A Little Peace and Quiet

With the start of summer right around the corner and hot days already popping up in various parts of the country, you know there are bound to be a few days where it’s just too hot to go outside. There will also be times when, despite your promise to never use technology as a babysitter, you’ll need the kids to chill out quietly. For those crazy hot days and 5-hour flights, check out these new games for the kids—and yourself.

Rediscovering the Nintendo 3DS
A lot of people own a 3DS, but very few really know it inside and out. Take the StreetPass Mii Plaza. Of course you’ve visited—who hasn’t’?—but if you haven’t been for a while, it’s worth another trip because it recently expanded. Now, when you’re out and about with your 3DS in your pocket or bag and you meet someone else who also has StreetPass on their 3DS, you can play mini games and solve puzzles that earn you accessories for your Mii (which, for the uninitiated, are avatars that users create). There are eight mini games that can be played with other Miis. Two are free: Find Mii, which is a light-hearted RPG (role playing game) with some tough villains, and Puzzle Swap, where players can share pieces with others. With characters from various Nintendo games and videos (like Pikmin, Link from Zelda, and Mario Brothers) appearing on the pieces, everyone will feel right at home. There are also a few premium games in the eShop. Prices vary.

xenoblade chroniclesXenoblade Chronicles (Nintendo)
Unless you’re a big fan of role play games (RPGs) on Nintendo’s systems, you may not know about Xenoblade. But you should. Xenoblade almost didn’t get released in the U.S., but when it finally did, it quickly became a big hit with RPG buffs. The basic story is that Shulk and his buddies are on a quest to find an elusive sword (named Mondao) and to rid their homeland of a nasty bunch of killer robots called Mechon.  Xenoblade Chronicles is the latest spinoff and can be played on the Wii U. There’s also a 3D version that’s playable only on the new 3DS XL. What’s especially cool about the new DS XL is its face-tracking technology, which minimizes all the setting and resetting that had to be done with previous 3D systems.  It also makes the game play feel more intents and it’s a lot easier to get drawn in—and stay there. There’s tons of drama, action, and excitement. The game itself retails for $39.99. The 3DS XL console, if you don’t already have one, is $199.99.

puzzle and dragons zPuzzle & Dragons Super Mario Brothers Edition (Nintendo)
Puzzle & Dragons Z (Nintendo)
Nintendo’s new Puzzle & Dragons has got something for pretty everyone—combining elements of a collectible card game, puzzles, and RPG. In fact, there’s so much here that they made it into two separate games (but packed them into one cartridge).

 

 

puzzles and dragons super marioThe Mario Brothers version is a little easier and is filled with familiar characters and settings, like the Princess, Bowser, and the Mushroom Kingdom. The puzzle part is pretty easy too: just line up same-color orbs and build on to your cluster. The bigger the cluster, the higher your score—and the more damage you do to your enemies. Puzzles & Dragons Z also features puzzle play, but it’s has some nice anime styling, a deeper story, and the option to get further into the RPG aspects of the game. The single cartridge with both games retails for $29.99 pretty much everywhere games are sold.

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: Father’s Day 2015 Submissions Open!

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalOakland, CA: May 22, 2015 — 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 2015 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 June 9, 2015. We’ll announce the winners the week of June 14. You can find out more and get the application process started here.

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More Summertime Toys and Reviews

 

usta youth tennis inintiativeYouth Tennis Initiatives (United States Tennis Association)

Tennis can be a frustrating game for children. Adult racquets are tough to handle, standard tennis balls move too quickly, and all that frustration often has kids quitting before they have a chance to see how fun the sport can be. In an effort to overcome all this, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) has launched a variety of Youth Tennis Initiatives around the country, and even redesigning tennis courts to be more kid-friendly. But the best part of these initiatives is the all-new gear, scaled to children’s age, sizes, and ability. Racquets, for example, now come in four sizes, ranging from 19” (about the size of a racquetball racket) up to 25” (adult racquets typically run 27” to 29”.) Even the tennis balls come in different sizes and bounceability, color coded for easy identification. The USTA’s goal is to get more kids interested—and involved—in tennis and they’ve just served up an ace, not only engaging kids, but making it possible for adults and children to play together. Ages 6 and up. https://www.youthtennis.com/

bunch o balloonsBunch O Balloons (Zuru)

Water balloon fights are almost synonymous with summer. But one of the most annoying things about them is that it takes nearly forever to fill and tie them up. Bunch O Balloons makes that a thing of the past, letting you fill and tie 30 balloons at once, in seconds. If you move quickly, you might be able to fill 100 in under a minute. If that doesn’t blow your opponents out of the water, nothing will. Just connect Bunch O Balloons to your water source (a standard hose connection is ideal), then stand back and watch the balloons expand and tie themselves. Yep, tie themselves. It’s a brilliant idea. Ages 7 and up. $12.99. http://bunchoballoons.com/

Minivan Not Included: Family-Friendly Vehicles for Cool Dads

cars for oool dads

cars for oool dads

When you became a father, you knew there would be some less-than-glamorous moments, like changing diapers on squirming babies, cleaning up Lord-knows-what from the carpet, and rocking sick kids to sleep at 2 a.m.

What you didn’t agree to was driving a minivan.

