Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 23 2012

12:30

4 Elements: Incredibly Fun Puzzle Game For Kids [Giveaway]

If you’ve ever wanted the perfect game to entertain a child for hours on end, it’s time you took a look at 4 Elements. The casual game by Playrix is both incredibly easy to play and strangely addictive for kids and adults alike. There’s a grand storyline, which pulls together the different puzzles of the game into a cohesive whole, but at the core of 4 Elements is an incredibly addictive casual game. This is what you spend the most time playing and what will keep you coming back for more.

We’re giving away free copies of 4 Elements to lucky readers this week valued at $500 (it normally retails at $19.95 for the premium PC/Mac version). So, find out more about the game by reading this article and head to the bottom of the post for details on how to enter the giveaway.

The Story Of 4 Elements

The story behind 4 Elements itself is very kid-friendly: There’s a kingdom in trouble because the magic four elements have been corrupted by an evil force. You need to restore the kingdom to glory by unlocking four ancient books of magic and collecting 16 cards. But that’s just the story that keeps it all together – there’s so much more to it.

Playing 4 Elements

The four ancient books divide up the four stages of difficulty in the game. There are four cards to be found within each stage and these have a matching game to be played for each of them. There are also times where you need to play a mini-game searching for objects in a room in order to progress.

The most memorable part of 4 Elements is in the main game, where a very simple idea gets progressively more difficult and frustrating. The aim is for you create a path for lava to get through to a shrine. You do this by connecting up matching elements in lines and dislodging the dirt in the way. It progresses to layers of dirt, stone and ice blocking the path and helps you by adding tools like arrows, spades and bombs to help clear the way. It’s so simple – just keep matching elements in lines. And yet, you’ll eventually hit a snag and realise that you can’t just stop there. You have to just finish this bit…

Check out this video of 4 Elements in action to really get a feel for it.

Kids Will Love 4 Elements – And So Will You!

The graphics in 4 Elements are quite detailed at times and really work to pull the main story of the game back into the foreground. Kids will love the fantasy characters and beautiful introduction.

As the game is simple to start, it’s easy to get kids playing by themselves. A friendly fairy will introduce the player to each new tool and difficulty as they become relevant, so players gradually come to know more about the game and get better at it. It’s a game which can be played by kids who don’t have a lot of co-ordination yet and who aren’t yet very good at games – and it will help them to get better! It takes quite a bit of playing before the time-limit becomes a problem for even the slowest player.

The 4 Elements game is available in multiple formats for a variety of operating systems and also online.

We’re giving away 25 copies of 4 Elements for both Windows and Mac platforms. Join the giveaway to be in the running to win one!

How do I win a copy?

Step 1: Fill in the giveaway form

Please fill in the form with your real name and email address so that we can get in touch if you are chosen as a winner.

The giveaway code required to activate the form is available from our Facebook page, Twitter stream and Google+ page.
 

Fill out my online form.

Step 2: Share!

You’re almost done. Now, all that’s left to do is to share the post!

Like it

Tweet it

+1 on Google


(Note: no points will be awarded.)

Alternative entry method: Use your points!

Exchange your MakeUseOf points for an entry into the competition. First, create a MakeUseOf account, earn points and exchange your points for an entry! Learn more about our Game system and Rewards program.

To exchange your points for quick entry, you must be logged in

By participating in this giveaway, you agree to the giveaway rules.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, August 31st. The winners will be selected at random and informed via email.

Spread the word to your friends and have fun!

Interested in sponsoring a giveaway? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.


August 03 2012

20:00

PlayTales App Teaches Your Kids To Love Books With Interactive Kids Stories

interactive kids storiesIf you’re a parent, you’ve probably wondered about what sorts of tools and interactive apps are available that can help you teach your child to love reading. Well, if so, here’s an app you can’t miss. A new application called PlayTales aims to instill a love of books in pre-schoolers and early readers by offering interactive versions of books for them to enjoy.

The combination of interactivity and storytelling works well to intrigue and entertain the kids, while teaching them that reading stories can be lots of fun. It’s been developed with the help of numerous parents, teachers and willing child play-testers. Plus, it’s free, so take a closer look!

Get PlayTales Free On Most Platforms

Download your copy of PlayTales for free for the Android phone, Windows phone, iPhone or iPad. They also intend to offer a browser-based flash version in the future.

interactive kids stories

You’ll receive two free books to get you started, and there are a few titles available for free, then books will mostly cost you up to $2 from then on. You can preview demos of the “New And Noteworthy” books before deciding to buy them. If you add yourself to the PlayTales mailing list via the website, you will be entitled to another free book.

Check out their intro video to see how it works.

About The Books

At the moment, the PlayTales collection has over 40 books for kids aged between 1-8, with new stories being added weekly. The collection has all sorts of titles, ranging from traditional tales to new releases. All users of PlayTales can rate the books as they read them, helping to build the list of the most popular books available.

interactive kids stories free

Books are offered in up to seven languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese.

The design and illustrations in the books are both beautiful and interesting to kids. Some books offer cartoon-like characters drawn with simple lines and big eyes, while others are drawn with a more detailed style. Each book has an original musical soundtrack added to complete the experience.

interactive kids stories free

The bookshelf is enticing and allows for the option of autoplay, thus helping little kids who aren’t so great with using the controls just yet. It’s the perfect way to keep a child entertained for a short while.

When reading the books, kids can choose to read the book themselves or have it read to them. This is great for kids who aren’t quite ready to read the books alone – and even better for those who are.

interactive kids stories

Some of the books include games as part of the interactivity, such as jigsaw puzzles and colouring-in. There’s a lot of things to keep your kids interested in the story.

More Reading

Check out these articles for more fun ideas for your children:

What do you like about the PlayTales books? What else would you like to see them do?


July 27 2012

20:00

How To Build Your Own Baby Monitor

If you’re a recent parent, you’ve probably considered getting some sort of baby monitor. You possibly considered the utility of a video monitor and then you may or may not have balked at the exorbitant price tags they come with. If you choose not to pay for such an expensive item, yet still like the idea of having a video monitor for your baby or pet, then this article is for you.

There are dozens of great ways to set up a baby monitor using webcams, old computers and a bit of geek know-how. We’ll go through the simplest method in detail, then give you some other ideas you can use to fuel your creativity if you prefer.

The Skype Baby Monitor

The Skype baby monitor is very easy to set up and only relies on you having a spare webcam, preferably with a microphone inside, and an old computer handy. If you have an old laptop or a Mac mini lying around these would be ideal.

Firstly, on whatever computer you like, set up a Skype account for your baby. You’ll need to make sure it’s kept as private as possible and that the following things are set up for their account.

  • Add yourself and other close relatives as a contact.
  • Video Set-Up tab: Enable Skype video, set to start video automatically and to automatically receive video calls from people in your contact list.
  • Calls tab: Set to auto-answer calls.
  • Privacy tab: Limit calls and chats to only people in your contact list.

In the baby’s room, set up your computer and start Skype, logging in as the baby, and check that any on-board sound has been muted. Adjust the webcam so that the baby can be seen and heard easily by the caller. Ensure any relatives who require access have added the baby as a Skype contact and vice-versa.

This set-up means that you can leave your Skype baby monitor on and only the relatives in the contact list can call. These relatives will instantly get a video feed of the baby whenever they call.

Note that because you can use Skype these days on mobile phones and tablets this option is extremely versatile. You could easily keep an eye on the baby while you’re in the kitchen or the shed getting something useful done. Also, if one parent is away for business this could be a neat way of checking in on occasion.

Other Baby Monitor Ideas

Of course, if you have the old webcam and computer lying about, there are many other ways you can set up a baby monitor depending on your budget, needs, patience and geek skills. Here’s a few more ideas:

  • Set up a Google+ account and try using Google Hangouts similarly to the Skype method. Note: This account could get deleted if Google found out.
  • Get a webcam which doesn’t need to be attached to a computer and connect it directly to your wireless network. If you use a dedicated router for your baby monitor you’ll be able to take this with you when you visit friends and family.
  • Leave an old mobile phone near your baby’s crib. Set it to be on mute and speaker-phone so it picks up baby noises but won’t wake them up. Call the old mobile phone from your current phone whenever you want to check in.
  • You could also set up a baby monitor quickly using your iPhone as the camera with Air Cam Live Video Lite for iPhone and the corresponding software for your desktop.

More Baby Articles

If you’re browsing for cool tips for your baby, check out these articles:

What’s your favourite idea for a baby monitor using regular hardware you already own? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


April 29 2012

23:30

At What Age Should Children Own A Smartphone? [MakeUseOf Poll]

Last week we asked you which mobile OS you’re currently using. Aside from learning about the different OSs MakeUseOf readers use, we were also curious to find out which mobile OS is the most popular among our readers? Curious too? Keep reading!

Out of 593 voters, 1% use Samsung Bada, 2% use Blackberry OS, 6.5% use Windows Phone, 8% use Nokia Symbian, 24% use iOS, and the winner by a far margin is Android, with 53%. 4% use none of the above, and 1.5% don’t own a phone.

