Smart pajamas read to your kids at night

CNET on Smart PJs, “The world’s first and only interactive pajamas”:

“Smart PJs, called the world’s ‘first and only interactive pajamas,’ require downloading a free app for iOS or Android and scanning one of dozens of codes from the Smart PJs with a smartphone or tablet. The device then reads aloud a story, sings a lullaby, or broadcasts pictures of animals or other bedtime-appropriate cuteness.”

Horrible. Awful. Why read to your children when you can toss an iDevice at them? In fact, you don’t even have to pick out the story anymore. Jr’s PJs will do that for you! There’s more:

“‘Now your child will be excited to go to bed,’ says a promotional video for the product.”

Yeah, nothing helps a toddler fall asleep faster than excitement. Sign me up.

2012 Holiday Gift Guide: Parents

My first paid writing job was for The Parenting Post, official blog of Parenting Magazine [1. No longer active.]. You’ll find an archive of my posts here. I no longer write about the kids online, but they do still exist. With almost a decade of parenting in my rear view mirror, I’m still a newcomer but I’ve learned a thing or two as well. Here is a list of gifts that will delight parents of young kids. With a geek twist, of course.

Continue reading →

Netflix’s “Just For Kids” feature is better with Guided Access

Netflix recently updated its app for iPhone and iPad (free, universal) with a feature called “Just for Kids.” It’s meant to present kid-friendly movies and TV shows while hiding those inappropriate for children. It’s a nice first step, but that’s all it is. I was able to exit Just For Kids mode easily, and even view an R-rated feature when it should have been hidden.

Here’s a quick look at Just For Kids from Netflix as well as how to increase its effectiveness with Apple’s Guided Access.

Enable Just For Kids mode

Flipping the kid-friendly switch is easy. You’ll find a button in the upper left labeled Just for Kids. Tap it and the app displays a nice grid of kid-friendly programs and family features. Tap any feature to view a pop-up window that presents either a grid of episodes (if your target is a TV show) or a synopsis and rating (movies). I’d be happy to hand this over to my kids during a long road trip, if only it weren’t so easy to exit.

Continue reading →

Beware the markers

Happy, ignorant faces. They have no idea.

My kids started 2nd and 4th grade today. As the parents stood in the crowded cafagymatorium for the opening ceremony, listening to the same multi-cultural music they use every year to welcome upper middle-class white kids to school, a tear formed in my eye.

Good luck kids,” I thought. “This is going to suck.”

Fourth grade was when I threw up my hands and said, “That’s it, this blows.” I can even pinpoint the exact moment.

Art class, Sister Dolores.

Sr. Dolores was a short Catholic nun who stored Kleenex somewhere within the folds of her sleeve. You never knew it was there until she reached up, fished around and produced it, like Hermione going for her wand. It must have been late October because we were all handed 8.5×11 sheets of water color paper and a sketch of a scarecrow to copy. I did a pretty good job – not as good as that damn Mike Gowarty who was sketching at an 8th grade level – and walked to her desk to hand it in.

I remember this exactly. She said, “I’ll just finish this for you,” and pulled out a thick, black marker (not from her sleeve), which she used to draw a heavy outline around everything. The scarecrow’s face, his body and protruding bunches of straw, the fence, the pumpkins. My scarecrow looked like Al Jolsen. “Now that’s good,” she said.

Yeah, well someday I will have a weblog and then YOU WILL BE SORRY.

This morning my daughter walked the red carpet out of the cafagymatorium and into the spirit-crushing sarlacc that is fourth grade, where her creativity will be slowly digested over a thousand years. My son, who makes avant-garde art out of bottle caps he collects from the dump [1. Or “bodl caps.” I’ll never correct him because that’s the cutest thing ever.], is only two years behind. Good luck, kids. Don’t let the markers get you down.