Hitting the Road

Despite all the rosy news one hears these days about sinking unemployment numbers and a rising economy, plenty of people are still having financial issues. As a result, a lot of families are taking their vacations a little closer to home. This week, we review a few cool items that will make any family road/camping trip a success.

reese car top carrierReese Explore Car Top Carrier (Reese Brands)
Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to start packing up the car. Unfortunately, a lot of us tend to bring way, way too much, which leaves barely enough room in the car for the people. One great solution is this roof-top carrier from Reese. It’s made of lightweight-but-durable nylon that will keep your belongings clean and dry regardless of the weather, and is a lot easier to attach to your car’s side rails or cross bars than many of its competitors. Best of all, it’s expandable (going from 12 to 16 cubic feet of storage), which is a big help if you’re trying to carry awkwardly shaped items. Retails for about $65 at http://www.walmart.com/

dragons adventureDragons Adventure World Explorer (DreamWorks)
Keeping the kids entertained on a long drive can be a challenge. Ideally, you’ll have a mix of tech and no-tech options. When it’s tech’s turn, Dragons Adventure is perfect. It’s inspired by the How to Train Your Dragon movies and set on the Isle of Berk. As you might expect from DreamWorks, it’s beautifully designed and quite interactive. There are quests—light signal beacons, move a sheep from one place to another, but Dragons Adventure has a few twists that make it truly unique. In it-home mode, players (who can be either Hiccup or Astrid) fly around the world, rescuing dragons from evildoers. But the real fun starts on the move. The app uses HERE maps to bring the roads you’re driving on into the game in real time, so players will see familiar landmarks as they fly their dragons. It also info from The Weather Channel to change the weather conditions in the game, and data from Foursquare to determine how many Vikings appear along the route. Another neat feature: If you plug in your starting point and destination before you start, the game will wind down as you reach your destination. Free for Microsoft Windows phones and tablets.

mountainsmith conifer 5+Conifer 5+ (Mountainsmith)
Once you get there, you’ve got to sleep somewhere, right? You can’t do better than the Conifer 5+. To say it’s roomy doesn’t do it justice. The tent itself has 83.5 sq. feet of floor space, lots of interior pockets, and a ceiling height of 6’2”, so there’s plenty of room for two adults, three kids, and a dog or two. There’s also a “porch,” which adds another 30 sq. ft for storing luggage or just hanging out. It’s quick and easy to set up, but best with two people—especially if it’s windy. Directions are printed right on the stuff sack, so they’re a lot hard to lose. Prices range from $285 to $360. http://mountainmith.com/

washdropsWashdrops (Cequent Consumer Products)
After a long road trip, you’re going to want to wash that car. But today, when everyone’s concerned about conserving resources, wasting all that water is a big no-no. So what’s an environmentally savvy parent with a filthy vehicle to do? All you need is one bucket of water and Washdrops . It’s non-abrasive and leaves you with a shiny surface without repeated rinses. It’s completely non-toxic—no solvents, butyl, phosphate, or ammonia—so when you’re done you can use what’s left in the bucket to water your garden. $10.95-$22.00. http://washdrops.com/

Hey, Kiddo, Let’s Get Outa Here

With technology making its way into every aspect of our lives, kids are spending a lot less time playing outside than we did when we where their age. And even when they do play outside, it’s often in a highly structured activity (like soccer, swimming, and most other organized sports) that doesn’t give kids freedom to explore, create, or just have fun. There are alternatives, however, and this week we bring you four of them.

jumparooJumparoo Frog Pogo Stick (Geospace)
Most pogo sticks bounce up and down on a post, which makes it hard for little kids to keep balanced. But the Jumparoo frog pogo stick has a wide, rounded base, which lets your pollywog bounce around to his or her heart’s content, giggling all the way. It’s great for developing coordination and balance, plus it’s a great workout. Oh, and if that isn’t fun enough, the Jumparoo ribbits with every boing. For kids 4 and up who weigh 28-62 pounds (yes, that means you’ll have to stay off of it—but Jumparoo makes adult-sized pogo, if you want to join the fun). $77.50 at Amazon, or at http://www.geospaceplay.com/

