Keeping Kids #CyberSafe

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating. #Sponsored #MC #CyberTribe #CyberSafe

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms
Parenting comes with many challenges, but one that’s taken us a bit by surprise is how to keep up with our kids in regards to technology. We are kids of the ’80′s, for goodness sake! We grew up with computers, for the most part, and we always had the upper hand on our own parents. But now with every handheld device, tablet, etc. hooked up to the internet, kids having cellphones (with video cameras), and social media apps galore–we’re a little overwhelmed. With kids ages 10, 8, and 8, we’re thinking about how to keep the kids safe online. So far, we have a few rules:

  • Our family computer is in the living room, and the kids are only allowed to use it with permission.
  • No random searching/Googling is allowed; a parent needs to sit with you.
  • With games that connect online (on computer, XBox, etc.), we use the strictest settings, i.e. no “chat.”

I’m sure that very soon my son will be asking about an email account, so I’ve been watching what friends with older kids are doing, asking lots of questions, and learning from sites like the BGCA’s Cyber Safe Futures Initiative. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in a partnership with Sprint, are supporting parents and teens with this internet safety awareness campaign.

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms
I took the “Are you a Cyber Smart Parent?” quiz, and I didn’t do very well! Partly, it’s because some of the topics they mentioned haven’t come up with my younger kids, but it alerted me to where we’re headed (Facebook, sharing photos, possibility of cyberbullying), etc.

Learn how to protect kids online with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #CyberSafe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms
I really liked the Parent Resources section, where you’ll find specific tips for parents to help guide your kids to protect themselves. For example, our kids have asked about playing online versions of games with their friends, but we haven’t allowed it. We have talked a little about not using your real name online (even in a username) and not to share personal information. The “Online Privacy” guide has questions to help you determine limits and how to share them with your child(ren).

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

Last, there’s a section of Q & A with actual teens, called the CyberTribe. They take questions from kids and parents and answer them weekly. Since teens are often more savvy than their parents, this is a great opportunity for you to have your internet safety questions answered. Plus, when you submit a question, you have the option to enter for a chance to win an iPad mini and $500 to the Boys & Girls Club of your choice.

How are you keeping your kids cybersafe?

original image from John Watson at Flickr

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Disclosure: As a Busch Gardens Ambassador through MomCentral, I was given free admission passes for our family but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are 100% mine.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #BuschGardens | MoneywiseMoms
We just returned from our first-ever trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It was a little over two-hour drive from DC, and my kids managed to stay from opening till closing, so it was a long day! As much as we like thrill rides, I was very eager to see the other parts of the park I’d heard about–the food, the animals, and the non-ride attractions–and we really enjoyed it.

Eagles and Parrots at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
My girls were so excited to see the animals at Busch Gardens since they feature the four animals they’re currently obsessed with: horses, eagles, dogs and wolves. There are a few others, but we spent the most time at the Wolf Haven area. We watched a training session between the keepers and the wolves, and every trainer we encountered in each area was friendly with the kids and happy to answer questions.

Treehouse Climbing at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
The giant treehouse was also a hit, with lots of maze-like bridges and places to climb. Mom and Dad got to sit in the shade for a break while the kids played here for a while.

Rides at Busch Gardens Willamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
My kids love rides, the scarier, the better! We rode everything they were tall enough to enjoy, some of them twice. My girls’ favorite was Europe in the Air, an indoor flight simulator. My son and I rode a few coasters that the girls were not tall enough to ride, like the Griffon. He didn’t want to go alone, so we spent the whole time in line with him telling me how great I was to go with him. Turned out it was favorite ride of the day! It was so smooth, not jerky at all, and super scary in a fun way. We had a great time together and it was our favorite part of our visit.

Griffon Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #BuschGardens | MoneywiseMoms

Busch Gardens VA had plenty of family fun, and because my kids are older, we didn’t visit Sesame Street Forest of Fun, which I know is a highlight for those with little ones. I wanted to see a few shows, because they look great, but the kids wanted to do rides instead. Maybe next time! There’s also a big water park called Water Country USA, so there’s plenty to do.

If you plan to visit more than once, buy a 2-Park Fun Card for just $97, which will give you unlimited visits to both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA through September 1st.