Full results and this week’s poll after the jump.

Expecting the results to be much closer, we were surprised by Android’s significant lead. While it’s only about 600 voters, it seems that Android is by far the more popular OS among our readers. If you’re an iOS user and think differently, perhaps you should have voted!

poll-results

This week’s poll question is: At What Age Should Children Own A Smartphone?

When I was a child, there were no cell phones. I got my first phone when I was 18, and many got one even later. Later on, children began to use cell phones earlier and earlier, and today we’re seeing the same trend with smartphones. For the purpose of this poll, let’s say a child is anyone 13 years old or younger. Do you think children should own a smartphone at this age or not? Are smartphones a good influence and can they benefit children, or should they be avoided until they’re older?

Be sure to explain in the comments why you chose the answer you did. Since it’s hard to think of every possible answer in a poll like this, let us know what you think.


April 10 2012

22:31

5 Top Sites To Download Free Kids Music That You’ll Love

free kids musicIf you’ve got kids, you’ve no doubt thought about how you might be able to increase the size of their music collection for free. I mean, who wants to listen to the same CD of nursery rhymes over and over again, right? So in order to keep your sanity while your kids listen to their favourite songs, the best trick is to have more of them – and the higher quality you can manage to find the better.

Thankfully, the Internet is full of free music and fun things for kids. Here’s a collection of sites which have a large amount of kids songs for free, just waiting for you to grab them. You and your kids will surely love the music you find here!

Remember: DownThemAll

When checking out these sites and other sites of free music, don’t forget that there are tools like DownThemAll and Wget which make it really easy to download all of the MP3s in one hit. Check out this article on Wget for more information on how to use it.

free kids music

Jamendo Kids Music

Check out the Jamendo Child/Kids/Children tags (and perhaps the Jamendo Enfants tag) to browse hundreds of free albums for kids. Jamendo lets you preview the entire album online before you download, so you always know what you’re getting. There’s some great music, including trance and techno for kids!

free kids music online

Free Kids Music

The Free Kids Music site asks for user submissions of free music and writes a short spiel on each artist it promotes. It also has a section for traditional music for kids. Users take quite a leisurely browse around the site to find new music, but it’s all quite interesting and varied.

free kids music online

Nancy Stewart Music

This site has a variety of tunes categorised into language-building, science, activities, games, etc. What begins as a collection of unfamiliar tunes quickly become favourites as each song has a catchy tune and lyrics provided. Check out the database of free kids songs and also the monthly free track.

free kids music online

Dream English

The Dream English site has a big educational focus and presents all of their free music with some ideas for games, videos of dance moves and more. The songs presented are ideal for kids who don’t speak English as a first language. It’s worth browsing their Free Download section for nursery rhymes and other vocabulary-centred tunes. The same guy also does Free ABC Songs, which is also worth checking out.

free kids music site

Kids Radio Online

Don’t forget that there are lots of Internet radio stations for kids. Check out the Kids genre in the Shoutcast Radio directory and Kids Public Radio. Enjoy!

free kids music site

free kids music

More Kids Entertainment

If you’re looking to entertain and educate your kids, check out these other articles:

What are your favourite free kids music sites? Let us know in the comments!


April 05 2012

19:01

5 Reasons You Really Don’t Have To Worry If You’re Cyberbullied [Opinion]

Have you been bullied online, or are you in the process of being picked on or otherwise harassed on the Internet? For most people, being called names, having embarrassing photos posted or having someone post very private and personal information on the Internet feels almost like a death sentence. It’s like the end of the world. After all, what gets posted on the Internet is “forever”, right?

Well, that’s what a lot of cyberbully “gurus” tell kids about making online posts – that what you post online you can never take back. The thing is, that’s not entirely true. Other than very rare, high-profile cases where the situation brings in national attention and the story gets spread far and wide throughout the Internet, the odds are actually pretty good that whatever someone posted about you actually has a very small, insignificant audience when you look at the bigger picture.

That’s where the problem comes from – it’s easy when you take part in an online community like a forum or a social network to start thinking that this online community you’re a part of makes up the larger world out there. I’m here to give you a small dose of reality – the world is a heck of a lot bigger than that, and whatever some moron posts about you isn’t really as bad as you may think.

Why Cyberbullies Are Actually Kind of Pathetic

A cyberbully isn’t much unlike a bully at school. They act tough, they appear big and scary, but underneath it all they’re just a scared, little, whiny brat with a very fragile ego that happens to be the size of Jupiter.

Nothing Lasts Forever

When such a person posts something about you on their blog or on a forum, it’s important to keep in mind that those bits and bytes are not forever. Yes, those posts hang around for years – but try finding many of those heated debates and arguments that were published in the old Internet message boards of the 1990s. Most are gone into the ether.

Do you know why you can’t find most of them? Because people die, that’s why. Internet hosting isn’t free, and published pages are only published so long as there’s someone alive who cares enough to pay the yearly hosting fee. So, if you are patient enough, all things will eventually fall off the Internet.

Obviously, if someone has published something that defames you or is clearly libellous, seeking a lawyer’s advice isn’t out of the question. However, for the typical cyberbully fare – insulting observations or snide remarks – it just isn’t around long enough to really have any impact on your life, so don’t let it.

Information Gets Buried Online

Secondly, on the Internet, information tends to get buried, especially on social networks. Yes, something posted that’s especially juicy might get briefly shared from friend to friend – but those rumors are fleeting and when the moment passes, there’s something different to occupy the restless minds of the masses. The bottom line is that social networks are like one big junk pile of words.

Eventually, whatever nasty thing someone said about you will end up at the bottom of that pile, buried by all of the nasty things people have said about other people. Again – it’s not as bad as it seems, and it will go away in time.

Better Content Gets Better Visibility

A third interesting aspect of nastiness and rumors on the Internet is that ultimately the more well-written and carefully crafted content on a certain topic will get more visibility. What I mean is, if someone has posted a quick jab at you or maybe they’ve even written some nasty blog entry about you, all you have to do is out-perform them in search engine rankings for your name, and what will people see when they look for you online? They’ll see what you’ve said – not what some idiot cyber-bully said.

Trust me, I’ve got into my fair share of fights and debates online, and have had plenty of nasty things said about me. The thing is, if you produce enough content online about yourself, and mention your name enough in a positive light on those pages, you will get the right information about yourself out there.

Too many people worry about having anything about themselves on the Internet, but if you think about it, the less you have about yourself online, the more visibility the words of a cyberbully will get.

Your goal is to drown out the words of the bully with so much content and noise about yourself that those nasty statements will never see the light of day.

Tell Your Side of the Story

And more importantly, the fourth thing that you should do is actually something you shouldn’t do – don’t ignore the bully.  Don’t slink away in embarrassment and shame. Go after them with everything you’ve got. Whatever they say about you – give your side of the story. Better yet, a carefully crafted response can make the bully himself or herself look like a complete moron for how they handled themselves.

Embarrass them and shame them for how poorly they handled themselves in public. If you can’t write well – then find someone who can and tell them what was wrong about what the person did. Have your friend craft a scathing response and then post it yourself. There is no reason you need to cower or run away when attacked online – a single response is all it takes to turn embarrassment for you into embarrassment for them.

People Care About You

Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re being bullied badly online is that anyone actually reading the mean and nasty things a bully is saying about you are more likely to take your side than theirs. While many of the people reading online bullying might remain silent – out of fear of being bullied themselves – they sympathize with you, they feel for you, and they hate the bully.

Trust me – everyone hates a bully. You may feel two inches tall, but you’ve got most people feeling bad for you, and most people looking at the cyberbully like she or he is an idiot.

The world is on your side, not theirs. Everything else aside, that’s the one most important takeaway from all of this. Everyone is on your side, and you’re not alone. Cyberbullying can be some of the most hurtful, hateful things that a person – most often a teen – has to suffer through. But, in all honesty, while it may feel like the end of the world now – in just a few years you’ll look back and wonder how and why you ever let that moron even bother you.

Stay strong, stand tall, and charge your way past the naysayers. In the end, you’ll be better off than them. And, in the famous words of comedian Chris Farley of SNL fame, that bully will most likely “…end up eating a steady diet of government cheese, and living in a van down by the river!”

Have you ever been cyberbullied? How did you respond? What advice would you offer to teens suffering through cyberbullying? Share your insight and experience in the comments sections below.

Cyber Bullying Via Shutterstock,Different views of people Via Shutterstock, Paper Bag over Head Via Shutterstock,Isolated Loudspeakers Via Shutterstock, Pile of Metallic Waste Via Shutterstock, Young Couple in Depression Via Shutterstock


March 09 2012

01:31

Let The Games Begin! 5 Extremely Cute & Educational Games For Toddlers [Android]

There’s nothing cuter than a toddler playing a game on a smartphone. I used to think letting toddlers play with phones is a bad sign of the times, kids playing with screens instead of balls and all that, but there’s something truly unique about the way children enjoy these phone games, and after letting my cats play with my iPad, I can’t very well refuse to let my 17-month-old niece play with my phone.

