Tag Archives: lego

Winter Video Games

Got gamers? We do, too. Here are a few of the latest titles that will be keeping our kids (OK, and maybe us as well) occupied during the coming rainy days and cold nights.

Lightseekers (TOMY)

lightseekersYou can play this unique game using just the app or with what the company calls “connected play,” which “fuses augmented reality, physical trading cards, digital action figures, and more.” The figures are especially cool and can be used as actual game controllers, something we’ve never seen before. There’s no portal—all you need is your tablet, the app, and Bluetooth to link everything together, and you’re good to go. The interactive trading cards bring features into play and into (virtual) reality as you use them. Starter packs are about $40 at your favorite retailer. https://www.lightseekers.com


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High-Tech, Low-Tech, and No-Tech Halloween Fun

There are all sorts of ways for kids to be creative: high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech. Here are a few of our current favorites that fit into at least one of those categories.

skyanders imaginatorsSkylanders Imaginators

This brand new addition to the Skylanders universe is the best one yet. Once again, the evil Kaos is causing problems in Skyland, and Eon needs your help to defeat him. With Imaginators, players can create their own Skylanders, customizing their appearance, sounds, and even appendages. With the help of “senseis” who specialize in one of ten different techniques, you can also train your Skylander to defeat Kaos and his minions. You create your Skylander on the fly within the game through a series of easy-to-navigate menus. Each level is also littered with items that can be used to build and rebuild your character. The gameplay is your typical hack and slash, where exploration is encouraged and villains are colorful and unique. Each level has a theme and an end boss who must be defeated to progress. Imaginators is compatible with all pervious Skylanders. The starter set includes a portal, the game itself, and at least two senseis and an Imaginator crystal to make (and save) your own Skylander. It retails for $74.99 and is available nationwide.

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Building a Childhood

Kids and building go hand in hand: Make it bigger, higher, better, greener—whatever strikes their fancy that particular day. Not only are building toys a good time, but they‘re also great for parent-child bonding, and have been shown to improve motor skills, hand-eye coordination, social skills, cooperation, creativity, spatial skills, and more. No wonder we love ‘em so much!

play doh minionsPlay-Doh Disguise Lab Featuring Despicable Me Minions (Hasbro)
Sometimes we all feel like minions. But what do minions do when they want to feel like someone else? Enter Play-Doh Disguise Lab. Just put your minion into the hair styling chair (one purple minion, one yellow minion, and chair are included) and give him as many silly and crazy hairstyles as you’d like. Your child will have so much fun with this, and you will too. You can trim their hair, choose different colors, and even make things that Minions love like ba-na-nas. The kit also comes with scissors (not sharp), a comb for styling, and four cans of Play-Doh. With the Minion movie coming out this summer, this Play Doh kit will be even more popular. About $18 at Toys R Us and other retailers.

 

lego batman penguin3 LEGO DC Comics Batman: The Penguin Face off
LEGO, of course, are great building toys. With a dizzying number of sets and sizes to choose from, there’s something for every kid (and every parent) to play with. “LEGO DC Comics Batman: The Penguin Face” off lets kids recreate and act out their favorite superhero moments. In this kit, the goal is to help Scuba Batman bring justice to that diamond-stealing, umbrella-wielding waddler, Penguin and his minions (no, not the yellow ones—this villain’s minions are robot penguins). The kit comes with Batman and Penguin (and two minions) mini-figs, the “diamond,” a ton of weapons—including Penguin’s umbrella, and all the ingredients to build Batman’s scuba vehicle and Penguin’s duck boat. Penguin and the duck boat appeared in the recent movie “LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League.” The title is quite a mouthful, but it was pretty funny, and a good flick for the whole family (especially all those LEGO and/or Superheroes fans). If your child isn’t into superheroes and prefers something a little more “real,” take a look at the Swamp Police Starter Set, which comes with four mini-figs, an alligator, boat, raft, “hideout” spot, and quite a few accessories, including a spider, snake, handcuffs, walkie talkies, a shovel, and more. Ages 5-12. Batman is about $13, Swamp is about $10. http://shop.lego.com.

