(Video) Game On!

Is there ever a bad time for video games (except bed time, of course)? Here are four new games that your kids will love, assuming you’ll stop playing them by yourself and give them a chance.

yo-kai watchYo-Kai Watch
The city of Springdale is inhabited by humans and creatures called Yo-Kai, some of whom are mischievous, while others cause real harm. The problem is that Yo-Kai are usually invisible. You play as either Nate or Kate and your task is to keep Springdale safe. Fortunately, you meet a nice Yo-Kai named Whisper who gives you a special watch that allows you to see other Yo-Kai. You and Whisper befriend Yo-Kai and put together a strong team that can do battle with the not-so-nice Yo-Kai. This is not your traditional “capturing creatures” or battle game. Instead of directly controlling the action, you’re more of a manager, telling your Yo-Kai how and where to attack and giving them special items to make them stronger. Yo-Kai Watch is available for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS and sells for $39.99 at your favorite retailer or the eShop. http://www.nintendo.com/

This new game from 13AM Games brings a fun and interesting party platformer for the WiiU. Each player (from 1-9) is a different color and it’s a mad dash for the finish line. But this is no simple foot race. Obstacles like moving platforms and lava come and go. Runbow is perfect for classic game players who’ve got a pretty good handle on how to time their jumps. Younger players may find the game a bit frustrating, at least in the beginning. The more players you have—either locally online—the more fun and frenetic it’ll be. Pick it up for $14.99 in the eShop. http://www.13amgames.com/

yoshi's woolly worldYoshi’s Woolly World
If you’re looking for a calmer, cuddlier platforming game, you’ll love Yoshi’s Woolly World, which stars one of the Mushroom Kingdom’s most beloved characters. Yoshi’s takes Kirby’s Epic Yarn to a new level. Each character and environment has a handmade touch that’s visually pretty cool. As Yoshi, you must reach the end each level, gathering as many collectibles on the way as possible, and turning your enemies into yarn balls by swallowing them. For beginners, just finishing the level will be enough. For more experienced players, collectibles are key. There are also Amiibo extras where you can add a second Yoshi in the form of Samus, Woolly Yoshi, or even Mario, just to name a few. The game itself is available at retailers and the eShop for $49.99, or in a special pack which includes a Wooly Yoshi for $59.99.

disney infinity 3-0Disney Infinity 3.0
This is the third installment of the always-fun Disney Infinity line, and brings in characters from Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars, including Yoda, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. This game is great for beginner gamers because it’s so easy to pick up and play. Each player picks a character from the Disney Infinity figures they own (characters from the two previous games work in this one), and play as him or her throughout the game. Certain game levels work with specific characters. But our favorite part of the game is the Toy Box, which is filled with the very best creations from players all over the world Disney Infinity 3.0 is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. There’s a Star Wars-themed starter pack that includes the Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition video game, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition base, Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker figures, Twilight of the Republic play set piece, and a Web Code card. Prices vary.

Sometimes You Just Want to Be Alone. Or Not.

Although our focus here at Parents@Play is on games, toys, and activities families can do together, we all have days when we just want to be alone. That’s especially true during the Holidays, which are prime time for stress and family tension. This week, we take a look at four excellent games from ThinkFun (http://thinkfun.com). All of them are challenging, relaxing, and can be (or are intended to be) played by one player.

thinkfun amazeAmaze
Amaze is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. No batteries, no parts to lose, just a tablet with an attached stylus. And the goal is simple too: trace your way from Start to Finish without lifting the stylus from the surface. There are 16 different mazes to choose from and we recommend that you go through them in order, from easiest to hardest. What makes Amaze different from ordinary maze games, is that you can rearrange the maze itself as you go. But you’re not just making holes in walls. Creating one opening closes off others, so instead of taking a short cut, you could end up boxing yourself in. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun knot so fastKnot so Fast
On each of the 40 challenge cards, there’s an illustration of a knot. Some are made from one piece of rope, other require two. Pick a card and all you have to do is use your rope to re-create what’s on the card. And by “all you have to do,” we mean “Good luck with that.” The knots are, thankfully, divided into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert categories. But even the beginner knots are quite challenging. There’s also a bit of trivia about the origin of each knot and what it’s used for. This is a fantastic way to brush up on your fine motor- and spatial reasoning skills, whether you’ve used them recently or not. For 1-4 very patient players, ages 8 and up.

