Tag Archives: blue orange

Seeing Science in the Eye of the Beholder

With everyone talking about STEM these days, we here at Parents@Play are always on the lookout for great science-themed toys, games, and activities. Here are four that focus on vision that you and your family will love.

Amusin’ Illusions (Scientific Explorer)

amusin' illusions scientific explorerOptical illusions are always entertaining to play with, but haven’t you ever wondered how and why they work? How do 3D glasses get images to pop off the screen (or page)? Why do certain patterns seem to move even when we know they’re not? How does water make objects look like they’re bent? With this fun, educational kit you’ll have the answers to these and a number of other questions about visual conundrums. Amusin’ Illusions comes with a thoughtful and nicely illustrated instruction manual that takes you through the steps of building a number of illusions and explains the science behind each one. A great parent-child activity for ages 6+. Under $14 at your favorite retailer or www.alexbrands.com

Smithsonian Plasma Ball (NSI)

smithsonian plasma ballThis beautiful-to-look-at ball responds to sound, music, and touch and puts an amazing light show at your fingertip, literally. So what do you do with a plasma ball besides look at it? To start with, you can use it to learn—safely—about electricity (including making your own lightning and even charging your phone). If you’ve got a Star Wars fan around the house, you can create a light saber with your plasma ball and a long fluorescent blub. You’ll find some great videos on YouTube with lots of other tips, tricks, and lessons. The Ball plugs in so you don’t need batteries. The manufacturer says it’s for ages 14+, but if you’re there to supervise, younger kids can enjoy it too. Retails online and off for under $35.

Smithsonian Planetarium Projector (NSI)

smithsonian planetarium projectorThis dual-function projector brings the nighttime sky in all its glory, right into your room. The larger projector shows the northern sky and can be rotated to match what you can see outside (assuming there isn’t too much light pollution). The smaller projector uses three discs to show a total of 24 images, which you can project individually or in combinations. These include the planets, some natural celestial phenomena (nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, and more), and human-made items (satellite, lunar orbiter, space shuttle, and more). The Planetarium Projector definitely feels like a toy, but it’s great for learning about constellations and a lot of other cool astrological stuff. You’ll need three AA batteries (not included) and about three minutes for assembly. It’s for ages 8+ and retails for under $40.

Dr. Eureka Mix the Molecules (Blue Orange)

blue orange dr. eureka moleculesAfter you’ve learned about optical illusions, made your own lightning, and gazed at the stars, you deserve a break. So get the family together and get ready for some brain-teasing fun. Despite the name, Dr. Eureka isn’t really about science concepts, but it is about thinking. Each person (the game is for 1 to 4 players) has three test tubes and six colored “molecules” (two each of red, green, and purple). Put a matching pair of molecules in each tube. Then turn over a challenge card, which has a picture of how the molecules should end up. Then all you do is race the other players to make your test tubes look like the ones on the card. It’s simple. Except for the part about not being able to touch the molecules with your hands—you have to pour them back and forth until you achieve the desired result. It’s for ages 8+ and costs under $40. http://www.blueorangegames.com

Are We Having Fun Yet?

It’s still cold outside, but there’s still plenty of family fun to be had. Here are a few winners of the recent Mr. Dad Seal of Approval (mrdad.com/seal), plus some other great options.

Spanish for Kids: The Ultimate Collection (Whistlefritz)

Spanish-Ultimate-CollectionThis cute video features an adorable, animated mouse and a Spanish-speaking senorita who have teamed up to help you learn Spanish. It’s really sweet, and has fun and upbeat music that the kids can enjoy while learning a new language. The one drawback is that it’s entirely in Spanish, which can make it a little hard for kids to follow along unless they already know some Spanish vocabulary. We worry that the kids might give up too quickly. That said, this Collection would be great to use in conjunction with other Spanish language learning sets (including those made by Whistlefritz). As the kids become more fluent (which shouldn’t take too long), you can use this DVD more regularly. Ages 2-6. $115.00. Buy it at www.whistlefritz.com

Happy Wrap (Happy Baby Wrap)

happy baby wrapBabywearing is an easy and effective way for dads (and moms) to get tons of cuddle and bonding time with baby while boosting those all-important feelings of competence and confidence. These lightweight, breathable wraps have no buckles or rings and are one-size-fits-most, so you and the baby-mama can share one wrap. They come in a variety of prints and can safely and ergonomically support a baby up to 25 pounds (translation: less back pain for ma and pa than many baby carriers). $48-$55. www.happybabywrap.com

