Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for Winter Holidays 2014

soa - alphabet flashcards

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval
Congratulations to these fine products, which were awarded the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for the 2014 Winter Holidays. The Seal recognizes products that facilitate father-child relationships by getting dads and kids engaged and having fun together.

We’re now accepting submissions for our 2015 Spring and Father’s Day seasons.

Books

big move bookMy Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home (by Lori Woodring, Ph.D)
Even though about 40 million Americans per year do it, leaving one home and moving to a new one is often a hectic, stressful, anxiety-provoking experience—especially for children. Psychologist Lori Woodring has put together a workbook that takes kids through every step of the moving process. She helps children understand change, and gives them specific strategies for managing their emotions, saying goodbye, making new friends, and a lot more. And for younger children, she offers a way to understand their emotions, even though they may not be able to articulate them. Although the book is meant for children 5-11, it’s also for dad and mom. Going through the exercises and activities together can help parents understand and support their kids, and is a great way to spark conversations about moving. $15.99 on Amazon or at movingwithchildren.com

on the go custom book
on the move custom bookOn the Go and Princess of the Year, personalized books for boys and girls (My Custom Kids Books)
Young children are fairly self-absorbed little creatures—they love mirrors, they love to hear their own name, and they love to see pictures of themselves (one could actually say the same thing about teenagers, too). These personalized books incorporate your child’s image (from a photo you upload) and name in a fun story that they–and their personal readers–will enjoy. On the Go, puts your child behind the controls of more than a dozen vehicles, including a dump truck, car transporter, helicopter, snow plow, and tow truck. Princess of the Year turns your child into a dozen different princess, including tooth fairy princess, flower princess, Halloween princess, and mermaid princess. A great way to get kids interested in reading and to strengthen that all-important dad-child bond. $36.99. mycustomkidsbook.com.
 

principles honestyThe Principles of Our World (David Esposito)
This is actually a series of short books, each built around a value that we’d like to instill in our children (and plenty of adults too): compassion, courage, honesty, hope, perseverance, teamwork, and sacrifice. The lessons are introduced through real-life stories that put the characters in situations where they have to display the value in question at home, at school, and at work. But the best part of the books are the “What Would You Do?” sections that get kids thinking about the issues. For example, what would you do if you bought something and the clerk gave you too much change? Those questions give dads and kids a wonderful opportunity to talk together about important issues. The books are written by a U.S. Army veteran. $9.95. Available at Amazon.

Building

playmobil asia castle, shopping mall, large crane

  • Great Asian Castle (Playmobil)
  • Large Crane with IR Remote Control (Playmobil)
  • Furnished Shopping Mall (Playmobil)

Playmobil toys and sets are tons of fun and they don’t get quickly tossed aside like some so many other gifts. These sets inspire imaginative play, are marvelously low-tech (although some have remote-controlled elements), and since the pieces are interchangeable with other Playmobil sets, the kids can build amazing universes.

One of the nicest things about Playmobil is that many of their sets are equally fun for boys and girls. Zoos are zoos—who really cares what gender the zookeepers are? Some sets, though, seem a little more oriented toward one sex or the other (such as the shopping mall or the construction crane set). Left to their own devices, though, the kids may very well put the two together. Who’s to say that the crane operator won’t pick up lunch at the mall, or that the shopkeepers won’t visit a construction site? These sets are great fun for everyone and provide plenty of opportunity for father-child playtime. Sure, you may have to be a giant panda, but hey, that’s what parenthood is all about. Oh, and if you or your child decide that playtime is somehow not complete without an online element, playmobil.com offers games and downloads that go with their toys. Playmobil sets are available wherever you buy toys. Prices vary greatly, depending on the set.

millennium falconStar Wars Command Millennium Falcon Set (Hasbro)
What better way to bond with the kids than with toys you played with when you were young? And who didn’t (and doesn’t) love Star Wars? It’s un-American, really. The Star Wars Command Millennium Falcon Set is a lot of fun, and includes everything (and everyone) you need to fight and defeat the Dark Side—or to become one with it, whatever suits your fancy, you devil, you. Maybe you and mom on one side and the kids on the other. This set includes everyone’s favorites like Chewbacca, R2D2, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, as well as AT-AT drivers, pilots, soldiers, and AT-AT walkers. Seven vehicles and 24 action figures in all. And the Millennium Falcon vehicle itself pulls back and releases (blast off!) right into the fight. That’s a whole lot of stuff for $29.99. If you haven’t already introduced your kids to Star Wars, it’s not too late to redeem yourself. Available at your favorite retailer or at Hasbro.com.

