Animals, Animals Everywhere

We’re gearing up for Toy Fair, where we’ll be spending four days up to our ears in toys and games. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll fill you in on what’s new and exciting for 2017. But one thing we can guarantee right now: regardless of whatever else is trending, animals will never go out of style. Here are some of our current faves.

FlipaZoo and Little FlipZees (Jay@Play)

flipazoo and flipzeeFlipaZoos are adorable plush pillows that are perfect for snuggle time and bed time. Each FlipaZoo is actually two animals in one. Just lift up the animal’s tail, pull it over its head (sounds painful, but no animals will be harmed), and you’ve got a completely new pet (don’t let your kids try this with your real pets). There’s a cat that turns into a mouse, a dragon that turns into a unicorn, a husky that turns into a polar bear, and several others. Jay@Play also makes mini versions called Little FlipZees. Big or little, they’re great for all ages. $19 for FlipaZoos; about $8.50 for FlipZees at your favorite retailer.

Bright Bugz Evolution (Bright Bugz)

Bright BugzLike it or not, bugs are animals—and you’ll like these ones. Bright Bugz are small lights that turn on when you squeeze them and off when you release the pressure. That allows you to create the illusion of throwing the bug from hand to hand, putting in one ear and taking it out the other, and more. The app ads even more illusions, like throwing your bright bug into your phone. Bright Bugz are best used in the dark and you’ll need to spend some time practicing to get the timing down. But once you do, the effect will (as the company says) “glow your mind.” For ages 8+. Under $20 at retailers everywhere.

Lion Guard Leap N Roar Kion (Just Play)

Lion Guard KionIn the hit Disney Junior series, Kion protects the Pride Lands. And he can do the very same for you. This extremely soft plush is motion activated: Push down on his hind end and he’ll leap. Wave your hand in front of his nose and he’ll shake his head, roar, and unleash some of his familiar phrases, which your kids will repeat over and over and over as they run around the house roaring. Batteries are included. Fortunately, Kion comes with an off switch. Unfortunately, kids don’t. For ages 3-6. Under $22 at and other retailers.

Kitty Surprise: Siena and Her Kittens (Just Play)

Siena and KittensSiena is pregnant. How many kittens will she have—3, 4, 5?—and will they be boys or girls? Just like with a real cat, you have to wait to find out. Just so you know, one in four packages has four or five kittens, the rest have three. When Siena does finally give birth (which you’ll help by taking the kittens out of her pouch), you’ll find a litter of adorable, plush kittens with plastic heads, at least one of which meows. For ages 2+. Under $25 at major retailers.

Twinkle the Magical Unicorn (Vtech)

Twinkle the Magic UnicornTwinkle is part of Vtech’s Go! Go! Smart Friends world. She moves her head, walks, talks, and flaps her wings, and all she asks in return is a nibble of her golden magic carrot. If you’re especially nice, her horn will light up and change colors. This playset comes with Prisma the magic fairy and the golden carrot, and interacts with other Smart Friends characters (which are sold separately). Limited-life batteries included. Ages 18 months to 5 years. Under $20 at and elsewhere.

Big Digital for Little Digits

Like it or not, we live in a world that is more and more dependent on technology. And if we expect our children to thrive in an increasingly complex and competitive world, they need to be technologically competent. Some toys and games include tech features simply because they can. Others, such as the ones we’re reviewing this week, integrate technology in a way that actually encourages learning.

DigiArt Creative Easel (VTech)

vtech digi art easelTransformers are everywhere… This highly interactive art center transforms from a desk to an easel to a chalkboard and back again in a way that really encourages kids’ creativity. For those who need a little help, the light-up dry-erase board and magic pen make it easy for kids to trace more than 150 numbers, letters, basic shapes, and simple objects. And at 40” high, it may be taller than your child. The easel is also wired for sound and comes with 100 vocabulary words and more than a dozen songs and tunes. Chalk included, but batteries aren’t. It’s for ages 3+. Retails for under $54.

Touch & Learn Activity Desk (VTech)

vtech touch & learnAnother transformer, this one flipping between an activity desk, chalkboard, and art station (with dry-erase board). It comes with engaging “activity cards” that introduce numbers, letters, colors, songs, and themed vocabulary words (such as fruits and body parts). Additional curriculum packs are sold separately. The desk has plenty of space for storing supplies and comes with a pretend phone, a music player, and a stool (but no batteries). For you, there’s an auto shutoff feature and a special button that allows you to check on your child’s progress. It’s for ages 2+ and retails for under $45.

