Escaping Boredom and Solving Crimes—Together

Escape the Room-type games are all the rage, and for good reasons: They’re challenging, fun, often educational, usually require cooperation and teamwork, and are all-around wonderful activities to do with family and friends. This week we review several new entries into this growing segment. We’ve enjoyed them, and know that you will too.

We Detectives (Tactic Games)

we detectives tactic gamesThis easy-to-learn board game is a great way to introduce younger kids to the idea of cooperative crime solving. Players draw WePhone cards (which look like mini text messages), which either send them around the board to gather evidence that will be used to keep the “bad guy” in jail, or report an obstacle that sidetracks the detective. Each piece of evidence has a corresponding tile, which is placed in the center of the board. The object is to gather all the evidence before the WePhone tiles run out. If you do, the crook stays behind bars, where he or she no doubt belongs. If you don’t, well, shuffle the WePhone cards and try again. You’ll need about 20 minutes to play. Under $15. 2-4 players, ages 7+. www.tactic.net

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These Boots (and Shoes) Are Made for Walking… and a Lot More

The weather has been all over the place this winter, and so has your wardrobe. Shoes are often the hardest part to figure out—wet, cold, uncomfortable feet make for a long day. But these boots (and other footwear) will set you on the right path.

Men’s Jack Hayo Waterproof Oxford Schiefer (Wildlaufer)

waldlauferWaldlaufer is best known for their women’s shoes, but their men’s line is well worth checking out. We’ve been wearing these shoes for about two months now, using them for everything from daily wear to hiking and even to the gym a few times. They’re a bit heavier than your average shoe, but are rugged, sturdy, easy to wear for long days out and about, supportive, and definitely keep those feet dry. They‘re also so comfortable that you won’t leave them in your closet when the season changes. About $190. https://www.waldlaufer.com


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Making the Best of Science

What better way to start off a new year than by learning about art, science, and building?

Just Add Milk Science and Art Kit (Griddly Games)

griddly just add milkWhile it’s definitely possible to do some of the experiments in this kit by adding nothing more than milk, if you want to do them all, you’ll need a few other items from your cupboard, including glue, a bottle of cola, white vinegar, and baking soda. Once you’ve got all your ingredients together, you’re ready to start learning about the science of art (or is it the art of science?). You’ll experiment with natural reactions (such as what happens when you drop food coloring into milk and then add a drop of soap), watch how colors explode, and create tie-die-type designs that you can turn into mouse pads and other real works of art. $15.95. Ages 5+ (adult supervision recommended). http://griddlygames.strikingly.com


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Telling Your Story

Ever one of us has a story. But we’re not all equally skilled in telling those stories. This week, we review several unique products that are designed to jump-start your creativity and get those story-telling juices flowing. It may start with “Once up on a time…”, but where it goes from there is completely up to you.

Ghost Story Box (Laurence King)

ghost story boxCombine these 20 two-sided puzzle pieces to create a different ghostly tall tale every time. Actually, it’ll be a long tale—up to eight feet, to be precise. The pieces are there for guidance, but the true inspiration needs to come from you. Better yet, get the whole family together, and as each person adds a piece to the puzzle, he or she also adds a few minutes of horror to the story. Ages 6+. Under $15. http://www.laurenceking.com


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2017 Holiday Gift Guide #6

Well, the Holidays are here, but in case you didn’t finish your shopping, here are a few more toys that will make those kiddos shriek with delight as they tear off the wrapping paper.

Hatchimals Super Surprise (Spin Master)

hatchimalsLast year’s hit toy is back with an ever-bigger surprise inside. The all new Hatchimals Surprise let you hatch two sweet, cuddly Hatchimals from the same egg—that’s right, twins. As you play with and hold your colorful egg, the Hatchimals inside make all sorts of sounds to let you know they’re trying to hatch. When they’re finally ready, you’ll see their rainbow eyes and they’ll begin to “push” their way out of the egg. Although they’re twins, each Hatchimal has a unique personality. As you interact with them, they learn new tricks and habits, like how to talk, dance, sing, tell jokes, play games, repeat what you say, and more. They also interact with each other, sometimes sweet, sometimes arguing, like any siblings will. About $60 in stores and online. https://spinmaster.com
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2017 Gift Guide #5 – Getting Your Home Ready

Getting ready to host family and friends for your annual holiday celebrations? Here are some items we’re loving right about now as we get ready to deck the halls, light the candles, have some relaxing fun, and clean up after everyone leaves.

