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Finally, track your period and your steps

Finally, track your period and your steps

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I bought an Apple Watch. More specifically, I decided my Christmas presents would add up to an Apple Watch. Before that, I supported the Pebble smartwatch on kickstarter. I had a fitbit for awhile.

So you know, I’m into this smart watch/tracking stuff thing.

I track my bike rides, the food I eat, the steps I take, how long I sleep. But for some reason, none of these neat little things track something all women I know have tracked since they were about 13: our periods.

Yes I know there are many apps for that, but how can the all-knowing Apple Health app offer to track practically everything, but not my menstrual cycle? Is it really just because there’s only men in the room when they plan these features?

Then there’s tracking apps themselves. Why are they all pink with flowers? Menstruating is not a big deal, it’s just a monthly biological cycle. I don’t like talking or looking at people’s teeth, but I don’t feel any need to make a huge deal about it when someone talks about their dentist appointment, toothpaste, or bleaching stuff.

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Now that we’ve all agreed we’re grownups, I have to tell you about this new tracking gadget. The Leaf by Bellabeat. It’s not sporty, it’s doesn’t scream TECH OBJECT, it’s wearable in several ways. You can track your monthly cycle, and see how your exercise, sleep, and breathing changes in relation to it. Doesn’t that sound interesting and useful? I have to say, this isn’t hard stuff, but somehow no one has bothered before now. Possibly my favourite part of this is the 6-month battery life. Yes, you read that correctly. Six. Months. All of this for about $130 US. The preorders are flying out the door, so if you’re thinking about it, do it now. I ordered mine yesterday.

Congratulations to Bellabeat’s Urška Sršen, and thanks for making a piece of tech that addresses our needs.

Images courtesy of Bellabeat. This post contains affiliate links. 

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Five tips for geocaching with kids

Five tips for geocaching with kids

geocaching with kids

Like many preschoolers, my son seems to have an unusual attachment to the Newtonian laws of motion. Getting him outside can be hard, but then getting him dressed is hard. Once he’s rolling out the door, however, he can’t stop jumping up and down.

This spring we’ve taken to geocaching, or as my son calls it, treasure hunting.

After downloading an app on your phone, you can view the treasures (or caches) around your neighbourhood. Suddenly there’s all these little things hidden everywhere and you had no idea. It’s one of my favourite things about geocaching, revealing that other layer.

Generally, a cache is a small tupperware box with little toys and things in it, as well as a small pad for writing your name and the date on it. Some caches are tiny and only have the logbook, or a tightly rolled piece of paper to record your name.

Here are some things we’ve found that makes going on a geocache treasure hunt a bit easier:

1. Bring something to trade. Caching etiquette is to take something and leave something of equal or greater value behind – so best to have a stash of dollar store cars, marbles, and whatnot with you. Also bring a pen or a pencil for writing your entry in a nanocache, as they don’t usually have anything in there but the log sheet.

2. Research before you go. Caches can take awhile to find, as they’re ingeniously hidden. Before we head out as a family, we (meaning the parents, often the night before) research the caches we’re going to look for, which includes reading all the hints, and checking all the photos. This isn’t strictly the way you’re supposed to do it – but when you’ve got small people jumping up and down next to you, 20 minutes of nuanced searching is not really going to happen. Sometimes, too, you’re required to climb to a less-than-safe spot, or duck under fences, not particularly things I want to encourage in a 4-and-a-half year old. Obviously, you will know best what your kids are up for, and tailor this one to their ages.

3. Have a talk about failure. A conversation about the possibility of not finding any treasure is well worth having before you leave. Nothing like a meltdown in the middle of a busy area because there’s nothing there. That brings us to the next tip…

4. Pick an area with a few caches close together. If your first attempt doesn’t yield any treasure, having a back-up (or two) close by makes success more likely. And your smaller treasure hunting mates more keen on the outing the next time.

5. Just buy the app. There’s a website you can search, but the official $10 app is the best bet. Easy to use, clear and map-enabled, the app helps you keep track of caches you’ve already found. It may seem steep, but think about paying for a movie for the family, or a visit to a museum.

Do you look for geocaches with kids? What are your tips?

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Gus on the Go giveaway

Gus on the Go giveaway

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You lucky people! After seeing how much we loved their language app, the generous developers behind Gus on the Go have offered 5 apps to give away to my readers. You can pick which language you’d like too. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, US and UK, and you can pick iOS or Android.

Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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App review: Gus on the Go French

App review: Gus on the Go French

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Language vocabulary apps – it sounds like a chore just thinking about them, let alone suggesting my son should try one. Memories of boring lists illustrated with dated line drawings pop up in my mind.

The other day, however, I woke up from a nap (bliss!) and I was body tackled by my 4 year old, asking me whether I knew the word for watermelon in French. And, well, no, I didn’t.

‘Pastèque!’

Hang on, he didn’t know any French when I fell asleep. What happened?

Apparently, my husband had downloaded Gus on the Go for French on our iPad.

Through a combination of picture matching, repetition, and games, Gus on the Go covers an amazing amount of vocabulary. In that hour I had been sleeping, Elliot picked up 30 or more words, and the next day another 20. The third day he skipped all the instructional elements and went straight to the games – there was hardly any loss of knowledge at all. I know this is an example of preschoolers being little sponges, but it amazed me.

The process is this: your child touches simple illustrations, organized into sets like home, animals, food, transportation, etc and hears the words spoken by a native language speaker. Once they’ve completed some simple matching quizzes, the games are unlocked. To be honest, these are more matching images to the spoken words, but in the guise of helping Gus the owl fly up a tree, helping a horse win a race, capturing the right objects with bubbles, and that sort of thing. Getting most of the matches correct wins a trophy and unlocks more games.

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Even though children progress through different vocabulary sections, the games still throw in a few from sections they’ve already completed. So when they’re capturing numbers with bubbles after hearing the French words, a cow will appear, or a pair of shoes, to keep their knowledge of the previous sections fresh.

The best children’s apps are navigable by a little person from the start, and Gus on the Go is right up there. He pops it open and is deep in learning new words within a minute. It’s been incredibly well designed, both in the speed of forward progress and navigation. My son chooses it quite often all on his own, which is an impressive badge of approval. He loves to show off his skill with the app to all his friends and family.

I checked out the developer’s website when I was writing this review, and they have a lovely selection of free language printables for downloading including number flashcards, mix-and-match clothing vocabulary blocks, zoo animal fortune teller, and a transportation wheel.

Incredibly, Gus on the Go is available for 22 languages: French, German, Cantonese, Spanish and more, on both iOS and Android. For only $3.99, this is an incredible deal for a solid language app. Suggested age range: 2-6 years.

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App review: Zorbit’s Math Adventure

App review: Zorbit’s Math Adventure

I was fine with math, until an unfortunate collision of differing curriculums, a bad teacher and a change of schools made me dislike it. I’m keen to keep my son from feeling this way about it, so anything that keeps math fun I’m happy to try.

Zorbit’s Math Adventure is an iPad or iPhone app for preschoolers (ages 3-5), designed specifically to nip that math anxiety in the bud.

I know a game has been well-designed for children when I can just let Elliot get on with it. Sitting next to him, I didn’t get the mummy-help-me elbow even once. There’s no reading involved with the menus or instructions, instead kids are guided along by Zorbit and his friends. If you’re in a public place, headphones are a good idea, as it really needs sound to play. The app automatically detects it if you plug in some headphones, and the volume drops, so you won’t have to worry about blasting your child away.

Activity follows activity, so kids aren’t bumped out to a menu system every time they finish something. In terms of math concepts, the game covers counting to 20, ordering, bigger v smaller amounts, classifying things, sorting into groups and recognising positions. It’s worth noting that if your child is competent with these concepts already, they may whip through the levels.

One thing that bothered me about this app was one of the activities involved counting gum balls. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but my son was asking me for gumballs for days and days after playing this. None of us chew gum and I’m not about to start giving him sugar balls, so I was a bit dismayed. Next time, maybe an apple tree? Bowls of kale? I know, I know. It’s hardly a deal breaker, but why bring up candy with this age group if you don’t have to!

I also wish there was a reporting feature as some of the other learning apps have started to include, to let me know how he is progressing, either by email or inside the app.

However, my son took to the app easily and continued to play through it until he was finished, not something he does with every app by a long chalk.

It’s worth noting there are no in-app purchases or hidden charges to this one, once you’ve paid the app price that’s it. It’s slightly more than some of the others in this category, but other education apps ask you to pay for more ‘units’ once you’ve downloaded the first one. Overall, I think it’s good value for money. Also – no need for wifi, very handy.

Plus what preschooler can resist a virtual sticker reward page that burps and farts.

Zorbit’s Math Adventure | $3.99 in Canada & US / £2.49 in UK

Disclosure: I was given this app to review by the developers, but my thoughts are my own (and my son’s!).

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