Connect with Busch Gardens VA this summer to hear about concerts, the Food & Wine Festival, and more during their 99 Days of Summer:

        Facebook    |     Twitter     |     Instagram

 

Kids Skate Free {Summer 2014}

Kids Skate Free 2014 | Go retro and take the kids roller skating this #summer | MoneywiseMoms

Hit the rink this summer with the kids for a fun & fit activity: roller skating. It’s great for the kids to improve balance and flexibility, and as a mom, you can burn up to 500 calories per hour. I’ll take that! I have fond memories of skating with my sisters to that good ol’ ’80s music. Take your kids for a memory-making session with the Kids Skate Free program.

Get FREE passes to a participating roller skating rink near you. Here’s how:

  • Find a participating center near you by clicking on the map at Kids Skate Free.
  • Register directly on your closest skate center’s website. The passes will only be good at the center you’ve chosen and for the days and times you’ll see listed (in most cases, evenings and weekends). Check with your local center–the one closest to me runs this program year-round, not just in the summer, so you can skate FREE all year!
  • Each Sunday night, you’ll receive an email with that week’s passes for up to four children (age 12 and under) to skate for FREE. You will have to pay for skate rental unless you bring your own.
  • The Kids Skate Free program runs through September 30th (for most locations). You’ll see the information and age requirements (most define “child” as age 12 and under) when you click on your local skating center.

Keep an eye out at yard sales and Craigslist for used skates, helmets and pads, or buy your kids their own equipment:

 

Original image from Chad Kainz on Flickr
This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Rent Lego Sets from Pley {plus a FREE Trial}

Pley.com lets you rent Lego sets every month - Sign up for a FREE Trial - MoneywiseMoms
Rent Lego sets? What the what? I’m so excited to share this service that’s basically Lego + Netflix. Pley.com is a subscription service for Lego. You set up a Pleylist (a list of the sets you’d like), then rent Lego sets, one at a time, and send them back, for a low monthly fee. Brilliant!

My 10-year-old son thinks this is a great idea. He’s already offered to spend his own money for a month to borrow the Lego Star Wars Death Star. That’s a $400 set that he would never spend the money on (and we would never buy). But with Pley.com, he can build it, play with it and enjoy it (and marvel that he put together a 3800-piece set), then send it back for less than 1/10th of the cost. Love this!

Pley.com lets you rent Lego sets every month - Sign up for a FREE Trial - MoneywiseMoms
Each set is sanitized in between rentals, and you get free shipping both ways. In each box, you’ll find your set plus a few freebies and giveaways, so there’s something for your child to keep. There are three plans to choose from, depending on the size of the sets you want to borrow: $15/month, $25/month, or $39/month. Need a gift idea next time the grandparents ask? This is perfect!

Want to try it out before you commit? Sign up for a FREE Trial and you’ll get one free LEGO set shipped to your home. If it’s not your thing, just return the set within 15 days and cancel your account so you won’t be charged.

Pley - Rent LEGO Sets!
 

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Adventure Aquarium {Camden, NJ – Philadelphia}

Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous #familytravel destination | MoneywiseMoms
Over spring break, we took a surprise trip to Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. It’s just over the river from Philadelphia, so it was an easy 10-minute drive from the downtown area when we couldn’t get into the museum we had planned to visit. We ended up having a wonderful afternoon learning about aquatic animals, and it was my kids’ first visit to a large aquarium. They just loved it!

Petting Rays at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous #familytravel destination| MoneywiseMoms
One of the things we liked most was that every area in the aquarium had a hands-on area, like petting the sharks and rays. We were also able to touch sea stars, urchins, lobsters, and much more. I was the only squeamish one, but I did it anyway. Each area had docents talking about the animals and answering questions. While we enjoyed touching, we also spent a lot of time just looking–in amazement–at sharks in the 40-foot Shark Tunnel and at sea turtles and more in the huge Ocean Realm. With a floor-to-ceiling window, we just sat on benches and watched everything swim by. It was fascinating!

Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous family destination #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms
Outdoors, we saw the African Penguins in the Penguin Island exhibit. We spent quite a while out there watching them swim, clean themselves, and play. Back inside, my girls really liked the Kid Zone, where you could stick your head inside an aquarium and be part of the action and climb on statues of frogs, sea turtles, and inside a shark. Unfortunately, the Hippo Haven was under construction when we visited, but it looks like it will be an amazing exhibit. The kids (and I!) would love to go back to see that.

