Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: Father’s Day Deadline Approaching

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: We’re Looking for Dad-Friendly Products in All the Right Places

Do you know of a great product or service that encourages dads and their children to spend more time together?

If so, the MrDad.com team wants to hear about it!

As one of the leading websites promoting positive parenting for dads, we’re pleased to announce that submissions are still open for the Father’s Day 2014 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

But hurry. As you can imagine, Father’s Day is kind of like our Christmas (although we have Christmas awards too), and we’re already receiving lots of entries. The deadline for submissions is May 26, 2014. We’ll announce the winners the week of June 2. You can find out more and submit your products at http://www.mrdad.com/seal/

Next to “I love you, Daddy,” some of the sweetest words a father can hear are, “Hey Dad, can we play that again?” But it’s not always easy to find toys, games, and activities that have the “play-it-again” factor. That’s why we created the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: to help dads (and those who love them) identify top-quality, fun products and services that will help them and their children stay connected at every age. Each Seal recipient has been field tested by other dads to ensure that it truly accomplishes that goal.

Putting a Mr. Dad Seal of Approval on your product tells customers that they’re looking at something dads and kids will enjoy together. Past recipients include Lego, Haba USA, The Smithsonian, Nintendo, B. Toys, Ravensburger, Wild Creations, Putumayo, and many more.

The Mr. Dad Seal of Approval is managed by Armin Brott and Samantha Feuss (Have Sippy Will Travel). Seal winners will be promoted on Armin’s and Samantha’s websites as well as through their extensive social media contacts (>20,000 on Facebook, >50,000 on Twitter). Winners may also be featured in “Parents@Play,” the nationally syndicated (by McClatchy) toy-review column Armin and Sam co-write, as well as on the toy review segment on “Positive Parenting,” Armin’s radio show that airs on more than 500 stations.

For more info and to submit your products, visit http://www.mrdad.com/seal/

 

Where Have All the Superheroes Gone?

In a word, everywhere (at least the little, plastic ones). If you’ve got a son, nephew, or superhero-loving child of either sex, you’ll find that there are tons of toys to go with movie blockbusters, TV shows, cartoons, and even a few just because.

marvel mashersMarvel Superhero Mashers (Hasbro)
Why is it that so many superheroes seem to have multiple personality disorders? They want to save the world, but they’re distraught and angry, filled with angst, feeling responsible and lonely, pushing people away, clinging to friends, and occasionally going off the rails (yes, we’re talking about you, Spiderman). Well, now you can make your own disjointed (literally) superheroes by mashing them up with other heroes and villains. Take the head of Iron Man, the body of Thor, the legs of Hulk, and the arms of Dr. Doom and you’ve got, well, we’re not sure. Prices range from $10 – $20 on http://www.hasbro.com or at your favorite toy retailer.

power rangers mega zordPower Rangers
Since they first appeared in 1992, Power Rangers have morphed through more incarnations than we can shake a stick at, if we were stick-shaking people. Two decades and nearly 100 Rangers later, the show is still going strong. The Power Rangers are an institution and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’re still making movies and TV shows, and our children and their friends look forward to the new toys as much as we and our friends did a thousand years ago. So, what’s new in Power Rangers? Well, let’s start with the Legacy Megazord who’s celebrating 20 years of helping the Power Rangers saving the world. This latest Megazord has all the original details from the first toy, but beefs up the durability factor by using die cast metal pieces. The Megazord comes with a Ranger Key that can be used to open its chest. Good for collectors and fans of the current show alike. The Mystic Dragon Zord and Green Ranger set is also inspired by past seasons, and connects to other parts of the Zord Builder collection. Any four-inch figure or Power Ranger Key can work with the Dragon Zord. And the Legacy Megazord and Mystic Dragon Zord can be used together. Roughly $35 and $16, respectively, depending on where you buy them.

