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Mike S.

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Keeping our kids safe is one of the most important jobs we have as parents. Traditionally we though of safety in the physical sense. Living in a safe neighborhood, wearing a seatbelt, and similar ideas constituted safety. Today we must also consider how to protect our children in the digital world. In this guide I’ll go over some tips parents can use with their children to explain how to stay safe online. This won’t require expert knowledge or a bunch of expensive software. Just some good advice on how to keep everyone online and happy. This will be a relief those folks who may be in the odd position of having kids who know more than the parents about technology.

How To Stay Safe Online

Start With The Talk

Thankfully this isn’t that difficult talk. This talk is all about staying safe online. Parents should approach this conversation with the goal of educating their kids on the dangers of being online without creating a “boogeyman” out of tech. What I mean is that the risks of being online should be clearly explained without sugarcoating. Risks are real and should be taken seriously. However, we don’t want kids so scared of going online that they never hit the web.

Let your children know that they can bring problems and questions to you at any time. This can be tough as kids might fear consequences if they accidently land on the wrong site or click a bad link. While bad behavior deserves some action, it is also tough to penalize someone who just didn’t know better. Use each conversation as a learning opportunity. Explain why, for example, a link shouldn’t have been clicked.

Of course we all know that anything parents say is boring. We’re all smarter than our parents when we are kids, right? If your kid needs some outside guidance Google provides a free resource to teach kids how to act online and how to identify threats. Be Internet Awesome provides lessons on security, spotting fake people and news, and how to be a good online citizen. The fun and interactive learning will help reinforce the knowledge you’ve already shared with your child.

Keep Clear Line Of Sight On The Computer

I’ve yet to come across a compelling reason why young children need a computer or laptop in the bedroom. By keeping computer usage in common areas, such as the kitchen table, lets you keep an eye on what your kids are up to. Parents don’t need to constantly stare at the screen. Your child should have the opportunity to earn your trust. Passing by and casting a glance at the screen every now and again ensures your child knows you are attentive, but not micromanaging.

Using technology in the home has many benefits, but isn’t a pass for an “anything goes” mindset. Children should be afforded the privilege of internet access once it’s earned. As a condition to this privilege the computers staying in a common area is a fair requirement.

Know Attacker Tactics

To defeat an enemy we must first understand their motives and behaviors. While I don’t expect that many kids are countering cyber attacks, they can learn how and why attackers behave in certain manners.

Kids on social media are exposed to potential unsolicited advances from attackers. The attacker could be seeking information, such as a parent’s credit card number, or have much worse intentions in mind. Educating your kids on some of the common tactics can help them spot and avoid trouble.

Let’s say your child uses an online chat for school projects. Nothing wrong here as they may be chatting with friends or teachers. However, if a new student enters the room and wants to start a private chat, your child should be on alert. Similar requests to text, talk on the phone, or start a video chat should also be considered suspicious.

Attackers may also ask odd questions of children. “Where is the computer in your home” is a question designed to assess if the child is in an isolated or public area. See the prior rule on keeping computers in your line of sight. Other tactics might include overly flattering statements designed to gain a child’s trust.

This is where we must walk a thin line as parents. We don’t want children growing up thinking that anyone who says something nice is after them. On the same token we also don’t want our kids overly trusting of online strangers. Reminding children that people can lie about their true identity online can help focus their attention to online threats. If their friend at school says something nice they shouldn’t run away in fear.

Be Stingy With Personal Information

Would you share your Social Security Number (SSN) with me if I asked really, really nice? Probably not.

That’s simple because you don’t know me and have no idea why I would even need your SSN. That is the proper mindset to have with such sensitive details.

Unfortunately, lots of legitimate institutions ask for just this type of information. Schools, doctor’s offices, clubs, and many more will ask for your child’s information. When your child is old enough to land that first summer job they will likely need to provide their SSN once they are hired.

The problem with the above is that these organizations need the SSN for a legitimate purpose, but aren’t equipped to keep is secure. Think about your local pizza joint. If your kid works there during high school that would be great! Do you think, however, that old man Aldo (from where I worked as a kid) really keeps the employment records secure? I know my application and details were kept in a folder in a cabinet that had a broken lock.

As parents we must guard this information to the best of our ability. Ask if an SSN is really required. If so, what steps with the organization take to keep it safe? It doesn’t hurt to ask and is actually our duty. I’ve had some offices tell me I’m being difficult when I do this. My response is “I’m good with that”. I will be difficult because it’s my job to protect my children’s information while they are young. If I can’t be assured their SSN won’t be visible to others then I can’t hand it over in good faith.

Parenting note: be sure you and your spouse align on this topic. Nothing is more awkward than getting into a debate on personally identifiable information in front of a soccer coach.

Freeze Credit Reports

When talking about how to stay safe online the conversation inevitably covers credit reports and checking for unauthorized accounts.

What does a credit report have to do with kids? I’m glad you asked!

Identity theft can happen to anyone of any age. This includes your new bundle of joy who has no idea what a credit card is or why they need one. Basically, if you have a Social Security Number you can become a victim. Attackers like using kid’s SSN’s for credit cards because:

  1. A child has no prior credit history
  2. The theft won’t be noticed for many years

Parents can proactively take steps to freeze their child’s credit to prevent identity theft. I won’t lie and say that the process is easy. You must prove your identity, your child’s identity, proof of the relationship, and then send these documents to all the credit reporting agencies. Don’t be surprised if some fees are also required.

