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.
We’re gearing up for Toy Fair, where we’ll be spending four days up to our ears in toys and games. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll fill you in on what’s new and exciting for 2017. But one thing we can guarantee right now: regardless of whatever else is trending, animals will never go out of style. Here are some of our current faves.
FlipaZoo and Little FlipZees (Jay@Play)
FlipaZoos are adorable plush pillows that are perfect for snuggle time and bed time. Each FlipaZoo is actually two animals in one. Just lift up the animal’s tail, pull it over its head (sounds painful, but no animals will be harmed), and you’ve got a completely new pet (don’t let your kids try this with your real pets). There’s a cat that turns into a mouse, a dragon that turns into a unicorn, a husky that turns into a polar bear, and several others. Jay@Play also makes mini versions called Little FlipZees. Big or little, they’re great for all ages. $19 for FlipaZoos; about $8.50 for FlipZees at your favorite retailer. http://www.flipazoo.com
Like it or not, we live in a world that is more and more dependent on technology. And if we expect our children to thrive in an increasingly complex and competitive world, they need to be technologically competent. Some toys and games include tech features simply because they can. Others, such as the ones we’re reviewing this week, integrate technology in a way that actually encourages learning.
DigiArt Creative Easel (VTech)
Transformers are everywhere… This highly interactive art center transforms from a desk to an easel to a chalkboard and back again in a way that really encourages kids’ creativity. For those who need a little help, the light-up dry-erase board and magic pen make it easy for kids to trace more than 150 numbers, letters, basic shapes, and simple objects. And at 40” high, it may be taller than your child. The easel is also wired for sound and comes with 100 vocabulary words and more than a dozen songs and tunes. Chalk included, but batteries aren’t. It’s for ages 3+. Retails for under $54. https://www.vtechkids.com/
Here’s some of the latest in family tech.
VR Real Feel Racing
Now you can get the full virtual-reality experience of car racing without having to leave the comfort of your living room. The app itself is a lot of fun for both kids and adults who like racing games. But what’s especially cool about Real Feel Racing is that in addition to the very-comfortable headset, you also get a steering wheel. Most other VR racing setups have you tilt your head to steer. That’s fun, but you don’t have any control over acceleration or braking. With Real Feel, you control both with the steering wheel. Plus, the Max Force Feedback lets you feel the vibrations when you crash or bump into other cars. Requires 3 AAA batteries (not included). Available for about $30 on www.amazon.com