To Tech or Not to Tech? How ‘Bout Both?

Although we love toys that don’t have an on/off switch, there’s definitely a time and place for apps. Here are two very clever games that combine tablet and touch, a sleek tablet, and something totally low-tech.

tigglyTiggly
Recent research shows that young children are spending so much time on tablets that they their muscle tone and hand-eye coordination aren’t developing the way they should. That’s where Tiggly comes in. Tiggly develops interactive apps that incorporate object manipulation to help kids build spatial- and fine-motor skills, creativity, and reasoning. Tiggly Counts is an award-winning math-learning game for kids 18 months to 6 years old. To get the correct answers to simple math questions, kids have to physically put the right number of special Tiggly devices in the right place on the screen. Tiggly Shapes brings the same basic technology to shape- and pattern recognition. Each game comes with the appropriate devices and several additional apps. They’re colorful, entertaining, educational, and kids can play by themselves or with mom and dad. For Android and iOS (sorry Windows Phone). $30 on http://get.tiggly.com/counts.

painting luluPainting Lulu
Part coloring book, part app, Painting Lulu is a delightful blend of technology and design. It starts with an actual paper coloring book (remember those?) where kids start their drawings. Then they (or a nearby adult) scan their drawing into a tablet using the free Painting Lulu app. The art shows up on the screen, where those little artist can color, erase, retouch, and change as much as they’d like (using the included digital crayon, of course—wax and screens are not a good combination). When the masterpiece is complete, print it out and send it off to Grandma and Grandpa. For iOS and Android devices. Sells for $9.99 on http://www.paintinglulu.com.

camelio skinCamelio Table (Vivitar)
The Camelio Tablet is great for families that would like everyone to have a tablet but don’t want to spend the dough on each one; hey, those things can get pricey. Camelio features Android 4.1 and can accommodate up to five users using “Personality Packs.” Those packs allow each user to customize wallpaper, camera, widgets, lock screens, games, and, of course include a themed skin for the device. Prices vary. http://www.cameliotablet.com/

burg watchBURG Smartwatches 
There are a lot of smart watches out there, but BURG watches are among the very few stand-alone phones, meaning you can make and receive texts and calls without being connected to any other device (although you can if you want to). BURGs accept SIM cards so you can take them on the road, and you may be able to add yours to your wireless family plan. Features vary widely depending on the model. The BURG 25 has as 2.0MP camera, step- and calorie counters, and GPS. The 16A doesn’t have any of those. But both have MP3/MP4 players, Bluetooth, calendar, calculator, alarm, and can store up to 500 contacts.  Prices vary by model. Aat major retailers and www.burgwearables.com 

silly mcgillySilly McGillly
And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, and gleefully devoid of technology, comes Silly McGilly, who’s the Irish version of the “Elf on the Shelf” or “Mensch on a Bench”—an impish little elven creature who plays tricks and creates mischief leading up to his favorite holiday. McGilly comes with a book and an adorable little leprechaun that will help you and the kids spend some quality time together between last-minute runs to the grocery store for green food coloring. The little leprechaun doesn’t have a beard and is about as huggable—and as far from scary-looking—as it’s possible to get. The set retails for $29.95 at www.sillymcgilly.com.

Initiating a Divorce: The Proper Steps, Part 2

In the first part of this article, we talked about the importance of separation from your soon-to-be-ex, working with an attorney, and keeping your spouse in the loop on what’s happening. Now we continue with the next steps in the process.

It’s Time for Negotiations

The negotiations can quickly become the most overwhelming part of your divorce. In most cases, a trial is set for a year away, and you’ll need to participate in a temporary hearing to establish child custody and support issues. From requesting exclusive use of the marital home and temporary custody of minor children to who gets the car, everything will be covered.

What Happens if You Can’t Agree?

If at this point you cannot agree, the attorneys involved may submit your issues in question to the Judge during what is known as a pretrial conference. Pretrial conferences are held in the Judge’s chamber, and both of your attorneys will need to be present.

Your attorney will present their position to the Judge, and the Judge will make an educated recommendation for settlement. It’s important to remember that the Judge’s pretrial recommendations are not set in stone, but they’re a sign as to how the Judge thinks the case should be settled. In most cases, the pretrial conference is the greatest motivation for agreeing on a final settlement without needing to prepare for a full trial.

