Tag Archives: ravensburger

Pick a Card, Any Card

Tired of solitaire, poker, black jack, and rummy? Here are four fun, new card games that the whole family will love to play.

Pin Point! (Blue Orange)

blue orange pin pointIn this fun, fast-paced twist on the “spot-the-difference” game, players use logic and deductive reasoning to figure out which of five nearly identical images is the original. Since each of the non-original images has changed only one feature, when you find a feature that appears on only one image, you know it’s not the original, and you can eliminate it from contention. Pin Point! Is a great game for just about any age, although be warned: younger players tend to have sharper eyes and are therefore often a lot better at this kind of thing than adults. Comes with 72 challenge cards and six colored dice (for alternate game play) and takes only about 10 minutes to play. You can play Pin Point! cooperatively, competitively, or individually.  http://www.blueorangegames.com

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Stealth Learning: Hiding Education amid the Fun

Some games are designed to educate, others are just plain fun. Some manage to do both. Here are five that are so entertaining to play with that you won’t even know you’re learning.


Balance Beans (ThinkFun)

balance beansWe love how ThinkFun takes a well-known concept—in this case, a see-saw balancing game—and adds a new twist to make something unique and engaging. You start by turning over one of the 40 challenge cards, each of which shows a different pattern of red beans arranged on one side of the see-saw. Lay out your red beans to match the card and then try to arrange your other beans so the two sides balance. Besides having fun, you’re learning some basic algebra skills (balancing equations) as well as physics (for example, two beans in the first row of one side of the see-saw are balanced by one bean in the second row). The cards range from really easy to really, really hard, and always include the solution. For single players, but it’s an especially fun parent-child activity. Ages 5 and up. Under $18. http://www.thinkfun.com/

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Seeing and Doing Science

Scientists work in a variety of ways. One is by designing and conducting experiments, essentially saying, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if we did x, y, or z.” Another is to simply watch, as if to say, “Let’s look closely at all those stars and other bright things in the night sky and try to figure out whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa.” This week we honor both approaches: the hands-on science that we do, and the hands-off science that we observe.

Ant Farms (Uncle Milton)

uncle milton ant farmUncle Milton has been making ant farms for decades (in fact, they just celebrated their 60th ANT-iversary!). Over the years, ant-farming technology has changed and so have designs and materials. But what’s stayed remarkably consistent is how fascinating it is to watch these tiny animals dig tunnels, build bridges, and move mountains (little ones). The inhabitants of the original ant farms did their digging in sand. Their descendants can go old school with sand or dig in a nutrient-rich gel that eliminates the need for feeding and watering. Whichever way you go, you and your kids will have a wonderful—and very educational—time observing. And in case you’re worried, all the farms are break resistant and escape-proof. Under $20. For ages six and up. http://unclemilton.com/

Triassic Triops (Toyops)

toyops triopsRemember Sea Monkeys—those tiny creatures that almost miraculously came to life when you dropped their dried out little bodies into water? Well, Triops are similar, in that you reanimate them the same way. But these bad boys could eat your Sea Monkeys for lunch—quite literally. Relatively speaking, they’re enormous—easily reaching 2-3 inches. What’s especially cool about Triops is that the ones you get in your kit are identical to the ones that lived millions of years ago. They thrived and reproduced in wet climates, but went into a state of suspended animation (called “diapause”) when droughts came. Now you can revive them, just like Dr. Frankenstein—just be sure to follow the directions carefully (especially the water you use). Triops look positively pre-historic and are eerily engaging to watch. For ages 8 and up. Prices vary. http://www.toyops.com/

Science X Smartscope (Ravensburger)

ravensburger smartscopeWant to get a closer look at your ants, Sea Monkeys, or Triops? Smart Scope is for you. Just collect your specimen—which could be pretty much anything from water to rocks, feathers to insects, and slip it into the housing. Now here’s where it gets fun: put your smartphone or tablet on top of the housing and it becomes a digital microscope—without using an app (yay!). You can simply observe or, better yet, you can use your device’s camera to capture amazing images. For ages 8 and up. About $45. https://www.ravensburger.com

