With summer in the rearview mirror and winter still a few months away, here are some extremely useful items that you’ll be able to use all year ‘round.
Besides bringing a little whimsy and art to your dinner table, these fantastical porcelain plates (the company also makes fabric, paper products, and gift cards) will also serve as conversation starters. While these plates, mugs, and other dishware use a traditional-looking blue and white color scheme, a deeper look will reveal that they’re anything but traditional. Featuring the work of artist Don Moyer, they’re covered with depictions of sea monster creatures, giant robots, frogs, and other creatures from sci-fi—all gentle reminders that no matter how bad things are in your own life, it could always get worse. Dishwasher and microwave safe, they’re are as functional as they are interesting. While they aren’t cheap ($42 for each plate, for example), they make your table a more fun place to dine. Check out all the options at https://calamityware.com
With Fall officially underway, you’ll probably be doing a lot more of your family fun activities indoors than you were just a few months ago. Here are some of our current Autumn favorites.
Gumball Machine (Klutz)
There’s no question that building things from start to finish is great for kids’ confidence. And if you can sneak in a little (or a lot of) STEAM learning, it’s a double win. This kit comes with everything you and your child will need to build a working gumball machine (except the actual gumballs). The detailed instructions are thorough and helpful. However, assembling the machine definitely requires adult involvement, and the finished product isn’t as sturdy as we’ve come to expect from other Klutz toys. That said, it’s still a fun way to spend time doing something with your child. For ages 8 and up. Under $25. www.klutz.com
Tech can bring us together or keep us apart. Here are two very cool new tech devices that focus on the former, and one that will just make your world a little more peaceful.
Relay (Republic Wireless)
What do you do if you have young children who you know aren’t ready for a cell phone (perhaps because you aren’t ready for the inevitable battles about screen time and social media), but you still want to be able to reach them when they’re not with you? Relay may be just what you’re looking for. Relay is essentially a walkie talkie, with a few fun twists. For example, since it works over 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, it has they same (essentially unlimited) range as a cell phone, so friends in different states can communicate with each other. And it has GPS tracking, so if you use the free companion app, you can see where all of your Relays are in real time. Relays also come in a variety of friendly colors and with stickers, so your child can personalize his or her device.
We’ve reviewed Schleich figures here before and since they keep coming up with new ones, we thought we’d bring them to your attention again. Whether you’re looking for farm animals, safari animals, dogs and cats, dinosaurs, safari animals, underwater creatures, nymphs and centaurs, dragons, characters from mythology, your favorite Marvel or DC superheroes, or fantastical beasts made of molten lava, or anything else, Schleich has something wonderful for you. And whether you’re planning to collect these figures and display them on a shelf or actually play with them (which we highly recommend), you’ll love the amazing detail, the quality craftsmanship, and the dazzling colors. And they’ll keep your imagination sizzling for hours. For Ages 4 and up. Prices vary greatly. https://www.schleich-s.com
We here at Parents@Play have been fortunate to review a LOT of games over the years. But we’re still constantly—and pleasantly—surprised at the constant flow of new products that make their way to store shelves—and living rooms—around the country and the rest of the world. This week we take a look at some completely new games, some new twists on classics, and some of those classics (without which those new twists wouldn’t have been possible).
Deer in the Headlights (Front Porch Classics)
This is a clever, new twist on the classic theme of “be the first to discard all of your cards.” Using a standard deck of playing cards, players take turn drawing and discarding. The custom dice, which are rolled at each turn, provide the game’s twists, allowing players to discard more cards or forcing them to hold, causing players to lose a turn, or letting them freeze their opponent—like a deer in the headlights—until he or she can roll back into the game. For two or more players, ages 8+. Under $19. http://www.areyougame.com
As much as we love toys and games, we also love books. Reading to your children is a fantastic way to teach, learn, and build close relationships. And that’s what parenting is all about, right? Here are some brand new non-fiction(ish) books that we know you and your little ones (and even your not-so-little ones) will enjoy.