thinkfun gravity mazeGravity Maze
This is another engaging, meditative/frustrating (in a good way) “all-you-have-to-do-is” game. In this case, you’re building mazes out of color-coded towers of different sizes with the goal of carrying a marble from top to bottom. Cards (again, thankfully, in four levels) tell you where to put a few of the towers on the game grid, and give you hints as to which colors you’ll need to add to complete the marble run. But it’s up to you to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Comes with three marbles and 60 challenges. You simply provide logic, spatial awareness, and serenity. For one player, but you could certainly add a timer and compete head to head with one or more others. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun visual brainstormsVisual Brainstorms
The 100 brain teasers included in this game will keep you captivated, entertained, amused, relaxed, and challenged for hours and hours. On one side of each card there’s an illustration and an explanation of a particular problem. On the other side—which you’ll need to restrain yourself from looking at—is the solution. There are logic puzzles (five guys run out of mine, A is not in the front, B is two behind C, D is neither here nor there, etc.), spatial puzzles (looking at a bunch of gears and pulleys, if you turn the first one clockwise, what direction will the last one turn?), and many more. For pretty much any number of players ages 10 and up.



Shooting Stars

Little kids have access to more technology than ever before. And one of their favorite activities is taking pictures. For parents, the challenge is finding inexpensive, good-quality, easy-to-use cameras. This week we look at two devices that satisfy all three requirements, as well as some toys that make use of an alternate definition of “shoot,” and something that’ll help instill some order into your spring and summer.

kidizoom smart watchKidizoom Smart Watch DX (VTech)
VTech has packed an amazing number of features into one kid-friendly smart watch. For example, your little one can take photos, shoot videos, play games, and record his or her voice. He or she can also use the Smart Watch DX as a pedometer, timer, alarm, and, gasp, as an actual watch (choose a clock display from among more than 50 analog or digital options). It’s all accessible through an easy-to-use touch screen display. The rechargeable battery lasts anywhere from a day to two weeks, depending on usage. And the internal memory can store a day’s worth of pics and vids that Mom or Dad can USB over to your computer for editing. The DX watch is splash- and sweat proof, but not intended for underwater use. Ages 4+. $44.99 www.vtechkids.com

snap petSnap Pets (WowWee)
Snap Pets are cute, easy-to-use, Bluetooth cameras that are great for taking selfies, group shots, and more. It all starts by pairing the free app with your Pet (they come in a variety of colors and animals). Once that’s done, you can start shooting. Sometimes it’s hard—especially for people with small hands—to hold the phone for a selfie and push the shutter button without messing up the shot or dropping the phone. But Snap Pet gives you several options. The Pet is small enough to fit in a child’s hand and all you do is hold it at arm’s length and push the button on its head. Your selfie is automatically Bluetoothed over to your phone or tablet. Want to include yourself in a group action shot? No problem. Just put your Pet down, set the timer, and start dancing. Phone ran out of juice? No problem there either. The Snap Pet can store up to 20 pics that you can download, edit, and share with your besties later. Ages 6+. About $29.95. www.wowwee.com

air warrior blastersAir Warrior blasters (Buzz Bee Toys)
Taking pics isn’t the only kind of shooting kids like. And Buzz Bee (now part of the Alex Brands family—and you know how we love Alex!) has a whole collection of fun, safe, blasters for the whole family. All of them shoot foam suction darts and offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to kids about gun safety. The Predator launches those darts up to 30 feet; the Snipe sends them flying up to 72 feet; and the Tyrant blasts as far as 80 feet. Ages 6+. Prices vary. http://www.buzzbeetoys.com

epson labelworks label makerLabelWorks Label Printers (Epson)
Winter is barely underway, but we’re already starting to think about spring cleaning and even plan for the summer, both of which involve plenty of organization. For those of us with not-very-legible handwriting, creating labels for files or trying to put a child’s name on the inside of a piece of clothing is a frightening prospect. Epson’s LabelWorks line makes that a lot easier. Depending on the unit and the label material, you can create just about any kind of label, including crack-and-peel, tape, and iron-on. Kits generally come with several label cartridges and a keyboard that prints letters, numbers, symbols, emojis, and a lot more. Prices vary. www.epson.com/labelworks

Are the Holidays Really So Close?

