(Please Note: all the links for sites and items mentioned are listed at the end of this page) 


Can you have too much of a good thing? In our current age of information, entertainment and the mangling of the two it seems we have more choices than ever when it comes to filling up our time. Kids have more diversions than ever to pull them from chores and schoolwork. Adults have just as many to fill what little time they have when they are not working, cleaning, cooking, driving, paying the bills and raising kids.

How then do you sift through the riches of our age to get at the treasure while leaving behind the trash? How do you get your kids set up for success so that they learn to do deal with the world we inhabit on their own terms? How do you keep up with changes to the technology that makes this all possible while at the same time making a safe space for your kids to grow?

It is daunting when you look at it as you against all that. There is one thing that can make it easier and that is to know that You Are Not Alone. Kids and adults all around the world are dealing with these issues and many of your questions already have answers.

This work is here to help answer some of the questions I hear asked.

Who am I? I am a Dad. My kids were born into, and are going to be living in, this world of change. Before I was a Dad I worked at making some of that change. I grew up with one real life brother and one that was not so tangible, the Internet. I am 5 years older than the Internet so I had a bit of a head start on it. Being a bit older put me in the position to watch as it grew from being an enclave of scientists and government types to engulfing the world’s population.

Even before the Internet was open to all I was futzing with modems and making an early career out of working with connected computers.

Once I became a parent though, many of the things I thought I had a firm grasp on needed some fine tuning. How do you raise a kid in the Internet Age? Where is the line between safe and reckless, between guidance and constraint? Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?

So early in my parenting I started taking more serious note of the educational yet fun offerings of this age. Latter on, I coined the term Dadifesto to give a name to some of the projects the kids and I worked on in our exploration of these offerings. In our years of exploring we hit on some treasure and also some trash. We have had bumps in the road dealing with expectations and permissions. As we go on though, we have acquired the knack of sifting through small parts of the vast treasure trove and finding the good bits.

Here then is some of what we have found to be of use both online and offline. These offerings will come in two broad stroke sections…the first being things overtly educational and the second, things that seem more fun but are still educational.

These are just our findings though. You will have your own. Share them with others.

To cut down on your typing into web browsers and to be able to get updates to this work I am posting a copy of it online at


Education: it is what every parent wants their kids to devour and what most kids want to enjoy but often can not stomach the flavors being given to them. Finding educational content kids and adults will happily devour with both hands was once a herculean task. Who has the time to sift through the endless menu of items to find the good stuff?

Over the years, we at Dadifesto labs have seen a few good sites grow to many great sites. We have also seen a metric ton of not-so-good sites. Here then are some of the places on the Internet that constantly offer up the good stuff.

Most everything we will go through in this section will only require an Internet connected device, a web browser and will not charge a fee for basic use.

Khan Academy

This is the one I get asked about all the time. I use this with my kids since the early days and as it grows, so do the questions. Happily, getting started with Khan Academy is one of the easier things you can do as a parent or kid, and over time it will be the one activity that will give you the most bang for your time.

The first question is often “What is this thing?” To understand what it is, you should know why it is. In 2004 Salman Khan had a problem. He wanted to help his younger cousin with her math homework. The problem was distance; he did not live close enough to go help her in person, and phone calls alone would not be enough. He found a solution with an online doodling app. He talked her through maths problems and drew out equations and examples. Word of mouth spread with family and friends and he was asked to help their kids. Very soon, he realised he needed a way to get these lessons in a format everyone could watch. Enter YouTube. Up went the videos, and before he knew it, they were being watched by hundreds, then thousands of other people wanting to learn the math he taught..

Today Kahn Academy is used, for free, by millions of kids and adults. If you have a device that is connected to the Internet, you are in. You can learn everything from 1+1 to Calculus, as well as non math related subjects. Your free account keeps track of your studies, including your weaknesses and strengths. Each lesson generates questions for you based on your understanding of the topic.

How useful is this sort of thing? A testament to that is how many school systems use it in the classrooms, not just in the big developed nations, but in many parts of the developing world.

The hardest part of even the simplest journeys is the start. Starting Khan Academy though is one of the easiest online learning adventures you can take. First, go to this web page:

Watch the video; it will give you a great top level summation of what you are about to get into and why it is important. Then click the big JOIN button. From here you can…

  • start an account for yourself
  • start an account for your kid, if you’re a parent
  • start accounts for your students, if you’re a teacher

Parents and teachers can see how much time your kids puts into which topics, where they struggle and where they excel. You can also set goals for them to help keep them on the learning track you want them to be on.