bun bunBun Bun! (The Bridge Direct)
If you think that all building toys have to be blocks or bricks and have hard edges, you need to meet Bun Bun. These cute, cuddly (and collectible, of course) animals were created to be stacked and piled up. Stacking plush toys have already created a splash in Japan and other countries, and they’re just now hitting the US markets. Bun Bun combines two things kids love: building and animals which is great. Better yet, both boys and girls we tested Bun Bun with loved them and couldn’t get enough. The first wave of characters includes Kit Kit (Cat), Moo Moo (Cow), Pup Pup (Dog), Shu Shu (Monkey), Bit Bit (Mouse), Pip Pip (Pig), Bai Bai (Polar Bear), and Bon Bon (Rabbit), and they come in four sizes: mini (4”) small (7”) medium (10”) jumbo (16”). But regardless of the color, size, or animal, Bun Bun encourages kids to be creative and get their engineering on. For all ages. Prices range from $5 to $20. http://www.bunbuntoys.com/

Some Assembly Required

Building systems come in a huge variety of styles, shapes, materials, and levels of difficulty. This week we take a look at several of them—one traditional, one non-traditional, and two that offer a new twist on the classics.

Playmobil zoo & aquariumTake Along Zoo & Aquarium (Playmobil)
Happy 40th birthday to Playmobil! Playmobil sets are always well made, colorful, and fun to play with—what could be better than that?—and this one is no exception. What makes the Zoo & Aquarium especially unique is that it’s great for both indoor and outdoor play. It comes with trees, pools, fences, and quite a few animals (such as zebras, giraffes, lions, fish, walrus), as well as “human” caretakers. That’s a lot of pieces for one set. And there’s room for a few more, just in case your child wants to invite some other animal friends over for a visit.  When you open up the kit, one side is the zoo, the other is the aquarium, which your child can actually fill up with water and let the sea creatures (and the rest of the animals—hey, giraffes swim too) take a dip. When playtime’s over, all the pieces fit easily into the case, which (after you’ve drained and dried it) folds up for storage or easy transport. Retails for $49. http://www.playmobil.us/

nintendo captain toadCaptain Toad: Treasure Hunter (Nintendo)
Nintendo’s Mario games are kind of like Oprah, who made Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz so famous that they got their own show. Similarly, Nintendo has given quite a few Mario stars their own games. These include Yoshi, Luigi, Princess Peach, and now Captain Toad. What’s especially interesting about the Captain is that he has no particular super powers—not even jumping. He just walks, runs, and has a real knack for finding gold coins, turnips that can be used to defeat enemies, and even a blockade-busting pickaxe. He’s also something of a genius when it comes to putting things together to solve puzzles.  Captain Toad is a game for the whole family. Kids will like the simple controls and easy mechanics of the game, and adults will appreciate the puzzles and the challenges required to collect all the treasures. Captain Toad retails for around $40 and is available everywhere video games are sold, from the Wii U eShop, or at http://captaintoad.nintendo.com/

light staxLight Stax (Light Stax)
From a distance, Light Stax look like Duplo (Lego’s jumbo size bricks for preschoolers), but connect at least one Stax block to the power base, and every other block that’s connected—directly or indirectly—will light up. The base, which can run on batteries or a USB cable, has enough juice to light up at least 100 blocks. Stax are compatible with Duplo (but only the Stax blocks illuminate), but our favorite feature is the auto-shutoff, which means your child can build a completely new nightlight every night. Stax come in sets from 12 blocks to more than 100, and prices run from $35 to $250. http://lightstax.com/

 

klutz lego chain reactionLEGO Chain Reactions (Klutz)
If you liked the classic game Mousetrap, you’ll love Klutz’s very clever LEGO Chain Reaction book. The motto is “Teach Your Bricks New Tricks,” and by incorporating ordinary LEGO elements and a few other ingredients, that’s exactly what happens. What’s the point of doing ridiculously simple things like tossing a gum wrapper or bouncing a ball in one step when you can do it in 20 or 30 steps using levers, pulleys, ramps, hammers, string, tires, and funnels? An engaging, entertaining, and educational activity for the whole family. Comes with 30+ Lego elements and instructions for building 10 Rube Goldberg machines. Retails for around $20. http://klutz.com

Are We There Yet? Almost…

Those last few days of holiday shopping can be incredibly stressful. Not to worry: we’re here to help. These items are widely available, won’t break the bank, and are pretty much guaranteed to make your kids light up like a Christmas tree or Menorah. And don’t forget to check out the latest winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

tummy stuffersTummy Stuffers Wild Ones! (Jay at Play)
Jay at Play is making some pretty awesome stuff, including the new Tummy Stuffers, which accomplish something many parents struggle with: getting their kids to clean up after playtime. Children absolutely love stuffing their toys into the Tummy Stuffer’s mouth—you’ll be amazed how much fits in there. Tummy Stuffers come in six animal styles, all in wild, funky colors that the kids will adore.  $20 (buy a big one, and you get a little one free).  https://www.buytummystuffers.com/.