As temperatures drop and family playtime starts moving indoors, you’ll find yourself wanting to break out (or acquire) new playthings for your little ones. Here are some adorable options that we’re sure will make their way onto your holiday wish lists (yes, we’re already thinking about the Holidays).

zoomer chomplingzZoomer Jester and Zoomer Chomplingz
Last week we introduced you to Zoomer Kitty. Now it’s time to meet her new, prehistoric relatives. Zoomer Jester is a new species of Zoomer Dino, called the Jokeasaurus, and, as you might guess, he loves to make you laugh. Balanced on two wheels, Zoomer Jester can spin around, chomp, and growl. Yes, he can get angry, but he also giggles. He detects movement with his nose and you can control him by using your hands or the remote control. He’s eager to please and if you’re patient, he’ll “learn” tricks. When you’re done playing, be sure to charge him up so he’ll be ready to go for the next round of fun. Prices vary. Available in stores like Toys R Us and Amazon. Zoomer Chomplingz are mini versions of Zoomer Dinos, but they deliver just as much fun. With mouth- and nose sensors that detect motion, they’re quite interactive. They also come with a bone to play catch with. These little guys make all sorts of noises (including gas, which just about guarantees that the kids—and dad—will love them even more). Set your Chomplingz to “guard mode” and they’ll protect your room (or your dinner!) and will ferociously growl at those that dare to trespass. Three different Chomplingz are available everywhere, and five are exclusive to a specific store (i.e. Walmart or Toys R Us). Check http://zoomerdino.com  for pricing and info on where to buy your favorite.

cloud petCloud Pets
When bedtime looms, these cuddly, plush companions from Jay at Play are good for a lot more than snuggles. Just download the free app from the Apple Store or Google Play and you (or grandma or grandpa or anyone else) can record a message for your child. You can send the message from anywhere, but not directly to the Cloud Pet—it has to go through a Bluetooth-enabled device that’s in the same room. A blinking red light lets your child know that a new message is waiting; they just squeeze the Pet’s paw to hear it. Kids can reply to the message in the same way—from their pet to the nearby device, and on to Dad or Mom in Timbuktu. Comes in Puppy, Kitty, Teddy, Bunny, Elephant, or Unicorn. http://cloudpets.com.


little bits gizmos and gadgetsGizmos & Gadgets (LittleBits)
This kit is great fun for kids who enjoy building, tinkering, and inventing. Gizmos & Gadgets comes with all the materials, electronic building blocks, tools, and detailed instruction they’ll need to design and build more than 15 projects, including a functioning racecar and a bubble machine (more are available on the LittleBits website or through their free app). And of course, there’s no limit to the number they can come up with on their own. Learn more at http://littlebits.cc/shop

strawberry shortcakeStrawberry Shortcake 35th Anniversary Edition
For the Strawberry Shortcake lover in your life—or the girl who grew up in the 80’s—there’s a cute Strawberry Shortcake Classic 35th Anniversary Edition Small Doll, who looks and smells just like she did way back when… This special edition reproduction of the original doll is exclusive to Target for $10. If you’re looking for something cuddlier, consider the Strawberry Shortcake Classic Rag Doll 35th Anniversary Edition. She’s great to take along on trips, put in your baby stroller, and tuck into bed with your child at night. At $20, she’s also great for collectors.

Childhood in Motion

As anyone who’s ever spent time with little kids can attest, children are geniuses at play and can quite literally make something out of almost nothing. Salt and pepper shakers and bags of artificial sweetener on a restaurant table become Dad, Mom, and the rest of the family. Cardboard boxes become rocket ships, and sticks become swords. What’s especially nice about imaginative play is that everyone—regardless of age—can get involved. This week we take a look at several simple toys that run on imagination (and, in two cases, batteries).


speed boat green toysSpeed Boat (Green Toys)

Children don’t usually care where a toy is manufactured from or what it’s made of. If it’s fun, they’re all in. Green Toys consistently delivers, with their line of simple, low- or no-tech toys that encourage imaginative play. Parents, however, are often looking for something more meaningful than just fun—and Green Toys delivers here as well. Their toys are manufactured in the US from 100% recycled materials and are dishwasher safe. The packaging (also made of recycled materials) delivers some subtle messages to Mom and Dad about sustainability, saving energy, and minimizing our carbon footprint. For ages 2 and up. $11.99. http://www.greentoys.com/


paw patroller spinmasterPaw Patroller (Spin Master)