Ultimate Secret Formula Lab (Smart Lab)

smart lab Secret formulaHydraulics and fluid dynamics are all the rage this year, and this kit makes what could be complicated concepts accessible and fun. It includes a base station, test tubes, valves, plungers, petri dishes, clips, beakers, and enough chemicals to conduct 40 experiments that fizz, change color, disappear, crystalize, and defy gravity (clear, detailed instructions are included too). A delightful way to combine doing and observing. For ages 8 and up (adult supervision definitely recommended). Under $40. http://www.smartlabtoys.com/

MC2 Soda Pop Science Kit (Alex Brands)

Soda pop scienceAfter a long day of doing and observing science, you’re going to be thirsty. Why go out when you and your budding lab rat can whip up your own scientifically delicious fizzy sodas? This kit comes with citric acid, baking soda, some artificial flavoring, a couple of test tubes, and instructions for making lime, fruit punch, and cinnamon drinks. Ages 8 and up (adult supervision suggested). Around $16 at your favorite retailer.

Excuse Me, Have You Got a Match?

There’s something almost primal about matching games. We can imagine a caveman teaching his kids to hunt, hiding in the bushes and pointing at animals: “You want to throw your spear at the ones that look like this (perhaps a deer), but run away from ones that look like that (perhaps a tiger).” Matching games also appeal to all ages. Small babies flip over cards looking for matches while their parents play other games, hoping to get pairs, three of a kind, and flushes. Here are a handful of matching-type games that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Face Chase (R&R Games)

face chaseImagine that you got mugged and you’re trying to describe the perpetrator to a police sketch artist. In a way, that’s what this game is. Face Chase consists of 64 double-sided cards, each with a different face. Put one card in the middle and distribute the rest evenly among the players. Then the madness begins and everyone tries to play cards from their hand on which at least one feature (eyes, hair, mouth, or nose) matches the card in the middle. When all four have been played, do another round. The game requires sharp eyes and fast hands, and takes only 8-10 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Flipping Flags (R&R Games)

Flipping flagsThis is a slight twist on the traditional flip-the-cards-and-find-the-matches. Here, each card has images of three flags along with the name of its country. Spread all the cards face down on the table and players take turns flipping them. Find a match and collect the cards. The twist is that rather than turn the unmatched cards back over, they stay face up. That makes matches easier, but adds an element of speed as players have to be the first to shout out the name of the country or countries that matche. A family-friendly way to learn to identify international flags. Takes 8-10 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Panda Head (R&R Games)

Panda HeadIt all starts with a deck of 63 cards. Fifty-five are emblazoned with a grinning panda head and a number from 1 to 11. There are also a two types of wild cards. Players get seven cards and one player puts a card in the center of the table. The next player has to either play a card with an equal or higher value. Absent that, he or she plays the lowest value card. The first six times, the player with the high card takes the trick. But on the seventh, high card loses. That switcheroo ads an interesting element of strategy to the game as players jockey to save their lowest cards for the last trick. Takes 10-20 minutes. 2-5 players, age 7+. www.RnRgames.com

Thumbs Up (Blue Orange Games)

Thumbs UpTired of card games? You’ll love this one. Like some others, Thumbs Up requires sharp eyes and fast hands; but it also takes dexterity. The game consists of 48 colored rings (12 blue, 12 red, 12 yellow, 12 green) and a deck of challenge cards, each with an image of four rings stacked. Flip over a card and players race to be the first to stack the rings on his or her thumb in the order shown on the card. Win five rounds and you win the game. 2-6 players age 6+ www.BlueOrangeGames.com  .

Ravensburger puzzles (Ravensburger)

Ravensburger - DinosPut these 100-piece puzzles together the regular way, to match the image on the box. Then fire up the matching app to unlock three smile-inducing games that take you into a hidden world within the puzzle and bring it to life. Ages 6+. www.ravensburger.com

Building a Childhood, Part 2

This week we continue our creativity and building theme.

