Free Rice: Increase Your Vocabulary and Feed the Hungry.

There is a wonderful site that I go to now and then to challenge my vocabulary.  It’s called Free Rice.  Not only are there levels of difficulty to help develop vocabulary skills, every time you successfully define words, grains of rice are added to your account.  This number quickly adds up.

Where does this “Rice Money” go?  To those in need.  For each answer you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

We spend so much time on social media and computers.  Why not take a few minutes to help ease hunger while doing it.  Here’s the link to the site:

Over 96 billion grains have been donated to date

WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance.  It also makes you feel good.



Girls Who Code: A New Book by Reshma Saujani

Author Reshma Saujani is on a mission: To narrow the gender gap in technology by teaching girls and young women computer skills.  Her book helps DECODE the basics of coding and gets girls “revved up” to create their own game or app.

GIRLS WHO CODE: LEARN TO CODE AND CHANGE THE WORLD by Reshma Saujani.  To order the book on Amazon:

Here are some other recent STEM picks:

  1. OSMO CODING JAM: Allows kids to create original music.
  2. KANO COMPUTER KIT: Build and code a computer from scratch + learn the programming languages like Javascript and Python.                        
  3. LITTLE BITS CODE KIT: Kids in grades 3-8 can invent four different games.


Cool Apps For Cool Kids.

Here are some fun Apps you can download for free to keep your kids entertained on long car trips or while on vacation. 


1.  Despicable Me: Minion Rush

2. Frozen Free Fall:  This is a “match three” game that allows your child matches to unlock favorite Frozen characters.

3. Mouse Maze Free Game – by Top Free Games:  This is a Pac Man style game with a cat and mouse chase.

4. Tic Tac Toe Free: A great intro for young children in learning how to take turns.


1. Candy Island Free: Sweet Shop: Your child owns a candy shop that she must keep stocked to keep customers happy.

2. Wash Pets -Kids Games:  Your child can give a puppy or kitten a grooming session. 

3. Miles From Tomorrowland: This is a space-based racing game.

4. Tynker – Learn to Code: These games allow your child to learn about programming.

If you have any other Apps that your kids enjoy, please share them here.  May all your summer road trips be enjoyable one.


Today’s post was first published in Mamalode on October 8th and promoted on Twitter by Brain,Child Magazine.  It was an interesting – and somewhat controversial –  topic that I asked Jennifer if I could feature it here.  We’d both welcome your feedback.

Dear Bubbe,
I never intended to do it; really. One second it was a quivering icon, the next it was gone. Just. Like. Magic.

Honestly, it brought on a smile. I’m not trying to be mean. Chalk it up to a Mommy epiphany, a moment of clarity. The day I deleted Minecraft, I liberated myself and you of a virtual, addictive burden. Pressing that shaky, little X ushered you back to real life. That made me happy.

In the beginning, I was a fan.
Compared to the other choices the video game world has to offer, I could see why you wanted to tap the piggy bank to invest in one that requires players to scavenge for resources, earn survival treasure, design landscapes, construct villages, and defend against intruders. As a lifelong rock collector, forager of sorts, visual thinker, and creative designer it appealed to many of your natural sensibilities.

A popular topic of discussion at summer camp and later in the school cafeteria, Minecraft was also something to bond over with friends. Game play and conversations led to art projects, dissecting handbooks, sharing song parodies, and pretend play. It was a vehicle to stretch your imagination, apply ingenuity, problem solve, and socialize. So like organized sports, enrichment programs, and play dates, this Mommy approved video game quickly became outsourcing I could justify.

Not only did I feel like I was doing right by your development; it kept you busy, safe, in an earshot and out of my hair all at the same time. My afternoon was still my own and I didn’t necessarily have to entertain or engage with you all that much.
Then I began to notice screen time and giving up the screen made you cranky and angry. You responded less to Dad and me, ignored guests, and blew off friends playing outside. Preferred downtime was spent in the basement; alone in a Minecraft cave.
Even with the game shut off, I was living with a one note Bubbe on Enderman autopilot. It was all you wanted to talk, draw, write, and think about. And when The Skootch got access, twice the misery ensued.       jen post pic

So in an effort to find balance, we set up a schedule to earn and limit play time.

It didn’t work.

The timer chime was drowned out daily by your pleading, sometimes screaming voice, “I wasn’t done; I just found iron, I need a diamond sword, a creeper destroyed my supplies and all I have left is a raw chicken!”
It was only after the drama escalated to the point where I found myself ripping the IPad from your grip and yelling back, “Who cares; it’s not real!” that I knew we needed a big change.
All craziness combined led me to Deletion Day.

In the future, I’m not ruling out screen time completely; that would make me a hypocrite but Minecraft was sucking wind from your childhood and it needed to go away.
Proof of my decision came the morning after Deletion Day when I read an article about Steve Jobs; the man who invented the tablet on which you play. He was brilliant for many reasons, particularly in his choice to limit his own children’s access to technology.
A few hours later, you played with months old Minecraft Legos for the first time and said, “Mom, this is fun. I never would have known if I kept playing video games.” I then knew we were heading in a better direction.
Your Lego comment got me thinking more about fun and parent approved outsourcing, both today and when I was your age.

Like you, I kept busy after school and like you, my mother gravitated toward outsourcing. She didn’t have insight into child development or the value of play, I’m just pretty sure that when she came home from work, she didn’t want to see my face until dinner.
But I didn’t play video games, do gobs of after school activities, or have scheduled dates to see friends.
I was let out of the house and off the leash; in an earshot of only the person on the bike next to me and left in an unstructured and by modern standards, unsafe environment to play pickup games with neighboring kids, defend myself against obnoxious villagers, explore the nearby pond, collect crystals from a stream, build forts, and roam through the woods.
Call it my own, private Minecraft. No IPad needed.
And it was good fun.