Yes, this process requires a bit more effort than others described in this article. However, the benefits far outweigh the hassle.

Create a Data Checklist

As a society we are sharing more data, and personal data, than ever before. Social media encourages us to share everything that happens in life. Just got your first driver’s license? Why not share that on Facebook!

You can see that this presents many issues. Kids should have clear guidance on what is and is not acceptable to share. A checklist can remove any guess work for your children. Items to include might be:

  • Credit card details
  • Driver’s license
  • Date of birth
  • Current residence and address
  • Medical details
  • Vacation plans

This will be tough for kids and even for some parents. We must remind our children and ourselves that once information is posted online it lives forever. To stay safe we have to think before we post. Encourage your children to ask themselves questions such as “how could a bad actor use this information maliciously?” and “can I share less and still get my point across?” before hitting the post button.


In closing out this note I realize I’ve likely missed a ton of other methods we can use to educate our children about how to stay safe online. As parents we are always on edge trying to protect our kids. In real life kids might incur some minor injury like a bruised knee, and the same is true in the digital world. What we want to avoid are the serious injuries like a broken arm or giving out a home address. Continuous education is one of the best solutions to keep your kids safe online.

One of the joys of having kids is seeing them learn something new. A young mind gaining new knowledge because of something you taught them is a wonderful experience. It’s also great that as parents we can introduce our kids to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. Below I describe a few technology projects for kids that are educational and fun.

Technology Projects for Kids

Fruit Stand Circuits

Starting off we have Fruit Stand Circuits designed to teach kids about circuitry.

Kids will get to work on various projects, such as the lemon project and fruit clock. With the lemon project kids will connect a series of nodes and clips to get an LED light to illuminate. This helps kids learn about electrons and electricity in a hands-on, and safe, manner. With the fruit clock you simply put the clock in any fruit you like and watch it run.

Not only is this a fun at-home project that doesn’t require too many tools, it might also make kids enjoy fruit! That’s a double win for many parents.

QR Codes

Depending on where you live in the world QR codes may or may not be a big thing. I tend to see these used more in Asia, though due to COVID and the preference for contactless payments I’m seeing more here in the USA. Regardless, QR codes are a fun way to introduce your child to the power of these scannable codes. With many use cases ranging from sharing information, to contact details, and making payment the QR code has many uses. The best part is the education is free!

The first part of your education plan is learning about this history of QR codes. I suggest the history provided on QRcode.com. The guide isn’t too long or overly complex, though younger readers may require some assistance. Once your children have some background on QR codes they can learn to make their own. QR Stuff provides free resources to create your own codes with multiple data types.

Some fun projects could be creating and printing codes to send a secret messages to family members. My wife did this one year for my birthday. She printed messages on various QR codes and left them around the house. It was a tech-themed scavenger hunt for me to find all the codes. Fun and nerdy!

Create a Movie

Think you have to be George Lucas to make an awesome movie? Think again. With those convenient little computers in our pockets (phones) we can shoot videos anywhere we go. Find an activity that your children enjoy and turn it into a movie. It could be them playing a game or hosting a reality show with stuffed animals. It can be anything you and your kids find fun. Shoot on your smartphone and use any number of editing apps to create your own masterpiece.

Some editing apps to consider include:

Your kids will gain confidence and have a blast with this project. They will also learn about video editing and how to include sound. While they likely won’t create the next Star Wars at such a young age, they will gain an appreciation for what they see on the big screen.

Build a Website

Building a website provides freedom and a chance to explore the limitless possibilities of building on the web. Children can start a blog, create an informative website, or even sell services such as local lawn service, for example. The process of thinking through site design and actually building will encourage critical thinking and a careful contemplation of how decisions impact the end user.

Being told how something works is one thing. Actually pulling back the curtain and doing something yourself is completely different. This is where the true learning will occur. Websites and apps power our daily lives so it’s important for children to know how they work. Build a site also provides an opportunity for you, the parent, to teach and reinforce cyber security best practices. It’s also an opportunity to encourage your kids to explore a career in technology.

This project is for older children and teenagers. Youngsters can still have fun, but they will need some parental assistance.

Develop New Skills

Technology in general, and games in particular, have made teaching and learning more exciting. From teaching your kids how to type to learning financial basics, technology projects can help kids learn about the real world.

Identify some skills that you’d like your child to develop or that they have expressed an interest in developing. Find a resource that can help with that skill and get to work! Lessons can then be reinforced in real life. For example, children playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch will pick up some financial basics. Next time you’re at the grocery store include your child in the shopping. Compare unit prices, hunt for bargains, and teach them the real world value of a dollar. When you compare this to something the child knows, the game experience, it’s easier to relate and understand.

Go Globetrotting

This activity mixes some history, geography, and culture and is extremely fun! We might not be able to jump on planes right now to take vacations. That doesn’t mean your kids can’t experience other parts of the world.

Start by picking a location in the world that is interesting. Anywhere you like! Parents and teachers can try Google Expeditions for access to 800+ adventures in AR/VR. Something as simple as Google Maps can also be used to explore the world.

With technology your kids can travel without ever leaving the comfort of the couch. You can then bring those virtual adventures into the home by working on art projects that reflect the local art or making an authentic meal. It’s a great way to take a lesson and expand it into an action packed day that your kid will remember and learn from.


