Monthly Archives: March 2014

Video Game

Video games: When are they good, when are they bad?

There have been studies, headlines and speculation about the effects of video games on children for years. It’s time for us to sift through the hearsay and scare tactics and focus on what’s important: what matters is not if your child plays video games, but how your child plays video games. So, what exactly determines when video games are good and when they are bad, you ask?

Video games exercise your children’s strengths and allow them to learn in a fun, non-threatening environment. They can learn vital skills like decision making, pattern recognition, and creative thinking while playing games like Angry Birds on your tablet. Kids feel rewarded for exercising these strengths when they move on to the next level, which motivates them to apply and develop these skills further (both in the subsequent rounds of Angry Birds and in real life). Daphne Bavelier gives a TED Talk on the effect of gaming on the brain, and she stresses that different games have different effects on the brain. Puzzles improve strategic thinking, problem solving, analysis and memory in gamers. Action games teach kids quick-thinking, accuracy, memory, and many other skills. It was even discovered that surgeons who play video games are faster and more accurate in surgeries. If you can trust your doctor with them, why not let your kids take a crack at it? In fact, gamers are four times quicker at making decisions and executing them!

Some action games (like shooter games) have a controversial reputation; however, they do have some positive effects. Shooter games can improve kids’ attention, and give children an outlet for stress in the same way that violent sports (like football) do. But not surprisingly, most pediatricians believe that violent media have negative effects on kids. What matters here is exposure: when kids are repeatedly exposed to violent video games for long periods of time, their aggression might be affected in real life. This is supported by many bodies of research, including this recent (and frightening) one.

More generally, when kids spend more time playing video games, they have less time to participate in other activities. Pretty obvious, huh? But still a very important point. Kids who play video games spend less time reading and doing homework. It is important to manage the time that kids spend playing video games. Everything in moderation, right? Balancing video games with school work, extracurricular activities, and social activities is a great opportunity to teach children time management.


So, how can you use video games for good? Here are a few ways you can do it:

1. Choose video games that exercise your child’s strengths and improve their weaknesses. As mentioned before, some video games may have negative effects on your child, so make sure you are exercising positive strengths and weaknesses.

2. Choose the games that fit your child best using the ratings displayed on the games. No one knows better than you which games fit your child’s personality and strengths.

3. Balance the time that your children spend playing video games with your child’s other activities. You can allow them to create their own limits and build the schedule that works best for them (with your guidance, of course). This will develop their time management and decision-making skills.

4. If your child is a video game master, he/she might want to make a career of it! Youth Digital offers online gaming design and programming for kids aged 8 – 14.


Identify Your Child's Strengths


Video Game Infographic

How video games affect your kids (and maybe you, too…)

Pin it in Pinterest:


Hotz, Robert Lee. “When Gaming Is Good for You.” Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2012.

Bavelier, Daphne. “Your Brain on Video Games.” TedX June 2012.

Ferguson, C. J., & Rueda, S. M. “The Hitman Study: Violent Video Game Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feelings, and Depression.” European Psychologist (2010): 15,99-108. doi:10.1027/1016-9040/a000010.

Thrively's Activity Board feature displayed on an iPad

Thrively feature: Activity Boards

Want access to this feature? Sign up and apply to be a beta user by emailing with the subject line “Activity Boards”.

Thrively offers a unique strength assessment for children and the largest database of children’s activities known to man. We are constantly conceiving and building new tools to make your life a bit easier and your child’s life a lot more enriching, so the makers in the Thrively lab conceived a tool to do just that: Activity Boards.

This tool is an effective way to discover and research the activities that matter most for your child on one page. Activity boards allow you to view activities based around a theme – from location to interest – so that you can easily find the perfect fit for your child. The boards are curated by organizations, the Thrively editorial team, and other Thrively Parents who would like to contribute our community.

And, you can create them too!