If your kids like Paw Patrol, they’ll love this multi-level vehicle transporter and command center. The Patroller can carry three Paw Patrol vehicles inside—just drive ‘em in, close the door, and you’re off to help those altruistic pups on their next rescue mission. The pups themselves ride in the cab up front. There are a few buttons that play sounds that the kids (and you, if you’ve ever watched the TV show) will recognize. And there’s a kid-powered elevator to move the vehicles up and down between levels. Comes with one Ryder figure and his ATV. For ages 3+, $59.99 at your favorite retailer. http://www.spinmaster.com/


zoomer kittyZoomer Kitty (Spin Master)

If your child has been asking for a pet but you’re not quite ready to make the commitment to a real, live animal, you may want to adopt Zoomer Kitty instead. With touch sensors on her head and elsewhere, Zoomer Kitty loves to be petted, leans in for more, and even purrs contentedly. The “True Vision Technology” allows her to follow your movements. She stretches, pounces, plays with her kitty toy, naps, kneads the ground, and occasionally hisses—pretty much everything a real cat does except scratch you and fill the litter box. For ages 5 and up. $99.99 only at Kmart. http://www.spinmaster.com/


submarineSubmarine and Jungle Jams Drum (PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market)

jungle jams drumLike Green Toys, PBS KIDS and Whole Foods Market care about how the things our kids play with impact the earth we live on. So all of their toys are made from responsibly sourced materials. Plus, 100% of PBS KIDS’ net proceeds go to the organization’s non-profit work with kids, and Whole Foods is donating a portion of their proceeds to their foundation. The adorable submarine—complete with rear propeller—comes with its very own diver, and both float in water. And the drum, nicely decorated with cute animals, comes with a rubber-headed drumstick so your little ones can play to the beat of their own drummers without driving you cray with the noise. The submarine ($14.99) is for kids 12 months, and the Jungle Jams Drum ($24.99) is for ages 19 months and up. These and the rest of the toys in this line (including boats, puzzles, musical instruments and even a golf set) are available exclusively at Whole Foods Markets nationwide in their Whole Body section.

Time to Bring It on In

As the days grow shorter and chillier, you and the family are going to be spending more time indoors. This week, we look at some games that will keep kids and kids-at-heart entertained at home or on the road.

chibi robo zip lashChibi Robo Zip Lash (Nintendo)
Aliens have invaded and stolen all the snacks. As Chibi Robo, your job is to move through the game, using your cord and plug to take out enemies (ouch) and obstacles. Plug that cord in and you can power up to Fire Chibi-Robo and Ice Chibi-Robo, both of whom add some really fun elements to the game. For the most part, game play is of the 2D-platforming variety. But Chibi also has amiibo support. Just tap Chibi on your console and you can unlock Super Chibi Robo, collect in-game figurines, and open bonus levels. Available by itself ($29.99) or in a game bundle ($39.99). http://www.nintendo.com/

animal crossoing happy home designerAnimal Crossing Happy Home Designer
In the latest incarnation of Animal Crossing, players help design their very own town, including exteriors, interiors, and gardens. In the process, they’ll be helping the sometimes-design-impaired locals of Animal Town with their artistic challenges. Each of those challenges is different and players need to use their own personal style to accommodate the clients’ requests. Finish one challenges and you’re on to the next one. With hundreds of clients to work with, the game can be as long or as short as you’d like. Happy Home Designer also supports the new amiibo cards (similar to the amiibo figurines, but not actual toys), which unlock special characters who serve up even more design challenges. This is a great intro to gaming for young kids or for adults who’ve been waiting for something easy. Available everywhere either as a stand-alone or part of a bundle that includes a specially designed 3DS XL. http://animal-crossing.com/

skylanders superchargersSkylanders SuperChargers (Skylanders)
How do you put a new fresh face onto a game that’s already been updated four times? Easy: SuperCharge it! Skyland is in trouble (what a surprise) and Kaos is at it again (really?) This time, your Skylanders can get off their feet and into a vehicle. Then, you’re off, following race tracks or flying through the air, trying to defeat Kaos’s Doom Station of Ultimate Doomstruction. There are plenty of obstacles along the way, as well as a new currency, Gearbits, which allows you to buy supercool upgrades for your vehicle. In addition to other new characters, there are Donkey and Bowser figurines that you can use in Skyland or as amiibos in other games. It’s like getting two toys in one. Available everywhere for Wii U, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One for about $75. https://www.skylanders.com/

