As someone who writes code for a living I can say it is sometimes the best job in the world. Sometimes it isn’t, but I’m pretty sure everyone can make a similar claim. I’ve always been excited to share the things I enjoy with my kids. Heck, even my children’s friends have learned a thing or two. While coding is exciting it can be frustrating jumping in with no prior knowledge. To reduce the risk of children quickly losing interest I’m a fan of using coding games for kids to keep things interesting.

Turning coding into a game, something fun and exciting, will help capture a child’s attention. I dare say they might not even know they are learning!

Regardless of why you want to teach your child how to code, these games can make the learning experience fun for both of you. If you aren’t familiar with coding this could be a great opportunity to pick up a new skill and watch your child learn.

Now, let’s look at some of the best coding games for kids.

Coding Games For Kids


You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but a young mind can learn anything. Children, even preschoolers, can benefit from being introduced to coding concepts.

LittleCodr is a card game (bet you weren’t expecting that) designed for young learners. It’s a simple game that is interactive, engaging and doesn’t require staring at a screen. If you like playing games as a family you need LittleCodr. Kids get to use action cards (turn right) to get parents and siblings to do silly movements.

Kids get a laugh, but they also learn about linear thinking and executing actions in sequence.

For the nerdy music-loving dads this one is for you. Well, your kids but you can play along as well. Osmo Coding Jam combines music with coding skill development. Kids, and dads, use coding blocks to create music. You will need the iOS app to accompany the game blocks. Players will move the blocks around the board to change the music. Not only will children develop problem-solving skills, but they will also learn about melody and rhythm.


ScratchJr is the younger sibling of Scratch, a programming language used by millions around the world. The Jr. version allows younger learners a chance to get their feet wet with programming. Kids will move a character around, make them dance, and much more by using the programming blocks.

As kids start to program their own games they will be introduced to new concepts. ScratchJr introduces coding concepts as well as math and language. Available for iOS, Android, Chromebook, and Kindle Fire, and the best part, it’s free!

Move the Turtle is a game available on iPhones and iPads. Kids will be introduced to the basics of designing and building computer programs. A cool little turtle is your champion throughout the game. As you and your child complete tasks the turtle will move around on the screen. This game introduces some more advanced concepts such as planning complex operations using simple commands. Children will also gain experience with loops, variables, and conditionals. Finally, your child will get to play around with using sound and graphics in the game. It’s a ton of fun and is used by schools around the world.

Elementary School

As we climb the grade levels we’ll start to encounter some games you may already be familiar with. You may be a bit surprised to learn that games can be a great tool to teach kids about technology and coding.

First up is Minecraft.

With 100+ million users you’ve most likely heard of the game. This is an extremely popular game for kids. While it looks like it’s mostly about making stuff out of blocks it also has some important lessons. Most notable is the logical thinking that is required. Problem-solving and thinking outside the box are also important to be successful in Minecraft. All these skills are necessary when programming. So while your kid isn’t technically writing lines of Python, they are learning coding fundamentals.

CodeMonkey is a fun online game that started out as a program for teachers to use in the classroom. It’s now available for use at home, though it does require a monthly subscription ($4.95 – $9.95). What’s super helpful about CodeMonkey is that you have a progress tracker to see how your child is learning over time. Kids have access to courses for K-8 with block-based and text-based coding practice.

Middle School

In Swift Playground (iOS only) kids will guide a character through a 3D world. This game introduces kids to Swift, a language created by Apple and used by professionals to create mobile apps. Users can interact by incorporating their own pictures, sounds and files into their creation. Kids can also share the games they develop with friends.

Looking for an exciting game that has been introduced in 100+ countries? Give LightBot a try. Players will guide a cool little robot through various levels trying to light up tiles. Topics introduced include sequencing, overloading, conditionals, recursive loops, and procedures. Available on iOS and Android this is a game that kids won’t be able to put down. For once, you might not be too upset when they are playing a game.

Thus concludes our quick list of coding games for kids. As you can see, numerous games exist that introduce many core coding concepts. You can find games for very young learners and get them started early. Coding is a great skill and those who can master the required skills will have tons of opportunities in the future.

Happy coding!

The days are getting shorter and cold weather is rapidly approaching. That means we will be spending even more time in our homes if that’s possible to imagine. To help you prepare for the Fall months I’ve shared my favorite Fall 2020 gadgets for the home that I’ve found so far. Some of these gadgets are helpful throughout the year, but all are nice to have around when the weather is colder.

Top Fall 2020 Gadgets

Backyard Fire Pits

Something about that smell of wood burning just screams Fall to me. While I don’t go camping as much as I’d like to these days, a backyard fire pit can be a good substitute. When it comes to fire pits you have a few options. Some, like the Bali Outdoors wood burning fire pit, is good to gather around and can be used to cook. Nothing like burgers cooked over an open wood flame!

Bali Outdoor Wood Burning Fire Pit

Other fire pits are more for social gatherings. Take the propane fire pit and dining round from Fleur De Lis Living. This is great for gathering the entire family around to enjoy an outdoor dinner. The flame will keep you warm, but isn’t for cooking.

I really like this style of backyard pit because is encourages family time. If you have felt recently that technology may have a negative impact on family communication then this pit might be just the thing to get everyone to put down their devices for a while.

Outdoor Lighting

If the fire pits above piqued your interest you may need some outdoor lighting for your backyard hangouts.

Here at Nerdy Dads you know we like to geek out. This even extends to our selection of outdoor lighting options. I’m a fan of the Philips Hue Calla Bollard. This outdoor light looks amazing and can even work with various colors. That will turn a backyard BBQ into even more fun as the sun drops and the colors come to life. The sleek design and LED can be set to match any mood or backyard design. Best of all the light is compatible with Amazon Alexa so you can use your voice to turn the lights on and off or change colors. It also works with Apple homekit or Google assistance so you aren’t locked into using just Alexa.