Shampoo & Body Wash (Nature’s Baby Organics)

nature's organics shampoo and baby washToday’s dads are involved in every aspect of parenting, and bathing the kiddies is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the best jobs ever. Really. But some of the “baby” shampoos and bath products out there have a—there’s no nice way to say this—stench. That’s not a great thing under normal circumstances. And it’s especially unpleasant if anyone in your family is sensitive to scents. Nature’s Baby has figured out a way to clean and moisturize our littlest monsters, leaving them smelling delicious–like coconut and pineapple. Also comes in lavender-chamomile and vanilla-tangerine. $17.95 for a 16-oz. bottle. www.naturesbaby.com

King’s Gold (Blue Orange Games)

blue orange king's goldThink Yahtzee meets Jack Sparow. Pirates take turns rolling the five custom dice (instead of numbers, the faces have coins, skulls, cannons, or crossbones). You can roll up to three times, keeping some or all, trying to make certain combinations, which allow you to take coins from your opponents (or the king, who gets a cut of all your winnings). Play wisely and you’ll become the richest pirate in the Caribbean. About $14.00. 2-6 players, ages 8 and up. www.blueorangegames.com

Draw 4 (Blue Orange Games)

blue orange draw 4The dig starts by creating an excavation zone, consisting of face-down dinosaur bone cards and action cards. Players take turns removing cards from the zone, trying to assemble complete dinos. The action cards can speed things up or cost you your turn—or your bones! About $13.50. 2-5 players, ages 5 and up. www.blueorangegames.com

X6 Zoom Rocketz (Zing)

zing zoom rocketzThere’s no strategy, no stealing cards from your opponents, and nothing to assemble here. Zoom Rocketz is all about competing to see who can send six rockets the farthest. The harder you stomp on the launch pad, the better. Depending on the angle of the launcher, you can go for height or distance. Comes with one launcher (which automatically rotates and loads the next rocket) and six rockets. About $20 at your favorite retailerFor kids 8 and up, and definitely for outdoor play only. www.zingtoys.com

Halloween: More Than Just a Box of Chocolates

In the grand scheme of things, Halloween is a pretty minor holiday. No question, kids love it because they can get dressed up, knock on strangers’ doors, and bring back their weight in candy. And plenty of adults love it too, in part because they get to wear costumes to work and put bowls of candy on their desk. But fun as it is, Halloween isn’t a holiday that many families celebrate together, and on November 1, it’s all over but the chocolate. This week we take a look at a few items that your whole family can enjoy for longer than a day, and that can also help make Halloween more of a family experience.

 

blue orange spot it!Spot It! (Blue Orange Games)

Spot It! is a Halloween-themed matching game for the whole family. Like some of Blue Orange’s other games, this one consists of a deck of cards (in this case, they’re round), each of which has a number of images (in this case, they’re kind of spooky: ghosts, goblins, witches, frogs, bones, voodoo dolls, zombies, etc.). Using some mathematical hocus-pocus, any two cards in the deck will have one—and only one—matching image. There are five game variations that involve matching and either getting rid of all your cards or collecting more than anyone else does. All you need is a sharp eye and quick reflexes. Be warned: kids are better at these games than adults. A fun game that you’ll enjoy long after all your candy is gone. For 2-8 players, ages 7+. http://www.blueorangegames.com/

 

krusteaz mixesKrusteaz baking mixes (Krusteaz)

Krusteaz has a huge line of cookie-, muffin-, and cake mixes. For Halloween, they’ve added one for Pumpkin Spice cookies. But there are plenty of others, including yum-inducing blueberry muffins, triple chocolate chip cookies, and delicious pancake batter. Some are even gluten free. Whichever one(s) you choose, they’re very easy to prepare–in most cases, all you’ll need to provide is an egg, some oil, and some water—which makes them a great family activity. For kids 3 and up (with your supervision, of course). http://www.krusteaz.com/

 

sprouts farmer marketDelicious foods (Sprouts Farmers Market)