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Activity Boards allow you to create a place to organize your favorite activities around a theme. There are many ways to use boards:

  • Explore other users’ boards to discover what has been curated in your area, for example: “The Sierra Club’s best hikes around Los Angeles”
  • Create boards to share with your organization’s membership as an added resource. For example, a PTO could create a board of volunteer opportunities for high schoolers.
  • Collect potential programs that you want to research in more depth, for example “James’ Summer Tennis Camp Options”
  • Organize by themes or goals. For example, check out our “Summer College Programs” Board to track awesome pre-college programs available to high schoolers, or our “Programmer’s Paradise” board that shows online programming courses.
  • Make a Board for each of your children, for instance “Everything Sarah is up to”

How it works:

Creating your activity board is simple. Click the “add” button in the upper righthand corner of your parent dashboard,


and select “Create a Board” from the drop-down menu:


When you come across something you want to save for later, click the “add to board” button in the upper righthand corner of the activity card:

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Add at least four activities to complete your activity board, and share your boards with your friends or organization to give others inspiration for their groups and families.

Want access to this feature? Sign up and apply to be a beta user by emailing with the subject line “Activity Boards”.

Thrively's featured activities on a computer screen

Thrively feature: Activities

Once you have unleashed your child’s strengths and interests, it is important that your child has ways to exercise and develop them. Thrively is the largest resource for children’s activities, with over 100,000 activities nearby, online, and across the nation for you and your child to discover. We feature over 15,000 camps, 2,000 online classes, 15,000 educational iOS apps, and 2,000 “worth traveling for” opportunities (like Space Camp).

I know, it’s a lot to take in, but that gives your child a boundless resource to find activities that explore his or her interests. Find the item in our drop-down list (seen below) or search specifically for activities with our advanced search. Together, you and your child can explore through 200 areas of interest – from sports for your Super-Charged Athlete to creative writing for your Poet Laureate – to find the activities that best match your child’s strengths and interests. You can even search through activities gathered specifically for children with special needs.

Thrively does a lot of the heavy lifting with recommendations. Our algorithm matches activities with both your child’s strengths and interests, increasing the likelihood that you’ll find a great match in your stream of recommended activities. As you favorite, dismiss, and add activities to your Boards, Thrively learns more about your child’s interests and improves your recommendations. When you discover activities that interest your child, you can save them to an Activity Board and organize the board by theme or interest to keep track of your child’s activities with one simple tool.

Interests drop-down list:



It’s important to note that there is no pay-to-play – the activity providers on our site have been chosen by our editorial team, so you know that the recommendations you’re getting truly are meant for your child.

Whew, that was a lot of info at once, so let’s review with key points:

  • Use the Search tool to find exactly what you’re looking for
  • Scroll through the Recommended Activity stream to discover something new and off the beaten path
  • Keep track of everything you find by favoriting the activity and/or it to an Activity Board

Develop Your Child's Strengths


Thrively feature: Strength Assessment

Thrively’s Strength Assessment is the only online strength assessment designed specifically for children. We have partnered with two of California’s seven board-certified pediatric neuropsychologists to develop and constantly improve the Strength Assessment, so as your kids grow, Thrively grows alongside them. The kid-friendly questions explore 23 different strength areas! Upon finishing, Thrively provides you with you an in-depth Strength Profile that dives into to your child’s key strengths.

Here’s how you can use this tool to uncover your child’s strengths:

1. Sign in to your Thrively account, and head to your parent dashboard. Here you will see your profile and the profiles of all of your children:


2. To find your child’s strengths, click the button that reads “Begin the strength exploration for your child,” and make sure that your child is comfortable and ready to begin the Strength Assessment:


3. Let your child complete the assessment at his/her own pace. Let them pick their answers – it’s tempting to say “oh, really? That doesn’t sound like you” – but this is where you may discover something awesome about your kids!

4. When your child completes the Strength Assessment, you will receive your child’s Strength Profile:

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Once your children have discovered their strengths, Thrively will suggest activities that allow your children to explore their interests and develop their strengths.

