Share Your Healthy Habits And Help The Children’s Health Fund

See bottom of this post for disclosure (*paid campaign*).

As a working mom with three young sons, keeping the house clean is a big challenge. It sounds so “1950’s mom in an apron” to say that –  but seriously I have THREE ACTIVE BOYS (12 year old tween and twin 8 year olds). Even though we clean the house thoroughly every week, one hour later our  bedrooms and bathrooms do are back to their “wind storm passed through here” look. When asked, my boys will help neaten their room, clear their plates from the table and pick up their school and sports junk from the front door– but  I need to remind them. And remind them. And remind them.

If I don’t remind them,  I am stepping over nerf guns, lego pieces, trails of clothing and food wrappers that never made it to the garbage can. This is quite a change from my pre-kid years as a Senior Manager at a top tier consulting firm where my project teams worked together like a well-oiled machine, and never left half-eaten cheese sticks melting on the TV.  I can’t seem to get that same pace going at my own home.

When I was contacted to participate in a program that the Children’s Health Fund and Clorox partnered with called “Check-in for Checkups” by sharing a healthy habit, I saw a great opportunity to  engage my sons in cleaning chores. Why not encourage this behavior during the summer, while school is out and their schedule is more relaxed, with the goal of continuing these chores when school starts up again this fall?

The end goal is for my boys to be able to manage cleaning their own dorm room or apartment when they are out on their own.

Just thinking back to what some of the boy’s dorm rooms and apartments looked like when I was in college, I began fantasizing that my kids would avoid this rat-trap, health hazard phase of early adulthood. I imagined telling my three boys that women like a man who knows how to clean up after himself. Yes, the rewards for clean habits start young and continue as you get older. I’ll tell you all about their progress in the next blog post.

The Check-ins For Checkups Program

My role in this effort is to check-in with my healthy habit (engaging my three boys with cleaning) and to share information about the Check-in for Checkups program with my communities. Clorox and CHF are working to encourage healthy habits and help provide health care to disadvantaged children. This is the second year CHF and Clorox are partnering and this year’s program is called Check-in for Checkups.  For each check-in, Clorox will donate 10 cents, up to $100,000, to CHF to help support their goal of providing half a million health care visits to children in need across the country.

When you check-in your healthy habit, you are not only helping yourself, but also the lives of others. The more you check-in, the more you give back to disadvantaged children across the country. This issue is of the utmost importance since one in five children in the U.S. live in poverty and millions of children don’t have access to regular check-ups and timely health care visits when sick.

How to particpate in Check-in for Checkups:

Join me as I regularly share my healthy habit updates at the website Check-in for Checkups and check-in your healthy habit. I will also be spreading the word on Facebook and on Twitter using the #Checkinforcheckups hashtag.

Here is some information I recieved about Children’s Health Fund from their website:

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Are Kids Search Engine Savvy? – 2009 Edition

This morning I read an article in the New York Times titled: Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet written by Stefanie Olsen. The article discusses that online searches are still challenging for kids even though there are many choices available such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and many others. Some of the challenges identified were the children finding the right keywords to use for the search.

User content sites like Wikipedia are also helpful but parents should get involved to make sure results are valid. Yahoo also has a website for kids called Yahoo Kids. allows the user to input a question such as “What are the names of the US Presidents” then an answer is returned. Common Sense Media has a section with website reviews by age.

This made me think back to my post from 2008 titled “Are Kids Search Engine Savvy?” where I included links to some kid friendly sites. In that post I had found a site called “Kid Safe Search sites” that had a site made by Librarians called “Kids Click“.

To solve this challenge, maybe the search engine sites should hire Librarians, parents and kids to show their needs and have that reflected in the programming for the search engines. True to the points made in the New York Times article about children searching on the Internet, my 5th grader starts with image and video searchs and even has “voice” activation working on his MACbook – so the future needs of search should include a multi-platform approach. Bing’s Visual search, Google’s multiple search options and Yahoo’s advance video searches are good examples.

I will start to look at other new kid friendly sites as well to update my 2008 post. More to come..


The Magic Behind PBS Super Why

PK_GIRL_MED_C The website was the first place my 6 year old twins went on the Internet (and the first URL they memorized). It worked well with my Internet filter because I can add the whole PBS Kids website as approved because it is safe. PBS was also the first channel my kids watched on TV. I was happy that educational shows were available that met the changing needs of my kids. When my Kinder twin boys were in preschool, they enjoyed watching Super Why. My twin boys enjoyed the superhero characters and engaging storyline. I was happy that pre-reading skills were worked into the story in a way that made learning fun. Because they are engaged in Super Why already, it was easier to engage them in the Super Why summer Right On Read-a-thon for summer reading practice.

