We all know that kids need to be spending time outside working up a sweat and building strong muscles. But they also need plenty of down time. And what better way to relax than by creating art? Here are some truly outstanding ways you and your kids can flex your creativity muscles together.
Tropical Terrarium (Craftivity)
A great craft activity to do with your tween and/or teen. It comes with everything you need for a fabulous mini garden (except water): a trendy, geometric terrarium; potting mix; seeds; pink flamingo and golden pineapple ornaments; decorative plants, sand, and stones; a water dropper; and instructions. For ages 12+. Under $25. www.fabercastell.com
Our early adult years are an exciting time for so many reasons, one of them being the thrill of receiving your first real paycheck and dreaming of what you’ll buy with it. Unfortunately, too few of us spend as much time dreaming about saving some of that money. In fact, a recent study from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ad Council found that while one in three Millennials rank savings as their number one goal, 55% say they’re impulse buyers, 44% don’t pay off their credit card balances in full every month, and 41% have less than $100 in their checking account.
Building a solid financial foundation is critically important, and one of the best ways to make that happen (some might say the only way) is to create a budget and a disciplined savings strategy and stick to them. Here are a few resources to get you on the right path.
Feed the Pig
One of the cornerstones of any budgeting and savings plan is to take a set percentage from every check you receive and put it into a savings account. But, knowing what you should do and actually doing it are two very different things. Feed the Pig has a variety of tools and resources that can help you create a budget, control your spending, manage your credit, and set up savings plans. Thinking about the future will help you pay more attention to how you’re spending your money today. Having long-term goals makes it a lot easier to say No to those impulse purchases. Saving and investing could mean the difference between being able to buy a home in your 20’s and renting until you’re in your 40’s, and between being able to travel the world while you’re still young enough to enjoy it and being confined to your cubicle until you retire. http://www.feedthepig.org/
Children are endlessly fascinated by what life was life for their parents. And one of the most entertaining ways for our kids to get to know us better (and for us to get to know then better as well) is to play some of the games that we did as kids. Here are four classics that are guaranteed to provide you and yours with hours of entertainment.
Are You Normal? (Pressman Toy)
Have you ever told a stranger to pick up after his or her dog? Have you ever fallen asleep while driving? Have you ever gotten into a shouting match over a parking space? Have you ever shoplifted? Do you wear thong underwear? These are just a handful of the 200 revealing questions that may give you and your fellow players some insight into exactly how “normal” you are. Each card also includes the percentage of people polled who have answered “Yes.” You earn points for guessing how the other players will answer. For ages 15 and up. Retails for about $10. http://www.goliathgames.us
From the soft and cuddly, to things a little more exotic, there are dolls for everyone to love this summer. Here’s what’s new and exciting in the wonderful world of dolls.
Mon Premier Bébé (Corolle)
For a doll that does double duty (you can snuggle it or take it into the bathtub or pool), check out this new entry from Corolle. Filled with polystyrene beads that dry quickly, these 12-inch dolls are specially designed for playing in the tub, and are so light they float. They have adorable faces, vanilla-scented skin (Corolle’s signature), and eyes that open and close. Every doll comes with an outfit and bath toy of its own and they’re available in several skin tones and both sexes for about $28 each. http://us.corolle.com
There’s a lot of debate these days about kids and screen time. Since eliminating screen time altogether isn’t an option, it all comes down to three words: moderation, quality, and safety. Moderation, we’ll leave up to you. But here are three high-quality games and two tools that will help you ensure that your kids have the safest on-line experience possible.
Birthdays the Beginning
This wonderful game is the brainchild of Yasuhiro Wada, creator of Harvest Moon, and to grasp what it’s like, imagine a combination of Minecraft, Sims, and evolution. There are two modes: Build and Macro. In Build mode, players create a world, with mountains, trees, valleys, statues, and so on. In Macro, you’re now in charge of time, temperature, climate, and life itself (there are more than 300 life forms, including plants, fuzzy mammals, and plenty of dinosaurs). As you move back and forth between the modes, you have a chance to see the intricate and delicate ways that the environment and everything in it affect each other. Too hot or too cold, your creatures could go extinct. Too many critters? They might run out of food. Available for PlayStation 4 and PC. http://www.birthdaysthebeginning.com/
If your kids aren’t out of school already, they will be soon, which means that the dreaded words, “I’m bored” aren’t far behind. Given how many options are available to kids and families these days, we’ve banned that phrase from our house and we suggest you do the same! Here are some terrific activities that will keep everyone in the family wet, wild, smiling, and snuggly.