flymax footballFly Max Football (Geospace)
Every child—boy or girl—who’s ever picked up a football has dreamed of throwing a deadly accurate 50-yard bomb. But those of us who are not named Manning, Rodgers, Brady, or Kaepernick have had to settle for much, much shorter and not-terribly-accurate passes. But with the Fly Max Football, you and the kids can actually throw on-the-money passes up to 100 yards. The Fly Max looks like a cross between a small football and a hollow rocket ship with fins. It has a dial that you can set to maximize distance for either rightys or leftys. It also makes a cool buzzy-whistly sound as it files. Made for future first-round draft pics 6 and up—and the grownups who do their laundry and drive them to practice. $19.99 at http://www.geospaceplay.com/

top tossTop Toss Pro Lawn Game (Ideal)
Top Toss combines elements from horseshoes, bowling, and other yard games to create a truly unique and fun outdoor activity for the whole family. Your first task is to build the tower, which looks like a short ladder (it’s actually almost four feet high) with a wide base. That’ll take about five minutes. Then, it’s on to the actual game. Players take turns throwing bolo balls (imagine an 8-inch piece of yarn with a soft golf ball attached to each end), trying to get them to wrap around the rungs of the tower. The rungs get smaller as the tower gets taller, so high ones score more than lower ones. Because set-up and tear-down are so easy, Top Toss is a great choice for the backyard, the beach, or even indoors. For two or more players ages 8 and up, Top Toss comes with three bolo balls, all the steel rods and plastic connectors you’ll need to build the tower, bilingual instructions, and a storage bag. $34.99 (or $54.99 for the “pro” version that comes with two towers) at http://poof-slinky.com/product/top-toss/

T-ballMy 1st Sports T-Ball (Poof)
What a great way to introduce your little one to baseball. Set-up takes all of 15 seconds and then it’s home-run derby time (with a subtle lesson in hand-eye coordination). Excellent for outdoor play, but it could work indoors too. The ball and bat are made of foam, so even if your little slugger really smacks one, damage should be minimal. Best for preschoolers (most kids over 5 are ready for the more traditional T) $22.99 at http://poof-slinky.com/

The Art of Summer

School’s out and it’s time to get your travel on. That often means a seemingly never-ending chorus of “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored!” from the table- and smartphone-demanding minions who’ve set up shop in the back seat. We’ve got some good news for you: there are actually creative and stimulating ways to keep your kids entertained that don’t involve a screen. Really. Expect plenty of push back, though, but if you stand your ground, they’ll eventually come around. We promise.

scribble & doodle alex toys
Scribble & Doodle On the Go (Alex Toys)

Perfect for car or plane rides, or even for keeping kids busy in restaurants while they wait for their food. The hard cover book has 50 activity pages to color and play on and two pages of stickers. The “On the Go” book is, as you might suspect, about travel and travel activities. But there are other books in the series, including “Girly Swirly,” and “My First Scribble.” One warning: These books don’t come with crayons, so you’ll have to bring along your own. $11 each on http://www.alextoys.com/

color a backpack alex toysColor a Backpack—Cutie (Alex Toys)
A fun project and a fully functional travel pack? What’s not to love! This backpack is small enough that your kids will be able to schlepp it themselves.. Plus, it’ll also give them a fun art project to work on while you’re making your way from point A to point B. Cutie comes with five permanent markers, so kids can design their pack any way they like—and it’ll stay that way. If you’re worried about the kids drawing on their clothes or the car, you can always do the art part before you leave home. Or invest in a smock and seats covers. $28 at http://www.alextoys.com

desk to go alex toysDesk to Go (Alex Toys)
This on-the-go desk for little artists keeps all their masterpieces in one place. One side of the Desk to Go is a firm desktop surface, while the other is soft for resting on a child’s lap. Pockets on the side hold crayons, markers, and more, while the top has a handle that makes for easy carting from place to place. The desk comes with elastic straps to hold paper in place while your little Michelangelo creates, and the whole thing folds up and zips shut when the masterpiece is ready to be framed. Why didn’t they have these when we were kids? $20 from http://www.alextoys

