Phoenix Rising

20 years or so ago, the Phoenix area was widely considered a cultural wasteland. Those days are long gone. Today, the greater Phoenix area is home to some fantastic museums and other educational venues, many of which are quite family-friendly. This week we look at several must-see Phoenix experiences.

Musical Instrument Museum

walking stick violinHumans are hard-wired for music, as evidenced by the existence of music and musical instruments in every human culture going back thousands of years. This dazzling museum’s collection of more than 10,000 instruments is guaranteed to engage, entertain, and impress. It features exhibits organized by instrument (guitars, violins, trumpets, percussion, etc.), geography (Asia, Middle East, US and Canada, Latin America, etc. There’s a special exhibit of Treasures from Central China going on now) artist (Elvis, Taylor Swift, Tito Puente, and dozens from around the world), and more. There’s also a fascinating exhibit of mechanical instruments (nickelodeons, music boxes, player pianos, etc.) and you won’t want to miss the Experience Gallery, where you and the kids can strum, pluck, stroke, bang, stomp, and otherwise play instruments from every corner of the world. For all ages. One-day and two-day passes available, including a self-guided audio tour. https://mim.org
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A New York State of Fun

Looking to spend some time in The Big Apple with the family? Here are some great places to visit while you’re there.

 

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

NY Lego discoveryLEGOs are fun for kids (and adults) of all ages, and there’s no better place to play with them than the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. The adventure begins with a kiddie version of the history of those little plastic bricks and how they’re made. After that, it’s time to get physical. The first ride (one that takes you into the main area) is a sit-down guided-laser shooting tour, where you save the castle by defeating tons of baddies. To celebrate your victory, you head into a mini-brick version of New York City and the LEGOLAND area. Push buttons for lights and sounds, and well as mini-animations. The details are pretty amazing, and the spoofs will keep everyone giggling. Fans will find quite a few “Easter eggs” as they walk around the town. There’s also a magic couch ride where you jaunt around on a flying couch. Really.  You move it up and down by pedaling, and it goes around in a circle.

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2018 Easter

It’s that time of year again, when Peter Cottontail and all his bunny helpers hop into homes with treat-filled baskets and toys for good little boys and girls. Here are some of our favorite non-food items to fill your kiddos baskets with.

Eggnots

egg notsAre your kids allergic to eggs? Are you vegan? Still want to participate in the whole egg-dying tradition? Now you can, with these ceramic egg kits, which provide an alternative to natural eggs that’s as attractive as your artistic abilities will allow. No more need to deny egg-averse kids the opportunity to participate in a time-honored Easter tradition. Prices start at $9.99 at http://www.eggnots.com


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What’s the Good Word?

How many times have we told our kids to “Use your words!”? These great new games will give kids some extra practice doing just that.

Word Rush (Tactic Games)

word rushAnother game where you come up with words that match a certain category. But this one has a few new twists. First, once a category card has been selected, players turn over nine letter cards and then take turns listing words that start with one of those letters. Second, the instant you’ve said your word, you flip over the sand timer and the next player has to say a word and flip the timer back over before time runs out. The faster you answer, the less time you leave the next player. Of course, you can adjust the rules to make things easier or more challenging. Under $18. For 2-6 players, ages 8+. http://www.tactic.net


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Tech Stuff

As important as it is to get kids up and outside, the fact is that we live in a high-tech world and it’s critical that our children develop a high level of comfort will all things electronic. Here are a few of our new faves.

Marbotic Smart Letters (Marbotic)

marbotic - Smart-LettersThis interactive alphabet toy cleverly combines physical and digital play by combining traditional (and very beautifully crafted) wooden letters with the touchscreen technology that’s as close as your tablet. Just download the (free) app, place the letters on your device, and start ooh-ing and ahh-ing. These smart letters will help your child recognize shapes and letters, learn letter sounds and patterns, build vocabulary, learn to read and write. Comes with 26 letters and is available in eight languages (American English, British English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and Danish). And since you aren’t accessing wi-fi or Bluetooth, it’s 100% internet-safe. For ages 5+. About $57. www.marbotic.com


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Let’s Fly — and Race!

