(Video) Game On!

Is there ever a bad time for video games (except bed time, of course)? Here are four new games that your kids will love, assuming you’ll stop playing them by yourself and give them a chance.

yo-kai watchYo-Kai Watch
The city of Springdale is inhabited by humans and creatures called Yo-Kai, some of whom are mischievous, while others cause real harm. The problem is that Yo-Kai are usually invisible. You play as either Nate or Kate and your task is to keep Springdale safe. Fortunately, you meet a nice Yo-Kai named Whisper who gives you a special watch that allows you to see other Yo-Kai. You and Whisper befriend Yo-Kai and put together a strong team that can do battle with the not-so-nice Yo-Kai. This is not your traditional “capturing creatures” or battle game. Instead of directly controlling the action, you’re more of a manager, telling your Yo-Kai how and where to attack and giving them special items to make them stronger. Yo-Kai Watch is available for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS and sells for $39.99 at your favorite retailer or the eShop. http://www.nintendo.com/

This new game from 13AM Games brings a fun and interesting party platformer for the WiiU. Each player (from 1-9) is a different color and it’s a mad dash for the finish line. But this is no simple foot race. Obstacles like moving platforms and lava come and go. Runbow is perfect for classic game players who’ve got a pretty good handle on how to time their jumps. Younger players may find the game a bit frustrating, at least in the beginning. The more players you have—either locally online—the more fun and frenetic it’ll be. Pick it up for $14.99 in the eShop. http://www.13amgames.com/

yoshi's woolly worldYoshi’s Woolly World
If you’re looking for a calmer, cuddlier platforming game, you’ll love Yoshi’s Woolly World, which stars one of the Mushroom Kingdom’s most beloved characters. Yoshi’s takes Kirby’s Epic Yarn to a new level. Each character and environment has a handmade touch that’s visually pretty cool. As Yoshi, you must reach the end each level, gathering as many collectibles on the way as possible, and turning your enemies into yarn balls by swallowing them. For beginners, just finishing the level will be enough. For more experienced players, collectibles are key. There are also Amiibo extras where you can add a second Yoshi in the form of Samus, Woolly Yoshi, or even Mario, just to name a few. The game itself is available at retailers and the eShop for $49.99, or in a special pack which includes a Wooly Yoshi for $59.99.

disney infinity 3-0Disney Infinity 3.0
This is the third installment of the always-fun Disney Infinity line, and brings in characters from Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars, including Yoda, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. This game is great for beginner gamers because it’s so easy to pick up and play. Each player picks a character from the Disney Infinity figures they own (characters from the two previous games work in this one), and play as him or her throughout the game. Certain game levels work with specific characters. But our favorite part of the game is the Toy Box, which is filled with the very best creations from players all over the world Disney Infinity 3.0 is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. There’s a Star Wars-themed starter pack that includes the Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition video game, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition base, Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker figures, Twilight of the Republic play set piece, and a Web Code card. Prices vary.

Talking about Islamic Terrorism

ismlamic terrorist

ismlamic terroristDear Mr. Dad: What happened in Paris last week has me shocked, upset, and frightened. The death and destruction are hard enough for my wife and me to grasp and to explain to our children, ages 7 and 10. But it’s getting increasingly difficult to answer their questions about Islam and to keep them from demonizing Muslims. We tried avoiding the issue, but that’s not working anymore. How can we talk to our children about terrorism and Muslims without slipping into stereotyping?

A: What a great question—one I’ve struggled with for a long time, and continue to do so—and the answer is anything but simple. As a parent, I think it’s incredibly important to teach our children about tolerance and diversity and to discourage them from making blanket statements about large groups of people who have similar characteristics, whether those characteristics are based on gender, politics, personal beliefs, sexual orientation, geography, religion, or anything else. At the same time, I firmly believe that it’s impossible to deal with a problem unless we honestly acknowledge what it is. And here’s where things get tough.

There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Most are undoubtedly peace-loving people who have no desire to kill anyone. But how do we make sense of the fact that so many of the world’s conflicts, involve Islamic armies and terrorist groups? How do we make sense of the nearly daily murderous attacks proudly acknowledged by people who claim that their particular brand of Islam gives them the right to kill Christians, Jews, atheists, other Muslims, or anyone else who doesn’t believe what they do? And how do we keep from stereotyping Muslim countries or groups where people hand out candy and celebrate terrorist acts, openly advocate murdering “infidels,” or name streets and parks after suicide bombers who kill innocent civilians?

[Read more…]

Raising Joyful Children in a Stressful World

Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook.
How to raise joyful children in a stressful world.
Issues: Understanding children’s personalities and temperaments; teaching children how to regulate their emotions; helping children discover the importance of empathy; teaching assertiveness skills; reducing children’s stress and anxiety; helping kids cope with frustration.

Sometimes You Just Want to Be Alone. Or Not.