Gods and Heroes: Mythology Around the World (Korwin Briggs)
Thanks to the Percy Jackson movies and the Avengers (featuring Thor and Loki), a lot of people are familiar with a few characters from Greek/Roman and Norse mythology. But there are a lot more to mythology than that. This A-Z encyclopedia features than 70 gods, goddesses, warriors, kings, queens, and other fascinating characters—most of which we’re sure you’ve never heard of—from 23 cultures around the world, including Egypt, India, Africa, Japan, China, and Native American. $13.50
With summer winding down, here are a few fun items that are sure to delight even the pickiest members of the family.
While these adorable, creatures might be aimed at girls, we all know that gender marketing is ridiculous, and we know plenty of boys who like playing with Pomsies. Wearable, interactive, and sweet, these could be the next Fingerlings, or Furby. Pomsies have a long fuzzy tail that can be wrapped around your wrist, suitcase, backpack, or whatever works for your child. They also have eyes that light up and change color to express their mood or state of “mind” (such as being hungry, silly, or happy) and they react in 50 different ways when you play with them. They purr when you interact with them, and love it when you brush them with their included brush. Available at all major retailers for about $15. http://www.pomsies.com
Anyone who loves—or even just appreciates—science will tell you that there’s something beautiful about it. At the same time, those who love—or even just appreciate—art, often admire the technique and scientific precision that can go into creating a masterpiece. This week we had a chance to experience several engaging products that blur the lines between art and science.
Among its many applications, augmented reality (AR) has the capacity to revolutionize education, and the Virtuali-Tee is a great example. Just download the free iOS/Android app, have someone put on the included t-shirt (or, if you’re alone, use selfie mode), and get ready to explore the circulatory (bloodstream), respiratory (lungs), and digestive (intestines) systems in a truly eye-popping way. Each one uses 360-degree videos that make you feel like you’re stepping inside your own body. While exploring the bloodstream, for example, you’ll barrel through veins and arteries, dodging giant blood cells. Touch on-screen “hot spots” and an on-board anatomy expert will explain everything you need to know. If you’re looking for a way to spark—or deepen—an interest in human anatomy, you can’t do better than this. For ages 6+. $29.95. https://www.curiscope.com
There is a lot to do in New York with the kids this summer, no matter what your interests are. From waterparks to Broadway shows, indoor or outdoor activities, you’ll never hear the phrase “I’m bored” in the Empire State.
Splish Splash Waterpark (Calverton, NY)
When it’s hot, but you still want to be outdoors, waterparks should be high on your to-do list, and this is one of the best in the area. There are lots of options for kids of all ages, and the bigger the kid, the more places they can play (but if they’re too big, they can’t play in the small kid areas, so that the little ones don’t have to worry about being trampled). Mutiny Bay puts your family in brightly colored boats, letting riders use water-spray “cannons” to blast other boats, while those outside the ride can blast those inside the boats—and get sprayed themselves. Abyss Tube Slides were a big favorite, as was Bootleggers run, which holds up to four at a time in a tandem raft and uses hydromagnetic technology to take those rafts uphill, like a rollercoaster without rails. When it’s time to relax, there are plenty of wave pools and “lazy rivers.” Visit https://www.splishsplash.com/ soon, as summer will be over before you know it.
We’re big fans of classic toys and games. But we’re also big fans of new tweaks on those classics. This week we review several clever updates to games you know well.
Cat Crimes (Think Fun)
Remember the classic Clue game—you know, the one where you use logic and deductive reasoning to figure out who committed a grisly murder? In this game, you’ll use the same basic skill set, analyzing paw prints, toy placement, and other clues. Cards give important details, such as that Ginger was sitting in front of the birdcage and that Tom Cat was to Ginger’s right. By determining where each cat was sitting at the time of the crime, you’ll eventually be able to finger the feline that committed such dastardly offenses as coughing up a hairball or swallowing your goldfish. For one player, age 8+. Under $13. https://www.thinkfun.com/