If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, you need to add it to your list of must-visit cities. Famous as the City of Brotherly Love, Philly seamlessly blends the historic, the modern, and everything in between. The locals are friendly, the city itself is wonderful to explore on foot, and the subway/but system (SEPTA) is easy to navigate. On our visit, we spent some time on the beaten track, but also found plenty of time to get off it. Here are some of our recommendations. For more, or to plan your trip, check out Visit Philadelphia, https://www.visitphilly.com
The Franklin Institute
This science museum is amazing and has something for everyone in your family. You’ll find hands-on exhibits where you can learn about gears, power, physics, and static electricity; a heart that’s big enough to walk through; virtual reality immersive experiences; an escape room; a planetarium; and even some look-but-don’t-touch marvels, including our absolute favorite, the Maillardet Automaton—a fascinating machine that was the inspiration for the movie Hugo and the book it’s based on, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Arrive early and plan to spend most of the day here. https://www.fi.edu
If you like to get outdoors as a family—regardless of the weather—we’ve got some great options for you to check out this season.
Dash Hoodie (Brooks Running)
We love this hoodie and are pretty sure that you will too. It’s soft, feather-light, warm, and wicks moisture quickly. It’s made of breathable material that’s also machine washable and dryer safe. There are thumb holes on the cuffs, and a storage pocket over the left hand that’s perfect for keys, cash, or whatever else you can’t do without while you’re running. The hood is perfect for cooler weather, so you can use it until you get too warm on your run, then toss it off. Prices vary depending on the color you order (some of them are on sale). Find out more at https://www.brooksrunning.com
Just because half of the country is being blasted by the latest Polar Vortex doesn’t mean that you and your family can’t enjoy some sports-themed fun.
NFL Electric Football (Tudor Games)
Unlike other games where you set up figurines on a sports field and move them around manually, in this one, the figures move around by themselves. The magic is in the vibrating gridiron (which has three user-controlled speeds) and the players’ “cleats” (some are built for speed, others for doing battle in place). You can slow down the action so your blockers can do their job or speed it up if your running back or receiver breaks loose. If this game sounds familiar, you’re not wrong. The first Electric Football game came out in 1949, but this newest iteration takes the original concept to a whole new level. Comes with decals from each NFL team so you can customize your games. Batteries required. For two players, ages 6+. $59.95. https://www.tudorgames.com Continue reading →
If you want to shop sustainably this year, support small business, or just like unique, high-quality products at a reasonable price, we’ve got your back (or at least your wallet).
This collective has clothing, bath-and-body products, purses, bags, crafts, and something for everyone—thoughtful gifts anyone would love to receive. The website lets Africans can sell their one-of-a-kind handmade goods to the entire global market. You’re buying directly from the source, so you’re benefitting not only the store owner, but also the economy. Prices vary widely. www.marketplaceafrica.com
Did you know that January is National Puzzle Month—or that January 29 is National Puzzle Day? If not, don’t feel bad: neither did we. But one thing we’re quite sure of is that doing puzzles is a wonderful way to spend time with your family. Plus, it’s good for you. Whether it’s a 1,000-piece jigsaw, a crossword, a sudoku, or something else, doing puzzles has been shown to increase alertness and concentration, improve memory and mood, boost problem-solving abilities and spatial reasoning, and lower stress levels. So in honor of National Puzzle Month, here are a few puzzle-icious ways to disconnect from our hyper-digital lifestyle, reconnect with your family, and generally improve your life.
Puzzle to Relax
It’s almost impossible to walk by an unfinished puzzle. Typically, people intend to stop for only a few seconds, but, 30 to 90 minutes later, find that they’ve lost themselves in the never-ending quest to find “just one more piece.” When choosing a puzzle to relax, imagery is key. Look for images that make you happy like puppies or feel at peace like African animals. Prices vary greatly, depending on piece count (which ranges from 200 to 9,000 pieces!). https://www.ravensburger.us/products/jigsaw-puzzles Continue reading →
If you’re anything like us, you like to be active and outside as much as possible. Cold weather complicates things, but not to worry. It’s still possible to take in some natural vitamin D all year ‘round, even if you’re all bundled up. Here are some functional, eco-friendly cool-weather options that we’re loving right now.
Original Stegmann Shoes (Stegmann)
The perfect slip on shoe for indoors or out, the Original Stegmann is great for camping, running errands, and everything in between. Made from a proprietary wool blend, these shoes have fantastic arch and toe support, a contoured cork sole that helps provide additional metatarsal support, and a gentle slope that helps reduce ankle and back pain. So if you’ve got aching feet, issues like plantar fasciitis, or a bad back, these are well worth considering. All in all, if comfort is your thing—and whose isn’t?—check ‘em out. https://www.stegmannusa.com. Prices vary. Continue reading →
Looking for something fun to stimulate the mind of a creative child? These are a lot of fun, and we know that your little one will get a lot of play out of them.