super mario maker nintendoSuper Mario Maker (Nintendo)
If you’ve ever been playing a Super Mario game and thought, “I could do better than that,” now’s your chance to show your stuff. In this game, players actually create new levels that they can share with friends or other players around the world. It’s fun and simple, but beware: creating the perfect level is definitely not easy. We suggest that you try one of your own, then spend some time exploring what other players have created. You’ll be amazed at the variety, from easy or super hard to plain or beautiful. Super Mario Maker is amiibo compatible, so if you put your Sonic the Hedgehog figure on the controller, Mario changes to Sonic and the background music changes accordingly. For Wii U. $59.99 at retail stores or the Nintendo eShop. http://www.nintendo.com/

Halloween: More Than Just a Box of Chocolates

In the grand scheme of things, Halloween is a pretty minor holiday. No question, kids love it because they can get dressed up, knock on strangers’ doors, and bring back their weight in candy. And plenty of adults love it too, in part because they get to wear costumes to work and put bowls of candy on their desk. But fun as it is, Halloween isn’t a holiday that many families celebrate together, and on November 1, it’s all over but the chocolate. This week we take a look at a few items that your whole family can enjoy for longer than a day, and that can also help make Halloween more of a family experience.


blue orange spot it!Spot It! (Blue Orange Games)

Spot It! is a Halloween-themed matching game for the whole family. Like some of Blue Orange’s other games, this one consists of a deck of cards (in this case, they’re round), each of which has a number of images (in this case, they’re kind of spooky: ghosts, goblins, witches, frogs, bones, voodoo dolls, zombies, etc.). Using some mathematical hocus-pocus, any two cards in the deck will have one—and only one—matching image. There are five game variations that involve matching and either getting rid of all your cards or collecting more than anyone else does. All you need is a sharp eye and quick reflexes. Be warned: kids are better at these games than adults. A fun game that you’ll enjoy long after all your candy is gone. For 2-8 players, ages 7+. http://www.blueorangegames.com/


krusteaz mixesKrusteaz baking mixes (Krusteaz)

Krusteaz has a huge line of cookie-, muffin-, and cake mixes. For Halloween, they’ve added one for Pumpkin Spice cookies. But there are plenty of others, including yum-inducing blueberry muffins, triple chocolate chip cookies, and delicious pancake batter. Some are even gluten free. Whichever one(s) you choose, they’re very easy to prepare–in most cases, all you’ll need to provide is an egg, some oil, and some water—which makes them a great family activity. For kids 3 and up (with your supervision, of course). http://www.krusteaz.com/


sprouts farmer marketDelicious foods (Sprouts Farmers Market)

Sprouts has a dizzying array of foods that goes way beyond what you’d expect from a company with “farmers market” in its name. These include seafood, dairy, meat, and more. Many of their selections also offer healthy alternatives such as vegan, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and whole grains. We had a chance to sample some of their cereals, cookies, granola, soup, and kale chips. All had a Halloween-y, pumpkin-y feel and taste, and all were delicious. A nice way to add some non-candy items to your Halloween meals. https://www.sprouts.com


rockport walk 360Rockport shoes (Rockport)

Chances are, you’re going to be doing a lot of trick-or-treat walking, which means you’ll need comfortable shoes. You can’t do better than Rockport. We put a pair of Walk 360s through their paces (literally) for a month, and they’ve been wonderful since their first moment out of the box. Rockport has a huge selection of dress and/or casual shoes for men and women. Whichever ones you pick, they’ll get you where you need to go in comfort and style. http://www.rockport.com/


teeth fairiesTeeth Fairies book and doll set (Teeth Fairies)

This book-doll combo offers a new twist on the age-old family tradition. Turns out, there are too many lost teeth for one fairy to handle. So she rounded up some help. The rhyming story is cute and kids of baby-tooth-losing age will love it. For parents (and the reason we’re mentioning it here), there’s some nice, subtle messaging about brushing teeth and dental hygiene. http://teethfairies.com/


