitoring (from your smartphone!): Dropcam is a HD Wi-Fi monitoring video camera that not only remotely captures and monitors activities in a whole room, but also can send alerts for movement or loud noises.

 

 

 

3. Mobile Home Lighting Control:  The Belkin WeMo line has a new internet connected  Light Switch that remotely controls household lighting from the internet via a WiFi router and an iOS device (v5 or higher). Android 4.0 device (or higher) compatibility will be enabled “shortly after launch”.

 

 

DSC05111_zps2076670e

 

 

4. Streamlined and Connected Kitchen:  Smart Appliances were a top trend at CES 2013. At the Whirlpool booth I saw kitchen concepts that could help me automate some of my key daily challenges. Fresh Connect from Whirlpool would allow me to reorganize the way I store and shop for food by grouping foods that need to be stored in similar temperatures together and automating my shopping with mobile apps and home delivery to my front door.
freshconnect_small

 

 

Whirlpool Appliances with 6th Sense Live will allow me to manage my appliances remotely (such as a refrigerator’s temperature or when a wash cycle is done) and because it would be connected to the Smart Grid I could save energy costs by tracking my usage and remotely running wash cycles at “off peak” times.
washer_small

 

Two concepts adding new functions to appliances would be the Whirlpool Cool Vox that streams music or podcasts through the refrigerator directly from a Bluetooth-enabled device and The Fireplace concept that could turn the family kitchen table into a social “Fireplace” that also warms food or keeps it cool.

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVox small

Whirlpool Fireplace Concept small

 

 

5. Home Information AutomationAbout One is an online tool/app that utilizes the existing calender and contacts to not only organize household information (inventory management, school info, medical info etc) but also offers “ reporting, alerts and private sharing”. New announcements at CES 2013 include partnerships with Swagbucks for gamification real world rewards and Working Mother  to “gather product feedback from Working Mother readers, who will then be alerted when their requested product updates have been implemented”.

 

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

HP Envy 23 Touchsmart AiO – Fun With Apps

In my last HP Envy 23 TouchSmart All in One post I did the unboxing showing how easy it was to set up. As we started using it over the next few weeks, our family fell in love with having such an amazing touch screen computer in the family room. Of course I could not wait to take a look at the Windows 8 store to personalize my start up screen with Windows 8 apps.  Luckily the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart AiO comes with some basic Windows 8 apps loaded but there are many you can add depending on what your interests are. Some of the apps I installed are music apps including I heart Radio and Slacker Radio (rocking out thanks to the HP Beats Audio), games including Angry Birds Space, puzzles and even archery , watching movies on apps such as Netflix, search such as Bing, Educational apps such as Kahn Academy, news apps such as News Bento,  Reading books with apps such as Kindle. recipe apps such as Foodily and many apps to create content and communication.

 

 

In the video below I discussed some of the Windows 8 apps I was able to use because of the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart’s high resolution screen, 10 point touch, Beats Audio speakers and processing power that makes those Angry Birds fly. Or at least I would like to think that it is my Angry Birds skill that makes them fly!

 

 

My next fun projects to test out will be the camera app to make videos, photo apps to edit photos and using the Skype app with the HP TrueVision HD Webcam to video chat with the grandparents.  I was having so much fun I forgot about loading my social networking apps to take advantage of the people hub and calender apps.

 

Have you tried Windows 8 apps on a touchscreen yet? If so – which ones do you like? I am looking for new apps to play with on my HP Envy 23 Touchsmart All in One!

 

 

***Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a program on behalf of HP and received an ENVY 23 TouchSmart AiO as a thank you for participation. All my words are my own.

 

 

 

Holiday Shopping Strategy: Black Friday, Cyber Monday – Take It Easy!

It is Thanksgiving day and while many are settling into a day of socializing and eating – there are also those that are preparing to shop for holiday deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

 

This time of the year I like to remind my readers that the holiday deals will be going on throughout the holiday season (and into New Years – where the deals are very good). Choose the holiday first, choose to socialize or just relax with family and friends. If you want to shop, realize that there are both deals at the stores and online. Here are TechMama’s Tips for shopping this holiday season:

 

Last year I tracked the pricing and realized that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the only days to get deals – I found the best deals around New Years and beyond. For holiday gifts I wrote an “IOU” for a gaming entertainment center, which allowed me to wait until I found the right price without rushing to get it before the holiday.

 

  • FIRST FIGURE OUT WHAT TECH YOU NEED: In my book “My Parent Plan” I talk about using professional project planning techniques for making a plan for your family. One area I mention in this book is the process of defining your families needs. This is very important when it comes to technology shopping. So DON’T just buy the cheapest computer, TV, tablet or other tech devices – buy what you need and fits your workflow.  For example, If you are looking for a smartphone, don’t just buy one that all your friends have – buy one that has the features you need and that you find easy to use on the go. If you are buying a TV, realize that you will probably want to connect to the internet so consider getting a smart TV.  If you want to get your child a tablet and see one on sale – it is important to first decide what features you need in a tablet not only this year but moving forward. If they are young, then children’s tablets are a great fit for the parental controls and child friendly apps that are included. But my 9 year olds are beyond using a tablet as a toy, they need one that they can read eBooks, listen to audio books and do other things that standard tablets offer. If you see a computer on sale, check to make sure it has the features you not only need now – but one that you can use for a few years.  At the same time, don’t be enticed by what is the “coolest gadget” when really you just need a more functional device.