My niece has been playing with my phone ever since she was 10 months old, and her enjoyment of the games keeps increasing as she gets older. While very small babies may throw the phone on the floor in a fit of frustration, older toddlers are too busy playing to actually hurt the device. There are numerous games out there, and Ryan has written a good list in the past, but the Android market changes quickly, and new and awesome games emerge all the time. Here are the best, most-liked games on my Android device as of today. Way better than TV!

Baby Rattle [2.1-3.2]

Baby Rattle accomplishes two important tasks in one sweet game. It both keeps your toddler entertained, and prevents it from accessing anything else on the device while playing. If you’ve ever let a child play with your phone, you know the latter is a serious problem, both for the child and the device’s owner.

When you first install and launch Baby Rattle, the app will instruct you about enabling the child lock feature. You only have to do this once. Next time you load the app, it will already be locked. You can also decide to forego the child lock option.

baby-rattle-1

The game itself is highly amusing, even for the adults playing along with the children. There are 5 different rattles, each with a different background and different characters. The screen reacts with movement and rattle sounds when the child touches a character, when they shake the phone, when the phone’s buttons are pressed, etc. Since shaking the phone moves things around, it’s hard to take a proper screenshot of the game itself, but this is the general idea.

baby-rattle-2

You can also set the game to force airplane mode every time it’s launched, if you’re worried about radiation and such. In order to exit the game, you’d need to enter the Settings through the menu and enter a code.

Toddler Lock [1.5+]

Toddler Lock is another cute phone locker that keeps kids entertained while protecting the phone. With this game, you can hand over the phone and simply watch the toddler play.

toddler-lock

Setting up the lock is similar to Baby Rattle. Once that’s done, every time you launch the app it will immediately lock and start showing shapes and playing musical notes. Touching the screen will create more and more shapes in different colors, and dragging a finger on the screen will draw lines. It’s a very simple app, but surprisingly effective with children, who enjoy the shapes, sounds and colors immensely.

Here, too, you can set it to automatically enable airplane mode. Note that if you use an alternative launcher on your phone, the app may interfere with it. I did not encounter this problem, however. There are donation versions of the app both for $1 and $2.

Kids Piano Lite [1.5+]

For music-loving or duck-loving kids, try out Kids Piano. The free version offers multiple modes, in-app games and skins. Some of the options are great for older kids as well, and others are suitable for younger babies.

To start, you can choose between play mode, song mode and game mode. In play mode, the child can use the mini-piano to play different notes, which then appear on the left side of the screen. This is a great way for young toddlers to enjoy colors and sounds and for older kids to learn more about music.

kids-piano

In song mode there are actual songs the child can listen to and play, and game mode offers 4 different games for older kids, such as this “catch the mouse” game. In each mode, you can enable and disable baby lock through the menu.

kids-piano-2

There are 4 different piano themes to choose from. The favorite with my niece is the duck, hands down. In fact, for her, the name of the game is the word she uses for a duck, do you see where the priorities lie? A paid version is available for $2.50.

Itsy Bitsy Spider [2.1+]

Itsy Bitsy Spider is the only paid app ($1.99) in the lineup, but boy is it worth it. My niece has an infatuation with the itsy bitsy spider song, so off I went in search of a matching app, and hit the veritable itsy bitsy jackpot.

itsy-bitsy-1

The game sings out the song of the itsy bitsy spider, but everything is interactive. Every line of the song gets its own screen, in which the toddler can tap on anything to make things happen. The app is also educational, teaching children about numbers, the butterfly’s lifecycle, and animal names. There’s also a fly in every screen that happily starts speaking about scientific facts when tapped.

itsy-bitsy-2

This is my niece’s all-time favorite game, and she’s learned to tap the spider every time she wants the game to move on, and is fascinated by the squirrel, the snail and the butterfly. There’s also an inner game of collecting Easter eggs on the spider’s head and bringing them to his web. Truly awesome and fun game. I only wish it could be toddler-locked to prevent children from exiting by mistake. As it is, you might want to be holding the phone yourself when playing the game with younger kids.

playing-itsy-bitsy

ZOOLA Free [2.1+]

If there’s something kids love, it’s animal sounds. My niece’s first actual word was the sound a dog makes, and this remained her only word for several months. Zoola is a great animal-sound game, with amazing photos and accurate sounds, and even includes male, female and baby versions of every animal (admit it, you never knew what sound a baby zebra makes!).

zoola-1

There are farm animals and wild animals, and even different breeds of dogs (most of which are locked in the free version, but no matter, they all bark anyway). Tapping on an animal opens a full-size image, and sliding your finger on the image switches from male to female to baby to heart, which is a picture of the animal with a song in the background.

zoola-2

The animal buttons are a bit small for young toddlers to press themselves, but they will happily point at the animal they want to hear, and slide their finger to switch between genders. Great way to learn about animals and the sounds they make. Only thing missing is a baby lock feature. Get the full version for $1.99

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, let your children play with your phones! Maybe not for hours on end, but this can be a fun and educational experience for the both of you. They will grow up using the thing non-stop anyway, so you might as well make it useful as long as you can.

playing-itsy-bitsy-2

What do you think of the whole concept? Do you let your children play with your phone? Do you know of any awesome games your child simply can’t stop playing? Share in the comments!


January 18 2012

01:31

5 Best Websites With Fun Activities For Toddlers

fun activities for toddlersIf you’re looking online for fun activities for toddlers, you’ve probably realised that there’s a lot of garbage out there. So many sites have found their way to the top of the Google results which are so busy being SEO-friendly that they’ve managed to fail to have any useful content on their page. It’s a nightmare to sort through!

So, today we’ve pulled together this list of blogs and websites for fun toddler activities for you. Some sites made the list because of how fun and usable their content is, while others have made the list by having a good variety of content for toddlers on hand. This list should have something for you, whether you’re looking for educational fun, outdoor activities, printable pages, crafts or recipes.

1. Quirky Momma Kids Activities Blog

The Quirky Momma Kids Activities blog is a vibrant, interesting blog of kids activities and they make sure to dedicate sections of the blog to showcasing the best activities for each age group, making it easy to find things for your toddler to do.

fun activities for toddlers

These writers know exactly how to make up activities designed for the precise needs of growing kids. The toddler games focus on sensory activities, fine motor control, discovery, sorting games and building toys.

2. Play Based Learning

Play Based Learning is written by an Australian duo of early childhood educators, hoping to inspire parents and preschool teachers alike. Their colourful site is full of great ideas for toddler play which can be used by families or groups with more resources.

activities for toddlers

3. Today Is Fun

Two dads have come together to create Today Is Fun, making the site easy to search or browse by age so it’s easy to find something for your toddler or their older siblings to do. The activity ideas are quite creative and educational and they are colourfully displayed. It’s also possible to browse by handy categories such as “No Props Needed” and “Good For Bathtime”.

activities for toddlers

4. The Crafty Crow

The Crafty Crow is an aggregator site of children’s crafts with browsable categorising and a decent amount of toddler ideas. They feature and link to great ideas by smaller bloggers. While aggregators have a little less personality than a dedicated blog, they are certainly good at delivering exposure to numerous bloggers and ideas that may otherwise have not been seen by the reader.

activities for toddlers

5. Filth Wizardry

Filth Wizardry is a one-writer blog, so will never compete with the bigger blogs on the number or frequency of posts, yet it has a lot to give in quality. The charm of this blog is in the belief that kids are messy and that messy fun is great. There are some lovely art and craft ideas and ways to get involved with nature in this blog and it’s possible to browse by useful labels such as “at the kitchen table”.

fun activities for toddlers

More Reading For Toddler Fun

These articles might also come in handy for your children:

These websites will offer you a wealth of fun activities for toddlers between them, ensuring you’ve always got a few easy, educational ideas for play up your sleeve. Have fun!

Since there are a great many fantastic blogs and websites for toddler activities out there, we do encourage you to link to your favourites in the comments and tell us why they are the best.


December 14 2011

15:30

Find Cool Interactive Games That Create A Social Impact On ‘Games For Change’

The impact of video games on children has been debated. It has veered towards both extremes. When you find yourself on the losing side of an argument, you can point towards the social and educational impact of games on children. But why are we dumbing it down, when game playing is as much a part of the adult world.

From education to politics…from business to the environment, games are being tailored to promote awareness of social issues.  Remember the post that showcased 7 Free Online News Games That Are Based On World Affairs & News Events? The games there serve to remind us of the potential that exists beyond the blood-spills and Martian colonization’s of games meant solely for fun.

A website that’s doing some work on highlighting the link between social impact and games is Games For Change.

Supporting games for social good

The gaming site has existed for quite some time (2004) and its mission statement says it all – Catalyzing Social Impact through Digital Games.

What’s unique is that it is a non-profit organization. It is a community/movement of many creative people who are committed to social issues through the way of gaming. It is not simply a curation site for the best social games that are out there…but a full-fledged organization that is involved in bringing together the best ideas from across the globe, and taking in  the resources to turn those ideas into social games.

Here is an example…

Just to cite one example, Half The Sky is a combined multi-million dollar project on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The project’s theme is the moral challenge of oppression of women around the world, and to give equal rights to them in order to promote economic development and combat fundamentalism – to “hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying.