car valet alex toysCar Valet (Alex Toys)
If you want something a little larger than the Desk to Go, or if your child likes to bring a wider variety of art supplies with them, check out the Car Valet. This baby packs so much into a small, tote-able package that no parent who travels should ever leave home without it. Ever. Your child can do just about anything he or she wants with this fold out art center. The play area is huge—about the size of a record (yes, we’re old enough to remember records)–and it’s only about as thick as your thumb. There are tons of pockets that you or the kiddos can load up with art supplies, decks of cards, paper, and anything else you can think of (except your smartphone). The Car Valet can fasten to the seat in front of the child and folds down, giving your child a nice workspace. When you get where you’re going, fold it back up, zip it shut, and you’re on your way in no time. $44 at http://www.alextoys.com

Summer Brain Drain? Not Around Here

Now that summer’s here and the kids are home, parents are looking for ways to keep their little ones’ minds sharp over break. Old standbys like activity books, worksheets, and reading are great at keeping those brains busy. But there are also a lot of fun reading are all important to keep learning locked in, there are fun toys you can add into the mix that kids will enjoy playing–and learning—with.

telly teaching clockTelly the Teaching Time Clock (The Learning Journal International)
This little guy is perfect for kids who are learning to tell time—and yes, that’s important even in an era where clocks with hands seem to be going the way of the ichthyosaurus. Actually, with Telly, you can teach the kids both analog and digital, a feature you rarely find on the same teaching clock. There’s also a “quiz mode,” where Telly asks the child to match the digital time shown on his face by moving the hands on his (literal) face. Bonus: Among his many talents, Telly is a real, working clock, making him a nice addition to a child’s bedroom. Comes with three AA batteries. Retails for $28 on http://www.tlji.com/

magnetic spell and learn boardMagnetic Spell and Learn Board (The Learning Journal International)
This is a great way to teach your kids letters, sounds, and spelling. Some of the magnets have short words and pictures of the words on them. They can then “write” out the spelled words with the magnet letters. This type of hands-on learning is a great way to build phonics, vocabulary, spelling skills, and early reading skills. The board and interlocking magnets make putting words together into sentences or poetry a breeze. And the handy storage compartment makes clean-up easy and minimizes missing pieces. Retails for $20 on http://www.tlji.com

turbo land rocketTurbo Land Rocket (Scientific Explorer)
This toy offers a different type of hands-on experience that’s a lot of fun for a one-on-one parent-child adventure or a whole brood of kiddies. As you might assume from the name, you’re going to be building a rocket—a really fast one. The kit comes with almost everything you need (and easy-to-follow directions). The only thing you’re missing is the rocket’s fuel, which consists of vinegar and baking soda. It’s a real blast and you’ll want to do it again and again. Unlike so many science-based kits, you’ll actually be able to. The manufacturer claims the rocket can go more than 200 feet. Ours didn’t go quite that far but it definitely attracted a lot of neighborhood kids. $26 on http://poof-slinky.com

root vueRootVue (HSP Nature Toys)
If you want to see science literally come to life, this indoor garden is for you. It’s kind of like an ant farm, where clear plastic windows gave you a chance to see how ants build tunnels. But instead of insects, you and the kids get a chance to see how root vegetables grow—the leafy tops up, and the roots down. RootVue comes with “eight super-expanding grow mix wafers, three packets of seeds, identification labels, water wicks for self-watering system” It also has a simple water basin and drainage system, so it’s pretty much mess-free, and a 16-page booklet that has easy-to-follow instructions for doing a variety of experiments. Aside from the science part, there’s also a nutritional component: when kids grow their own veggies, they’ll be a lot more likely to eat them. $35 on http://www.hspnaturetoys.com

Seek and Maybe Ye Shall Find

What’s more fun than a good, old-fashioned game of Hide and Seek? This week we take a look at three fun, new twists on that timeless classic.