Granted, minivans have plenty of good things going for them: they’re comfy and can carry kids, pets, soccer stuff and whatever else you need to schlepp from point A to point B. But minivans are also ubiquitous and pretty generic in their looks. So while you might appreciate their usefulness, they’re not usually a dad’s first choice.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other family-friendly vehicles on the market that are ideal for cool dads like you. Consider the following options:

Nissan Rogue

This great-looking vehicle can carry everything a minivan can. The Nissan Rogue boasts almost 40 cubic feet of cargo space with all of the seats still in place. This means you can drive your kids and their mountain of gear all over town and still have room to pick up some takeout pizzas for dinner. As a major bonus, the Rogue has an estimated MSRP of around $23,000 and has comfortable seats and a large center console bin. Dad-friendly amenities include Bluetooth, cruise control, a trip computer, and a nice sound system.

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Summertime Toys: You’re Outa Here!

Looking for some great to get the whole family outside and work up a sweat? If so, you’ll haves a blast with these new, summertime toys.

sonic boom batSonic Boom bat and ball (Backyard Sports)

There’s something magical about the crack of a baseball meeting a bat. It’s a sound that every fan wants to hear and that every player, regardless of age, wants to make. The Sonic Boom bat has a large, hollow barrel (called the “sonic boom chamber”) that makes it easy for young players to connect with the ball (one is included). The chamber also produces that major-league home run sound with every hit. Baseball bats are among the lowest-tech playthings available, but Backyard Sports has managed to incorporate a bit of technology. The bat has a small display that generates QR codes that players can scan to unlock parts of a free online game and power up in-game characters. The more you hit, the more codes you get. Ages 5 and up. $27.99. https://www.backyardsports.com

trickster discTrickster Flying Disc (Malibu Sports)

The Trickster bills itself as a new twist on flying discs, and they’re right. With more traditional discs (AKA Frisbees), the focus was on the spectacular catches. But with Trickster, the disc itself provides the entertainment. You can still make long, accurate throws, but the “Stunt Tech” design, with its sleek holes, enables some pretty amazing in-air tricks, including a 360-degree corkscrew spin. Made of slightly soft foam-like material, it’s easy to catch, which is a big advantage when playing with young ychildren. Ages 6 and up. http://malibu-sports.com/  (but be aware: the website is under construction).

Building a Childhood, Part 2

This week we continue our creativity and building theme.

Play Doh Rainbow Dash My Little Pony Style SalonPlay Doh Rainbow Dash My Little Pony Style Salon
If you’re a My Little Pony fan—or you have one under your roof—you’ll love the Rainbow Dash Style Salon. It’s a little reminiscent of the Play Doh Disguise Lab that we reviewed last week, where you put your favorite Minion into the styling chair and made wild and crazy hairstyles. With this style salon you can still grow, cut, and style your pretty Pegasus’ hair. But that’s just the beginning. The body and wings are actually built-in molds that you can fill with Play Doh to decorate your little pony using the six included colors (or, you can mix them up to create completely new colors). Sam had a toy like this when she was little and it was a favorite. It’s not the fanciest toy—and it’s certainly not the techiest. But it’s fun, creative, and a great way to create build memories that you and your child will cherish for years. For ages 3 and up. Retails for about $18 on Amazon.com and other toy sellers.

Stackins Stackable Friends (Funrise)Stackins Stackable Friends (Funrise)
If you like Bun Buns (reviewed last week), you’ll also like Stackins. They’re soft, cute, stackable, collectible, and reasonably priced—what could be better than that? Right now there are four characters: Poppy the Puppy, Checkers the Cheetah, Bonny the Bunny, and Kiki the Fox. But Funrise has several dozen new characters about ready to hatch. They also have plans to introduce larger size Stackins. To keep your child busy ‘til then, there are games and coloring pages on their website, http://www.funrise.com/stackins/.  For ages 3 and up. Stackins retail for $7.90 and they’re available exclusively at Justice.

Eiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie EditionEiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie Edition (Ravensburger)
Have you ever built a puzzle? Not done a puzzle, or put one together, but actually built one? If not, Ravensburger’s Eiffel Tower, Mickey & Minnie Edition is the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of 3D puzzles. There are two ways to build this puzzle (and any of the others in Ravensburger’s line). For more experienced puzzle hounds, use your eye (and maybe the image of the completed puzzle on the box). For novice builder/puzzlers, each if the 216 pieces is numbered, so all you have to do is follow the sequence. Either way, the pieces snap together—no glue required. With images of Micky and Minnie decorating the outside, this is the Eiffel tower like you’ve never seen it. You and your kids will feel mighty proud of yourselves when your 17-inch high tower is complete and on display for everyone to admire. For ages 5 and up. This particular kit sells for $27.99. Others include a medieval house, a lighthouse, the Taj Mahal, Empire State Building, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a variety of other famous landmarks. All are available at https://www.ravensburger.com

spongebobInvincibubble Talking Action Figure
Pop-a-Part Spongebob
League of Heroes Figurine Set
Still haven’t had enough of Spongebob? Not to worry. The Spongebob movie, “Sponge Out of Water,” has spawned a huge array of Spongebob products, including the Pop-a-Part Spongebob ($11.50), Invincibubbles Talking Action Figure ($15.80), and the League of Heroes Figurine Set ($39), all of which provide everything you could possibly need to build an amazing adventure with the one-and-only wisecracking sponge. If you’re a Spongebob fan, we’re guessing that you’re already on the way to Toys R Us or wherever you buy your toys. If you’re not (yet), Spongebob and his buddies are really hard to resist. And you truly haven’t lived until you’ve seen a sponge with a six-pack.