Numerous technology projects for kids exist that will help to teach fundamentals of electricity, motion, develop new skills, and explore the world. With a little creativity you can use tech to your own advantage and learn about whatever interests you. It’s also a blast to take learning offline and bring what you’ve learned to life. If you child just strolled through a park with dinosaurs via an AR app, for example, it might be time to consider a visit to the local museum if they have a dino exhibit.

Reach out to us in the comments section if you have other existing technology projects that your kids enjoy.

It can be difficult to find quality time with the family between work, school, and other obligations. One of the best parts about the weather turning cooler is more time indoors. To avoid everyone migrating to tablets, phones, and gaming systems I’ve come up with a list of the best family board games for you to enjoy this fall and winter. These games are 100% technology free. That might seem odd from a Nerdy Dads writer, but sometimes quality time without tech is just what you need.

It’s important to put down the devices every now and again. Spending quality time with family provides an opportunity to laugh, bond, and build memories together. Board games can entertain everyone from young to old.

Best Family Board Games

Watch Ya Mouth

First up we have Watch Ya Mouth. This game is sure to keep the family laughing for hours. The objective is to get your family to understand a silly phrase you read off a card. The catch? You have to wear a mouth guard (cheek retractor technically speaking) while you say the phrase. The game is great for large gatherings so this is one you want to take on those family holiday trips.

Recommended for ages 8+ just about anyone can join in on the fun. The game comes with 140+ phrases, all family-friendly. That shouldn’t stop you from coming up with your own silly phrases if you want to add a personal twist to the game.

Jenga

Here is a game that takes me back. Jenga is a class family-night game that is easy to set up and fun to tear down. Players start with a tower made of 54 wooden blocks. The game starts easy enough with each player removing a single block. If a player causes the tower to fall over they lose. Jenga is great for players of all ages, though it is recommend for kids 6+. Jenga is a great way to include your kids in a family-friendly game. It’s up to you if you dive right in and start removing blocks or formulate a strategy first. Having played with young kids before I can attest that the tower collapsing brings more joy than strategy.

Jenga

My First Orchard

It can be tough to play board games with young children, especially those under 6. The primary concern for me was always a child eating a game piece when I wasn’t looking. My Very First Orchard from HABA is a game designed for young players.

The objective is to harvest all the fruit before that pesky black bird reaches the end of a path. Designed for 1-4 players a round can be played in 10 minutes making this a great choice for those with shortened attention spans. What is also interesting is that the game is collaborative. So a single person doesn’t win or lose, rather all players are on the same team. This keeps feelings from being hurt while providing youngsters a chance to learn strategy and team work.

Connect Four

Fast paced action for 2 players can be found in Hasbro’s Connect Four. Each player will select a set of disks, either red or yellow. The first player to connect four disks in a row is the winner. Disks can be connected vertically, horizontally, or diagonally leaving each player a chance to select their own strategy and respond to their opponent. If your kids love tic tac toe then Connect Four will be a hit!

Connect Four

Scrabble

It’s tough to create a list of the best family board games without including Scrabble.

Scrabble is a classic word game where players attempt to form words by placing squares with a single letter on a board. Words can be created in rows or columns, similar to a crossword puzzle. Words must be included in a standard dictionary making this an excellent way to have fun with family while improving everyone’s vocabulary.

Designed for children 8+ Scrabble is for 2-4 players. Younger family members can also get involved, but you may need to assist with creating words or play as a team.

Scrabble

Guess Who?

A classic guessing game makes Guess Who? an essential part of your game drawer. Players each select a character and take turns asking yes/no questions to figure out the other player’s character. Once a player thinks they know an opponent’s character they can venture a guess. If they are right, they win! If not, they lose. Parents looking for a fun way to teach their children logic and how to make educated guesses will love Guess Who?. It’s fun that even adults will enjoy!

Monopoly

Ah Monopoly, so many great memories with this game!

This game has been around for ever it seems and has changed with the time. From the classic board game to a Pokemon version, you can find 21 unique Monopoly board game versions.

Regardless of the version you select the mission is always the same. Pass Go to collect your $200 and go on a real estate buying spree to rule the board. Children and parents will enjoy the time spent buying and selling property and coming up with plans to create a real estate empire.

Monopoly is one of those games that is fun and can teach kids valuable life lessons. Spend too early or buy low earning property and watch your bank dwindle. Make wise purchases, however, and you will be flush with Monopoly dollars.

Dads, if your kids show a real flare for Monopoly you might have a real estate tycoon on your hands in a few years so be sure to play nice!

Trivia Pursuit

I’ll round out my list of best family board games with Trivia Pursuit.

With 1,400+ questions in categories ranging from science to entertainment, sports, arts, literature, and more, Trivia Pursuit will keep your family entertained for hours. Designed for players 8+ years of age you can get 2-6 people in on a game. Create teams for even larger family gatherings.

Pro tip: if you really want to up the fun mix older decks of question cards with newer decks. This will keep everyone on their toes and keep the fun going for hours.


Writing this post brought back a bunch of great memories of being a kid myself. Family board games are important for so many reasons. Chief among those reasons is that they require no technology, which means to interruptions with texts, tweets, likes, or emails. Board games present an opportunity for families to sit together and have fun.

As the weather turns cooler and we spend more time indoors I encourage parents to dust off some old games and play with your kids. They likely have fond memories of playing when they were younger. If your kids are young and have never played these games before then their is no better time than now to get them started.

Happy board gaming!

Children’s use of technology can be a dividing subject. Some parents prefer to use technology at home as much as possible. Others feel tech usage should have limits. While the extent to which technology should be used is debatable, it’s important to understand how technology benefits children.

