The Paranoid Dad’s Intro to Finding Secure Mobile Hotspots

mrdad - ATT  netgear mobile hotspot

mrdad - ATT  netgear mobile hotspotAT&T and NETGEAR provided a unit to facilitate this review. However, as with everything I write, all opinions are my own.

As a full-time writer, I can work anywhere; all I really need is a good Internet connection and an electrical outlet. Over the years, I’ve worked in hundreds of coffee shops, airports, offices, libraries, and dozens of hotels, and have taken full advantage of their free wi-fi. In a few cases, I even paid for it. But whether I paid or not, I’ve always clicked through the “Information sent over this network might be visible to others” warning without giving it a second thought. After all, nobody would really look at my data, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.
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Playmobil and the U.S. Coast Guard

playmobil rescue boatCity Action Rescue Boat
The Coast Guard has a bit of an identity crisis. It started off as part of the Department of Treasury, then got transferred over to the Department of Transportation, and is now under the Department of Homeland Security. They’re also considered a branch of the military. But whoever they are, they do a great job of protecting our coasts and waterways. With the City Action Rescue Boat, your child can give the Coast Guard the respect they deserve, honoring them as they rescue drowning swimmers, battle pirates, and take on other rescue operations. They can even put out fires (or squirt the cat) with the included plunger. The set includes the boat itself, three figures, first aid kit, hoses, rescue ring, and more. $52.95. Ages 4-10.

playmobil coast guard stationCity Action Coast Guard Station with Lighthouse
Those Coast Guard heroes need to go somewhere at the end of a long, danger-filled day, right? And nothing could be better than their own station, complete with a functioning lighthouse and an observation room where the duty officers can keep a close eye on the coast and dispatch rescue crews as needed. The set comes with everything you and the kids need to create amazing adventures together: a boat, five Playmobil figures (who love to wait in line for the Ferris wheel on their day off), rescue rings, a full set of scuba gear, loads of medical and safety equipment, a cable winch to haul boats out of the water, and more. $79.95. Ages 4-10. http://www.playmobil.us/

Indoor/Outdoor Fun from Playmobil

As summer approaches, we’re seeing a lot more toys and games that are designed to be used outside or that replicate some aspect of the great outdoors.

playmobil ferris wheelSummer Fun Ferris Wheel with Lights
There’s nothing like waiting in a line for an amusement park ride to remind you that it’s summer. With this large set, your kids can have the joy (okay, misery) of standing in lines without having to lather up with sunscreen or put on a hat. The 117-piece set comes with seven two-seater gondolas, a functioning Ferris wheel, a ticket office (complete with a cash register and tickets), flashing lights (batteries not included) and quite a few other accessories. It also comes with two adult figures and two child figures, so your little one can make someone else (even if that someone is inanimate) feel the sting of waiting in line and then, when you finally get to the front, being told you’re too short to ride. Once all the seats are full, turn the crank and you’re off. The wheel can operate automatically but you’ll need to buy the Electric Ride Motor, sold separately. $79.99. Ages 4-10. http://www.playmobil.us/

playmobil gliderSports & Action Speed Glider
At some point, pretending to be outdoors really needs to give way to the real thing. And this sleek glider is the perfect way to encourage kids (you too) to stretch those legs. Just assemble it (which will take about a minute) and you’re ready for a really fun game of catch or a long-distance throwing competition. As long as the pilot is in his seat (he needs to be there to balance the aircraft), the glider is very easy to throw—even for young children. And with working LED lights, there’s no reason for the fun to stop when the sun goes down. $26.99. Ages 6-14, http://www.playmobil.us/

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/