Better Late Than Never…

It happens to all of us—despite the non-stop “only-x-days-‘til-Christmas” warnings, somehow, the big day came and we still didn’t get presents for everyone. If this sounds familiar, here are some fun, easy-to-find, easy-on-the-wallet games for the whole family.

charmazingCharmazing (Wooky Entertainment)
Charmazing comes with six charms, thread, beads, gems, chains, and enough other art supplies to make three complete, stylish bracelets. Your future fashion icon can then download the free Charmazing app, scan the charms, and start earning points and exchanging ideas with other girls. Ages 7 and up. $14.95 at Toys R Us or charmazing.com








crunch a colorCrunch a Color: The Healthy Eating Game (Tiny Green Bee)
This is a really fun way to get kids to eat healthier foods without you having to bug them. The game consists of 90 cards and a chart. Each card awards points for eating a different type of food, some are listed by color (red, green, blue, white), some by category (protein, etc.). The dealer distributes cards based on what each member of the family puts on his or her plate. Eat your peas? 10 points. Had a sweet potato? 15 points. Try a new food and you just doubled your points. Bonuses for setting the table, good manners, and more. Each meal can be a game, or you can track points over a week. Also check out Lee’s book, The 52 New Foods Challenge. $12.95 at crunchacolor.com

 

dino hunter uv night vision gogglesDino Hunter UV Night Vision Goggles (Uncle Milton)
These goggles are a blast. In night-vision mode, you can actually do some exploring in the dark. Use the invisible ink pen (the ink is invisible, not the pen) and dino stencil to leave tracks, which someone else can follow using UV-vision mode. The tracks are great for for scavenger hunts or just to lure a reluctant child to bed. Ages 6 and up. $17.99 at retailers or unclemilton.com








science captain americaMarvel Science Captain America Shield Trainer (Uncle Milton)
Place your bad guy on the playing board, then try to knock him off by ricocheting your shield off of walls or other obstacles, just like Captain America himself. A really interesting, engaging way to introduce kids to the science of calculating angles and rebounds (this could also come in handy when your child wants to play pool in a few years). Ages 6 and up. $19.95. unclemilton.com

 

 

 


spiral designerSpiral Designer (Ravensburger)

If you were around in the 60s, you may remember Spirograph (if not, ask your parents or grandparents). Spiral designer is very similar, consisting of a round plastic frame and a set of discs that you run around the inside edge of the frame to create beautiful spiral patterns and designs. Your creations can be as simple or complex as you like, and what’s especially nice is that everyone in the family who can handle a pencil pretty well can have plenty of artistic fun. $20 everywhere or ravensburger.com

 

 

spy tagSpy Tag (Ravensburger)
Distribute the 12 spy cards among the players and turn them face up. Then, set the timer and the oldest player draws an “agent card,” which he matches with one of the spy cards. Whoever has the match (could be you, or you could make the match with someone else’s spy card) is It and draws the next agent card. When the timer goes off, whoever’s It has to pick a briefcase card. It it’s empty, you’re okay, but if it contains the stolen gizmo, (that’s what it’s called), you’re out. Play continues ‘till there’s only one player left. The game requires quick thinking, fast reflexes, and two button batteries (included), and always leads to plenty of giggles. For 2-4 players. $10.00. ravensburger.com

The Write Stuff

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve been reading your columns for quite a few years, and you frequently talk about how important it is to read to children. With all the emphasis on literacy, I think we’re forgetting about writing. When I was in school, we had classes in penmanship, but my preschooler and kindergartener aren’t learning it at all. Is writing even necessary anymore?

A: In a word, absolutely. Not all that long ago, we used to talk about the “Three Rs”: reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic—the fundamental skills taught in school (I know, not a very good lesson in spelling, but catchier than saying “The R, the W, and the A”). But, as you’ve noticed, the second R (writing) has pretty much fallen by the wayside—in fact, over the past few years, schools all around the country have stopped teaching cursive altogether, and a growing number of children are doing their homework, including writing papers and essays, online.

According to a new study, the percentage of children using tablets has doubled in the past two years alone, and now includes 75% of children under eight and nearly 40% of kids under two. Some people say that with all that technology, there’s no need for kids to learn how to write at all—it’s a lot easier to just use a tablet or other device. I can see the point. And I get that typed assignments are a lot easier for teachers to read. But, at the risk of sounding a little old-fashioned, I think writing is a very important skill—and there’s getting to be a lot of research that backs me up.
[Read more…]

The Art of Schmoozing

Alaina G. Levine, author of Networking for Nerds.
Topic:
Find, access, and land hidden game-changing career opportunities everywhere
Issues: How and why we should connect with others; overcoming shyness (our own—and helping our kids overcome theirs, too); how to start—and end—conversations with others (and how to give our kids the skills to do the same).

