Author Archives: Parents@Play Team

Unleash Your Inner Animal

What is it about kids and animals? Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of flesh and blood or artificial materials, kids love ‘em—and so do we. Here are some of our current favorites.

Q*bert Buildable Figure (Arcade Classics/The Bridge Direct)

QbertIf you’ve got young kids, there’s a good chance that Q*bert, who was born in 1982, is older than you. But he (or is it she?) has held up pretty well. The classic arcade game has been rebooted several times, most recently in the film, “Pixels.” Now, this loveable, armless, orange creature with the big nose is available as a buildable figure, using 117 LEGO-type pieces. And if you need more early video game throwbacks, you can get Centipede and Frogger figures as well. These kits are for kids 10+, but we think younger ones can handle it too. Prices vary. http://www.basicfun.com


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Men’s Wear Daily

A few weeks ago, we featured some cool clothes for women. Since a number of readers pointed out that men wear clothes too, we figured that it’s only fair to highlight some men’s wear as well. Here, then, are some stylish, casual for the males in your life.

Long Sleeve Hood (prAna)

prana long sleeve hoodieTo give you a sense of how great Prana clothes are, here are two actual quotes from a teenage girl who was asked to take pictures of her dad, who was trying on their jeans and hoodie. 1) “Wow. I mean, you look, ah, almost, um, pretty decent.” If you don’t have a teenage girl around the house, you have no idea what an incredible compliment that is. 2) “Hey, can I have that shirt?” The Long Sleeve Hoodie is also from organic cotton and recycled polyester and is incredibly comfortable and lightweight. But the unique design is what will attract the most attention. It comes in black, charcoal, starling (a very light green), and denim (blue). $49. https://www.prana.com


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Nintendo Labo: Building Your Own Wow!

We usually review four or five products each week, but the new Nintendo Labo is so engaging and entertaining that it deserves its very own column. Before we start, there are three important things you need to know about Labo.

  1. You’ll need a Switch. Nintendo’s newest gaming console. Labo won’t function without it. If you don’t have one, it’s well worth the investment.
  2. You’ll need time. Labo divides the experience into three components: Make, Play, and Discover. Depending on what you’re making, the Make phase can easily take over an hour. But you and your child(ren) will have a blast—and an even bigger blast when you finally get to the Play and Discover stages.
  3. Tweens and teens will love it. We brought two grumbling teenagers to a pre-launch event in San Francisco and they practically refused to leave. And when a gaggle of teens took over our living room to have a Labo construction (and play) party, we knew something truly special was happening.

Labo Variety Kit (Nintendo)

Variety PackThis kit comes with everything you’ll need to build five complete projects (called Toy-Cons). Each one starts as a series of sheets of cardboard. Pop out the pieces, fold them (video instructions are available—and extremely helpful), connect them to each other, and decorate to your heart’s content. Then you attach the Switch Joy-Con controllers and the magic happens.

 

  • fishing rodWith the fishing rod, you build a “working” rod and reel. Next, you fire up your Switch console and start fishing, for anything from minnows to sharks. You can even design your own fish.
  • The motorbike lets you rev the throttle and lean to turn. And you’ll almost feel the wind in your hair as you weave through standard tracks or ones you design yourself.
  • The piano may look simple, but you don’t have to be a musician to start composing and recording your very own music, including sound effects.
  • The remote-controlled car is powered by vibrations from the Switch controllers. Use the Labo app to steer, or battle and race a friend (you’ll need another set of Switch controllers for this).
  • The house includes different rooms, components, mini-games, and even a resident creature.

Ages 6+. $69.99 MSRP. https://labo.nintendo.com

motorbike

piano

Labo Robot Kit (Nintendo)

Robot KitBuilding a wearable robot suit out of cardboard is a daunting task, but we know you can handle it. Once you’ve constructed and connected all the pieces (including a backpack, visor, and attachments for both arms and legs), you’re ready to step into the game, where you control an on-screen robot (kind of like in Ready Player One) and can punch, stomp, and smash buildings, vehicles, and other minor inconveniences all by yourself, or go robot-head to robot-head against a friend (he or she will need another Robot Kit and controllers).  Ages 6+. $69.99 MSRP. https://labo.nintendo.com

Robot action

Labo Customization Set

RC car duckIncludes tape, stencils, and a variety of stickers that you can use to customize and decorate your Labo creations. But you can just as easily use anything you have around the house or that you can buy at your local arts-and-crafts store (like glue, paint, and googly eyes—who doesn’t love googly eyes?). $9.99.

 

Toy-Con Garage

This is the Discover phase, a place where you can get under Labo’s hood and start tinkering with code. In the garage, you’ll be able to reprogram your already-built Toy-Cons or create completely new ones (like turning that piano and a handful of rubber bands into a guitar), learn if-then programming, and much more. Toy-Con Garage is already included with your Labo!

 

 

Women’s Wear Daily

It’s been a long winter, but now that the weather is starting to warm up, we’re looking forward to taking our workouts outside. Here are some of our ready-for-Spring-fitness faves.