Care for Me Learning Carrier (VTech)

vtech care for meYour little one will learn about colors, shapes, and even how to care for a pet. It comes with an adorable plush puppy (whew—no litter box to change), supplies (bowl, ball, comb, and bottle), and an interactive carrier that makes it easy for your toddler to take his or her pet everywhere. There are also human-only features, such as sliding beads that introduce letters and play music, and plenty of buttons that help your two-legged pet learn opposites, colors, shapes, and more. Batteries required but not included. For ages 9-36 months. Under $25.

Pull & Learn Alligator (VTech)

vtech aligatorYour child will want to drag this adorable, wisecracking alligator everywhere. Each of the 26 letter buttons on the gator’s back introduces a letter, the sounds it makes, words that start with it, and more. Flip a switch and you’ll get some positively silly sentences that are sure to lead to laughs. Flip another and you’ll get fun facts about all sorts of things. The gator himself chomps and shakes his head when you pull him, and his tail flashes when he “talks.” Comes with 125 songs, melodies, phrases, learning-reinforcing quiz questions, and more. And for you, there’s a volume control and auto shutoff. Batteries not included. For ages 18 months to 4 years. Under $17.

Zoo Jamz Piano (Vtech)

vtech zoo jamz pianoAlthough this instrument looks like a keyboard, it’s actually more of a synthesizer, allowing your child to produce the sounds of a piano, violin, saxophone, or violin. The keys on the keyboard light up so your child can learn familiar songs (it’s pre-loaded with more than 20), and the sound-amplifying microphone lets your little one sing along. There’s a whammy bar and scratch disc (for those funky rap-ish sounds). Batteries not included. For ages 18 months to 4 years. Under $25.

Sometimes You Don’t Need Batteries. Other Times, You Definitely Do.

Here’s some of the latest in family tech.

VR Real Feel Racing

VR racing headsetNow you can get the full virtual-reality experience of car racing without having to leave the comfort of your living room. The app itself is a lot of fun for both kids and adults who like racing games. But what’s especially cool about Real Feel Racing is that in addition to the very-comfortable headset, you also get a steering wheel. Most other VR racing setups have you tilt your head to steer. That’s fun, but you don’t have any control over acceleration or braking. With Real Feel, you control both with the steering wheel. Plus, the Max Force Feedback lets you feel the vibrations when you crash or bump into other cars. Requires 3 AAA batteries (not included). Available for about $30 on

G3s GamePad (GameSir)

gamesir gamepadThis is a multi-platform, portable game controller that’s compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Playstation 3. It runs on rechargeable batteries and has an impressive 18 hours of game time per charge—plus an automatic sleep mode and a power saver, to extend that battery life even further. It features double-shock vibration, which lets you feel every hit and explosion, so you can really get into your games. The G3s is great for travel and connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. But if you want to use it with a PS3, you’ll need a wired connection. Great for gamers of any age. About $30 o

Universal Multi-Charging Station (DOK)

DOK multi chargingIf you and your family are always running out of outlets or places to plug in your stuff (and who isn’t, these days?), this handy piece of equipment comes with everything you need to charge five devices at once: smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, MP3 players, or pretty much anything that uses a USB cable for charging. And to reduce your downtime, you can answer calls hands-free and listen to music on the six-watt Bluetooth speaker while you’re charging. It’s pretty compact, so it’ll be easy to find a place to put it, and you’ll spare yourself the eyesore (and tripping hazard) of a million cords and wires running all over the place. About $79.99 at or

Sprocket Photo Printer (HP)

hp sprocket photo printerThis pocket-sized printer expands the meaning of the phrase “print anywhere.” You can actually print directly from your smart phone or social media website. You can even print on sticky paper, so you can create sticker photos. Just open the top, load the paper of your choice, and you’re good to go. It’s lightweight and portable, which makes it an easy take-along for baby showers, birthday parties, and just about any other event. Need more features? Well, you can also edit, use filters, crop, or add emojis to your photos with just a few clicks. You can print about 30 photos on a charge and it takes about an hour to recharge. Retails for about $130 at major retailers or

NuTouch Gloves (NewerTech)

nutech glovesSince it’s still winter and using your smart devices in the cold can be somewhat less than comfortable, these gloves are quite handy, because you don’t have to take them off to do your swiping and clicking (although you will need to take them off if you need a fingerprint to sign into your device). NuTouch gloves are thin and easy to keep in your purse or coat pocket. They come in three sizes and retail for $20 at

Build it up and Knock it Down

Building things—whether it’s a 3D puzzle, a metal replica of a pirate ship, a mini model of the Millennium Falcon, or a tower out of plain wooden blocks—is one of the best ways to spend time with your children. But half of the fun of building something is knocking it down. Here are some of our new favorites to build and smash (plus a few others).