Philips Hue Calla Bollard Outdoor LED Light

Meural WiFi Photo Frame

I can’t speak for others, but at least 70% of my annual photos are taken in the last two months of the year. With family visiting and the Holiday excitement I get click happy with my camera. This year will likely be different since travel plans have been put on hold. That doesn’t mean that family around the country still can’t enjoy some pictures.

The Meural WiFi Photo Frame is great for your home and as a gift for loved ones. Here’s what you do. Get one Merual for your home. Link the photos from your smartphone to the digital frame and enjoy the memories. Send one to a family member and they can do the same. You might not physically be in the same room, but pictures of friends and family from across the country can rotate through the Meural.

Canon Ivy Camera

Canon Ivy Outdoor Camera

The Canon Ivy Camera is an exciting pocket camera great for hiking through the beautiful fall foliage. The camera even has a carabiner built-in that can easily attach to a backback or belt. Just like you’d expect from an outdoor device the camera is waterproof and shockproof.

The Canon Ivy comes in three different colors and conveniently syncs to your smartphone to transfer photos. With 1080p high-def video capabilities and the ability to capture images with the 13 megapixel sensor this is an excellent gadget to pair with the Meural WiFi Photo Frame.

Coming in at $79.99 this little camera packs a punch in features, but not in price. Great for kids looking to explore the outdoors and take some photos. The best part for parents is that it doesn’t connect to the internet like a smartphone. If you want your kids to capture the beauty of the outdoors and not spend time on social media, this solves both problems.

TikiTunes Portable Outdoor Speakers

We’ve already covered a few of the interesting Fall 2020 gadgets. Now we meet the TikiTunes outdoor speaker. These portable Bluetooth speakers come with LED lights and can be in a small handheld format or on a pole. The portable version is great if you want to take it when visiting family. The pole option is great for those looking to have the ultimate backyard. Gather everyone around the fire pit and let TikiTunes keep everyone entertained with good music and light show. It’s the best way to spend time with family and enjoy the fall weather.

TikiTunes Bluetooth Speaker

The Trunkster

For those of you who will be queueing up at airports this Holiday season the Trunkster is going to be your travel gadget of choice. Traditional suitcases aren’t comfortable, stylish, and certainly don’t scratch your techie itch. The Trunkster changes all that. It comes with USB charging capabilities, zipperless entry, location tracking (great for those of us who have lost bags before!) and even weights itself. It’s pretty much everything you’d want in a travel bag. The only way it could be better is if it allowed us to skip the TSA lines.

The fall is a magical time of year. It is a great time to sit in the backyard and do a non-Nerdy Dad activity. No gaming or coding. Just time spent enjoying the outdoors with family. Hopefully one of the Fall 2020 gadgets I’ve listed above makes your fall even more enjoyable!

In today’s digital era anyone can post any type of content online at any time. With a bit of strategy and some luck, the news can go viral. Racking up millions of views, likes, and shares is great and a dream for many of us. Fake news, often emotional and incendiary, is no exception to this rule. Teaching your children how to spot fake news will help them develop the skills necessary to discern between what is real and fake. They will also develop fact-checking and critical thinking skills.

What Is Fake News?

Fake news can be defined as any information presented as news or facts but lacks editorial standards and accuracy checks. It’s important to note that fake news isn’t news you disagree with. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it fake.

While we focus primarily on tech on this blog, fake news isn’t contained to just internet sources. It can be found in written news, nightly broadcasts, and conversations.

It’s important that children understand what fake news is and how to spot it. Part of this is teaching children how to find and use reputable news sources.

How To Spot Fake News

Fake news has made its way online in a big way. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have had to rise to the occasion to help filter out inaccuracies. However, their efforts are not enough and it’s our job as parents to help teach our children how to decide what is true and what isn’t.

Question The Source

News can come from anyone at any time. It’s important to consider the source of the information. It’s easy to build a website that looks like a legitimate source. With a bit of talent, a bad actor could create a site that mimics leading outlets like CNN and ABC News. Kids should be shown how to check the About and Contact Us page. If you navigate to a site that looks reputable, but the only contact is a Gmail address that should raise a red flag. Many news publishers will list their writers and include a bio, headshot, and sometimes an email address. Again, if any or all of this is missing another red flag should go up.

Children can also use other online sources that are committed to tracking down rumors. Sites such as maintain a list of known fake news sites that can be helpful when looking into a source.

Check The Author

Look for bylines for each story. The byline will provide the name of the author and are commonly found between the headline and article text. Some bylines might be shown at the bottom at the end of the piece. Take the time to dig around and find the author. Click through to the author’s bio page and see what it says. If they claim numerous awards, such as the Peabody award, then go to the official award website and check to see if that author actually won. Prior Peabody award winners going back to 1940 can easily be found.

Missing bylines or obvious false bylines should be seen as another indicator that the news source may be less than honest.

Read The Article

A hallmark of fake news is using language that is designed to get you excited. You’ve likely seen these headlines. “The President Bans the Pledge of Allegiance” or “Man Trains 100 Dogs to Steal Groceries”. These are obviously wacky headlines and should raise a few eyebrows. As parents, we might see through these but kids don’t yet have the skills and knowledge necessary to fend off fake headlines.

Parents should coach their kids that headlines are written to draw us in and engage the reader. No one wants to read about a dog that knows how to sit. Write about a dog that can do backflips and read a paper, however, and that might catch some attention. Reading into the article, even if just a few paragraphs, can give a reader a good idea if the content is real or if it’s fake.