The other question I get is “What should I be doing to make sure my kids get the most out of this?”

This is a great question, and one I thought I had a great answer for. In order to test that knowing I helped out in my sons 2nd grade classroom a few years back and got his whole class on Khan Academy. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

  1. Never say stop. If a kid that once struggled with a topic now excels and moves on to new topics…let her go. Yes, make sure they get the basics down. With the Coaching options  you will see if they are getting those basics down or if they are skipping  past them. If they are you can get them back on track. Once you know they are on a good foundation, let them roam. It is amazing where they will wind up.
  1. A little bit frequently is worth more than infrequently. A half hour a week, maybe two half hour sessions a week, is a great place to start. A half hour of time, one episode of Adventure Time, about the same time it takes to build a simple castle in Minecraft… these are the measures that marks the progress of time for many kids, and in those terms, kids usually realise it is not all that high price of time to pay. I noticed that when we had breaks and interruptions to our weekly sessions, the activities took a nose dive and time was needed to get back on track. A half hour a week, simple as that… and as a parent I know, as hard as that.
  1. Let them own the experience. Online and offline experiences today are shared, linked, liked, emoted and commented on. Khan Academy offers up a space for kids to safely do just that with their learning experiences. I have noticed that when kids share with other kids the sense of ownership, their sense of pride and desire to shine really takes off.
  1. Learn with them, learn from them. Kids love to show their parents what they are learning, at least until mid-to-late teenagerdom. When kids see you take an interest in their studies, they want to learn more. Even better, let them teach you.

Many of the other questions I hear about Khan Academy are best answered on the site itself. I point many people to the Coach Resource page. How do I set up accounts, what do parents need to know, how can teachers  get the most out of using it…you will find all these answers and more, here.  If you are still in need of help, find someone — a parent, teacher or a kid — who uses the site on a regular basis. Some schools and communities have regular workshops  on using Khan Academy; ask around. If you are able to help out, let your local kids, parents and teachers know you are willing to be a resource.


Youtube, like most the Internet, is a mixed bag of good, not-so-good and dear-bog-in-heaven-why-did-they-make-that. Parents and kids often hit major stumbling blocks when it comes to the free-range content on YouTube. A little guidance (and a look into your kids’ browser histories) can make all the difference between having a good experience or spending hours explaining things you would rather not explain.

Here at Dadifesto labs we learnt  a little guidance early on goes a long way in kids making good choices. Over the years we have had hiccups, but we are now at the point where the youngster are finding the new good sites and bringing them to me.

Here are some of the old and new YouTube channels we watch each and every week.

The Vlog Brother (aka SciShow, Crash Course, and more)

Back in the early days of YouTube, two brothers decided to send public messages to each other by posting up weekly videos . In the weird and unpredictable lottery of chance that is Internet popularity, other people started watching, then commenting, and ultimately asking the brothers to take on various topics. Over the years the brothers realised they liked exploring and teaching various topics. In time, their channels  got millions of viewers, and the project that started off as  personal video letters turned into a booming company .

John and Hank Green are the Vlogbrothers, and their company produces some of the best learning videos on YouTube. Here is a list of some of that are likely to be of interest to both kids and adults.

SciShow, SciShow Space, SciShow Kids

These channels offer up multiple weekly videos on all manner of science-related topics. They are well produced, and for the most part, kid friendly. A recently added channel, aimed at younger viewers, is SciShow Kids.

CrashCourse, CrashCourse Kids

The Crash Course channels are series of videos focused on a particular topic, like History, Art, Economics, or Animals. The main channel covers a lot of ground, and the newer Kids’ channel is aimed squarely at younger kids.

Animal Wonders

A wildlife refuge in Montana is the setting for this series. It is aimed at the younger kids as well as adults who want to learn about animals.

John and Hank crank out tons of other online content, as well as being the focal point of a rather large community called The Nerdfighters. You can find out all about them at:

Minute Earth

Short, yet packed videos about the earth and the universe. Fun topics done up quickly. Quick vids like this are great for starting lots of interesting conversations.