Giant Gazillion Super-Sized Bubble Fun (Funrise)
There’s something almost magical about bubbles, and this giant bottle is filled with enough magic to last until the school starts in the fall. Aside from two liters of pre-mixed bubble solution, you get a giant bubble wand, which will make some of the biggest bubbles you and your kids have ever seen. If that’s not enough for you, Funrise makes a variety of other bubble-producing products, including wands and battery-operated mills to automate your bubbles. For ages 3+. Available at your favorite retailer. http://www.funrise.com
Looking for some fun videos games to play with the kids? Have we got ideas for you!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo)
Mario Kart is one of those games that turns a room full of strangers into a room full of new buddies—or at least rowdy racers. Requiring equal parts skill, luck, and know-how, Mario Kart has consistently been a bright star in the gaming universe, and this one may be, dare we say, the brightest of them all. With almost all characters unlocked to begin with, this game is built for multiplayer action, and there are tons of characters to choose from, so there’ll be no squabbling. On the Switch, characters of different weights and sizes act differently and effect your controls, as do the type of vehicle and even the tires you select. The game also includes support for amiibos and amiibo cards, which unlock more in-game content, allowing for plenty of customization. $59.99 at retail locations or via download from the eShop. http://www.nintendo.com/games
If there’s one thing that kids love almost as much as movies and TV shows, it’s figures and playsets that give them a chance to dive into those digital, TV- and movie worlds and create their own scenes and stories. Here are some of our new faves that would make great additions to your family toy chest.
Smurf House and Smurfs Movie Set figures (Schleich)
If you and/or your kids love the Smurfs, you’ll be dazzled by the latest collectibles from Schleich, which will bring those little blues to life. The Lost Village set (#20801) comes with three figures: Smurfette, Sigrid, and Smurfika. The Smurf House (#20803) comes with the large spotted red mushroom—complete with a chimney and doors and windows that open, as well as two figures: Papa Smurf and the evil Gargamel (who never goes anywhere without his equally evil cat, Azrael). All of Schleich’s figures are beautifully hand-painted and full of unique details, and these Smurfs are no exception. The Lost Village set retails for about $15; the Smurf House is about $35 (and will require adult- or older-kid help to assemble). For ages 4+. https://www.schleich-s.com
What do colored dice, zebra-patterned battleships, bug eggs, and pocket-size drones have in common? Not much, except that they’re all great to enjoy with your kids. So get out there and have at it!
Roll for it! (Calliope Games)
Think Yahtzee and cards. Each player has a set of six dice. Turn over three cards, roll your dice, and try to match the dice that are depicted on one or more of the cards. If you do, you take the card and score its value. What makes Roll for it! Interesting is that you can do partial matches—for example, matching two out of four dice on the card. On your next turn, you can try to match the rest, but you’ll be able to roll only your remaining four dice. Even more interesting is that you and your opponents might be working on the same card, and if they complete their match before you do, you’re out of luck. Roll for it! is fast-paced (takes about 10-20 minutes for someone to score the 40 points needed to win), and pretty easy (although it’s MENSA approved, which indicates that it might be more challenging that we were capable of understanding). For 2-4 players (8 if you combine it with a second set), ages 8+. Around $12. https://www.calliopegames.com
As we begin the countdown to summer recess, you might be wondering (or worrying about) what the kids will do to while away the hours at home. If you aren’t out exploring the great outdoors, here are some fun ideas for you.
Hot Wheels 7” Tablet (Nabi)
Planning a long road trip or flight with young kids? If so, a tablet could be your new best friend. This one comes with several Hot Wheels screens, including one titled “Hot Wheels Labs,” which lets children watch videos about the science of and forces propelling the resistance, friction, and gravity of those loveable mini vehicles—in other words, how they really work. Since so many kids are addicted to Hot Wheels, this is a fun way for them to learn something new. Consider it branded science, LOL. Along the same lines, there’s also a “Trackwars & Hacks” area with over 25 apps and games. The tablet’s custom orange bumper helps protect the hardware from the bumps and falls it will likely take, and racing sound effects will thrill your little gear-heads. Not interested in Hot Wheels? Not to worry. Barbie and American Girl versions are also available. About $79 at Best Buy, Toys R Us, Kmart, Costco, or www.shop.nabitablet.com