Discover Your Child's Strengths

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Thrively feature: Social Circles

Our Thrively Ambassadors get together with their circle of friends every February for an epic marathon of summer calendar syncing. It sounds somewhat like what the commodities trading floor on the NYSE would sound like at the opening bell.

After a few hours of scribbling with sharpies and white-out, the budgets and schedules are all set. But what do they do when their #1 camp choice comes back full, or there’s a last minute change in family vacation plans?

“We have to get on the phone and call each other and make sure everyone is in the loop,” says one Ambassador. “Or, we talk on facebook or email. I have some email chains that are over 50 emails long.”

Introducing Social Circles

Thrively’s Social Circles takes that real-world coordination and places it online, so you can continue to follow the other parents in your circle as summer approaches. You can create and join “Social Circles” by clicking the “Invite Friends” icon in the top-right corner of your parent dashboard.


This feature is useful for sharing activities with friends when you come across something that you think their kids might be interested in. You can keep up with what your friends are doing with their children in the section of your dashboard titled “Activities Your Friends Are Checking Out:”


Social Circles allow you to create a strength-building and activity-centric community in which all of your friends and their children can participate and collaborate. We are always cooking up new ideas in the Thrively lab to enhance our Social Circles, and we’ve got some great features in the works.

Build Your Social Circle


Anything you would like to see in your Social Circle (seriously anything -
group chat, vine video uploads, etc)? Let us know! We’re excited to hear from you.
Email with your imaginative suggestions.


My life in school theater

I was in my first play in fourth grade, when I was nine years old. It was a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I played a blackbird who led Snow White to the dwarfs’ cabin. No dialogue, just a quick cross from one side of the stage to the other fluttering my arms like they were wings. Though it was the smallest part in the play, my mother, whose skills with a sewing machine and glue gun were world-class, made an elaborate bird costume with a papier-mache head and wings of rustling black crepe paper.  Unfortunately on the day of the performance, I discovered I was the only one wearing a costume. Everyone else was in school clothes. So when we lined up to sing the finale from the lip of the stage, the audience saw a row of nine-year-olds in jeans and t-shirts and one kid in a black getup who looked like he had just dropped in from Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

I guess I should have been embarrassed. I wasn’t. I had found my place in the world, and even at that age, I more or less knew it.


School plays are like little league: the place where the dream begins. Not everyone who does a school play gets hooked. But for those who do, the effect is galvanizing and life-long. It’s not just actors. Talk to writers, directors, producers, designers, and you’ll hear that the first step on the path was taken when they were eleven and played Danny Zuko in Grease; or built the set for their sixth-grade Annie Get Your Gun, or sewed costumes for a high school production of The Wiz. For me, that blackbird led to years of work in the nonprofit theater and then Hollywood, where I now work as a writer and producer, most recently of The Mentalist. It’s forty-four years since Snow White, but I remember that performance to this day.

Why does a school play have such a powerful effect? Partly it’s the discovery of a community. When you’re ten, eleven and twelve the concept of fitting in is simultaneously supremely important and incredibly daunting. The production of a play – a weeks-long effort that involves dozens of people – can provide a ready-made community, one with immediate and real emotional rewards. That can be a huge boost for kids, especially those who don’t immediately or easily fit in.

But the bigger and more lasting effect is the discovery that the theater is where adolescent qualities discounted or even discouraged elsewhere  – energy, imagination, the impulse to act up and get attention – are needed, valued and rewarded. It’s called a “play,” after all. There’s discipline required. You have to learn lines, master choreography, work with other people. If you can’t do those things, you won’t last. But if a kid can do those things, a school play will give her a place where she can be very silly, or very serious, and people will pay attention. They might even applaud. A little bit of that can be addicting.





Tom Szentgyorgyi is a television writer and producer, most recently of The Mentalist on CBS. He is also an award-winning playwright and documentary filmmaker.



Colorful Bands

Rainbow Loom Approved.