Gross Science

For better or worse, kids (and some adults) love the gross stuff. If you look at some of the more popular kids book titles you will see that gross really sells.  Can gross be educational as well? Short answer… heck yeah! Gross Science is a newer channel but it has already landed a top spot in our viewing list.

Extra Creditz, Gaijin Goomba

These two channels bring games up a level by looking at the culture, history and story behind many of the games played today. The attention to detail, and the almost scholarly work they put into these videos always makes me happy. Parents and kids should watch them together; these videos offer up some great topics for conversation.


Learning a second language is no longer a thing in many school systems here in the United States. Along with Music and Art, the chopping block has become the rule rather than the exception.

Except now you can be that exception. Duolingo makes learning a second or third or fourth language more like a game than a chore.  Kids and adults can learn by doing, level up their skills, earn badges and ranks and of course share with others.

Are kids going to come away from this as fluent speakers? Probably not, but they have that option. Maybe they just want to learn enough to talk to a few of their friends without others listening in on their conversations. Maybe parents want to give their kids a taste of the language other family members speak. Cultural, linguistic, conversational…the choice is up to you.

Code Work

It is fast becoming evident even to the staunchest of anti-tech adults that learning how and why computers work is a good thing. Parents should know by now that this is going to be part of their kid’s life; if they are not exposed to it, they are going to find it that much harder to be a part of all that is going on around them. This knowledge was once hard earned, but now you have a number of options that cover a whole range of technological know-how.

Khan Academy

We talked about Khan Academy earlier but now I want to focus on one part of it. There are two main areas of study for this topic, Computer Programing and Computer Science.

Computer Programing starts with the very basics and it is aimed at kids and adults who have never written a line of code. Within a few minutes you will no longer be able to say you have never written a line of code, because in that short time you will be doing it. The lessons are set up to be easy, colorful, and as with all the experiences on Khan Academy, shareable. You can show of your work, earn badges for doing cool projects, or look at other peoples code to see how they tackled things.

The code you will learn is the same code used to make websites, games and other applications. Javascript, HTML, CSS are all used to teach code skills in these lessons. If you spend a little time a week going through this you will not only have a fun time at it, you will also have the tool set to start on a career.

The Computer Science offerings at Khan Academy start with the basics, and work their way up to the latest greatest challenges facing technology users today. As with the Math section here it might take years for kids to go through all that is being offered. Have them start with the basics and work up to where they are comfortable. When they hit their limit they will let you know.

Parents, if you want to stay one step ahead of what your kids are learning then learn with them and when they are tucked into bed for the night go do an extra lesson or two. As always remember you are not alone, parents all over the globe are facing what you are facing. Reach out to friends, share with other users on Khan Academy, talk with your kids.

Another great resource for parents with limited time, teachers who want to introduce their students to code or kids just wanting to try out programing is the Hour Of Code[j][k]. These are small self contained activities that will teach you a few things about code work in just about one hour.


Aimed at younger kids and even adults who want to get into code work without writing any code at all, Scratch is an online resource you need to try at least once. You code by dragging and dropping blocks around, much like Legos, to make games, interactive stories, music machines and all manner of things. You can share your works with your friends, look at their creations to see how they made them and collaborate on projects together.

It is a safe, fun and engaging environment that will teach some of the fundamentals of programming such as logic, loops, controls, animation, etc. And it is all as friendly as a gang of Teletubies playing Minecraft.

Google CS First

Using Scratch as its foundation, Google has set up CS First. This site offers all the materials, plans and aids needed to set up a Computer Science Club at your school, in your home or with friends. The site offers up best practices, lesson plans, code examples and a ton of help to organize the foundation for helping kids learn to code.

They take time and effort to show how code can be taught in the context of storytelling, game design and as a form of social interaction. There are a multitude of resources for parents and teachers to take what is taught here and go much further with it.

Parents, if enough of you have an interest in this happening at your school I bet it could well be the next big club.

Kids, if you and a few friends want to try and do this in a local library or at a willing friend’s house then the things you will find at this site will help you make it happen.

Books, Ebooks and Audiobooks

Reading is and I think always be a big part of how we take in new information. Many people whine that computers and tablets are killing the reading experience. As a lifelong voracious reader I have to strongly disagree. I read more varieties of books, enjoy more books across various parts of my day and have access to many many more books than before the rise of the devices. We live in an age where you can read a work as a traditional book, read some more of it as an ebook when your physical book is elsewhere and listen to an audiobook version of that same work while driving to and from work.