It’s also helpful to read into the article and check out some of the sources the author used. Do they go to legitimate sources or are they linked to bogus sites? If the latter then it’s important to recall a data science saying:

Garbage In, Garbage Out

What Are Your Biases

This might be a topic for teenagers, but teaching children about biases will help them spot fake news. Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out facts that confirm our position. For example, if I believe that chocolate ice cream is a new weight loss trend I will seek out news that confirms this. I’ll also be more likely to avoid or ignore sources that say otherwise. Alas, I wish that was a true statement as my ice cream consumption would skyrocket, but it is simply false.

If an article catches your attention and seems to go against what you think or believe don’t discredit it right away. Do some digging around online and see if you can find any support for the claims. Also check out other articles on the website that broke the news. Do other articles seem outlandish as well? If so, yet another red flag goes up.

Ask An Expert

The internet contains TONS of information. You would need a full-time job to fact check everything you see in one day online. It’s helpful to consult with experts from time to time. Thankfully, sites such as and exist to help.

Spend some time on these sites researching your question. If you can’t find a helpful answer you can always ask a question of their fact-checking team. If you have a question odds are someone else has the same problem. Ask and you are likely helping out more than just yourself.

We’ve written at length on Nerdy Dads about how technology benefits children. While the internet has many upsides, the rise of fake news is not one of the bright aspects. Teaching our children how to spot fake news will ultimately make them well-informed young adults and critical thinkers. Even if they have to come across opinions that contradict their own, knowing how to research facts will help them decide what is real and what isn’t.

Adults love asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. At one point I know I was destined to be a professional soccer player, astronaut, and race car driver. At a young age these answers can be funny. However, what is a parent to do when their high-schooler says they want to be a professional gamer?

The knee-jerk reaction for many parents is that it’s a silly idea and not a “real” career path. For less nerdy parents and those who don’t understand esports this declared profession can be a cause for alarm. Can a person actually earn a living playing games? Is this a real career or a hoax? How does one even enter this profession? All of these are great questions and by the end of this post you’ll have a bit more insight into the world of competitive gaming.

What Is A Professional Gamer?

Think of a professional gamer as any other professional. They play a sport that others watch and admire. The pro has an advanced skill level that allows them to compete with the best in the business. Michael Jordan was a professional basketball player. Johan “N0tail” Sundstein is a professional Dota 2 player. Pro gamers earn a living by competing in and winning competitions. Just like other sports sponsorships can also make up a large part of a player’s earnings.

Esports, the proper term for games played competitively, is a real industry just like traditional pro sports. Many people want to play in the NFL but will never get the chance. Likewise to compete in esports a player must be experts. Passion for gaming isn’t enough to make it to the top. For example, esports competitors must be able to manage up to 400 movements on their keyboard and mouse in a minute. Intense focus and concentration are also required. Tournaments are filled with cheering fans and the fast-paced nature of competitive gaming means decisions must be made in split seconds.

Yes, They Have Training

Competitive gamers are far from the stereotypical middle-age gamer living in their parent’s basement sucking down Red Bull. Pros today must train just like athletes in other sports. If you’ve ever sat at a computer for any length of time you know it can be physically trying. Stiff shoulders and neck along with pain in the wrists and hands. Players must manage these strains while handling cortisol levels that are comparable to those produced by race car drivers.

Training is also required to maintain and improve hand-eye coordination. For those of us that play games recreationally we well understand that excelling and winning isn’t natural or easy. With the intense graphics and action in games today decision making and hand-eye coordination is difficult to master.

For those of you doubting that gaming requires training check out this short (4:22) video on how a college esports team trains for success.

Wait. College Esports?

You read that correctly. Colleges offer esports programs and now have competitive gaming teams. Just like playing college basketball is a step towards the NBA, playing on a collegiate esports team is one path to becoming a professional gamer.

If your child already excels at gaming and has won some awards you might want to encourage their passion. Colleges today offer scholarships for esports. If your children show potential with gaming it could be a ticket to college. Other sports have collegiate associations and so does esports in the form of The National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE). Today NACE reports over 170 schools and 5,000+ student-athletes in the U.S. alone.

If your child shows promise in esports and you’re considering schools they might attend review the NACE directory of colleges with esports teams. You can filter by game and the profile for each school provides contact info for coaches.

College Esports Resources

In no particular order I’ve provided below some helpful links for parents researching esports. I realize a child saying they want to go to college to play games might be worrisome. However, after conducting your own research you may be surprised to find this is a real possibility.

Esports Scholarships lists, as you might’ve guessed, scholarships for esports. Filter by region and division as well as by private or public schools.

A list of varsity esports programs across North American and compiled by ESPN.

The internet is full of additional resources. A simple query in your favorite search engine will return tons of articles and listicles. Many schools also offer information for parents on esports as they understand it isn’t a traditional path for students to take.

Career Potential

So maybe you’re excited that your child’s gaming obsession could land some scholarship dollars. Any assistance paying for college is always welcome! However, what about post-graduation? How will your child live if they are “just” a professional gamer?

I could go on about following your passion and living on your own terms. Some of that likely applies here. Rather, I’ll discuss that professionals can pull down some serious bucks from gaming.

Remember Johan “N0tail” Sundstein I mentioned previously? The 26 year-old from Denmark has earned $6.9 million over his career spanning 121 tournaments. This doesn’t include sponsorship money. Now I won’t argue that this is the norm. It is certainly an exception. However, when we encourage kids to play football and other sports we know the odds of them signing a multi-million dollar deal with a pro team is highly unlikely. If they are so lucky as to land a spot in the pro ranks though the earnings can be huge.

