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m40340214_m39840184_monsters-2Earlier this month the American Red Cross launched a brand new preparedness app called Monster Guard, the goal of which is to help children between the ages of 7 and 11 learn how to prevent emergencies and respond to natural and manmade disasters.

I happen to have an 8-year-old son, so this past weekend I downloaded the app, handed my phone to Will, and asked him to check it out. Here’s what 8-year-old Will and I had to say about Monster Guard!

The motto of the Monster Guard Academy is “Learn, Practice, Share”, so under the tutelage of the Academy’s top secret leader, players first learn new information, then practice using that information in a preparedness or response context, and finally share that information with their friends.

Will’s “adventure” (his words) as a recruit in the Academy began with an initiation during which he practiced maneuvering one of the monster recruits throughout the training facility and across a giant map of the United States. As Will’s monster recruit paused over each region, the leader – taking on a narrator role – shared information about which disasters are most common in that area of the country.

Completing the initiation stage unlocked the additional levels, all of which were associated with specific disasters or emergency-related tools. Will navigated through each level – from Fire Hazards and Emergency Supply Kits to Tornadoes and Severe Winter Weather – guiding his monster to either make the environment safer or move to a safer area. For example, in the Fire Hazards stage, Will directed his monster to turn off the stove, cover the fireplace, put the space heater in a safe place, and blow out the lit candle.

Will enjoyed his adventure, and I could tell in a variety of ways. First, he tackled every level – all 15, counting Initiation – before finally putting down the phone. Second, when I asked him midway through the Smoke Alarms level what he thought of the app, he was too caught up in his own little world to respond. And third, he told me so.

In his own words, “Initiation is a little slow, but after that it gets way cooler. I like the music, and that I got to graduate at the end. My favorite level was Tornado, but I also really liked learning about smoke alarms. Oh, and it’s funny when the top secret leader reveals who she really is!”

The only change Will would make had to do with the monster recruits who navigate through the Academy. Instead of directing a monster to do all of the tasks, Will would have preferred to create his own avatar – one that looked like him – to follow his instructions.

All in all, my 8-year-old found the Monster Guard app fun and engaging, and I love that he learned a little something along the way!

Learn more about Monster Guard and download the app here.

I have to wrap by sharing this funny “I’m so old” moment with all you parents out there… Before asking Will to review the app, I tried it out myself. I found the initiation level somewhat confusing to navigate, and I had trouble figuring out how to get back to the main menu to move on to the next level. Just as I began to type out that information, Will picked up the phone and breezed through everything with which I’d just struggled without even listening to the instructions. Nothing like being shown up by an 8-year-old…