Only by understanding how tech can help our kids learn and the pros and cons to various approaches can we make an educated decision for our families.

Technology is like many things in life and requires moderation. I’ll say that tech is good and beneficial to my children’s education. Having access to the internet has certainly allowed them to learn more than I could ever teach them. However, I also realize that tech usage can get out of control fast. Gaming until 2 am, texting non-stop, and endless scrolling through social media are all bad habits I’ve had to teach my kids about.

The analogy I use is sleep. We all need sleep and sleep is good. Sleeping all day and missing school, work, and obligations is obviously bad. Moderation is key.

Some parents on the other side, who feel that tech distracts from education and social development, might claim that we wouldn’t be in this position if tech wasn’t ubiquitous.

While I can see their position, my counter is that technology isn’t something that should be hidden from children. We live in a tech-focused world and a child that grows up without a basic understanding of how things work will be at a severe disadvantage.

So now we must find a middle ground. We don’t want our kids gaming all night, but we also don’t want to take away the computers and other gadgets. To help find a middle ground let’s explore some of the good that technology provides.

How Technology Benefits Children

Kids Develop Creativity

A kid’s mind is an amazing place. Here’s a quick experiment. Ask your child to come up with a crazy idea. Something silly that would be fun to them. Heck, your kids might provide silly ideas without any motivation. The point is that kids have the ability to imagine up anything. This is partly because they don’t know what isn’t possible yet. Flying PB&J sandwich with lasers that delivers candy? Why not.

Back in the day I used crayons and paper to draw out my fantasies. Maybe we had watercolors in art class at school. Today’s kids have access to free and easy-to-use tech that teaches them how to code via games and even turns ordinary drawings into a playable game.

By experiencing the thrill of taking an idea, giving it shape, and then seeing it come to life kids have the ability to explore and expand their creativity. This helps with confidence building and instills in the child a sense of pride when coming up with a new idea. It also helps build resiliency. If you have ever developed a website or app you know nothing works 100% all the time. You have to build, test, fix, and re-build. The only thing you can’t do is give up.

Develop Social Skills

This will lose a few readers. Tech helping social skills? That might seem counterintuitive, but give me a chance to explain.

Looking back when I was a kid baseball card collecting was a big thing. It was easy to find fellow collectors, trade cards, and have very interesting debates on who the best player was at that given moment.

Technology also helps foster a community. Your kids can easily find fellow Minecraft enthusiasts, for example. By joining a community they can interact with others and learn. They also get the joy that comes with helping someone else who shares your hobby. Teaching a new player can be a great way to develop social skills and gain confidence.

Another great way to develop social skills with technology is through coding camps. I went to summer camps as a kid. Spending a week away from home, learning with others, and being free was a great experience. I love that my kids could do something similar, but instead of canoeing they were coding. They learn how to work in teams and resolve conflicts without mom and dad always stepping in to make a decision.

Tech Builds Problem Solving Skills

Life throws many challenges at us, some of which we aren’t prepared to handle. Technology in general, and playing video games in particular, can help build strong problem solving skills.

Think about a video game that has quests or “survival mode” play where a player must outlast all the others to win the game. To win you have to think fast and operate under conditions with imperfect information. You don’t know what items the game will provide, what your opponent has in their inventory, or what the opponent’s strategy will be. You simply must make a plan and revise as new facts are presented.

That sounds a lot like adult life.

Technology allows for freedom of expression. Part of that means your kids can build anything they can dream up. When you build things you will inevitably have errors. This could be trying to build a character up to a higher level or build a new game from scratch. Either way, a child will need to learn patience and problem solving skills to achieve their goal.

Preparation For The Future

Unless something very odd happens technology will continue to play an important role in our daily lives. Early exposure to technology will better prepare children for careers in high-tech environments. High-tech also goes well with high-paying. Even traditionally non-tech companies are getting into tech, such as Home Depot adding 1,000 tech jobs a few years back.

Tech jobs are here to stay. With the rapid pace at which new technologies are released many of the things we use today will be obsolete in a few years. The children who develop skills at an early age, especially the ability to quickly pick up new technology, will stand to benefit the most in the future.

Improved Education

I can’t end a conversation on how technology benefits children without discussing education. It’s no secret that many kids are using virtual classrooms and distant education this year. While these methods of learning certainly have some issues, without computers kids might have missed out on an entire semester or year of school.

Technology also presents new ways of learning. Think back to your school days. You likely had books and binders to store all your notes. Today kids have computers. While excellent at reducing what you need to carry in a backpack, computers also provide a window to the world. Kids can quickly find information and learn about new topics.

Computers are cool, but how amazing do you think it will be when VR is incorporated into the classroom? That lesson on the rain forests will be much more memorable when your kids can “walk” through the jungle as opposed to just looking at pictures, videos, or reading about it.


It’s common for parents to question how technology benefits children. We all naturally want what is best for our kids. With the prevalence of tech we have to determine what is acceptable and where to draw the line. I’ve always felt that tech is like any other tool. It should work for us, the end user, and not the other way around. I’m proud of the skills my kids have picked up by being exposed to technology. It’s rewarding to see a young mind grow and without access to technology I know my kids would have different skills than they do today.

Mobile apps and games can be a great distractions for kids when you’re busy. However, parents must take steps to prevent children from making in-app purchases or those few minutes of silence may cost you dearly. It’s not that kids maliciously decide to rack up a large tab purchasing in-app items. Games have been designed to be engaging and motivate players to reach the highest levels. This sometimes requires that purchases be made. With the simple tap of a button kids can buy a limitless number of in-game items.