Dolls and Puppets

mensch on a benchThe Mensch on a Bench (MenschOnABench)
Like so many great ideas, this one was born out of frustration. In Neal Hoffman’s case, his son wanted an Elf on a Shelf (a Mr. Dad Seal of Approval winner), but Hoffman wanted a toy that would be more in keeping with his Jewish background. So why not a Mensch on a Bench? The Mensch, like the Elf, watches over children during the holiday. But the Mensch also comes with a story book and eight rules (one for each night of Hanukkah). The rules include naming your Mensch, having him hold the shamash candle (the one used to light the others), and just having fun. But the one that really captures the essence of a true mensch, is Number 7: “… don’t open presents for yourself, instead, buy presents and give them to people in need.” That’s a message that more kids (and parents), Jewish or not, should be incorporating into their holiday traditions. $30. themenschonabench.com.

Education and Science

brainzyBrainzy (Education.com)
Helping a child learn at home—whether it’s part of a homeschool program or just some academic reinforcement—is a wonderful way for the two of you to bond with each other. But it’s always a struggle to find activities that both satisfy our natural fatherly desire to educate and guide, and also make learning fun (for the kids and for us). If that sounds familiar and you have one or more kids in the 3-7 set, you’ll definitely want to check out Brainzy. Developed by education.com, Brainzy is mostly a math and reading program, with 300+ games, songs, stories, and activities that we think will get kids excited about learning before they get too jaded. On the math side, games introduce and hone categorizing, sorting, and pattern recognition skills, as well as basic addition and subtraction. On the reading side, games encourage the children to spot rhymes, learn spelling, recognize the difference between upper- and lower-case letters, and a lot more. Brainzy isn’t terribly expensive, but the fact that each account accommodates up to three players, makes it a real bargain if you’ve got more than one 3-7-year old. And if you happen to be a teacher, you can get an account that will cover up to 35 kids. $6.99. education.com/games/info

thinking puttyCrazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty (Putty World)
Not your father’s Silly Putty. You can tear it, smash it, stretch it, pound it, roll it, leave it under the couch, and it never dries out. Thinking Putty comes in a huge variety of options: glow in the dark, color changing, magnetic, UV reactive, and more. Use it as a stress-reliever, draw on it with a black light pen, or use it to illustrate a whole host of science-based concepts, including measuring the speed of light, capturing shadows, defeating fingerprint scanners, and a lot more. If you run out of ideas, there are all sorts of fun, educational tricks and experiments on the website. Comes in dozens of colors priced at $14.95. puttyworld.com.

elements 4d Elements 4D (DAQRI)
One of the top toys we’ve seen all year. Elements 4D consists of six beautifully designed, white blocks. Each face (a total of 36) is dedicated to a single element from the Periodic Table of Elements (remember that from High School?). Beside the name, there’s the symbol (O for oxygen, H for hydrogen, and so on) and the atomic number (how many protons in one atom of the element). But when you view them through a smartphone or device running the free, augmented-reality app, those blocks go from nice-to-look-at to really interesting (or, as my middle schooler put it, “coooooool”). You get a more information and a virtual representation of the element. But wait, there’s more! Put two blocks next to each other, and you’ll see the chemical reaction and the resulting compound. For example, oxygen and hydrogen are both gasses, but together they become water. Similarly, combine sodium (actually a metal) with chlorine (a greenish gas) and you get salt. These visuals upgraded “cool” to “awwwwwwesooooome.” Overall, Elements 4D is a fantastic way to introduce or develop an interest in chemistry and it’s an engaging resource for home or school. We wish the product were a little easier to find in stores and that it were available to those of use who use Windows phones. Right now, only 36 of 118 elements are included. But that could actually be a good thing, driving an interested child (and his or her dad) to want to learn more. elements4d.daqri.com.

goldieblox movie machineGoldieBlox and the Movie Machine (GoldieBlox, Inc.)
Another winner for young girls from GoldieBlox. Kids (boys can enjoy this too, even though, there’s no shortage of pink) and dads can read the story and follow the prompts to build a zoetrope, a device that pre-dates the movie projector. Although you may not recognize the name, you’ve probably seen a zoetrope before—imagine a cylinder around a foot tall and a foot in diameter with slots cut in the sides. You then put a series of images, each slightly different from the next, around the inside of the cylinder, turn a crank, and as you look through the slots, the images blend together and look animated. It’s kind of like a flip book. (The word zoetrope means “wheel of life,” based on the Greek words zoe (life) and trope, meaning turn.) The folks at GoldieBlox have designed this set to build spatial skills, teach engineering principles, and encourage reading. Ages 3-9 or so. $29.99. goldieblox.com.

