Moving or PCSing with kids is never easy. As parents, we tend to get caught up in the emotional side of moving. We watch how hard saying goodbye can be for our kids, no matter the age. Our kids crave their past friendships many months after a move and it’s important they stay connected. However, moving no longer means saying goodbye thanks to today’s technology and online games. Kids can now keep in touch with their friends online. It’s fun, creative and easier than ever.
We’ve done a little research (and tested a few ourselves) to find the best #KeepInTouch tech-savvy apps, games and tools for your kids this summer.
FaceTime, Skype and Google Hangouts (All ages, all the time)
My children often have playdates with friends via FaceTime. They grab my iPad or hijack my computer to call their friends in Ohio, Texas and California. It’s so much fun to watch them connect and share important little life experiences. FaceTime is specific to Apple products and is built into any device you own.
My daughter recently called a friend from our last assignment to talk about some friend trouble she was having. It made me happy to see that her connections were not broken because we moved.
My son will call his friends overseas to set up video game “watching” via Skype. They watch each other play Mario Kart and talked about the latest shortcuts. This type of “talking” is a total boy language.
Google Hangouts is Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime – but better. You can video chat with many people at once all over the globe. There are fun “accessories” to play with like virtual hats, mustaches and sound effects. You need a Gmail account to access it and download it on your computer or mobile device.
Animal Jam (Ages 5-9)
Animal Jam is a computer program that is perfect for the younger, but tech-loving kid. Animal Jam was developed by National Geographic. It’s an online learning playground for kids and a place they can play and safely connect with friends from around the globe. You can play games, learn about animals and build your own world for your critters.
Parents easily manage everything online, too. It’s fun to watch your child receive pre-selected messages/images from friends and other players. It’s very interactive, changes with seasons and holidays and it never repeats itself. The game is free and offers a great experience for kids. You can become a member for small price and receive enhanced animal playgrounds and communication.
Wizards 101 (Ages 7+)
This online computer game is as creative as it is interactive. Children can become a wizard, go to wizard school, challenge mythical creatures and go on adventures. The best part is kids interact with each other all the time. You can send notes (pre-selected if you want) to other wizards, transport, fight battles and ride cool pets with friends. My kids play it all the time with their friends from two assignments ago. Even my parents have gotten in on the action and play with the kids on their dragons.
For the kids, it’s more fun if they can read well; the challenges and adventures can take some thought. However, kids can interact and play in a safe environment – no blood and mild/mythical battles. There are plenty of parental controls to choose from. It doesn’t scare the younger kids, but the older kids seem to really get into the battles.
It’s free, but you can buy medallions to challenge your child after they’ve experienced all the free things – which will take a long time.
Kuboo (Ages 7+)
Kuboo is a 3D Virtual World for kids to interact and learn with their friends. Kuboo “The Place Where Kids Rule” is the creation of Safe Communications, the leader in products designed for the overall protection of kid’s interactions with advanced technology.
Children can play and enjoy every aspect of the game without ever being exposed to potential harm or abuse. As parents have full control, they may decide what their children have access to, in order to match their child’s appropriate age group.
Kuboo is a social online game. Kids can play sports with friends, or play puzzles to test their skills and just have a great time. Play soccer, go skiing, skateboarding or go for great brain teasers!
Before kids can explore the world around them, they must start from their very own created home. Home is really cool and set up for everyone to enjoy and control. Your home is like your starting point and your base to return to. You can purchase items as you continuing playing through the game and get to decorate it however you want! You can move items around, change them, pick a theme or whatever your idea of a perfect home would be. Designing is fun and totally limitless!
Petra’s Planet (Ages 6+)
Education, safety, and entertainment come together in a wonderful way with Petra’s Planet. Kids have the opportunity to explore and play in a way that is safe and highly beneficial. Kids can learn through mini-games, talking and looking around the four countries available.
This online game is perfect for kids who want to stay in touch. Together as friends, kids can explore new countries around the globe. There is also a large community of other players available, allowing them to have fun and make friends. With restricted chat, there are not going to be any fears about poor language or bad behavior.
Diversity is the big focus here. When kids play, they are going to be able to explore and learn more about other countries, like Sri Lanka. Learning about these countries helps them to understand and respect the differences. They will be able to learn about climate, animals, and other facts surrounding the specific countries through exploring and playing.