Sprouts has a dizzying array of foods that goes way beyond what you’d expect from a company with “farmers market” in its name. These include seafood, dairy, meat, and more. Many of their selections also offer healthy alternatives such as vegan, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and whole grains. We had a chance to sample some of their cereals, cookies, granola, soup, and kale chips. All had a Halloween-y, pumpkin-y feel and taste, and all were delicious. A nice way to add some non-candy items to your Halloween meals. https://www.sprouts.com

 

rockport walk 360Rockport shoes (Rockport)

Chances are, you’re going to be doing a lot of trick-or-treat walking, which means you’ll need comfortable shoes. You can’t do better than Rockport. We put a pair of Walk 360s through their paces (literally) for a month, and they’ve been wonderful since their first moment out of the box. Rockport has a huge selection of dress and/or casual shoes for men and women. Whichever ones you pick, they’ll get you where you need to go in comfort and style. http://www.rockport.com/

 

teeth fairiesTeeth Fairies book and doll set (Teeth Fairies)

This book-doll combo offers a new twist on the age-old family tradition. Turns out, there are too many lost teeth for one fairy to handle. So she rounded up some help. The rhyming story is cute and kids of baby-tooth-losing age will love it. For parents (and the reason we’re mentioning it here), there’s some nice, subtle messaging about brushing teeth and dental hygiene. http://teethfairies.com/

 

Don’t Know Much About…

Whether you call it the “summer brain drain” or the less-catchy “summer slide,” the sad fact is that most children forget a lot over the summer. According to the National Summer Learning Association (http://www.summerlearning.org/), “students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.” Low-income students do worse than their middle-class peers. The result is that, on average, teachers have to spend the first 3-6 weeks of the new semester reviewing the previous year’s material instead of teaching new material. This week, we review several products that will put a plug in that brain drain.

 

super genius - multiplication super genius - 5 gamesSuper Genius (Blue Orange Games)
Super Genius is a collection of five very clever games that are designed to be used at home or in school to help early elementary age children learn, review, and master basic math facts and sight words. The basic platform is the same throughout: match something on one card with something on another. With the math games (Addition and Multiplication) about half of the card have five equations (2+3, 2×4) and the other half have five numbers. With the word-based games (First Words, Reading 1, and Reading 2) half the cards have pictures and the others have words. We’re not sure how they did it, but there’s always one match between any cards in the two decks. Each Super Genius game comes with instructions for how to play five different matching games. Some require memory, some speed, some both. What’s especially nice is that the names of those games and the basic rules are the same in each set. So kids will be able to move from reading to math and back again without having to learn new rules. All games can be played with 1-6 players. The reading games are targeted to kids 5 or 6 and up, and the math ones for 7 or 8 and up. And all take a maximum of 15 minutes to play. Prices ranges from about $8 to $14 at your favorite retailer. Or visit http://www.blueorangegames.com/

 

talking USA puzzleTalking USA puzzle (Discovery Kids)
Every year we hear the results of surveys that show that American school children can’t find China, Iraq, India, or most other countries on a world map. That’s bad enough, but the real shocker is that a lot of Americans (some estimates go as high as 20%) can’t even find the U.S. on a map. And if they can’t locate the country, they’ll have a really tough time identifying individual states. The Talking USA puzzle will definitely help with that. There are two components: The largest is a colorful puzzle with pieces that are shaped like each of the states (although a few of them combine some of the smaller east-coast states). Push on the state and you’ll learn its slogan, capital, and a fun fact. The other component is the USA Fun Fact Map that has a visual hint for each state and a series of statements. The object, of course, is to match “This ‘Pine Tree’ state produces 99% of all the blueberries in the country” with Maine. Although this puzzle is theoretically for kids, geographically challenged grownups will learn plenty. (At the very least, people on the coasts will be able to stop saying, “somewhere over there” when asked to identify a state on the opposite coast. Although, in defense of the West, some of those East Coast states are really, really small.) Batteries included. Comes with a pull-out storage drawer to keep the pieces from getting lost. About $30.