groovy lab in a boxGroovy Lab in a Box (Groovy Lab in a Box)
There are a lot of science kits on the market (many of which we’ve reviewed), but Groovy Lab in a Box kits—which were created by science educators—are the only ones that come with absolutely everything your child will need to do the experiments (under your watchful eye, of course). Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but a few missing ingredients could mean that the kit goes back on the shelf and never gets used. That won’t be a problem here. We reviewed the Here Comes the Sun kit, which takes you through the process of building a solar balloon, a solar oven, and more. The ingredients are easy to use and the results are fully functional. But in some ways, the Lab Notebook is the best part, introducing the scientific process and explaining the concepts behind the experiments in a fun, engaging way that will leave the kids (and you too) wanting to do–and learn–more. There’s also a website with activities and interactive videos that take the young scientist deeper into each specific kit’s subject matter. Single kits cost around $36, but if you do a year subscription, the price goes down significantly. groovylabinabox.com.

i-spy challenger

  • I SPY Challenger for Windows AIO devices (Scholastic Media)
  • The Magic School Bus Field Trip Frenzy for Windows AIO devices (Scholastic Media)

Scholastic has been publishing great children’s books for, well, at least since we were kids. And with all the new technology our kids are into, Scholastic has branched into apps. The two apps we evaluated are definitely educational, but they’re also great fun for dads to play with their kids. Both are for the Windows AIO (All In One) devices, which feature seamless gameplay and knock-your-socks-off beautiful graphcs.

i spy appI Spy Challenger is based on the popular I-Spy board games and books, but you don’t have to be familiar with I-Spy to have an absolute blast. The game features the classic “I spy a….. “ riddles, hoop drop item categorization, math games, and some really fast-paced variations. Can be played by one person, but accommodates up to four—and the more people are playing, the more fun you’ll all have. Helps kids and adults improve critical thinking and quick decision making skills, and develops a sharp eye for patterns and differences. Best played on an 18-inch or larger device. I Spy Challenger retails for $5.99 and is available now from the Windows App Store.

magic schoolbus fieldtrip frenzyThe Magic School Bus: Field Trip Frenzy takes players on adventurous multiplayer quests. You’ll explore the human body, fly through outer space, excavate dinosaur bones, and visit many other exotic locales. Best for two or more players using a 10-inch or bigger—preferably waaaay bigger—AIO device. The action happens in a game-show format and is so well done that it’s sure to spark (or further) an interest in science and exploration. Got a big screen tablet or touchscreen device? You owe it to yourself and your kids to grab this game for your little ones. Magic School Bus: Field Trip Frenzy retails on the Windows App Store for $1.49 and is available now.

Fitness and Outdoors

fitivitiesFitivities (Sandy Spin Slade, Inc.
This game is absolutely terrific. It’s simple, easy to set up, and fun—a lot of fun. That by itself would be reason enough to buy Fitivities. But there are lots of games that fit those criteria, right? What sets Fitivities apart is that it’s physical. There is no way to play the game without working up a sweat. As an obsessive exerciser who’s had trouble motivating his kids to do some kind of workout every day, I found Fitivities to be the perfect antidote. Kids want to play the game—with friends, with family, and sometimes even by themselves. Plus, it’s the kind of thing they can do indoors or out. The only downside is that you need a large area to play. The game board (actually a durable plastic mat) is about 3’x4’ and you need plenty of space where the players (2-24—yes, 24) can jump, shadow box, lunge, and more all at the same time. $39.95. fitivities.com.

kazam balance bikeKaZAM Balance Bike (KaZAM)
There’s something about teaching your child to ride a bike that just screams, “I’m a dad!” But teaching your little one doesn’t have to involve training wheels or the skinned knees and elbows you got when you fell off the bike your dad was pushing, with you pedaling wildly and holding on to the handlebars for dear life. Although I’ve always considered bruises and skinned knees to be something of a childhood rite of passage, there is a better way to go: the KaZAM balance bike, which is based on the philosophy that balance is the hard part and pedaling is easy. So, KaZAM has done away with pedals altogether (aside from that, it looks like a regular ol’ small bike). The child climbs onto the seat, straddles the frame, and scoots himself along using his feet to stay upright. As confidence builds, she can take her feet off the ground and put them on the footrest. Once she’s completely balanced, you make the transition from KaZAM to big-kid bike. Make sure your child wears a helmet—it’s never too soon to think about safety. $59.95 – $119.95. kazambikes.com.