Games For Change is working with partners like Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), USAID, the Ford Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and ITVS to develop a global Facebook game and mobile games for India and Africa.

You can read more about their global activities here on the Services page of the website.

The Games Arcade – Let’s Play!

Games For Change has a games arcade where you can play some really cool games and see for yourself the powerful mix of education, social awareness, and entertainment.  Games are curated from many sources but each addresses a social issue. Some are free and some are commercial. You can also recommend social games using the submission form on the site. You can browse games by age and subject (for example – Civics, Conflict, Environment, Human Rights etc.).

Let’s check out three games featured on the site that shows us the potential of these types of gaming tools:

Codeacademy

 

The cool programming ‘educator’ and online learning game teaches you the basics of programming without tutorials. It does so by engaging you in an interactive game right from the start. For instance, you can create an account only after completing a few rounds of coding. As you progress, you learn and earn rewards.

Read our full review on Codeacademy – Hands Down The Easiest Way To Code.

The Curfew

 

The game for the young is based on political themes of our times (Britain 2007). The game challenges the player to them to examine the freedoms he enjoys and the potential consequences if he does not protect them. The game is played over four episodes and involves role-play with four characters.

One Ocean

 

One Ocean is an environmental game that lets you design your own 3D underwater habitats. You learn not only about the oceans and its creatures, but also about how to save it from this century’s challenges. You have to download the Unity Web Player to play it on your desktop. The game is playable on both Windows and Mac.

I have just scratched the surface of the games arcade here. Browse through the games. Let us know which ones is your favorite. Also, drop an appreciative note if you find the idea of games for social change and the Games For Change website compelling enough.


August 04 2011

15:31

How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011

Windows 7 has a number of default parental control features built in. Using these, it’s possible to deny access to certain applications and games as well as restrict a child’s account so that is can be used during only specific days and times.

These features may not be enough for all parents, however. Windows Live Family Safety 2011 expands the controls to include web filtering and activity reporting, among other things.

Installation & Setup

To obtain Family Safety 2011 you need to visit the Windows Live Essentials website and download the package. This package contains a wealth of software, but you can choose to only install the Family Safety features if you’d like.

Once installed, you’ll be prompted with a screen that lets you choose which accounts you’d like to monitor. As you can see above, I’ve chosen my example “Child’s Account” for monitoring. In addition to this, Windows will recommend that you disable guest accounts, since they can be used by anyone as a means to bypass account monitoring. Alternatively, you can add a password to the guest account.

Now Family Safety is active, and the accounts you specified during setup have been given some default settings, as shown above.

Web Filtering & Contact Management

Although the Family Safety software must be installed on the PC you’d like to monitor, the settings are adjusted via a web interface made available online through the Windows Live website. There are two specific categories of settings that are now available which aren’t included in the standard Parental Controls.

Web Filtering is the first, and provides a way to automatically prevent your child from accessing certain websites while using his or her account. There are five default settings that can be utilized, ranging from extremely restrictive (only websites you approve can be accessed) to completely open (all websites can be accessed). It’s also possible to block specific websites based on their URL.

The other category, Contact Management, makes it possible to control your child’s contacts when they’re using a Windows Live ID. For example, you could make it impossible for him or her to chat online with anyone you have not approved.

Requests

Although Web Filtering works to prevent your child from seeing unapproved sites, it doesn’t prevent them from entering the URL. Doing so brings up a request page instead of the actual website. Your child can use this page to request access to a specific site.

For example, I limited my Child’s Account to allow Child-Friendly content only. When logged into the Child’s Account, attempting to access a new site like CNN results in the notification below.

Any requests made will show up in the web interface, where they can be approved or denied.

Activity Reporting

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is activity reporting. This does what it states. Using the web interface, it’s possible for a parent to see what is happening on a child account.

This includes the websites that are visited, including when they’re accessed, as well as important computer activity such as when the account is logged in and the programs that are used. In the case of web activity, all sites are reported even if they are blocked, and those that are blocked can be approved.

Although the standard Parental Controls allows for parents to proactively stop children from using certain software or accessing a computer at certain times, Activity Monitoring makes it possible to make sure the rules aren’t being stretched. The fact that the interface is web based is also a boon, since it’s possible for a parent to keep tabs on a child’s account even at work or on the road.

Conclusion

Windows Live Family Safety is an impressive software suite, particularly when the low price of free is considered. Although there are other paid solutions available, the default Parental Controls combined with the advanced Family Safety features should provide everything a parent needs to keep tabs on their child’s computer use.

How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 is a post from: MakeUseOf


July 26 2011

17:31

Improve Your Kids’ Basic Math Skills With The Help Of MathBoard [iPad]

If I had to choose which subjects I learned at elementary and middle school which proved to be really useful in later life, mathematics would definitely be one of them. We use basic math so naturally all the time – from counting how many days left to the weekend, to calculating how much money we have left until the end of the month – that we often forget the struggle we had to go through to learn it in the first place.

We all know that there’s no shortcut. The best – and the only – way to master math is to practice, practice, and practice and MathBoard for iPad was built to do just that, to help users improve their basic math skills using quizzes. This $4.99 app does it in style.

From One Quiz To Another

As a father of two little daughters – one in kindergarten and the other in early elementary school, I have first hand experience with the difficulty of regularly coming up with lots of math exercises to give to my children. I personally think the price I paid for the app is well worth the money. Not only does the app generate continuous flows of math problems, but it can also produce problems with different levels of difficulty. So the app will be useful for years to come, for all levels of students (including their parents) and the amazing thing is, children love using MathBoard on the iPad.

MathBoard’s interface is divided into several panes – the main pane displaying individual math problems, the “Result” pane displaying a list of student results for each problem, the “History” pane displaying a list of saved quizzes, and the “Settings” pane customizing the quizzes.

01a welcome screen

A quiz will start after you tap on “Play“. You will be presented with one problem at a time, and you can tap on one of the answers to continue to the next problem.

01b start quiz mc

You can use the lower part of the board to calculate the answer. Write the numbers using your finger and tap “Expand” if you need more room to write.

01c chalkboard 1

There are five different colors of chalk and one eraser you can use. Tap “shrink” to go back to the problem pane.

01d chalkboard2

To increase the difficulty level, you can choose the “Fill in the blanks” option instead of “Multiple choice” from the “Settings“. You can use the up and down arrows to choose numbers for your answer, or you can summon the keypad by tapping the small square to the left of the problem.

01e fill blanks 1

If you are stuck, you can use the “Problem Solver“. This feature will reveal the steps needed to solve the problem. But please note that every problem that is solved using this feature will be considered as a wrong answer.

01f problem solver

You can get more information on every step that has a small “i” next to it. Tap the “i” to reveal the information bubble.

01g solver2

You can stop in the middle of the quiz if you want to by clicking on the “x” icon at the top left of the problem pane.

01j stop quiz

After finishing one set of problems in a quiz, you will get a summary of your performance – including the number of correct answers and the time you needed to finish the quiz.

01h excellent

Then you can save the quiz for future reference.

01w save quiz

You can also play the quiz again. Choose whether you want to start a new quiz, replay the previous quiz, or just replay the wrong answers from the previous quiz.

01x restart quiz

Quick Look At The Settings

Settings” is the place for you to customize MathBoard. Choose the operators that you want to use in the quiz – from the simplest addition and subtraction, to the more complicated ones like cubes and square root. Use this option to increase or decrease the difficulty level to fit the student’s competence level.

02a settings1

Decide how many numbers you want the student to solve in every quiz under the “Problems” option. Decide also whether you want the problems to be “multiple choice” or “fill in the blanks“.

The next part is all about setting up the number range and digit limit. Enable the “Allow Negative Answers” option for higher level students.

02b settings2

The last set of settings deals with Time Style (Elapsed or Countdown), Sound Effects, and LanSchool (if MathBoard is used within a school or personal network with LanSchool software enabled).

02c settings3

As a little bonus, you can also view multiplication, addition, and subtraction tables and problem solvers from the lower part of the Settings pane.

A math learning assistant app might not be for everyone, but if you do need one, I think MathBoard is one of the best choices out there.

Don’t forget to check out these other math-related articles: Multiplication Tool: Math Study Tool for Learning Multiplication, RealWorldMath: Use Google Earth To Teach Math Through Demonstrations, and 5 Cool Free Internet Games for Kids That’ll Make them Love Math.

Have you tried MathBoard? What do you think about the app? Do you know or use other similar apps? Share your findings in the comments below.

Image credit: quinn.anya


Need Assistance? Ask questions to MakeUseOf staff and thousands of other readers on MakeUseOf Answers!


Improve Your Kids’ Basic Math Skills With The Help Of MathBoard [iPad] is a post from: MakeUseOf

More articles about: children, education, ipad, ipad apps, kids, learning, mathematics, study tips, study tools

Similar articles:


April 20 2011

23:31

Bin Weevils – A Fun Free Browser-Based Kids Game With Plenty To Do

free online browser gameChildren’s games often try to both educate and entertain but sometimes can miss the mark completely. Console games aren’t exactly cheap, and you’re not always guaranteed a playable demo before you commit to purchase.