Build Me a Story

Play is supposed to be fun, right? But these days, there are a lot of toys and games that take away some (or most) of the fun by having so many elaborate rules that any hope of creativity is stifled. At the same time, having no rules at all can be so overwhelming that it’s impossible to start. The best games—the ones you want to play over and over—include some basic rules but also give the players plenty of space to improvise. This week we take a look at several family games that do exactly that: give you some guidelines but then get out of the way and let you do things your own way.

how to tell a storyHow to Tell a Story (book by Daniel Nayeri)
The best stories are the ones that have a basic structure and some familiar elements, such as action, conflict, and the characters’ motivation. But putting those elements together isn’t always easy. How to Tell a Story is like a creative writing workshop in a box. The 140+-page book includes some excellent insights into how to write (or just tell) a story. But the best part is the 20 story blocks, which have unique illustrations on each side. They fall into six color-coded categories: red (people or animals), blue (things), orange (places), yellow (descriptions or emotions), green (actions), and purple (relationships). The idea is to roll the blocks like dice and use what’s on each face to create your stories. You can make up your own or follow some of the prompts the author provides (“I found it,” said the [person or animal], lifting the [thing] into the air.) An absolutely wonderful way to stimulate creativity while learning how to be a better storyteller. Ages 3 and up.

magicademyDisney Imagicademy (Wonderforge)
Another clever way to make learning fun. Imagicademy Animals takes kids on a tour of the animal kingdom, learning about what each species eats, where they live, how they protect themselves, and what we as humans can do to protect them and their environment. Kids and parents will love the huge variety of clever-yet-educational activities and games, such as word scrambles, crossword puzzles, animal bingo, matching games, drawing challenges, and vocabulary (did you know that a group of mice is called a “mischief”?). Imagicademy Science brings a similar approach to the world of science. Guided by the beloved characters from the movie Frozen, kids will learn about weather, physics, color, light, our five senses, and more. Both kits come with a 60-page activity book, colored pencils, stickers, a storage pouch, and more. Ages 4 and up. Only at Target http://wonderforge.com/

dohdlesDohdles (Kosmos)
Like most board games, the goal of Dohdles is for players to be the first to move their pawn from a starting space to an ending space. And like many board games, players can move their own pawn forward or do something to keep their opponents from advancing. Unlike most other board games, though, players don’t have to roll dice or pick cards or answer questions to move. Instead, they use modeling dough to create a small sculpture that other players will have to identify (the word doghdle, by the way, combines the words dough and riddle). The trick is to make your dohdles hard—but not impossible—to guess. The sculptor (called Dohdle Master) can score points when opponents guess correctly. Comes with plenty of modeling dough that doesn’t dry out, stain, or smear. Takes about 40 minutes to play. For 3-6 players 10 and up. http://thamesandkosmos.com/

Hey, Let’s Take a Road Trip!

When you’re hitting the road with the family, comfortable and occupied kids are quiet. And quiet kids make for a far more peaceful experience for everyone. Here are some new road trip accessories for kids of all ages to help you keep on truckin’.

Junkie orgznizerJunkie and Sneck (BubbleBum)
Junkie is a car organizer/activity station combo that keeps kids’ stuff all in one place and your car cleaner. Just stock it with your children’s favorite toys, harness it into the backseat, and you’re ready to roll. There are two retractable trays, two cup holders, an insulated area for cold items, and plenty of storage for coloring books, snacks, crayons, and anything else you can think of. There’s also a removable tote bag so you can bring your finished (or in-progress) projects into the house, hotel, restaurant, or wherever you’re headed. Sneck is a travel pillow (microbeads on the inside, plush on the outside) that makes easy for kids to nap in the car. You can use the Velcro strap to attach it to almost any headrest and your child can then adjust it to the perfect spot. Sneck also has a small mesh pocket that can hold a small toy or electronic device. Junkie and Sneck are both available at https://www.bubblebum.co/us/  or most major retailers.