education outdoors snipe huntSnipe Hunt (Education Outdoors, Inc.)
If you’ve ever been to an outdoors camp, you probably spent some time hunting for snipe. Counselors and experienced campers would talk about the elusive creature, hand out sacs, and take newbie campers out into the woods to hunt. We’re not completely sure what the purpose of snipe hunts is, except to give the older campers a chance to laugh at the wide-eyed naiveté of the younger ones who, of course never catch anything. But now there’s a way to make snipe hunts a reality. The Snipe Hunt kit comes with two snipes (named Biela and Smartin) and a “nest.” If you play with teams, each team hides their snipe, and the first team to find the other’s and get it back to the nest wins. Alternatively, one person could hide one or two snipes and everyone else hunts. If they haven’t been found 2.5 minutes after being activated, the snipes start beeping. After five minutes, the eyes start to blink.  Can be played inside or outside, day or night. A fantastic family activity. Retails for under $25, batteries inlcuded. Ages 6 and up. http://www.educationoutdoors.net/

usaopoly treasure traxTreasure Trax: The All in One Scavenger Hunt Game (USAOpoly)
This is one of the most engaging games for the preschool set we’ve seen. The idea is pretty simple: scatter a series of clues that ultimately lead to some kind of reward (what that means is completely up to you). Treasure Trax comes with 60 brightly colored, illustrated, thick cards: 30 depicting locations, 18 with clues, and 12 with animals. There are several ways to play. One person (most likely an adult) can set up a step-by-step hunt. For example, you might start by giving the hunter(s) a card with a picture of a kitchen table. On the kitchen table, there’s a card with a picture of a bookcase. On the bookcase is another card leading somewhere else. For older kids, you can incorporate the color and animal cards and make a matching game. Start with an orange card and send the child off to find a card with a picture of something orange (a tiger, for example).  Treasure Trax is great for matching, focus, and memory. But we especially loved how flexible it is. You can have as many or as few steps as your child’s attention span will allow—but be warned: this game is so fun that attention spans have a tendency to get longer. It can be played with teams or as a one-on-one parent-child activity. You can play it indoors or out, and it’s a wonderful way to turn rainy days into adventures. For ages 3-5, but slightly older kids will have fun too. Retails for under $20 wherever you buy your toys or at http://usaopoly.com/

r&r games hide and seek safariHide & Seek Safari (R&R Games)
This is a moderately high-tech version of the old hotter-colder game. The box comes with two items: a monkey (or tiger, depending on which package you buy) and a wand. Someone activates the monkey (batteries included) and hides him somewhere. Everyone else activates the wand, which has LED lights that flash when you’re getting warmer and beeps when you’re really hot—like a Geiger counter. Unfortunately, the monkey has to be hidden in sight—the wand won’t work if he’s in the fridge or under the bed. But it’ll give hours of fun for kids 4-6. Retails for under $35. Additional wands are $13.99. http://www.rnrgames.com/




Keeping Kids Occupied in the Kitchen

If you’ve got little kids, you know that making meals can be one of the toughest times of the day. The kids want all of your attention—right now—and you want to keep them clean and occupied so they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else. One of the best ways to keep kids busy in the kitchen is to let them “help” you with meal prep and cooking. You could give them an actual pot full of water, but your toddler or preschooler will turn that into a slippery mess in 30 seconds. A better (and far less messy) option is to set your child up at the kitchen table with some pretend food to “slice,” “dice,” and “cook” while you do the real thing at a nearby counter. Here are some very realistic kids’ cooking sets that will make your little one feel like a real grown-up.

melissa & doug sandwich makingCooking and Kitchen Sets (Melissa & Doug)
Melissa & Doug have a pretty broad selection of cooking and kitchen sets that are made of either wood or felt. The Sandwich Making Sets come with everything your child will need to make a delicious sandwich, including bread, rolls, lunch meat, pickles, hamburgers, and more. If you go for the wood set, the pieces stick together with bits of Velcro; the felt pieces stick together on their own. Both come with a wooden knife (that isn’t sharp, of course). To make sure your child gets the recommended daily allowance of pretend fruits and veggies (and, maybe to encourage him or her to eat the real thing at mealtime), check out the Cutting Fruit Set. You get seven pieces of various fruits and veggies that can be sliced into a total of seventeen pieces, which can be reassembled into some really weird combinations that will get you and the kids giggling. The food makes a fun “crunch” noise when kids “cut” it with the included wooden knife. Comes in a wooden storage crate. $20 on http://www.melissaanddoug.com