Sponsors such as Red Bull, Nike, and BMW are getting in on the action. With big names come big sponsor dollars. From tournaments to jerseys and individual players it is possible for professional gamers to earn a respectable living with sponsorships. These large brands understand that esports draws a huge crowd. The potential to get their message in front of an engaged audience is very appealing. Not to mention they can reach a larger audience than via traditional sports with a stadium.

Potential Downsides

So by now every reader with a child interested in gaming sees a scholarship solving the college tuition question. Not so fast. As I mentioned above the odds of becoming a college-level or pro gamer are low. Like any other sport every enthusiast wants to be a pro, but only the top 1%, if that, ever make it.

We’ve written previously on this site about how technology benefits children. While tech can be positive parents should look out for some of the downsides.

Mental Fatigue

Performing at the top of any field, sports or otherwise, takes a toll mentally. If a child feels added pressure to perform to maintain a scholarship they may become fatigued. Watch for signs of burnout like sleeping more than normal or not enjoying gaming anymore. Yes gaming can be a career and every career has pressure. As parents we must moderate and ensure our kids are well-rounded and do more than just game.

Physical Issues

Many professional gamers are required to exercise. It may not be as intense as NFL players, but they are required to get out and move about. Younger gamers and aspiring pros may not have that discipline. They may incorrectly believe that they have to spend hours upon hours in front of a screen. Following proper screen hygiene practices will help prevent lasting physical damage. Be sure your kid gets up and enjoys fresh air daily. It’s also important that gaming doesn’t consumer their entire life. Wanting to practice and excel is admirable. Losing family and friends as a result is not so great.

At first glance aspiring to be a professional gamer might seem silly. Parents want what is best for their children. We naturally get worried if they want to pursue something we don’t understand or look down upon. I’d encourage parents who have aspiring pro gamers at home to take the time to learn about their child’s passion. Why do they enjoy gaming? Is it something you could also learn to enjoy with them? If nothing else showing support is important. Esports are gaining in popularity and acceptance around the world. Some of us “older folks” might not get it, but the same can also be said for some of our hopes and dreams when we were young. Like anything else in life it’s important to do your homework to fully appreciate the facts and arrive at your own conclusion. For what it’s worth, as an adult I still think it would be awesome to be a pro gamer!

Never before have the people of the world been more connected. Technology allows us to call, video chat, message, and connect with people whenever and wherever we like. I’d be hard pressed to say this is overly negative. Families can share photos and experiences in real time for relatives to view and enjoy. Just thinking of the number of videos and photos shared with grandparents is overwhelming. While we can list many positives it’s also appropriate to avoid a completely pollyanna view. Technology affects family communication in a variety of ways.

Here I’ll take a brief look at how technology impacts how we communicate and where issues may arise. By understanding where things may go wrong we can avoid the situation or seek a fix if we find ourselves already headed down the wrong path.

How Technology Affects Family Communication


Let’s start with a family favorite: TV.

As a child TV ruled the house. It was on during dinner and was a frequent babysitter. While I’m not anti-TV, we all need time to relax, I am against excessive TV. The problem with excessive viewing is that it prevents families from communicating. It’s all too easy to put on your favorite show and binge for hours. Netflix and others make it so easy by auto-playing the next episode.

When it comes to TV my suggestion is to limit time in front of the screen and also filter the content. Encourage your kids to watch educational content and then only one episode at a time. At the end of the episode you can then discuss the program. This is an opportunity to bond and build critical thinking and communication skills.

I’m also a fan of using TV as a means to learn a foreign language. Put on a fun cartoon in a foreign language and your kids will have fun and be learning. That’s a win-win!

Internet and Social Media

The internet and social media have been amazing for communication. Like I mentioned at the start these technologies afford families and friends the opportunity to stay in touch around the world. However, excessive use can lead to a break down of in-person communication skills. Using social media in isolation can also expose a child to increased risk of cyber bullying and other online threats.

I’m a supporter of setting technology rules in the household. A defined set of rules can help keep everyone honest and control the amount of time spent online. While I understand coordinating schedules can be tricky I also encourage parents to schedule online play dates with friends. While the pandemic has forced many of us to remain at home we can still allow our kids some fun time with friends. Video conferencing software can also be used for children to see their friends. It won’t replace the in-person experience, but it is a helpful step to ensure your kids still have some form of social interaction with others their own age.

Sharing Personal Information

A final area that has been altered due to technology is the sharing of personal information. As a child I was told to never give a stranger my address or other details. Now we check-in all over town and carry tracking devices in our pockets. I don’t advocate giving up technology. That would put you and your children at a disadvantage in this tech-first world. However, I do believe parents have a responsibility to teach their kids about how to stay safe online.

Communicating clearly how and why your children should stay safe online is important. More often than not this will actually involve telling your children to communicate and share less, not more, information.

While some kids, especially teenagers, may push back sharing less does have some benefits. The primary benefit I’ve found is that in-person conversations are more interesting. If I see a friend’s posts all week long and know ever detail of his family’s life, then when we see each other on the weekend we have less to talk about. What works for me is keeping my photos and videos on my phone and using them as I tell a story in person. This might not work for everyone, but it’s one way I make technology work for me and not the other way around.

It’s no secret that technology affects family communication. Sometimes it’s for the good, like sharing family photos, and other time it isn’t so good. The key is moderation and keep the entire family accountable. It’s not only kids that spend too much time online. Parents must also prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting. By understanding how various devices impact our communication we can identify areas for improvement and make the necessary changes. Remember, it isn’t about perfection. It is about improving where we can.

