Ball Track Construction Set (HABA USA). There’s nothing like building with blocks, and the fun is doubled when balls get into the picture. Haba’s Ball Track Construction Set is a terrific toy for dad and child. It’s educational and fun–so much fun, in fact, that you may find yourself playing with it long after the kids have gone to sleep. www.habausa.com
Codebreaker game(Cogno) .This terrific game was tested by an older dad and his seven year old son. Dad felt that the fame helped him spend more engaging time with his son (who says Codebreaker is “the best game in the world.”) www.cogno.com
Eric Carle’s Touch and Stack Blocks (Small World Toys). A nice way for Dad to teach his kids about numbers, sizes, and textures, based on the beloved Eric Carle book Polar Bear. www.smallworldtoys.com
Active Edge Instant Replay Batter (Small World Toys). With this batting trainer, Dad can help young children work on their swing without having to chase after the ball. A great way to build beginning players’ confidence and swing, and a guaranteed, enjoyable ball playing experience for everyone involved. www.smallworldtoys.com
Giggles Computer Funtime For Baby (Leveractive). We didn’t want to like this product. The idea of plopping an infant down in front of the computer seemed wrong. But we were quickly won over after installing the software and banging on the keyboard. Giggles is fun, entertaining, and engaging for babies and their dads. www.leveractive.com
Animal Upon Animal Puzzle Game (HABA USA). This beautifully crafted, wooden stacking game teaches about balance and weight. Like the Ball Track Construction Set, it’s a toy suited for kids and their parents. Think of it as a tangible Tetris; it’s that addictive. www.habausa.com
Beethoven’s Wig 3 (Rounder Records). The third in this entertaining CD series is a great way to introduce your kids to classical music. Dad, Mom, chidlren, and everyone else within hearing distance will find themselves singing along with the hilarious lyrics. www.rounder.com
Childbirth: A Multimedia Course & Resource Kit (Modus Five). Without passing judgment on any particular birth method, this DVD shows and tells you all you need to know about labor, breast feeding, and the role of the father during labor, birth, and beyond. By asking you questions, it helps Dad and Mom personalize a birth plan and demonstrates helpful exercises to be done during labor. www.modusfive.com
Cowboy and Princess – Bath to Bedtime Musicals (Tippy Toe Toons). Delightful and stress-reducing musical way to help your child get ready for bed. Both Dad and child will enjoy the tunes (performed by Nashville professionals) from Cowboy’s Shampoo to campfire lullaby; Sir Washalot and Lady Eliza-bath’s evening routines will help any budding princess brush her teeth. www.tippytoetoons.com
Read Along Collection Audio CDs (ToyBox Innovations and Disney-Pixar). Another one we didn’t want to like. But the stories (Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc.) have wonderful male role models and they’re read in such a fun, entertaining way, that Dads and their kids will have no problem snuggling up on the couch and reading together. www.toyboxinnovations.com
Not every product or service we evaluated met our strict criteria of helping dads get or stay involved with their children and improve the quality of father-child relationships. But there were a number of entries that we felt were worth noting.
www.malecare.com. A good resource for all men. An honorable mention for an honorable cause. Cold Seat. Pop this car seat liner into the freezer and keep junior cool on those insufferably hot days. A cool idea for hot summer cars.