Play Doh Rainbow Dash My Little Pony Style SalonPlay Doh Rainbow Dash My Little Pony Style Salon
If you’re a My Little Pony fan—or you have one under your roof—you’ll love the Rainbow Dash Style Salon. It’s a little reminiscent of the Play Doh Disguise Lab that we reviewed last week, where you put your favorite Minion into the styling chair and made wild and crazy hairstyles. With this style salon you can still grow, cut, and style your pretty Pegasus’ hair. But that’s just the beginning. The body and wings are actually built-in molds that you can fill with Play Doh to decorate your little pony using the six included colors (or, you can mix them up to create completely new colors). Sam had a toy like this when she was little and it was a favorite. It’s not the fanciest toy—and it’s certainly not the techiest. But it’s fun, creative, and a great way to create build memories that you and your child will cherish for years. For ages 3 and up. Retails for about $18 on Amazon.com and other toy sellers.

Stackins Stackable Friends (Funrise)Stackins Stackable Friends (Funrise)
If you like Bun Buns (reviewed last week), you’ll also like Stackins. They’re soft, cute, stackable, collectible, and reasonably priced—what could be better than that? Right now there are four characters: Poppy the Puppy, Checkers the Cheetah, Bonny the Bunny, and Kiki the Fox. But Funrise has several dozen new characters about ready to hatch. They also have plans to introduce larger size Stackins. To keep your child busy ‘til then, there are games and coloring pages on their website, http://www.funrise.com/stackins/.  For ages 3 and up. Stackins retail for $7.90 and they’re available exclusively at Justice.

Eiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie EditionEiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie Edition (Ravensburger)
Have you ever built a puzzle? Not done a puzzle, or put one together, but actually built one? If not, Ravensburger’s Eiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie Edition is the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of 3D puzzles. There are two ways to build this puzzle (and any of the others in Ravensburger’s line). For more experienced puzzle hounds, use your eye (and maybe the image of the completed puzzle on the box). For novice builder/puzzlers, each if the 216 pieces is numbered, so all you have to do is follow the sequence. Either way, the pieces snap together—no glue required. With images of Micky and Minnie decorating the outside, this is the Eiffel tower like you’ve never seen it. You and your kids will feel mighty proud of yourselves when your 17-inch high tower is complete and on display for everyone to admire. For ages 5 and up. This particular kit sells for $27.99. Others include a medieval house, a lighthouse, the Taj Mahal, Empire State Building, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a variety of other famous landmarks. All are available at https://www.ravensburger.com

spongebobInvincibubble Talking Action Figure
Pop-a-Part Spongebob
League of Heroes Figurine Set
Still haven’t had enough of Spongebob? Not to worry. The Spongebob movie, “Sponge Out of Water,” has spawned a huge array of Spongebob products, including the Pop-a-Part Spongebob ($11.50), Invincibubbles Talking Action Figure ($15.80), and the League of Heroes Figurine Set ($39), all of which provide everything you could possibly need to build an amazing adventure with the one-and-only wisecracking sponge. If you’re a Spongebob fan, we’re guessing that you’re already on the way to Toys R Us or wherever you buy your toys. If you’re not (yet), Spongebob and his buddies are really hard to resist. And you truly haven’t lived until you’ve seen a sponge with a six-pack.

Better Late Than Never…

It happens to all of us—despite the non-stop “only-x-days-‘til-Christmas” warnings, somehow, the big day came and we still didn’t get presents for everyone. If this sounds familiar, here are some fun, easy-to-find, easy-on-the-wallet games for the whole family.

charmazingCharmazing (Wooky Entertainment)
Charmazing comes with six charms, thread, beads, gems, chains, and enough other art supplies to make three complete, stylish bracelets. Your future fashion icon can then download the free Charmazing app, scan the charms, and start earning points and exchanging ideas with other girls. Ages 7 and up. $14.95 at Toys R Us or charmazing.com

crunch a colorCrunch a Color: The Healthy Eating Game (Tiny Green Bee)
This is a really fun way to get kids to eat healthier foods without you having to bug them. The game consists of 90 cards and a chart. Each card awards points for eating a different type of food, some are listed by color (red, green, blue, white), some by category (protein, etc.). The dealer distributes cards based on what each member of the family puts on his or her plate. Eat your peas? 10 points. Had a sweet potato? 15 points. Try a new food and you just doubled your points. Bonuses for setting the table, good manners, and more. Each meal can be a game, or you can track points over a week. Also check out Lee’s book, The 52 New Foods Challenge. $12.95 at crunchacolor.com