mightytykes weightsMightyTykes Infant and Child Weights (MightyTykes)
What a heartwarming story. MightyTykes Infant and Child Weights were designed by Isabella Yosuico after her son Isaac was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with an associated condition called hypotonia, or poor muscle tone. Yosuico had some help from physical and occupational therapists who—along with many parents—use MightyTykes to help with children’s strength, balance, vision, and sensory issues. They’re latex- and lead-free, and are made in the U.S. Best of all, they give dads of special needs kids a wonderful way to engage and interact with their child, as well as the confidence that comes from knowing they’re doing something that may truly improve their child’s life. Of course, you should consult your child’s doctor before starting any workout routine. But once you get the green light, visit the MightyTykes site for some great ideas on how to use them. MightyTykes come two at a time in three sizes ($19.95-$22.95) as well as a complete set ($59.95). mightytykes.com.

Games

battle sheepBattle Sheep (Blue Orange Games)
Simple to learn, fun to play, but a new challenge every time. Players start off with four tiles (there are a total of 16, so up to four can play), which they take turns laying out until the playing board is complete. Each tile contains four “pastures.” Then, each player takes his or her herd (a stack of 16 color-matched sheep tokens) and places it on one of the pastures along the edge of the board. The goal is to put your sheep on the most pastures. On your turn, move as many of your sheep as you’d like—but you have to leave at least one behind, and you can only move in a straight line. Seems simple enough, but if you’re not paying attention to your opponents and plotting out your own moves a few in advance, some of your flock could get penned in. A really fun strategy game that kids will want to play and that dads will enjoy playing too. For 2-4 players, ages 7 to adult. $24.99. blueorangegames.com.

frozen spot it alphabetFrozen Spot it! Alphabet (Blue Orange Games)
A much-appreciated break from all things electronic, this Spot it! game is simple, easy to play, and incorporates Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, and many other iconic people and objects from the hit movie Frozen, along with all the letters in the alphabet. Each of the 55 round cards has a variety of images, and there’s always at least one thing that matches between any two cards (you wouldn’t think that would be mathematically possible, but somehow it is). Young children will enjoy making the basic matches. Slightly older kids will have fun playing the other games (instructions included, of course). And dads will enjoy it too. Ages 3 and up. blueorangegames.com.

grill partyGrill Party (Simply Fun)
Imagine you invite everyone over to your house for a little backyard b-b-q. Then imagine that all the guests bring their own grills—and their own ideas about what they want to cook. That’s kind of what Simply Fun’s Grill Party is like. Except there’s a lot less to clean up. In this game, players place food cards on their grill and try to match situations depicted on the Grill cards. Be the first to match ‘em all and you’re the Grill Master. For 2-5 players ages 8 and up. Takes only 20-30 minutes to play. $30.00. simplyfun.com.

pack itPack It (Simply Fun)
Everyone ready? We’re all going on a hike, so you’d better start loading up your backpack. Players are dealt several Item cards (compass, tent, frying pan, map, and so on, each of which includes a value in miles) that they use to stock their backpack. The goal is to put together a pack with the greatest number of miles. Once your pack is full, you’re ready to hit the trail—which is the only way to earn points. During the hike, players take turns drawing cards and try to match them with the items in their pack. If you match, you’re okay, no match and you risk losing valuable supplies. And watch out for the Hazard cards (Bear, Skunk, Blister). If you draw the Blister and have socks in your pack, you’re okay. But if you don’t have socks, you lose your highest value card. Draw the Skunk and you’re really in trouble. Great for improving logical and strategic thinking skills. 20-30 minutes play time. For 2-5 players, ages 8 and up. $24.50 at simplyfun.com.