Penguins at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous family destination #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms
The aquarium was pricey, but we had an absolutely fabulous visit and I highly recommend it. Regular admission is $25.95/adults and $18.95/children ages 2-12. Children under 2 are free, and the 4D Theater experience is additional (just like the IMAX Theater at a science museum).

The best deal for tickets is through Goldstar. Pay just $15.45 for kids and $19.19 for adults, through May 2015, though there is a service fee. This weekend only (Memorial Day weekend), military families can get up to 4 tickets for just $10 each.

 

If you’re going to be in the Philadelphia area, you may also like:

And be sure and follow my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest.

Free Museum Admission {Summer 2014}

It’s hard to find time during the year to visit museums with your family, so plan a visit or two this summer–for FREE. With a family of five, museum outings can be expensive, so I always have my eyes open for programs like these that offer low-cost or free museum admission:

Free Museum Admission this #summer 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
 

Museums on Us by Bank of America

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers FREE visit days all over the country to B of A cardholders (just show your card at the admission window). Most museums are participating on the first weekend of the month, like the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The fine print says only the “cardholders” are FREE, so it looks like adults get in free but kids have to pay.

Target’s Community Events

Target offers FREE or $1 museum days at many locations across the country, including the Franklin Institute and Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Check the Target Community page for your city. You’ll also find free theater programs and other cultural events.

Local Museums’ Free Days

In your city, the local museums may offer certain days for FREE. Some museums, like the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, offer FREE admission to visitors with proof of local residence. Check your favorite museum’s website for more information.

Blue Star Program for Military Families

The Blue Star Museums Program offers military families FREE admission all summer to participating museums like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. All active duty service members and their immediate family (up to 5 family members, including spouse, child or sibling) can participate. Check the FAQ for identification requirements and a list of participating museums.

 

Original image from TonytheMisfit on Flickr

2014 Summer Reading Programs

Some parts of the country are already talking about summer vacation–with our snow day makeups we won’t get out until June 25th! Even so, we’re thinking about our summer plans, like how to encourage the kids to read over the summer. I like to have a balance of family read-alouds along with the kids doing independent reading at their own level. These 2014 summer reading programs are a great incentive to keep it up!

2014 Summer Reading Programs | Keep the kids reading all #summer long! | MoneywiseMoms
 

Barnes and Noble
Kids who read 8 books and keep track on the printable Reading Journal can head to a Barnes & Noble store to pick out a FREE book from their selection (you’ll see the choices on the journal). The program runs May 20 through September 2, and the limit is one FREE book per child.

 

Chuck E. Cheese
Not just a summer program, Chuck E. Cheese is offering 10 FREE tokens to kids each time they read for 2 weeks in a row. Kids can earn 10 FREE tokens every time they read for 2 weeks in a row. Download a Reading Rewards Calendar (there are others if you’d like to reward another activity). Limit is one of any FREE token offer per child, per day. Food purchase is required.

 

Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program
At Half-Price Books stores around the country, kids can earn Bookworm Bucks for each 15 minutes per day they read during the months of June and July. Bookworm Bucks can then be spent in the store. Plus, one top reader from each age group will win a $20 Half Price Books gift card.

 

Pizza Hut Book It!
Beginning June 1st, kids can record their summer reading and enter to win prizes. Activities and games will go up on the Book It! site soon.

 

Pottery Barn Summer Reading Challenge
The Summer Reading Challenge starts May 15th and runs in sync with the FREE Weekly Storytime at stores nationwide. Kids who read 8 books from their summer reading list by July 31 will receive a FREE book while supplies last.

 

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
Scholastic has a FREE online program this summer, where kids can sign up and log their reading minutes to win rewards. You can download suggested book lists for all age groups and on different themes. Learn more with their parent guide.

 

Showcase Cinemas
As in past years, kids can receive FREE admission to Bookworm Wednesdays movies when they present a completed book report. Children under 6 do not need to complete the book report, and accompanying adults also get FREE admission. No food purchase is necessary. The website has not been updated yet for 2014, but I’ll update this entry as soon as it does.

 

TD Bank
For kids in kindergarten through 5th grade, this summer reading program rewards readers with a $10 deposit into a new or existing Young Saver account.

