One of the more interesting things I noticed coming out of CES

During CES last week, Panasonic unveiled a partnership with Nordic Track involving a treadmill connected to the Internet. As you can see from the video, the outcome is a way to have a virtual outdoor run using Google Maps Street View- all from the comfort of your living room. Interesting and inspiring stuff for those of us living in a cloud forest.

To make things extra slick, the device communicates the presence of hills to increase the incline of the treadmill at the appropriate times, matching actual hills on your virtual route.

Will be interesting to see how this idea of virtual fitness experiences evolves over the coming years.

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Research on Fun and Active Play at Recess

Cool findings coming out of a project at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Clinical Research Program at Children’s Hospital Boston. The research, led by Dr. Stavroula Osganian, studied 30 different recess games to determine how much energy kids expend playing them.

After kids finished playing, kids ranked the amount of fun they had in each game- which led to a list of the healthiest and most fun recess activities. Interesting to see what makes the grade…

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Announcing Cabin Fever Toys

On November 11, 2010, we are announcing Cabin Fever Toys to an audience of technology investors, media, and others as part of TechStars Seattle Demo Day. It has been a long path to get to this day and we’re super excited to share our direction with a broader audience than ever before.

Around one in four kids in America gets no physical activity outside of school hours. Cabin Fever Toys is rooted in the belief that toys and technology should encourage healthy play and we aim to do just that through fun new products. We’re not quite ready to unveil our first product to the Internet masses on this site, but drop us a line if
you want to learn more! Until then, please follow us on Twitter and we’ll keep you posted!

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Don’t forget to make it fun

As I continue to develop the brand, product ideas, the launch product, and pitch to partners and investors, it’s becoming clear that toys for active play need to be fun. It looks obvious and a little stupid to put that in writing, but I think it’s easy to lose sight of this fact as I hear more from fitness experts concerned with metrics and investors concerned with business models.

After a recent pitch, an investor drew the analogy to educational software games, which seemed like such a great idea until kids realized that regular games were way more fun. Thus, the category imploded leaving kids less educated and investors less wealthy. Like the first generation of education software, it’s clear that some of today’s new active lifestyle items for kids are great fitness devices with really interesting rewards systems. I’m wearing a brand new wristband from S2H as proof of this point. Interesting idea for measuring and rewarding physical activity, but not doing much to help physical activity itself be more fun for kids with sedentary tendencies. Is this the analog to educational software?

Though it didn’t cross my mind during my pitch, I’m now left remembering how successful LeapFrog was in changing the landscape when they brought a new technology to bear on the space. Seems like the same can be done (must be done!) when it comes to toys for active play.

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Ride baby ride

Loving this new discovery today. The Kidexerciser is a tool that connects the power source on your TV to a stationary bike. You want to watch TV? Better get to pedaling, kid. Cool idea and love that it uses the kids actual bike, although I’m not sure if I want my kids muddy-covered bike in the family room. I’m also left wondering how long it would take my 9 year-old to figure out how to disable the entire thing. Still, I hope these guys make it to market.

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Kidnapped by Screen Time

Fresh statistics today! Turns out children and teens in the United States spend an average of seven hours a day using television, computers, phones and other electronic devices for entertainment, compared to an average of three hours a day watching TV in 1999, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Aside from the usual concerns about violent and sexual content, the AAP is worried that this is cutting into time that could be spent on physical, social, and creative pursuits.

Clearly, there’s an argument to made for screen time that is physical, creative and social. Though the first example that comes to mind is how my kids engage in heated social discourse over who gets to sit in the corner spot on the sofa when they’re watching TV, there are great examples of social, physical, and creative exercises fostered by screen-based games. A few that come to mind:

To be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that 7 hours/day of screen time is good. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that’s good for kids for 7 hours/day. What I am saying is that there are great ways to foster creativity, social interaction, and even physical activity without swimming up stream. There’s also a huge opportunity for the private sector to deliver more products that do a better job of making physical activity more compelling through technology that may or may not have a screen attached. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the interwebs and TV (about 7 hrs/day, to be precise) and let you know what I discover along the way.

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Little Tony Little

I’m always struck by the toy industry’s determination to miniaturize adult things and try to pass them off as toys. This was something to laugh about last year in the wake of Little Tikes Young Explorer Kiddie Workstation, which is essential a tot-sized cubicle- (JUST LIKE DADDY’S!).

The same is sometimes true as the industry turns towards active play. Even if this is fun, is this what you want for your kids?

I won’t judge you for your response, but the correct answer is “No.” Granted, I could imagine my kid going ape on Aqua-Leisure’s “Kid’s First Air-Walker,” but that doesn’t make it right. See what I mean? To make matters even worse, the same line includes “Kid’s First Exercise Bench, so your kid can sit idly on a miniature weight bench and stare up wall mounted flat-panel instead of working out. JUST LIKE DADDY!

Still looking forward to finding some creative new ideas that might get kids off the couch to play without having to re-educate them as physical fitness drones.

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Exploring active play for kids

It’s hard to get around the fact that parents are worried about the way kids play these days. In fact, 80% want their kids to play actively outdoors more often.  “When I was a kid, my parents sent me outside after breakfast and had to yell to get me back inside at dusk,” I hear my peers tell me. Whether this recollection is exaggerated or not, the fact remains that today’s kids spend an average of 6.5 hrs./day with media- most of it parked in front of a TV or video game console. The yelling that kids are more likely to hear is not to come inside, but rather to get out and play.

Turns out, it’s not just parents that are concerned about this. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign has named increasing physical play as one of 5 critical initiatives for eliminating childhood obesity in a generation. Teachers are concerned after scientific research showed that lack of physical activity has a negative impact on a child’s ability to learn. Economists worry that the impact of childhood inactivity will lead to a crisis in health-care for the nation. Even a panel of 100 retired senior military leaders are concerned that there won’t be enough physically fit 18 year olds to fight in the next war.

As a father of 3 kids, I’m very interested in the issue of getting kids to play actively outdoors. I’m constantly in search of new ideas that will get my kids to choose to play in ways that involve moving their bodies.

This blog is about my quest to do just that. Please join me and let me know what you think in the comments field.

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