Most children aren’t out to spend all your hard-earned money on in-app purchases. Some kids are even too young to understand that what they are doing is a problem. They instinctively press bright and flashy buttons. They then notice they get extra coins, other in-game currency, or access to a new feature. The kid doesn’t know this costs real world money to they keep pressing away, delighted that they found a simple method to maximize their gaming experience.

Prevent Children From Making In-App Purchases

Turn Off In-App Purchases

Simply turning off all in-app purchases is the quickest method to stopping unapproved spending by a youngster. Thankfully this task is fairly simple for both Android and iOS devices.

Android

If you have an Android device you can turn off in-app purchases as follows:

Google Play > Settings > User Controls > Set or Change PIN > Back to User Settings > Use PIN for Purchases

iOS

Settings > Screen Time > Enable Screen Time > Select This is My Phone or This is My Child’s Phone > Set Your Password or a Parent Password (if a child’s phone) > Content and Privacy Restrictions > Enter Your Password > Activate Content and Privacy > Select iTunes > App Store Purchases > In-App Purchases > Select Don’t Allow

The process requires a few more steps for iOS, but the same end result is achieved. Your kids will no longer be making in-app purchases and racking up a surprise bill.

Parents should also look into smartphone substitutes for younger children. If your child is at an age where a full-blown iPhone isn’t necessary many lite devices exist that are reasonably priced and remove access to app stores and the web.

Discuss In-App Purchases

I’m sure many dads can relate to the following scenario. You tell your child “no” on something for whatever reason. Your “no” leads to a barrage of “why not?!” questions from your kid.

Even if you don’t get a bunch of “why not” style questions it’s important to explain to your child why a decision is being made. This is important to start building analytical skills and understanding reasons behind decisions.

Take the time to open an app or share your surprise bill and put the costs in terms your child will understand. If they receive an allowance break out how many chores or weeks it would take them to earn the in-app item they want to purchase.

For kids, seeing bright and flashy buttons that promise rewards can be enticing. Even for adults we can get sucked into the allure of buying power-ups and other items.

Set Boundaries

Part of growing up is learning to manage responsibilities. If your child is at an appropriate age to understand that in-app purchases cost real world money you may have a learning opportunity at hand.

Explain that the purchases aren’t just coins in the game and cost you, the parent, actual money. Also explain in terms your child will understand how it takes effort to make money. For example, you might say it would take the entire week of taking out the trash to earn one in-game item from their favorite game. This helps the child grasp the idea that nothing is free.

You can then set guidelines on what is and is not acceptable. One approach might be to trade physical allowance for in-app purchases. So if you child does all their chores for the week they can purchase 1 or 2 items in their favorite game. This has the added benefit of introducing the idea of opportunity cost. We can’t have our in-game purchases and normal allowance. A decision must be made between the two.

Also be sure to discuss boundaries in regards to screen time. Adults and kids alike need to practice healthy screen time behaviors.

Use Monitoring Apps

Frequent readers of Nerdy Dads will know that I advocate for discussions as opposed to using monitoring apps. I’ve always felt a child will appreciate the respect shown when they are treated like an adult and not a thief. With that said, monitoring apps can help parents keep an eye on what their kids are buying and downloading.

While it is a personal choice I’d recommend using parental controls for gaming apps prior to using a monitoring solution. Either way you decide to go I still suggest having a discussion with your child. Turning an obstacle into a learning situation is much better than the potential fallout of installing monitoring apps.


Games are fun! I’ll be the first to say it and also the first to admit that I’ve dropped a few bucks on in-app items. I’ve presented a few solutions to prevent children from making in-app purchases. Of course, downloading games that don’t require any purchases is also a solution. At the end of the day in-app goodies can make games more fun and engaging. It’s ok to have fun, it just needs to be reasonable and not end up with a surprise bill at the end of the month.

This post will be very appealing to kids and dads who think video games can be educational. I realize for some parents promoting more screen time for kids might seem crazy. I’ll do my best in this piece to argue that you can teach your kids finance with a video game. Life lessons gained from gaming can be valuable. Gaming is fun and we tend to remember fun things. Finance can be a bit dry and stuffy, which makes it harder to remember.

So this is may attempt to convince some parents out there that allowing your kids some extra time with certain games can be advantageous for their education.

The Game

The game that has captured my focus in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Released in March 2020 for the Nintendo Switch Animal Crossing was nearly an instant hit. At first glance the game doesn’t seem to be anything special. Players explore an island and get to go about making it their own. Tasks include chopping wood, pulling weeds, and other chores.

So a game about chores, huh? Kids will surely love this!

Thankfully the primary objective of New Horizons isn’t to chop wood or catch bass. Those are simply means goals. As they are the means to an end with that end being selling the fruits of your labor for bells (in-game currency). With bells in hand players can customize the island almost any way you see fit. Design your own clothes, add rooms to a house, or create other structures. Players can use their imagination to do pretty much anything so long as you have the bells to fund your dreams.

Replace bells with cash and this starts to sound like real life. We do some task, get cash, then get to spend that cash on stuff we like. This is where the learning comes into play. To make the best life for your character in New Horizons, players need to have some good money management skills. The skills learned during game play can translate to real life.

