Friday, May 6, 2011

Google moms share tech tips for your family

As a Googler I frequently take my work home with me—in a good way. With two young boys at home, life is always busy, so my husband and I are always looking for ways to save time, get prepared and enrich our lives in simple ways. Because the products I beta test and use in the office have become an essential part of my own family life, for Mother’s Day this weekend I’d like to share some favorite tips, counting a few from other Googler parents.

Capturing and sharing memories

* Instead of observance 500 crayon masterpieces, store digital photos of all your kids’ artwork in Picasa Web Albums
* Collect trip or party photos in one place by letting all of your paparazzi upload their snapshots to a joint online album
* Tag friends and family in Picasa photos so you can easily create and share modified collages, gift CDs/DVDs or movie slideshows
* Use Picnik to edit your Picasa Web Albums photos. Use the “Create” tab to add text, stickers, frames and other effects to your photos—your kids can help, and you can email them as digital cards to far-away relatives
* Safely share home videos with family by attractive them to view a private YouTube video
* Keep a running family history by encouraging relatives around the world to add stories and biographies in a shared Google doc or blog

Communicating and entertaining

* Video chat through Gmail for free with long-distance grandparents and friends—this is also great for between kids with their parents when traveling
* Entertain kids on the run with kid-friendly YouTube channels—like Sesame Street and School House Rock—Android apps or your own photos and videos on your mobile phone (kids love watching themselves!)
* Have your kids help you create a video card or a cartoon on YouTube
* Explore the world from the couch—fly around Google Earth on your mobile phone or tablet
* On camping trips, use Sky Map to discover and name constellations. You can even travel back in time to show your kids what the sky looked like on the day they were born
* Read the classics—like Anne of Green Gables, The Wind in the Willows and Grimm’s Fairy Tales—for free from Google eBooks; for older kids, many books that are necessary reading for school are also free. Google eBooks are accessible and readable on devices your family probably already has—like laptops or smart phones

Organizing and planning

* Plan a group trip by creating a communal Google document or site with proposed dates and activities. Navigate around traffic and find the adjacent pit stop with Google Maps for mobile
* Using My Maps, get family and friends to help you collect ideas for activities in your area that are family-friendly
* Schedule family events, playdates and birthdays on a shared Google Calendar
* Track everything from infant feeding schedules, holiday gifts and thank-you notes to travel packing lists and family budgets with Google spreadsheets; look at the Template Gallery to modify yours
* Use forms in Google spreadsheets to send invitations to birthday parties and collect RSVPs (there are templates for these, too)
* Use the element filter in Recipe View to find recipes that exclude ingredients your kids won’t eat—like [meatballs without onions]—or use the time filter to find easy recipes your children can help prepare like chocolate chip cookies that take under 30 minutes
* Share a shopping list on Google Docs—whomever goes to the store can easily access it from the new Google Docs app on Android

I hope these tips motivate moms (and dads) to celebrate your family this weekend. Here’s hoping you can save time and energy to focus on having fun with your kids!

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