Much to Know About History

Besides camps, poison oak, blockbuster movies, vacations, and sunburn, summer is also known as a time when kids forget a little too much of what they spent the just-finished school year learning. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This is the first of several columns that will highlight some of the many ways you can help turn that dreaded summer brain drain into a brain gain. And there’s no better place to start than with history.

Little Guides to Great Lives (Laurence King)

little guides to greata livesOne of the best ways to learn about history is to read about the lives of the people who lived it. And this new series of books for young readers is excellent. Each of these 64-page books is charmingly illustrated and filled with stories, scenes, and fascinating nuggets from the subject’s life. So if you want to know how Nelson Mandela inspired the world, why Amelia Earhart is an aviation hero, what makes Leonardo da Vinci a genius, why Frida Kahlo is an art icon, and what Marie Curie did to become a science superstar, look no further. Although they’re written for children, adults will love these books too—and they’re perfect to read aloud. For ages 7+. $11.99.

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Fidget Toys

No matter the time of year, little hands (and maybe not-so-little hands) get into everything. Whether you’re in a restaurant, on a long car ride, or just walking through a supermarket, it’s usually a good idea to put something into those active hands to keep them occupied before they get too active (or maybe just get on your nerves).

Click Clack Ball (Manhattan Toy)

click clack ballGot a really little one? This brightly colored, plastic ball with many handles to twist and turn is a great option. It’s also easy to connect to a baby stroller or seat so your kiddo won’t be able to toss it onto any dirty floors (as we all know they so love to do). As the name implies, the Click Clack makes sounds when baby turns the handles, and it rattles as it moves. It’s filled with tiny beads, which make lots of stimulating noise (but not so much that it will drive mom and dad crazy).  An excellent choice for baby showers, too. Retail prices vary from $9.99 to $15.99 depending on where you buy, so get your Google on before you shop.
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Saving Game Night

Looking for a way to add some excitement to your family’s game night? What better way than to combine it with some exciting movies? Here are four of our current movie-themed games. Lights, camera, action!

The Incredibles Save the Day Game (Wonder Forge)

incredibles save the dayAfter a 13-plus-year absence, the Incredibles are back (“Incredibles 2” hits theaters June 15), and they’re picking up right where they left off. But you don’t have to wait ‘til the movie comes out to spend some quality time with the Parr family. A crime wave has hit Metroville and Jack-Jack (the shape-shifting baby) is in trouble. Each player takes on the role of one of the Incredibles, complete with his or her powers. But the object here isn’t to defeat the other players. Instead, players work together (just like the Incredibles do in reel life) to thwart a bank robbery, save a cat from a tree, rescue someone from a burning building, or heroically stop some other dastardly evildoer. Aside from the cooperative nature of the game, we really liked the fact that, thanks to random dice rolls and game tiles, you’ll never play the same game twice. For 1-4 players ages 6+. Under $20.
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Now See—and Hear, and Play with—This

It’s hard to believe, but school will be out in about a month. And as the days get longer, we’ll be spending more time outdoors. But who says we have to do without our creature comforts? Check out some of the gear that makes being outside a little, less, well, outside.

PaMu TWS Earbuds (PaMu)

PuMu headphonesDo you love a good run? Maybe a hike, kayak, or even just some time in the gym? A lot of us like to listen to our favorite tunes (or podcast or audio book or some other kind of audio) while working out. But finding good earphones that can deal with sweat isn’t always easy. The new PaMu TWS wireless earphones are easy to wear, truly have no wires (until you have to charge them, of course), and are sweat-proof and water resistant. They also incorporate several must-have features, including hi-fi sound, auto-connects, touch control, auto pairing that lets you make calls and listen to music while your phone is in your pocket (or even further away), and an in-ear mic. Plus, they come with a portable charging pod that neatly fits your buds and doubles as a travel case, and more. And for ear buds, they’re reasonably comfortable. If you’re a Dr. Who fan, they may remind you of Cybermen. Put in your giant ear buds and then you become a robot working for your new alien overlords. Ok, maybe not. They’re not available in stores yet, but you can snag a pair on Indiegogo before they hit the shelves.

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Unleash Your Inner Animal

What is it about kids and animals? Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of flesh and blood or artificial materials, kids love ‘em—and so do we. Here are some of our current favorites.

Q*bert Buildable Figure (Arcade Classics/The Bridge Direct)

QbertIf you’ve got young kids, there’s a good chance that Q*bert, who was born in 1982, is older than you. But he (or is it she?) has held up pretty well. The classic arcade game has been rebooted several times, most recently in the film, “Pixels.” Now, this loveable, armless, orange creature with the big nose is available as a buildable figure, using 117 LEGO-type pieces. And if you need more early video game throwbacks, you can get Centipede and Frogger figures as well. These kits are for kids 10+, but we think younger ones can handle it too. Prices vary.