This post is not about Rainbow Loom.

It’s about something far more important:


The Thrively team may seem a little fanatical about Rainbow Looming, a craze that’s swept the globe.  We’ve sponsored two contests, rubbed elbows with Rainbow Loom royalty like Larry Roberts, Suzanne Peterson and the Learning Express Rainbow Loom Headquarters team.  Yes, we know people, who know the inventor Choon Ng, and naturally feel this gives us bragging rights.  Then we learned something about the hundreds of nameless Rainbow Loomers that humbled us.  It caused us to pause and question if there might be more to Rainbow Looming than a hook, plastic loom and a bunch of tiny little rubber bands that parents are constantly pulling out of the carpet.

All along we’ve praised Loomers for their imaginations.  But recently we discovered their huge capacity for compassion.  Hundreds of children are Looming up bracelets, chains and patches of clothing – not for prizes or fame but to help other children.   The Thrively team recently learned about two causes, MaxLoveProject Loom-a-Thon and Armed with Love, that amaze us.  At the center of MaxLoveProject is a darling little first-grader fighting brain cancer.  Max and his friends decided to #LoomAgainstCancer and create the world’s longest Rainbow Loom chain.  That idea grew into a 29,210 foot Rainbow Loom chain and is still growing.  Max’s Loom-a-Thon caught the attention of Jimmy Kimmel who invited children to send loomed items that his staff wove into a Suit of the Loom.  He donated his now iconic Suit of the Loom to an auction that raised $40K for the  Nice going Jimmy.  Max’s fellow Loomers are resting their fingers until September, when will kick off a national Loom Against Cancer Day.

Little Loomers’ also reached out across the Atlantic to Kenya, sending Kenyan children brightly colored bracelets in what’s now referred to as the Armed with Love project.  Drew Bray, Minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, told Thrively the small-scale project never really had a formal name.  It grew as word spread from his church, to local schools, to volunteer organizations like  Before Drew knew it, he had 1,400 Rainbow Loomed bracelets in his living room.

Armed with Love 2 Armed with Love 3 Armed with Love

Somewhere along the way both #LoomAgainstCancer and Armed with Love became community-driven service projects with the vibrantly Loomed objects as the children’s expressions of compassion.  Toys that spark imagination and teach new skills endure.  Communities form when children love a toy and love creating cool things with children that share their interests.  We see this everyday in Thrively’s activity database with Lego camps, Minecraft engineering and programming classes and now, Rainbow Loom workshops at Learning Express Toys.  Sometimes what children do with toys becomes more meaningful than entertainment itself.


AmyvKAmy von Kaenel is a highly enthusiastic Thrively Amabassador. She’s been a veteran of the tech industry for two decades, wearing dual hats in market intelligence and marketing strategy. Amy’s co-authored industry reports on Smartphone Enterprise and mHealth technology. Her organization, Tech Coast Consulting, has served Global 2000 and start-up organizations in both the tech and healthcare industries. Amy holds a BA in Economics and an MBA from the University of California Irvine. 


Upsell image


The secret ingredients to getting young people to volunteer

Time for a truth bomb: Young people don’t just volunteer because they are required to; ninety-three percent of young people say they want to volunteer. Huge number, right? But a much smaller percentage actually do. So why the discrepancy? The primary reason is that young people don’t know how to find volunteer opportunities. A secondary reason is that the volunteer opportunities currently offered to young people are not intriguing to them (boring?  I didn’t say boring!  I said not intriguing).





Here are two key ways to get young people out volunteering:

Make it Accessible

Young people move at light speed and expect everything to be simple—finding volunteer opportunities needs to be the same way.  In order to get young people to take action, they have to be provided with chances to volunteer that are not only interesting to them, but also fit into their already packed calendars.