Here at Nerdy Dads we talk a lot about technology and kids. Many articles focus on how to introduce children to technology and ensure they practice safe online behaviors. It’s also important for us to speak directly to fellow dads. Just like we want our kids to be responsible with tech, so they also want us to follow our own advice. Parenting in the digital age can be tough. To help us all stay on track I’ve put together a quick guide on how to prevent technology from getting In the way of parenting.

Why It’s Important To Take Control of Your Tech Usage

Kids, especially young children, learn by looking at the world around them. Yes, we can tell them all sorts of facts and ensure they know about safe tech usage. However, children will imitate those they see as authority figures (e.g. parents). If we set bad examples our children will follow our lead. This is dangerous as technology addiction is a real thing. Any addiction has negative consequences and tech is no different. From reduced empathy to increased bullying and a lack of emotional skills tech addiction cannot be written off as less than other bad habits, such as substance abuse.

Many parents take steps to keep their kids safe and healthy. From setting screen time limits to using parental controls for apps and games many parents attempt to set and enforce meaningful technology rules for the household.

The issues arise when our actions and words don’t match. We tell our kids not to stare at a Twitter feed for hours. Then they ask us a question later in the day only to find us absorbed in our favorite sub-Reddit or answering work emails. Being resourceful the child might turn to an always-on source of information: the internet.

Kids feel neglected, parents miss out on parenting opportunities, and we are all the worse off.

How Technology Hooks Us

No parent I’ve encountered set out to consciously place a device above their children. Almost everyone I know would say their children are their top priority. Again, however I come back to my favorite saying:

Actions speak louder than words

Technology has a few holds on us. Understanding our own particular area of weakness is the only way to improve. Some of my areas for improvement are as follows.


That email notification goes off and it’s a knee-jerk reaction that I must check my phone. It’s a struggle to find that right work-life balance when it seems like everyone else is always online. I won’t claim this is easy to remedy and it takes some part self-control and discipline and a supportive work environment.

An Escape Method

Life gets stressful. This shouldn’t be news to any reader here. However, we can’t use technology as an escape pod. It’s nice to stay connected to the outside world since life changes drastically once you’re a parent. We must remember that parenting is it’s own adventure. Sure your childless friends seem to be having a great time on Instagram, but let’s not spend hours looking through their photos and focus on making our own memories.

Let’s also remember that Big Tech and social media want our attention. That is how they monetize the services they offer. We must be extra careful not to fall into their trap of keeping our attention for hours on end. Setting a timer to pull you out of scrolling is one method I’ve used before. The buzzer goes off and the phone goes back in the pocket.

Prevent Technology From Getting In The Way Of Parenting

One of the worst outcomes of tech addiction is that we mistakenly send the message to our kids that we are disconnected. This may result in children acting out to seek our attention. Parents snap back at the bad behavior and viscous cycle ensues. We also lose out on amazing conversation opportunities. When the phone is out conversation halts. We’ve all seen those people in restaurants where everyone has their phone out and the only spoken word is to the waiter.

To prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting we need to set and enforce some rules for ourselves.

So here is the Nerdy Dads tech rules for other dads.

Set Boundaries

I get that many of us are working from home and not all of us have an extra room for an office. So set boundaries on when you can use tech and when you can’t. A great start would be committing to not using any technology at the table. When it’s time to eat phones are put on silent and the TV is turned off. Use the time to reconnect and ask about everyone’s day.

Question Yourself

To change any bad habit, technology related or otherwise, we have to ask the tough questions. It won’t be fun, but it is necessary if we want meaningful change. Reflect on how often you check your phone. If the behavior is excessive then you now know where you can improve. Maybe you spend all your family time recording your kids then adding filters for Instagram. It’s nice to share your kid’s adventures, but remember to put down the phone and be a part of the adventure.

Track Yourself

We’ve written before about using parenting apps to track your kids location and online behavior. I’d also recommend using a parent tracking app. Various apps exist that will track your time and show where you spend too much time. This gives you actionable data on where you can improve. Install an app for you and your spouse then see where you can both get better. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to start work on a good habit.

Know What Causes You Stress

You’ve heard of stress eating, right? We get stressed and that ice cream/donuts/buffet provide us comfort. Devices can be a similar activity we turn to when stressed. However, tech might actually make us more stressed. Think about what happens when you read an inflammatory article or receive a bad work email. You’re in a bad mood and that impacts the entire family. Identify what causes you stress and how to better manage your reaction. Maybe rather than turning to your phone to relax you go for a walk or play with your kids for a few minutes.

Get Your Kids Involved

Becoming a parent doesn’t mean everything you enjoyed must stop. Rather, it’s an opportunity to share your passions with your kids. Love gaming? Me too! That’s why I invite my kids to play with me on age appropriate games. Include your kids in gaming or any of your hobbies and you both then having something bond over and enjoy.

I work in technology and I love it. Ever since I saw my first computer I’ve never wanted to do anything else for work. The one thing I love more though is my family. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of endless scrolling and checking work emails at dinner. Still human after all. However, I still set boundaries and rely on my family to keep me in check if I start to stray. It’s important that I prevent technology from getting in the way of parenting since I am one of only two parents my kids will ever have. We can all do better and we should. Life is too short to spend hunched over a tiny screen.

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2020 has been a crazy year and we still have the holiday season in front of us. For you dads looking to get ahead of the madness this article is for you. We’ve searched online and asked friends for input. What we’ve come up with is a list of the best 2020 holiday tech gifts for everyone on your list. Kids, spouse, parents, and friends alike will all be happy to receive one of the many items we highlight.

Grab some cookies and milk and dig in as we highlight some gadgets so cool you might even pick up an extra one for yourself.