The Secret Life of Summer

After a long day of having fun outside, it’s important to have some relaxing down time. Here are four games you and your family will love.

cash out simply funCash Out! (SimplyFun, LLC)
Each player is a fund manager tasked with building a diversified, balanced, high-yield portfolio. The goal, of course, is to cash out with the most points. Along the way, you’re buying, selling, and strategizing. Cash Out! Is a fun way to introduce your child (or yourself) to some basic investment concepts before he or she starts playing around with that college fund. Takes 20-30 minutes to play. For 2-4 players, ages 10+. $24. http://www.simplyfun.com/

compose yourself thinkfunCompose Yourself (ThinkFun)
Every once in a while game comes along that is completely unique. Compose Yourself is one of those games. Open the box and you’ll find 60 transparent, coded music cards, each imprinted with a musical staff and four beats worth of notes. Since they’re transparent, you can arrange each card in four different ways (there’s nothing on the cards to indicate a “right” side). Now comes the fun part. String together any four cards to create a unique composition (there are apparently over a billion possibilities). Then, go to the Compose Yourself website, enter the codes, and you’ll hear your composition played by a full symphony orchestra! If you’re happy, download an mp3 or print out sheet music. If not, re-compose and try again. Besides being tremendously fun, this is a great way to expose children to music and/or to teach music reading. Ages 6+. $19.99. http://thinkfun.com/

hey froggy r&r gamesHey, Froggy! (R&R Games)
Too many frogs and not enough lily pads. Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it? The good news is that, unlike the rest of life, the frogs can pile on top of each other. Roll the dice to bounce colored (red, blue, yellow, green) frogs around the pond, scoring points when the frogs on the top match the colors of cards in your hand. You’ll need a little luck and a little strategy—extra points if you’re able to eat some flies along the way.  It’s fun and quick (15-20 minutes). For 2-4 players ages 10+. $15.95. http://www.rnrgames.com/

mix up fix up woinder forgeMix Up! Fix Up! (Wonder Forge)
A fun logic and memory game for preschoolers. Players take turns being the patient. Without showing any of the other players (doctors), the patient takes an “x-ray card” that has eight pictures of different medical tools (stethoscope, syringe, thermometer, etc,) on different backgrounds (dots, checkerboard, hearts, flowers, or stripes), with different  colors, and slips it into an x-ray sleeve, which has a window that shows only one tool. The doctors then flick a spinner which tells them to either guess a pattern, color, or tool. For every wrong answer, the patient gets a bandage. Most bandages wins. It’s kind of like Clue. But instead of Colonel Mustard in the parlor with a knife, it’s the stethoscope on the yellow background with stripes. 2-6 players ages 3+. $15.99. http://wonderforge.com/

wink blue orange gamesWink (Blue Orange Games)
The goal of the game is for players to signal your secret partner (with a wink or some other gesture) without any of the other players knowing that you’ve connected. The rules imply that all the players have to agree on one gesture, but who says you have to follow the rules? The game play involves cards, tokens, matches, and accusations. However, the real fun is in trying to forge those secret partnerships. It takes only 20-30 minutes to play and is absolutely impossible to get through without laughing—which makes identifying those secret signals even harder. 4-8 players, 8+. $15.99. http://www.blueorangegames.com/

Hey, Buddy, You Got a Match?

Matching games, in various forms, have been around forever—and with good reason: they’re easy to play, fun, don’t usually take a lot of time, and they help build memory and pattern skills. This week we take a look at four new games that add new—and colorful—twists to the old classic.

color clashColor Clash (Blue Orange)
In Color Clash, each of the 36 playing tiles has three attributes: the color of the chameleon in the middle, the color word (red, blue, green, etc.) written in a ring around the chameleon and the color of the letters that make up the word (for example, the word “green” might be written in blue). Color Match comes with instructions for eight separate games (including two that are excellent for solo players), but there’s nothing to stop you from making up your own. One of our favorites was to start with all the tiles face down. Players take turns flipping over one tile while the others say out loud the color of the word (not the color it names). It’s not easy.  For 1-8 players, ages 7 and up. http://www.blueorangegames.com/

cup-a-cupCup-a-Cup (R&R Games)
Another deceptively easy game. Cup-a-cup comes with nine plastic cups. On the bottom of each is one of three shapes (square, circle, or triangle) in one of three colors (blue, red, yellow). There’s also a pair of dice that have the same shapes and colors. Players take turns rolling the dice, then all lunge for the cups (which are arranged bottom up so you can see the colors/shapes) in a frenzied attempt to complete the set. Some are pretty easy: For example, if you roll two blue triangles, you have to grab the cup with the blue triangle. And if you roll two shapes with the same color, you need to grab the one cup with the one that’s missing. It starts getting harder when neither the shapes nor the colors on the dice match. Say a blue circle and a yellow square. We’ll leave it to you which one you need. First player to collect three cups wins. For 3-5 players, ages 6 and up (don’t sneer—kids are better at this than adults). http://www.rnrgames.com/