Build or Boom (Proto Toys)

build or boomLike a lot of games these days, this one starts with a card. In this case, it’s a two-sided one that has a picture of a structure that both players race to build. What makes Build or Boom so much fun, though, is that you do your building on special platforms that are connected to a simple pump that looks like a pile of dynamite. Hit the dynamite and the tower falls. As you can guess, your opponent can blow up your tower, and vice versa. The game is a blast and comes with 30 cards divided into three levels of difficulty. But for younger children, it has the added advantage of being a great way to learn about shapes, patterns, and following directions. For two players, ages 4 and up. $29.95.

Kaboom (Blue Orange)

kaboom blue orangeLike Build or Boom, Kaboom starts with cards and involves building, blocks, and smashing. But the approach is very different. In this enervating (in a good way) game, one player tries to build as many towers as possible (using cards as models) within 30 seconds. That would be plenty of fun by itself, but while the builder is frantically building, the rest of the players are gleefully trying to knock over those towers using ammunition-launching catapults. If any towers remain standing after time expires, the builder keeps the associated card. In the next round, there’s a new builder. Whoever has the most cards wins—unless someone is able to build the mega tower, which is an automatic winner. For 2-5 players, ages 6+. About $16.

Brix (Blue Orange)

brix blue orangeThink tic-tac-toe, but add a dollop of color, a hint of sneakiness, and a few drops of inadvertent self-sabotage. You and your opponent are combining to build a wall of Xs and Os. The first player to line up 4 of their symbol (or 4 of their color, or both, depending on how complicated you want to make it), wins. The magic of Brix is the blocks themselves. Each Orange X is attached to a Blue O, and vice versa. That means that when you place your piece in that oh-so-brilliant location, you’re also putting your opponent’s piece right next to it. The rules and game play are easy, but the strategy is challenging. For two players, ages 7+. Under $20.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RC Skateboarding Mikey

TMNT skateboarding MikeyIn keeping with our theme of smashing and rebuilding, the best part about Skateboarding Mikey is making him wipeout—and then watching him get up all by himself so you can do the whole thing over and over again. Ages 4+. About $50 at Amazon and other retailers.

Y Flyer Stepper Scooter (Yvolution)

yfllyer stepper yvolutionWith this scooter’s sleek design and cool-looking foot pedals, your child is definitely going to turn some heads—and work up a sweat at the same time. If he or she wipes out, there’s no self-righting mechanism, which is why riders should always wear a helmet and other safety gear, and an adult should always be there to supervise. But it’s a ton of fun to ride. And with its 220 lb. weight limit, you can take it for a spin after the kids go to bed. Ages 7+. $149.99.

Seeing Science in the Eye of the Beholder

With everyone talking about STEM these days, we here at Parents@Play are always on the lookout for great science-themed toys, games, and activities. Here are four that focus on vision that you and your family will love.

Amusin’ Illusions (Scientific Explorer)

amusin' illusions scientific explorerOptical illusions are always entertaining to play with, but haven’t you ever wondered how and why they work? How do 3D glasses get images to pop off the screen (or page)? Why do certain patterns seem to move even when we know they’re not? How does water make objects look like they’re bent? With this fun, educational kit you’ll have the answers to these and a number of other questions about visual conundrums. Amusin’ Illusions comes with a thoughtful and nicely illustrated instruction manual that takes you through the steps of building a number of illusions and explains the science behind each one. A great parent-child activity for ages 6+. Under $14 at your favorite retailer or

Smithsonian Plasma Ball (NSI)

smithsonian plasma ballThis beautiful-to-look-at ball responds to sound, music, and touch and puts an amazing light show at your fingertip, literally. So what do you do with a plasma ball besides look at it? To start with, you can use it to learn—safely—about electricity (including making your own lightning and even charging your phone). If you’ve got a Star Wars fan around the house, you can create a light saber with your plasma ball and a long fluorescent blub. You’ll find some great videos on YouTube with lots of other tips, tricks, and lessons. The Ball plugs in so you don’t need batteries. The manufacturer says it’s for ages 14+, but if you’re there to supervise, younger kids can enjoy it too. Retails online and off for under $35.

