Tag Archives: xbox

Learning Meets Fun at the KidzVuz Back to School Bash

Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios
Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios

This a sponsored post brought to you by KidzVuz and Microsoft 

Last month, Jordan and I had the chance to attend the KidzVuz Back to School Bash.  The party was held as the closing event of the two-day Blogger Bash, and I am happy to say it brought the fun, for kids and adults.

In case you’re new to this world, KidzVuz is a video review sharing site for kids age 7-12.  It’s the only online destination exclusively dedicated to letting tweens have their say and share their views about the stuff they love.  It’s also totally safe for the kids – you don’t share any personal information, all videos are viewed by the KidzVuz team before they are posted, and there is no bullying of any kind permitted.  Because of all this, parents can feel good about having their kids participate on the site.  

KidzVuz is also known for having the best parties around, and there was no way my guy was going to miss that.  At first, I couldn’t figure out a way to get from Blogger Bash in the city all the way up to Westchester to pick him up, and then turn back around to get into the city.  “Schlep” was the word that came to mind.   I took a chance and asked his day camp if they could bring him on one of their buses into the city, as I knew there were kids on routes not far from the venue.  Of course they could and it worked out perfectly for both of us.  I had to only walk a few blocks to get him, and shortly thereafter, he was able to experience all the fun of the party.  And experience it he did!


Jordan has a KidzVuz account but hasn’t made any videos yet.  He does however love watching videos from other kids, especially if they are talking about video games or technology.  It won’t surprise anyone to know that his first stop inside the party was the Microsoft booth.

Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strass Studios
Photo Credit: Justin Lee, Josh Strass Studios

Maybe it was the candy?  There was a huge display of beautiful, tasty sugar, and since it was gluten free, Jordan dug into it.  At least at first.  Then, he saw an XBox console, and all bets were off.  As you can see in this quick video, he was all ears for the demo.

While he was monopolizing the XBox, I was able to chat with some of the Microsoft folks in attendance.  They have a lot of fun stuff going on, and shared with me some of their tips to foster growth, learning, and, of course, fun with kids.

  1. Fuel creativity and create your own video game world with Project Spark. Take it from me – I used to work with game programmers and I know you can actually make a living playing video games! With Project Spark, we are opening the doors to the development process, encouraging parents and their children to build their own game worlds that let their imagination go wild while at the same time, learning the nuts and bolts that make up video game development. Play Project Spark for free on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and check in on your game worlds on your Surface tablet.
  2. If they love Project Spark, try out a new kind of free summer camp at Microsoft Retail Stores. Microsoft YouthSpark Summer Camps are the perfect solution, with free camps at Microsoft Retail Stores across the nation. The camps include programming designed to teach kids computer science skills in fun and engaging ways including learning how to build, publish and bring mobile games to life, as well as produce and design their own digital movies.
  3. If you’re looking for something a little more physical, get extreme with Kinect Sports Rivals. With the new Kinect Sports Rivals game for Xbox One, your kids can experience their favorite extreme sports challenges! Kinect 2.0 registers the slightest flick of a finger to grab the hold on a rock or pull the throttle on your jet ski, making for a rewarding and realistic sports experience that may even get them breaking a sweat.
  4. Make online searches safer and more rewarding with Bing in the Classroom. With a new school year comes a new, interactive way to search. Encourage your child’s school to sign up for Bing in the Classroom, a program that provides ad-free, safer, more private search in schools, daily lesson plans that ask questions that inspire critical thinking and a Rewards program that you can use to earn Surface tablets for their school! No matter what your child is searching, you can be sure that they are seeing appropriate content and learning along the way.
  5. Write, type and play with Surface Pro 3. Help your teen tackle their assignments and stay organized as they pursue part time jobs, college applications and of course extracurricular activities with the tablet that can replace a laptop: Surface Pro 3. Its sleek, lightweight and durable design brings together the best of a laptop and the best of a tablet in one gorgeous package, making it perfect to take anywhere from the classroom to a friend’s house. Attach one of the colorful Type Covers to turn out a term paper, or open an OneNote page with the click of the all-new Surface Pen for hand-written notes or doodles. And with up to nine hours of battery life, it will last all day at school and be ready to take on a Netflix session when it’s time to relax.
  6. Have fun while learning with educational Windows Apps. School is out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean your child needs to stop learning! Windows apps like Where’s My Mickey introduces a whole new world of physics-based gameplay from Disney. If you want to test math skills, Number Tap challenges the player against the rest of the world in a fast paced number tapping math frenzy. To disguise learning as a game even further, try out BrainPop, where your child can watch a different animated movie every day about current events, historical figures, holidays and more.
  7. Want to be more active? Get fit with Xbox Fitness. For Mom and Dad, try Xbox Fitness, which offers the same great tracking technology as Kinect Sports Rivals for a personalized training experience in the comfort of your living room. Choose from a library of training programs from favorite trainers like Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson.
  8. At the end of the day, stay entertained with Surface 2. With the 1080p widescreen display, Dolby® audio, and built-in multi-position kickstand, Surface 2 is perfect for those nights when watching Frozen with your child is at the top of the to-do list. Or, if your kid is musically inclined, they can stream free music and even import their iTunes playlist. Your child can get the most out of their time with Surface 2 by using apps side-by-side; keeping an eye on their music downloads while emailing friends and family in Outlook. Surface 2 also comes with Office built in, making the perfect family device for having fun and getting stuff done.


