Cooking Up Fun

Summer Break is almost here, and for many parents, that means trying to think up some fun ways to pass those long, hot days home and without a schedule. For some creative indoor fun, check out these cute kitchen items for kids- some are pretend, some are functional, all are fun.


Chet the Cat and Friends is a new line of kitchen and cooking sets for kids (ages 3 and up) that can help get kids interested in becoming mom and dad’s little chef helpers. With a wide array of items made just for them, kids will have fun learning and playing with Chet and Friends. The plates, cups, flatware, etc are all dishwasher and food safe, so your little culinary artist in training can really eat what they crate and then the items can be washed with no fuss or worrying that they will be ruined. There is also a set of kitchen gadgets, such as a toaster, blender, and mixer, which “work” and have multiple sets of speeds- while they work with real liquids, the toaster does not truly cook toast. It does however pop up play toast and buzz with a timer- no one wants a burnt kiddo. Complete the look with a chef outfit (of course, all decked out with Chet the Cat and Friends as well- it’s very, very cute) that will thrill your little cook. Items range from $22 to $30 on (One of my personal favorite sites for educational yet fun toys for kids.)

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Another toy company we adore for fun and educational kids toys that they really want to play with is Learning Resources. These toys last forever, don’t break the bank, and teach kids the skills we want them to learn in ways they enjoy and want to keep playing with. Many of the toys are low or no tech, which is a great break with today’s kids being so constantly plugged in.
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Dads and Dolls: A Perfect Match

With Father’s Day just a few weeks out, what 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.” Here are some of our favorites.

adora nursery timeAdora Nursery Time (Adora Dolls)
Adora babies are incredibly lifelike. They’re a little lighter than most babies, but their skin 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. Ages 3 and up. About $79.99.

legends of oz - dorothy and totoDorothy and Toto (Bandai)
In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new Oz movie coming out. “Legends of Oz,” is based on one of the sequels written by L. Frank Baum, the guy who wrote the original. The first dolls in the series feature Dorothy (alone or with her ever-loyal pup, Toto). Other characters will be along soon. Dad and daughter can go back to Oz to help Dorothy and her friends, and he can even talk about life in the “old” Oz. Ages 3 and up. About $22.99.

bubbly mermaidBubbly Mermaid (Lalaloopsy)
Who says you can’t bring a doll into the bathtub?  Ocean Seabreeze and Pearly Seafoam are mermaids, which is more than enough to get most kids interested. But what makes them unique is their hair, which is made of bubbles. Just pour in some shampoo or bubble bath, give your mermaid a squeeze¸ and watch her turn into Rapunzel of the Sea. Both come with their very own water-squirting pet octopus. For a little dry-land fun, use diluted dish soap instead. Ages 3 and up. About $29.99.

barbie styleBarbie Style (Mattel)
Barbie has always been something of a fashionista, but the new Style series takes things up a few notches. Each of these new Barbies is exquisitely dressed in the highest of high fashion, but also comes with a 10-page look book girls and dads can use for inspiration. Ages 3 and up. $29.99.

locksiesLocksies (Bandai)
Locksies are refreshingly low tech and don’t come with much in the way of clothing. Instead, each Locksie comes with several piece of fabric and ribbon which the budding designer can use to create her own Project Runway entry. But any fabric scraps you have around the house will do nicely (but be sure to keep your scissors-wielding girl away from your nice clothes). Ages 5 and up.


phoebe hair grow

i think i canter

Our Generation Dolls (Battat, Inc.)
From the same people behind B-Toys, Our Generation 18-inch dolls are simply gorgeous. Willow is part of the Read and Play set and comes with several outfits, including some great PJs—which are the perfect tie-in with her book, “The Most Fantabulous Pajama Party Ever.” Phoebe is the Hair Grow doll whose hair grows and retracts—a fantastic thing for dads who want to practice their French braiding before trying it out on a real, live daughter.  The I Think I Canter Doll and Horse set features one doll, a riding outfit, a horse, and a ton of riding and grooming equipment, including a saddle and stirrups, helmet, feedbag, brush, and more. The opportunities for exercising the imagination are endless.  Dolls are $32.99, $29.99, and $84.99, respectively.