Smithsonian Planetarium Projector (NSI)

smithsonian planetarium projectorThis dual-function projector brings the nighttime sky in all its glory, right into your room. The larger projector shows the northern sky and can be rotated to match what you can see outside (assuming there isn’t too much light pollution). The smaller projector uses three discs to show a total of 24 images, which you can project individually or in combinations. These include the planets, some natural celestial phenomena (nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, and more), and human-made items (satellite, lunar orbiter, space shuttle, and more). The Planetarium Projector definitely feels like a toy, but it’s great for learning about constellations and a lot of other cool astrological stuff. You’ll need three AA batteries (not included) and about three minutes for assembly. It’s for ages 8+ and retails for under $40.

Dr. Eureka Mix the Molecules (Blue Orange)

blue orange dr. eureka moleculesAfter you’ve learned about optical illusions, made your own lightning, and gazed at the stars, you deserve a break. So get the family together and get ready for some brain-teasing fun. Despite the name, Dr. Eureka isn’t really about science concepts, but it is about thinking. Each person (the game is for 1 to 4 players) has three test tubes and six colored “molecules” (two each of red, green, and purple). Put a matching pair of molecules in each tube. Then turn over a challenge card, which has a picture of how the molecules should end up. Then all you do is race the other players to make your test tubes look like the ones on the card. It’s simple. Except for the part about not being able to touch the molecules with your hands—you have to pour them back and forth until you achieve the desired result. It’s for ages 8+ and costs under $40.

Gearing up for Winter

As you head out into the blustery, winter-y weather that has already descended on many of us, you’ll want to make sure the kids are well equipped to handle everything that mother nature dishes out. Here are some of our favorites for your snow days.

Boy’s Dedicate Jacket (Dare 2b)

dare 2 b jacketOne of the most important winter wear items is a durable, water-resistant coat, and this one is great for both daily wear and serious outdoor play. It not only wears well, but has all sorts of features that your kids (and you) will love, including a waterproof outer layer, a hood that detaches (but doesn’t fall off), and elastic trim for easy adjusting. It also has internal mesh pockets, all of which zip (which should reduce the number of gloves that get lost), and bight, reflective details, making spotting your child on the trails or during snowball fights even easier. For girls, there’s the Entrust Jacket—same coat, different name Both are about $140 at Infant snuggler suits (one-piece coats for babies) are also available for about $50 each.

Jr Rascal Gloves (Seirus)

It’s hard to play outside for very long with cold, wet hands, right? These cool gloves come in fun options like skeleton, zombie, and digi (think video game/Minecraft looking), and feel as good as they look. Kids will like them because they’re fun, and you’ll like them because they’re functional and do their job well. They’re windproof, water resistant, and have Heatlock insulation to keep little hands warm. They also feature a gauntlet cuff that cinches easily to help keep ice and snow from getting inside. We especially love the SureGrip on the palms and fingers that makes it easier to maintain a grip on whatever you’re trying to keep in your hands. About $30 at

Icebug Myoko BUGweb GTX (Icebug)

If there’s any snow trekking in your future, you’ll love these kids’ boot (and yes, the company also makes shoes and boots for adults). These boots are cut slightly higher than the ankle, are comfortable to wear, and have plenty of fleece insulation to keep your feet warm. (which means no complaints about sore or cold feet). And the GORE-TEX outer shell will keep your child’s feet dry. They’re also easy to put on and take off, and parent who’ve had wars with snow boots will appreciate the double Velcro that kids can adjust themselves. $169.95 at

Hi-Tec Socks (Hi-Tec)

Most people forget about socks until it’s too late, but in winter, you won’t want to put on your boots with out a pair that’s warm, comfortable, and high. Yes, high—at least mid calf—because there’s nothing more annoying then a sock that slides down under your foot while you’re walking about. Hi-Tec makes socks for men and women, and we’ve worn them on a multitude of activities and climates and have been very happy with them. They’re soft, they stay where you want them to, have plenty of cushioning, and a reinforced heel and toe. They also have arch support and compression, which is pretty advanced stuff for a sock. Retail price is $15 – $20, which might seem like a lot for socks, but they do flex an awful lot of muscle, and you’ll be surprised at how much happier your feet are when they’re warmer for longer and when you don’t have to deal with all of that annoying, under-the-heel nonsense that often happens when wearing boots.