Kids can benefit from this just as much as adults. There are places on the internet that offer up books in all forms often for free.

Project Gutenberg

Since 1971, just a few years after the Internet was created, Project Gutenberg starting offering ebooks. (They were not called that back then, but over time the term has taken hold.) Today, Project Gutenberg offers nearly 50,000 public domain, completely free ebooks. They offer many of these works in multiple formats so no matter if you have a tablet, smartphone or dedicated ebook reader you will be able to read all that you want.

This site has the noble goal of collecting all the useful information on the Internet. Books, radio shows, movies, music.. .it is all here. The ebook collection holds over 6,000,000 works, covering as wide a topic range as any twelve lifetimes could want.

Do not forget to explore the other sections of There is so much good stuff hosted here that is hard to imagine not finding something of worth to you.


Librivox offers you an abundance audiobooks. Read by volunteers, these files will play on most smartphones, tablets or computers. If you love what they are doing and want to help, you can become a reader yourself.

Dead Tree Books

Never underestimate your local public library. Books, oh yeah, they have books. Shelves and shelves of them can still be found in a nice, safe, quiet environment. More often these days you will find that your local public library offers online ebooks for check out. Talk with a librarian to find out how they handle these and what you need to do to get access to them[m]. While you are there, check for audiobooks, DVDs, movies and other items you might otherwise purchase.

Thrift stores and used book stores can still be found in many communities. While the cost is slightly more than nothing often it is far less than full retail[n].


Games often get a bad reputation for being the things kids, and often adults, do rather than what they are supposed to be doing. Hours can be lost flicking on angry birds, driving around Los Santos or getting that one more level on the game of the week that has some how installed itself on your smart phone Many games live up to that bad reputation, even the good ones can be used as an escape.

In the last few years we have seen an explosion of games that are not only fun but meet some of the daily recommended learning requirements. However, for many, sifting through the thousands of games to find the good ones can be a game in itself.

In this section we are going to go over some of the games we play here at Dadifesto labs. The main criteria for them is that they are fun-coated goodness with a chewy center of learning and exploration underneath.

Games today come in two broad categories: Online and Offline. For the sake of convenience Online means a game on any electronic device whether it is connected to the Internet or not. Few devices today come without the ability to connect to the Internet and fewer games work well without at least an occasional connection. Offline would be what we used to call board games, the ones we are going to list here are anything but boring.

The games mentioned will most likely cost something. I will note if they are available for no cost.


The reactions I see in parents when confronted with online games are fear, uncertainty and doubt. It is absolutely natural to be a bit tentative when confronted with something new. Online games are like anything else in your kid’s life; from the books they read, to friends they hang out with, to the sorts of TV shows you let them to watch. All of them will have an influence, and it is up to you as a parent to get to know them so you can guide your kids towards positive versus negative outcomes. As with most anything parenting-related, you and your kids will get out of it what you put into it.

Kids, it is important to remember that your parents were once kids. They want to have fun, but they do not like being pestered into having fun. If there is a game you want to play with them, talk to them. Maybe it is new to them, maybe it is something they really are not into. Even if they are really, really not into it, maybe they would consider playing…after you help with the dishes.


Of all the games we play online, one game gets played the most, has the most questions asked by parents and kids alike, and has stood the test of time. It is also the one game where using math is baked right into the core[q] of playing.

If you are a parent, you have most likely heard more about this game than you ever wanted to know. Often, you may see your kid’ mouths moving, but the words just do not make any sense whatsoever. You want to understand; you want to know what your kids are up to in the lands of Minecraftia… but it just all seems foreign.

Not all Minecrafts Are Equal.

Before we get much further into the game, there is an important note to make. Minecraft started life as a computer-based game. Mac, Windows and Linux platforms all used the same version of Minecraft. Players on any of those platforms could play with others on any of the other computers no matter what system they used.. When a users created a great new thing, all the players on all computer systems could share in it.

Some time ago, Minecraft was released on game consoles, tablets, the Xbox, Playstation, iOS and Android among other platforms. These versions of Minecraft are different and cannot work with the computer versions; thus, they are sadly isolated from the greater Minecraft community. This is a shame, and is one of those unfortunate points many parents should consider when getting involved in Minecraft..