The Final Step

Once you’ve made it into the divorce court, it can become ugly in no time at all. Your attorney’s job is to win the case for you. Are you worried about a jury? Don’t be. Most divorce trials are held with only a Judge present. Once you get through the part where you promise to tell the truth, things take a serious turn. You’ll have to settle on the entitlement to divorce, child custody/visitation rights, distribution of property, child support, spousal support, and much more. Of course, if you don’t have children, you only have to worry about a few of these things. If your spouse isn’t happy about the results, they possess the right to appeal. If the Judge grants the appeal, it’s back to the courthouse to start over.

Divorce is Not for the Faint-hearted

Divorce isn’t easy, but no one ever said it was. If you think divorce is the only option you have in your marriage, be sure to prepare yourself for a year-long battle. While you and your spouse may not disagree on a lot of things, divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in anyone. Choose your stance wisely, and make sure you get what you deserve.

Hollow Threats: Do You Really Mean That? Are You Sure?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have a 4-year-old daughter who always seems to be in motion, and she’s not terribly good at following directions. A few weeks ago we were out shopping at the mall and she was running around all over the place. She wasn’t really causing too much trouble, but it was pretty crowded and my wife was getting frustrated. Finally, she grabbed her, and said, “If you don’t stop that running around, we’re going to go home and leave you right here.” I think it’s a bad idea to make threats that you have no intention of carrying out. She says that she was just trying to get her attention. I hate to put you in the middle, but which of us is right?

A: You are. You’d be amazed at how often I get this question and how important it is.

One of the major jobs of childhood is to test boundaries. Think of your child as a research scientist who turns every rule into a hypothesis. “Hmm,” she says. “The laws of physics (AKA mom and dad) say that I’m not allowed to do that, but I wonder what would happen if I did?” The only way for any self-respecting scientist can test the hypothesis is to break the rule and see what happens.

If, like the laws of physics, the threatened consequences actually materialize, the boundaries you set will make her feel safe. Plus, she’ll feel secure knowing that when you give her a warning or any kind of “if… then…,” she’d better listen up. Of course, she’ll still test your limits, as any good researcher would do; that’s her job. (But be careful: too many boundaries may make her feel so trapped that the only way out is to test as many as possible.)

However, if you’re not consistent in enforcing the rules, your threats may be successful in the short run (e.g. she’ll stop running around at the store for a few minutes). But long term, she’ll learn that it’s okay to ignore you. How many times have you given a “last warning” and then followed it up with another “last warning” and maybe one or two more?

Eventually, your child may come to see your warnings as suggestions or invitations. Just think of all the completely crazy things we tell our kids. Stop shooting Nerf guns in the house because you’ll put someone’s eye out; eating too many carrots will turn your skin orange; swallowing cherry pits will make a tree grow in your stomach; if you do A, B, or C, you’ll fall down and break your neck; if you do D, E, or F, I’ll take away your dessert for the rest of your life; and so on.

Your daughter knows perfectly well that you’re not going to abandon her in the store, that a tree won’t really grow in her stomach, that you really won’t take away her dessert for any more than a day or two, and that pretty much nothing you say turns out to be true. The lack of consequences just makes whatever it is you’re trying to keep her from doing sound that much more attractive.

If you and your wife really want your child to start paying more attention to you, you need to give clear, concise, consistent messages followed up—immediately—by logical consequences. For example, if she’s drawing on the walls with crayons, you take away the crayons for a week. In other words, the consequence should have something to do with the behavior you’re trying to stop.

2015 Toy Trends to Watch

Every year, hundreds of toy manufacturers flock to New York, in the middle of February, to showcase their latest and greatest. Thousands of buyer s and media folks are close behind, anxious to uncover hidden toy gems for their customers and readers. This year was no exception (except for the fact that it was 20 degrees colder than usual), and your parents@play team was right there on the front lines. Here are some of trends that we think will be hot in 2015.

backpacksBackpacks. Backpacks are no longer simple bags with shoulder straps designed to carry stuff. This year, they’ll be a major fashion statement, too. They’ll be colorful, fanciful, often-customizable, and some will combine form and function, allowing the wearer to dress up as a favorite character.

 

 

owlselephantsOwls and Elephants Are the New Teddy Bears. Of course, we won’t be saying goodbye to teddy bears forever, but there’ll be a lot more hooting and trumpeting in the toy aisles this year. Owls and teddy bears plush toys will also showing up as book illustrations, mini figurines, and, of course, in apps (more on that below).