Bin Weevils is a free, somewhat massively multiplayer children’s game that uses Adobe Flash to run a virtual world in your web browser. The option to pay a subscription for extra perks exists, though there’s so much to do you might never need to. As with any online children’s service, online safety is paramount and the developers have provided a guide for parents, with frequently asked questions, subscription information and a safety page.

Concepts & Ideas

As with most children’s games, parents are often more interested in the game’s underlying concepts and ideas than gameplay and graphics. Bin Weevils seems to have got it right, encouraging all manner of green, healthy and social interactions.

In order to satiate the three demands of your Bin Weevil – hunger, fitness and happiness – you must explore the world, meet new people, visit specific areas and expand your influence. In addition to this Sims-like chart of demands, there is a levelling system and currency called “Mulch”.

free online browser game

XP is earned with everything you do, from harvesting plants in the garden to beating other Weevils at multiplayer games. The levelling system is essentially there to maintain the game’s steady pace, with higher levels enabling the purchase of other seeds and goods.

As your Weevil levels up he will learn new special moves, which you can show off to other inhabitants. These special moves are used to build up fitness, and essentially count as exercise.

As a Bin Weevil you must keep fit, socialise and eat whilst developing your character and ultimately a circle of friends. Child friendly? Check.

Home Sweet Home

Being a kids game, Bin Weevils doesn’t require an email address to sign up and get started. You are given the option once you’ve customized your Weevil to register a parent’s email address which credits the account with 2000 mulch (in addition to the 1000 you start with). Creating your first character is as easy as clicking Play then Get Started, entering a username and password then clicking Play Now.

browser based game

Your character will appear before you in a small area known as your nest. From here you can access your initial room (on the left) exit to your garden (through the tube) or using the Map button visit anywhere you please.

browser based game

The garden is a fairly standard affair and you’re given one “speedy” seed to begin with. This seed will grow in 15 minutes, after which you’re able to harvest the goods for money and XP. Seeds can take days to grow (Bin Weevil days, not real-time), and once the player has reached a high enough level a watering can is available to keep certain plants alive indefinitely.

browser based game

From the garden screen you can click Buy Seeds and choose from a selection of seeds, bulbs and other items. As well as the aforementioned watering can, items such as fencing and solar panelling can be purchased once your Bin Weevil has reached the required level. The nest itself consumes power, and additional fuel can be purchased by clicking on the generator in the main room.

The main room also allows access to your room. This is a room that you can decorate and use any way you’d like, with furniture and other items available for sale throughout the Weevil world. To start you off you’re given a shelf and a birthday egg, which marks the date your created your character.

online browser game

Beyond The Nest

Clicking on Map will give you a brief view of the activities available to you, including shopping, word puzzles and a meet and greet area known as Ink’s Orange Peel. Here players can chat using the text area at the bottom of the screen and leave messages on the message board.

online browser game

You can start customizing and then activate your Bin Weevil by clicking Change Your Bin Weevil on this screen. There are plenty of options to choose from to make your character unique, and when you’re done you can exit through the door on the right to activate your Weevil.

online browser game

One of the more interestingly implemented features is streaming video. The game itself is based on a series of Nickelodeon shorts, and these are viewable from the cinema. As a free member you’ll only get one screen but this struck me as a novel way to present streaming video; especially given the target audience.

free online browser game

Games like Weevil Racing, a fully 3D online multiplayer kart racer, allow you to compete against other Bin Weevils for money and XP. Other games include crosswords and wordsearches, brain teasers, whack-a-Weevil and a variant of pool. This is only the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty of other areas including a park, mall, a club and the subscribers-only Tycoon Island.

Subscribing provides access to extra features including pets, access to new areas, additional screens in the cinema and a big deposit of mulch (20,000). The free option here is certainly substantial enough to encourage repeat playings, however.

Conclusion

I’m 24 and I enjoyed playing around with Bin Weevils, trust me – your kids are going to love it. The brightly coloured characters, worlds and 3D elements are a treat to look at and there’s loads to do, even without paying.

Mixing elements from games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing with instant online gaming results in a feature-packed timewaster that might even teach your little sprogs a thing or two.

Have you or your children tried Bin Weevils? Any other similar games out there? Let us know in the comments below.


Hey Facebookers, make sure to join MakeUseOf on Facebook and get access to some exclusve stuff. Over 70,000 fans already!


 

 

More articles about: children, game reviews, kids, online games


March 02 2011

19:31

10 Websites For Reading Children’s Stories Online

childrens stories onlineFor children, stories are the window to the outside world. Stories continue to tell generations that the world outside is filled with great adventures, heroic princes and beautiful princesses. It also has ogres and monsters that we must battle to keep it that way.

I bet all of us have our own favorite stories from childhood. Most of us also have fond memories of hours spent in storytelling. The digital avalanche may have hit the generations that have followed us. They may be growing up too soon. But stories continue to hold their place in the imagination of a child.

Hollywood and Disney may also be coloring TV and the movies. But thanks to interactive websites, children’s stories have got a wider canvas to tell their tales. From classical literature to folk tales, and even modern children’s fiction, today’s child can take his pick to read, listen, and watch.

Storyline Online

childrens stories online

Do you act out the stories to your child? Maybe you haven’t been able to yet, but famous actors from The Screen Actors Guild certainly can as it is their bread and butter. Actors (how about Elijah Wood or Hillary Duff) read aloud stories in their own voice and your child can listen in thanks to the streaming videos. The nicely designed interactive children’s story site is free and is a wonderful initiative made possible by the participation of SAG.

Mrs. P’s Magic Library

childrens short stories

The magic of stories is in its storytelling. Kathy Kinney as Mrs. P really brings back the fun in “story time”. Most of the stories are targeted for children between the age groups of 3+ to 6+ with a few for 9 and 11 year olds. The books narrated by Mrs. P are all old classics across genres. You can check out the video selections and use the dropdown filters to select the ones you want to watch.

Storynory

childrens short stories

There’s nothing like a good audio story played back for your child before he or she drifts to sleep. Storynory could be your download source as it has a huge bank of free audio stories and poems for children. You can choose from fairytales, classics, Bible stories, educational stories, and also quite a few original ones. Storynory is also available on iTunes in the Kids and Family Podcast section.

Story Cove (Classroom)

childrens short stories

Story Cove brings you stories from around the world arranged under the names of the continents. You can open up the “story book” in your browser and let it playback the story for you. You can even play an animated version of the story. Teachers can download lesson plans and use the stories for some tutoring.

International Children’s Digital Library

childrens stories

The online children’s library has a single purpose mission of providing free access to children’s literature from around the world. The site is well organized and you can explore the library by searching for books by country, doing a simple search, or by using the many other methods listed. The site supports quite a few international languages. A free registration allows you to save favorite books, set your preferred language, and also bookmarks pages of books you plan to come back to.

Smories

childrens stories

It’s not a problem putting kids in front of a camera and telling them to read out stories which other kids can listen or watch. Smories is a just that: original stories for kids, read by kids. On this site, you can expect to get stories that won’t be found anywhere else. There’s also a special version of Smories for the iPhone and iPad. Here’s a more detailed look into this nice children’s website.

EPubBud

childrens stories

This site gives you shelves of books you can download or read in your browser. Most of the books are for children of various age groups. You can download books in many formats starting with the basic epub type. Options are available for iPad/iPhone, NOOKcolor, Literati/Kobo, and devices like Amazon Kindle and Android phones.  You can even use this website as a publishing platform for your own children’s books.

Aesop’s Fables

Aesop’s fables have been traditionally used to teach kids about morals. This site perhaps houses the largest online collection that you can read or listen to. There are 655+ fables, some with illustrations and audio.

Magic Keys

The site has books for young children, older children, and young adults. All books are illustrated and some have embedded audio. Check out The Farm Animals which is a ‘Click-a-Word Talking eBook’ of animal sounds.

MeeGenius

childrens stories online

MeeGenius is a reading application for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, Google TV, Google Chrome Web Store, and the Web. The iPhone/iPad app is free as are the introductory books. The collection of free ebooks, just six strong, are a reading pleasure. The books are superbly illustrated and the site can read them out to you or you could read it yourself. To make them easier to follow, audio playback comes with word highlighting. You can also personalize the book by giving your own names (or your child’s) to the characters in the books.

In this age of pixels, it might be a tall order to tell children about pixies and fairies. But a good imagination flowers with a developed reading habit. The web isn’t a book but it has cool resources for children like the ones we have covered earlier :

How to Publish a Children’s Book with StoryJumper – Beth
Put Your Child Into The Middle of A Story With Story Something – Saikat
7 Online Magazines for Kids That Are Worth a Read – Saikat

Do your children prefer digital stories to the ones they hold in their hands?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


January 21 2011

18:31

10 Interactive Financial Websites That Teach Kids Money Management Skills

teaching kids about moneyTo fill the piggy bank, it’s important to start early. A dollar doesn’t go far, but with some sound advice it can be stretched. Kids of today don’t need to understand how money can be spent, but they need to know how money works.

