Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for Father’s Day 2014

nursery time adora doll

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval
Congratulations to these fine products, which were awarded the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval. The Seal recognizes products that facilitate father-child relationships by getting dads and kids engaged and having fun together.

Submissions are now being accepted for our 2014 Fall and Winter Holiday seasons.

 

Books

The SMART Playbook (Suzanne M. Wind)
smart playbookSometimes (okay, often) it seems that manners have all but disappeared from our lives. But in an era when people barely make eye contact, mumble answers, text at the dinner table, don’t send thank-you notes, and are often just plain rude to each other, we need manners more than ever. Suzanne Wind has come up with a clever way to bring civility back into our lives. Using her SMART Playbook, Dad can coach his kids on what to do—and not do—in five broad areas where manners are needed most: Social interactions, Mealtimes, Art of conversation, Restaurant behavior, and Technology. But it’s not a one-way street—dads (and moms) can benefit from a manners makeover too.  $19.95 for the complete set, or $8.95 for each topic separately. http://www.thesmartplaybook.com/


What Not to Do at the Zoo (Morgan and Linda Gresky)
what not to do at the zooWe’re strong supporters of reading with kids and consider it one of the best dad-child bonding activities ever. What Not to Do at the Zoo this is a great one, especially for little ones,, and especially as a pre-zoo adventure warm-up. The book will get you laughing with its absurd warnings (things like “Do not give your homework to a warthog,” “Do not lend your library book to a gazelle”), and dads can extend the experience and promote creative thinking by encouraging the kids come up with their own things not to do at the zoo. The illustrations, by Doina Cociuba Terrano are wonderful. For any age, up to about 7. Available at your favorite bookseller. http://www.gobesilly.com

Building and Science

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine (GoldieBlox)
goldieblox and the spinning machineThe folks behind GoldieBlox are very open about their mission: To inspire the next generation of female engineers, and along the way, they hope to help girls develop the spatial and building skills they’ll need to succeed. What a terrific concept. GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine is anchored in the story of how Goldie builds a spinning machine to help her dog chase his tail. Along the way, she learns about wheels and axles, force, friction, and tension. This is a great way for dads to introduce basic engineering concepts to their daughters (or sons who don’t mind pink tool belts and ribbons). For ages 3-9, although we recommend Goldie for the lower end of the range. $29.95 http://www.goldieblox.com/
Laser Pegs 12-in-1 MLB02 (Laser Pegs)
laser pegs 12-in-1 MLBThe Laser Pegs® Major League Baseball kit is a Limited Edition set that comes with three new light-up Laser Pegs® (bat, ball, and glove) and enough classic Laser Pegs shapes and construction parts to build 12 different baseball-themed creations. Choose from 30 team decals to add to personalize your set. This is a great building set for any baseball player or game enthusiast. And, as with so many other building sets, it’s a great way for dads to bond with their kids. It might also spark an interest in baseball that could translate into other areas, such as playing catch, joining a team that dad can coach, or picking up some third-base-line seats at a real major- or minor-league game. $40 on http://laserpegs.com/
MiP (WowWee)
MiP robot wowweeIt didn’t take any more than a few minutes of playing with MiP for us to realize that the company is aptly named: WowWee! MiP is amazing. If you try to stand MiP upright, he’ll fall over, but as soon as you turn him on, he automatically balances himself by moving slightly back and forth—kind of like the way you might if you were trying to keep your bike upright without putting your feet down at a red light. Attach a tray (included), start loading MiP up, and he still autobalances himself. Download the free app and you can make MiP dance, roam, do tricks, respond to hand gestures, and even chase your dog around the house (our favorite activity these days). Although MiP is billed as more of a dad-son kinda guy, this dad and his daughter had an absolute blast together and in head-to-head competition. A great way to introduce kids (and dads) to high-tech robotics. Can be appreciated by kids of almost all ages—the older and more coordinated, the more they’ll be able to do. Until you become an adult, when all of a sudden the kids are better at everything. $99.99. www.wowwee.com/mip
ZOOB 175 Piece Challenge Kit (Poof-Slinky)
zoob challenge poof-slinkyWhat makes ZOOB such a unique building set is the fact that once you put the pieces together, your creation can move, so you can actually play with them instead of just admiring them. The 175-Piece Challenge Kit is definitely for the advanced builder. It comes with instructions and suggestions for building about 40 different projects, but encourages imagination, exploration, and innovation. What we like best, though, are the 26 open-ended challenges, each of which has multiple possible solutions. Things like make a target and hit it, build a ramp, make a ball that bounces, and build a zip line. A wonderful, fun way to encourage those all-important STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) skills that 21st century kids will need to succeed at work and in life. For ages 8 and up. $42.99. http://poof-slinky.com/

Dolls, Puppets, and Snugglies

Fuzzy Wuggs Hand Puppets (Manhattan Toy Company)
fuzzy wuggs manhattan toyThe sweet, adorable hand puppets are the perfect addition to your puppet box (you DO have a puppet box, don’t you?). These monsters—there’s the Orange Bolie and the Pink Girlie—are anything but scary, and would be perfect for a brother and sister (or any opposite-sex pairing: mom/son, dad/daughter) to play with together. Fuzzy Wuggs are the simplest puppets to operate: there’s just a sleeve for the arm and the thumb and fingers make the mouth open and close. They’re easy to manipulate for even for the smallest of hands, which makes them a great choice for young kids who are just building their dexterity and motor skills, as well as puppet enthusiasts of any age. Besides being great for creative and imaginative play, playing with puppets gives dad a special window in to how his children’s minds work. $24 from http://www.manhattantoy.com
Nursery Time (Adora Dolls)
nursery time adora dollWhat better topic than dolls. Wait, dads and dolls? Absolutely. Any man who’s got a daughter—and wants to connect with her—really needs to know his way around the world of dolls, since that’s where girls spend a lot of their time. It’s an amazing way to say, “I love you.” Adora babies are incredibly lifelike. They’re a little lighter than most babies but heavier than most other dolls. Their skin (which comes in a variety of tones) is super soft, their little noses and toes and fingers are irresistible, and they even smell like real babies. Great for dad to show his daughter how tiny and adorable she was as a baby, but also very effective if that little girl is preparing to be a big sister. Nursery Time babies are dressed in a onesie and come with a nice doll carrier so your junior mommy can take her baby everywhere. Ages 3 and up. $79.99 at specialty stores and http://www.adoradolls.com
Twinkling Firefly Frog (Cloud B)
twinkling firefly frog cloud bAs parents, we all know that bedtime isn’t always fun. For anyone. But a snuggly companion—especially if it lights up—can help sooth even the most savage toddler. This cuddly friend is perfect for enchanted playtime and helps children transition into nighttime. Fireflies twinkle in Frog’s belly to create a magical glow that helps ease fears of the dark. Twinkling Firefly Frog also plays a choice of two soothing sounds: rain with crickets, or a relaxing lullaby, and shuts himself off after 45 mintes. Kids who are old enough can control Frog’s light and volume. Needs 3 AAA batteries (included) which last a really long time. $35. http://cloudb.com

Games

Long Story Short (The Game Chef)
long story short, the game chefAnother clever family game from the folks at The Game Chef, this one mashing sitting-around-the-campfire storytelling with social media. Each player gets a turn to be the Storyteller. He or she picks one of the story starters for a little inspiration, and then starts talking. When the narrator is done, all the other players have to make that long story short, turning it into a text, a tweet, or a drawing (depending on how the dice roll). Dads often tell us that it’s hard to find games that tweens and teens will want to play with the rest of the family, but this is sure to be a hit. It’s easy to learn (takes about five minutes), can be hilarious at times, and is a great way to learn all sorts of new things about your family members. For 4-8 players ages 10+. $24.99 . http://thegamechef.com/
Tapple (USAopoloy)
tapple, usaopolyIf you’re in the mood for a fast, fun word game but only have 10 or 15 minutes, this one’s for you. The first player pulls a card containing a word or phrase from the deck (for example, “song titles”), taps the timer, and has 10 seconds to come up with something that fits the category (“Pop Goes the Weasel”) then pushes the tab with that letter, taps the timer, and the next player has 10 seconds to shout out an answer that starts with any of the remaining letters. As the letters disappear, it gets harder to find accurate answers, but it also gets a lot funnier. Play continues until all the letters have been used (the manufacturer has thoughtfully eliminated Q,U,V,X,Y,Z, which are the least common first letters in English) or someone doesn’t get an answer within those 10 seconds. For ages 8 and up. Two to 8 players, but the more you have the more fun it’ll be. $19.95. http://usaopoly.com/
UnNatural Selection (R&R Games)
unnatural selection, r&r gamesFun for any family that likes card games, UnNatural Selection™ lets kids and dads (or moms, of course) mash together a creature with features from all sorts of other animals, using the “Mod Ray X5000.” Then use the cards in your hand to undermine your opponents’ creatures’ skills and abilities. Finally, everyone presents their creature and pleads their case to the referee who decides which one would emerge victorious in a battle. The one who wins the most challenges become the “Ultimate Warrior.” It’s fun and fast-paced and costs only $11 at http://www.rnrgames.com/

Just Plain Fun

Invite Bandz (Marked Private)
invite bands, marked privateDads know that our kids want to be social on the Internet—and we try to support that (knowing all the while that they’d figure out a way to get online even if we didn’t support it). But we’re also worried about safety. Invite Bandz can turn Dad into a party-planning hero by satisfying both of those seemingly incompatible wishes in a wonderfully creative way. Here’s how it goes: The party host whips up an invite web-page that becomes a private mini-community where people can chat, post pics, and more. But no one gets into that exclusive digital enclave unless they’ve received a silicone wristband that comes with a unique access code. And after the party, the page—and the private community—can live on. It’s a cool, fun twist on traditional party invites. $14.99 for a 9-pack, $7.99 for a 4-pack booster. http://markedprivate.com/
KidNimble (KidNimble
kidnimbleAs much as we love our kids, we don’t always know what to do with them. Even if they’re booked with wall-to-wall camps, there are all those weekends. Personally, the phrase “I’m bored,” coming out of a child’s mouth drives me crazy. Fortunatley, with KidNimble, you may be able to banish that phrase from your kids’ vocabulary. Simply put, KidNimble is an amazing database of kid-friendly activiites. You can search by zip code–which means it works just as well on the road as it does at home–and specific a mileage radius. Then filter your results by distance, gender and/or age of the kids, program type (camps, classes, etc), and category (sports, religious, performing arts, academic, special needs, and more). Free at http://kidnimble.com
Wubble Bubble Ball (NSI Toys) 
wubble bubble ballHave you ever made giant soap bubbles, the kind that get to be a few feet across? Fun, isn’t it? But there’s always something a little disappointing when the bubbles pop—and they always do. Enter the Wubble Bubble Ball, which looks like a bubble but plays like a ball. It starts off about the size of a sock, but when you inflate it (a battery-operated inflator is included), it expands up to three feet across. It spins, floats, soars, just like a bubble. But go right ahead and toss it, kick it, smack it, sit on it—the thing is so indestructible that the company offers a lifetime replacement warranty. Take it to the park and kids will drop everything they’re doing and ask to play. Use it in your house (which is really fun) at your own peril. You may get some cool-dad points from the kids, but we’re betting that your spouse won’t be nearly as thrilled. $19.95. http://wubbleball.com/