I will focus on the computer version of Minecraft as it is a much more robust game, has had years of community-created material added to it, and seems to be the version most of the kids I talked to are using. Some of the following features may not appear on the console versions.

What Is It?

Minecraft is a sandbox game, which is not set up with a beginning, middle and end; it does not have one plot line that you follow and then you are done. A sandbox game is open-ended and can become whatever it is the player wants it to be. This is not a first-person shooter, mindless clicky-click fest, nor a violent gun game; this is a pastime that requires the player to bring something more to the party. If you look at what some of the players have done with the game you can see the benefits this environment can have for your kids.

The most basic level of Minecraft is about exploring new environments , and using what you find to build up the world as you want it to be. The next challenge is to survive what the world might throw at you.


Many players will go through Minecraft purely to explore. The world is built around you as you play, so the more you explore, the more world gets built. Over the years, Minecraft has become good at building diverse and intricate lands to explore. Everything from swamps to mountains, sandy wastes to lush river valleys, fiery pits to rolling hillsides…all this and more will spring up around you as you explore.


Still other players eschew exploration and focus for building. By using what you can dig up or chop down around you, building possibilities are endless. Treehouses, castles, villages, full-featured cities with working infrastructure…all are just a tiny slice of what you can build. Over the years, the game has progressed so the sky’s the limit for building creations.


No matter if you are a builder or an explorer, you will still need to deal with the world around you – a lot like life. You have to find food to eat. Without food you will grow weak and if left long enough you will die. You will most likely want some sort of shelter to be in when the sun falls; nighttime in Minecraft is not a fun place. If you are out in the wilds at night you will most likely need to fight off the creatures that might see you as a tasty meal. Creatures in Minecraft are dangerous, but in a far less gory manner than most computer games your kids play. Zombies damage you, Creepers explode and harm you, Skeltons shot arrows at you. There are ways to protect players from these dangers, but they require some skill in crafting.

Exploring, building and surviving; these are the three core elements of Minecraft. Most players bounce from one to the other, sometimes focusing on one then moving to another. The combination of the three, the continued evolution of the game, and all of the amazing user-created additions have resulted in a game that gets better and more interesting over time. How many games can you say that about? Not many. LEGO comes to mind and it is a comparison that is often used when attempting to describe the appeal of Minecraft.

How Do I Keep Up?

So how does a parent keep up with the frenetic energy their kids are putting into Minecraft, how do you understand just what it is your kids are doing in the game? My choice was to dive in with my boys and make it something we can do together as a family. Being a bit older than the kids though, I decided to explore some resources to help me get the answers before the kids sprang them on me. The good news here is the online Minecraft community offers up a vast treasure trove of freely-given and well-done answers to the inquiries.

One of my treasured community resources, who is still going strong after nearly four years, is Paul Soares Jr. He is a dad that loves computer games and loves playing them with his kids. If you’re a parent who needs help with Minecraft, meet your new BFF. Very early in the days of Minecraft, he saw a need for a video series that would help parents and kids understand the game, so the How To Survive and Thrive video series was born.

Once or twice a week my kids and I sat down watch these little videos, learned the basics of the game together, and then went off into our game world to demonstrate the new knowledge we picked up. It was great bonding time for us: first watching, then doing. As the years went by, the kids were well into their own creations; but happily the videos kept up as well.

Where Are They Playing?

For many Minecraft players the real fun is playing with others. Minecraft can be played on your own computer or on someone else’s computer; this is called a server. The server keeps track of where each player is, what they are doing, and then lets every other player know what the state of the world is. This is how several players can work together on projects, play adventures together, and in general hang out with each other. It is one of the many reasons Minecraft is so attractive, it is not just about you alone in a great big world, it is about you and all your pals going thru that world together as a community.

Unless you are running your own Minecraft server this means your kids are most likely playing on someone else’s servers. These could be run by one of those players or it could mean it is hosted up by a bigger organization. Over the years many servers have sprung up that can handle thousands of players at the same time. Some of these are private, but many are public.

Like any public space on the internet, it can be a good thing or a bad thing for kids. As a rule, my kids have to get my ok before they join a server I have not already approved. Just like in the real world, it usually only takes a few minutes of being on a server to know if it is a place you want your kids to explore. Is there a lot of cursing or adult chat going on? Are adult-themed graphics present? If you talk to the players do you get bullied or treated badly? A yes to any of these means that server is on the No Fly list.