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Men’s Wear Daily

A few weeks ago, we featured some cool clothes for women. Since a number of readers pointed out that men wear clothes too, we figured that it’s only fair to highlight some men’s wear as well. Here, then, are some stylish, casual for the males in your life.

Long Sleeve Hood (prAna)

prana long sleeve hoodieTo give you a sense of how great Prana clothes are, here are two actual quotes from a teenage girl who was asked to take pictures of her dad, who was trying on their jeans and hoodie. 1) “Wow. I mean, you look, ah, almost, um, pretty decent.” If you don’t have a teenage girl around the house, you have no idea what an incredible compliment that is. 2) “Hey, can I have that shirt?” The Long Sleeve Hoodie is also from organic cotton and recycled polyester and is incredibly comfortable and lightweight. But the unique design is what will attract the most attention. It comes in black, charcoal, starling (a very light green), and denim (blue). $49.

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Nintendo Labo: Building Your Own Wow!

We usually review four or five products each week, but the new Nintendo Labo is so engaging and entertaining that it deserves its very own column. Before we start, there are three important things you need to know about Labo.

  1. You’ll need a Switch. Nintendo’s newest gaming console. Labo won’t function without it. If you don’t have one, it’s well worth the investment.
  2. You’ll need time. Labo divides the experience into three components: Make, Play, and Discover. Depending on what you’re making, the Make phase can easily take over an hour. But you and your child(ren) will have a blast—and an even bigger blast when you finally get to the Play and Discover stages.
  3. Tweens and teens will love it. We brought two grumbling teenagers to a pre-launch event in San Francisco and they practically refused to leave. And when a gaggle of teens took over our living room to have a Labo construction (and play) party, we knew something truly special was happening.

Labo Variety Kit (Nintendo)

Variety PackThis kit comes with everything you’ll need to build five complete projects (called Toy-Cons). Each one starts as a series of sheets of cardboard. Pop out the pieces, fold them (video instructions are available—and extremely helpful), connect them to each other, and decorate to your heart’s content. Then you attach the Switch Joy-Con controllers and the magic happens.


  • fishing rodWith the fishing rod, you build a “working” rod and reel. Next, you fire up your Switch console and start fishing, for anything from minnows to sharks. You can even design your own fish.
  • The motorbike lets you rev the throttle and lean to turn. And you’ll almost feel the wind in your hair as you weave through standard tracks or ones you design yourself.
  • The piano may look simple, but you don’t have to be a musician to start composing and recording your very own music, including sound effects.
  • The remote-controlled car is powered by vibrations from the Switch controllers. Use the Labo app to steer, or battle and race a friend (you’ll need another set of Switch controllers for this).
  • The house includes different rooms, components, mini-games, and even a resident creature.

Ages 6+. $69.99 MSRP.



Labo Robot Kit (Nintendo)

Robot KitBuilding a wearable robot suit out of cardboard is a daunting task, but we know you can handle it. Once you’ve constructed and connected all the pieces (including a backpack, visor, and attachments for both arms and legs), you’re ready to step into the game, where you control an on-screen robot (kind of like in Ready Player One) and can punch, stomp, and smash buildings, vehicles, and other minor inconveniences all by yourself, or go robot-head to robot-head against a friend (he or she will need another Robot Kit and controllers).  Ages 6+. $69.99 MSRP.

Robot action

Labo Customization Set

RC car duckIncludes tape, stencils, and a variety of stickers that you can use to customize and decorate your Labo creations. But you can just as easily use anything you have around the house or that you can buy at your local arts-and-crafts store (like glue, paint, and googly eyes—who doesn’t love googly eyes?). $9.99.


Toy-Con Garage

This is the Discover phase, a place where you can get under Labo’s hood and start tinkering with code. In the garage, you’ll be able to reprogram your already-built Toy-Cons or create completely new ones (like turning that piano and a handful of rubber bands into a guitar), learn if-then programming, and much more. Toy-Con Garage is already included with your Labo!



Women’s Wear Daily

It’s been a long winter, but now that the weather is starting to warm up, we’re looking forward to taking our workouts outside. Here are some of our ready-for-Spring-fitness faves.

Launch 5 Sneakers (Brooks Running)

Brooks Launch 5 SneakersIf you are a runner, walker, or hiker, you’ll love the new Launch 5. To start with, they’re lightweight, with a mesh outer layer that keeps things airy. And with “BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning” (which means the whole sole is cushioned instead on just the heel and forefoot), they’re wonderfully comfortable. The Launch 5 is perfect for the gym, trails, sidewalks, and anywhere else. $100 at
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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.
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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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