janimalsJ-Animals (Jay at Play)
J-Animals are the first “wearable stuffed animals”—part costume, part PJs, all fun. They come in three sizes, (small, medium, and large, of course), which will accommodate everyone from the smallest kids to medium-sized adults. You can be a cat, zebra, dog, giraffe, or unicorn. They’re soft as fleece, and  when you finally (and reluctantly) take them off, they roll up into a little ball that looks like a pillow or stuffed animal. $29.99 at https://www.buyjanimals.com

bright eyes blanketBright Eyes Blanket
These guys are perfect for naptime, bedtime, and especially travel. Every blanket has an animal face and paws (choose from Playful Puppy, Kool Kitten, Darling Duck, and Precious Panda). Besides being cute, soft, and highly snuggly, their glow-in-the-dark eyes make a perfect nightlight. $19.99 on www.brighteyesblanket.com or your favorite retailer.

power rangers morpherPower Rangers Super Megaforce Deluxe Legendary Morpher (Bandai)
Power Rangers are hot right now (aren’t the always?), so if you’re shopping for a boy under 11, your search for the perfect gift is over. Morphers are souped up cell phones that let the kids call up any of the powers and zords that have appeared on the show over the last 20 years. Use any Ranger Key (two are included) to unlock special lights and sounds.  $29.99 at retailers everywhere.

q rex megazordQ Rex Megazord (Bandai)
For those of you who don’t speak Power Ranger, Megazords are the big ones, the ones that let you mix and match powers and features from each individual Ranger’s zord to create, well, a mega zord.  Use the included Ranger Key to unlock Q Rex’s spinning drill arm. Q also works with other zords you might have in your collection (go ahead and admit it, you sometimes play with Power Rangers after the kids go to sleep).  $35 on http://www.bandai.com.

lego furry creatureCREATOR Furry Creatures (LEGO)
It’s really hard to go wrong with LEGO, and whether your little builder is a boy or a girl—or you want something the whole family can enjoy together—Creator sets are a guaranteed hit. This set comes with all the pieces you need to build a cat, a mouse, even a little piece of cheese.  Better yet, you can take your cat apart and rebuild it into a puppy or a rabbit. Also available in Forest Animals, Rainforest Animals, and others. Around $20 at http://shop.lego.com

lego laketownAttack on Lake-town (LEGO)
Got a little fan of “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings”? Or maybe you’re the fan and you’ve decided that it’s time to introduce them to your children. Either way, the new Attack on Lake-town set includes everything—and everyone—you need to help Tauriel and her Elven warriors defend their land from those awful Orcs. Includes five mini-figures (Bain son of Bard, Bard the Bowman, Tauriel, and two Orcs ) and some very useful weapons—a lot of stuff for $30. At http://shop.lego.com and retailers everywhere.

And Now, Direct from a Screen Near You…

Although parents aren’t always thrilled about it, kids love toys that bring their favorite TV and movie characters to “life.” This week, we review several fun new toys that do exactly that.

paw patrolPaw Patrol (NickJR)
If you have a little one, chances are you’ve seen or heard of Paw Patrol—the hit TV show aimed at Pre-K and kindergarteners. The show revolves around six puppies: Chase, Marshall, Rocky, Zuma, Rubble, and Skye, plus their 10-year old tech-loving human companion named Ryder. They work together as a team, solve problems, and help creatures and the environment while showing kids cooperation skills. Now the pups are available as toys, from plush to action figures and even vehicles (which play a large part in the show). The Racers are a particularly good value because they each come with one vehicle and one pup (they also have working tires). If your child is a fan of the show or of animals in general, these super-pups will be a nice treat for them. Available for $7.99 and up at Amazon, Target, and more.

turtle sub underseaTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Turtle Sub Undersea Chase (LEGO)
This set is just plain awesome, even if you’re not quite sure where you stand on the movie and whether it’s okay to turn a cherished, animated TV show into a live-action Megan Fox movie (Hmm. Does that sound a little biased?). With 684 pieces, including four figures (Donatello Leonardo, and two Kraang) it lets kids (and adults who like to pretend they bought this kit for their kids) recreate scenes from the movie, flicking missiles, firing shooters, and operating mini subs along the way. Or use your imagination and create something totally different. About $60 at your favorite retailer.