Currently, young people are more likely to volunteer if they are affiliated with a group or team, in part due to the fact that these types of affiliations regularly provide young people volunteer opportunities. For example, young people who work out on a sports team are 18% more likely to have volunteered than those who work out on their own. Likelihood to volunteer is also positively correlated with frequency of religious attendance. Therefore, in order to increase youth volunteering rates, it is necessary to make volunteer opportunities as easily accessible for all young people as it is for those directly affiliated with community/sports/religious groups.


Make it Social

Having friends that volunteer regularly is the primary factor influencing a young person’s volunteering habits. In fact, when it comes to shaping young people’s volunteer behavior, being given the chance to work on an issue he/she cares about deeply is only half as important as is having friends who volunteer regularly.  The importance of friends’ volunteering habits holds true for young people from all socioeconomic standings and religious backgrounds. 75.9% of those whose friends volunteer on a regular basis also volunteer, while only 41.7% of those whose friends do not volunteer regularly also volunteer.

A key factor in making volunteer opportunities social is also making them fun enough that young people want to invite their friends to get involved. Achieving this is often less about the cause itself and more about the call to action being intriguing. By making volunteer opportunities fun, funny, and/or built off of the skills and interests they already have (e.g. tech or crafting), young people will be much more excited to get involved. Once they’re hooked, they’ll recruit their friends to volunteer as well—peer pressure in its finest form!

In conclusion, by making volunteer opportunities more accessible and more social, young people will volunteer in greater numbers. There is no need for higher volunteer hour requirements—young people are socially minded enough to volunteer on their own if provided with the right opportunities at the right time.



Lisa Boyd - PhotoLisa Boyd is a Strategist at TMI, a subsidiary agency of is the country’s largest organization for young people (13-25) and social change; TMI leverages the organization’s 20 years of experience to help for-profit and not-for-profit brands excel in the fields of young people, technology and social change. Lisa is an expert on how/why young people volunteer and how to engage the millennial generation effectively in social cause campaigns.


When “reply all” goes wrong

Reply.  Reply all.  The buttons are just too dangerously close together. Thankfully, I have a sense of humor.

The following is one of the funniest email blunders I have ever been the recipient of, and given the content, it’s so ironic that it happened in a Thrively email exchange.  I was asked to speak at a technology group event about my experiences as an entrepreneur.  I accepted the invitation over the phone and the following email thread ensued.  Names and organizations are hidden to protect the (sort of) innocent.

The punch line is her calling my son’s LAUSD ballroom dance grand finale “some crazy s**t”, only her email didn’t include any *’s, and it didn’t just go to her coworker; it went to me.

What I love about it, is that Thrively is ALL about finding that incredibly crazy s**t that gets kids fired up… Think we should change our slogan?

Ah, our first Thrively non-moment!


What kinds of crazy s**t are your kids up to? Tell us in the comments!


On Mar 5, 2014, at 4:01 PM  <<Person@persons>> wrote:

Hi Jon,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with <<other person>> and I this afternoon. We love the concept of Thrively and are thrilled to have you speak at <<person’s event>> in May or June!

Please let us know if one of the following dates work:

<<various dates>>

Thank you,


<<person>>, Marketing Specialist



From: Jon Kraft []

May XX or June XX work best for me.


On Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 9:19 AM <<Person@person’s>> wrote:


Great! Let’s plan for May XX then. Let us know if you have any questions! <<other person>> and I will keep you updated as we lock down the venue and get ready to promote the event.

We are looking forward to it!

Thank you,


<<person>>, Marketing Specialist


From: Jon Kraft []

Whoops!  I take it back.  Let’s make it June XX.  May XX is my son’s citywide 5th grade ballroom dancing grand finale competition!!


On Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 9:19 AM <<Person@<<person’s>>  wrote:

Only on Thursdays does some crazy s**t like “citywide 5th grade ballroom dancing GRAND FINALES’” interrupt <<person’s organization>>.

June it is.

<<person>>, Marketing Specialist

———- Forwarded message ———-
On Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 9:34 AM <<Person@person’s>>

I am terribly sorry about that last email.  I’m looking forward to June!

