A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this colorful, kid-friendly nutrition education site helps kids create healthy, balanced meals. In the site's main game, called "Pick Chow!," kids drag foods to a plate to create a meal, which is then rated on nutrition values like protein, fat, sugar, salt, and more. Once the meal is complete, kids can send it to their parent's account, and the parent will receive a companion shopping list, recipes and coupons to help create that child's meal. You need to register for your child to use the site and your information is shared with third-party advertisers for coupons and other food-related advertising.
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What's it about?
Kids can create a profile and "antvatar" and buy features for their antvatar with points earned from doing activities. In the main game, Pick Chow!, players select, add, and remove food items from an empty plate as simple meters show how they're doing (hint: all meters should point to green). With Flip It!, kids save foods, recipes, games, or printouts as favorites for later. Challenger Calendar lets kids and parents create and reward healthy goals. A robust recipe exchange section features reviews and recipes from kid chefs and kid-friendly recipes for budding foodies. Some adult chefs are featured too.
Is it any good?
There's a reason why First Lady Michelle Obama gave a thumbs up to ZisBoomBah. It's fun, engaging, and teaches kids to make their own healthy meals from a wide variety of foods. The three little ant characters -- Zis, Boom, and Bah -- who anchor the site all have food personalities of their own (one's a vegetarian, another a fast food lover, and the third eats a little too much of everything). You (parents have to register for an account too) and your child create your own "antvatar," too. Kids can also participate in a "Meal of the Week" contest, where they win real-life prizes and other site members comment on their meal.
Online interaction: Most online interaction here is between child and parent as kids send meal ideas to their parents for "approval." Parents must approve any online interaction with any other users. All "Five Star" meals are entered into the Meal of the Week contest and people can comment and vote on those meals. (If someone says something mean, there's a "Report User" button). There are links to outside sites of bloggers and sponsors, so kids need to be made aware that they may be routed to another site.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media and advertising can affect their food choices. Read Common Sense Media's Junk Food Ad Tips, and discuss how healthy living sites like ZisBoomBah are a better source for discovering good food choices than commercial ads.
Talk about Internet safety and protecting personal information. This site sends prizes to kids' homes for the "Meal of the Week" contest, but it only collects home addresses from the winners' parents. Remind your kids why it's important that kids never give out that sort of information over the Internet and how you, as the parent, discern when and to whom it's acceptable to do so.