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KidDesktop is a kid friendly Windows desktop alternative providing a safe PC learning experience without allowing access to inappropriate files, programs, or Internet content. This blog provides information parents and teachers can use to help children get the most out of their computer experience, including updated information about KidDesktop and reviews of kids’ websites and kid friendly YouTube videos.

Archive for June, 2010

Websites for Your Tween Boy — Write Away…

Getting back to Parenting magazine’s “Good Guy Websites,” here are a couple of sites for the writer/creator in the family.  As a reminder, these are sites recommended for boys roughly 10-12, although many girls would also  enjoy them.

Parenting suggested tikatok.com, where kids can write, illustrate, and publish real books. There is no monetary obligation for joining; costs are only incurred when you order a book your child has written.  Hardcovers start at $18, paperbacks at $15, emailed books are $3.  The site differentiates between stories for all ages, 8 and up, and 10 and up.  For the 8+ age range there are Story Sparks including — but not limited to — “Aliens, Robots, and Space,” Dinosaurs, “Heroes and Villains,” and “Ghosts and Monsters.”

The site looks really interesting, and I think that many aspiring authors would really enjoy playing around on it.  I couldn’t help but notice, though, that something about the site made it appear aimed more towards girls than boys.

With that in mind, Makebeliefscomix is more likely to appeal to the testosterone set. The comic book format is a lot of fun and included are both writer prompts and story ideas.  The final product is less polished than ones from tiktok, but lack of polish is undoubtedly an important charm for comic books in general.  The comics are printable and email-able, so kids can easily share them with each other.  Overall I think both sites have their up-sides, but I’d be much more likely to recommend makebeliefscomix to a tween guy.

Who knows, maybe the next Stan Lee is hanging around your house, just looking for a creative outlet!

Websites for Your Tween Boy — Boyslife.org

Several months back Parenting magazine spotlighted what they called “Good Guy Websites” for boys roughly ages 10-12 years old.  (For a good read on the phenomena of boys this age, I found this Sonoma Family Life.com article.)  This is the first of several blog posts reviewing their suggestions and adding my own comments.

Boyslife.org — This is the website for the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America.  (Read what I wrote about the Pinewood Derby website back in January here.)

  • My Just-Bridged-From-Tiger-to-Wolf Scout is really into jokes, so the ones on this site are a hit.
  • He hasn’t extensively played the games, but they appeared cute and age-appropriate (read: not violent).  I’m pretty bad at them, so the average 10-12 year old boy will most likely find them easy and fun.
  • I thought that the chance to look through pictures of what other scouts have done is neat.  It’s a great way to build excitement about scouting — as well as about the variety of activities in which Scouts participate — but I’d suggest parents closely monitor the site before allowing their child to post anything.  Basic precautions on posting identifying information (or any information at all) should be thoroughly discussed first!
  • I also really liked the Outdoors and Gear section once I scrolled down past the Gear Guy Buying Guide.  (Great, just what we need: more things to buy!)  But under Outdoors the page on How to Skip Rocks caught my eye…seems like a fun read for anyone!  I think that most kids would find advice on how to fish at night, build an igloo, or build a firefly lantern really interesting.
  • Under Hobbies and Projects there was a dizzying array of projects kids could undertake.  Since we do an annual road trip every summer, I checked out Fun Games to Play in the Car.  Nothing spectacular or new, but kids are much likely to try something they “discover” for themselves than if mom or dad suggest the exact same activity during 8-12 hours in the car!  Other projects seemed even more interesting.  Can my Scout really learn how to build a Composter Tumbler or a Solar Hot Dog Cooker?  Well, not without a parent present, but it’s definitely intriguing.
  • I’m curious to hear if anyone has experience with the Contests page.  Please let me know!

Stay tuned for the next couple of blog posts with more sites for boys (and girls!) this age.


When two feet of snow blanketed the Washington, DC region this winter, my family was set for entertainment.  We shoveled, we sledded, we watched movies, we shoveled some more, we played board games, we frolicked in the snow, we made things with perler beads, and we shoveled yet again.

But by the time the schools had been closed four and then five days, we were casting about for some new activities.

So, we made giraffes.  Seriously, we made giraffes!  And then we emailed them to a Norwegian guy named Ola and got to see them online.

Backstory:  in 2009, a Norwegian man named Ola Helland bet his friend Jorgen that he could get people to email him 1,000,000 pictures of giraffes by January 1, 2011.  The giraffes have to be hand-made.  No computers, no snapping pictures at the zoo.  However, outside of those parameters anything goes.  The bet was for a case of beer, but neither of my kids even asked about that.  They just loved the idea of making giraffes.

And we did!  We drew giraffes, we built giraffes from LEGOs, we arranged string in the shape of giraffes, we manipulated random household items to look like giraffes and, yes, we even attempted to sculpt a snow-giraffe.  Except for the last one, they all turned out pretty well.  Then we took pictures of our creations and uploaded them to www.onemilliongiraffes.com.  Within 24 hours I received an email saying that our giraffes were available for viewing on the website, and updating us as to how many giraffes were still needed.

It was a great way to pass the time, and the kids and I really got into it.  I knew it was successful when — during Spring Break 2 months later — the kids suggested, “Let’s make giraffes!”  And so the fun continued!

NOTE: As I write this, the website currently boasts 839,661 giraffes.  Just 160,339 more.  What are you waiting for?


Race-track & Playing Card GiraffesChalk Giraffe (with tree)String GiraffeThree Giraffes on One Page!