Okay, so the days are getting a little shorter, but that doesn’t mean the end of entertaining, outdoor play. With these great new toys, you and your kids can have open-air fun ‘til the sun goes down—and long after.
This is one of those games that will get you and the family up, outside, and sweating. It’s honestly a great workout. As you can tell from the “minton” part of the name, it’s kind of like badminton, but you don’t need a net. And the “bash” part tells you that you’ll be whaling away, smacking the 4.5-inch “birdie” ball as hard as you can with one of the 21-inch mesh rackets. The rackets and ball are washable and float, meaning you can take your game into the pool. Includes two rackets and one ball. For ages 5+. Under $20. https://www.toysmith.com
As summer winds down and we start gearing up for Fall and, gulp, the Holidays, here are a few great toys and games that don’t fit neatly into any particular category.
Crozzit (Identity Games)
The folks at Crozzit bill it as “the game you always almost win.” You may want to read that line again. The goal of this two-person game is pretty simple: Player 1 needs to lay out his her or her blue tiles to connect the two blue sides of the board. Player 2 does the same, using yellow tiles to connect the yellow sides. Oh, did we say simple? Ha! There are only three rules that are extremely easy to follow, and since there are only two players, your odds of winning are 50/50. But to succeed, you’ll need to use logic, reasoning, and strategic planning. Crozzit comes with a board, 64 tiles, and instructions, and takes about 20 minutes to play—but it’s hard to stop after one game—you’ll soon find yourself playing best of 3, then 5, then 7, and so on. It’s for ages 8+. Under $20. www.identitygames.com
Longing for a break, but don’t have the time to take a week off right now? Here’s a way to travel to distant lands—and even go back in time—and it’s all within a short drive of your home.
We recently visited the New York Renaissance Faire (check out www.renfaire.com/Sites to find the one in your area), which is a fun way to spend the day with family and friends and shake up your routine.
Take a step back in time (about 400 years or so—think Shakespeare) and get into the spirit by dressing up in period costume. Don’t have one? No problem. There are plenty of onsite vendors where you can buy clothing, headgear, fantasy pieces, and anything else you need to become a knight, princess, squire, fairy, unicorn, minotaur, or whatever your imagination can come up with.
Whether you’re looking for some exciting outdoors activities or something just as exciting to do indoors, we’ve got you covered.
Ultra Dash (Play Monster)
Set up your five-target course any way you want. Then, press the button on the tagger to start. Whichever color it flashes, you race to it and tag it with the tagger. The tagger instantly flashes the next color and you’re off again. The tagger keeps track of total elapsed time. You can play solo, one-on-one, or team vs. team. Since you and the kids design the course, it’s a different game every time, and you can make it more challenging by using the tagger’s randomizer function. It’s a fast-paced game that will get everyone up, moving, and having fun indoors or outside. Comes with the electronic tagger (batteries included) and five targets. Ages 6+. Under $20. Ages 6+. www.playmonster.com
As most parents know, children are amazingly—and very naturally—imaginative. How many times have your little ones turned salt and pepper shakers, spoons, forks, knives, and anything else within reach into families, villages, or battling armies? Some kids, of course, need no prompts at all, while others prefer a little more structure and guidance. Here are some imagination-stimulating toys and activities that offer something for just about any child. We love ‘em and think that you will, too.
Cabbage Patch Kids Little Sprouts (Wicked Cool Toys)
School—and imagination—are always in session. The Cabbage Academy Playset includes three play areas (a study hall, classroom, and playground) and a variety of accessories (desks, a chair, a double-sided easel, a globe, a basketball and hoop, lockers that open, a working swing, a slide, and more). And since there’s no sense having a school (or recess) without a student, you even get a 1.5” Little Sprouts figure, Piper June, who happens to be quite rare. The adorable, cabbage-shaped Little Sprouts Mystery Packs contain either a single kid or a baby plus a pet. There are 120 possibilities, including rare and ultra-rare figures. The Academy retails for around $20 and the Mystery Packs are about $3. Additional sets, with four or eight figures, are also available for under $10. Ages 4+. www.Cabbagepatchkids.com
What happens when you combine building and coding and STEM? Easy: Endless amounts of educational, family-friendly fun.
Code Programming Game Series (ThinkFun)
The games in this series are designed to teach core coding concepts through hands-on, screen-free, unplugged play—and they do a wonderful job. Each one consists of a map and 40 levelled challenges (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). In On the Brink, the player takes a challenge card and will use logic and problem-solving skills to move his or her robot along colored pathways from start to finish. Rover Control is similar, but the pathways are colorless, so the player has to figure out not only how to program the robot to get from A to B, but also how to color the pathway, since the robots can’t move without the colors. Robot Repair takes thing up another notch. Instead of moving the robot, the player needs to repair the robot. Each of the challenge cards presents a problem and gives a series of clues for how to fix it. The player uses logic and deductive reasoning to solve the problem and re-activate the robot. $14.99 each at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers. For one player, age 8+. http://www.thinkfun.com
As we head into the last few weeks of summer, there’s no excuse for not soaking up every last bit of fun.
Water Wubble (Wubble)
Water balloon fights are awesome—who doesn’t love one in the heat of the summer—but there’s always one person who gets stuck preparing most of the balloons (and tying knot after knot after knot…), and the post-fight cleanup is never fun for anyone. To avoid all the annoyance while keeping all the enjoyment, check out Water Wubble (the newest member of the Wubble family). Water Wubble is easy to fill in the pool, at the beach, or with a hose. But the coolest thing about the Water Wubble is its re-usability: you fill it, it seals beautifully, you throw it at your target, it explodes with a splash, and repeat. It’s for ages 7+. $14.99 at Walmart, Target, and ToysRUs, or online from http://waterwubble.com
When it comes to building, construction, and robotics, we think that there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing—and no better way to have fun with your kids. So if you’re looking for some great building-related activities, check out these wonderful options.
Bionic Bug (Techno Gears)
Most kids love building, and a slightly smaller group loves bugs. For those who love both, this action-packed kit is perfect. It contains 80 colorful pieces and easy-to-follow instructions to build a motorized bug that moves, rotates, and more. Kids will learn about robotics, gears, following instructions, planning, and patience. For ages s 6+. Under $20. www.thelearningjourney.com
Okay, parents. You’ve had your rest. Now it’s time to get up, get outside, and start having some fun! These games will do the trick, guaranteed!
Design Your Own Box Kite (Seedling)
This high-quality kit (we wouldn’t expect anything else from Seedling) includes a foldout box kite, tubes of fabric paint, and other materials that you and your little one(s) can use to create a one-of-a-kind soaring, dodging, flying, masterpiece that you’ll use over and over again. All you need is time, imagination, and lots of wind. For ages 8+. About $30. https://www.seedling.com
We all know that kids need to be spending time outside working up a sweat and building strong muscles. But they also need plenty of down time. And what better way to relax than by creating art? Here are some truly outstanding ways you and your kids can flex your creativity muscles together.
Tropical Terrarium (Craftivity)
A great craft activity to do with your tween and/or teen. It comes with everything you need for a fabulous mini garden (except water): a trendy, geometric terrarium; potting mix; seeds; pink flamingo and golden pineapple ornaments; decorative plants, sand, and stones; a water dropper; and instructions. For ages 12+. Under $25. www.fabercastell.com