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This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
When I last wrote about starting our "smart home" with Amazon Devices, I was pretty excited to have the Echo Plus as our central hub and was just starting to experiment with things like smart lighting. This, of course, is just a tiny, tiny silver of what can be done with the power of Alexa. In just a short time, our home has become more efficient and entertaining. I've fallen in love with Alexa to the point where I've begun to expand our smart home - having since purchased an Echo Dot, smart plugs and additional lighting. As I mentioned when we got the Echo Plus, our girls were also becoming enamored with it as well - using it in unexpected ways, like helping out with spelling, checking the weather and even calling upon Alexa to serve-up some jokes. Now they've got their own devices as we've just added an Echo Dot Kids Edition and a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet to the mix. There's a lot to love with these, and parents (especially those concerned with screen time) should take note of just how good the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is.
The vinyl resurgence of the past decade has been an interesting thing to watch - particularly as my wife and I raise two daughters in an age where music is known for coming from a flat piece of glass and circuits in everyone's pocket. I grew up with vinyl, and as a kid it was played from a turntable housed inside a wooden stereo console that was probably six feet long and weighed a ton - it wasn't just audio equipment, it was furniture. Over the years, I would own my own turntables, from low-end Kmart style (actually purchased at Kmart) all-in-ones to high-end audiophile components and some of the more recent USB-connected models. But, like many, I parted ways with much of my vinyl collection somewhere in the mid-90s, a move that I now regret as our girls really like listening to records with us. In recent years, the biggest challenge has been finding turntables that legitimately have the right balance between quality, sound, price and size. Having owned a lot of turntables, I've been very surprised at how much I love the new Rock 'N' Rolla UFO turntable, one of which was recently sent to us for review.
With two little girls here at Rock Father™ HQ, my wife and I have purchased more than a few pairs of "kid-safe" headphones over the past few years, and frankly, most of them are garbage. From expensive ones that the kids find uncomfortable to the cool-looking, yet terrible-sounding licensed variety sold for cheap at retailers like Five Below, I've checked out a bunch and had never found any that I could really be excited about until now. At New York Toy Fair, I came across something unexpected while browsing the latest offerings from the crew over at Wicked Cool Toys. They've recently partnered with Halo Acoustic to help bring CozyPhones to a wider audience, and after bringing a couple of pairs back to Illinois, they're an immediate hit. CozyPhones are a 3-in-1 combo of headphones, sleep mask and a stylish headband.
The feature is brought to you in collaboration between Blackboard™ and The Rock Father™
For a guy whose entire life revolves around a digital presence, I tend to be notoriously old-school when it comes to my tools of the trade. In an age where many work on tablets and multi-purpose screens, I still prefer to do the majority of my work from a desktop pc with a mechanical keyboard them emulates the typewriters of old. Sure, I use a laptop for working on-the-go, and I've got an arsenal of tablets in both iOS and Android flavors, but for me nothing beats being in my office, in the chair, ready to work within my comfort zone. Even here, there were some very non-digital quirks until recently - in fact, until the summer of 2017, I kept my monthly calendar on a dry-erase whiteboard (I finally switched to Google Calendar at my wife's urging), and was apprehensive of cloud storage for my backups, my habits remaining in a physical world. Likewise, I've always had an attachment to writing - actual writing - in a true form, and until recently, there was no way to bring that into a digital world... but that changed. A product I didn't even know I needed came my way - Blackboard™ by Boogie Board - and now old-school meets new-school in a way that just feels right. It's Liquid Crystal Paper™, and there's nothing else like it.
The concept of a "Smart Home" is something that we've not really jumped on-board with here at Rock Father HQ, despite our ongoing #RockFatherRemodel Project and an abundance of future upgrades planned for the home that we intend to raise our daughters to adulthood in. If I were to pinpoint a single reason why, the big one is that I've turned out to be a lot more old-school that I once thought - a sometimes early-adopter that is immersed in tech daily, yet makes an attempt to keep his children as tech-free as possible, firmly believing that our age of "devices" has severely over-saturated the human species. However, I am intrigued by a lot of the tech that's been coming out for the home, and being so rooted in music, I'm always keen on new ways to bring the audio experience into new places. When the folks at Sengled got in touch to ask me about reviewing their recent Pulse Solo LED + Wireless Speaker, I took them up on it... despite not being entirely sure what to expect from a lightbulb with a Bluetooth speaker inside.
When it comes to high-quality, innovative technology-based play for kids, I can't think of anyone that's released as much cool stuff over the past few years as VTech. Real-world functionality and durability is the hallmark of their Kidizoom line, and for 2015 the Kidizoom Action Cam makes my annual Holiday Wish Guide, a fitting follow-up to last year's excellent Kidizoom Smartwatch. We received a review sample back in August, and The Rock Daughters have been using it regularly to document the big world around them. It's the exact thing that I would've absolutely LOVED to have growing up - back in a time when I made movies with Super 8mm film and audio cassette tapes. Having a working video camera at a young age can inspire later pursuits (I speak first-hand on this), and in an age where grownups have their GoPro's, the Kidizoom Action Cam is the perfect thing for budding action filmmakers. In the spirit of the Holiday Season, VTech and THE ROCK FATHER Magazine are giving you a shot at winning one of these for your own little Director! Wanna see how it works? Check out some footage shot by six-year-old Addie...