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
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