Low Testosterone: To T or Not to T

Dear Mr. Dad: My 13-year old son doesn’t seem to be maturing as quickly as his peers. His voice has barely changed, he’s not sprouting much facial or body hair, and he’s below average in height. He’s also overweight and seems tired a lot of the time. Lately he’s become obsessed with the idea that his problem is Low-T. He’s been bringing me magazine ads, pointing to TV commercials and Internet ads, and is trying to convince me that he needs testosterone supplements. Could he be right? I though low testosterone was only something that affects older men.

A: The answer to your question is Yes and No. Yes, he could indeed have low testosterone (frequently–and annoyingly–referred to as Low-T). But No (no, no, no) he should absolutely not start taking supplements or doing anything to “treat” the problem until he’s been properly diagnosed by a professional. And by professional, I mean a trained healthcare provider who will run blood tests (the only accurate way to measure testosterone levels) and who is committed to identifying the underlying issues and how to overcome them, rather than to selling you a bunch of pills. Stay far, far away from anyone (including advice columnists) who claims to be able to diagnose and treat low testosterone or other medical conditions without actually seeing the patient.
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Moving Long Distance: Making it Easier for Your Family

As dads, doing what’s best for our families is a top priority. And, sometimes, making the right decisions can be a bit difficult. Take a long-distance move, for example. Even if it’s what’s in your family’s best interest, there’s a good chance that someone won’t be happy about it—and that someone will usually be your child. Fortunately, we’ve got some strategies that can help you make that long-distance move a lot easier on everyone in the family—even you, dad.

Have a Family Discussion
Although moving is ultimately an adult decision, you should still include your children in moving-related discussions. By involving your children in the dialogue and encouraging them to ask questions and voice their concerns, you can help ease some of their perfectly understandable feelings of fear and powerlessness. Don’t dance around too much—come right out and address your children’s concerns, honestly and in language they can understand. Ask them what they think you can do to ease their anxieties, and do your best to fulfill those needs.

Research Your New Neighborhood
Ideally, you’ll be able to make a pre-move visit to your new neighborhood to get the lay of the land. But if you’re not, you can at least try to get online and research schools, parks, theaters, libraries, and landmarks, and encourage your children to make lists of all the things they want to see and do in their new neighborhood.

You might also research activities that could make your children a little less homesick (and help them make friends too) once they’re settled in their new home. For example, if your children enjoy sports, look into school teams and community leagues; if you’re the proud parent of a music lover, research children’s marching bands, orchestras, or private lessons. You get the idea.

Hire a Mover
The physical act of moving can be a huge strain on your family both physically and mentally. Few things are more aggravating than dropping half your flatware onto the street or putting a hole in your new home’s drywall as you try to round a corner with a bed frame. So if you’re able to afford it, consider hiring movers to do the work for you when moving long distance. It probably won’t be as inexpensive as DIY, but it could help you avoid some of the physical and emotional toll. And since professional movers are generally insured, anything they break or damage will be covered.

Make Plans for Your New Home
To get your children excited about the move, start making plans for your new home. Discuss bedrooms, family rooms and outdoor spaces, and urge your children to get involved in the planning process. Let them decide (within reason) how to decorate their own bedrooms, and get their input into things like furniture, landscaping, outdoor play areas, and so on. You don’t have to do what they want. But just asking their opinion will earn you some points in their eyes.

Have a Moving Sale
Having a moving sale is a great way to cut down on clutter, while bringing your family together with a common goal. As a family, go through items you no longer need, and start organizing and pricing those you wish to sell. With the money you earn, children could choose new items for their rooms, or you may decide to pool your proceeds and make a purchase for the entire family. For example, the money could be used on a television for the new family room, or on a swing set or jungle gym for your new yard.

Host a Going-Away Party
What better way to say goodbye than by hosting a going-away bash? Encourage each family member to invite his or her closest friends, and spend one last evening making memories in familiar surroundings. A few moving-themed ideas include stationery and postcards as party favors, decorating with maps, and having all the attendees include all their contact information in a guest book.

In the end, a move may still prove difficult for your family. However, with the tips provided here, you can help ease the transition, and get your family on the right path to feeling comfortable and making memories in your new surroundings. Good luck on your move!

Raising Healthy, Happy Kids without Becoming a Tiger

Shimi Kang, author of The Dolphin Way.
: Raising healthy, happy, motivated kids without turning into a tiger.
Issues: What happens to kids raised by Tiger parents? the skills required to succeed in the 21st Century–and how Dolphin parenting encourages their development; The importance of play and downtime; what happens to kids raised the Dolphin way?