Many times though, my kids will ask me to check out servers that turn out to be our new fave spots to hang out. They have found servers with specialized adventure maps, mini games, and creative communities aimed just for kids. It is amazing the places your kids will find for you to explore.

Be aware that the age of your kid will influence what servers they will want to visit. Some of the family-friendly servers we used early on are still great, but my kids outgrew them. Servers will also come and go depending on the people who are running them as it takes a massive amount of work to run a big server and for some that grows old. Others have made a real go of it and are still growing after years of being up.

One of our all time favorites is Massively Minecraft . The server is run by an experienced server host, Jokaydia, who makes sure the server is kid-friendly and safe. It is a gigantic world with plenty to do. Many of the helpers on the server are long-time players. There is a simple free sign up process to get approved; something I do appreciate as it does help to keep the place kid-centric.

Life After Minecraft

Yes, there is a life after Minecraft. Not that it will ever go away but it will perhaps become other things. With the recent acquisition of Minecrafts parent company by Microsoft many are already look for alternative sandbox games to explore in. One of these is Minetest.

First off, Minetest is free, not just in cost, but in how it is made. If at first glance it looks and plays a lot like Minecraft there is a very good reason. The people creating Minetest love Minecraft but they do not love that there is no easy way for other people to work on the code that makes it up. Minetest is open source, anyone who wants can take the code and make it better, change it around to be an entirely different game, add new features to the main Minetest code ….so long as they share what they have done.

Since Minetest has not been around as long it does not have all the add ons and extras Minecraft has. Over time this will change. The basic game and all the mods being worked on by the Minetest community are showing signs of continued growth. It is a very viable option to Minecraft.

Portal 1 and 2

One the surface these two titles are puzzle based games. You control a player or a robot to overcome various obstacles and get to the goal. You are helped on by a friendly computer named GladOS. What you realize over time is that as you are playing this you are learning all sorts of things about gravity, force, motion and vectors. If you listen to GladOS you will also learn the amusing backstory.

The Legends Of Zelda

Yes this is an old game but it has been told, retold and expanded upon over the years. It is a great way for kids to get into the idea of game as storyteller. Over the years the Zelda universe has worked it way into popular culture such that a kid just playing can talk about their experiences with many adults who once played. It is a good thing when games can span generational bounds.

Where To Get Online Games

The days of going out to a game store and purchasing a physical object called a game is fast reaching its end. Game systems like the Nintendo DS and a few like it are the last hold outs to the eventual death of that sort of thing. Even the DS has an easy option to purchase al your games online and have it delivered directly to your device.

With PCs it is even further along. No longer are there discs to lose, serial numbers to misplace, and game boxes to be crushed by the younger brother. Games are purchased online and the bits are sent directly to your computer’s storage. Some games never are entirely on your computer, they are hosted out there on the Internet and you play them though a web browser.

However they come you are going to need a place to go get them. These are our three most frequented online game shops. All three carry games for Linux, Mac and Windows. Humble Bundle will regularly have games for Android devices as well.


Steam is not just a web site to buy games, it is a community, a store house and the keeper of your scores. Steam requires you to install an application through which you will buy your games, run your games, talk about your games and brag about your high scores.

Steam also requires you to have an account with them and if you are buying games to have a credit card or some payment option on file. This makes it easier for parents to review purchases before mistakes are made.

Parents can also see how much time their kids are playing which games. Parents, yes Steam can also be your very best friend in the job of knowing what your kids are playing.

Steam clearly marks each game’s Parental Ratings, has video clips and images to show you what is in the game and on each game page will describe what you will find in each game. Spending just a few moments reviewing the games your kids are playing will let you know if you need to have various conversations with them

Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle is a great site to find bargains on games all while helping out various charities. Each weeks they will offer up a group of games for very low prices, often they will take anything over one dollar. Part of what you pay goes to charity, part goes to the game publisher; you get to decided how much goes where.

Once purchased you can download the games to your computer or your device, it all depends on which games you buy. If you ever lose that game you can just download it again.

Good Old Games (GOG)

GOG started out as a place to find old out of print games. It has since become a fully legit site where you can find old favorites and newer titles. Like Steam and Humble Bundle once you buy a game from them you can always go back and get it again.