Kids In Touch (Any age a child is ready to text family and friends)
This is a safe texting app that allows your kids to stay in touch with friends and family and still stay safe. If you have any Apple product, this is a great family app. It’s described as texting with training wheels. Kids can create their own image and express themselves through pictures and emojis. It’s a pretty fun little app for kids who want to stay in touch on iPads, iPods and iPhones.
Minecraft (Ages 8+)
Voted most addicted game by Nickelodeon, Minecraft has been an intricate part of the childhood vocabulary since 2010. The game seems simple enough – a computer game of building and placing blocks to defend against nocturnal creatures. But the game has grown such that it’s available on every mobile and gaming device the market offers, including a new venture into the toy market with LEGOS and other kids’ merchandise.
Minecraft can be played interactively with kids of all levels online and through gaming systems like Xbox and PlayStations – sorry, no WiiU or Nintendo games. Through multiplayer mode or co op, friends can team up to build magic places and work together to defend their land. It’s a great for boys and girls alike. Little supervision is necessary unless your child is obsessed, then limiting time on screen is your only true concern.
BigLittleBang (Ages 8+)
Or now known as Star 86, was made for those who want to create with music and have fun, despite having any musical background. In BigLittleBang, kids can use the site to customize their own avatar, make music with other people and explore planets! They will have fun with this game as they connect with existing friends and meet new ones through a large selection of social networking features like buddy lists, blogs, chat and newsfeeds.
BigLittleBang is a safe and fun virtual world where you will have a blast exploring music like it was space. If you wish to explore music creatively, then you will love BigLittleBang. The best thing is that you don’t even have to be musically inclined to have fun with this game.
Disney Universe (Ages 10+)
Disney Universe takes place in a virtual theme park of the future, one in which guests dress up in costumes and interact with friendly robots to relive their favorite Disney movies. But an evil hacker takes over the park, turns the bots into baddies, and captures some of the guests. Up to four heroic park patrons tramp through many Disney worlds like Alice Wonderland, WALL-E, Lion King and more bashing enemies, fixing the hacks, and freeing captives (and earning new costumes).
Kids can play this game solo, but it’s harder. With a few teammates, however, the game takes on a whole new life. Working together to battle through the hordes of bad guys, team up on massive bosses, and share steps in puzzle solving: that’s where the real fun is. This is a great game for tweens to play with their friends online.
For the Teens
Madden Football, Portal 2 or Assassins Creed (Xbox or PS4)
These video games have online cooperation (or co-op) that allow you to play with just your friends or join in. You can play football or be warriors with online friends all while wearing headphones/mics to communicate. Consider this as a great goodbye gift for a close teen friend so they can stay in touch the tech-savvy way.
Club Cooee is different from many other online community games because you can not only share music, photos, and videos, as well as games with your friends, but it doubles up as this unique 3-D messenger that you can operate straight from your desktop! Club Cooee is completely free to join, and sign up provides you with your own personal avatar that you can create and personalize, even in your own image if you like.
One of the best features of the game is that it is set in ‘real time’, where you will be able to see your friends (avatars) and what they are up to every time you check in. Once you are signed up you can either join chat rooms on various topics, or create and personalize your own based on something you are passionate about like animal welfare, celebrities, a specific music genre , or anything that else that you want to express opinions about.
Warning, parental controls are limited.
WhatsApp, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, Kik Messenger, Instagram and YouTube are all interactive texting, photo and video platforms that will help your teen stay connected. These apps and websites are savvy and have little in the way of parental controls. They are fast, intuitive and accessible, so your teen probably knows more about them than you do.
We caution suggesting these apps/websites for communicating because they are so vast and a little too open to online dangers and misuse than others. However, we will suggest getting smart on these apps/websites because of the many irrevocable hard lessons a young teen can encounter using these. It’s up to parents to monitor and know MORE about the apps/website than their children – or at least try.
We found two fantastic articles on hightechdad.com and Common Sense Media that will help parents decipher the dangers of today’s social media for teens. Read both of these articles all the way through. They are long but worth every word for any parent.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of online gaming/chatting sites for kids to stay in touch with friends after a move. We like using the gaming review site www.virtualworldfortweens.com when we are researching the best places for online friendships. The sites breaks down the pros and cons to many of the popular gaming sites and explains parental controls and how to play.
In today’s modern life for a military kid, goodbyes are truly not forever. Moving no longer means no more play dates or interaction. With tech-savvy kids, goodbye now means until they log on again.