Alex Toys Tea Set Sticker PartyTea Set Sticker Party (Alex Toys)
Here’s one that combines two kids’ favorites: tea and stickers. This 13-piece, ceramic tea set comes with more than 100 stickers that your kiddo can use to decorate and customize. Then, all he or she needs to do is send out the invitations, make sure there are enough chairs for the guests (which may or may not include stuffies), and start pouring tea while you get your Alton Brown on. The Tea Set Sticker Party comes with four cups, four saucers, a sugar bowl, and creamer, and let’s not forget all those stickers. $19 at http://www.alextoys.com

b Toys Let's DishLet’s Dish (B Toys)
A lot of kitchen toys are aimed at girls, but B Toys, makers of all things awesome, has a completely gender-neutral kitchen set made of brightly colored, durable plastic. It comes with a green tray that’s perfect for serving hors d’oeuvres to special real or imaginary guests, breakfast in bed (or on the couch) to mom or dad, or chips and dip on game day. The dishes, cups, and (safe) silverware can be used with pretend foods or real foods, something the kids will get a real kick out of. Best of all, everything in this set can be washed clean with soap and water. This well-made set will last for years. $20 at Target http://www.target.com

My, Aren’t You The Crafty One…

With summer upon us, parents will be looking for fun ways to fill the days when the kids are home from school.  If you have a crafty or creative child, you’ll want to check out some of these jewelry making kits.

jewelry1Pop-Arty (B. Toys)
Pop-Arty, from one of our favorite companies, comes in two sizes: 300 pieces and 500 pieces. Either way, that’s a lot of pieces, and you get an assortment of beads, bracelets, rings, and more. The beads come in a wide range of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and with different end, others have only holes, some have two “nubs” for connecting, some with one hole and one connector.  Build one design, wear it, then disassemble it and make a new one to match your next outfit. No mess with this project, as it has no glue or glitter. Comes in its own storage unit. For kids three years and up, $15-$30 at major retailers.

i heart charm alex toysI Heart Charm Bracelet (Alex Toys)
This kit is great for slightly older kids who are able to use molds and more complex patterns.  Children can make their own beads in one or more colors, even accent them with glitter or included gems, and set them to dry.  When they do, they can add them to the included silver bracelet, add charms, and have a very personalized bracelet.  Two bracelets are included, so are charms, and the dough for molds.  A fantastic project for best friends or sisters to do on a rainy day. About $22 at your favorite toy seller.

bling bangles alex toysBling Bangles (Alex Toys)
Aimed at kids 6 and up (although tweens will like it too), the Bling Bangles kit comes with six metal bangle bracelets (just like mom’s!), six floss colors, and six gemstone strips in different sizes. Children can easily add the desired “bling” of gems to the bangle and wrap the colored floss around the bracelet, and voila!  Available for $14.99 and up on http://www.alextoys.com

me & you b. toysOur Generation Me & You Jewelry Set (B. Toys)
The Me & You Jewelry Set lets children create matching accessories that they and their dolls can wear together. Let the kids run wild with a variety of colors, ribbons, styling options, and more.  Comes with three large (kid size) wooden bangles in different widths, and two smaller ones for her favorite doll. Produced by a company with a conscience, B. Toys donates 10 cents from each purchase to the Free the Children’s Power of a Girl Initiative, which helps fund girls education. They also print everything with soy-based inks and use recycled materials for packaging. About $20 at http://ogdolls.com or and at Target.

pick-n-mix Craft Scene Pick-N Mix Jewelry Kit (International Playthings)
One of the most complete kits we’ve ever seen, you get enough supplies to make at least eight jewelry pieces: 200 felt strips and squares in assorted colors, yards of lilac organza ribbon, plastic stretch cord, plastic coated jewelry wire, jump rings, clasps, clamshell clasps, and ear hooks. Kids can get some ideas from the 16-page illustrated activity guide, or let their imagination take over and create whatever they want. The convenient plastic storage box helps keep creations safe and easy-to-find for the next time. Aimed at kids eight and up, and individuality-seeking tweens will love it. Retails for about $14.99 at http://shop.intplay.com


