For parents, Spring Break is just a dry run for summer. Do you have enough activities to keep the kids occupied — in a guilt-free way — or will you have to end up at the public pool every single day? Will you be able to run errands without going absolutely nuts? If you load up your smartphone or tablet with these apps, you may just spare yourself some tantrums … from yourself and your kid.

For Ages 0-2

If you’re a parent of a newborn, you may think that putting your kid in front of an iPad is Bad Parenting 101, but with simple apps built just for little babes you can give them a few minutes of the same kind of stimulation they get from other toys — without having to bring a suitcase full of of them wherever you go.

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1. Baby’s Musical Hands: Did all of that Baby Bach pay off? Is your baby showing signs of being the next musical prodigy? Do you want them to? Baby’s Musical Hands doesn’t require that your baby be a prodigy, but it may stimulate them right to the preschool spotlight. Your little one just taps on colored squares in three colors. Each color makes a different instrument sound and as your baby taps, not only do they play a symphony (probably one only a mother could love), but they leave trails of stars on the screen so it’s still fun when muted. The app is available on Android and iOS.

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2. Baby Bubbles: There’s a line in the movie Knocked Up that rings true for any parent, “I wish I loved anything as much as my kids love bubbles.” Paul Rudd was spot on, which is what makes this app so brilliant. Bubbles come up from the bottom of the screen, and your baby pops them with a pleasant satisfaction of a “pop” noise. It’s kind of like Fruit Ninja without the sense of urgency or samurai swords. The app is available on on iOS for free.

For ages 2-5

There called the Terrible Twos for a reason. While your kid is enduring misunderstood years of toddler-hood, there will be moments when you want to entertain them with something that’s not TV. These apps will help them get interactive.

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3. Vine Kids: There’s something that’s already so infantile about Vine. Super short videos. Easy laughs. But having your kids play with Vine is putting them within swipe’s reach of seeing something very NSFW. Vine’s solution is Vine Kids. Every video is kid-friendly cartoon or video and kids can swipe left or right to see new Vines. When they tap on the screen, they’ll hear fun noises. The app is available on iOS.

A screenshot for Disney Color And Play.

4. Disney Color and Play: Back in my day, the only way to bring our coloring book drawings to life was to make them into paper dolls. Are paper dolls still a thing? Anyway, this app from Disney works with pages from the Disney Color and Play Coloring Book. After they color a character in the book, they hover the app over their picture and watch the character come to life on screen. The app features characters from Sofia the First, Big Hero 6, Doc McStuffins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It’s available on iOS.

Ages 5-7

Too old for alphabet apps, but too young for Words With Friends? Here are some more options that will occupy your kid’s mind while also dropping some knowledge.

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5. Toca Nature: I’m not sure why more adult games don’t look like this. Compared to Farmville, this is a digital masterpiece. In this fanciful pastel-colored forest, your kids build and explore with no points to be won. They can plant things and watch them grow while they create new climates for new creatures. The best part is that it’s so zen, your kids won’t get too hyped up or frustrated. The app is available on iOS for $3.

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6. YouTube Kids: Children’s videos on YouTube is where the real viral action is at because kids will watch the same video over and over and over again. YouTube tapped into the kids market with their new kids app that features a collection of videos for little ones. From Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba to puppet videos and train videos, your kids can surf through a simple interface with large icons and you can chill out knowing that all of the videos are okay for kids. The app is available on iOS andAndroid for free.

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7. Brainzy Math and Reading Program: If you want to keep your kids learning outside the classroom, this is one of the funnest ways to do it. The program comes with 300 games and 50 songs and stories made by the people at Education.com. The games are silly enough to be fun, with the learning parts snuck in there. You can even check out your what your kid’s been up to on the Progress Dashboard. The app is availablevia any Chrome, Firefox or Safari browser for $4/month.

For Ages 7-10

These may be the final, precious years before your little ones becomes a Vine star or an Instagram master. Here are the apps that will keep them young.

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8. Masterpiece for Osmo: This app/gadget will make your coloring book collection look like old news. Just snap the Osmo device onto your iPad and download the app, then your kids can take photos of people or objects and the app will change the picture into lines so it’s easy for them to trace. They trace the image on paper and as they draw, the image is filled in on screen. They can color, print and send their own artwork by themselves and before you know it, you’re raising the next Van Gogh. The app is available on iOS for free, the Osmo gadget package is $79.

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9. Epic! If you can’t dish out money for all of the magazine subscriptions and books that your kids wants, this digital library is a great solution. From National Geographic Kids to Batman Vs Catwoman, they can flip through thousands of ebooks and earn badges the more that they read. If your kids are a little younger, you can choose from the read-to-me selection of narrated books instead. Your kids can rate their favorites and the app will make selections of what to read next. The app is available on iOS for free orright in your browser.

