It’s less than a week into summer, but people are already talking about how this could be one of the hottest summers ever. That means that even though most of us would much rather be outside playing, we’ll have to spend a bit more time inside. Here are a few games (and one non-game product) that will help you chill on those days when it’s too hot to go outside.
Build a Bot (Basic Fun)
Another STEM-type toy for the younger set. Follow the easy instructions to create a basic unicorn by snapping and clicking together the pieces. Then you customize and personalize your one-horned wonder with stickers. Once you’re done, just clap your hands (or make some other loud noise) to bring your unicorn to life, walking across the floor and making unicorn-y sounds. Batteries required but not included. Ages 5+ (although kids under 7 might need some adult help with assembly). Prices vary. http://www.basicfun.com
Summer’s here, and it’s time to head outside. And while you’re there, why not get wet? Really, really wet. Here are our current water-themed faves for the whole family.
Splash Out (Far Out Toys)
This Q&A game features a ball that holds a water balloon. Then, you set a timer on the ball and players take turns holding the ball while answering a question. As soon as you answer, you pass the ball to the next person who answers the same question. Answer quickly and you stay dry. Hesitate and the timer pops the balloon and you’re all washed up. Comes with waterproof question cards and balloons. Great fun for indoors or out, and, of course, who says you have to limit yourself to water? It all depends on how much of a mess you want to clean up. Ages 8+. Under $18. http://www.farouttoysinc.com/
What is it about kids and animals? Doesn’t matter whether they’re made of flesh and blood or artificial materials, kids love ‘em—and so do we. Here are some of our current favorites.
Q*bert Buildable Figure (Arcade Classics/The Bridge Direct)
If you’ve got young kids, there’s a good chance that Q*bert, who was born in 1982, is older than you. But he (or is it she?) has held up pretty well. The classic arcade game has been rebooted several times, most recently in the film, “Pixels.” Now, this loveable, armless, orange creature with the big nose is available as a buildable figure, using 117 LEGO-type pieces. And if you need more early video game throwbacks, you can get Centipede and Frogger figures as well. These kits are for kids 10+, but we think younger ones can handle it too. Prices vary. http://www.basicfun.com
With so many fascinating, amazing, gorgeous, and marvelous creatures as there already are in the world, one might reasonably wonder why anyone could want even more. The answer is simple: Because it’s fun! Here are some of our current favorite Holiday creature comforts.
Beat Bugs Singing Jay (Blip Toys)
Jay and the other Beat Bugs sing along with songs from season one of their hit Netflix streaming show. If you’re a Beatles purist, you may have some trouble with the Fab Four’s music being sung by adorable insects, but if you want to introduce your little ones to some of the best rock music ever created—including “Help,” “Blackbird,” Good Day Sunshine,” “Penny Land,” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” you can’t go wrong here. Picture books and activity books (with stickers and word searches) sold separately. Figures come with batteries. For ages 3+ https://bliptoys.com/
Kids have tons of energy—that’s one of the many things we love about them. Sometimes, though, as we all know, they don’t have enough outlets for that energy. As a result, they can do things that we don’t love quite so much. But properly channeled, those idle hands can play, do, create, build, investigate, and get involved in all sorts of wonderful, productive things. Here are some of our favorites.
Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer (Dr. Panda)
Perfect for kids who love to draw and design, Dr. Panda combines a physical toy with easy-to-use AR technology to bring your child’s creations to life. Use more than 50 flashcards to place generic items (furniture, clothes, art, plants, and more) into whichever room you want to design. Or, flip the card over and customize each item. Then, using your smartphone or other Android, Fire OS, or iOS device, scan your images into the app and, wow! Comes with flashcards, erasable markers, and a code to unlock the free app. Pre-readers can also learn to spell and pronounce the names of the objects on each flashcard. For ages 3-8. Under $40. https://drpanda.com
Okay, so the days are getting a little shorter, but that doesn’t mean the end of entertaining, outdoor play. With these great new toys, you and your kids can have open-air fun ‘til the sun goes down—and long after.
This is one of those games that will get you and the family up, outside, and sweating. It’s honestly a great workout. As you can tell from the “minton” part of the name, it’s kind of like badminton, but you don’t need a net. And the “bash” part tells you that you’ll be whaling away, smacking the 4.5-inch “birdie” ball as hard as you can with one of the 21-inch mesh rackets. The rackets and ball are washable and float, meaning you can take your game into the pool. Includes two rackets and one ball. For ages 5+. Under $20. https://www.toysmith.com
Looking for some good, old-fashioned toys to play with that don’t claim to build STEM skills, expand your brain, or anything else? If so, you’ll want to check out these new items that offer, gasp, nothing but fun. And that’s just fine.
Hamsters in a House (ZURU)
This might bring to mind another toy craze from a few years ago, (Zhu Zhu Pets) and we admit there are some similarities. These little hamsters are small (though not so small that your kids can swallow them), soft, and furry. They buzz and scoot around any smooth, flat surface as well as in their own little “ecosystems.” There are several playset houses, such as the luxurious “Ultimate Hamster House,” which has a bed, a slide, and even a toilet that makes flushing sounds—a sure-fire hit for kids who love potty humor (and who doesn’t?). Put the hamsters on any of the hotspots, and they’ll say one of 16 phrases. You can expand your hamster’s ecosystem by adding hamsters and accessory packs (sold separately), which include styling studios, cars, and run extensions (think train tracks for hamsters). Ages 4 and up. Prices vary. Available exclusively at http://www.toysrus.com/. More at http://hamstersinahouse.com/