The Super Why area of the PBS website has a section for parents and teachers with the mission of the site being "the mission of this site is to help kids learn key reading skills,
including alphabet, word families, spelling and reading comprehension,
through interactive online games, activities and more

But what I did not realize is how much thought went into building learning
into the stories until I went to a Silicon Valley Moms Group event in
June that took me behind the scenes. SUPER WHY Creator and Executive Producer Angela C. Santomero and Lesli Rotenberg, PBS' Senior Vice President of Children's Media spoke to the group about the show. 

The following are my own liveblog notes that I took. I tried to type as fast as possible because it was so interesting, so some of this may be re-phrasing:

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DEMO09 – SmartyCard “Educational” Online Gaming

There are so many different online gaming and virtual worlds available, that many parents are confused about which sites are safe. Taking it to the next level, if the site is safe in regards to content – the next issue is if the website is just "sugar" and addicting with no learning experiences involved. As parents, how do we allow our children to have some screen time that is just fun but also provide some with learning experiences? And if we find that solution, how do we get our kids to buy in?

My solution for my 6 year old twin boys seems easier then for my 10 year son. For my twins, they enjoy spending time on educational websites for their "screen" time.  So while I have been able to engage my 6 year olds in educational websites, I have not been able to with my ten year old. He is very bright but feels that after he goes to school, does homework and outside sports then he is done for the day. He does not want to do additional activities that may be deemed *gasp* learning activities other then reading (which he loves).

The issue was that my fourth grade son (like most students) needs practice with math facts and other areas outside of schoolwork. My problem was that the "nagging" was not working. Paper workbooks and some of the educational sites for older kids did not engage him. I had a point system but was not consistent in carrying it out. My ten year old has limits on his screen time, but when he does have a few moments – he goes to game sites that have the word "addicting" in the name.

**Enter my opportunity to test out the beta of an online (educational) gaming site called SmaryCard for 3 – 6 graders**

I was given the opportunity to log onto the beta website for SmartyCard before heading to DEMO09 (where they were launching). So I decided to give the site the ultimate test and see if my rebel 10 year old son would engage.

Here is a the explanation of SmartyCard from their website:

"SmartyCard provides children grades 3-through-6 with bite-sized learning
activities in subjects such as reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Children earn
points that can be redeemed for their favorite play time rewards – toys, DVDs, video games,
books, iTunes downloads, Club Penguin™ and other virtual world subscriptions, and much more.

SmartyCard offers child-friendly, parent-approved learning activities available
from some of the world's most respected and popular education content providers, including, LearnStar and Ignite Learning
. "

During my testing on one Sunday afternoon when my 10 year old was
allowed to have his screen time – he was using to
practice *gasp* math and spelling, excited to be earning points.

Here is an interview with Chris Carvalho, General Manager of SmartyCard (and father of 3 boys!)using my Flip Mino:

Children can only sign up after their parents sign up and "activate" them. The point system is applied to the educational games – after the child gets 7 out of 10 right – they earn a specific amount of points based on the level of difficulty of the question. Hints and input are given to help the child learn as the go. Points are listed on the left side of the screen so children and parents can keep track of progress. Parent account has "Fund My Child's Account" – Add points, Change acct settings and buy a smarty card. From parent account you view "play history" and "purchase history" for all of your kid's accounts.

Children can only buy items if Parents have entered their credit card information into the account, and emails are sent after every purchase. SmartyCard vetted the list of reward items offered and the website is COPPA compliant. There is no cost to register and try out SmartyCard but unfunded accounts have limited access library of learning activities, and points earned with unfunded accounts cannot be redeemed for rewards. Points can be added to a free account for as little as $10.

If kids try to "game" the system and fake their parents email address
for signup – then they won't have access to redeem points (because no
credit card information would be entered). 

The first question I had was "why should I give my child points that they can redeem for items to play an online game"? After I used SmartyCard, I realized that the points were providing the incentive for my son to participate in supplemental education. Because I already had a point system and my son was able to save up for things like iTunes cards or a RipStiK (which they happen to have in their reward list already) – I realized this would fit in with our current incentive program. Best yet, I was so frustrated trying to redeem iTunes cards – that just providing easy access to redeem those was a plus for me in itself!

Every family has different needs, but I found that the digital world is here to stay. Children interact with media rich environments on a daily basis – and it has become part of how their interact socially. I am a big supporter of parents educating themselves and their children on the digital world, make educated decisions for how and what websites your children interact with – then have fun. SmartyCard falls in the supplemental education, incentive and "have fun" boxes for me. I also appreciate the graphic rich environment that adds to the experience.

Listed below are some screen shots from SmartyCard and a link to the press release:

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