Growing up isn’t easy but parenting isn’t simple. You can’t always get what you want when you want it, and I can’t always do what makes my life easier. In an effort to raise you to be a thinking, well adjusted, connected, kind, happy, independent human being I sometimes have to check myself and then love you enough to say enough.
Your childhood is just out of my reach, but it is not yet out of yours. Embrace. Enjoy. Experience. Take time in the real world to discover unchartered lands, dig caves, build cities, mix it up with the villagers, and have adventures. You’ll be glad you did.

Now go. I’ll see you at dinner.             jen photo
I Love You,

Jennifer can be reached at:
Twitter: @redsaidwhatblog
Facebook page: Red said what?

More Free Apps: Part 2

On Monday I featured some new iPhone Apps for kids.  Today I have three free ones to download onto you Android device.

1. HAY DAY: A building game in a happy country town filled with positive, colorful things and lots of fun for young kids.

2. KIDS DOODLE – COLOR AND DRAW: Your kids will love this drawing app thanks to its colorful options and ability to play back their drawings in a video montage.

3. BUBBLE POPPING FOR BABIES: A very simple game for your baby or toddler. Various forms of ocean life trapped in bubbles are released when baby touches them.  Great for building eye-hand co-ordination.

What are your kids’ favorite Apps?

Keep Your Kids Entertained: Free Apps Part 1.

Whether you’re planning a fall road trip or have a long wait at the doctor or dentist, you can keep your children busy with these new FREE apps to download onto your APPLE iPhone.

1. MY HORSE: If you don’t have room in your apt. or backyard for a real horse, get your child a virtual one to love and care for.

2. SPONGE BOB DINER DASH: This game allows the player to help serve customers at the Krusty Krab and make sure they all have a good time.

3. MY LITTLE PONY – FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC:  Help My Little Pony and friends rebuild the town to restore it to sparkling magic.

4. PBS KIDS VIDEO: Numerous PBS apps feature a large inventory of video clips from popular TV shows.  For multiple age groups.

Tune in on Friday for more free apps for ANDROID devices.

Summer Classes and More

Micheals Craft Stores are offering the PASSPORT TO IMAGINATION crafts program for kids 5 and up.  Children can explore all seven continents and learn about their landmarks.  The program runs from June 17 through August 2 and costs $@.00 per session.  For details go to:

While summer should be fun-filled and relaxing, some children get bored or lose skills when they are out of school.  Others just do better when there is some structure to the day. If you and your family are looking for FREE summer enrichment for kids, check out these websites:   is an interactive math site containing more than 7 million activities and quizzes created by math teachers.  There are problems from Pre-K through high school geometry and algebra.   was created fro children from preschool through grade eight.  It offers more than 100 interactive games fro math, reading and literacy.  There are also popular books and comics to read on the site, including “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “Amelia Writes Again” and “Brewster Rocket”.  contains high-quality cultural and educational media from all over the world.  Children can find free online classes on topics such as English Literature, biology, math and film.

So while you’re having summer fun, check out some fun-filled learning activities as well.

Math Fun For All Ages.

For those who enjoy the fun and challenge of solving math puzzles, problems and activities, there are a number of awesome math sites to try.  Here you’ll find lessons  about MONEY, ALGEBRA, GEOMETRY, and just plain fun broken into grade levels K – 8.  There are also worksheets, quizzes and videos to watch.

2. Everything you can think of using numbers in fun and interesting games and activities can be found here.

3. Offers homework help, games, problem solving activities and number fun. There are lots of games for practicing fractions.

New Books, Apps, Resolutions, and More for a Happy 2013.

I’ve been reading some amazing picture books (PB) as well as middle grade (MG) these past few months and want to pass along the titles to share with your children and friends.

In the PB category, pick up THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN by Tiffany Strelitz Haber.  Poor Onster lost his “M” which is his mean and gets teased by the other monsters.  In order to win back their friendship, Onster has to find his mean. But, instead of being mean like the other monsters, Onster is helpful and kind.  Will it be the end of his monster days?  Or, will he learn to be his own kind of monster? The illustrations are perfect and the theme of “be yourself” is just right for young readers. Visit Tiffany’s site @

In the MG category there are 2 books I’d recommend: THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Niki Loftin tells the story of a perfect school where you get your own endless bowl of candy, and you can talk on the phone or sleep during classes if you want to.  Perfect, right?  Until you walk through the door. There’s something in the food that is making all the children… the book to find out what happens.    The second MG is THE GREAT UNEXPECTED by Sharon Creech. Two friends – Naomi and Lizzie – are surprised by a boy named Finn who falls out of a tree and sets in motion a mystery involving mysterious trunks, dead ancestors, and expecting the unexpected.  It’s a wonderful story of family, friendship and believing anything is possible.

Here is a new app available from the National Wildlife Federation for kids who love learning about wildlife:

Start the New Year off with some great stories.  Make resolutions to learn one new thing this year, eat a new food, visit someplace you’ve never been to, and teach someone else something you’re good at. What better way to celebrate the start of 2013!


Apps for Children

I’ve been discovering many new web sites that allow you to download all kinds of educational games, activities and videos for free.  Here are a few of the best:

1. The Daring Librarian website is filled with “techie” web links for kids of all ages.

2.    has an illustrated, narrative collection of books and stories for kids that you can download to an iPhone or tablet.

3.    has an app for iPads called  The Crankamacallit.  It’s all about educational games and activities for kids of all ages.

4. Deedil Apps is run by a teacher mom and her techie husband.  Your child can learn to sing the A B C’s like a robot, and have books to read downloaded onto your smart phone.  Check it out at: