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/
If you’ve got an energetic child, you know how exhausted you can feel at the end of the day. One way to get in shape—especially if it’s too hot to work out outside or you don’t have time to go to the gym—is to do your exercising at home. These DVDs can help.
Bottom Line and A Core Defined (Patricia Friberg)
This Pilates and strength-based workout is broken into three segments: Bottom Activation 1 and 2, and A Core Defined. The first two (as you can guess from the name) focus on defining your butt, but also work your core, improve your posture, and help you become more flexible and fit. Aside from the glutes, you’ll also feel this workout in your abs and legs. Do the first activation a few times before you move on to the second, just to get the hang of it and to get your body ready for the higher intensity. A Core Defined covers more of the body, but the primary focus is the abs. Friberg gives good direction throughout. Just work at a pace that’s comfortable and move on when you’re ready. $20 at http://www.patriciafriberg.com
The weather outside is lovely, these days, and we’re trying to spend as much time out there as humanly possible. If you’re looking to join us, here are some fun options.
Super Spinner (Super Spinner)
A fun twist on the tire tree swing, the Super Spinner is a “UFO shaped” (according to one 10-year old) disk swing that lets one or more kids (and even a parent) take a ride. Its “adjustable double-braided ropes and weather-resistant clips are designed for a safer, more comfortable ride,” according to the manufacturer. Super Spinner can be suspended to swing and spin from trees, play sets, a porch beam or any other secure structural beam that works for your family. There are two sizes of Super Spinner available. The original can accommodate one or two little kids, and can hold up to 200 pounds. It’s available in green, blue, red, purple, pink, or yellow. The larger, Super Duper Spinner lets more kids and adults ride, and can hold up to 650 pounds. It’s available only in hunter green. $49.99 to $89.99, at stores like Amazon or Target.
We all know that over the summer, kids lose, on average, 30% of what they learned in the previous school year. Keeping their minds active and engaged while they’re on vacation will help them start the new school year ready to learn (instead of having to spend the first few months reviewing old material). Here are some great activities, one academic, the rest less so, that will keep your children’s minds sharp.
The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses (book, edited by Gavin Edwards)
With all the emphasis on science, technology, engineering, math these days, people forget about the A (for Art) in STEAM, which we prefer over the more traditional STEM. This book is designed to jump start those creative, artistic juices and it delivers, bit time. Each page is divided into thirds. The top third has a partial drawing or a provocative phrase (for example, “He pushed the truck’s accelerator down as far as it would go, but the angry kittens kept gaining on him.”). You and a partner, then tear a few pages out of the book, fold them (along the dotted lines so you can’t see the drawing or the text, shuffle them so you don’t know which one you’re getting, and then draw whatever you like. When you’re done, fold the page again so neither of you can see what the other has done, swap pages, and draw again. The result will be a wonderful artistic chimera (the mythical beast that had the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent). The book features art from famous illustrators, cartoonists, tattoo artists, and more, as well as text from just-as-famous rock stars, actors, TV writers, and others. Ages 10+. $17 on www.amazon.com
It’s less than a week into summer, but people are already talking about how this could be one of the hottest summers ever. That means that even though most of us would much rather be outside playing, we’ll have to spend a bit more time inside. Here are a few games (and one non-game product) that will help you chill on those days when it’s too hot to go outside.
Build a Bot (Basic Fun)
Another STEM-type toy for the younger set. Follow the easy instructions to create a basic unicorn by snapping and clicking together the pieces. Then you customize and personalize your one-horned wonder with stickers. Once you’re done, just clap your hands (or make some other loud noise) to bring your unicorn to life, walking across the floor and making unicorn-y sounds. Batteries required but not included. Ages 5+ (although kids under 7 might need some adult help with assembly). Prices vary. http://www.basicfun.com
Summer’s here, and it’s time to head outside. And while you’re there, why not get wet? Really, really wet. Here are our current water-themed faves for the whole family.
Splash Out (Far Out Toys)
This Q&A game features a ball that holds a water balloon. Then, you set a timer on the ball and players take turns holding the ball while answering a question. As soon as you answer, you pass the ball to the next person who answers the same question. Answer quickly and you stay dry. Hesitate and the timer pops the balloon and you’re all washed up. Comes with waterproof question cards and balloons. Great fun for indoors or out, and, of course, who says you have to limit yourself to water? It all depends on how much of a mess you want to clean up. Ages 8+. Under $18. http://www.farouttoysinc.com/