Tag Archives: playmobil

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.

Continue reading

Dog Days of Sumer Got You Down?

When the weather is see-sawing back and forth between too hot and too stormy, here are some fun toys that work equally well indoors or out.

Water Park with Slides (Playmobil)

water slideThis colorful playset includes two slides that feed into an octopus wave pool. The brightly colored octopus creates ripples in the pool just like the wave pool at your favorite theme park. Male, female, and child figures are included, along with several accessories. Just fill with water, and let the fun begin. For ages 4 and up. $59.99 at your favorite retailer or www.playmobil.com.

Continue reading

Parents@Play 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, Number 1

This week we bring you the first of three holiday gift guides. No sense waiting ‘til the last minute, right?

playmobil advent calendarAdvent Calendar (Playmobil)
What better way to count down the days ‘til Christmas than with this sweet Advent calendar. It comes with parent and child figures, pets, food, and enough surprises for every day from now ‘til the big day—plus a light-up tree (batteries not included). The toughest part will be resisting the temptation to put it all together in one day instead of spreading out the joy. Ages 4-10. Around $25 at retailers or http://www.playmobil.us/.

geeker speakerGeek & Co. Geeker Speaker Lab (Thames & Kosmos)
Open the box and within seconds, you and your kids are ready to learn about the science of sound. There are several different approaches. In the first, you turn just about any object you can think of into a speaker. Plug one end of the Speaker Geeker into your phone or music player (it fits standard headphone jacks) and put the other end, called a pod, on something else. Then turn on the sound and see how well a wood table sounds vs. a box of cereal vs. a tin can. The other experiment is to make invisible sound waves visible. To do that you attach the pod to the underside of a special tray (included) and add various materials—water, sand, yogurt, etc. Then, turn on your player and watch. If you use music, you’ll get a lot of pretty random action, but if you use a signal- or tone generator that produces a single sound at a single frequency, you’ll see some beautiful sound patterns. Ages 8+. Under $20 at many retailers or visit http://thamesandkosmos.com/

k'nex brontoBeasts Alive Bronto Building Set (K’NEX)
For kids and adults who love building, dinos, and robots (and who doesn’t?) this is the trifecta. The pieces go together easily and stay that way even under pretty rough playing conditions. This 213-piece set includes a motor (but not batteries) and instructions for how to build three different dinos. Depending on the age of the child and the amount of adult intervention, it’ll take 30-45 minutes to put together. Then flip the switch and stand back as your dino goes on a rampage.  Just be thankful he’s not a vegetarian. Ages 7+. Under $20 at Amazon or visit http://www.knex.com/

k'nex ferris wheelMighty Makers Fun on the Ferris Wheel Building Set (K’NEX)
Help Emily and her bear Cocoa build a Ferris wheel, ticket both, and snack stand. Along the way you’ll learn about mechanics, speed, engineering, and other STEM concepts. This set is definitely geared more towards girls, but there are instructions on the website for how to use the same 324 pieces to build a pirate ship ride and more. Under $25 at Walmart or visit http://www.knex.com/

skazoomsSkaZooms Battle ‘Boggan Action Pack (SkaZooms)
Meet SkaZooms, the latest (and coolest) collectible figures. These little skateboarders are adorable (in a so-ugly-that-they’re-cute kind of way) and safety conscious (they always wear helmets). The Action Pack includes one battle arena, two SkaZoom characters (with boards and helmets), and two ‘boggans (spinners that the SkaZooms characters sit on when they’re launched into the arena by yanking on a rip cord). The arena itself is outfitted with launch pads, jump ramps, and seating for eight SkaZooms spectators. When you’re ready to go, let ‘em rip and they’ll bounce, crash, smash, and fly. It’s wonderfully easy to set up, requires no batteries (yeah!), and is solidly made—we’ve had other ripcord-launched fighting toys that haven’t lasted a week. Ages 7+. Around $42 a many retailers, or http://www.skazooms.com/

Imagination and Coordination

This week we take a look at a number of toys that combine imagination and fine motor skills.

playmobil horse farmTake Along Horse Farm (Playmobil)
As readers of this column know, we’re big fans of building systems. But not every child shares that particular passion. This colorful, realistic set is perfect for the child who doesn’t mind putting a few pieces together, but would much rather spend his or her time getting the horses fed, groomed, exercised, and ready for to ride. The 81 pieces include two horses, three humans, a couple of dogs, a wheelbarrow for delivering food (or removing horse manure), scrub brushes, and more. The barn itself turns into an easy-to-carry case so your little equestrian will be able to pack up the whole thing and take the show on the road (or just back to his or her room). Ages 4-10. $35.53 at Amazon.