When I was young the choices for offline games were few and online games could be counted on one hand and required you to have access to a mainframe. Few meant they got played over and over and boy howdy, that got old fast. Monopoly was called Monotony in my house. Today though there are game choices by the yard,[v][w][x] playing the same old games over and over is the fastest way to lose the interest of your kids, not to mention the adults. Thankfully for my budget many of these games are built to stay fresher longer and are open to expansions.

Over the last 20 years or so, card games have exploded, and the options of theme, complexity, play time and collectability run from casual games to those aimed at professional full time gamers. Board games have gone through a similar explosion with new games, expansions to old games and new rules for old games coming out what seems like daily. Long gone are the days where a game was locked in carbonite.

Card Games

Card games are portable, quick to play, and for some, they are as addictive as the best online games.

Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic The Gathering

I am lumping these three together because at the end of the day they are all about numbers, strategy and deck building.

Number-wise, each of these requires the player to do some math. Pokemon is mostly addition and subtraction. Yu-Gi-Oh has larger numbers and sometimes multipliers. Magic the Gathering is slight step above but it is more about the number of things you need to keep track of.

Strategy-wise, the same progression holds, with Pokemon being the simplest and Magic being the most complex.

Deck Building is something they all share. With deck building games the player can buy pre built decks or they can buy stacks of cards and build their own decks. This requires an understanding of the game mechanics as well as the rules that dictate the types and numbers of cards that can be included in a deck. Newer players should stick to pre-built decks to start.

Pokemon is for the younger kids, the math is simpler and the background material is aimed squarely at a younger player. The creatures are cute, the violence is kept to a minimum and the community of players is more forgiving of new players . Many local game shops have Pokemon League meetings at least once a week, so this can easily become a social game as well as one played with nearby friends.

Yu-Gi-Oh ups the number skills needed to play. It also is a step up in the maturity of the characters, and the playing community is much less tolerant of newer players.

Magic the Gathering ups the maturity even further. The characters are a bit more complex and the community runs on the older ages[ab].

Each of these games has a rich community of players, web sites, online versions and offline leagues.


This game makes the players pick two decks of cards with different themes, shuffle them together and play that new creation against another player. Zombies and Ninjas versus Pirates and Aliens is an example of a recent game. It is fast-paced and forces the players to think on their toes. The kids love it for the whacky themes, while adults love it because it does not go stale after many playing. (And yeah, adults like the wacky themes as well.) There are new decks coming out on a regular basis which also helps with the game staying fresh. [ac]

Board Games

King Of Tokyo

You are a monster rampaging through Tokyo. Your fellow monsters and the local armed forces are out to stop you. Only one player game be the King of Tokyo. The game is fast to learn and has a good replay value. The kids love the theme, and I loved that there are a few expansions out to freshen[ae] it up.

Settlers Of Catan

The players of this game are new settlers on an island of freshly set out game tiles. You work the land for the items you will need to build houses, lay road and grow to be the largest settlement on the island. The game board can change with each new playing which helps in keeping the game fresh[ai]. Keeping track of your items and working out a plan to grow your settlement will teach the players to manage resources and plan ahead. All in all this is a simple game that offer a fair amount of complexity.

Over the years, there have been expansions, variations and online versions of Catan. There is even a travel edition for those players who can’t leave home without it.


This is a game you build as you play. Each player place a new part of the game board on each turn. Players can then claim parts of the new piece of the board in order to build up castles, farms, churches and roads. This is a very easy game to learn, and the replay value is huge.


No list of board games would be complete without this centuries old game. Learning how to play takes less than a hour. Mastering it is a whole other story. Young players often grow up with the game, learning new things with each game. Chess as a learning tool is covered in great detail in various research papers, documentaries and personal stories. To quote one paper[ak][al],

“It’s not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It’s about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool. Since 2000, America’s Foundation for Chess (AF4C) has been working with 2nd and 3rd grade students and their teachers to promote the use of chess as an educational tool. The goal of the First Move™ curriculum is to use the game of chess as a tool, to increase higher level thinking skills, advance math and reading skills, and build self-confidence.”


Being out and about is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule for games. Once kids had little choice than to be out in the wilds, now the wilds have come indoors. There are still fun and games that require you to be outside. As the size of our technological devices shrink some of the reasons for that move inside are now no longer valid; we can be out in the wilds and still be connected to our far flung friends, game systems and information.