Best 2020 Holiday Tech Gifts

Snap & Steam

Nothing good on TV these days? The Snap & Stream makes it easy to share your photos right to the TV. This device will be extra helpful this year as many families won’t be able to travel and see loved ones. For you dads with foresight this gift will be a winner for distant family members.

Simply download an app, plug a small brick into the TV and you’re ready to stream photos. The remote even has a small, red hear that illuminates when new content is added. Now family all over the country can share pictures of their holiday festivities and share with those closest to them, even though they are physically far apart.

Last I saw these are going for $89 on

Snap and Stream photo sharing device

Karaoke…No Strings Attached

You and the family love karaoke, but hate the tangle of wires? Sounds like you need a wireless Bluetooth karaoke microphone. Your typical at-home karaoke machine can easily cost hundreds of dollars. What I like about the Banaok device is that you just need to buy the mic. It connects to your phone allowing you to use any karaoke app you like. Easy to use, portable, and wallet-friendly make this a Nerdy Dads favorite. No promises that it will make you sound good though.

Last seen for $30.99 on Amazon with 11 colors to select from.

Bluetooth Beanie

Winters can be cold so having a warm beanie will come in handy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could also listen to music while braving the elements? Well, this Bluetooth beanie from FULLLIGHT TECH is just what you need.

Boasting a 16-20 hours of continuous music this beanie will be perfect for your music loving friends and family. Made from knit cotton this beanie is soft to the touch, but will keep your head warm in the winter. You can also make phone calls using the Bluetooth so you are set for those commutes to school or work and trips to the store.

Pick up this warm gift for the music fan in your life for less than $20 on Amazon.

Bluetooth Sleeping Mask

If you’re a frequently well-rested dad please get in touch and tell us how you do it! For the rest of us, this Bluetooth sleeping mask will help you get those much needed zzz’s.

This mask from Joseche has built-in Bluetooth so you can put on some relaxing music and drift away at the end of a busy day. Perfect for drowning out the sounds of a full-house. With play time of 9+ hours you will be lucky to ever fully wear down the battery. The mask is adjustable to fit various head sizes. If the Bluetooth module is a bit uncomfortable it can be easily removed when sleeping and replaced when you just need to give the appearance your asleep for a little at home R&R.

Currently going for $22.99 on Amazon and seems to be popular with a 4.4/5 rating from 3,889 shoppers.

Bluetooth sleeping mask

Charging Bracelet

Looking for something that is functional and stylish for the fashionista techie in your life? This fashionable bracelet doubles as a phone charger. Great if you find yourself short on battery while on the go.

Pick your style with either black of the white/rose gold.

We’ve found some cool items in our searches that will make for excellent 2020 holiday tech gifts. As the holiday season approaches we will share more lists of some of the coolest items we can find. If you’re looking for some dad-specific items check out of list of top gadgets for dads that you never knew you needed.

Time for some truth, folks. Being a parent is tough and that is doubly true now that everyone is working and schooling from home. Setting meaningful technology rules the entire family can agree to may seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, it’s possible to set rules everyone can follow.

If you feel like technology is taking over your family life keep reading as I discuss why technology rules are important. I’ll then dive into a few rules we’ve set around the house and why they are important.

Why Are Technology Rules Important?

Before we decide to make rules let’s discuss why we even need them. As parents we can fall into the trap of saying one thing and doing another. Kids go by what they see and the actions we take say more than any words we use. It might be frustrating, but kids will absolutely do as we do and not as we say. That’s really isn’t so bad as we can adjust our own behavior and discover we might have some bad habits lurking.

An issue I dealt with was phone time. I love Twitter. Give me the opportunity and I can and will scroll half the day away. When my kids see this they naturally think it’s acceptable. Not only is this a terrible waste of time, but it’s also not healthy. If I want my kids to practice healthy screen time habits I need to set a good example. I adjusted my behavior so I have less Twitter time and my kids have picked up that my actions now reflect my words.

Meaningful Technology Rules For Your Entire Family

Privilege != Right

Yes, technology is essential to many of today’s activities. I wouldn’t advise removing all tech in the house so that your kids can’t attend classes. However, outside of essentials, such as school and work, technology is a privilege. Tablets, gaming systems, TVs and such are not essential to life and are a right. It’s important to teach kids the difference.

An approach I like is likening technology use to going to a carnival or a friend’s house. The expectation should be that it won’t happen. If behavior, grades, and obligations exceed the parent’s expectations then the child has earned the reward. However, it isn’t an automatic given that permission will be granted and the parents can always revoke said permission without notice or reason. Yea, I know that sounds almost too lawyer-ish.

People > Technology

It’s amazing that this has to be said, but people are more important than technology. I feel that all of us, kids and adults, forget that a real human is on the other side of the screen. Too often we get absorbed in what we are doing and might say or do something that hurts someone in real life.

This could be as innocent as not hearing a parent or child asking a question because we want to see what happens next in Cobra Kai. This can also be much more damaging, such as when people use social media to verbally assault others. Neither is acceptable and parents must set an example that that style of behavior won’t be tolerated.

Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice

I advocate for trust until I have a reason not to trust someone. No child needs to have TVs, games, laptops and other devices in their room. However, I understand that privacy is important. It’s nice to be able to talk with friends and make jokes. Where I draw the line is when behavior is dangerous and rules aren’t followed.

I’ve taken time to teach my kids about staying safe online. From using strong passwords to never giving out personal information. I’ll allow phones and laptops to be used in a bedroom, but that is done for the first sign of trouble. That includes staying up until all hours of the morning texting.

Tech in the bedroom is really a personal choice. Discuss your opinions with your partner and make a decision that is right for you and your family. Your child’s past behavior and your level of trust with them will really drive this decision.

