Kids' App Makes Eating Healthy a Game
Austin, TEXAS — You can sneak vegetables into your kids' meals by hiding greens in cakes and pasta sauce, but wouldn't it be great if your children made healthy food choices on their own?
This week at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, Dennis Ai unveiled JiveHealth, an app for kids that makes a game of healthier eating. In a contest to get hands-on help from seasoned advisers at Startup America, Jive Health was one of 10 apps selected from more than 100 submissions. Just last week, Ai demonstrated JiveHealth to Michelle Obama at the "Building a Healthier Future" summit in Washington, D.C.
Jive Health is an action-based role-playing game. Kids "power-up" their chosen characters — a fashion-forward cat, a funky bear or a striped monkey — by taking photos of the ingredients needed to make kid-friendly recipes.
If a child is making apples with peanut butter and snaps a photo of the apple, Jive Health recognizes the fruit, adding health points to the kid's character. Those points let characters advance in the game. To keep playing JiveHealth, children have to keep making healthy food choices.
Like all of the startups at SXSW, getting the app in front of customers is one of the biggest challenges. Ai approached restaurant managers with the idea of using JiveHealth as a replacement for crayons and paper, the standby that many places use to keep kids occupied while families wait for their meals.
Ai found one partner in Freshiis, a family-friendly restaurant chain based in Chicago that serves healthy food. The chain plans to test Ai's app and, if it's successful, roll out to additional locations, Ai said. He is also talking to grocery stores and produce associations about in-store signage and packaging for fruits and vegetables.
But Ai faces a challenge that could be hard to overcome. "When parents hand it [the app] off to their kids, they're reluctant to play," Ai said, after doing some field research. As any mom knows, "because I said so," doesn't always work.