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10. Dumb Ways to Die: This is one for the older kids, but this game is really clever, funny and has a really eye-catching design. It’s your simple task-based game taking your kid on new challenges to avoid uncertain cartoonish death. It’s a fun, light-hearted alternative to super graphic shoot-em-ups for your more mature kids. It’s available for free on iTunes and Android.

Full Disclosure:

***Disney has sponsored a small portion of production fees for video appearing on this blog site.***

SPONSORED POST GUIDELINES: Articles that are denoted “sponsored by” an advertiser cover topics that serve the goals of the advertiser, *but are not dictated, reviewed, or edited* by said advertiser. The editorial content therein is developed independently and does not contain opinion or marketing content from the advertiser.

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, Sponsored

**I wrote this as a sponsored guest post for WorldMate and it originally appeared on their blog site.**

The best travelers are totally organized. They have their itineraries at their fingertips, like magic, and know exactly where they have to be when, every step of the way. And then, there’s me. I forget to check-in early, lose important information – like my flight number – and have even shown up at the wrong airport on the wrong day. I could blame it on mommy-brain or on being blonde, but the truth is, I’m frazzled and busy and tired – just like a lot of people traveling these days. I just need a little extra help from time to time. Or a clone.
You know that movie with George Clooney where he travels all the time, Up in the Air? That’s kind of my life, minus the grim-reaper firing people part. I travel an average of 10,000 miles a month for work as an on-air consumer technology contributor for USA Today, the Today Show, CNN, Meredith Vieira, and many others. Sounds glamorous, right? Ha!

As you may very well know, traveling for work is often downright brutal. I’m a mom first and foremost – which means that I try to make work and travel have zero impact on my family. I’ll take the red-eye to New York, appear on a show, and fly back to San Francisco that same day (unless I accidentally go to LaGuardia instead of JFK – been there, done that). Or, I’ll do 30 appearances in five cities in three days. I’m also a small business owner, so I have to run a tight ship – keep on top of everything and try to keep costs down. I not only try to find the best travel deals, but I make all my own arrangements. Nope, no assistants. Just me and modern technology … juggling it all. I like to think of myself as a Road Warrior Rockstar. (That’s what I secretly call myself to weather anything that comes my way up in the air, or on the road. Don’t judge, it helps, it really does.)

What tools do I use to stay (mostly) sane on the go? Here’s a quick list of what’s on my smartphone or in my bookmarks bar right this very second:
· I love using Hopper to predict the best time to snag a flight deal. It analyzes billions of airfares daily to sniff-out a price drop – then alerts you so that you can grab it.

· For a small fee, site Options Away basically lets you put a flight on hold. You can lock in an airfare as much as three weeks ahead of when you actually buy the ticket. Then, if the price drops, you automatically get the cheaper faire.

· For booking that trip of a lifetime, I like Zyppos – an online sight where registered experts (aka travel hackers) help you find the perfect flight, best itinerary, and lowest fare – all in exchange for a $20-$40 finder’s fee/reward.

· GateGuru always leads me right to the closest XpresSpa so that I can get a quick neck massage before jumping on the plane.

· And for traveling like a local, there’s Localeur. It solicits advice from the people who know a place best – the locals – to find awesomely authentic places to go, where to eat, and fun things to do.

WorldMate App on an iPad
And of course, there’s WorldMate. You already knew that I was going to say that because why else would they let me rant about all my travel on their blog – right? Yep, it’s true, I actually can’t imagine how I could travel so much without it. I use it to automatically organize all my flights, hotels, car rentals, meetings, and every other pesky trip detail into one single itinerary. I also rely on the abundance of other tools within the app as well, including exclusive hotel deals and car rental offers, integrated weather forecasts, local hot-spot searches, flight schedules lookup, and even social integration with LinkedIn. It’s this kind of technology that lets me navigate my always-changing, chaotic, challenging, and downright frenetic travel schedule – so that I still have time left to be hands-on mom, successful businesswoman, Road Warrior Rockstar, and generally cool human (in my own mind at least).
You Win!
You’ve read this far? Well then you get a big fat reward. WorldMate is giving the first 50 readers who email them a free GOLD membership – just for reading this blog post. Email jennifergavemegold@worldmate.com with “yes,” then download the app, and you’ll be on your way to become a Travel Warrior Rockstar too. Or you can give yourself your own fierce name. Either way, it’s a cool tool that you’ve just gotten for the price of reading this post. Happy Travels!