You Break, You Buy

I once saw an excellent sign in an antique shop:

You break, you buy. I break, I cry

The idea was essentially that if you break it then you pay for whatever you broke. Kids sometimes looks to us and think we are the First Bank of Mom and Dad. I wish I was a bank because that would be awesome. Alas, like many of you I have to work for a living. Buying new devices because someone was careless isn’t fun. I also shouldn’t have to do it.

My philosophy has been that I’ll buy the first device, such as a phone. If the device breaks due to my child’s negligence they get to help pay for the replacement. If you’re old enough for a phone then you have to be old enough for the responsibility that comes with owning a device.

This has met with resistance since it, and I quote, “just isn’t fair”. I wholeheartedly agree! It isn’t fair that I work and buy something. The device is broken out of misuse and I have to foot the bill for another item. Requiring that your child share in the replacement cost can help reinforce the value of a dollar and lead to better device care in the future.

Real World First

The last in my list of meaningful technology rules is that the real world comes first. What I mean by this is that if our family has the opportunity to do something outdoors we will. Tech is entertaining, but we cannot become so absorbed that we forget to appreciate this huge world.

I have a few strategies for this rule. First is that when we go hiking as a family the parents carry phones, but not the kids. Then the parents only use the phones for an emergency or a group photo. We aren’t looking at online reviews or texting friends. We take in the good ‘ol outdoors and encourage our kids to learn to appreciate it as much as we do.

No phones during meal time is another hard rule. People fly about the day and barely have time to relax. Meal time is when we can connect and speak as a family and discuss the day. It’s important to me and serves as a chance to make sure everyone is as happy and healthy as they can be.

Setting meaningful technology rules can be a challenge. Enforcing them can be even more so since you might have to change some of your bad behaviors. However, it’s something I highly encourage my fellow dads to do. Humans invented technology and, for now at least, we control it. So teach your kids that tech is useful, but not the sole purpose of life. Proper rules and boundaries ensure a healthy mix of on and off time.

You may have heard about virtual private networks (VPNs) and wondered if your family could benefit from using one. VPNs are useful when using Wi-Fi networks that aren’t your own. Basically, any public Wi-Fi such as schools, cafes, airports, and other locations out of your home. VPNs have a few key benefits. Namely they help keep your family’s data safe from ISPs, cloak your location, and provide additional security against bad actors.

What follows is an introduction to VPNs and a guide on how to select a VPN for your family.

What’s a VPN?

As I mentioned in the introduction, VPN stands for virtual private network. An often used analogy is that of a tunnel. If the internet is a highway, which it kind of is for information, a VPN is a tunnel. Information travels along the “highway” which is actually servers and devices located all over the world.

Without a VPN your information is traveling along a wide-open highway. When you use a VPN your information now travels through the tunnel, away from prying eyes.

When using a VPN your data is never sent or received directly. Rather, it’s routed throug the VPN’s servers. Depending on the VPN you select you can send and receive packets from servers all over the world.

If your looking to explain a VPN to a younger child you can use the curtain analogy. Your house address is public. Many homes have numbers on the front and some are painted on the curb. However, you can install curtains or shutters to keep people from peering into your living room. A VPN is like the curtain or shutters.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

At this point many people react that they don’t need a VPN. They aren’t doing anything wrong online, so why pay to obfuscate your online activity?

Let’s keep with the curtain example. I didn’t install curtains on my front windows because I do anything bad in my home. I installed curtains because I don’t want people walking by and seeing me watching football in my underwear (sorry for that visual, folks).

The point is that you are most likely a good person who has nothing to hide. That’s good! But you and your family also deserve privacy which is why you should consider a VPN for your family.

The leading reasons for using a VPN are:

  • Enhanced privacy/security
  • Getting around geographic restrictions

Admittedly, for those of us in the U.S. at least, the second option might not be as valid. If you’ve ever been out of the country and tried to access a site only to be blocked, however, you know the value of a VPN for people in other countries.

Security Reasons to Use a VPN

First let’s get something straight. Using a VPN does not make you invisible online. If you are up to no good, using a VPN won’t make you anonymous.

A VPN will help keep your data in transit more secure. This is really the prime benefit of using a VPN. Time for another example.

You’re at a coffee shop getting some work done and need to fill out a form for your kid’s school. You go to the school site and complete the form providing names, addresses, and ages. A simple click and the form is sent without any further thought.

The issue in the above example is that a cafe internet connection can be compromised. A bad actor listening in could intercept your communication and have access to sensitive information.

Using a VPN would have enforced military-grade encryption on the data. So that same bad actor could intercept the message, but it would appear to be jumbled information and not useful.

How To Select a VPN For Your Family

Selecting a VPN for your family can be tricky business. I’ll provide a few tips that I follow when reviewing providers.

Beware of Free

Free is so appealing. Who doesn’t want something for nothing? Unfortunately, life doesn’t like to give out freebies too frequently.

If you come across a free VPN be sure to read the fine print if you want to use their services. Many free providers will serve you ads. Others will monitor your activity and then sell it to data brokers and other firms.

While shelling out money isn’t fun it can help reduce the risk of working with a low-quality VPN service. Providers that maintain their own servers and have been in business a number of years have expenses. It’s understandable that they would then need to charge for their services. Typical rates will be $75/year though many providers offer discounts for multi-year subscriptions. Even with a reasonably priced VPN the opportunity for abuse still exists. This is why trust is the next big consideration when selecting a provider.

Does the Provider Log Your Activity?

Like I said above, trust is huge when selecting a VPN service.

One topic you need to review is whether the provider will maintain connection logs of your activity. Some providers pride themselves on offering a fully anonymous service. They don’t keep connection logs and, thus, are unable to provide them to governments or risk access by a bad actor.