pluckin' pairsPluckin’ Pairs (R&R Games)
It all starts off pretty easy: lay out 11 cards, each one with a photograph, on the table. Then, working individually, start writing down matching pairs using any criteria you want. A red bell pepper might match with a red phone booth because the colors match, but that same red pepper might match a pocket watch. What, wait? They both have stems. Similarly, an ant might go with a bird (both animals) or a roll of tape (they tend to stick together). When the 90-second timer runs out, players take turns explaining their pairs. If two or more have the same pair, both score a point. If no one else has the same pair, it scores zero. We also reversed the scoring so that only pairs that no one else has score. For 3-8 players, ages 12 and up.

slidewaysSlideways (R&R Games)
Slideways is essentially a 4×4 version of tic tac toe, but with the added complexity of being able to slide the rows around. The game consists of four moveable rows, each with four triangle-shaped tiles that can show blue, red, or gold. Players alternate flipping tiles, trying to get four in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally). And just when you’re getting close, someone slides a row and messes everything up. Requires strategy, logic, and a sense of humor. For 2-3 players, ages 8 and up.

Taking the Boredom out of Family Game Night

We’re all about families having fun together, and game night is one of the best ways to do that. But playing the same games over and over can get a little stale. So, in the interests of injecting a little more fun into your family’s game night, here are some great choices that will keep you and yours engaged and laughing.

Battle SheepBattle Sheep (Blue Orange Games)
Simple to learn, fun to play, but a new challenge every time. Players start off with four board tiles (there are a total of 16, so up to four can play), which they take turns laying out until the board is complete. Each tile contains four “pastures.” Then, each player takes his or her herd (a stack of 16 color-matched sheep tokens) and places it on one of the pastures along the edge of the board. The goal is to put your sheep on the most pastures. Move as many of your sheep as you’d like—but you have to leave at least one behind, and you can only move in a straight line. Seems simple enough, but if you’re not paying attention to your opponents and plotting out your own moves a few in advance, some of your flock could get penned in. The first few times you play, you’ll probably be on the defensive—doing whatever you can to keep your flock free. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll go on the offensive and start blocking everyone else. The board tiles and tokens are sturdy and the game is great for building strategic- and abstract thinking skills. For 2-4 players, ages 7 to adult. Retails online for around $21. http://www.blueorangegames.com/

LoonacyLoonacy (Looney Labs)
Loonacy combines elements of Crazy Eights, Uno, and Dominoes to make a fun, fast-paced game. Players start with seven cards, each with two images on it. The goal is to be the first to empty your hand by matching at least one of the images on your cards with one on the cards in the face-up pile(s) on the table. All you need is quick reflexes, a good memory, and a lot of luck. The fewer the number of players, the more discard piles you have (two players have four piles). That adds an element of strategy to the game since there are so many matching options. But as you add players, the number of discard piles decreases (five players have only one pile), which turns the game into a completely crazy free-for-all—something that may frustrate younger players. Takes only 5-10 minutes to play for 2-5 players, ages 8 and up. Retails for about $12.16. http://www.looneylabs.com/

regular show fluxxcartoon network fluxxRegular Show Fluxx and Cartoon Network Fluxx (Looney Labs)
If you’re looking for free-for-alls, this one takes the cake. It starts so peacefully, with each player getting three cards. The rules are simple. Draw one and play one. But here’s where the fun starts. Each card played can change the rules of the game, requiring you to draw more cards, talk in a cartoon voice, play all the cards in your hand;, steal cards from an opponent, and so on. Rules can be combined if they don’t contradict each other (for example, you might have to draw four cards and talk in a cartoon voice). Regular Show Fluxx features characters from the Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show,” while Cartoon Network Fluxx features characters from nine CN shows, including “Powerpuff Girls,” “Eddy,” “Adventure Time,” and “Samurai Jack.” Both are for 2-6 players, ages 8+ and retail for around $16. http://www.looneylabs.com/