Launch 5 Sneakers (Brooks Running)

Brooks Launch 5 SneakersIf you are a runner, walker, or hiker, you’ll love the new Launch 5. To start with, they’re lightweight, with a mesh outer layer that keeps things airy. And with “BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning” (which means the whole sole is cushioned instead on just the heel and forefoot), they’re wonderfully comfortable. The Launch 5 is perfect for the gym, trails, sidewalks, and anywhere else. $100 at http://www.brooksrunning.com
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Phoenix Rising

20 years or so ago, the Phoenix area was widely considered a cultural wasteland. Those days are long gone. Today, the greater Phoenix area is home to some fantastic museums and other educational venues, many of which are quite family-friendly. This week we look at several must-see Phoenix experiences.

Musical Instrument Museum

walking stick violinHumans are hard-wired for music, as evidenced by the existence of music and musical instruments in every human culture going back thousands of years. This dazzling museum’s collection of more than 10,000 instruments is guaranteed to engage, entertain, and impress. It features exhibits organized by instrument (guitars, violins, trumpets, percussion, etc.), geography (Asia, Middle East, US and Canada, Latin America, etc. There’s a special exhibit of Treasures from Central China going on now) artist (Elvis, Taylor Swift, Tito Puente, and dozens from around the world), and more. There’s also a fascinating exhibit of mechanical instruments (nickelodeons, music boxes, player pianos, etc.) and you won’t want to miss the Experience Gallery, where you and the kids can strum, pluck, stroke, bang, stomp, and otherwise play instruments from every corner of the world. For all ages. One-day and two-day passes available, including a self-guided audio tour. https://mim.org
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A New York State of Fun

Looking to spend some time in The Big Apple with the family? Here are some great places to visit while you’re there.

 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

NY Lego discoveryLEGOs are fun for kids (and adults) of all ages, and there’s no better place to play with them than the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. The adventure begins with a kiddie version of the history of those little plastic bricks and how they’re made. After that, it’s time to get physical. The first ride (one that takes you into the main area) is a sit-down guided-laser shooting tour, where you save the castle by defeating tons of baddies. To celebrate your victory, you head into a mini-brick version of New York City and the LEGOLAND area. Push buttons for lights and sounds, and well as mini-animations. The details are pretty amazing, and the spoofs will keep everyone giggling. Fans will find quite a few “Easter eggs” as they walk around the town. There’s also a magic couch ride where you jaunt around on a flying couch. Really.  You move it up and down by pedaling, and it goes around in a circle.

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2018 Easter

It’s that time of year again, when Peter Cottontail and all his bunny helpers hop into homes with treat-filled baskets and toys for good little boys and girls. Here are some of our favorite non-food items to fill your kiddos baskets with.

Eggnots

egg notsAre your kids allergic to eggs? Are you vegan? Still want to participate in the whole egg-dying tradition? Now you can, with these ceramic egg kits, which provide an alternative to natural eggs that’s as attractive as your artistic abilities will allow. No more need to deny egg-averse kids the opportunity to participate in a time-honored Easter tradition. Prices start at $9.99 at http://www.eggnots.com


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What’s the Good Word?

How many times have we told our kids to “Use your words!”? These great new games will give kids some extra practice doing just that.

Word Rush (Tactic Games)

word rushAnother game where you come up with words that match a certain category. But this one has a few new twists. First, once a category card has been selected, players turn over nine letter cards and then take turns listing words that start with one of those letters. Second, the instant you’ve said your word, you flip over the sand timer and the next player has to say a word and flip the timer back over before time runs out. The faster you answer, the less time you leave the next player. Of course, you can adjust the rules to make things easier or more challenging. Under $18. For 2-6 players, ages 8+. http://www.tactic.net


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Tech Stuff

As important as it is to get kids up and outside, the fact is that we live in a high-tech world and it’s critical that our children develop a high level of comfort will all things electronic. Here are a few of our new faves.

Marbotic Smart Letters (Marbotic)

marbotic - Smart-LettersThis interactive alphabet toy cleverly combines physical and digital play by combining traditional (and very beautifully crafted) wooden letters with the touchscreen technology that’s as close as your tablet. Just download the (free) app, place the letters on your device, and start ooh-ing and ahh-ing. These smart letters will help your child recognize shapes and letters, learn letter sounds and patterns, build vocabulary, learn to read and write. Comes with 26 letters and is available in eight languages (American English, British English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and Danish). And since you aren’t accessing wi-fi or Bluetooth, it’s 100% internet-safe. For ages 5+. About $57. www.marbotic.com


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Let’s Fly — and Race!

Who doesn’t love a good race—especially one through the air? Drone technology has evolved to the point where just about anyone, regardless of skill level or coordination skills, can enjoy being a pilot. This week, we take a look at several aircraft that that have something for beginners and experts alike. Rather keep your feet firmly on the ground? No prob. We’ve got you covered.

 

DRL Air Elite 115 Racing Drone Set (Nikko Air)

DRL racing drone If you or your young pilot-to-be are just getting started, the Air Elite 115 is a great entry level drone that comes with a removable circular ring that protects the drone and hard objects like walls from damaging each other. This multi-speed quadcopter is extremely easy to operate, highly responsive, and doesn’t require FAA registration. It hovers beautifully and comes preloaded with 16 one-touch stunts that will have your airshow spectators cheering. If you have two of these drones, you can race head-to-head, or you can set up a cool obstacle course or race track using the modular gate system. Although the Air Elite comes with batteries and replacement propellers, there’s no GPS or video camera, but it’s really intended as a platform for learning the basics of drone piloting. Ages 7+. About $35. http://www.nikkoair.com

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