playmobil sunshine preschoolSunshine Preschool Set (Playmobil)
Like the Horse Farm, this set doesn’t require much building, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, with 394 pieces, there’s almost no limit to the number of entertaining, home-related scenes a creative boy or girl can concoct. The setting is, as you might guess from the name, the Sunshine Preschool, and the kit includes one adult figure, four children, and a dizzying array of accessories: a music area complete with instruments, a climbing wall, a clock with moveable hands, backpacks, pencils, paintbrushes, a coffee pot, mugs, a chalkboard, two toilets, and a lot more. The only risk is that after spending time at the Sunshine school, your child may refuse to go to his or her own preschool—Sunshine is definitely a hard act to follow. Ages 4-10. 394 pieces. $99.99 at Amazon.

flipsies SandyFlipsies Sandy’s House and Ocean Cruiser (VTech)
Sandy is just one of the Flipsies, collectible dolls that are designed to inspire the little girls who play with them. Sandy wants to be a marine biologist, and each of the other Flipsies has her own unique dreams. Carina’s on her way to medical school, Styla runs a fashion boutique, Eva wants to be a veterinarian, and Clementine has a thing for ice cream. All of the Flipsies (each is sold separately) can switch clothes, accessories, and even hair. But what’s especially fun is the MagicPoint locations that are in each Flipsie’s habitat. Put Sandy in one of the MagicPoints on her Ocean Cruiser and she’ll tell you something nautical. Put her into a MagicPoint in Styla’s salon, and she’ll tell you something that’s appropriate for a budding biologist with a strong sense of style. Ages 4-9. Prices vary, depending on the kit. This one is $56.62 at Amazon.

tugie, marbles the brain storeTugie (Marbles, the Brain Store)
Tugie (pronounced “tuggie”) is a fun, engaging game that’s super easy to learn and definitely has that “let’s play another round” quality. There are 12 colorful disc-like pieces that stack on a spindle, plus a gray one that sits on the very top. Each disc has a string attached. Players take turns rolling a die to see which color they need to remove by tugging on the string. If you get your disc out, gently place it on top, and it’s the next player’s turn. But you’ve got to be careful—if you knock any pieces off the spindle, you keep them. The player with the fewest wins the round. Each round takes no more than a few minutes to play. Tugie requires a fair amount of hand-eye coordination (not quite as much as Jenga) and a bit of luck. Ages 5 and up. $29.99.  http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/

Indoor/Outdoor Play

As summer approaches, we’re seeing a lot more toys and games that are designed to be used outside or that replicate some aspect of the great outdoors. This week we take a look at four fit into one category or the other, all from one of our favorite manufacturers, Playmobil, http://www.playmobil.us/

playmobil ferris wheelSummer Fun Ferris Wheel with Lights
There’s nothing like waiting in a line for an amusement park ride to remind you that it’s summer. With this large set, your kids can have the joy (okay, misery) of standing in lines without having to lather up with sunscreen or put on a hat. The 117-piece set comes with seven two-seater gondolas, a functioning Ferris wheel, a ticket office (complete with a cash register and tickets), flashing lights (batteries not included) and quite a few other accessories. It also comes with two adult figures and two child figures, so your little one can make someone else (even if that someone is inanimate) feel the sting of waiting in line and then, when you finally get to the front, being told you’re too short to ride. Once all the seats are full, turn the crank and you’re off. The wheel can operate automatically but you’ll need to buy the Electric Ride Motor, sold separately. $79.99. Ages 4-10.

playmobil rescue boatCity Action Rescue Boat
The Coast Guard has a bit of an identity crisis. It started off as part of the Department of Treasury, then got transferred over to the Department of Transportation, and is now under the Department of Homeland Security. They’re also considered a branch of the military. But whoever they are, they do a great job of protecting our coasts and waterways. With the City Action Rescue Boat, your child can give the Coast Guard the respect they deserve, honoring them as they rescue drowning swimmers, battle pirates, and take on other rescue operations. They can even put out fires (or squirt the cat) with the included plunger. The set includes the boat itself, three figures, first aid kit, hoses, rescue ring, and more. $52.95. Ages 4-10.

playmobil coast guard stationCity Action Coast Guard Station with Lighthouse
Those Coast Guard heroes need to go somewhere at the end of a long, danger-filled day, right? And nothing could be better than their own station, complete with a functioning lighthouse and an observation room where the duty officers can keep a close eye on the coast and dispatch rescue crews as needed. The set comes with everything you and the kids need to create amazing adventures together: a boat, five Playmobil figures (who love to wait in line for the Ferris wheel on their day off), rescue rings, a full set of scuba gear, loads of medical and safety equipment, a cable winch to haul boats out of the water, and more. $79.95. Ages 4-10.

playmobil gliderSports & Action Speed Glider
At some point, pretending to be outdoors really needs to give way to the real thing. And this sleek glider is the perfect way to encourage kids (you too) to stretch those legs. Just assemble it (which will take about a minute) and you’re ready for a really fun game of catch or a long-distance throwing competition. As long as the pilot is in his seat (he needs to be there to balance the aircraft), the glider is very easy to throw—even for young children. And with working LED lights, there’s no reason for the fun to stop when the sun goes down. $26.99. Ages 6-14

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