Winter is Coming

Yes, “Game of Thrones” is over and it’s still blisteringly hot out there in a lot of places, but the National Hockey League preseason gets underway this weekend, which means that winter can’t be far behind. This week, we feature several hockey- and winter-themed toys and games as well as a few other fun activities to keep you busy when those temperatures start to drop.

Ski Lodge (Playmobil 9280)

playmobil ski lodgeAfter check-in, begin your stay at the lodge by admiring the view from the terrace and enjoying a few alcohol-free drinks (at least until the kids go to bed). Then have dinner in the spacious dining room. In the morning, before you hit the slopes, have breakfast on the patio, then rent your skis at the equipment station. Just like a real ski lodge, there’s a ton of stuff to do—even if you’re not a skier—and this kit comes with everything you need to do it: five figures, skis, firewood, snowman, mittens, and a lot more.  Ages 4+. Under $50.

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There’s an Animal for That

Our world is filled with a nearly endless number of creatures in a dazzling variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. It’s no wonder that humans are mesmerized by animals. This week we bring you a number of games that feature animals, some you’ll familiar with, others you’ll learn about for the first time.

Aqua Diver (Play Monster)

aqua diverSummer maybe technically almost over, but it’s still plenty hot in many places, and that means more time by (and in) the pool. For kids and competitive adults who love to hunt chase after submerged objects, this fun squid-shaped toy adds a delightful element of competition. Toss Aqua Diver into the pool and the timer starts the second it hits the water. Then, dive in and try to catch it. Hit the button to stop the timer and it’s the next diver’s turn to try to beat your time. Batteries included. Ages 5+. $14.95.

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Still More Summer Reading

With half of the country experiencing a heat wave, more and more kids are spending time indoors. And one of the best things to do indoors is read.

Most Marshmallows (Rowboat Watkins)

most marshmallowsLet’s be honest. Most marshmallows get eaten, that’s pretty much the extent of their short, sweet (to the eater, anyway) life. Or is it? Maybe they go to school to learn to be squishy. Maybe they have goals and hopes and dreams just like we do. Maybe all they want is to be extraordinary. After reading this book, you may never look at a marshmallow the same way again… Ages 3+.

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More Summer Reading

Here are more great books for kids of all ages to enjoy for the rest of summer—and beyond.

Peel + Discover Books (Workman Publishing)

pee;+discover dinosThese clever books combine sticker play and trivia for kids who love both (or either). Each book has six sheets of stickers, 20 interactive activity pages, and 60 fascinating facts about kid-friendly topics (titles include Dinosaurs, Washington, DC, Vehicles, Outer Space, Horses, and others). For ages 6+. Under $9.

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Reading up on Summer

We all know about the dreaded “summer brain drain,” when students forget a lot of what they learned during the previous school year and have to spend the first few months of the new year catching up. You can help your kids turn that brain drain into a brain gain by encouraging reading over the summer. Here are some recent books that will not only capture children’s attention, but also encourage them to read even more.

Weird but True USA (National Geographic Kids)

weird but trueThis fascinating book contains 300 unusual facts about the states that make up the USA. For example, California scientists modeled a solar cell after a fly’s eye, Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah, and Nutty Narrows Bridge in Longview, Washington was built to squirrels can safely cross a busy road. Ages 8-12. Under $7.

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Something(s) for the Little Ones

Little kids learn just about everything there is to know about their world through play. So it’s no wonder that there’s a dazzling array of games, toys, and other activities for even the smallest children (even though they’re quite often more interested in the box something came in than whatever was inside.) Here are a few great options for infants and toddlers.

My First Yoga Mat (KD Kids)

first yoga matYoga is great for exercise, concentration, coordination, balance, body awareness, relaxation, and just plain fun. My First Yoga Mat helps in all those areas. BitsyBot, the computerized teacher who’s built into the mat itself, gives directions and challenges (such as “can you touch my hand and press my head?”) in several game modes, including identifying body parts and step-by-step instruction in seven basic yoga poses. BitsyBot is also bilingual—just flip a switch and you can do it all in Spanish. For ages 24 months through six years. About $50.
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Coconut Bay, St. Lucia

No matter what kind of vacation you’re looking for—whether it’s a family trip, a romantic couples’ retreat, a weekend getaway with friends, or anything else—you can find what you are looking for on the diverse island of St. Lucia.

Coconut Bay is located near the airport (in fact, just five minutes away), so you won’t have a long trek to your room once you arrive. That’s never a welcome surprise, is it? Once there, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff with cool towels and cold drinks of your choice: water, rum punch, or champagne.

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Gifts for Dads

With Father’s Day right around the corner, here are some fun and funky gifts we’re sure those special dads in your life will love.


trücup Coffee

trucup low-acid coffeeWho doesn’t love a good cup of coffee? Well, a lot of people don’t, but those who do know that as we get older (aging like fine wines, of course) sometimes the acid or the caffeine can be less-than ideal. A low-acid brand like trücup (in either regular or decaf) can help with that problem, while leaving all the flavors and aromas. trücup’s low-acid options use a natural steam process to remove the things that can be harmful or painful for some people’s stomachs, like those who have acid reflux, GERD, IBS, or about a zillion other stomach issues. With bold or mild, espresso, and other choices, there’s at least one that’ll tickle Dad’s fancy. Visit to choose your dad’s favorite roast.

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Hit the Road, Baby

If you’ve got little ones, you know how much gear you need, whether you’re planning a walk around the block or a road trip. And it’s not just any gear, you’re always thinking about cost, size, durability, safety, ease of use, and more. Here are some solid options to consider—we’re confident that you’ll find them useful.


DualFit Harness-2-Booster seat (Britax)

britax dual fit harness seatOne of the first and most important things to decide on is a car seat. And this seat from Britax is a safe, solid, and reasonably priced option for when your baby outgrows his or her carrier “snap-and-go” seat. It easily transitions from a three-point harness seat (that accommodates kids from 25 – 65 pounds) to a booster (that goes up to 100 pounds), so the seat will grow right along with your child. According to the company, Britax’s “patented system of safety components work together to transfer energy away from your child and 2 layers of Side Impact Protection shield your child in the event of a crash.” With it’s easy-on and easy-off lower connectors that lock into place with a click and are released with the push of a button, installation (and removal) is a breeze. About $170. This one and many other are available at

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The Art of the Family

Doing art projects—regardless of your level of artistic talent—is one of the best ways we know to spend quality time with your family. Here are some of our current faves.

Paint Your Own Stepping Stone (Creative Roots)

paint your own stepping stoneIf you and/or your young child love gardening, this cute art kit lets you add a little personality and personalization to your outdoor tableau. The kit comes with a 7” ceramic stepping stone, six different paints, and a paintbrush. Just mix your colors, paint your stone, and, voila! Keep in mind, though, that you’re creating art here, and not an actual stone to be stepped on. For ages 5+. $7.99.

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