Just about everyone—young, old, and everything in between—is fascinated by magic, especially the kind that involves transforming objects from one thing into another. This week, we take a look at a number of terrific family activities that do exactly that, whether it’s changing a 10 of Clubs into a 10 of Heart, a bunch of powered ingredients into delicious cupcakes, or a locked safe into an unlocked one.
Magic: Silver Edition (Thames & Kosmos)
Long before Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts took over the world, kids and adults wished they could conjure things out of nowhere and make them vanish again, turn apples into oranges, and make objects float in midair. With this kit, you’ll be able to perform jaw-dropping feats of magic that will captivate and delight your audience (and probably amaze yourself in the process). It comes with props and instructions to do 100 tricks: knots in one rope jump to another, a wand levitates, coins pass through objects and disappear, a small pile of sugar turns into a sugar cube, and a lot more. The kit comes with a nicely illustrated 72-page instruction manual, but there are also 26 online video tutorials so your budding Houdini can see the tricks actually being performed. If you like this Silver Edition, there are several larger sets (150 and 200 tricks). For ages 8 and up. About $21 at many retailers. http://thamesandkosmos.com
Tired of solitaire, poker, black jack, and rummy? Here are four fun, new card games that the whole family will love to play.
Pin Point! (Blue Orange)
In this fun, fast-paced twist on the “spot-the-difference” game, players use logic and deductive reasoning to figure out which of five nearly identical images is the original. Since each of the non-original images has changed only one feature, when you find a feature that appears on only one image, you know it’s not the original, and you can eliminate it from contention. Pin Point! Is a great game for just about any age, although be warned: younger players tend to have sharper eyes and are therefore often a lot better at this kind of thing than adults. Comes with 72 challenge cards and six colored dice (for alternate game play) and takes only about 10 minutes to play. You can play Pin Point! cooperatively, competitively, or individually. http://www.blueorangegames.com
One of the biggest challenges parents face is finding ways to get the kids to put down their tech and get moving (as you know, most pediatricians recommend that children get at least an hour of exercise every day). Here are a few great ways that are guaranteed to get the kids rockin’ and rollin’.
Space Scooter X580 (SpaceScooter)
Regular kick scooters are great fun, but it’s hard to make them go really, really fast. Plus, unless your kids are ambidextrous, they’re exercising only one leg—and wearing out their shoes unevenly. The Space Scooter, which you propel by rocking back and forth on the platform, teeter-totter style, assures an exhilaratingly fast ride and a more symmetrical workout. Just pump, and you’re flying (well, scooting). And with its 200-pound capacity, you can get in a workout of your own. Ages 8+. About $149 at Amazon and other retailers. https://spacescooter-usa.com
Well, Easter is even closer than it was last week, so if you haven’t already filled your kids’ baskets, you’d better get on it. Here are some last-minute suggestions they’re sure to love.
These adorable little guys are cute for any time of the year, but they’re especially great for Easter baskets, because they come in individual “shells” that are roughly the size of your basic plastic egg. The “surprize” is that you don’t know which animal will hatch from which ball. Aside from being inexpensive and adorable, Surprizamals are very collectible, and your kids will love searching for the rare ones. Surprizamals are an easy win for everyone. Available at https://www.surprizamals.com.
With Easter around the corner, it’s time to start gathering items for your children’s baskets. Since you probably still have plenty of candy left over from Halloween, you may be on the lookout for unsweetened, (vaguely) egg-shaped items to put inside. Here are a few surefire hits.
Are your children Super Wings fans? The new Super Wings Vroom ‘n Zoom are great for pre-k and toddler-aged kids. Just push to rev up, then release, and they speed away. Jett and friends are available individually for under $6.00. Or, pick up the Super Wings Transform-a-Bots 4 Pack. These unique mini-figures transform from plane to robot in just three steps. Transform-a-bots let your kids recreate favorite scenes from the Super Wings TV show or imagine entirely new helpful deliveries. $11.99
Whether you’re putting together a puzzle, building a tower, looking for a new job, or just hanging out with your kids, life is all about connections. This week, we reviewed four unique ways you and your family can use physical connections to build stronger emotional ones.