Spirals & Sounds (Vtech)
If you remember Spirograph from when you were a kid, you’ll start doing your happy dance when you unbox this new art kit from VTech. Comes with four animal-shaped stencils and five gears that will let your little one create a nearly unlimited number of spiral shapes and designs. And in case being absorbed in an art project isn’t enough, the Sounds part of Spirals & Sounds includes 20 melodies, encouraging messages, and a variety of rhymes and chatty banter. Uses standard letter-size paper. Under $10. Ages 3+. https://www.vtechkids.com
Despite all the lists and the carefully put together plans, not everyone manages to get all their Holiday shopping done before the actual Holiday. Not to worry. Here are a few better-late-than-never games that are sure to amuse and entertain—including a few designed to be amusing and entertaining after the kiddies have gone to bed…
Not Parent Approved (Not Parent Approved, LLC)
Inspired by Cards Against Humanity, this one is closer to being for the whole family (but with plenty of double-entendre possibilities to titillate more mature players). It’s all about filling in the blanks in questions like, “I dare you to tell your dad about___” or “Grandma believes that ____ is the source of all goodness.” Comes with 455 cards. If that’s not enough, expansion packs are also available. Under $25. 4-10 players, ages 8+. https://notparentapproved.com
Holiday traditions are easy to create–just start doing something new. But creating a holiday tradition with a new character is hard. Elf on the Shelf did it remarkably well a few years ago. And the folks behind Maccabee on the Mantle and Mensch on a Bench have made the Festival of Lights a little brighter. This year, there are a few new characters in town that we think you should meet.
Reindeer in Here (Reindeer in Here)
Hollywood TV producer Adam Reed wasn’t a big fan of Elf on the Shelf, so he decided to create a character that would better resonate with his family. The result is a cheerful reindeer who, unlike elves, who can’t be touched, was made to go everywhere with your child. The reindeer, one of whose antlers is smaller than the other (in the spirit of Nemo’s “lucky fin”), also shares the much-needed message that “different is normal.” This book-and-plush combo retails for about $32. https://reindeerinhere.com/
Building, whether it’s with blocks, bricks, paper, metal, pipecleaners, or anything else, is one of the very best ways for parents and children to spend time together. Here are some new products that will help you keep busy and close during those long, winter evenings.
Tonka Mighty Builders 80-piece Set (Amloid)
Young engineers can take their building on the road with this cute set, that includes more than 60 blocks in a variety of shapes and colors, a block-fit figure, an easy-to-assemble-and-take-back-apart truck, and a bunch of accessories (like construction signs). And when playtime is over you’ll be able to put all those blocks back into the durable (and adorable) truck-shapedcarrying bag. Available at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer. For ages 1+. Prices vary. https://amloid.com
Construction Building Blocks 115-piece Tube (Crayola)
Another engaging building set for the youngest builders. This giant crayon-shaped tube is probably taller than your child and is filledwith large, easy-to-manipulate, colorful (we’d expect nothing less from Crayola) blocks. It’s a great way to learn about shapes, colors, and perseverance. The set we reviewed had 115 pieces, but smaller sets are available as well. Available at your favorite toy seller. For ages 1+. About $20. https://www.crayola.com
Bendy and the Ink Machine Buildable Scene Set (Basic Fun!)
Never hear of Bendy? It’s not too late to find out. This 265-piece set is based on the popular video game, Bendy and the Ink Machine. Inaddition to all the pieces you need to build out the ink machine room, it includes complete instructions and three mini-figures: Boris the Wolf, Ink Bendy, and Bendy himself. Other figures (including Alice Angel, Sammy, and Searcher) are sold separately. The bricks themselves are compatible with most major brands, so you can build even bigger and more elaborate scenes. Ages 8+. About $25. http://www.basicfun.com
Georello Tech Set #6137 (Quercetti)
This is the first kit we’ve reviewed from this Italian toy company and we’re very impressed. To start with, it’s colorful and extremely durable (the company says it’s indestructible, but we know a lot of kids who’d take that as a challenge). But the best part is putting all the pieces together,which will, in the most delightful way, teach kids about gears, motion, chains,and movement. Once it’s assembled, and spinning, it’s absolutely mesmerizing. Includes 165 pieces and complete instructions. For ages 5+. Under $40. https://www.quercettistore.com
The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure (Thames & Kosmos)
Pepper Mint is a skilled engineer who wants to take you andyour child on a science expedition to the Bermuda Triangle, where things don’t always behave as you think they should, and the ship’s systems fail. As a result, you and Pepper have to create your own. To survive, you’ll need to create hydraulic machines and a variety of other cool projects that teach basic concepts of physics, engineering, and electricity. The full-color instruction manual uses storytelling to make the STEM education even more fun. Also comes with a Pepper Mint mini-figure. For ages 8+. About $40. https://thamesandkosmos.com
K’nex Bionic Blast Roller Coaster Set (K’nex)
Besides being incredibly fun, roller coasters are wonderful examples of science in action, making abstract concepts like force, motion, inertia, and gravity come to life. This kit comes with everything you could possibly need to build a variety of roller coasters (including instructions, of course). Butbetter still, once you’ve built a few coasters, you’ll be inspired to put the instructions away and build your own. For ages 8+. Under $100. https://www.knex.com
Magformers Sky Track Adventure Set (Magformers)
For kids who are too little, too young, or possibly tooafraid to learn about roller coasters by riding on one, this great magnetic set will give them a lovely introduction to the concepts that make coasters safe and fun. Together, you’ll build a twisty, turny track and create your very own adventures. For ages 3+. About $100. https://www.magformers.com