Who doesn’t love a good race—especially one through the air? Drone technology has evolved to the point where just about anyone, regardless of skill level or coordination skills, can enjoy being a pilot. This week, we take a look at several aircraft that that have something for beginners and experts alike. Rather keep your feet firmly on the ground? No prob. We’ve got you covered.

 

DRL Air Elite 115 Racing Drone Set (Nikko Air)

DRL racing drone If you or your young pilot-to-be are just getting started, the Air Elite 115 is a great entry level drone that comes with a removable circular ring that protects the drone and hard objects like walls from damaging each other. This multi-speed quadcopter is extremely easy to operate, highly responsive, and doesn’t require FAA registration. It hovers beautifully and comes preloaded with 16 one-touch stunts that will have your airshow spectators cheering. If you have two of these drones, you can race head-to-head, or you can set up a cool obstacle course or race track using the modular gate system. Although the Air Elite comes with batteries and replacement propellers, there’s no GPS or video camera, but it’s really intended as a platform for learning the basics of drone piloting. Ages 7+. About $35. http://www.nikkoair.com

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Let’s Get Smart

Who among us wouldn’t like a little more smarts? These new games will definitely make you and your kids more intelligent (and, in one case, more legible).

Sticky History of the World (Magma/Laurence King)

sticky historyThis 32-page book, charmingly illustrated by Caroline Selmes, takes young and old readers on a brief tour of the entire history of our planet. It starts with the Big Bang, and over the course of eight panels, moves to the age of the dinosaurs, the Neanderthals, Vikings, and all the way to the 21st Century Space Age. Dozens of stickers help get kids actively engaged, and the accompanying text ads context and depth. Ages 6+. Under $12. www.laurenceking.com


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2018 Toy Trends

Well, we’re back from our annual trip to the arctic east coast for Toy Fair, where we had a chance to preview—and play with—the latest and greatest toys and games. As in previous years, certain themes are more popular than others. Some are holdovers from last year (often with a twist) or reboots of classics from generations ago. Others are completely new. Here are some of the trends we think will be big this year. James Hamilton, of the popular pop-culture website http://geekstronomy.com was there to lend a hand covering the massive show floor, and we thank him for contributing to this coverage.

Blind Boxes

blind bagsThis is one of the holdover trends. In this case, the twist is a “blister pack,” that shows part of the toy or contents. What’s left is revealed only to the buyer, and the hidden toy is often a rare item. The other big news in blind boxes is that the packaging has gotten very creative, often serving a dual purpose, such as being used as a Christmas ornament, storage tin, or as part of the toy itself. We love this, and think that your kids will, too.


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Time to Get Your Craft On

Looking for the perfect quiet-time activity to do with your school-age kids? These colorful, artistic kits are perfect for after school, weekends, or even a little pre-bedtime relaxation.

Bath Fizzies (Creativity for Kids)

bath fizziesOne of the newest entries in Creativity for Kids’ impressive line of craft/art-oriented kits, this one comes with everything your child will need to make six soothing bath fizzies. Specifically, you get two butterfly molds, baking soda, fizzy formulas, fragrances, shimmering stuff, and charms to hide in the fizzies. You also get gift wrap and tags, in case you want to give your creations away. In our house, bath time and meal time are separate events, but just in case a younger child gets ahold of one, these fizzies are gluten- and paraben-free and vegan. Who knew? Now, just slip into the tub and relaaaaax. For ages 7+. About $16. http://www.fabercastell.com


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Snack on This… and This… and That

With football season behind us, you probably won’t be doing much tailgating for a while. But there’s always a need for tasty, healthy snacks (game night anyone?). And let’s not forget about Valentine’s Day….

noosa mates (noosa yoghurt)
noosa yoghurtWe’ve been fans of noosa yoghurt for a while, and were excited to hear that they’ve introduced both new flavors (including apple and pumpkin) and new yoghurt/topping combinations. These mix-in-style yoghurts are called noosa mates, and they pair the creamy noosa whole milk yoghurt we already enjoy with delicious, high-quality toppings like crunchy granolas, roasted nuts, pretzels, and premium chocolate. Just pull off the top, flip the “mix in” side into the yoghurt, and stir.  It’s very satisfying, satiating, and tastes great. Available nationwide at many grocery- and super stores in single packs, four packs, and large 24-oz containers. Prices vary. https://www.noosayoghurt.com


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