Language Learning

ChineseCUBES
chinese cubesChina is a growing economic force and there’s a good chance that learning to speak Chinese will benefit your child when the time comes to get a job so he or she can support you in your old age. ChineseCUBES is designed for beginners of all ages, and lets dads learn Chinese with their kids through play, stories, videos, and augmented reality blocks that spring to life when you put them in front of your computer. We first saw ChineseCUBES at Toy Fair earlier this year and were absolutely amazed. I’ve studied Russian, French, and Hebrew and have never seen a more engaging, entertaining way to learn a new language. http://www.chinesecubes.com/
ChineseCUBES app (ChineseCUBES)
chinese cubes appChinese is a tough language. But the way this app breaks things down, it almost seems manageable. We began working on vegetables. Pick one—we went with tomato—and start learning. Tomato in Chinese consists of two characters. If you break them apart, you get “foreign” and “eggplant.” Tap either one, and you get audio of a native Chinese speaker saying the words. Put the two characters back together and hear the whole word. Tap on a pencil icon and you see how to write the actual characters. Once you feel confident, you can test your knowledge in a variety of ways, including a matching game where you match a picture of a particular veggie with the Chinese characters. tap for how to write the actual symbols. It’s very cool, very interactive, very addictive. The lite version is free in the Apple App Store. In app purchases start at $1.99.

Outdoors

Washdrops (Cequent Consumer Products)
washdrops cequentA lot of kids have fond memories of helping dad wash the car on those hot summer days. My dad wasn’t all that car-focused, so for me, washing the car was often an excuse to spend an hour or two hosing each other (and sometimes the car) off. But today, when everyone’s concerned about conserving resources, wasting all that water is a big no-no. So what’s an environmentally savvy dad with a filthy car supposed to do? Well, all you need is one bucket of water and Washdrops. It’s non-abrasive and leaves you with a shiny surface without repeated rinses. The stuff is completely non-toxic—no solvents, butyl, phosphate, or ammonia—so when you’re done you can use what’s left in the bucket to water your garden. With Washdrops, dads and kids can still enjoy quality time together. You’ll be a little drier, and a lot smarter about the environment, and the car will actually get clean. One additional note: We live in a complex where washing the car in the driveway is prohibited. But Washdrops is okay. washdrops.com
PaddlePak (Trunki)
paddlepak trunkiAfter spending the first few years of their children’s life as human pack animals, most dads are ready to celebrate the day the kids child can start schlepping their own stuff. And with PaddlePaks, that day may come a little sooner. PaddlePaks are adorable, water-resistant backpacks that come in a whole menagerie of aquatic animal forms, including shark, killer whale, frog, blow fish, clown fish, lobster, and octopus. They’re great for a day-trip to the beach, a sleepover at grandma’s, or even a jaunt down to the pool for swim lessons. They’re fun, practical (wet swim suits don’t soak your car seats and dry clothes don’t get soaked when you child drops the pack in a puddle). $25-$30. http://www.trunki.com/

Retro

Motorworks (Manhattan Toys)
motoworks manhattan toyThese are not your father’s model cars—but they may be your grandfather’s. These charming wooden—yes, wooden!—cars are definitely a blast from the past. Each one (there are about 15) snap-fits together easily and is fully customizable using stickers and a variety of accessories. Parts from any Motorworks car are interchangeable with all the rest. Plus, you can buy extra parts (including wheels, rims, cabs, chassis, and more) or swap with your friends. Great, low-tech fun for dads and kids. And starting at just $10, they’re easy on the wallet. Beautifully crafted and durable, they’re the kind of toy your children may be playing with their own kids one of these days (and yes, that would make you a grandfather). http://www.manhattantoy.com
Start Wars Yo Men Yo Yos (Yomega)
star wars yomega yo youThese cool Yo Yos combine the fun of Yo-Yos with the inter-generational awesome that is Star Wars. (If you don’t love Star Wars, you really need to get your priorities straight). The Star Wars Yomega Yo-Men Yo-Yo line is a collection of 12 of the most popular characters from the Star Wars movies, including Yoda and Darth Vader. A few practice rounds while the kids are asleep and dad will be able to demonstrate walking the dog or going around the world. These high performance yo-yos let you do some amazing tricks (or learn them) with or without using the Force.  When you’re done playing or teaching your kiddo, place the yo-yo in the action stand to complete the Yo-Men character. Prices range from under $15 to over $90, depending on collectability and availability. http://www.yomega.com