Cleaning up on the Holidays

Now that the Holidays are a (hopefully) pleasant memory, what do you do with all the leftovers? Here are some of our favorite finds that will help give 2016 a clean sweep and start your 2017 with an even cleaner slate.

Shark Rocket Complete

shark rocket completePeople have been traipsing in and out of your home for months now. And whether it’s winter mud, snow, salt, spilled food, or random holiday wrapping and decorations, the floors are a mess, and could really use a deep cleaning, right? The Shark Rocket Complete is a beast of a vacuum, with two powered brush rolls to make sure every bit of debris gets picked up. On hard flooring, the two rolls pick up large, small, and stuck-on items. On carpet, they pull in large particles and deep clean to remove ground-in dirt. Working together, these two brush rolls make quick work of just about any dry mess you can think of—and they handle regular vacuuming around the house, too.


Shark Genius Steam Pocket Mop System

shark geniusFor cleaning sealed hard floors—which an ordinary vacuum isn’t built for—the Genius uses steam to release most messes, lifting them away without you ever having to touch them. The Steam Blaster was created for stuck-on or greasy messes. It applies steam directly to loosen up those problem areas and uses a pad to wipe the mess away. According to the manufacturer, that pad also removes 99.9% of common household bacteria. So you get two solutions in one: an amazing clean without having to get your hands dirty. You can even detach the pad directly into the laundry with a simple push of a button. Oh, and did we mention that you don’t need to buy more pads?

Nutri Ninja Nutri Bowl DUO

ninja nutri bowl duoOnce your house is back to normal, you may be thinking about cleaning up your eating habits as well. Look no further than the Nutri Ninja DUO, which is an all-in-one blender, fusion machine for food prep, and processor. It can break down whole foods, seeds, ice, nuts, and more. This machine is so versatile, that you’ll find yourself firing it up for more than you’d expect. Plus, it’s fun. Addicting, even. The Nutrient & Vitamin Extraction and Pro Extractor Blades Assembly make amazing smoothies and shakes as well as pops and purees, dough, and just about anything else you can conjure up. And if you need some conjuring inspiration, the DUO comes with a terrific recipe book. Once you get the hang of using these devices (which won’t take long) you’ll be whipping up nutritious and delicious meals and snacks for your family and yourself every day.

Ninja Coffee Bar System

ninja coffee bar systemWhether you’re a coffee fanatic or just someone who spends more time and money in coffee houses than you know you should, this is a great way to free up your calendar and improve your finances at the same time. The Ninja Coffee Bar System is neither so huge that it takes up your entire counter, nor so expensive that you’ll need to take out a loan to purchase it. Plus, it’s easy to use and doesn’t require those expensive (not to mention environmentally unfriendly) pods. The System makes a variety of coffees (including iced coffees) and comes with a number of drink recipes that will help you expand your coffee-drinking horizons. It also includes a milk frother (which will soon have you wondering how you ever lived without one) and Ninja’s exclusive Café Forte to amplify the flavors of your drinks.

Blasting into the New Year

Because playing with your kids—no matter how old they are—is a blast, here are some great ways to start your 2017 off with well, a blast.


Laser X Two Player Laser Gaming Set (NSI International, Inc.)

laser xThere are a lot of words to describe Laser X, but to keep the list short, we’ll limit ourselves to “Wow!” “Amazing!” “Cool!” “Whooo—hooo!” and, most importantly, “Let’s do it again!” Get the point? We reviewed the two-player set, which, if you’re a laser newbie, is the only way to go. Playing against someone else is infinitely more fun than playing by yourself. This set comes with two laser blasters, two vests, an interactive “coach” who tells you to get down and lets you know when you’re running low on ammo, cool sound effects, and hours of fun. It’s great for outdoor or indoor play, and since the vests and blasters glow, it’s especially fun at night. It’s also compatible with other Laser X equipment so you can field teams. Each vest allows you to select Red Team, Blue Team, or to go rogue and blast everyone. Ages 6-16. $24.99 for a single blaster and vest and $49.99 for a double set at major retailers or at

Skypaper PPL-1 (The Bridge Direct)

skypaper ppl-1Making paper airplanes is a great parent-child activity, with opportunities for both cooperative and competitive play. But there’s nothing more frustrating than tossing your newly created aircraft and having it nosedive three feet in front of you. With the Skypaper PPL-1, that’ll never happen.  Instead, you’ll be able launch your planes up to 100 feet. It comes with 24 planes and easy-to-follow instructions. You can download even more at Ages 6+. Under $20 at and other retailers.