Other providers will keep logs, but only surrender them in the event of extreme abuse. Conducting illegal activities online would fall under the definition of extreme abuse.

The final category of provider is one that should be avoided. These “VPNs” actively keep logs and also analyze your traffic all in the name of providing a better user experience. If you’re logging my activity and tracking my traffic then why should I pay for a VPN service? Don’t waste your money with this final category of providers.

Types of Logs

Should you come across a VPN you want to use, but read that they collect logs it’s worthwhile to dig a bit deeper. Not all logs are created equal.

Connection logs are used to track the amount of data that is transferred and the times connected. The actual content of the transfer isn’t tracked. Realistically most VPN service providers keep connection logs. It just is part of maintaining a network of servers.

Usage logs aren’t so nice. These logs do track your online activity during your session. If you see a provider who admits to keeping usage logs then keep searching for a new service.

Using a VPN

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect VPN. The company is trustworthy with a solid operating history. You feel the price is reasonable and you’re ready to use the service. You’ve mastered the first part, how to select a VPN for your family. Now you just need to know how to use the darn thing.

While each service is slightly different most VPNs operate the same way. Once you’ve paid your fee you are able to download an app for your mobile or computer. You’ll be required to create an account with the standard username and password (tips for a strong password).

When it’s time to use the VPN you’ll launch the app and select a server you want to use. Know that if you pick a foreign server your search results may appear foreign. I can’t tell you how many times I connect to a foreign server, such as Spain, and conduct a search only to have the results in Spanish. If you’re the adventurous type this can be a bit of fun!

VPN country list

Depending on the service you selected the VPN might have “quick connect” options. These connect you to any server quickly. Others let you select the specific geo location you’d like to connect to. Speeds play a big factor so be sure to pay attention to servers with heavy traffic as your queries may be returned slower.

Finally, disconnecting from the VPN is as easy as clicking the “disconnect” button.

As dads we want to protect our families. Most of us wouldn’t consider going to sleep with a door unlocked. We tend to think about physical threats, but not the digital ones. With our lives increasingly online it’s necessary to think about cyber risks in our daily lives.

Using a VPN won’t make you immune to malware or prevent your smartphone from collecting telemetry data. However, it can help keep information sent over the information highway secure via encryption.

Learning how to select a VPN for your family can be a fun and rewarding experience! To aid in your search checkout Wirecutter’s list of best VPN services.

If you are a dad and you enjoy gaming from time to time, is it a good idea to introduce your child to this activity? Many parents believe that gaming is bad for kids, but the truth is that it all comes down to a few important things. The way you introduce your child to gaming, the games you play, and how much time the child plays per day are all important factors. Once you address these concerns with the right approach you may be surprised to find that dads should include their kids in gaming.

This article describes a few benefits of introducing your kids to gaming. It goes beyond spending quality time together and can have many benefits.

Reasons Why Dads Should Include Their Kids in Gaming

Improving Coordination

One important reason why dads should want to introduce their children to gaming is because games can improve coordination. Many games rely on fast reflexes. From racing to adventure and sports, numerous exciting video games exist that dads can play with their children.

It may sound a bit too good to be true, but gaming can improve coordination. A study found that young adults who play 5+ hours per week displayed better coordination. The gamer group was better able to keep a car in a lane during a game versus a non-gamer group.

Boosting the Brain’s Speed

Games will introduce your child to speed challenges and tasks that need to be solved within a certain amount of time. The best part about this is your child will have no problem thinking faster and finding solutions.

From personal experience, Tetris as a kid helped me think faster. The blocks keep falling and you have to visualize where they should go before time is up. While a simple game compared to titles available today, Tetris was very tricky. It required the ability to think ahead while rapidly moving the controller and manipulating the blocks. Addictive for a young kid? Heck yes! It was also a great way to help the brain think faster.

Foster Attention to Details

Lots of games require kids to pay attention to the details. There are a lot of puzzles they can solve, but the details are hidden. It’s very beneficial for kids, since they learn how to pay close attention, and that alone can make a huge difference.

Think about all the adventure games with hidden treasures. Finding those items can be more fun than actual missions. To collect all the in-game loot, however, requires attention to the details. Many items are hidden so you have to spot anomalies in the game and have a sense of adventure.

Enhancing Social Skills

I might lose a few dads here. Most people don’t think of gaming as being a social activity. The stereotype of a guy in front of a computer in a dark room is portrayed in multiple movies.

However, video games are a great way for kids to connect with others. They can make a lot of new friends via gaming while remaining safe with proper parental controls.

Remaining social is especially important right now. With many schools adopting a virtual classroom model kids need an outlet and opportunity to play with friends. Spending some time gaming with friends can help provide some much needed socialization.

Games Make Learning Fun

Many kids learn how to type by playing games. Educational games bring together the excitement of play with the value of learning. The lessons learned can go much further than just typing.

Kids can learn about history (Oregon Trail), markets and economy (Animal Crossing), and problem solving (many RPG/adventure titles). Not to mention that overcoming adversity is a lesson in and of itself. Games present many challenges without real world repercussions. A child might fail at defeating a final level multiple times. When they do finally achieve victory they will feel a sense of accomplishment and learn that determination pays off.

Gaming can occasionally take a bad rap. From conversations with colleagues and paying attention to trends it seems like younger parents are more receptive to kids gaming. I know my opinion is biased since I have always enjoyed gaming. It is my belief that dads should include their kids in gaming to help build valuable skills, teach some life lessons, and share a wonderful hobby.

With colder weather just a few months away now might be a great time to think about introducing your kids to some of your favorite games. You’re bound to have fun and you might even be surprised to find the youngster has some natural super-gamer abilities!