pokemon figuresPokemon (TOMY)
While we’re on the subject of toys (and TV shows) that have been around forever, does anyone (or everyone) out there remember Pokemon? Ash and his lovable companion Pikachu have been fascinating kids for a while now on several continents, and the latest versions (inspired by the hit Nintendo video games) are Pokemon X and Y. This generation of Pokemon lets you go head to head with the older Pokemon you have already “caught” as well as the newest ones, like Chespin and Fennekin. Kids (and their adult wranglers) learn at an early age that you’ve “Gotta Catch “em Al.”, And considering that they cost about $8 for a two-pack, that won’t be too hard. Each two pack contains two two-inch figures and two “Attack Tags” for game play. http://tomy.com

captain american winter soldierCaptain America: The Winter Soldier (Hasbro)
With the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie recently coming out, kids want to act out the adventures (or perhaps misadventures) of Steve Rogers and the unfortunate Bucky Barnes at home. Hasbro has a line of 3.75 inch action figures to go along with the movie, complete with weapons, feature motions, and of course the famous shield. These figures are quite articulated and have weapons that fire actual projectiles. Additional accessories are sold separately. There are six figures in this line, $10 each. http://www.hasbro.com

Splish, Splash, We’re Taking a Bath

What is it about bath time that makes it so much fun for kids? Sure, having prune fingers is entertaining, but there has to be more. Is it the echo of your voice in the bathroom? The relaxing nature of warm water? The chance to splash around and make a mess (that for parents is a lot easier to clean up than splashing around in mud puddles)? The wonderful opportunities for creative play, cause and effect, and imagination? Actually, does it really matter? This week we had a chance to review a number of bath toys that can keep bath time fun for everyone—even when it’s time for the dreaded washing and shampooing part. We loved ‘em and we’re sure you will too.

splish & splashB. Fish & Splish Boat (B. Toys)
Take two handfuls of colorful, durable water toys, put them in a boat, and you’ve got hours of fun. The Fish & Splish Boat includes nesting cups, the captain, a life preserver, a fishing hook (no, not a real one, of course) and four easy-to-catch fish—all of which stow away neatly inside the boat. There’s even a comb and nail brush (cleverly disguised as an innocent-looking octopus and a smiling whale) so mom and dad can sneak a little hygiene into the bathing experience. Ages eight months to three years. Retails for about $31.00 at Amazon. http://www.mybtoys.com/

wiggly wind-upsWiggly Wind-Ups (B. Toys)
If there’s one place where electronics don’t belong, it’s the bathtub. And the folks at B. Toys have graciously obliged, coming up with some delightfully old-school toys. All you do is wind ‘em up, let them loose and the paddle their way around the tub, leaving nothing but waves and giggling children behind. There’s a gorilla in a canoe, a giraffe with swim fins, and a masked blue super dog. Unfortunately, the Wiggly Wind-Ups are a little hard to find, but well worth the trouble.

Bubbalooka
Surfing in the Tub
Magnetic Ducks in the Tub (Alex Toys)

bubbalookaIf you’re looking for a way to keep your little one(s) in the tub a bit longer, Bubbalooka is your answer. With Bubbalooka, kids (and we’re sure plenty of parents) can blow incredibly long, fluffy bubble snakes. The complete kit comes with a bubble horn, a bottle of bubble solution, and a suction cup holder so the bottle won’t spill into the tub.  Can be used in the tub or anywhere else, for that matter. Recommended for kids two years old and up. Retails for $11.95 on the company’s website (http://www.alextoys.com/), or you can pick it up wherever you buy your toys.

surfing in the tubThe Surfing in the Tub kit is another bath time extender—one that’s designed to make washing a little less unattractive. Snap the monkey onto one of two foam surfboards and take him on his very own wave-riding adventure. Oh, and did we mention that the money also squirts? For ages two and up. But it for $11.95 on Alex Toys’ website—a bit more on Amazon.

 

magnetic ducksMagnetic Ducks in the Tub are exactly what you’d expect from the name: three colorful, soft, vinyl ducks—theoretically a mommy duck and her chicks, but it could just as well be a dad or family friend—that click together magnetically. Good, clean, old fashioned, fun.  Safe for ages two and up. Retails for $16.95.