Firetek Zyclone Ring Launcher (Zing)

firetek zycloneThis double-take provoking shooter is pretty much the opposite of most other blaster-type toys. Instead of shooting an object at a target, you’re essentially launching the target itself—in this case, a large glowing ring. Since you can send the ring up to 100 feet, this anti-blaster is best for outdoor play. Ages 6+. About $30, only at Target.


Air Warriors Ultra-Tek Blasters (Buzz Bee Toys/Alex)

air warriorsBuzz Bee makes a dizzying variety of blasters. Night Tek fires darts up to 72 feet. It comes with six long-distance suction darts and can use long-distance- and foam darts from other shooters. What’s especially cool is the pop-up night vision scope, which allows you to see your target night or day. Destiny doesn’t launch its darts as far (“only” 60 feet). But it can unload 20 in just two seconds! Just load the clip, snap it in, pump the handle, and whoosh. Both are for ages 6+. Night Tek requires batteries and retails for about $13. Destiny doesn’t need batteries and retails for under $28.

Adventure Force Enforcer Belt Blaster (Walmart)

adventure force enforcerThis fully automatic belt driven monster is one of the most unique-looking blasters we’ve seen and will strike fear into the hearts of your less-equipped blaster-battle opponents. It’s accurate and quick—shooting 40 darts in under 30 seconds—and has an 80-foot range. It assembles fairly quickly but takes some time to load up the darts. However, firing it is exhilarating. Batteries required. Ages 8+. Under $30 at


Magnum Superdrum Blaster (Prime Time Toys)

magnum blasterLike the Enforcer, Prime Time’s Magnum is fully automatic, holds 40 darts, has a range of 80 feet, and is pretty intimidating. What’s nice is that its darts work with other Dart Zone blasters and it can hold darts from other brands. Ages 8+. Under $35 at major retailers.

Parents@Play Gift Guide #7: There’s Still Time, But You’d Better Hurry…

You mean you haven’t finished your Holiday shopping yet? Not to worry. Here are some great last-minute options that are sure to please.


Compete Hot Wheels Edition Wearable (nabi)

nabi compete hotwheelsIn theory, this fitness tracker for kids is pretty similar to the one you may have your wrist, with its step counter and a promise to make exercise less boring. But unlike most trackers for adults, this one actually keeps that promise by truly making exercise fun by letting kids set distance goals such as a marathon or a run across the Brooklyn Bridge, giving kids info on how much activity they’ll need to do to burn of that bag of chips or slice of pizza (an approach that has been proven much more successful than simply listing calories and grams of fat), and providing all sorts of other incentives to get up and move. Ages 6+. Plain nabi Competes are under $40 for a pair. Barbie- and Hot Wheels branded Competes are under $30 for one.


Kurio Watch (KD Interactive)

kurio watchIf you’ve got an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, or one of the other smartwatches out there (from Sony, Pebble, Garmin, Fitbit, etc.), there’s a good chance that your kids are jealous and want one too. Unfortunately (for the kids—especially little ones), smartwatches are just too expensive. Until now. The new Kurio Watch is designed especially for kids and is so packed with features that you may be the jealous one. The Watch shoots video and takes still pics, has a built-in accelerometer and some really fun games, messages with any Android device, has an ICE (in case of emergency) function, comes in a variety of colors, and even tells time. Ages 6+. Under $60.


SE Tablet (nabi)

nabi SE tabletMost parents these days are justifiably concerned about kids spending too much time on screens. But we also understand that there’s a difference between good screens and bad ones. The new nabi SE tablet is a good one. Of course, it comes pre-loaded with games and an entire education system. But there are a few features that set nabi apart from other kids’ tablets. You can configure nabi to reward your kids for doing chores and making other good choices. And it has a customizable—and completely safe—social network for messaging, sharing pics, and more: No one can connect with your kids unless they have a unique friend code. Ages 4-6. Under $80.