Teach Your Kids Finance With A Video Game

Below are the best personal finance lessons that I could glean from Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I won’t claim to be a financial whiz, but as an adult who has to manage finances for a family I can say these lessons are valuable.

Budgeting

Players can earn bells in New Horizons and spend them immediately. It can be a bunch of fun dashing about and buying whatever you like. Some people even try this in real life. They get a paycheck and head out to buy shoes, gadgets, or any number of items.

In Animal Crossing, just like in real life, if you spend all your hard earned bells the second you get them you don’t have a chance to save up for higher priced items. Yes, you get the immediate gratification of making a purchase. Your player, however, will never get to build an awesome bridge if they keep spending all their bells.

Just like in life knowing what you want, having a plan to get it, and saving are key to success.

Self-Control

So you’ve discussed the concept of a budget with your kid and they see the value. That’s great! Now it just comes down to the old self-control.

Once your child has a plan in place for what they want to purchase they have to avoid the urge to make impulse purchases. Sure buying the new deluxe washer will be awesome now, but it will increase the time it takes to save up to buy that new house.

This lesson can be easily translated to the real world. Next time you’re at the store and your kids wants something explain that it isn’t in the budget. Tie the real world lesson to New Horizons and see if that helps your child understand. It might not always work, but it helps to impart the lesson that saving for a goal requires some level of restraint.

Recognize the Value of Your Work

Dads, how many of you are DIY or “hands on” and seem to be able to fix anything? It’s a valuable skill in life since you don’t have to call someone every time a drain backs up. If you are so skilled you’ve probably saved a bunch of money over the years doing small tasks yourself.

Animal Crossing helps to teach kids a similar lesson. In the game fruit sells for a low price. At 100 bells it would take forever to save up to buy the 82,000 bell electric guitar. In the game players can turn simple items, like fruit, into much high-priced goods, like wallpaper.

This helps drive home the point that if you have the skills others lack you can save a few bucks. If you are so inclined you can also leverage your skills to make some extra cash via side hustles.

Buy Smart Using Coupons

I’m not ashamed to admit that I seek out rewards programs, coupons, and any promo that can save some money. It’s not that I can’t pay full price, but if I can get 10% off a purchase why shouldn’t I? The money I save can go to saving, paying bills, or having fun.

Once your kids get into New Horizons and learn this lesson they will have a new appreciation for your wise decisions. Go dad!

In New Horizons players can use little tricks to save some bells. For example, shopping with Sahara the camel can help you earn tickets for each rug you purchase. Think of it like a rewards program at your local coffee shop.

Shop smart and watch your cash and bells grow. The quicker you save up the faster you can buy that sweet guitar you have always wanted.

Be Careful With Speculation

I have a friend who is a financial advisor. He bought Animal Crossing for his kid, but ended up playing it more frequently. The main attraction was the “stalk market” that uses turnips. The setup works like this: a little pig appears each Sunday and is ready to sell vegetables at a fixed cost. Local shopkeepers might then buy up the veggies at a higher price – if you’re lucky.

Just like in the real stock market, the “stalk market” has no guarantee that you won’t take a bath on your investment. The turnips will spoil so time is of the essence. If your turnips turn while prices are low and you cannot sell, you’re left with rotten vegetables. Not very useful.

In the real world we’ve all read about some day trader who made a fortune on a stock. What we don’t hear about as frequently are the majority of traders who turn a large sum into a tidy bundle of nothing, nada, $0.

Risk can pay off, but players need to be careful taking that risk. Get on the wrong side of a turnip trade and you will lose bells. For older kids interested in the stock market this would be a great introductory lesson.

A Lesson In Interest Rates

The final lesson in finance involves interest rates.

As an adult you likely know that interest rates dictate a lot in life. How much you pay for a loan and how much you earn with a savings account. Animal Crossing surprised players with a reduction in interest rates in April.

It’s yet another lesson for kids on how a change in rates can impact their savings and how much debt will cost them.


Some of my favorite games are those that can be played by kids and adults alike with something for everyone. If you can teach your kids finance with a video game while they have fun I’m all for it. If you haven’t picked up New Horizons yet it isn’t too late. Grab a copy and give your kids the gift of fun and education. You might even pick up some good habits if you join in on the fun!

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact with people. It removed those cool movie nights, game sessions and cinema experiences from our daily lives. That means we need to adapt, and playing games online with the entire family can become a great social experience for all of us. If you’re not sure what games to play, here you have a list of cool, fun games you can play with your family at home.

Games You Can Play With Your Family at Home

Skribbl.io

The main idea behind Skribbl.io is that you create a room that the entire family can join. One lucky person draws something, and the other people need to name the item/character/thing. The person drawing selects from a list of three options and has only 80 seconds to put the word into a visual creation. It’s an enjoyable game because you never know what people are drawing. The faster you guess, the more points you get. Skribbl.io has multiple rounds per game, so the more guesses you have, the higher the chances you have to win the game.

Mario Kart Tour

Any Mario game automatically ranks as one of our top games to play with your family.

Mario Kart Tour is an exciting racing game that can be played with up to seven friends. All you need is to download the game, connect with your family members via the Nintendo account and race against them. The game covers a multitude of races inspired by real-world locations. It’s also a blast to play, regardless of your age.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, each one of your family members has their own island. You can design and build anything you want on the island, and anyone can visit you whenever they want. The game is a unique virtual gathering space. Plus, it’s very cathartic, fun and full of customization options. That means no two people will have the same island layout or design.

