What better way to start off a new year than by learning about art, science, and building?
Just Add Milk Science and Art Kit (Griddly Games)
While it’s definitely possible to do some of the experiments in this kit by adding nothing more than milk, if you want to do them all, you’ll need a few other items from your cupboard, including glue, a bottle of cola, white vinegar, and baking soda. Once you’ve got all your ingredients together, you’re ready to start learning about the science of art (or is it the art of science?). You’ll experiment with natural reactions (such as what happens when you drop food coloring into milk and then add a drop of soap), watch how colors explode, and create tie-die-type designs that you can turn into mouse pads and other real works of art. $15.95. Ages 5+ (adult supervision recommended). http://griddlygames.strikingly.com
Ever one of us has a story. But we’re not all equally skilled in telling those stories. This week, we review several unique products that are designed to jump-start your creativity and get those story-telling juices flowing. It may start with “Once up on a time…”, but where it goes from there is completely up to you.
Ghost Story Box (Laurence King)
Combine these 20 two-sided puzzle pieces to create a different ghostly tall tale every time. Actually, it’ll be a long tale—up to eight feet, to be precise. The pieces are there for guidance, but the true inspiration needs to come from you. Better yet, get the whole family together, and as each person adds a piece to the puzzle, he or she also adds a few minutes of horror to the story. Ages 6+. Under $15. http://www.laurenceking.com
Well, the Holidays are here, but in case you didn’t finish your shopping, here are a few more toys that will make those kiddos shriek with delight as they tear off the wrapping paper.
Hatchimals Super Surprise (Spin Master)
Last year’s hit toy is back with an ever-bigger surprise inside. The all new Hatchimals Surprise let you hatch two sweet, cuddly Hatchimals from the same egg—that’s right, twins. As you play with and hold your colorful egg, the Hatchimals inside make all sorts of sounds to let you know they’re trying to hatch. When they’re finally ready, you’ll see their rainbow eyes and they’ll begin to “push” their way out of the egg. Although they’re twins, each Hatchimal has a unique personality. As you interact with them, they learn new tricks and habits, like how to talk, dance, sing, tell jokes, play games, repeat what you say, and more. They also interact with each other, sometimes sweet, sometimes arguing, like any siblings will. About $60 in stores and online. https://spinmaster.com
Getting ready to host family and friends for your annual holiday celebrations? Here are some items we’re loving right about now as we get ready to deck the halls, light the candles, have some relaxing fun, and clean up after everyone leaves.
Ninja Intelli-Sense System with Auto-Spiralizer (Ninja)
This handy item is perfect for meal prep, and has a “smart” base with a touchscreen that lets you choose between four high-performance appliances. Don’t let all the high-tech electronics fool you—it’s durable and easy to clean. The System comes with a book of tasty, chef-created recipes that you can make at home using your new machine(s). Choose from items like homemade pastas, margaritas, pizza dough, fresh salsa, and much more. At retailers nationwide for about $269.99. https://www.ninjakitchen.com
Power Rippers 2-in-1 Competition Set (Jakks Pacific)
If your children love cars, or shows like Pokémon or Battlebots, they’ll surely enjoy this set, which comes complete with everything you’d want or need. It includes a Track Set and Battle Arena, dual loops that you can reconfigure for side-by-side racing, one long track, a crash zone, and an “epic jump” for the perfect ending… The kids will use the Battle Arena to, yes, you guessed it, battle each other (or mom and dad). The set comes in its own case, which makes for easy clean-up, storage, and take-along. Ages 4+. Under $30 at your favorite toy retailer. https://powerripperstoys.com/
Big things can, as the old saying goes, come in small packages. And with the Holidays almost upon us, here are some new games that fit neatly into small boxes but provide nearly endless opportunities for big fun.
Dead or Alive (Laurence King Publishing)
This easy-to-play card game is like Fantasy Football, but for crime aficionados. Each of the 32 cards features one or more gangsters (including classics like Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, and lesser-known villains like Belle Star and Mishka Yaponchik), along with a bit of history and scores for body count, charisma, finances, rap sheet, firepower, and legacy. Play your card, and may the baddest baddie win. For ages 7+. Under $10. http://www.laurenceking.com
With so many fascinating, amazing, gorgeous, and marvelous creatures as there already are in the world, one might reasonably wonder why anyone could want even more. The answer is simple: Because it’s fun! Here are some of our current favorite Holiday creature comforts.
Beat Bugs Singing Jay (Blip Toys)
Jay and the other Beat Bugs sing along with songs from season one of their hit Netflix streaming show. If you’re a Beatles purist, you may have some trouble with the Fab Four’s music being sung by adorable insects, but if you want to introduce your little ones to some of the best rock music ever created—including “Help,” “Blackbird,” Good Day Sunshine,” “Penny Land,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” you can’t go wrong here. Picture books and activity books (with stickers and word searches) sold separately. Figures come with batteries. For ages 3+ https://bliptoys.com/
With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the Holidays around the corner after that, ‘tis the season for travel. With that in mind, we’re launching this year’s gift guides with a look at activities that will take you away, whether that’s just down the street to the barber, into the jungles of South America, inside an ancient pyramid, or even further back to the days of the dinosaurs. Ready to hit the road?
The Quest for El Dorado (Ravensburger)
Ah, El Dorado, the mythical, treasure-filled city in the jungles of South America. Players all start with identical cards in their deck, which they use to assemble an expedition team of experts, buy equipment, and plot out their journey. That sounds pretty easy, but since there are literally 100,000 ways to get from A to El Dorado, you’ll need to plan carefully. You win the game by finishing the quest—none of the items you acquire along the way count. It’s for 2-4 players, ages 10+, and will take about an hour to play. https://www.ravensburger.us
Got gamers? We do, too. Here are a few of the latest titles that will be keeping our kids (OK, and maybe us as well) occupied during the coming rainy days and cold nights.
You can play this unique game using just the app or with what the company calls “connected play,” which “fuses augmented reality, physical trading cards, digital action figures, and more.” The figures are especially cool and can be used as actual game controllers, something we’ve never seen before. There’s no portal—all you need is your tablet, the app, and Bluetooth to link everything together, and you’re good to go. The interactive trading cards bring features into play and into (virtual) reality as you use them. Starter packs are about $40 at your favorite retailer. https://www.lightseekers.com
Kids have tons of energy—that’s one of the many things we love about them. Sometimes, though, as we all know, they don’t have enough outlets for that energy. As a result, they can do things that we don’t love quite so much. But properly channeled, those idle hands can play, do, create, build, investigate, and get involved in all sorts of wonderful, productive things. Here are some of our favorites.
Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer (Dr. Panda)
Perfect for kids who love to draw and design, Dr. Panda combines a physical toy with easy-to-use AR technology to bring your child’s creations to life. Use more than 50 flashcards to place generic items (furniture, clothes, art, plants, and more) into whichever room you want to design. Or, flip the card over and customize each item. Then, using your smartphone or other Android, Fire OS, or iOS device, scan your images into the app and, wow! Comes with flashcards, erasable markers, and a code to unlock the free app. Pre-readers can also learn to spell and pronounce the names of the objects on each flashcard. For ages 3-8. Under $40. https://drpanda.com