Safety

My BuckleMate (My BuckleMate)
my bucklemateMost dads wouldn’t think of letting the kids ride in their booster seats without buckling up first (yes, we’re talking to you). But how many times have you mumbled profanities under your breath as you’ve tried to unite the female and male ends of the buckles, or strained your back leaning over fishing around to find the end that’s slipped behind or between the seats? My BuckleMate solves both of those problems by propping up backseat buckles so they’re easy to find and reach—so easy that kids will be able to buckle themselves in. http://www.mybucklemate.com/

My, Aren’t You The Crafty One…

With summer upon us, parents will be looking for fun ways to fill the days when the kids are home from school.  If you have a crafty or creative child, you’ll want to check out some of these jewelry making kits.

jewelry1Pop-Arty (B. Toys)
Pop-Arty, from one of our favorite companies, comes in two sizes: 300 pieces and 500 pieces. Either way, that’s a lot of pieces, and you get an assortment of beads, bracelets, rings, and more. The beads come in a wide range of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and with different end, others have only holes, some have two “nubs” for connecting, some with one hole and one connector.  Build one design, wear it, then disassemble it and make a new one to match your next outfit. No mess with this project, as it has no glue or glitter. Comes in its own storage unit. For kids three years and up, $15-$30 at major retailers.

i heart charm alex toysI Heart Charm Bracelet (Alex Toys)
This kit is great for slightly older kids who are able to use molds and more complex patterns.  Children can make their own beads in one or more colors, even accent them with glitter or included gems, and set them to dry.  When they do, they can add them to the included silver bracelet, add charms, and have a very personalized bracelet.  Two bracelets are included, so are charms, and the dough for molds.  A fantastic project for best friends or sisters to do on a rainy day. About $22 at your favorite toy seller.

bling bangles alex toysBling Bangles (Alex Toys)
Aimed at kids 6 and up (although tweens will like it too), the Bling Bangles kit comes with six metal bangle bracelets (just like mom’s!), six floss colors, and six gemstone strips in different sizes. Children can easily add the desired “bling” of gems to the bangle and wrap the colored floss around the bracelet, and voila!  Available for $14.99 and up on http://www.alextoys.com

me & you b. toysOur Generation Me & You Jewelry Set (B. Toys)
The Me & You Jewelry Set lets children create matching accessories that they and their dolls can wear together. Let the kids run wild with a variety of colors, ribbons, styling options, and more.  Comes with three large (kid size) wooden bangles in different widths, and two smaller ones for her favorite doll. Produced by a company with a conscience, B. Toys donates 10 cents from each purchase to the Free the Children’s Power of a Girl Initiative, which helps fund girls education. They also print everything with soy-based inks and use recycled materials for packaging. About $20 at http://ogdolls.com or and at Target.

pick-n-mix Craft Scene Pick-N Mix Jewelry Kit (International Playthings)
One of the most complete kits we’ve ever seen, you get enough supplies to make at least eight jewelry pieces: 200 felt strips and squares in assorted colors, yards of lilac organza ribbon, plastic stretch cord, plastic coated jewelry wire, jump rings, clasps, clamshell clasps, and ear hooks. Kids can get some ideas from the 16-page illustrated activity guide, or let their imagination take over and create whatever they want. The convenient plastic storage box helps keep creations safe and easy-to-find for the next time. Aimed at kids eight and up, and individuality-seeking tweens will love it. Retails for about $14.99 at http://shop.intplay.com

 

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/