For the extra Nerdy Dads out there, Animal Crossings: New Horizons also presents a fun way to introduce your child to financial topics. For the Nerdy finance dads if you haven’t tried Animal Crossing yet you really have to give it a go. Be forewarned: you may end up playing more than the kids!

Golf Battle

The main strength of Golf Battle comes from testing your skills. At its core, the idea is simple, everyone competes on three golf courses per session, and the person with the lowest score wins. You will need to employ a strategy to find new ways to lower your score every time if you want to win. The game allows you to play 1 v 1, and you can also play with up to six Facebook friends at once.

If your golf game is like mine in the real world you might be dismayed to find that Golf Battle doesn’t come with a “foot wedge” option. Apparently my strategy if kicking the ball into the fairway isn’t real golf 😉

QuizUp

If you and your family like quizzes, QuizUp is the perfect game for you. You can play the game against friends in real-time, and you can also discover like-minded people. On top of that, the game covers a variety of topics, from pop culture to history, music, cooking, books and countries. With such a variety of subjects everyone in the family can enjoy the game.


Even if you’re in lock down, there are still lots of ways to enjoy your time and have fun with your family. Playing online games is one of the best and most relaxing social activities. There’s definitely no shortage of games. All you have to do is pick the right game genre and enjoy some amazing times with your entire family!

It’s not often that we take the time to pat ourselves on the backs. This is one of those few times that we will do so. Nerdy Dads is proud to announce that we are in the top 30 on Feedspot in the Top Father Blogs and Websites For Dads To Follow In 2020.

We were just as surprised about this exciting announcement as some of our readers. We didn’t start writing Nerdy Dads to climb some list. However, it is a great feeling to know that all the hard work pays off and is appreciated.

As of this writing we are ranked #23. We know the competition is stiff. This list contains some amazing blogs and we’re honored to be included with such awesome writers and dads!

We’ll go on record now as making our New Years’ 2021 resolution: getting into the Top 10.

Thank you to all our readers for your support, messages, and interest in our writing.

Keep it nerdy. Mike & Daryl

Nerdy Dads in the Top 30 on Feedspot

With many schools resuming classes virtually the challenges of remote learning for students are becoming clear for many parents. As parents attempt to navigate work and playing teacher/tutor it’s necessary to understand he limitations of distance education. Sure, doing math homework in your PJ’s can be a dream for many young learners. However, parents need tools and strategies to overcome some of the difficult aspects of remote learning.

The Challenges of Remote Learning

Distractions

First up on the list of challenges to overcome is distractions. If you’ve been working at home yourself then you know distractions abound. The laundry needs to be folded, dishes are piling up, and the dog wants to go for a walk. Kids have the added distractions of TV, gaming systems, toys, and going outside to play with friends.

For students who have been in the traditional school system for a few years the transition to home-based schooling can be tough. They are accustomed to school being the place for thought and learning. Home is where the fun happens and (hopefully) some homework. That has all been flipped on its head and home must now serve as the learning facility.

The Solution

Make learning fun and interactive is one way to avoid remote learning burnout. Remember all those fun science experiments you did as a kid in grade school? You can easily replicate many of those at home for some hands-on learning. The cost of supplies can be cheap and many YouTube channels, such as Kids Science, exist to walk you through the process and explain what you’re doing. Think of this as a chance to have fun with your kid while learning. Also, what dad doesn’t want to step away from a Zoom call and say “I have to go make a volcano erupt in the garage”? Epic way to end a meeting in my opinion.

Encouraging teamwork is a great strategy if you have multiple children. Have your children study in the same area, preferably an area dedicated to school work. The older child can be tasked with some responsibility to ensure the others stay focused. This provides the eldest a chance to demonstrate responsibility and encourages everyone to collaborate. Wins, such as good results on a quiz, can be shared with the entire family to replicate the feeling of success in school.

Heavy Screen Time

If your kids are involved in remote learning they are going to get a lot more screen time than normal. Now more than ever it’s important for parents to discuss and practice healthy family screen time. It’s important to set screen time boundaries early in the semester. It’s not healthy to stare at a screen all day (I can attest this does add pounds) and kids need an outlet for their energy.

The Solution

Set defined breaks for your kids throughout the day. This can include science experiments in the backyard and physical exercise by walking around the block. Arts and crafts time can also be a nice break from a screen-heavy day.

Create a day planner together with your child. This can be fun for multiple reasons. First, you get to see what your child’s schedule looks like. You might be surprised by how much work even young kids are doing. It also gives you a chance to teach your children about time management and creating schedules. Breaking the day down into tasks and hitting those goals is an important skill, especially as your kids approach college age.

Loneliness

If you previously worked in an office setting and now work from the kitchen table you can relate to feelings of loneliness.

Kids are accustomed to seeing their friends at school, playing at recess, and laughing at lunch. With all those experiences gone your child may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is especially true for only children who don’t have a playmate. This may make it tough for some children to focus on their studies and grades may even slip.

The Solution

Ask your kids how they are doing. This should happen even under normal circumstances, but now it is especially important. Ask how they are holding up. If they express feelings of loneliness don’t downplay their feelings. Let them know it’s normal and lots of people are feeling this way. If you are honestly dealing with similar feelings share your experience. Kids look up to parents and knowing that dad is even feeling the same way can be comforting. It lets the child know they aren’t alone. Honestly, it might even feel good for you to open up a bit. Even adults are impacted by the “new normal”.

