Recently Let’s Move! announced the winners of their Apps for Healthy Kids contest, in which developers, game designers, and other interested folks were invited to create mobile apps for tweens that promote healthy eating and/or physical activity. The only requirement was that the game or tool had to use USDA data sets that have been made available through the Open Government initiative. The submission period was this past spring/summer, and winners were just announced a few weeks ago.
My own kid is nowhere near the target audience range, but she is a very technologically advanced 3-year old so I figured she’d be a good test subject. Together we sat down and picked a few of the games and gave them a spin.
Pick Chow!, the First Place winner in the Tools division, was our collective favorite. The tool lets kids pick from a list of foods with a goal of building a balanced, healthy plate. As you add foods to your plate, little gauges on the right tell you if you are too high or too low in calories, fat, sodium, protein, etc. What I liked was the visual nature of the app—the list of foods included pictures, so for a younger child, it’s a great way to learn about different types of foods. My daughter asked me if the pomegranate was a “big strawberry.” The graphics are cute and include three little animated ants as mascots.
I gave my daughter the mouse and she picked Fitter Critters, a runner-up in the Games division. The concept is simple if you’ve ever played Sims, virtual pets, or if you are an iPhone Pocket Frogs addict like I am. The goal of the game is to take care of your Fitter Critter by feeding him well-balanced meals. You can harvest vegetables from your garden, shop for food at the grocery store, even decorate your Fitter Critter’s house. The game relies a lot on text and reading, so it is perfect for a school-aged child.
Smash Your Food is my personal favorite. You pick from a bunch of “junk” foods, estimate how much fat, salt, and sugar you think are in them, pull the “smash lever” and bam. You get a visual showing the food being smashed and another visual showing how much sugar, salt, and fat (in the form of oil) is in that particular food. It is really gross yet oddly satisfying. The overall objective is to help parents and kids see the differences between what their daily intake should be vs. what is in kids’ favorite foods.
Those who says all video games are bad should check these out. It is really cool to see the level of ingenuity and creativity is out there to promote healthy eating and physical activity. There are so many other great tools, games, and mobile apps over at Apps for Healthy Kids, go check them out!