Dads and Dolls: A Perfect Match

With Father’s Day just a few weeks out, what better topic than dolls. Wait, dads and dolls? Absolutely. Any man who’s got a daughter—and wants to connect with her—really needs to know his way around the world of dolls, since that’s where girls spend a lot of their time. It’s an amazing way to say, “I love you.” Here are some of our favorites.

adora nursery timeAdora Nursery Time (Adora Dolls)
Adora babies are incredibly lifelike. They’re a little lighter than most babies, but their skin is super soft, their little noses and toes and fingers are irresistible, and they even smell like real babies. Great for dad to show his daughter how tiny and adorable she was as a baby, but also very effective if that little girl is preparing to be a big sister. Nursery Time babies are dressed in a onesie and come with a nice doll carrier. Ages 3 and up. About $79.99.

legends of oz - dorothy and totoDorothy and Toto (Bandai)
In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new Oz movie coming out. “Legends of Oz,” is based on one of the sequels written by L. Frank Baum, the guy who wrote the original. The first dolls in the series feature Dorothy (alone or with her ever-loyal pup, Toto). Other characters will be along soon. Dad and daughter can go back to Oz to help Dorothy and her friends, and he can even talk about life in the “old” Oz. Ages 3 and up. About $22.99.

bubbly mermaidBubbly Mermaid (Lalaloopsy)
Who says you can’t bring a doll into the bathtub?  Ocean Seabreeze and Pearly Seafoam are mermaids, which is more than enough to get most kids interested. But what makes them unique is their hair, which is made of bubbles. Just pour in some shampoo or bubble bath, give your mermaid a squeeze¸ and watch her turn into Rapunzel of the Sea. Both come with their very own water-squirting pet octopus. For a little dry-land fun, use diluted dish soap instead. Ages 3 and up. About $29.99. http://www.lalaloopsy.com/

barbie styleBarbie Style (Mattel)
Barbie has always been something of a fashionista, but the new Style series takes things up a few notches. Each of these new Barbies is exquisitely dressed in the highest of high fashion, but also comes with a 10-page look book girls and dads can use for inspiration. Ages 3 and up. $29.99.

locksiesLocksies (Bandai)
Locksies are refreshingly low tech and don’t come with much in the way of clothing. Instead, each Locksie comes with several piece of fabric and ribbon which the budding designer can use to create her own Project Runway entry. But any fabric scraps you have around the house will do nicely (but be sure to keep your scissors-wielding girl away from your nice clothes). Ages 5 and up. http://www.bandai.com/locksies/


phoebe hair grow

i think i canter

Our Generation Dolls (Battat, Inc.)
From the same people behind B-Toys, Our Generation 18-inch dolls are simply gorgeous. Willow is part of the Read and Play set and comes with several outfits, including some great PJs—which are the perfect tie-in with her book, “The Most Fantabulous Pajama Party Ever.” Phoebe is the Hair Grow doll whose hair grows and retracts—a fantastic thing for dads who want to practice their French braiding before trying it out on a real, live daughter.  The I Think I Canter Doll and Horse set features one doll, a riding outfit, a horse, and a ton of riding and grooming equipment, including a saddle and stirrups, helmet, feedbag, brush, and more. The opportunities for exercising the imagination are endless.  Dolls are $32.99, $29.99, and $84.99, respectively. http://ogdolls.com/

Cooking Up Fun

Summer Break is almost here, and for many parents, that means trying to think up some fun ways to pass those long, hot days home and without a schedule. For some creative indoor fun, check out these cute kitchen items for kids- some are pretend, some are functional, all are fun.