<<person>>, Marketing Specialist


Loom Your Passion Challenge!

Announcing the winners of our second Rainbow Loom Challenge!

Category 1 Original Design goes to Sarah H. for her Winnie the Pooh characters, with 196 likes!

Category 2 Favorite Activity goes to Brooke H and her custom Monster High design, with 273 likes!

Category 3 Loom our Passion goes to Jamie for his Thrively treble clef, with 100 likes!

Category 4 People’s Choice goes to Nadia for her pink purse with a hand sanitizer attachment, with a whopping 390 likes!

GREAT JOB to everyone who used their looming skills and creativity to participate in our challenge. We will have many more in the future so subscribe to our page and let’s have some fun!

To the winners: please email your mailing address to and we will send out your prizes asap!

The PRIZES are:
A Rainbow Loom SIGNED by the founder, Choon Ng! Priceless!
The Loomatic’s Guide to the Rainbow Loom SIGNED by author Suzanne Peterson! Priceless!
A customized organizer stocked with bands from Learning Express Toys! Priceless!

Thank you to our partner Larry Roberts for the excellent Thrively bracelet design and all the inspiration for the looming community.

These prizes will keep you looming far into the future. Great job and remember creativity is one of the most important skills of our future. Let your imaginations run wild!

Thrively’s Loom your Passion challenges avid Loomineers to express their unique interests and personalities using vivid, springy Rainbow Loom bands – and their imaginations.  Loomineers use all parts of their brain.  Their left side guides their linear thinking and helps them configure colorful bands in precise order.  The right side lets their imaginations run free to invent crazy-cool original designs.   The Loom Your Passion challenge requires both parts for maximum impact!



The challenge…

Larry Roberts, a master Rainbow Loom designer, loomed Thrively’s logo and challenged other hardcore Loomers to replicate his design for our Loomin’ Large challenge.   Nathan from Illinois nailed the design and received 49 Facebook Likes, winning a bunch of cool Rainbow Loom stuff.  Now, Thrively invites you to Loom your Passion and create a loom design in one of three categories:

Loom your own creation.  Unleash your inner designer and Loom away!  Loom an original creation that shows off your unique talents and interests.

Loom your favorite activity.  Where do you naturally shine?  We want to see an original Loomed representation of your favorite activity, whether it’s a Loomed soccer ball, surfboard, ballet slippers or guitar.

Loom our passion.  We can’t get enough of those beautiful Thrively logos.  Show us your best adaptation – whether a tie, baseball hat, charm or something completely mind-blowing!  You may use a tutorial for this category – but it must have a Thrively spin on it!

NEW 4TH CATEGORY:  PEOPLE’S CHOICE!  Loom ANYTHING!  Your favorite design, the most challenging, the most colorful – whatever!  If you used a tutorial for this design, this will be the category it will be put in.  These can be original OR use a tutorial.

Invite your friends and family to “Like” your design on Thrively’s Facebook page. The design that receives the most overall Likes between March 7th and March 31st, 2014 will win a Loom signed by the inventor of the Rainbow Loom, Choon Ng and Rainbow Loom master designer, Larry Roberts, an autographed copy of the Loomatics Interactive Guide to the Rainbow Loom by Suzanne Peterson.  We’ll also include a cool Loom supply organizer, stuffed full of Thrively-colored bands, all from Learning Express Toys.

The Rules:

One entry per person per category

Deadline:  Monday, March 31st, 11:59 PM, PST

Need to brush up on your skills or get some inspiration?  Thrively has a listing of the Learning Express locations where you can join Rainbow Loom workshops; or learn new techniques at the Learning Express Rainbow Loom headquarters (click here).  Simply sign up for Thrively, take your Strength Assessment, and then search “rainbow loom”!

Thanks to our partners!

Larry Roberts

Learning Express

Rainbow Loom

Loomatics Interactive Guide to the Rainbow Loom by Suzanne Peterson