Be sure to follow me @JenniferJolly on Twitter.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, Sponsored, Tips & Tricks

*Sponsored Post*

It’s late. Or early, depending how you look at it. It’s edging up on two o’clock in the morning and I’m just now finally getting ready to close my laptop and my eyes for a few hours after three days of non-stop TV appearances in three different time zones across the country. It’s that time of year, when I offer up gadget gift guides far and wide, delivering advice on what to buy for every budget and everyone in the family. As soon as I finish this round of deadlines, it will be time to reflect over tech trends of the year past, and take a turn with the crystal-ball forecast of what’s in store for innovations next year. And somewhere, in the middle of all of this holiday madness, there’s me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this Christmas. As someone who goes hands-on with just about every tech gadget invented at some point, there’s not a lot that I want for when it comes to “stuff.” I, like so many super hard working moms (and dads) I know, would give just about anything for more time in the day, more moments of peace and pure bliss with my daughter and husband. More quiet, disconnected hours. A real vacation. But this year, there’s something I actually want to do for myself. It’s something that I’ve put on the bottom of my bucket list for too many years to count. I want to fix my teeth.

My bottom teeth are crowded in the front and they’ve ached for a good 20-years (about the time I stopped wearing my retainers from my high school metal-mouth braces). They’re not crazy crooked, and because of that, I’ve actually felt self-conscious and guilty about getting them fixed. I’ve also never been able to swallow the idea of spending $3,000-$5,000 on myself for something that isn’t life threatening. I’m sure a lot of moms feel this way. There’s college to pay for afterall, how could I spend so much on myself?

I did a story that included Invisalign* clear aligners as a high-tech alternative to traditional braces last fall, and they’ve been there in the back of my mind ever since. Many insurance plans pay around 50% of the cost. I can use my flexible spending health savings accounts for Invisalign treatment, and make my money go farther with pre-tax dollars. I even found a local orthodontist that offers financing for around $100 per month. Hmmmm. Why not wear a set of nearly-invisible braces for a few months? The trays are clear, would slip right over my teeth, and fix up the trouble in no time. Why not?

It sounds crazy, but I would love to start another year rocking a sparkling straight smile with teeth that don’t ache so often. So the next time I file a selfie-blog post like this one, all tired and all … hopefully I’ll be updating you on my newest review: Invisalign clear aligners.

*Disclosure: I’ve partnered up with Invisalign clear aligners brand, but all opinions expressed in this article are my own.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Sponsored, TechStyled

Sponsored by Invisalign® clear aligners

You probably remember school well enough to recall that other kids can be the absolute worst. I still have the occasional bad dream about the “mean girls,” teasing me about some drama du’ jour — my clothes, hair, crooked-smile. But some of the worst taunts had to do with my braces. Two girls in particular would trail me through the hallways mock-whispering a steady stream of brace-ism’s: Train-tracks, metal-mouth, zipper-lips, tinsel-teeth, cheese-grater, stump-grinder, and dum-dum-who-can’t-chew-gum-gum. It’s kind of funny now. But back then? Not so much.

It’s true, I did have the full metal mouth complete with hideous headgear and all. Thanks to some recent breakthroughs in digital dentistry, teen breakdowns over braces, could soon be a thing of the past.

Invisalign Teen®:

The single biggest advancement in the world of teeth straightening is Invisalign Teen clear aligners that straighten teeth without traditional wires and brackets. It works by using a series of custom-made, BPA-free removable plastic aligners that teens wear 20-22 hours a day, taking them out to eat, brush, and floss. Teens get new clear aligners every two weeks, and if your youngster tends to lose things — six free replacement aligners. As teens wear each set of clear aligners, their teeth gently and gradually begin to shift into place. And because they’re virtually invisible, most people won’t even notice them. Sure, they’ll still talk a little funny, but no different than any other braces-wearing teen.

Many dental insurance plans that cover traditional wire braces also cover Invisalign Teen clear aligners, and studies show Invisalign is just as effective at correcting the most common teeth straightening issues such as under-bite, cross-bite, deep-bite, over-bite, and overly crowded — to widely spaced.

A Better Impression:

The other big breakthrough that tech has brought to the world of braces is called iTERO. It gives orthodontists a way to digitally scan your teeth and mouth, without choking you with thick, chalky goop. I still remember half stuff going half-way down my throat and gagging me until I felt like I was being water-boarded. iTERO replaces the goop with a sophisticated, high tech wand. Talk about making a better impression!

Banish the Brace Bullies:

While wearing braces might seem like a rite of passage, getting bullied about it doesn’t have to be. Invisalign Teen recently commissioned Kelton to conduct a new Teen Confidence study with 3,000 teens ranging in age from 13-17. The study revealed that while 41% of teens say wearing metal braces is embarrassing, only 8% say it’s embarrassing to wear Invisalign clear aligners. What’s more, two-times the amount of teens said that Invisalign actually gave them a boost in self-esteem while in treatment than those with wire and brackets. The best finding though?  Nearly 70% wearing Invisalign clear aligners said they were less likely to be teased about their braces.

You can find out more about Invisalign Teen at Invisalign.com.


Posted in Sponsored