Think of all the best features of a treasure hunt mixed with all the better points of roaming around the real world… and all of this doable in your local ‘hood. The two websites listed offer you all the data and guidance you will need to starting finding the vast horde of treasure spots that have been set up for you to find over the last 10 plus years. Over time you will find yourself wanting to set up your own treasure spots. Kids and engaged adults quickly find themselves addicted to this as much, or more, than they are to the smartphone game of the week.

To get the most out of these sites you will need a smartphone or tablet with GPS built in, or a separate GPS device.

To get started, use one of these websites to find the clues to an easy nearby treasure spot. You might be tempted to go for the harder spots first, but resist that temptation. Go easy and work your way up over time to the harder finds. Share your finds with your friends and pretty soon you are going to find yourself with a ready group of fellow treasure hunters.

For kids, these activities will help teach navigation skills, map reading and puzzle solving.


Did you know that the world you walk through each day is filled with unseen wonders and sources of great power? Ingress is a smartphone game, that like Geo/Opencaching, helps you see the world around you as a game. For kids and adults, this game requires that you explore the real world to find in-game resources, help your team gain points and, if you dive headlong into the game’s backstory, to change the future of humanity.

Ingress is a fun game that gets you out of the house while still having all the fun of an online game. It has grown a large community of players across the globe; many of them meet up in local and countrywide groups.

As with geo/opencaching you will acquire navigation and map skills, as well as the social interactions with other players.

Hiking, Trail Walking, Orienteering

Sometimes it is as simple as finding a nearby walking trail and heading off for an hour or two of exploration. Many of us live near amazing paths, trails parks and wilds. We might be passing them by every day and never taking notice of their potential.

Go to your local city hall or their website and ask about the local resources. Make a list of these spots and over time explore each of them .


Even without a yard, you can grow your own food. Not only is it good eats, it is also a great way to learn about food, nature and how each and every one of us can be a part of the process.

There are many great examples of windowsill or container gardening on the web. If you have never tried this, start simple. One pot, some soil, seeds and water is all you need to get started. Herbs and mint are very easy way to start.

If you do have some land, even a small amount, you might want to try Squarefoot Gardening.

It utilizes a small square of land to produce a basket full of food.

Post Scriptum

“There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them”

I started writing this as a quick list to help some of the local parents, kids and teachers with a few of the questions I have been asked in the last year or two. While this work stands where it does, for now, it is not the end. The online version of this will continue to get updated, typos and grammar errors will get ironed out and any suggestions or comments that come in about this work will get folded in.

There are many topics I have not covered and the ones I have could fill up many more pages. I would love to get a section in on Podcasts, those regularly scheduled audio gems from amateur content creators and-well established media giants alike. Music is another topic that I touched on briefly in the section for Contrary to the buzz-happy media, not all free music online is tainted with term pirate. There are many places offering up a wide range of legal music all for the getting. Cooking is yet another activity that brings kids and adults together in ways both magical and tasty. While I have not spent time on this section yet, I want you all to go cook something — no, not microwave something — plan, prep, and then devour something fresh and tasty.

But the day draws to a close and so does this edition of the Dadifesto Handbook.

As I said in the introduction, You Are Not Alone. Whether you are a kid wading into all this for the first time, a teacher trying to get as much useful current resources to your students or a parent trying to make sense of the ceaseless changes going on all around them…you are not alone.

Find each other, share with each other, learn from each other. Bottom line though, have fun with it. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing with fun.

Creative Commons License

The Dadifesto Handbook by Thomas Higgins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at

Resource Links


Khan Academy

Khan Academy Coach Resource


Vlog Brothers


SciShow Kids

SciShow Space

Crash Course

Crash Course Kids

Animal Wonders

Minute Earth

Gross Science

Extra Creditz

Gajin Goomba



Khan Academy Computer Programming

Khan Academy Computer Science

Hour Of Code


CS First


Project Gutenberg

Libris Vox



Paul Soares Jr

How To Survive In Minecraft Video Series

Family Friendly Servers

Massively Minecraft



Legends Of Zelda


Humble Bundle



Card Games



Magic The Gathering


Board Games

King Of Tokyo

Settlers Of Catan









Windowsill Herb Garden

Seed Bombs

SquareFoot Gardening

The Dadifesto Handbook by Thomas Higgins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at

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