Home Management

mom methodThe M.O.M. Method
We all want our kids to grow up and be self-sufficient, right? Maybe self-sufficient enough that they’ll be able to support us in our old age. Well, the M.O.M. (Manage Organize Myself) Method can help. It’s a slick, new Web-based parenting tool that empowers kids to become more independent and responsible so that dads (and moms) can stop playing the role of task-master (reminding, nagging, bargaining, bribing, yelling, etc.). What’s especially important is that the Method is not about dad and mom pulling out yet another chore calendar and laying down the law. Instead, the goal is for parents and kids to work together to give kids the time-management, planning, and decision-making skills they’ll need as they get older. The M.O.M. Method makes those goals easier to accomplish in a way that everyone in the family will actually enjoy. They’re in beta right now, so it’s free for the time being. mommethod.com.

pick-easePick-Ease (Pick-Ease LLC)
The feeding utensil category hasn’t seen a whole lot of innovation in the past hundred years. There’s the spoon, fork, knife, maybe a spork or a runcible spoon (if you’re an “Owl and the Pussycat” fan), chopsticks, and, of course, fingers. Now there’s one more in the mix: Pick-Ease, which was designed to give picky eaters a more fun way to feed themselves. Pick-Ease has an easy-to-grip, chunky handle and it can be used to skewer just about anything—sandwiches, veggies, meat, fruit, probably everything except peas (now there’s a million-dollar idea for you…). With 12 original cartoon characters on the handle, there’s a pretty good chance that your little picky eater will find something to love. And when the kids are well-fed and happy, dad and mom are happy too. $8.99. https://pick-ease.com.

satsuma sushi roll gift setSushi Roll Gift Sets (Satsuma Designs)
If your kids have already passed through the drooling, spitting, teething, and slobbering years (say between five and 24 months), you’ve probably forgotten how many wash cloths you went through on a daily basis. And you’ve probably forgotten how many t-shirts, long sleeves, and pant legs you wiped your hands on after you discovered that all those wash cloths were in the dirty clothes hamper. You could go down to Home Depot and pick up a bundle of cheap shop rags, which would do the job pretty well. But for not all that much money, why not wipe up in style? Satsuma Designs new Sushi Roll Gift Sets feature five or six ultra-soft, 8-inch-square, absorbent, organic cotton and bamboo rayon flannel washcloths tied in green ribbon (which really does make them look like an order of California rolls). Hey, if it gets dad more involved in basic baby handling, we’re all for it. $20.00. satsumadesigns.com.

swagger tagSwaggerTag Identifiction Tags (SwaggerTag)
SwaggerTags are a fun way to identify your luggage, school bags, strollers, or anything else you feel the need to mark as your own. Let’s face it, kids lose things and SwaggerTags can help you keep track of your stuff while adding your own personal flair—and may improve the chances that those lost items will get returned. Include as much personal information as you feel comfortable disclosing, then add your own photo, logo, or favorite image, and you’re done. The tags come in six colors, and are water- and impact resistant (important for those airport carousels and school hallways). $3.99. swaggertag.com.

Just Plain Fun

blynk cameraBlynk (Lyfeshot)
This tiny, hands-free camera is specially designed to take time-lapse photos. Just set the interval—one shot every second, minute, hour, day, or longer—and you’re ready to go. Blynk then puts all those photos into a single movie (or saves them as individual JPEGs). Now you can condense a week-long adventure into a few minutes, create your very own 30-second video of flowers blooming, or marvel at how quickly your baby (or your puppy) is growing up. Available in pink, blue, and black. $129 on lyfeshot.com.

zoku ice creamZoku Ice Cream Maker (Zoku)
Another quality, fun-for-the-family product from our chilly friends at Zoku. Their new Ice Cream Maker lets you create individual portions of ice cream, custard, frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet, or sherbet in as little as 10 minutes. This product is fun and simple to use even for the youngest children and newest Dads (and Grandpas). Comes with great-tasting recipes for peach, vanilla, and lemon sorbet, but you can make your own out of pretty much anything you want. The only advance prep you need to do is to freeze the bowl over night. $25.99. http://www.zokuhome.com

Music and Language Learning

beamzBeamz Home Edition and App (Beamz Interactive)
Let’s get something straight up front: Beamz is a toy—a really cool looking one that’s fun for kids as well as adults. But it’s still a toy. It looks kind of like a futuristic harp, but with four lasers instead of strings, and you create sounds by breaking the laser beam. Using the Beamz app, you can make each “string” sound pretty much any way you’d like, whether that’s a steel guitar, a violin section, drums, dijeridoo, a DJ scratch, barking dogs, or any of a hundred other effects. Beamz essentially lets you improvise along to music by a wide variety of artists, from Disney to Debussy, in an even wider variety of genres. And the way it’s programmed, the effects you produce are always in the right key so they fit in perfectly with what you’re playing along with. If your family isn’t particularly well musically educated, you’ll have an absolute blast with Beamz. But if you’re a musician, you may be frustrated at its limitations (you can’t, for example, control the pitch or the tempo of the notes you “play”). So as long as you keep your expectations in line, your family will enjoy hours of music-filled time together. $249.95. thebeamz.myshopify.com/