 

 

  • Inspire your kids to learn the meaning of giving by putting some of that holiday money into charities such as Red Cross. Or look towards the future and give the gift of investing in a college fund for your children (and tell family to do that as well). I found more ideas in a Mashable post about 12 Holiday Gifts that Give Back (such as Blanket America).

 

 

 

I will be posting with the same “holiday sale” image throughout the weekend (in tech shopping) with some of the press releases I received with holiday tech deals. So check back to this post for a summary after the weekend is over.

 

Are you Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping or socializing this Thanksgiving weekend?

 

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. It is just my personal advice to hopefully inspire people to choose a shopping strategy that allows them to enjoy the weekend as well!

 

 

 

Top Tips For KidTech App’s To Pitch Parent Bloggers

On Nov. 7,  I was thrilled to speak at a KidTech Meetup organized and moderated by Chandini Ammineni , Co-Founder of Activity Hero, to discuss how Kid Tech startups can get in front of their target audience. Speakers included @iRewardChart, @sareosenblatt, and @mike_greenfield at @500Startups in Mountain View. I gave the perspective as a family tech blogger, contributor to tech websites and social media entrepreneur on how KidTech websites/app companies should reach out to parent bloggers.  While I could discuss this subject for hours, the tips below relate directly to the panel discussion and questions I received after.

 

1. IDENTIFY PARENT BLOGGERS: The first step is to identify the parent bloggers who cover your niche or whose audience is your target market. Read their blogs to make sure their writing style fits the type of coverage you desire with your target market. Understand that there are not only general parent bloggers covering parenting issues but also parent bloggers focusing on a niche such as travel, tech, fashion, education and many others. Sites such as CoolMomPicks and CoolMomTech.com have readers that come to the site specifically to shop. Some of the other sites I write for, such as Mashable Lifestyle and LaptopMag – also have an audience of parents that visits the site to get information to help make technology decisions (as well as sites such as CNET that will have reviews showcased at Target and many other tech review sites). There are a great group of tech moms that blog – which I will  cover in another post (and conferences such as the MamaBear and MommyTechCES).

 

Then there are also big parenting community websites such as BlogHerMoms (and BlogHer conference)  , Blogalicious (site and conference),  MomBlogMag, Blissfully Domestic (and conferences), Go MightyType A Parent (site and conference), Project You Mag, Mom it Forward (site and conference), 5 Minutes For Mom, 5 Minutes For Special Needs,   Mom 2.0 and even Dad 2.0!.  There are parenting sites that focus on niches such as Travelingmom for travel, ShutterSisters for photographers, MomPulse for Video,  Getting Gorgeous, Mom Trends and Working Closet for Fashion, MakerMom for STEM, Mamavation and Pure Natural Diva for healthy living, Mouthy Housewives for humor,  Blue Star Family for Military lifestyle, tons of food bloggers,  TeachMama that has an education focus and TheGoToMom for raising emotionally healthy kids.  There are also numerous other parenting sites such as Babble, BabyCenter, Circle of Moms , Cafe Mom and conferences.

 

I told the group that it is important to look not only look at the big sites, but also at the smaller parenting bloggers (such as Project Underblog)  with highly engaged and committed audiences. I will be creating a post by next week starting a list of local SF Bay Area bloggers (and other local bloggers). Audience engagement is a key attribute to consider when picking bloggers to pitch.

 

2. ANALYZE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS OF YOUR TARGET MARKET:  The next step is to decide on the social media platforms your target market uses and identify bloggers that have channels on those platforms. For example,  I explained to the panel audience that many early adopters and social media savvy parents I know are on Twitter, Google+ , Instagram, Pinterest and others. But many of my “in real life” school parents use Facebook, parenting community websites and email groups to get their information. All of the parents I know use search engines and blogs for information – sometimes as their first source when investigating a site or product. Parents also use category searches in the app stores and sites that offer app reviews. Videos are also a big source of information for many parents, especially because their kids use YouTube as their source of information. Lastly, niche sites such as Pinterest offer ways for parents to get a visual representation of information.

 

3. DECIDE ON IF IT IS A PRESS PITCH OR SERVICE PITCH:

I explained to the panel audience that a press pitch is one where you are providing information about your product to the parent blogger. While it is appropriate to ask them if they are interested in reviewing the app, product or website – there can be no request for what they will say or when they will post. A press pitch is simply providing your press release related information to the blogger – and if they feel it is relevant for their audience, they will cover it. You should never “pay” for press coverage, but in return there is no responsibility for the blogger to cover the product. But press coverage is very influential for parents when the blogger is giving their honest perspective on the product.