Necknapperz (Necknapperz)
Like Sneck, Necknappers are microbeads-inside-plush-outside neck pillows. But they’re also adorable, cuddly stuffies that your kids will love to play with while they’re waiting to board the plane or entertaining themselves in their car seat. When they get tired, a few zips and shakes and they’ve got a supportive U-shaped pillow that will minimize the stiff shoulders and necks caused by sleeping with your head flopping around. All 22 Necknapperz have snaps and are easy to attach to your (or your child’s) luggage so they won’t get lost. Retail for $19.99 at http://www.necknapperz.com/

EquiptBaby (EquiptBaby)
This portable bassinet is so small, you can fold it up and put it into your diaper bag. The outside is fine, see-through mesh that lets you keep an eye on your baby from any angle. Besides keeping bugs away, the mesh has an SPF 50 rating to protect your baby from the sun. The padded insert is machine washable, so post-diaper-blowout cleanup is easy. Setup takes literally three seconds (folding it back up takes maybe 10). For ages 0-6 months. $69.95 at www.equiptbaby.com

If you’ve ever run out of sleeping space on a camping trip, grandma’s house, or even a kids’ sleep over at your own house, you really need to check out Kid-O-Bunk portable bunkbeds. They look a little like army cots, but they’re smaller, come in far more attractive colors, and are much more portable. Setup takes just minutes, no tools, mattresses, or ladders required. You can also configure Kid-O-Bunks as a bench for daytime use, or as two single beds if you’ve got the space or the kids can’t decide who gets the top bunk. Regardless of the configuration, they come with plenty of pockets that are ideal for holding books, glasses, pens, and—if you’re allowing it—electronic devices. The material is machine washable, which is always nice. And they come in a zippered bag which makes storage and schlepping really easy. Recommended for kids up to age 12, each cot can hold up to 200 pounds, so weight (hopefully) won’t be an issue. Tall kids, however, may have a little trouble fitting. Comes with two bunks, adapters for stacking, two carry bags, two organizers, and a set of footpads (to minimize ground sinking outdoors or floor damage indoors). $289 at http://www.kidobunk.com or http://www.cabelas.com/

Excuse Me, Have You Got a Match?

There’s something almost primal about matching games. We can imagine a caveman teaching his kids to hunt, hiding in the bushes and pointing at animals: “You want to throw your spear at the ones that look like this (perhaps a deer), but run away from ones that look like that (perhaps a tiger).” Matching games also appeal to all ages. Small babies flip over cards looking for matches while their parents play other games, hoping to get pairs, three of a kind, and flushes. Here are a handful of matching-type games that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Face Chase (R&R Games)

face chaseImagine that you got mugged and you’re trying to describe the perpetrator to a police sketch artist. In a way, that’s what this game is. Face Chase consists of 64 double-sided cards, each with a different face. Put one card in the middle and distribute the rest evenly among the players. Then the madness begins and everyone tries to play cards from their hand on which at least one feature (eyes, hair, mouth, or nose) matches the card in the middle. When all four have been played, do another round. The game requires sharp eyes and fast hands, and takes only 8-10 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Flipping Flags (R&R Games)

Flipping flagsThis is a slight twist on the traditional flip-the-cards-and-find-the-matches. Here, each card has images of three flags along with the name of its country. Spread all the cards face down on the table and players take turns flipping them. Find a match and collect the cards. The twist is that rather than turn the unmatched cards back over, they stay face up. That makes matches easier, but adds an element of speed as players have to be the first to shout out the name of the country or countries that matche. A family-friendly way to learn to identify international flags. Takes 8-10 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Panda Head (R&R Games)

Panda HeadIt all starts with a deck of 63 cards. Fifty-five are emblazoned with a grinning panda head and a number from 1 to 11. There are also a two types of wild cards. Players get seven cards and one player puts a card in the center of the table. The next player has to either play a card with an equal or higher value. Absent that, he or she plays the lowest value card. The first six times, the player with the high card takes the trick. But on the seventh, high card loses. That switcheroo ads an interesting element of strategy to the game as players jockey to save their lowest cards for the last trick. Takes 10-20 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Thumbs Up (Blue Orange Games)

Thumbs UpTired of card games? You’ll love this one. Like some others, Thumbs Up requires sharp eyes and fast hands; but it also takes dexterity. The game consists of 48 colored rings (12 blue, 12 red, 12 yellow, 12 green) and a deck of challenge cards, each with an image of four rings stacked. Flip over a card and players race to be the first to stack the rings on his or her thumb in the order shown on the card. Win five rounds and you win the game. 2-6 players age 6+ www.BlueOrangeGames.com  .

Ravensburger puzzles (Ravensburger)

Ravensburger - DinosPut these 100-piece puzzles together the regular way, to match the image on the box. Then fire up the matching app to unlock three smile-inducing games that take you into a hidden world within the puzzle and bring it to life. Ages 6+. www.ravensburger.com