For parents to have a kid who is money-wise is a boon because it makes those save or splurge decisions easier to handle. There’s no right age for having that money talk with your kids. If he or she can spend or borrow, they sure can learn to save and invest. As a recent Reuters article says, it’s important to start early because by the time your child reaches high school, their money habits are already forming.

So, the buck stops with the parents. Start the money education at the dinner table or take the help of these interactive websites that impart financial literacy in a fun way.

The Mint

teaching kids about money

The Mint believes in educating American children about money because the lessons on saving and debt need to be urgently learned. The site has sections tailor-made for kids, teens, parents, and teachers. The tools consist of games that are built around earning, saving, spending, and giving. Lessons on how money moves are also imparted in an easy to grasp language. With a basic understanding, you can play the quizzes and calculator games like the Be Your Own Boss Challenge on the website.

Practical Money Skills

how to manage money

This financial literacy website covers the young of all ages with its package of personal finance articles, games, and lesson plans. You can also check out Whats My Score to understand the nitty-gritty of credit. Interactive financial games like Financial Football are cool fun learning experiences as you answer money related questions and score touchdowns. Financial Soccer, Road Trip, and Ed’s Bank are equally engaging. Look into the other quizzes and money calculators on the roster.

Planet Orange

how to manage money

Planet Orange is a nicely designed interactive financial game that reaches out to those in the 1st to 6th grade. Join Cedric and Amy as they help you navigate the deep reaches of space and learn all about earning, spending, saving and investing. The game involves activities that focus on different features of money and the choices you have to make for completing the mission.

Rich Kid Smart Kid

how to manage money

Future entrepreneurs have this website for free lessons on finance and wealth creation. All lessons are taught by Toki using four financial games. Games are designed around levels from Kindergarten to Grade 12. For instance, learn how to make profit by playing the Jesse’s Ice Cream Stand Game. Other games like Ima’s Pay Yourself First teach about using your money wisely.

Savings Quest

ways to manage money

How to save and reach your savings goal can be learnt by playing a round of My Savings Quest. The character you play has to learn how to save money by budgeting and spending within the money earned from a choice of jobs, and savings. The game teaches you simply how to save for the things you want while paying for the things you need.

KidsBank

ways to manage money

The interactive story put together by a bank takes kids through the basics of money and banking. The site explains the processes that go into banking. Parents can use the website as a tool to explain where the money earned is ending up and how it is earning as interest. The game is designed as a story and each character in the story takes you step-by-step through the entire banking process.

H.I.P Pocket Change

ways to manage money

The U.S Mint website for kids is a great place to learn all about money thanks to a long lineup of games, art activities, puzzles, facts, and trivia. Then you have cartoons and a bit of history thrown in for good measure. If you are interested in understanding how it all begins check out the toon that shows the birth of a coin.

Sense and Dollars

There are fun money games on this interactive website for kids, but here’s the one to play for all those yearning to escape home: the Check It Out game gives you a job and one month’s worth of income with one month’s worth of bills. Think you can cope? Play and find out.

BizKids

Here kids do all the explaining as they talk money and business with you. The financial education show is for preteens and uses skits and comedy to teach the basic stuff on finance. The site links to Disney’s Hot Shot Business Game. Unfortunately, the other games mentioned give a broken link error, but you still have enough on the site to keep yourself occupied. There is a section for teachers and parents with downloadable lesson plans based on the episodes.

ItAllAddsUp

teaching kids about money

The interactive website features a series of games that take high school students through lessons in credit management, budgeting, saving, and spending. You cans select any of the scrolling images to play a random game.

We have covered a lot of finance and personal finance apps, but these websites bring back the fun into saving money. From pocket money to the first pay check, it’s a long financial journey. Make sure your kids have the right tools to make every buck count along the way. Do you have any more financial games to add to the list?

Image Credit: Shutterstock


Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!

 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


January 11 2011

19:31

10 Interactive Learning Websites For Some Fun & Games With Music

interactive learning websitesMozart started his music when he was five. Even Lady Gaga learnt piano when she was four and wrote her first ballad at 13. Music has given birth to some prodigious talents. Maybe someone around us is not one yet, but still has an ear for music. Or maybe music is part of his or her education. Either way, learning music is often recommended for developing creative intelligence. The ability to sense and visualize the world comes naturally from a deep appreciation of the arts.

Playing interactive musical games on the web could be a stepping stone to find out if your child has an ability for music. If the enthusiasm to learn about music is there, deciding on a more specific musical education becomes easy. Leaving aside all these serious thoughts on musical education, let’s also note that music is great fun. In tune or out of it, it is a way of self expression. Play on these ten interactive learning websites that feature fun and games with music.

Play Music

interactive learning websites

PlayMusic.org is a fun and interactive musical website with loads of information on musical instruments and arrangements. The entry to the various points on the site is through a colorful graphic with clickable hotspots. Information is presented as graphics which you can click to learn more about instruments, orchestras, and composers. The site is a bit dated but is still useful for the basic knowledge it provides for a music learner.

Classics For Kids

interactive learning

Musical education for kids should ideally start with a base in the classics. This site could be a jumping point. If you are in the US, you can tune into the radio show or listen to them on the website. But I guess kids will have more fun with the musical games like Compose Your Own Music or Be a Rockin’ Rhythm Master! The site has four games in all along with lesson plans and teaching aids like a musical dictionary.

New York Philharmonic

interactive learning

The famed New York Philharmonic devotes an entire website to kids. The very attractive website is divided into sections that address areas of musical learning. But the coolest by far is the Game Room which is chock full of games as you can see in the screenshot. There’s an interesting Flash musical game where you can design your own musical inEimgCarnegie Hall Listening Adventures

interactive learning

We stay on in New York with Carnegie Hall. The famed concert venue for classical music gives kids an engaging online learning experience with the help of animated interactive guides. The audience for the fun show is meant to be kids of ages 6-12. But I don’t think that will stop adults from checking out cool tours like The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

BBC – Learn About Music

interactive music websites

You can always trust the BBC for some high quality learning help. BBC Orchestras and Singers is an online guide for teaching your kids about what an orchestra is all about. The learning aids are multimedia files supported by descriptions. Then there’s the superbly designed Maestro virtual orchestra game where your child can really get to know what it takes to be a part of an orchestra. Then the other game jumps you from the classics into creating a film score.

San Francisco Symphony for Kids

interactive music websites

The site greets you with a symphony. The site may look like it’s for kids, but it is meant to be used by all ages. Straightaway, you might like to head to the Music Lab and explore the nine stages from the basics to composing your first tune.

Theta Music Trainer

interactive music websites

You can take Theta Music Trainer as a serious musical training tool because they just might help to train the ear to listen to elements like pitch, rhythm, intervals, chords, and melody. Each game is designed to teach a specific skill. Music is playing by the ear, so this website is highly recommended for beginners. You can also track your progress. The site also hosts a few competitions. We have covered Theta Music Trainer before.

Pattern Block Rock

This online musical game seems simple at first but is in fact quite challenging. You have to combine your knowledge of geometric shapes and match it to musical notes and rhythms. Pattern blocks are basically shapes which you have to place and add up to a total of eight to replay the tunes.

Music Games

You can play the online versions of the downloadable PC games here. The online versions are not full like the paid downloadable games but it is free and gives you sufficient gameplay to test your skills and understand the basics. Skills tested include instrument recognition, musical riddles, and musical jigsaw puzzles.

DSO Kids

interactive learning websites

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is the sixth oldest orchestra in the United States. The site has four interactive musical games (Time Machine, Beethoven’s Baseball, Music Match, and Picture Paint) along with other music teaching aids. The first two games are knowledge based which test what you know about the history of classical music.

Just like the above website, we have covered a few more cool musical fun apps. Here are three more –

JamLegend – Free Online Guitar Brilliance
5 Rhythmic Online Flash Music Games to Groove Up Your Day
Rock Out For Free With Frets on Fire

Let us know if you think that these interactive musical learning websites are playing the right notes.

Image Credit : Shutterstock


Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!


 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


January 07 2011

23:31

5 Of The Best Sites For Kid-Friendly Recipes

kid friendly recipesIf your young children are like mine, they would eat waffles, pizza, maybe some fruit, and lots of desserts everyday until they turned eighteen. Also if your family is like mine, you will know how difficult it is to plan and prepare a variety of healthy, tasty and enjoyable meals on a regular basis. So this year my goal is to involve my children in planning their daily school lunch and afternoon snacks.

Spending some time browsing the net, I was surprised to discover the number of websites with a significant variety of kid friendly recipes to choose from. The sites I selected are kid-friendly, with lots of images, and best of all offer free content. I’m quite sure there are many sites I’m overlooking, so by all means share your favorite related sites in the comments section.