daycare dance party“Daycare Dance Party” music CD by Preschool Popstars (Charm School Records)
I find a lot of music aimed at young children to be very frustrating. If we want them to actually enjoy music, shouldn’t we have them listen to something that isn’t dumbed down? In my family, whenever the kids were given a choice between “real’ music and “kids” music, they went for the real McCoy every time. So when I popped Daycare Dance Party into my computer, I was ready to hate it. But from the first notes, it was clear that it’s anything but dumbed down. The songs are well-written, catchy, and performed by excellent musicians (although the fictional band members, Hailey, Bailey, and Jasmine tell us that they’re only four years old). And there’s also a nice mix of styles: pop, hip-hop, and country. This is a great CD (or mp3) to have in the car—it’ll make those long drives a lot less painful. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along—and enjoying it. $12.99. Available on Amazon.

whistlefritz french and spanish

  • ¡Sabor! Spanish Learning Songs CD (Whistlefritz)
  • On Va Jouer French learning DVD (Whistlefritz)

Whistlefritz has created some really fun ways to introduce your kids to Spanish or French, or to supplement the language education they might be getting at school. Created by a mom to help her own kids learn Spanish, Whistlefritz is available in both CD and DVD formats. What’s important is that you do not have to speak anything other than your native tongue to give your child the well-documented benefits of learning a second language, which include larger vocabularies, better problem-solving skills, greater cultural sensitivity, sharper memory, more self-control, and more efficient ability to communicate (along with a whole lot more people to be able to communicate with). The list goes on and on.

The two programs we evaluated, ¡Sabor!, (Spanish Learning Songs CD) and On Va Jouer (French learning DVD), are engaging and age appropriate. However, while childhood is the best time to learn new languages, if you’re just starting out yourself, there’s plenty here for adults as well. ¡Sabor! is $14.99, Jouer is $19.99. whistlefritz.com

Big Day Tomorrow: We’re Announcing the Winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval!

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalFriday’s going to be a really big day: We’ll be announcing the winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for the 2014 Winter Holidays!

Sam and I and our army of evaluators have been hip deep in toys and games and apps for weeks and we’ll be awarding the Seal to more than 30 great products that meet our criteria of getting dads and kids engaged with each other and helping facilitate father-child relationships.

Stay tuned to www.mrdad.com/seal for the complete list.

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: Winter Holidays Deadline Extended

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, we’re already receiving lots of entries, which is why we’ve extended the deadline to November 21, 2014. We’ll announce the winners the week of December 1. 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/

For Dads, Every Day is Father’s Day

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalOkay, so this year’s Father’s Day has come and gone. But, really and truly, isn’t every day father’s day? Well, it should be! So if you’re looking for a just-because gift for dad, check out the most recent winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

Today’s involved dads are always searching for ways to spend quality time with their children–doing things that they’ll enjoy doing as much as the kids will. The Mr. Dad Seal of Approval honors toys, games, and apps that do exactly that.

How does a company earn the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval? Details are at mrdad.com/seal. But to sum it up, if it’s got that, “Hey-Dad-can-we-do-that-again?!” factor, chances are it’s a winner. If you or someone you know is interested in submitting a product, give it a shot–there’s no fee to apply.

Click here for the complete list of 2014 Father’s Day winners.

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

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalWhat do a board game that turns stories into texts, a Darth Vader yo-yo, a book about what not to do at the zoo, a green car wash solution, and a wooden race car have in common?

At first glance, not a lot. But all of these products–and many more–are among the winners of the 2014 Father’s Day Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

More than anything, dads are looking for ways to spend quality time with their children–doing things that will keep them and the kids interested. The Mr. Dad Seal of Approval recognizes games, toys, websites, and apps that do exactly that.

What makes something a Seal of Approval winner? You can find detailed information at mrdad.com/seal. But to sum it up, if it’s got that, “Hey-Dad-can-we-do-that-again?!” factor, it’s sure to be a winner. If you or someone you know is interested in submitting a product, give it a shot–there’s no fee to apply.

Click here for the complete list of 2014 Father’s Day winners.

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/