Chet the Cat and Friends is a new line of kitchen and cooking sets for kids (ages 3 and up) that can help get kids interested in becoming mom and dad’s little chef helpers. With a wide array of items made just for them, kids will have fun learning and playing with Chet and Friends. The plates, cups, flatware, etc are all dishwasher and food safe, so your little culinary artist in training can really eat what they crate and then the items can be washed with no fuss or worrying that they will be ruined. There is also a set of kitchen gadgets, such as a toaster, blender, and mixer, which “work” and have multiple sets of speeds- while they work with real liquids, the toaster does not truly cook toast. It does however pop up play toast and buzz with a timer- no one wants a burnt kiddo. Complete the look with a chef outfit (of course, all decked out with Chet the Cat and Friends as well- it’s very, very cute) that will thrill your little cook. Items range from $22 to $30 on http://www.educationalinsights.com (One of my personal favorite sites for educational yet fun toys for kids.)

Mexico and Products 147

Another toy company we adore for fun and educational kids toys that they really want to play with is Learning Resources. These toys last forever, don’t break the bank, and teach kids the skills we want them to learn in ways they enjoy and want to keep playing with. Many of the toys are low or no tech, which is a great break with today’s kids being so constantly plugged in.
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Where Have All the Superheroes Gone?

In a word, everywhere (at least the little, plastic ones). If you’ve got a son, nephew, or superhero-loving child of either sex, you’ll find that there are tons of toys to go with movie blockbusters, TV shows, cartoons, and even a few just because.

marvel mashersMarvel Superhero Mashers (Hasbro)
Why is it that so many superheroes seem to have multiple personality disorders? They want to save the world, but they’re distraught and angry, filled with angst, feeling responsible and lonely, pushing people away, clinging to friends, and occasionally going off the rails (yes, we’re talking about you, Spiderman). Well, now you can make your own disjointed (literally) superheroes by mashing them up with other heroes and villains. Take the head of Iron Man, the body of Thor, the legs of Hulk, and the arms of Dr. Doom and you’ve got, well, we’re not sure. Prices range from $10 – $20 on http://www.hasbro.com or at your favorite toy retailer.

power rangers mega zordPower Rangers
Since they first appeared in 1992, Power Rangers have morphed through more incarnations than we can shake a stick at, if we were stick-shaking people. Two decades and nearly 100 Rangers later, the show is still going strong. The Power Rangers are an institution and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’re still making movies and TV shows, and our children and their friends look forward to the new toys as much as we and our friends did a thousand years ago. So, what’s new in Power Rangers? Well, let’s start with the Legacy Megazord who’s celebrating 20 years of helping the Power Rangers saving the world. This latest Megazord has all the original details from the first toy, but beefs up the durability factor by using die cast metal pieces. The Megazord comes with a Ranger Key that can be used to open its chest. Good for collectors and fans of the current show alike. The Mystic Dragon Zord and Green Ranger set is also inspired by past seasons, and connects to other parts of the Zord Builder collection. Any four-inch figure or Power Ranger Key can work with the Dragon Zord. And the Legacy Megazord and Mystic Dragon Zord can be used together. Roughly $35 and $16, respectively, depending on where you buy them.

pokemon figuresPokemon (TOMY)
While we’re on the subject of toys (and TV shows) that have been around forever, does anyone (or everyone) out there remember Pokemon? Ash and his lovable companion Pikachu have been fascinating kids for a while now on several continents, and the latest versions (inspired by the hit Nintendo video games) are Pokemon X and Y. This generation of Pokemon lets you go head to head with the older Pokemon you have already “caught” as well as the newest ones, like Chespin and Fennekin. Kids (and their adult wranglers) learn at an early age that you’ve “Gotta Catch “em Al.”, And considering that they cost about $8 for a two-pack, that won’t be too hard. Each two pack contains two two-inch figures and two “Attack Tags” for game play. http://tomy.com

captain american winter soldierCaptain America: The Winter Soldier (Hasbro)
With the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie recently coming out, kids want to act out the adventures (or perhaps misadventures) of Steve Rogers and the unfortunate Bucky Barnes at home. Hasbro has a line of 3.75 inch action figures to go along with the movie, complete with weapons, feature motions, and of course the famous shield. These figures are quite articulated and have weapons that fire actual projectiles. Additional accessories are sold separately. There are six figures in this line, $10 each. http://www.hasbro.com