 

Your Local Library
Be sure and check with your community library for their summer program. Ours has kids log their reading and turn it in for a coupon booklet filled with free ice cream, bowling, and other prizes. We do it every summer, and we also enjoy all the free programming our libraries provide in the summer months–puppet shows, magicians, Lego programs, and more. It’s such a great free resource!

 

Original photo from Alberto G. on Flickr

DC Deck Building Game {Favorite Family Game}

DC Deck Building Game | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms
You don’t need to have a superhero fan in the house to love DC Comics Deck Building Game. It’s a fantastic game for everyone in the family, and it’s been our latest obsession for about a year now. I’m sharing it because so far, the families we’ve played with have all run out and bought it, they love it as much as we do. While the box says “Ages 15 and up,” my girls (age 8) have been playing it just fine. Their strategies are not quite as fine-tuned as the rest of us, but my son (age 10) and his friends LOVE this game and play it afterschool all the time. It’s equally fun for adults as kids, which is always one of our criteria for naming a Favorite Family Game.

And this may seem silly–but it is greatly appreciated–the box comes with a nifty divider so you can sort the cards easily and store them for the next game. I like things like that!

DC Deck Building Game Play | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms
You start the game by choosing a hero randomly–Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Cyborg–each has a special ability you’ll use during your turns. Deal out a hand of five ability cards and lay five face-up in the middle of the table, making them available for purchase. Each turn, you use “power” as money to purchase more cards and build your deck. As the game goes on, you’ll purchase higher-value cards and create a stronger deck, all the while fighting DC super villians like The Joker, Sinestro and Brainiac. Each super villian attacks all players when they’re revealed, so there’s a sense of co-operative play as you work together to defeat them, but ultimately the player who collects that card will get the points. When the last SuperVillian is defeated, each player counts up their victory points on the cards to determine the winner.

For a video on how to play, head to the Cryptozoic website.

DC Card Game Hand | Favorite Family Game | MoneywiseMoms
If you’ve never tried a deck-building game before (another family favorite is Dominion), it’s a strategy game type that takes a little getting used to, but it really gets you thinking. We like that the game plays differently every single time, so the kids (and we) have to think through how we’d play differently in the future. It’s quite simple to learn–we’ve taught many of all ages now–and as with many of our favorite family games, this is a quick play (about 30 minutes) so you can try again right away if you’d like. It’s also easier to keep the kids sitting and engaged with short games like this.

DC Card Game Horiz2
If you end up loving the game as much as we did, a new version came out this spring called Heroes Unite. It has a whole new set of heroes, villians and powers, and it can be played as a stand-alone game or you can combine the two for an epic battle.

You can buy the DC Deck Building Game at a local game/comic book store. Support your local small business! If you’re shopping online, shop at the publisher’s site Cryptozoic or last resort, head to Amazon.

 

Looking for more Favorite Family Games? I’m going to post more big-kid and adult games this year. In the meantime, read about:

 

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Free Computer Camps for Kids {Summer 2014}

Free Computer Camps for Kids #summer 2014 | MoneywiseMoms
Like most kids, mine are big computer fans–for gaming, creating, writing, photography, and more. But the expense of a summer computer gaming camp elude us ($500/week X three kids?!) We’re going to dip our toes in the water this year by trying one of these FREE Computer Camps for Kids at a local Microsoft or Apple Store. Space is limited and camps will fill quickly, so check with your local store to register soon.

Apple Store FREE summer #camp class | MoneywiseMoms
Apple Camp

At Apple Stores nationwide, kids ages 8-12 can attend FREE Apple Camps to learn how to use iMovie and iPads to create music, shoot their own movies, and more. Find your local store to register. The workshop spans three days and ends with a Film Festival where kids can debut their work. The site doesn’t have registration up yet, so get on their email list so you can do it as soon as it opens.

Microsoft Store FREE summer #camp class | MoneywiseMoms
YouthSpark Summer Camps

At Microsoft Stores nationwide, kids can attend a FREE YouthSpark Camp to learn digital moviemaking, graphic design, digital photography, and more. Each store offers their own schedule, so find your closest location. Camps are typically 2 hours long and are for kids ages 8-13.

Did your kids attend one of these Free Computer Camps for Kids last year?

I’d love to hear about the experience!