Building and Coding and STEM, Oh, My!

What happens when you combine building and coding and STEM? Easy: Endless amounts of educational, family-friendly fun.

Code Programming Game Series (ThinkFun)

code programming gameThe 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+.
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Summer May Be Ending, But the Fun Doesn’t Have To

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 wubb;eWater 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

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Building and Learning

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)

bionic bugMost 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.

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Get Outside!

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)

seedling design your box kiteThis 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.

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Arts and Crafts

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)

tropical terrariumA 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.

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Managing Your Family’s Finances

Our early adult years are an exciting time for so many reasons, one of them being the thrill of receiving your first real paycheck and dreaming of what you’ll buy with it. Unfortunately, too few of us spend as much time dreaming about saving some of that money. In fact, a recent study from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ad Council found that while one in three Millennials rank savings as their number one goal, 55% say they’re impulse buyers, 44% don’t pay off their credit card balances in full every month, and 41% have less than $100 in their checking account.

Building a solid financial foundation is critically important, and one of the best ways to make that happen (some might say the only way) is to create a budget and a disciplined savings strategy and stick to them. Here are a few resources to get you on the right path.

Feed the Pig

feed the pigOne of the cornerstones of any budgeting and savings plan is to take a set percentage from every check you receive and put it into a savings account. But, knowing what you should do and actually doing it are two very different things. Feed the Pig has a variety of tools and resources that can help you create a budget, control your spending, manage your credit, and set up savings plans. Thinking about the future will help you pay more attention to how you’re spending your money today. Having long-term goals makes it a lot easier to say No to those impulse purchases. Saving and investing could mean the difference between being able to buy a home in your 20’s and renting until you’re in your 40’s, and between being able to travel the world while you’re still young enough to enjoy it and being confined to your cubicle until you retire.

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End Boredom with These Board Games

Children are endlessly fascinated by what life was life for their parents. And one of the most entertaining ways for our kids to get to know us better (and for us to get to know then better as well) is to play some of the games that we did as kids. Here are four classics that are guaranteed to provide you and yours with hours of entertainment.

Are You Normal? (Pressman Toy)

are you normalHave you ever told a stranger to pick up after his or her dog? Have you ever fallen asleep while driving? Have you ever gotten into a shouting match over a parking space? Have you ever shoplifted? Do you wear thong underwear? These are just a handful of the 200 revealing questions that may give you and your fellow players some insight into exactly how “normal” you are. Each card also includes the percentage of people polled who have answered “Yes.” You earn points for guessing how the other players will answer. For ages 15 and up. Retails for about $10.

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You’re a Real Doll

From the soft and cuddly, to things a little more exotic, there are dolls for everyone to love this summer. Here’s what’s new and exciting in the wonderful world of dolls.

Mon Premier Bébé (Corolle)

mon premier baby bathFor a doll that does double duty (you can snuggle it or take it into the bathtub or pool), check out this new entry from Corolle. Filled with polystyrene beads that dry quickly, these 12-inch dolls are specially designed for playing in the tub, and are so light they float. They have adorable faces, vanilla-scented skin (Corolle’s signature), and eyes that open and close. Every doll comes with an outfit and bath toy of its own and they’re available in several skin tones and both sexes for about $28 each.

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Kids and Video Games: It’s All about Moderation, Quality, and Safety

There’s a lot of debate these days about kids and screen time. Since eliminating screen time altogether isn’t an option, it all comes down to three words: moderation, quality, and safety. Moderation, we’ll leave up to you. But here are three high-quality games and two tools that will help you ensure that your kids have the safest on-line experience possible.


Birthdays the Beginning

birthdays the beginningThis wonderful game is the brainchild of Yasuhiro Wada, creator of Harvest Moon, and to grasp what it’s like, imagine a combination of Minecraft, Sims, and evolution. There are two modes: Build and Macro. In Build mode, players create a world, with mountains, trees, valleys, statues, and so on. In Macro, you’re now in charge of time, temperature, climate, and life itself (there are more than 300 life forms, including plants, fuzzy mammals, and plenty of dinosaurs). As you move back and forth between the modes, you have a chance to see the intricate and delicate ways that the environment and everything in it affect each other. Too hot or too cold, your creatures could go extinct. Too many critters? They might run out of food. Available for PlayStation 4 and PC.

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Wet, Wild, and Comfy

If your kids aren’t out of school already, they will be soon, which means that the dreaded words, “I’m bored” aren’t far behind. Given how many options are available to kids and families these days, we’ve banned that phrase from our house and we suggest you do the same! Here are some terrific activities that will keep everyone in the family wet, wild, smiling, and snuggly.

Giant Gazillion Super-Sized Bubble Fun (Funrise)

gazillion bubblesThere’s something almost magical about bubbles, and this giant bottle is filled with enough magic to last until the school starts in the fall. Aside from two liters of pre-mixed bubble solution, you get a giant bubble wand, which will make some of the biggest bubbles you and your kids have ever seen. If that’s not enough for you, Funrise makes a variety of other bubble-producing products, including wands and battery-operated mills to automate your bubbles. For ages 3+. Available at your favorite retailer.

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