 

“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/

The Parents@Play Team

armin brott Hailed by Time Magazine as “the superdad’s superdad,” Armin Brott is a former U.S. Marine and the author of eight bestselling books on fatherhood, including The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to Be and The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, American Baby, Parenting, Child, Men’s Health, The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, and dozens of other major publications and websites.

Armin has been a guest on more than 500 radio and television shows, including Today, CBS Overnight, Fox News, and Politically Incorrect, and his work on fatherhood has been featured in such places as Glamour, Time, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday,and many others.

Besides co-writing Parents@Play, Armin also writes the nationally syndicated “Ask Mr. Dad” column and hosts “Positive Parenting,” a weekly radio program that airs on a dozen stations in the US and on 500+ stations as part of the American Forces Network. He lives with his family in Oakland, California.

 

sam feussSamantha Feuss was just named the number 7th most influential blogger on social media for 2012.  Owner of Happy Sippy, Will Travel, she lives up to her title. She dabbles in several foreign languages and has extensive travel experience. She has several degrees in education and is working toward her PhD.  Samantha is a freelance writer who has been featured on various sites, ezines, and magazines, as well as several regular columns online and in print.  She has worked on social media projects and tours, an expert Twitter Party Host, and is the social media manager and/or brand ambassador for several companies, including the Bronx Zoo.

Educational Systems That Actually Educate (and Entertain)

In recent years, there’s been a lot of controversy about “educational” DVDs, flash cards, and worksheets—do they work or are they doing more harm than good. The answer is all about communication. If you park your child in front of a DVD or leave your child with a stack of worksheets, there’s little to no benefit. But if you’re together, talking about what you’re watching or seeing, it’s a big win-win.  Here are two educational programs—one DVD-based, the other paper-based—that do a wonderful job of engaging parents and their preschoolers.

 

Little Pim

little pim parents@playIf you’re interested in exposing your little one to a new language, Little Pim is a great choice. Using the “Entertainment Immersion Method,” each Little Pim DVD covers a particular theme (usually common activities like waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, mealtime, and playtime) and introduces about 60 words and phrases. Kids (and adults) learn a new language the way they learned the first—by example and repetition. The discs are further divided into 5-minute chunks that make parent-child interaction, practice, and discussion a breeze.

Little Pim adds to the learning—and the fun—by including music CDs. The French Bop CD, for example, includes 15 popular French children songs which will help your little one retain the vocabulary while learning about French culture. To round out the experience, there are also word- and phrase cards to quiz your kids with (or that you can use to practice on your own). With patience and practice, today’s preschooler could learn enough to play tour guide on your next overseas trip.

Little Pim has kits in Arabic, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Russian, all of which are perfect for the classroom, home, or a quick on-the-plane or in-the-airport language brush up. Most are also available digitally and can be downloaded to your tablet or smartphone. Preschool and up. http://www.littlepim.com/

 

Newmark Learning

newmark learning parents@playKids who do the best in school are usually the ones who get the most support and encouragement from their parents at home. Knowing mom and dad are there motivates kids and shows them that making an effort makes a difference. It’s tempting to leave everything to the teacher, but if we truly want our kids to be successful, there’s no substitute for rolling up our sleeves and working with our little scholars. Sometimes, though, parents want to be supportive but don’t know how. Enter Newmark Learning’s Parent Involvement Kits.

newmark learning parents@playEach kit is focused around a single subject (including math, social studies, and science) and contains books, a parent guide, and a reading journal. We reviewed the Social Studies kit, which covered a variety of topics such as maps, birthdays, towns, and more. Each book’s vibrant, large pictures and simple words encourage kids to read along with parents at story time.

If you’re working with a child who isn’t reading yet, you’ll really appreciate Newmark’s Sight Word Readers (included in the Parent Involvement Kits), small books designed to teach pre-readers to recognized basic words they’ll see all the time. Usually, sight word drills are boring. These are just the opposite. Parents@playmate Samantha, who’s a teacher by training, says that the Newmark Learning programs are the best she’s ever used. And she was thrilled to see her 5-year old flipping through a book, looking at words and reading them aloud. Perfect for home, home schooling, or the classroom. Pre-K – 2nd grade. newmarklearning.com/