Ninja Intelli-Sense System with Auto-Spiralizer (Ninja)

ninja intellisenseThis handy item is perfect for meal prep, and has a “smart” base with a touchscreen that lets you choose between four high-performance appliances. Don’t let all the high-tech electronics fool you—it’s durable and easy to clean. The System comes with a book of tasty, chef-created recipes that you can make at home using your new machine(s). Choose from items like homemade pastas, margaritas, pizza dough, fresh salsa, and much more. At retailers nationwide for about $269.99. https://www.ninjakitchen.com


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Holiday Gift Guide #4

Power Rippers 2-in-1 Competition Set (Jakks Pacific)

Power RippersIf your children love cars, or shows like Pokémon or Battlebots, they’ll surely enjoy this set, which comes complete with everything you’d want or need. It includes a Track Set and Battle Arena, dual loops that you can reconfigure for side-by-side racing, one long track, a crash zone, and an “epic jump” for the perfect ending… The kids will use the Battle Arena to, yes, you guessed it, battle each other (or mom and dad). The set comes in its own case, which makes for easy clean-up, storage, and take-along. Ages 4+. Under $30 at your favorite toy retailer. https://powerripperstoys.com/


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2017 Holiday Gift Guide #3: A Little Something for the Holidays

Big things can, as the old saying goes, come in small packages. And with the Holidays almost upon us, here are some new games that fit neatly into small boxes but provide nearly endless opportunities for big fun.

Dead or Alive (Laurence King Publishing)

dead or aliveThis easy-to-play card game is like Fantasy Football, but for crime aficionados. Each of the 32 cards features one or more gangsters (including classics like Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, and lesser-known villains like Belle Star and Mishka Yaponchik), along with a bit of history and scores for body count, charisma, finances, rap sheet, firepower, and legacy. Play your card, and may the baddest baddie win. For ages 7+. Under $10. http://www.laurenceking.com


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Parents@Play 2017 Holiday Gift Guide #2: Creature Comforts

With so many fascinating, amazing, gorgeous, and marvelous creatures as there already are in the world, one might reasonably wonder why anyone could want even more. The answer is simple: Because it’s fun! Here are some of our current favorite Holiday creature comforts.

Beat Bugs Singing Jay (Blip Toys)

beat bugsJay and the other Beat Bugs sing along with songs from season one of their hit Netflix streaming show. If you’re a Beatles purist, you may have some trouble with the Fab Four’s music being sung by adorable insects, but if you want to introduce your little ones to some of the best rock music ever created—including “Help,” “Blackbird,” Good Day Sunshine,” “Penny Land,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” you can’t go wrong here. Picture books and activity books (with stickers and word searches) sold separately. Figures come with batteries. For ages 3+ https://bliptoys.com/


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Parents@Play 2017 Holiday Gift Guide #1

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the Holidays around the corner after that, ‘tis the season for travel. With that in mind, we’re launching this year’s gift guides with a look at activities that will take you away, whether that’s just down the street to the barber, into the jungles of South America, inside an ancient pyramid, or even further back to the days of the dinosaurs. Ready to hit the road?

The Quest for El Dorado (Ravensburger)

quest for el doradoAh, El Dorado, the mythical, treasure-filled city in the jungles of South America. Players all start with identical cards in their deck, which they use to assemble an expedition team of experts, buy equipment, and plot out their journey. That sounds pretty easy, but since there are literally 100,000 ways to get from A to El Dorado, you’ll need to plan carefully. You win the game by finishing the quest—none of the items you acquire along the way count. It’s for 2-4 players, ages 10+, and will take about an hour to play. https://www.ravensburger.us

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