No More Bedtime Battles

Getting the kids to go to bed—and actually stay there—can be of the most challenging parts of any parent’s day. The best solution is to have (and keep) a good bedtime routine. But what’s a harried mom or dad to do when the routine doesn’t work? Sometimes, having the right helper is just what the Sandman ordered. Check out some of these fun and innovative new products for bedtime and beyond.

melody mates blanketMelody Mates (Melody Mates)
Most kids (and most grownups too) want a soft, snuggly blanket to cuddle up with. And what could be better than one with a gently glowing, soothing animal face on it? Melody Mates actually goes one step further, pairing the blanket with a matching (and washable, yeah!) pillow. Push a button and calming lullabies play and the LED lights glow—just enough to be friendly and put an end to those bedtime battles, but not nearly bright enough to interrupt sleep (that would be evil, wouldn’t it?). Soft, plush Melody Mates come in six flavors, including cow, duck, frog, and monkey. For ages 12 months and up. About $30. Unfortunately, batteries aren’t included. www.MyMelodyMates.com

broboBrobo (Brobo)
If you haven’t met Brobo and his friends, we’re glad to introduce you. These fun, adorable, cuddly buddies first hit the market in 2012 but were pretty hard to find until now. There’s Brobo himself, Pep, Mumu, Trex, and Dog. All of them have a futuristic, robot feel and a glowing center that looks like Iron Man’s Arc Reactor. They’re great company for your little one, and they’ll definitely help scare away the darkness when it’s time for lights-out. The glowing center has a very bright “flashlight” mode and a much-less-bright nightlight mode. Just swipe a hand (or tail) over the lights to activate. Both shut off automatically after five minutes. $35 at www.brobo.com

 

ok to wake clockOK to Wake! Clock (Patch Products)
If you’ve got a child who gets up at 5am when you were looking forward to sleeping in, the OK To Wake! clock will be your new BFF. The clock will let you child know—even if he or she can’t tell time—when it’s okay to get out of bed and demand breakfast or cartoon time. Just set the desired time and the faceplate will light up. And for those weekday mornings when the kids would like to sleep ‘til noon instead of going to school, the OK to Wake! just switch to alarm clock mode. You can also use it as a night light. Batteries required. $33 at http://www.patchproducts.com

dino petDino Pet (BioPop)
Although Dino Pets are shaped like dinosaurs, they don’t really have very much to do with those prehistoric reptiles. The Pet’s name comes from dinoflagellates, which are the bioluminescent phytopankton that live inside its clear, plastic body. (Yes, we know that dinoflagellates sounds like a dinosaur that has gas or is being whipped.) Like most other pets, Dino Pets are alive and are fun to play with. Unlike other pets, you don’t have to take them for walks or clean up after them. You will have to feed them with the provided Dino Food, though, but only once every few months. During the day, the algae soaks up energy from the sun or low-wattage lightbulb. But at night, they put on an amazing light show—all you have to do is touch the dino’s body or gently shake it. Part night light and part science project, Dino Pets are absolutely fascinating. $59.95. Additional dino food is $14.95, and if your colony suddenly goes extinct, you can order refills for $49.95. http://biopop.com/products/dino-pet

Out with the Old, in with the New: a 2012 Toy Fair Recap

Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.
crayola digital light designerCrayola Digital Light Designer
This fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com
broboBrobo
Billed as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com
rockboard descenderRockboard Descender
Who says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com
dino dig uncle milton national geographicDino Dig
Education meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com
la dee da dollsLa Dee Da Dolls
If you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com
safariltd amazing creaturesIncredible Creatures
These amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com

Out with the Old, in with the New: a 2012 Toy Fair Recap

Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.

Crayola Digital Light Designer
crayola digital light designerThis fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com

Brobo
broboBilled as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com

Rockboard Descender
rockboard descenderWho says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com

Dino Dig
dino dig uncle milton national geographicEducation meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com

La Dee Da Dolls
la dee da dollsIf you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com

Incredible Creatures
safariltd amazing creaturesThese amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com