Family Fun Activities: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO came out at the beginning of summer and it's been really popular ever since. I've wanted to write this post for a few weeks, but to be honest I was just too busy playing the game to sit down and write!

Some people seem to think that Pokemon GO is just another time wasting game but based on what I've experienced and witnessed, it's actually a great way to get your family out of the house and active together. Today I'm sharing a few of the reasons I think it's a great family activity.  

I'm not going to get into TOO many details on how the game works in this post, but if you want me to break it down into a "what is it and how do I play?" post, leave a comment and I'll do that next week!

1) You gotta move

In order to find the Pokemon (unless you're using some kind of "cheat" which you really shouldn't be) you have to get up and walk around and explore new places. You can't sit in your house and find lots of Pokemon, you need to go for walks.

Not only do you need to go looking for Pokemon, but you get eggs that you need to incubate, and to incubate them, you need to walk (there are 2km, 5km and 10 km eggs for example.) So, we go on evening Pokewalks and when my kids need to get outside but are just in a mood where no idea appeals to them, I'll often give them the phone and a destination to walk to and see if they can incubate an egg (this obviously depends on the age of your kid though).
 


2) You get to explore new places

Want a reason to go and look at monuments and talk about the history of a city? Play Pokemon GO with your kids because monuments, statues, murals, etc. are generally PokeStops (a PokeStop is where you go to get supplies such as Pokeballs, which you need to catch Pokemon, potions to revive and heal your Pokemon when they've been in a battle, and other cool things).  You need to go to PokeStops to keep playing the game and PokeStops can be really fun to explore.

We have walked around Confederation Park, Pembroke, Cobden, Renfrew, World Exchange Plaza and Sparks Street, and the deal is that whenever possible, we stop and see just what the PokeStop is all about.

We've seen cool statues, fountains, read the war memorial statues and explored the waterfront in Pembroke and my kids and husband went on a crazy bridge in Renfrew (I have a fear of bridges, so I stayed on land and took a photo, :)

3) Combine it with other activities

Some people have told me they think geocaching is better. I think geocaching is amazing and since my husband doesn't really enjoy Pokemon GO he has taken the opportunity to be out in new places to find the caches that are often in some of the similar places as you can find many PokeStops. We're getting to do both at the same time and the kids really enjoy both aspects of it.

Other ways you can combine it with activities is to go to farmer's markets or see if anyone is hosting a Lure Party. (A Lure Party is when a PokeStop has someone activate a lure which attracts more Pokemon. If you see a PokeStop with pink dots hovering around it, someone activated a lure so you're sure to catch more Pokemon than usual there. Sometimes business owners will activate the lures to make coming to their store or business fun for the whole family. I know some farmer's markets have done this, as well as business associations. It's a fun and smart way to combine activities - one person shops (my husband) while I catch Pokemon and let my kids help. :)

Use it as an opportunity to teach 

There are a lot of things that come up when playing Pokemon Go with your kids that are great lessons to teach.

Don't walk and play. The phone will buzz if there is a Pokemon around so know where you're going, walk with eyes ahead, and then stop and look down when needed. You hear all kinds of stories about people walking into traffic. This can happen with far more than just Pokemon GO, use it as an opportunity to talk about being safe.

Some people feel that people are trespassing to play Pokemon GO. Again, this is an opportunity to teach your kids about trespassing and privacy, and about the importance of not going places you aren't supposed to be. Playing together adds the opportunity to do this.

A few words of warning:

- Pokemon GO drains your cell battery really quickly. Make sure to have a full charge before you go out and maybe even bring a battery pack along with you.

- Pokemon GO data usage isn't horrible, but be aware and check in on how much you're using so you don't end up suddenly using your data for them month. It seems quite similar to other map apps so if you keep those on during long drives, this wouldn't be different.

- It can be addictive to the parents as well as the kids. So I hear anyways ;)

Over all, I think the Pokemon GO can be a really fun family activity and it's motivating to many people to get outside and moving. In my opinion it's a great example of how games can make life MORE social, because we have met up with friends in parks to go Pokemon hunting together. Games don't need to make you sedentary and antisocial, they can motivate you to get out of the house when it otherwise would be hard, move, and hang with friends!

Do you play Pokemon GO?

Exploring with the Spot App

by Kamerine

Kids are natural explorers. It starts with infancy - they want to touch and feel everything. Soon they are toddling around their environment. They put things in their mouths and get so dirty! Their desire to learn is insatiable.

It's no different with technology. I think they push all the buttons on remotes and iDevices because they aren't worried about breaking the thing. They just want to know what happens when they push THIS button or THAT button! And it's amazing what they can learn about devices in a short time. I swear my kids know how to work the remotes and my phone better than I do!

Screen time is part of our reality these days. Limited screen time is good but sometimes letting the kids watch a show or play on the iPad is what gets us through the day. The new Spot app is perfect for little explorers. The app opens to a white screen with a ladybug and then the exploring begins.

Little fingers pull apart to make the ladybug bigger... and bigger... and BIGGER! until a new world is uncovered. This goes on and on in the app, exploring what's inside cookies and papers and the table. The whole world can be explored and fun things found.

It was so much fun watching those little fingers going all over and the looks of excitement at discovering what there was to see next. The Spot app is very creative and fun, but it's no wonder when it was created by David Wiesner, a celebrated story teller. Spot allows kids to come up with their own story.

Without a specific task or bad guys to battle, my 5 year old son didn't stay interested too long, but my 4 year old daughter had fun exploring until it was time to turn off the screen. I love how this app encourages exploration and imagination.

This app is for iPads and is available for purchase in the App Store for $4.99. What apps are your kids loving these days?

Disclaimer: I was provided a code to download this app for free. All opinions are my own. 

An ode to an app

My kid has been playing with the iPad for a long time and we have tried a lot of learning apps; some have been bigger hits than others. Some she has loved and I have hated because I don't understand what they were actually teaching. We've had some big hits that she still plays with, like the Monkey Preschool apps that I recommend to anyone looking for a toddler or preschooler friendly game. Last week I downloaded the Super Why! app from PBS Kids.

This is my ode to that app.

photo

In the mornings we tend to watch CBC Kids while I'm getting some a bit of work done, and I had noticed that the kid got into Super Why! and was doing well with the sounding out of works with the Super Why team. I figured the show would have an app so I went looking and downloaded it.

When the kid plays the app, which has all four main characters doing different activities with letters and words. Princess Pea sings, and right along with her my daughter says 'S-P-E-L-L spell!'

She finds the sounds, makes the words, sings and laughs. This app is working her towards reading more than any other she's played so far and I love to watch it. When I sit down with her with workbooks or a crayon on some paper she doesn't get as involved as she does with the Super Why! team.

I give it an A+.

 

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My BlackBerry Wears a SuperHero Cape

by Krista In 2007 I gave birth to my first born, which was the same year that I bought my first BlackBerry smartphone. Little did I know that my BlackBerry would become my superhero when stuck in difficult situations with my kids. Not many parents would hand over their smartphone to their babies or toddlers but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. I quickly learned that with close supervison I had no worries in handing my smartphone over to my toddler while he sat on my lap in the doctor's office or sitting in the grocery cart while waiting in a long lineup.

My first introduction to the concept of kids apps was when a friend of mine started his own BlackBerry app company called Zeebu Mobile. The founder, Anthony Rizk, is a longtime BlackBerry developer, who wrote the book on BlackBerry development. He literally wrote a book about it: (http://www.apress.com/9781430272250). After his first daughter was born, he realized the potential in getting a few moments peace by distracting his little one with his BlackBerry smartphone. I on the other hand was not too sure about handing my beloved smartphone over to a toddler... until that faithful day.

I'll never forget the first time I used my BlackBerry to keep my toddler busy. I found myself in a doctor's office with no toys or distractions for my toddler. So I whipped out my BlackBerry and downloaded my first kids app, BabyGo! This app allows for your child to press the keys or tap the screen (on touch screen devices) and see colourful images, letters and numbers dance across the screen. Do you know the best part of the app? It intercepts the keys so that your little one cannot accidentally send an email or make a phone call while using your smartphone! My BlackBerry came to our rescue that day in the doctor's office and the app became an instant success! My sanity was saved by my BlackBerry!

BabyGo! is a free app but you can also purchase Super BabyGo which has more functionality. I like that you can download expansion packs to keep changing the activities for your toddler such as letters, numbers and animals. The app is supported on BlackBerry, iPads and Android smartphones. The neat thing about Zeebu is that it is an Ottawa company. Yay for local companies! For more information on the apps I mentioned go to http://www.zeebu.com

Would you hand over your smartphone to the willing hands of your child? What would be your age limit?

Krista is mom to four year old Ewan and two year old twins Angus and Lachlan. She met and married the geek in the next cube at her first high tech gig over 10 year ago. She blogs at thetechmom.ca about her high tech life as a mom and wife. She runs a mobile app company called Smarter Apps and can also be found on Twitter as @kristahouse.

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