A glimpse of some of the party fun - Photo Credit Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios
A glimpse of some of the party fun – Photo Credit Justin Lee, Josh Strauss Studios

Without a doubt, I was the coolest mom in the world that night, at least in Jordan’s mind.  He left the party in happy tears, crying out “I wish I could live here!”  Oh my sweet boy, so do I.

Disney Infinity is HERE!

IS IT AUGUST 18th YET?  That’s something we’d been hearing most days from Jordan.  The smallest member of our house has been talking about little else besides Disney Infinity since we attended Disney Social Media Moms earlier in the year.

Recently, we ventured into the city to get a sneak peak at the new game.  In case you have not heard of Disney Infinity, think of it as a massive online world where your favorite Disney characters come to life, interact with each other, and travel around amazing virtual worlds.


1184761_10151959434228054_909054315_nHe was a little nervous taking the train.  Not sure why, it’s only a train, but still, he was nervous.  He was pretty worked up about the whole trip in general, which was fine because we were confident the experience would deliver.

We arrived at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Center just before 3pm.  When we checked in, we were given name tags with our “character team” on them.  Our team was “Peter Pan” – not sure Jordan could have been happier.


Right before 3pm, we were led upstairs to experience the game for ourselves.  There were several areas set up for the event = there were the game consoles themselves, a Radio Disney DJ booth in front of a huge replica of the Disney Infinity Toy Chest, and sketch artists – more on them later.


We were able to find an empty console manned by one of the cast members who had been on the creative team for the game.   His name was Marcus, and unfortunately for me, he didn’t come with the game.  He was super smart, fun, and most of all, patient with Jordan as he explained how to play the game.  First, they picked a character for Jordan to be – out of the 20 or so, he picked Sully.  Not sure why, but he was rather insistent on the big monster.  Next, they switched out the character that was in the game for Sully.  You got to see Sully magically “appear” in the world.  Then, Marcus showed Jordan how a hex-disc could bring in Mickey Mouse’s car for Sully to ride in.  That was quite a bit of fun.

After playing for a good 15 minutes, Jordan decided to let me have a turn.  I told Marcus I was a little worried about Jordan being overwhelmed by the game, which I suspected might have been the case at the loud and pleasantly chaotic event.  Marcus reassured me that you start Disney Infinity at a very simple place and unlock different features and options as you go.  That helps you grow with the game – not everything is available at once so it’s hard to overwhelm yourself.  That also works for moms like me who DON’T play video games and have no clue what to do, but really really want to play a game like this.

Sidebar – it’s not that I can’t figure out this game or any other.  It’s that I’m afraid that if I started, I would never stop.  Sim City and I had that kind of unhealthy relationship back in the day and I’m not eager to revisit that.

So, Marcus kept walking me through the game, even when Jordan came back and pitched a fit because he wanted to bring home a Mario stuffed animal.  That was one of those, dude, keep an eye on the prize moments when he needed to be reminded we were bringing home an Infinity starter pack which was WAY COOLER than a Mario stuffie.  Marcus, you had the patience of a saint.  I, thankfully, had red wine, and was able to deal with the fitful boy.


We also had a great time with the sketch artists.  There were about 5 of them set up at easels on the other side of the event space.  When the artist asked Jordan if he wanted a Lightning, like on his shirt, or a Mike or Sully, he answered no, he wanted Figment.  The artist. very politely and a little under his breath asked “Where did that come from?”  Hearing his request, another artist called Jordan over saying that she could indeed draw a Figment for him.  Jordan was thrilled and I can say we are going to frame that for his room.  We all decided to get in on the fun – Sarah got a Mike from Monsters Inc and Daddy got a Sorcerer Mickey and I got a Minnie Mouse.  All suitable for framing!

We were able to bring a Starter Pack home from the event.  The Starter Pack is platform specific (you must buy the one for your gaming system – XBox, Wii, PS3, etc) and comes with the Infinity base, the game CD and 3 characters (Captain Jack Sparrow, Sully and Mr. Incredible).  The base is the only element of the game that is specific to the gaming system.  Every other game component can be moved between systems, so if your friend has a Wii and you have an XBox, you can still get the Disney gang together to play Infinity.

Now that we have had the game at home and have been playing with it, you may wonder what’s our verdict?  The good news is the game totally lived up to the hype.  Jordan can play it at a simple level, and hopefully the more he plays it, the more settings and toy boxes he will unlock, sustaining his interest in the game.  I bought some additional characters for him for his birthday (Mater, Lightning and Violet) and that will probably hold him for a while.

I’d recommend Disney Infinity for kids who have some experience with complex game environments.  It would be hard to come into this with no idea what you are facing.  Of course, once you do immerse yourself in this world, you’ll be amazed at the way the characters perform and interact with each other.  It’s really meant for kids 6-11, but it’s one game where boys as well as girls can be equally engaged.  If you’re thinking of it for a holiday gift, definitely consider getting a few additional characters besides the 3, especially if you have a girl.  May I suggest my doppleganger Mrs. Incredible or her daughter Violet?  That was my main issue with the starter kit – it came with 2 men and a monster and no females.  But that is easily rectified.

Have you experienced Infinity for yourself yet?  What did you think?

Disclosure: I received a Disney Infinity starter kit to fascilitate this review.  All opinions about the product are mine and mine alone.