Neon Street Rollers (Yvolution)

neon street rollerRemember Heelys—those cool-looking shoes with wheels in the heels? How ‘bout good, old-fashioned roller blades (or roller skates, which are making something of a comeback)? Well, now, you can get that delightful, rolling experience without having to change your shoes. Neon Street Rollers fit over almost any footwear, are fully (and easily) adjustable, snug, and more stable than Heelys, since the wheels are positioned on the outside of each foot instead of centered under the heel. The LEDs in the wheels flash when you’re moving (without batteries!), which makes Rollers even cooler. Ages 6+. Under $30 at Amazon and other retailers.


Super Wubble (NSI)

super wubbleIf you like Wubble (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love Super Wubble, which is made of Xpandium, a stronger, stretchier, and bouncier material that makes this giant ball incredibly fun. Just break out the battery-operated pump (batteries not included) and you’re ready to go within minutes. All you need is a ton of energy and some wide, open spaces (we don’t recommend Wubble for indoor use). Also comes with a patch kit, just in case you succeed in puncturing the Xpandium. For all ages. Under $30.

Parents@Play Gift Guide #6: Animals

Is your child begging for a new pet this year, but you’re not excited about having to clean up after yet another member of the family? Look no further: Here’s an array of low-maintenance pets for your young animal lover.

Zoomer Chimp (Spin Master)

zoomer chimpThe latest in the line of Zoomer robotic pets, this little guy has all the moves—standing upright or on all fours. Right out of the box, he knows 10 commands (watch what happens when you tell him to “go bananas”), and you can teach him even more. Zoomer Chimp makes a lot of sounds, has built-in “progressive play” (meaning that he doesn’t always move the same way), and he’ll let you know how he’s feeling by facial expressions and the color of his eyes. His wiggles and dances are adorable and funny, but he’ll need batteries, which aren’t included. Ages 5+. Prices vary widely, so shop around.


Zoomer Hedgiez (Spin Master)

zoomer hedgiezEven though they’re part of the Zoomer family, Hedgiez are a little less frantic than their robotic cousins (after all, hedgehogs aren’t known for their wild parties). Hedgiez come in several colors, do tricks, roll around, and love to play, cuddle, and giggle. The fur is soft and can be brushed or styled with the included comb. Hedgiez curl up when tickled (very cute) and blow you kisses. Batteries aren’t included, but a bunch of stickers are. Ages 5+. Prices vary.


Chubby Puppies and Friends (Chubby Puppies)

chubby puppiesThese cute pets have been around for a while, but they just keep getting better. There are a lot more dogs now, and the company has added a variety of other animals, including bunnies, horses, pandas, and all kinds of cats. Some come with their own babies, and others come with “fashion sets,” like a carrying bag for the pup and accessories, such as sunglasses and bows. Larger playsets, such as a dog park and a fashion runway, are available too. Regardless of species, all Chubby Puppies need an AAA battery (included—yeah!) to walk, hop, and waddle. Ages 4+. $7.99 for individual pets, more for fashion sets and playsets.


Build-A-Bear Workshop Stuffing Station (Spin Master)

build-a-bear workshop stuffing Now you can create your own stuffed toys at home, just like in the stores. Each kit contains one Stuffing Station (which runs on kid power—batteries not required!), two Furry Friends (one bear, one bunny), two shirts, two hearts, two bags of stuffing, instructions, accessories, and adoption/birth certificates. Yes, you can get refills and more animals to stuff. Ages 4+, $29.99.


Peppy Pups

peppy pupsThese pets have sweet faces, soft fur, are zero-tech, and will get your kids outside and moving. What could be better than that? Your Pup will follow you everywhere. Take him (or her) for a walk (indoors or out) and he’ll prance alongside, run, and even give bouncy “jumps” since he literally has a spring in his step. No baggies required. Ages 4+. $19.99 at Toys “R” Us, Amazon, and elsewhere.


Baby So Real (Cabbage Patch Kids)

cabbage patch baby so realWhat if your little one is begging for a new brother or sister instead of a pet? Well, for the first time, CPK has created an interactive doll experience. These life-like baby dolls have those classic Cabbage Patch looks but are loaded with the latest technology. They coo, burp, sleep, and even run a fever, which gives your child a chance to play mommy or daddy in a fairly authentic way—diaper changes included. The doll’s eyes open, close, and look around the room, and it has random reactions, just like “real” babies. As with all Cabbage Patch Kids, Baby So Real is soft and snuggly, and comes with removable clothes (additional outfits sold separately). And yes, there’s an app for that. It’s free, and simulates a baby monitor. Ages 4+. Under $100.