 

 

talking backTalk amongst Yourselves. Toys that “talk” are nothing new, but as technology evolves, manufacturers are using it in very clever ways. Minions, for example, are pretty chatty and musical. But sometimes, if you put a few of them together, they’ll sing in harmony. Some doctor toys will change what they say depending on which patient is in the exam room. Others will speak differently when their wardrobe or location changes. Dogs and cats may chase each after other, otherwise-peaceful dinosaurs may fight each other in groups, hot dogs will sizzle when you put them on the grill, and so on.

 

 

 

blind packBlind Packs. Many collectible toys, from My Little Pony to The Walking Dead, will be available in small bags that don’t say who or what is inside them (some may give you a hint, though).

 

 

appThere’s an App for That. Technology is a wonderful thing, except when it isn’t. A huge number of physical toys now come with a virtual component. Many times, these apps augment your child’s playtime experience by adding new app/tablet-based dimensions and features. But sometimes, the apps add absolutely nothing—and may even detract.

grossThat’s Disgusting. Last year, we saw molds for making your own “poop” (complete with pieces of “corn” to heighten the effect), fart keyboards, and rainbow-pooping unicorns. Those will still be popular. Plus, we’ll see toys that eat, poop, vomit, and then combine all of those actions in a variety of disgusting ways. And we’ll add a new sense to the mix with fart sprays—some make a noise and produce pleasant odors, while others have a more “natural scent.”

frozenFrozen. We thought the movie was wonderful. But Disney has done such a good job licensing its characters that they’ll be popping up on toys, games, dolls, karaoke, cell-phone cases, apps, and everything else, that we’re predicting that within a few months, you’ll have completely OD’d on building snowmen, and the cold will bother you. A lot.

dino/movieMovie and TV Tie-ins. Speaking of movies, you’ll be seeing a huge number of entertainment-related toys, games, figures, and apps. Of course there are the superheroes from DC and Marvel—including some relatively rare ones like Ant Man—but there are also Minions, dinosaurs, and a variety of new characters who’ll be making the jump from the screen to your playroom.

role playRole Play. Now kids (mostly girls) can do more than just play with their dolls—they can dress up as them with brand-licensed skirts, tops, and footwear.

5 Tips For Putting Your Child on The Path of Financial Independence

the path to financial independence

the path to financial independence

Somewhere around your child’s 18th birthday, when he or she is just getting used to life on a college campus, credit card companies will begin making offers. By this point, it’s pretty late in the game to begin teaching your child about financial literacy, cyber safety, and investment strategies. Ideally, you would have started these lessons years ago. Still, there’s a big difference between “pretty late” and “too late,” so whether you’ve started or not, here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Know The Basics

Before opening the first credit card or checking account, your child should know the fundamentals of financial literacy. She probalby won’t need to be able to do an SEC filing but your kid should understand how to count money and make change, calculate simple interest, and create a budget. Studies show that 70 percent of young people don’t have these basic skills as they enter adulthood. That’s one of the major conributing factors to our national epidemic of personal debt. In the wrong hands, a checkbook or credit card can be a disaster that will linger for years, the first step on a nasty death-spiral of uncontrolled debt.

Stay Internet Safe

Getting deep in debt isn’t the only possible fallout from having access to money. Thanks to the Internet and e-commerce, thieves have access to an amazing array of ways to steal your money. If you go through bank statements carefully every month, you’ll have a good shot at identifying fraudulent or erroneous items. But not many adults do that–and even fewer young people. Instead, use LifeLock to send alerts for questionable transactions and inquiries to both the parent and child. This way you can make a habit out of checking accounts and turn the whole thing into a teachable moment.

Hope For The Best…

… but plan for the worst. Like the rest of us, your child has no idea of the problems that could come up in the future. That said, the life experience you’ve gathered over the years will give you a better chance of identifying patterns and protecting against the unknown. Start teaching your child how to save and budget for unforeseen issues (and don’t be shy about brushing up on those skills yourself).

Saving To Portfolio

Once your child understands the simple aspects of saving, upgrade him to a portfolio. Introduce him to more sophisticated financial tools such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. This can be a fun experiment where you track imaginary transactions of real stock. Start by investing an imaginary $2,000. Let your child pick stocks and watch them daily as they fluctuate. Be sure to factor in brokerage fees, and have your child track his gains and losses. When both of you are confident that he’s got a good grasp on how the markets work, you may want to experiment with small sums in the real world.

Create New Businesspeople

Finances and work are integrally related. Juan Casimiro, founder of Casimiro Global Foundation which provides entrepreneurship training to youth, believes that personal economic empowerment and global social leadership are directly linked. Introduce your child to the principles of social entrepreneurship. Teach her how to make money while creating a better world. Show your child that financial success can be achieved while still helping others thrive.