dino hunter uv night vision gogglesDino Hunter UV Night Vision Goggles (Uncle Milton)
These goggles are a blast. In night-vision mode, you can actually do some exploring in the dark. Use the invisible ink pen (the ink is invisible, not the pen) and dino stencil to leave tracks, which someone else can follow using UV-vision mode. The tracks are great for for scavenger hunts or just to lure a reluctant child to bed. Ages 6 and up. $17.99 at retailers or unclemilton.com

science captain americaMarvel Science Captain America Shield Trainer (Uncle Milton)
Place your bad guy on the playing board, then try to knock him off by ricocheting your shield off of walls or other obstacles, just like Captain America himself. A really interesting, engaging way to introduce kids to the science of calculating angles and rebounds (this could also come in handy when your child wants to play pool in a few years). Ages 6 and up. $19.95. unclemilton.com




spiral designerSpiral Designer (Ravensburger)

If you were around in the 60s, you may remember Spirograph (if not, ask your parents or grandparents). Spiral designer is very similar, consisting of a round plastic frame and a set of discs that you run around the inside edge of the frame to create beautiful spiral patterns and designs. Your creations can be as simple or complex as you like, and what’s especially nice is that everyone in the family who can handle a pencil pretty well can have plenty of artistic fun. $20 everywhere or ravensburger.com



spy tagSpy Tag (Ravensburger)
Distribute the 12 spy cards among the players and turn them face up. Then, set the timer and the oldest player draws an “agent card,” which he matches with one of the spy cards. Whoever has the match (could be you, or you could make the match with someone else’s spy card) is It and draws the next agent card. When the timer goes off, whoever’s It has to pick a briefcase card. It it’s empty, you’re okay, but if it contains the stolen gizmo, (that’s what it’s called), you’re out. Play continues ‘till there’s only one player left. The game requires quick thinking, fast reflexes, and two button batteries (included), and always leads to plenty of giggles. For 2-4 players. $10.00. ravensburger.com

“S” is for Science

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) is all the rage these days, and that’s a good thing. Without a working knowledge of all of those subjects, our children will be woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of the fast-changing world they’ll be living in when they finally reach adulthood. This week, we take a look at several excellent science-related activities that, besides being a fantastic way for families to spend time together, introduce the kids (and mom and dad) to a number of complex concepts in a fun, engaging way that will keep everyone entertained (and learning) for hours.

smartlab glow-in-the-dark scienceGlow-in-the-Dark Lab (SmartLab)
How many synonyms can you come up with for “glows in the dark”? Stumped? Try these: fluorescence, phosphorescence, chemiluminescence, bioluminescence. Those are just a few of the many science concepts that are introduced in this kit. Children and their adult supervisors can work together on as many as 20 separate projects, all of which glow in the dark: including a lava lamp, slime (no self-respecting science kit would be without it), alien blood, ink, bouncing balls, fake snow, and more. Comes with a well-put-together instruction booklet and almost everything you need to do all the experiments. You’ll need to provide your own glue, salt, flour, corn syrup, baking soda, vegetable oil, vinegar. But you won’t need batteries. SmartLab also has a number of other kits, including Squishy Human Body, That’s Gross Science Lab, and All-Natural Spa Lab. All retail for $24.99 and are for ages 7 and up (with adult supervision). http://www.smartlabtoys.com/

ravensburger csi science kitCSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Ravensburger)
Those CSI shows on TV have helped make forensics cool. While real CSI techs don’t generally carry guns and make arrests, they do use science to solve crimes. It all starts with the fascinating booklet written with the help of Mark Benecke, an actual criminologist and forensics expert, who introduces 12 different science-based activities real crime solvers use every day. In it, kids learn how to work a crime scene, collecting evidence, analyzing fingerprints and tire treads, examining drop shapes, literally splitting hairs, and even isolating DNA. Besides the booklet, the CSI kit comes with everything (a magnifying glass, plastic bottles, safety goggles, powdered plaster, crime scene baggies, fingerprint cards, and even a CSI ID badge) that you and the kids will need to solve robberies, catch someone in a lie, make copies of keys, and more. CSI is part of Ravensburger’s Science X series, which also includes kits that teach about crystals and gemstones, fuel efficient cars, electronics, circuits, optics, magnets, and more. $34.99. For Ages 8 and up. http://www.ravensburger.com/