Brackitz Driver Set (Brackitz)
As much as we love traditional block-based building systems, we’re delighted at the ongoing trend toward more open-ended systems with unique pieces and ways of connecting them. Brackitz is one of the best, and they keep getting better. The new Driver Set comes with 43 pieces and directions for building 10 driving machines, including a teeter-totter, a gyro copter, a windmill, and a dragster. But who says you have to follow directions, when you can follow your imagination instead? Brackitz kits are great for individual or collaborative play and for building spatial- and engineering skills. They combine with other Brackitz kits as well as with other systems, such as Keva planks and CitiBlocs. For ages 3+. Under $25 at amazon.com, other retailers, and https://brackitz.com
To completely misquote Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being little. And that explains why miniature versions of just about everything in our world are so popular with those miniature people who live in our home. Here are some really fun small objects that your kids will love—and so will too.
Micro Boats (Zuru)
As you might guess from the name, Micro Boats are, indeed, small boats. But they’ll provide life-size fun for you and your kids. They’re water activated, self-steering, and move at a scale-speed of 200 MPH, which results in some truly epic crashes. Adjusting the rudders lets you perform donuts and other stunts. Micro Boats come in individual packs or as part of larger sets. The Water Slide, for example, comes with a suction cup so you can stick the slide on the wall next to your bathtub and drop your boat from five feet above the water. It also connects with the Shark Attack Challenge, a figure-8 water course that features a boat-swallowing shark and a crane. Ages 3+. www.zurumicroboats.com
Nicer weather is on the way in some parts of the country, but what to do if you find yourself snowed- or rained in? Check out these new video games to play with the kids—and the devices to play them on.
This is the newest in the proud Skylanders line, which uses real-life toy figures that enter the on-screen game through a “portal.” As always, the story follows the Skylanders as they try to defeat the evil Kaos in his latest plan to destroy Skyland. Kaos has found a new power called “Mind Magic,” and is creating an army of Doomlanders. The leader of the good guys is Eon, who calls upon Portal Masters (that’s you!) to battle Kaos and his army. To help, there are Senseis who give players new powers that you can use to build and equip your Imaginators. If you’ve got the new Nintendo Switch (more on that below), you’ll be able to save your Skylanders figures’ stats and abilities to the system so you can play Skylanders on the go, without having to schlep the figures or the portal.
One of the most amazing features we’ve seen in a while is the new Skylanders Creator app, which you download from the iOS or Android store, and use to create a unique Imaginator (or you can transfer one from the Skylanders Imaginators console game to the app). The whole process takes only a few minutes. Best of all, your creation will be mailed to you! www.skylanders.com/video-games/skylanders-imaginators
Last week, we told you about toy-and-game trends we’ll be following (and sharing with you, of course) in 2017. That was just the beginning. Here are a few more we didn’t have room for.
A Little Spit and Polish
Some of your favorite toys from last year are back again, but have been updated, upgraded, and given new bells and whistles. As we all know, sometimes the first iteration doesn’t always turn out exactly right. Some of these second tries aren’t worth the trouble, but others are fantastic.
Every year at about this time, every toy, game, collectible, and indoor- or outdoor plaything goes on display at New York Toy Fair. And, as usual, your Parents@Play team fearlessly braved the frigid weather (although, this year it was practically balmy) to bring you a glimpse into this year’s up-and-coming trends.
Play with Your Food
From dolls to teddy bears that look like cupcakes to real food decorating kits to jewelry, it’s all about food. Capitalizing on the success of toys like Shopkins, and TV shows like “MasterChef Junior” and “Man vs. Child,” kids are now allowed—and even encouraged—to play with their food. You can make your own foodie toys and designs to wear, or just snuggle up at night with your favorite muffin. Some are scented, others not so much.