Kaboose

No doubt the best way to get kids involved in eating different foods is to make meals and snacks fun. Kaboose.com does exactly that with their selection of 30 recipes, including “Dirt Cups” of crushed chocolate cookies and gummy worms; Vanilla Bean Applesauce, Pasta Bowl with Butternut Squash, and Baked Chicken Fingers with honey mustard dipping sauce.

kid friendly recipes

This set of recipes is great for lunches and healthy light snacks. The photos included for each recipe will be useful in helping your child choose what they like.

Allrecipes.com

Allrecipes.com devotes an entire section to kid-friendly recipes. Their popular recipes include Lunch Box Hot Hot Dogs, Spinach Quiche with Kid Appeal, Bakes Sweet Potato Sticks, and Chunky Monkey Pancakes.

kid friendly favorite recipes

When you become a member of the site, you can save recipes to your recipe box, rate and review recipes, create shopping lists, and submit your own recipes. Most of these kid recipes are for healthy lunches and dinners.

The ratings of the recipes and the members’ comments can be helpful in discovering what your kids might enjoy and other ingredients that could be used for food preparation.

MomsWhoThink

MomsWhoThink.com features a nice clean list of dishes and snacks titled, Kids Recipes A to Z. This list doesn’t include images of the dishes and snacks, but the page is easy to scan – featuring a variety of offerings, from Apple Pancakes, Green Spaghetti, to Worm Burgers.

kid friendly favorite recipes

Most of the items on this list are geared to breakfast and lunch meals, and they require very little time to prepare.

Disney FamilyFun

Disney FamilyFun’s section of kid recipes features 10 website pages of dishes, including Orange Biscuits, a grilled ham and cheese Monte Cristo Sandwich, and Best Fudge Brownies.

kid friendly favorite recipes

Recipes are also rated and include well done photo shots of each dish, snack or dessert. Their collection of 28 Easy Dips and Appetizers are great for children and adult gatherings or just healthy snacking.

KidsHealth

For a more healthier collection of recipes, check out KidsHealth, which includes vegetarian recipes, recipes for kids with diabetes, lactose intolerance, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease.

kid friendly recipes

Though the collection of dishes and snacks are not accompanied with photos, the site includes a wide selections of recipes, including Black Beans and Rice, Peanut Butter Bars, Taco Popcorn, Vegetable Skillet Frittata, Cheesecake Squares, and Shepherd’s Pie.

The offerings on these sites don’t replace good old traditional cookbooks or your mom’s secret recipes, but they offer lots of ideas to get started. Including your children in the selection of recipes and the preparation and cooking of meals will provide useful reading and math skills, as well as some great family fun time in the kitchen.

Let us know in the comments of other kid-friendly recipe sites that you find useful.


NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!


 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


January 03 2011

17:30

10 Websites to Make and Print Word Search Puzzles

make a word search puzzleAdd word search puzzles to the list of games you can play with mere words and using nothing but a pen and paper. Oh, I forgot, you can play all sorts of puzzles and games on the web these days. Let’s talk about word search puzzles here.

Unlike crosswords where you pencil in the missing words with the help of clues, word search puzzles are about finding the hidden words in a grid of letters. The word you are searching for may be placed horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or even arranged at a 90 degree angle. The challenge of word search is in the clues if provided.


Just like crossword or any word games, word search puzzles are fun educational tools. A teacher can use it as an aid to teach anything from a foreign language to scientific terminologies. If you have a theme for a word search puzzle, search out the best among these ten websites and make (and print) your own word search puzzles.

Wordsearch Fun

make a word search puzzle

You can not only find loads of word search puzzles here, but also follow a four step process to make your own. Your custom word search puzzles can be included under the many categories gives or you can put it under ‘Miscellaneous’ for any that doesn’t fit. You can choose from 5 size choices (from 9×9 to 15×15). You can keep your puzzles private or open them to the public. When the puzzle is ready, you can choose to email it across or print it out. If you feel it’s too easy, the option – Scramble this Game, reorganizes the grid.

Teacherly

word search maker

At Teacherly, you can create a word search puzzle in seconds. There’s a simple text box to enter the words and a slider that sets the difficulty level. The hardest is – up, down, left, right and diagonal words. You can also browse through other puzzles created by users.

Word Search Maker

word search maker

Word Search Maker makes it even easier to create a puzzle. You can start off with a single word puzzle and copy the code (or send a link across) to your website. You can keep on adding words according to the complexity you want to set. The arrangement of the worlds is pretty much the standard – horizontal, vertical, and diagonal.

Word Turtle (Fun Brain)

word search maker

To make your own puzzle and print it on paper, you need to start off by selecting the level of game play. For instance, Super Hard is – 18 words, 20 letters, with reverse and diagonal. You can also choose to play against yourself. While playing against yourself, click on the first letter of the word you find; Fun Brain highlights it in yellow.

Word Search Generator

word search puzzles

Word Search Generator gives you more customization options to create your own word search puzzle worksheets. You can go for your own word list or choose from the ones already on the site. If it’s a large list, you can choose the number of words you want to pick from the list. What’s great about this puzzle generator is the number of grid options you have to play with including shapes like smile, diamond, and car. Set your font styles and word placement options before you click on create.

SuperKids Word Search Puzzle

word search puzzles

You can make your own printable hidden word puzzles using the SuperKids Wordsearch Puzzle Creator. Input your words and set the grid size to create a puzzle page which you can then print out. This one is a really simple tool for some quick puzzles.

Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker

word search puzzles

Puzzlemaker gives you three choices when you generate your puzzle. An HTML one if you want to print it out, a Text option to paste it in some other application, and a Lowercase option which is the same as the last option but with all the letters in lowercase. You can also go with a puzzle which allows letter sharing among the words. The maximum puzzle size is limited 40 words.

WordSearch

Make printable PDF word search puzzles on this site. Of course, you can also opt for the HTML version too. You can customize the layout and the color of the puzzle page. You can see the options you have in the screenshot. WordSearch lets you arrange the words in any direction. Along with the puzzle PDF, you can also generate the answer key as a separate PDF file.

Puzzle-Maker

The Instant Online Word Search Maker comes without any extras. Place your words in the text box, choose the number of rows and columns to define your grid and create your puzzle. You can print the puzzle from the browser.

Just Word Search

make a word search puzzle

This online word search puzzle is based on Flash. While you cannot make your own puzzles, you can play around with the display size and color before printing out the puzzle.

A word search puzzle is only as good as the words you choose for it. Once you decide that, these websites help you to make a word search puzzle and print it out in a few easy steps. Which word search puzzle website would you go for? Let us know.

Image credit: Shutterstock


NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!


 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


December 22 2010

19:31

10 Websites With Fun Art Games For Kids

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. This is attributed to Pablo Picasso. It’s true about most of us. Even before we start with the alphabet, we learn how to scrawl and draw. But most of us leave the drawing pencil or the crayon behind while growing up. Second to playing a musical instrument, it’s perhaps learning how to wield a brush that’s on most wishlists.

Maybe, our own won’t come true but maybe we can inspire the younger ones in our families to pick up where we left off. Thanks to a variety of interactive art applications and art games on the web, we can reboot the appreciation of art.


Fun art games are a cool way of not only releasing our creative instincts, but they are educational too. Don’t drop the palette and the brush, but do check out these ten interactive art websites for some art games and interactive fun.

Art Detective

Art Detective (The Case of The Mysterious Object) is an art puzzle for kids hosted on the website of Tate Britain. It is a family of four art galleries exhibiting the UK’s collection of British art from 1500 and of international modern art. The Tate Kids section of the site has a lineup of 13 cool art games that you can check out.

The section devoted to the Tate Young has an interesting art educational tool called Saturation which a budding artist can use to understand colors down the ages from 1950 to the present day.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was an American artist, whose painting style combined the free flow of paint with flinging, dripping, pouring, and spattering on a horizontal canvas. You can follow his abstract example by doing your own splattering and spattering on the computer screen with a mouse. A click changes the color in this Flash game and you can wildly move the mouse around to create wonderful patterns. There’s an Internet art app for the iPad and iPhone as well.

Picassohead

From one master to the next: Using this uncomplicated drawing app, you can create figures using elements of Pablo Picasso’s painting style. To get an idea, take a look at a few ‘Picassoheads’ in the Gallery section. Simply use the mouse to drag, drop, and arrange the elements to create heads.

GettyGames

This art and educational website is part of the world’s wealthiest art institution – The J. Paul Getty Trust. If you are in Los Angeles, there’s the J. Paul Getty Museum to visit. GettyGames gives you four art games and one activity to spend time on. Detail Detective teaches you to pay attention to details; Math Madness is about memory skills; Switch is about spotting the differences; and the Jigsaw Puzzles are what they suggest. All games are based on images taken from the world of art and architecture.

Albright-Knox Art Games

This cool online art game opens in a pop-up in your browser, so have your pop-ups enabled. Artie’s House has games galore from a canvas on which you can splatter paint to quiz style games based on paintings. For instance, a painting is displayed and you have to guess the game the figures are playing in the painting. The colorful and interactive website is suitable for kids aged 4-12 and is in English and Spanish.

99Rooms

99Rooms.com is less of a game but more of a visually stimulating online exhibition of wall paintings, photography, and animation combined with sound (and backend programming). You have to switch on lights and gradually advance through each room. A sister project is Ana Somnia; both are examples of how many disciplines can come together and extend the boundaries of art.