sciencewiz inventions science kitInventions (ScienceWiz)
Of all the kits we’ve reviewed, this is our favorite. It’s not quite as hip and cool as the others, but no matter. This kit contains almost everything you’ll need to put together a number of projects that actually work: a radio, telegraph, light generator, and spinning motor (you’ll need toilet paper tubes, cardboard, aluminum foil, glue, scissors, and a D-cell battery). It comes with a nicely illustrated, easy-to-understand, 40-page booklet that goes far beyond simply telling you how to put things together. Penny Norman, the brain behind ScienceWiz, gets deep into the Why, explaining the science behind each project in a way that really brings those concepts to life. Other similarly engaging kits from ScienceWiz explore DNA, chemistry, energy, rocks, magnetism, physics, light, and electricity. Each retails for $19.95. But they’re a little cheaper if you join the Science Kit Club and sign up to receive a new kit every two months.  For ages 8 and up. http://sciencewiz.com/

Now for Something Completely Different

It’s not easy being in the toy and game business. The pressure to continually come up with new ideas—and then transform them into unique, entertaining, fun products that people will actually want to play with—is huge. This week we had a chance to review a number of board games that were clever, innovative, and great fun for the whole family.

Make ‘n’ Break Party (Ravensburger)
make n break partyThis new release adds a new twist to the original Make ‘n’ Break game. The concept is pretty simple: pick a card with a picture of a structure, then build that structure using small blocks before the timer goes off. But here’s the twist. Instead of just building what’s on the card, one player has to describe the structure to a teammate who can’t see the picture. And that’s just the basic game mode. In addition to the picture, each card has several related words which come into play in more advanced modes. In mode two, one player still describes the structure, but can’t use any of the words on the card. For example, if the words are balance and triangle, he or she can’t say either one in any form—something that makes describing what’s on the card harder and the laughter louder. In the toughest mode, the player who’s doing the building is blindfolded. For a maximum of 9 players. The box says ages 10 and up, but younger kids will have a blast too. 3-9 players. $22.00. http://www.ravensburger.com

Front Runner (SimplyFun)
front runner math gameThere are a lot of great math games out there, but we found this one to be especially challenging—in a good way. The setting is a horse race, and each player is a jockey. The horse pawns are numbered 2-7 and are actually the answers to the equations printed on Equation Cards. But instead of solving simple addition or subtraction problems, players are solving for factors, which are the numbers that divide evenly into larger numbers without a remainder (for example, the factors of 10 are 1, 2, 5,and 10). Unlike a lot of other math-based games, Front Runner involves strategy. The only way a horse can move forward is if its number is a factor. Here’s how it works. A problem printed on the card (each card has three problems, one easy, one hard, one even harder) reads X+Y-Z=?. Using three dice, the player rolls 5, 3, and 2. 5+3-2 is 6. Since the factors of 6 are 1, 2, 3, and 6, those horses move forward. But if the player arranges the dice 5+2-3, the answer is 4, whose factors are 2 and 4, so only those horses would move, leaving the others behind. Players try to create equations whose factors advance their horse—but no one else’s. It’s a little complicated in the beginning, but well worth the effort. 2-6 players. Ages 8 and up. http://www.simplyfun.com

Bugs in the Kitchen (Ravensburger)
bugs in the kitchenAt the start of the game, the board is made up of spoons, knives, and forks that are arranged so they trap a battery-operated HEXBUG that’s trying to escape. Players take turn rolling a die that shows one of the utensils, which they can turn, creating paths that the bouncing bug will follow. Players strategically turn the utensils so they lure the bug into their trap. Bugs in the Kitchen is fast paced, raucous, and can be played in less than 10 minutes by 2-4 exterminators. Ages 6 and up. $44.99. http://www.ravensburger.com