Building a Family That Thrives + Networking for Nerds

Elly Taylor, author of Becoming Us.
Topic:
Growing a family that thrives.
Issues: How to prepare for parenthood before actually becoming a parent; build a nest; managing expectations; knowing and understanding your family’s needs; expand your emotional intelligence; connecting and reconnecting with your partner through intimacy.

Alaina G. Levine, author of Networking for Nerds.
Topic:
Find, access, and land hidden game-changing career opportunities everywhere
Issues: How and why we should connect with others; overcoming shyness (our own—and helping our kids overcome theirs, too); how to start—and end—conversations with others (and how to give our kids the skills to do the same).

Are We There Yet? Almost…

Those last few days of holiday shopping can be incredibly stressful. Not to worry: we’re here to help. These items are widely available, won’t break the bank, and are pretty much guaranteed to make your kids light up like a Christmas tree or Menorah. And don’t forget to check out the latest winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

tummy stuffersTummy Stuffers Wild Ones! (Jay at Play)
Jay at Play is making some pretty awesome stuff, including the new Tummy Stuffers, which accomplish something many parents struggle with: getting their kids to clean up after playtime. Children absolutely love stuffing their toys into the Tummy Stuffer’s mouth—you’ll be amazed how much fits in there. Tummy Stuffers come in six animal styles, all in wild, funky colors that the kids will adore.  $20 (buy a big one, and you get a little one free).  https://www.buytummystuffers.com/.

janimalsJ-Animals (Jay at Play)
J-Animals are the first “wearable stuffed animals”—part costume, part PJs, all fun. They come in three sizes, (small, medium, and large, of course), which will accommodate everyone from the smallest kids to medium-sized adults. You can be a cat, zebra, dog, giraffe, or unicorn. They’re soft as fleece, and  when you finally (and reluctantly) take them off, they roll up into a little ball that looks like a pillow or stuffed animal. $29.99 at https://www.buyjanimals.com

bright eyes blanketBright Eyes Blanket
These guys are perfect for naptime, bedtime, and especially travel. Every blanket has an animal face and paws (choose from Playful Puppy, Kool Kitten, Darling Duck, and Precious Panda). Besides being cute, soft, and highly snuggly, their glow-in-the-dark eyes make a perfect nightlight. $19.99 on www.brighteyesblanket.com or your favorite retailer.

power rangers morpherPower Rangers Super Megaforce Deluxe Legendary Morpher (Bandai)
Power Rangers are hot right now (aren’t the always?), so if you’re shopping for a boy under 11, your search for the perfect gift is over. Morphers are souped up cell phones that let the kids call up any of the powers and zords that have appeared on the show over the last 20 years. Use any Ranger Key (two are included) to unlock special lights and sounds.  $29.99 at retailers everywhere.

q rex megazordQ Rex Megazord (Bandai)
For those of you who don’t speak Power Ranger, Megazords are the big ones, the ones that let you mix and match powers and features from each individual Ranger’s zord to create, well, a mega zord.  Use the included Ranger Key to unlock Q Rex’s spinning drill arm. Q also works with other zords you might have in your collection (go ahead and admit it, you sometimes play with Power Rangers after the kids go to sleep).  $35 on http://www.bandai.com.

lego furry creatureCREATOR Furry Creatures (LEGO)
It’s really hard to go wrong with LEGO, and whether your little builder is a boy or a girl—or you want something the whole family can enjoy together—Creator sets are a guaranteed hit. This set comes with all the pieces you need to build a cat, a mouse, even a little piece of cheese.  Better yet, you can take your cat apart and rebuild it into a puppy or a rabbit. Also available in Forest Animals, Rainforest Animals, and others. Around $20 at http://shop.lego.com

lego laketownAttack on Lake-town (LEGO)
Got a little fan of “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings”? Or maybe you’re the fan and you’ve decided that it’s time to introduce them to your children. Either way, the new Attack on Lake-town set includes everything—and everyone—you need to help Tauriel and her Elven warriors defend their land from those awful Orcs. Includes five mini-figures (Bain son of Bard, Bard the Bowman, Tauriel, and two Orcs ) and some very useful weapons—a lot of stuff for $30. At http://shop.lego.com and retailers everywhere.