 

I created TechMamas.com and @TechMama on Twitter to have an authentic conversation about family technology apps, products and websites. When I post about a press release, it is because the topic is valuable to my readers. For a blog to be successful, above all else, they always need to consider what their readers want to see. At the same time, many parent bloggers are flooded with great information, so it is hard to share it all. Because of that, it is  important to refine your “pitch” before you send it (which I will discuss on point 4).

 

A service pitch is when you would like a service (that should be “paid”) such as having the blogger participate in a paid campaign, load ads on their website, host a Twitter party, giveaway, live event or early product test. For example, I am frequently hired to run Twitter Parties where we discuss a specific topic with other co-hosts “related” to the product (and use the product hashtag). Sponsoring a giveaway on a blog is also an effective outreach strategy.  Having a “list of top xyz bloggers” contest where you make people go out and get votes to be in the top list is not a good outreach strategy (and will not engage the influential bloggers). It is better to hire a blogger to help with the contest and develop “editors top picks”, then leave it open to also have people nominate other names to be added on the list. Overall, providing services is something that bloggers should be paid for. Bloggers need to disclose any “sponsored” relationships (and this disclosure per FTC should be part of any contractual agreements). I created a consulting “service” specifically to help companies beta test products in advance of general product availability because of my background reviewing  many products that launched with problems that could have been resolved in early beta testing.

 

Along with hiring bloggers for campaigns (or ads) on their websites, you can hire bloggers to create content (written, photo or video) on your website. It is valuable to hire a blogger to create content or assist with social media because they understand how to reach out to their audience and they already have an engaged community. There is nothing that brings life, social interaction and discussion to a company website like having a blog and social media channel “conversations”.  There are also agencies that have large networks of bloggers for social media campaigns (including BlogHer or Clever Girls Collective).  The key is that the paid blogger campaigns should not be just a “sales pitch” – no one wants to read a sales pitch. Blogger campaigns need to have “authentic” content including experiences that your target audience can relate to.

 

4. REFINE YOUR PITCH BEFORE YOU SEND AN EMAIL:

 

Parent bloggers receive many emails each day and are time constrained. Before you send an email, refine your pitch. Give the same consideration to emails sent to parent bloggers that you give to the elevator pitch used to raise investor funding. Start with an authentic greeting, don’t say “I have been reading your blog and love it” unless your really mean it. Also, it is important to use the name of the blogger on any correspondence instead of “Dear blogger”. I even received a pitch once that had just “Dear ” with no name!

 

After the greeting, you have the first paragraph to make the sale for why they should read on. Include the app, site or product name, URL (including links to apps stores if relevant) and a very concise statement of what it does. Then explain the key features, the value proposition and what is so compelling about your product/app/website that the blogger’s audience will be interested to read about it. After that – It is always nice to give some of the story behind the product, app or site – especially if you are a fellow parent that found inspiration for the product from your life as a parent. Include images they can use for posting and your contact information if they have  questions. Make sure to use a subject title in the email that will grab their attention.

 

Here is an example of a recent pitch email I received about a new website geared towards parents. This is not the only format to use (there are many). But what I liked about it is that it was short, to the point, had a clear explanation of what the site does, included their contact info, press release and high resolution image to use. Best of all – they created a blog post on their site with more information (and included the URL).

 

Great “press” pitch example:

Hi Beth,
(asked how I was doing, said they like how my blog is family +tech and then said that they appreciate that I stay up to date with the trends etc).  I thought you may be interested in our new site called (website name). (Then they includedexplanation of what the site doesand what makes it special etch). I’ve included some more info below, and there’s also a blog post here about the launch (link to post URL). (then they said they would love to share more information about it – and gave their contact info).

Next – they listed the press release and included high resolution images I could use to post.

 

 **No need to mention that they liked my blog, but the way they did it was authentic so it worked for me.

 

Bad Pitch Example -  At the same time, I got this pitch:

Dear fabulous blogger,
We know PR people sometimes drive you nut (they went on to ask me to take a survey etc for the “chance” of winning a gift basket)..

 

 

All I can say – is yes, sometimes PR people drives us nuts. But in the end, bloggers want to build real relationships with brands/businesses. So we appreciate the “good pitches”.

 

4. PITCHING TO BIG WEBSITES:
While I have a personal blog, TechMamas.com, where I share my “personal” perspective, I also have contributed to several sites, including CoolMomTech, Mashable and LaptopMag.  It is important to understand that the editors of the bigger websites decide what their contributors will  cover. It is important to go through the proper channels to pitch to the editor (or “info” email if relevant).  Posts on the big sites also go through an editing process which means that not everything the contributor puts into the post makes it to the final post. Like everyone else, the editors also need to cultivate material relevant to their readers. And for contributors to stay valuable to a website, they also need to put their “readers” first at all time and create content they want to read.

 

Do you have any tips or experiences to share about pitching to parent bloggers? If so, please comment below!

 

 

TechMamas.com is a website that curates the best of family technology and social media. Beth Blecherman’s new book “My Parent Plan” is up on Amazon with the ebook version out in mid November. Beth consults with start-ups and businesses to assist with beta testing family tech products, websites and apps.