The Art Zone

Let a kid loose in this kiddie art website and there’s a good chance that he or she will stay there for the whole day. A National Gallery of Art website for art education for kids, the site boasts of a lineup of games for kids of all ages. My personal favorite is the Photo Op which teaches even an adult like me something about digital photography.

Create Your Own Artwork

The coolness factor of this art website is that you can create your own artwork, write a message, and send it to someone. From finger painting to paint tools like confetti and Jell-O, let your imagination run wild. Sounds like a unique way to send an animated ‘painted’ card for New Year (though the form was hanging on me).

iSketch

iSketch is a multiplayer online sketching game where one player draws a sketch and others have to guess the word which explains it. There are several rooms each having a theme of its own and arranged according to the difficulty of the words. There’s a sketch studio too where you can draw your own sketches and sent to other users.

iSketch is not an ‘art’ game in its strictest sense, but it involves drawing skills and is whole lot of fun. (See Directory mention).

Architect Studio 3D

Architecture is the most massive expression of art you can think of. In this online app you get to design a house from the ground up with the famed architect – Frank Lloyd Wright. He is regarded as the greatest American architect of all time. This web tool is a great learning aid for designing a house according to the principles laid down by Wright. Here you can design a house, walk through it in 3D, and then share it with the world.

Have you tried online art games before? Do you think that it’s a great way to explore your (or your child’s) artistic side?

Image Credit : Shutterstock


Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!


 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


December 20 2010

17:30

Visit These 5 (Virtual) Museums Without Leaving Home

virtual museumA field trip to a museum was one of the necessary educational activities while growing up. I think it still is. The only difference is that with the explosion of the web and virtual environments, a student can cover so many more sights than earlier possible.

Virtual environments open up many more educational options. You can go to places you wouldn’t even dream of, or even be able to in your real life. For example, a virtual museum tour is not real, but it is infinitely more ‘real’ than boring texts and pictures.


As you check out the cool virtual museum tours below, you will realize that it’s not only educational but also gives you a preview of what to expect when you do the real thing. Take these five virtual tours of museums in your pajamas without bothering to pay the price of an admission ticket.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

virtual museum

It is part of the largest museum complex in the world run by the Smithsonian Institution and is also the most popular. Even if you take the real tour, it is a complex of 19 museums and research centers. For a lot of us, it has to be on the “places to visit in our lifetime” list. Even though that day is in the future for a lot of us, we can take a peek into the treasures thanks to the virtual tour.

You can enter the rotunda and go for the comprehensive self-guided, room-by-room walking tour of the whole museum. Directional arrows and a few controls help to guide you around the exhibits. You can directly go to a spot by using the map. If you see an icon of a camera, clicking on it displays the exhibit in close-up. Make sure your internet connection is fast enough before you start the virtual tour.

European Virtual Museum

virtual museum tour

A collection of items from various museums in Europe have been put up on this portal with the help of 3D images. Visitors can explore the history of Europe through the artifacts’ and archaeological information linked to them. You can go by the eras, the area, objects, route, or pick up a museum to browse their collection online. Although it’s not as visually impressive as the online museum above, the European virtual museum is an educational treasure trove if you are studying European history.

Louvre

virtual museum tour

Another museum which ranks among the world’s largest and also has a neat virtual tour is the Louvre. When it comes to art, this museum in Paris holds the top spot. The virtual tours of the museum come in snippets which cover different sections of the museum. You can take in the architectural splendor from the outside and then go into the different departments housing the art objects. An inline QuickTime player gives you pan and zoom controls to close in on the exhibits. You can see a listing of all the virtual tours around the museum on the left sidebar. When it comes to the view, the medieval tour of the Louvre is the best.

Vatican Museums

virtual museum tour

From paintings and sculptures to frescoes, the Vatican Museum is an art connoisseur’s delight. The homepage includes several collections you can view online if you haven’t yet managed a trip to the Vatican City. The 360 degree virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel will show you what you are missing. You can explore the other collections in a little Java player.

Toyota Automobile Museum

virtual museum

The Toyota Automobile virtual museum doesn’t give you the 3D experience with pan, zoom, and tilt, but if automobiles are your thing, you won’t mind. If you are planning to visit the museum in Japan, check out the virtual tour beforehand. Clicking on the map takes you to the different galleries and you can take a look at the photos of the cars that are displayed there. The only thing that’s missing is a bit of historical detail on the cars displayed. But I guess that’s available on the museum floor.

Most virtual tours are designed for the purpose of tourism. They do take you around the world. But when it comes to history and culture, online virtual tours are useful educational tools. If you want to check out some more cool examples, visit the BBC Virtual Tours page. Do you think that virtual tours are the next best thing to an actual visit?

Image credit: Shutterstock


Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!


 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


December 13 2010

17:30

10 Coolest Online Christmas Games to Play during Your Vacation

online christmas gamesWith Christmas just a few days away, I don’t think anybody’s in the spirit for a serious read. Holiday season is in the air and it’s all going to be fun and games from here on. There is no dearth of activities that can be cooked up to keep the family busy during Christmas. Thinking up gift ideas is just one part of the Christmas story. Shopping is of course another. More importantly, Christmas is also a great time to reconnect and bond with the entire family.

And families usually revolve around kids. We can give you some ideas on thinking up gift ideas for them. But you alone can give them the greatest gifts of all – time and love. It’s quite easy actually to have some togetherness when parents and kids love the world of computers. Free online Christmas games are just one starting point.

So, in the name of Yuletide, let’s hunt out some cool online Christmas games that you can play for free.

Elf Clubhouse

online christmas games

The Elf Clubhouse is where the elves come to rest and play. You can also join them. Northpole.com is a child friendly site designed on the theme of Santa’s village. Games are just one part of the fun story. The Elf’s Game Chest is full of cool Christmas online games you can play for free. It’s a nice mix ‘n match of educational games and puzzles. You can play the relatively easy ones like Trim the Tree or Counting Money. But if you really want to keep your child engaged, give him the Rubik’s Cube.

Christmas Cannon

christmas games

The Flash cannon game is just one of the cool and easy online Christmas games you can play on this site. All you have to do is to use your space bar to fire a canon that delivers presents around the town. The Chimney Challenge is another Christmas game you can try and hit back at the tax accountants. But do miss Santa as he also pops out from the chimneys.

CBeebies

christmas games

The BBC site for pre-school kids has a special Christmas section full of fun activities. Choose from the lineup of 15 games. You can start with a simple deck up of the Christmas Tree or the more musical The Big Coconut Adventure. If collecting coconuts doesn’t quite reflect the Xmas theme, check out Christmas Higgledy House.

Santa Snowball Shoot

christmas games

We stay British on the British Council site. Here you have to help the little elf shootout the fake Santa with snowballs. The only thing to be careful of is that you don’t hit Rudolph the reindeer when he too runs in front of the fake Santa. The idea is to gain points and uncover the merry word at the top. Christmas Presents is a language game where you have to read clues and discover ten hidden words in the grid. All games on this site are arranged around the task of teaching a child the basics of the English language.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

free online christmas games

The game is a bit dated, but it’s the fun that matters. The game is based on the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s pretty faced paced so you have to be quick with your mouse click as Jack ‘The Pumpkin King’ Skellington has to drop gifts for Christmas. Can you help him do it?

Overtime

free online christmas games

Overtime is a flash game I found that asks you to be a bit more ‘involved’. The game displays an ad while the game loads but that’s it. The basic idea of the game is to save Christmas by picking up an order for Santa, get it packaged and catch Santa before he traipses off.

The Nutcracker

free online christmas games

This online Christmas game is just one of the online games hosted on this site. Freeaddictinggames.com has a large collection of Christmas games collected from different corners of the web. You have to perform a rescue act as the Nutcracker by fighting other game characters.

Santa Racers

Surprisingly, I found this flash Christmas game incredibly difficult to play as I just couldn’t turn the sleigh around. The game is a racing game where you have to race against the computer and help Santa get fit for the festive season. The game developers have another Santa based game – Sloshed Santa which is also a bit tricky with the arrow keys.

Santa Games

This is a virtual Santa Claus workshop for kids and parents who have lots of activities to choose from and that include lots of free Christmas games. So enter. Use the advent calendar to countdown the days to Xmas and play a random game a day. There are lots to choose from like the always reliable and fun Brick Game and the Tetris Game.  But I went for the Gifts and Spiders game.

Xtreme Xmas Shopping

online christmas games

During the festive season, shopping turns into a contact sport. You have to go on a shopping sprint and try to buy all the goodies before somebody grabs them all before you. The game is played across three levels and could be popular with the gender that loves shopping.

The better known Flash game hosting sites like Miniclip and Kongregate also have online Christmas games which you can try out if you run out of games to play. I don’t think you will, because as Christmas comes near, the web too becomes a bag of goodies. Tell us if you know any cool online Christmas game you like to play with your family.

Image credit: Shutterstock


Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!

 

 

Similar MakeUseOf Articles


Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl