Help the Fresh Air Fund Host Children

It’s official – MaM’s foray into day camp this summer is half over. She’s signed up for nine weeks, and yesterday she went on her 5th field trip. It doesn’t seem possible, but she’s got four weeks of camp, a week of Camp Grandma, and then it’s off to first grade!

This summer, through day camp alone, she’s had serious swimming and rock climbing time. She’s learned all sorts of organized games, and has gone on five field trips. She’s having a great time, and she’s getting a good dose of indirect learning to boot.

I know not all kids get to have this kind of summer– but until I learned about the Fresh Air Fund, I couldn’t really picture the contrast. Imagine living in the city and never leaving. Never being someplace where you can run barefoot. Never enjoying a shady park, or the cool breeze of the ocean. Never playing outside without having to constantly look for cars. Always hearing sirens, trucks, and the sounds of the city.

The Fresh Air Fund helped nearly 5000 kids in 2010 alone by getting them to host families in the suburbs and countryside in thirteen states. They sent 3000 more to summer camp. They gave nearly 8000 children a summer vacation the children wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This year, the Fresh Air Fund needs 850 more host families to make sure each child has a host family
. Families can host for one or two weeks in their home, and the child travels to you. Currently, thirteen states (NE seaboard) are hosting. If you live in the right area and have it in your heart, please consider hosting. If you’d like to help in other ways, here’s a link to donate, and here’s a link to the microsite, with all sorts of banners, videos and information about this amazing program.

Do you have a few minutes to watch this video about a family hosting an eight year old from NYC? You’ll be glad you did!


Summer Vacation? We Have an App for That

We are into summer break here at the Kahuna house. It’s time for trips to the pool, time for playing on the playgrounds around time and time for summer reading at the library. It’s also time for those summer afternoons where it’s really too hot much of anything.

Enter: two fun apps the kids have been trying out for the past few weeks.

Gigglebear: Comes with Giggles for a Good Cause

MaM has been spending her iPhone time (my iPhone, her time) playing GiggleBear. Developed by an Indiana teen named Brooklyn, MaM has been fascinated with this app. Brooklyn came up with the idea for the app after complaining to her dad that all the games she was playing were boring. He challenged her to invent something better, and according to my first grader, Brooklyn did.  Gigglebear starts by players designing a stuffed animal in the “creative center”, and then taking the animal through a playroom full of games to play. After a week, MaM has a  wall of trophies in the playroom, earned by playing different games. Every touch of the screen reveals something fun. It’s intuitive enough for five year olds to play, and comes with handy directions for grown ups when needed. The game integrates the music on your iPhone, features a bathtub and blow dry for your pet and a bevy of wardrobe changes. An added bonus is that the app is set up for multiple users, my exploring what the app does doesn’t mess up what MaM is doing.

The app is available for purchase in the iTunes store, and a donation will be made to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer research for each download. Read more about how this game came to be and the amazing teen behind it at

Spot the Dot: An App for iPad by author David A. Carter

The fox does better with iPad apps than he does the iPhone. For starters, he can’t prank call my friend Kate on the iPad, like he does every single time he plays with my iPhone. The iPad is faster than my iPhone, and the bigger screen is easier for him to use. Enter Spot the Dot from Ruckus Media Group (I reviewed some other apps by them a few months ago). Spot the Dot is simple concept — the object is to spot the dot (get it?) of  a certain color on each screen. Every time you open the app, the dot is in  a different place, so it continues to be challenging even after you’ve played a few times. The graphics on this app are amazing — each screen is different and visually amazing. By tapping and sliding his fingers, the fox is able to navigate this game by himself. But I kind of like to sit by him and watch.


So that’s what you’ll find the Kahuna kids doing when they are too hot or too tired to do anything else.The trick is going to be getting them to put these fun games down when it cools off enough to get back outside!


Disclosure: I was provided free downloads of Giggle Bear and Spot the Dot in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are entirely my own.

Raising Mobile Device Kids

I would say our kids are plugged-in, but that’s not entirely true. Their favorite devices are not anchored to the way through some archaic power cord, no, their favorite devices are mobile (how 21st century, I know).

I’ve had an iPhone for just over a year, and I can honestly say it’s changed how I do a lot of things. I manage and organized shopping lists, check news and weather, and do crazy things like scour the IMDB all from my phone. I also now have a mobile gaming device on me at all times.

MaM and Jr have now discovered this. For about the past six months, they’ve had their own page on my phone, with games, stories and the Starbucks app (“Mommy, I like to make coffee drinks for you. That belongs on my page, not yours”).

When Ruckus Media Group offered to send me codes to redeem a bevy of apps from the iTunes store, I said yes. Ruckus has developed a collection of classic stories read by some of the world’s most famous voices. They are beautifully illustrated and they’ve kept MaM’s attention for many a grocery store checkout lane. My favorite, I think, is “Pecos Bill”, as told by Robin Williams. Anyone who likes Robin Williams vocal comedy will love this story. They are all available for sale in the iTunes store.

When I am actually using my phone (imagine that!), MaM and Jr have started to enjoy using the family’s new iPad. It was really BgK’s  birthday/Christmas gift, but he’s sharing. They were excited to see some of their iPhone favorites on the iPad, like Angry Birds. MaM was also excited when I told her that BOB Books had a game to play on the iPad.

I admit, I was a little geeked when Lynn, the author of the BOB Books, emailed me and offered to arrange a redemption code for me. I mean, I’ve listened to probably 100 children over the years learn to read as they work their way through the BOB Books. My own daughter carried her set of BOB books around for days, and read them aloud to anyone who would stop to listen.

The BOB Books app features the illustrations and the text from the set one books. It’s an interactive experience – beginning readers can manipulate the letters to make the words in the story and watch the characters jiggle. Making the three-letter phonetic words is a great way to reinforce phonics and the skills needed to sound out words. It’s a little easy for MaM now, but I bet that in about 18 months, Junior will be all over it.

Lest you think all they do is stare at screens all day, we mostly use these mobile distractions when we are waiting somewhere or in the car for a long trip.

All right, I’ve told you some of our new finds….what your favorite apps for kids?

Disclosure: Ruckus Media Group sent me redemption codes for several of their mobile iPhone apps. BOB Books sent me a redemption code for the mobile iPad app. The opinions on the apps are completely mine (and MaM’s).