tmnt large figuresTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Playmates Toys)
Haven’t had enough of those hard-shelled reptile badboys? Based on the movie characters, these figure are a little grittier than they have been in the past, but kids don’t seem to mind at all. Playmates has all of the main characters (the four Turtles, Shredder, the Foot Clan, and others) in a wide selection of sizes and styles, including wearable ones, which come with cuffs, a sword, and a bandana mask. There’s something here that every TNMT lover, old or new, will want to have. Right now. The large figures are about a foot tall and are more articulated then you might think, and after they’ve knocked each other around for a bit, they make great mentors for the six-inch figures (which are just as fun to play with). Small figures are about $9 at Toys R Us, and the large ones start at $14 on Amazon and other retailers.

how to train your dragon 2How to Train Your Dragon 2 Squirt and Float Dragons (Spin Master)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 Battle Sets (Spin Master)

If your kids loved How to Train Your Dragons 2 as much as our kids (and their parents) did, this is a great opportunity to bring the fun of the big screen direct to your living room—or your bathtub. The Squirt and Float Dragons comes with three figures (Toothless, Meatlug, and Stormfly), all of which can shoot water about four feet—just far enough to make your bathroom floor really slippery, so be careful. There are also three great Battle Sets, “Toothless vs. Dragon Catcher,” “Gronkle vs. Gronkle Cannon,” and “Zippleback vs. Zipplecatcher,” all of which will keep everyone (yes, you too, mom and dad) entertained for hours. $8 and up at stores like Toys R Us and Amazon.

Look, It’s Moving by Itself!

Most kids (and plenty of parents) like to build—forts, castles, towers, model airplanes, and more—which explains why there are so many products out there designed to help us do just that. They range from simple wooden blocks and kits that show us how to construct all sorts of cool things using objects that we have around the house, to the most complex building sets. There’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that one gets from stepping back and looking at a completed project. Most of the time, though, that’s about all you can do with it. But there’s a special thrill that comes from seeing whatever you’ve built come to life: electrical projects that turn lights on and off, radio kits that receive real broadcasts, and, of course, anything that moves. This week we’re taking a look at two very different construction sets that will provide hours of parent-child entertainment, both during the actual assembly process and afterwards, when it starts to move.

Runners (Laser Pegs)
laser pegs robot parents@playLaser Pegs has a variety of products that take Lego-type building to a whole new level by adding lights that flash, blink, and generally make what you’ve build look very cool. But in their Runners line, they’ve added motion. Runners come with fewer than 30 pieces, including the battery-operated base that powers the lights and the wheels. Besides making cleanup a little easier, that also makes construction quicker—15-20 minutes after opening the box, you’ll have a colorfully lighted tank running around your floors. The step-by-step instructions are easy enough to follow that even young builders will be able to take charge. The kit we tested lets you build six different moveable vehicles. But the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of additional suggestions on the company’s website, and Runners are also compatible with other building sets, making them infinitely expandable. The package says that Runners are “for boys and girls ages 5 and up”—a very smart move and we hope will encourage a lot more girls to see building as not being only for boys. Retails for $14.99 and is perfect for ages 5 and up. http://www.laserpegs.com/

14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit (OWI Robotics)
OWI robotIf you’re looking for a more challenging construction experience, this is it. The 14 in 1 Educational Solar Robot Kit is exactly what it claims to be. You can build 14 different robots, the intricate moveable parts make it plenty educational, and it is powered by the sun, so no batteries required. It’s also incredibly fun. But you’ll need to be patient. Very patient. Each of the molded plastic pieces (I lost count at about 200) has to be clipped out of a plastic frame. And you’ll need to look very closely at the illustrated instructions to make sure all the components are facing the right direction before putting them together (if you get something wrong—and you probably will—not to worry: you aren’t using glue and the pieces snap together and unsnap pretty easily).

OWI robot assembly parents@playThe 80+ page manual has instructions on how to build each of the robots, including a dog that wags its tail, a running beetle, a walking crab, a zombie chaser, a turtle, and even a boat that actually operates in the water. The 14 robots come in two levels of difficulty, though the entry level projects are still challenging enough that it took a highly skilled 10-year old builder and her dad more than an hour to put one together. Ages 10 and up. Retails for $31.95. http://owirobot.com/