Funky Groovy Tie-Dye Kit (Jacquard Products)
Tap into your inner hippie (we all have one!) while dabbling in a colorful, fun project with your children. With the high quality and brightness of these dyes, you and your kids are sure to feel proud of your results. And there’s a good chance that they won’t be embarrassed to walk down the street with you…
Castle Knights (HabaUSA)
I have nothing against high-tech toys, but it’s an absolute pleasure to play with something made of wood, string, and cardboard. This is one of the few cooperative games on the market, meaning that you can play with as opposed to against your child. In fact, you can’t really play the game at all, unless you work together. Ages 5 and up.
CB-3 Stryker Cross Bow (Prime Time Toys, Ltd.)
We have mixed feelings about toys that shoot, but this crossbow (which fires foam arrows up to 35 feet) is fun enough to get even the most computer-tethered tween outdoors. Compete with the kids for accuracy and distance or tie on a notes send secret messages to each other across the yard (or street). Whatever you do, be safe. No aiming at people or animals. Ages 8 and up.
Mom’s Deluxe 3 in 1 Plus Combo Carrier (Snazzy Baby)
Pay no attention to the word “mom” on the box–this lightweight carrier works great for dads too. It’s adjustable, comfortable, easy on the back and shoulders (which is something you can’t say about all the carriers out there), and it converts into a portable high chair restraint. Good from the time baby has head control up to 37 pounds or 3 years.
Despite parental controlls and Internet security programs, a lot of parents worry that their kids are being exposed to all sorts of unsavory messages. This program Gives 4-12 year olds the ability to safely surf and explore the ‘net, blocking pages that use bad language or inappropriate terms. Although no program can replace your watchful eyes and setting clear, enforceable rules, this one is simple, easy, fast, and will give you at least some peace of mind.
Bailout! The Game (Liberty Street Games)
Any game that can keep teens and dads in the same room and having fun together has got to be good. And this one is. You’re the Chief Financial Officer of a floundering bank. And you need to get bailed out in a hurry. You’ll have to undermine the competition, endure the uncertainty of the markets, avoid hostile takeovers, and more. Very topical, with some good educational content (for you and your teens) too. Ages 14 and up.
Triviathon (Jeezle Pete’s! LLC)
Did you know that an octopus has three hearts? Just one of the entertaining tidbits you can learn while playing this fast-paced trivia game. You’ll be singing, dancing, arm wrestling, cheering, cheating (okay, hopefuly not too much of that), and more as you put your cognitive, physical, and social skills to the test. And whether you get the answer right or wrong, you’ll still learn plenty. Plus you finally get to find out whether you actually are Smarter Than a Fifth Grader….
1-2-3 Stomp, Hyper Blast and Mickey’s Mouse-ke-TAG are all active-learning toys for the family. You will work up a sweat. Guaranteed. And the whole family will be having so much fun that the kids will never realize that they’re learning at the same time. For the younger set (or for school-age kids who need something a touch calmer, Crayon Town activity sets combine coloring, construction, and creative play for kids ages 3 and up.
Diving into Slime, Gel, and Goop
Science on a Gardening Adventure
Release the mad scientist who’s lurking deep inside you! These Magic School Bus kits are full of everything you need to conduct exciting (and perfectly safe) experiments with your children. Each one explores a different theme (slime, gardening, and protecting the environment) and takes your future Nobel Prize winner through the scientific method of stating a hypothesis, observing, and writing up conclusions. Sounds suspiciously like school, but none of our reviewers ever heard a word of complaint from a child. If your memories of high-school science haven’t faded too much, you can show off a little. Otherwise, these kits offer a great way to learn something new alongside your child.
Twilight Sea Turtle
Polar Cuddle Cub
Cloud B is the trusted name with parents worldwide for products that focus on a singular message: Helping children sleep (and in turn helping parents get a better night’s rest). But there’s a lot of fun to be had while you and the kids are awake too–especially with Twilight Turtle, who projects a realistic version of the night sky on your child’s ceiling. When it’s too overcast to see the stars outside, or during the summer when it’s still light at bedtime, this is wonderful activity.
Adorable Kinders (Granza, Inc.)
Okay, I admit it. Playing with dolls can be a lot of fun–and it’s a neat way for dads to get a glimpse into what’s going on inside our daughters’ head (and with three daughters of my own, there’s always something I’m clueless about…). Each doll (there are 26, one for each letter of the alphabet) comes with an Internet code that kids can use to register their Kinder for “school,” and play age-appropriate games. 100 percent rag so they’re great to cuddle up with. But let your daughter do the cuddling–go get your own doll.
Your Legacy of Love, by Gemini Adams
(Live Conscioysly Publishing)
Award-winning British grief expert, Gemini Adams, gently explains how moms, dads, and grandparents can realize the gift in goodbye, by taking six simple steps to share their wisdom and affection in a legacy of love, so that surviving loved ones will suffer less, when the “worst” eventually happens. This is a meaningful book for dads as we think about how to communicate values to our kids. Unforetold disasters can happen and we liked this approach to creating a message for your kids even in the horrible event that they don’t have their dad to teach life lessons as they get older.
Legacy of Love
Giant Evolution Timeline (Charlie’s Playhouse)
With this giant, colorfully illustrated play mat, kids can skip, jump and play along 600 million years of evolution, accompanied by 67 bizarre ancient creatures from the fossil record, six mass extinctions, a cartoon “Charlie” Darwin, and much more! With its unique accordion-fold design, the mat can be read on your lap like a storybook for quiet times, or stood up on its side like a fort, or laid out flat on the floor for fully 18 feet of fun! Includes Activity Guide with plenty of raucous, kid-tested games and activities for ages 4-10.