Well, it’s February, so you know what that means. Parents@Play headed out to the New York Toy Fair to check out all the newest toys and games. Some of this year’s trends are continuations of last year’s, albeit somewhat updated. For example, dinosaurs, “mermaid” sequins (the kind that flip from one color to another), llamas, unicorns, glitter everything, narwhals, and coding games and toys are everywhere. As are blind bags, DIY and make it yourself kits, toys that require or interact extensively with apps, and poop. Yes, all sorts of poop in all sorts of ways. And the winner for combining trends goes to…. Glitter poop that uses an app. Wow.
Yes, they’re still as popular as ever. However, in the spirit of inclusiveness, now anything can have a magical horn. Cat? Yes. Llama? Of course. Marshmallow? Even you, little sugar spun bit of sweetness. If you like it, you’d better put a horn on it. Now. Otherwise, someone else will.
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
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
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.
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/