Schedule virtual play dates as much as possible. This can be a bit challenging, but if your child has a best friend it’s worth exploring how they can still have fun. It could be a dedicated 30 minute block a few times each week to play Minecraft or talk on Zoom. Video conferencing has been a big part of remote working. While kids shouldn’t be using Zoom or other video software unsupervised, it can be fun to see their friend. They can show off what they’ve been doing at home and spend some time talking about their shared experiences.

Tech Issues

Part of your new dad duties during remote learning will be playing tech support. This may be one of the most frequent challenges of remote learning parents will encounter. The WiFi isn’t working. The computer froze. The document didn’t save. The list goes on and you will be expected to have the answers. Something about “great power and great responsibility” seems fitting here.

While tech issues are frustrating you can’t rely on the school or teacher providing a solution. Imagine the poor teacher who is trying to play tech support to 30 kids at the same time. While it’s tough for working parents, you likely won’t be able to avoid having to troubleshoot issues during the school year.

The Solution

Upgrade outdated technology if it is feasible given your current position. Not every family is able to drop the money on new technology for school. If you are fortunate enough to be able to upgrade some old tech it can help avoid issues. We previously reviewed some back-to-school Chromebooks that are affordable and should meet most, if not all, of the needs of your student.

Avoid network overload by keeping the number of connected devices to a minimum. If both parents are working at home as well as kids your home network can quickly become strained. Try to keep the number of devices operating at any time to a minimum. You might even experiment with staggered schedules if your job or child’s school permits.

Communicate with teachers more than normal, but don’t be the crazy obsessive parent. Email teachers at the start of the semester to share your contact info. If for any reason the teacher is having difficulty sharing homework they can send it to you, for example. This provides another outlet for the teacher to distribute assignments if, and when, their selected tech platform has an issue.


The challenges of remote learning are numerous. As dads we have to do our best to put on the brave face and seem like these issues are minor blips. We might feel intimidated and that’s fine. Balancing work, child’s school, and staying mentally healthy isn’t an easy undertaking. If nothing else my advice is to be patient with your kids, their school, and yourself. These challenges may be daunting, but are not impossible to overcome. If you start to feel especially stressed it might be time to join your kids for science class. Volcanoes and twisters in a bottle have an odd way of making us smile and relieving stress.

Have you ever thought it would be cool to turn your child’s doodles into a game? With DoodleMatic you can create playable games from your children’s drawings. Even from your own drawings if you’re up for the challenge! At its core, DoodleMatic takes your art and converts it into a game by using colors recognized by the app. You can even share your child’s creation with other game builders and doodlers.

How To Create Playable Games

The Magic

DoodleMatic allows you to create two types of games. The first style is the platform game. This is where the character jumps from platform to platform in the pursuit of some goal. Kids can also make a launch-style game (think Angry Birds) where the character is launched with the objective of knocking over targets. The game you design and what the players can do is all driven by the colors used.

The colors you can use and their actions are:

  • Black – the platform or ground
  • Red – obstacles that end the game if touched by the character
  • Blue – the goal(s)
  • Green – your character

For any dads that are part of the DIY/maker movement and want to get your kids involved in the maker movement, this is a great introductory step! Combining drawing, which is fun by itself, with creating your own game gives a child an awesome amount of power. They are able to create their own, custom game that can be shared with friends and family. It can really help open a child’s eyes to the power of technology and what they can do with a little imagination.

The Game Play

The game will play depending on what you built. Either the launcher style or platform jumper style. The in-game character will bounce around trying to avoid the red obstacles while pursuing the blue goals. It’s easy, fun, and great for youngsters.

By relying on the colors used to determine the game play kids can create anything they can imagine. As you might imagine this comes with some trial and error. Once a game is drawn your child will take a picture through the app. On some occasions the game won’t work as expected. The child has to go back, make some edits, and try again.

For any dad in software development, and other fields I’m sure, trial and error is part of the daily job. Literally building something, finding it doesn’t work, and trying again is what I do every day. DoodleMatic helps kids learn that just because something doesn’t work they shouldn’t give up. It’s usually just a small tweak here and there for the game to work properly.

DoodleMatic Availability

The DoodleMatic app is available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

The physical component of the game comes in a box with everything you need to get started. The guides will walk your child through how to create specific in-game behavior. The step-by-step tutorial also explains the use of colors and how each color will impact what happens in the game.

The basic out-of-the-box game is great for children 3+. As your kids get more comfortable with the game advanced features are available that make objects move in the game. At the initial outset all you will need are the app and the correct colors.

Why I Like DoodleMatic

For a child to be able to create playable games is a very educational and empowering activity. As I mentioned above they learn about trial and error and that a mistake isn’t the end of the world. Building that resilience and creativity at an early age will pay off down the road. As opposed to software development where hunting for an error can take a great deal of effort, fixing mistakes in DoodleMatic is rather quick. This ensures your child learns how to resolve errors, but isn’t too difficult to be discouraging.

Once the game is up and running your child can share it with friends and family. It’s another huge confidence booster to have built a game others can enjoy. The positive feedback from others enjoying something you’ve built is amazing. I personally love to design and develop something and hear that the end users enjoy what I’ve built. It means I’ve done my job and provided another person with a solution that brings them joy or makes life easier. Either way I’m happy.

Finally, DoodleMatic provides an easy intro to design and can segue into further lessons in teaching your children how to code.


With the holiday season approaching way faster than I thought the DoodleMatic should be on any parent’s list. Fun, educational, and an excellent opportunity to spend time with your child the game is fun for the whole family.