Although our focus here at Parents@Play is on games, toys, and activities families can do together, we all have days when we just want to be alone. That’s especially true during the Holidays, which are prime time for stress and family tension. This week, we take a look at four excellent games from ThinkFun (http://thinkfun.com). All of them are challenging, relaxing, and can be (or are intended to be) played by one player.

thinkfun amazeAmaze
Amaze is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. No batteries, no parts to lose, just a tablet with an attached stylus. And the goal is simple too: trace your way from Start to Finish without lifting the stylus from the surface. There are 16 different mazes to choose from and we recommend that you go through them in order, from easiest to hardest. What makes Amaze different from ordinary maze games, is that you can rearrange the maze itself as you go. But you’re not just making holes in walls. Creating one opening closes off others, so instead of taking a short cut, you could end up boxing yourself in. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun knot so fastKnot so Fast
On each of the 40 challenge cards, there’s an illustration of a knot. Some are made from one piece of rope, other require two. Pick a card and all you have to do is use your rope to re-create what’s on the card. And by “all you have to do,” we mean “Good luck with that.” The knots are, thankfully, divided into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert categories. But even the beginner knots are quite challenging. There’s also a bit of trivia about the origin of each knot and what it’s used for. This is a fantastic way to brush up on your fine motor- and spatial reasoning skills, whether you’ve used them recently or not. For 1-4 very patient players, ages 8 and up.

thinkfun gravity mazeGravity Maze
This is another engaging, meditative/frustrating (in a good way) “all-you-have-to-do-is” game. In this case, you’re building mazes out of color-coded towers of different sizes with the goal of carrying a marble from top to bottom. Cards (again, thankfully, in four levels) tell you where to put a few of the towers on the game grid, and give you hints as to which colors you’ll need to add to complete the marble run. But it’s up to you to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Comes with three marbles and 60 challenges. You simply provide logic, spatial awareness, and serenity. For one player, but you could certainly add a timer and compete head to head with one or more others. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun visual brainstormsVisual Brainstorms
The 100 brain teasers included in this game will keep you captivated, entertained, amused, relaxed, and challenged for hours and hours. On one side of each card there’s an illustration and an explanation of a particular problem. On the other side—which you’ll need to restrain yourself from looking at—is the solution. There are logic puzzles (five guys run out of mine, A is not in the front, B is two behind C, D is neither here nor there, etc.), spatial puzzles (looking at a bunch of gears and pulleys, if you turn the first one clockwise, what direction will the last one turn?), and many more. For pretty much any number of players ages 10 and up.



Behind on Your Mortgage? There is Hope.

Seems like there’s a story in the news just about every day about how unemployment is down and the economy is improving. I’m sure that’s happening somewhere, but in my house (and those of many people I know), the economy is still floundering. Unfortunately, in uncertain times like these, honest, hardworking people sometimes have trouble making their mortgage payments. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Ad Council, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development want you to know that real help is available to families who are behind on their mortgage payments, or worried about how they will make the next one. Nearly one in 17 homeowners nationwide has fallen behind on his or her mortgage payments, putting them at a higher risk of foreclosure. Homeowners should not feel alone, but many do.

That is why the Making Home Affordable® (MHA) program provides free resources and assistance for distressed homeowners who are working hard at juggling expenses to makes ends meet. Many of these homeowners may be unaware that MHA has expanded its options, and may have a solution available to address their particular financial situation. Moreover, the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) – available in 18 states and the District of Columbia — also helps real people get back on their feet and on the road to financial stability in states hit hard by the economic and housing downturn.

Across the country, more than 1.5 million families have already benefited from MHA. Through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), homeowners have been able to reduce their monthly mortgage payments by approximately $500 each month. That’s real payment relief.

Homeowners across the U.S. need to know help is available now. If you or anyone you know are having a tough time making mortgage payments and don’t know where to turn, here’s some ideas:

    • Check out these video testimonials. These are genuine success stories from real people who have used the MHA resources. These homeowners were able to overcome potential foreclosure and save their homes. Their stories are a true testament to Making Home Affordable. Listen to their mortgage stories and witness their MHA journeys so that any homeowners may learn about the free resources and assistance available.

  • Visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov to learn about available programs to help with mortgage payments.
  • Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) – HAMP® is designed to lower monthly mortgage payments, making them more affordable and sustainable for the long-term.
    • HAMP achieves a more affordable payment by adjusting the mortgage interest rate, extending the term of the loan, and reducing or forbearing principal.
    • Homeowners have saved about $500 per month.
    • Through HAMP, homeowners can get help with their primary residence or rental property.
    • Homeowners who owe significantly more than their home is worth (>115% Loan-To Value or LTV ratio) are automatically evaluated for principal reduction.
    • Just for making timely payments, homeowners could earn up to $10,000, which is used to reduce the principal balance of their mortgage.
  • Hardest Hit Fund (HHF)– HHF programs are designed to complement MHA programs and provide assistance to struggling homeowners, like those in the testimonial videos, through modifications, mortgage payment assistance, and transition assistance programs. HHF programs vary state to state, but often include:
    • Mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners.
    • Principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages.
    • Funding to eliminate homeowners’ second lien loans.
    • Help for homeowners who are transitioning out of their homes and into more affordable places of residence.
  • Through the Federal Making Home Affordable program, many homeowners have received much-needed help to reduce their monthly payments, get mortgage relief, and avoid foreclosure. Homeowners who are struggling to make mortgage payments can call 888-995-HOPE or visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov for free resources and information to help them with their mortgage problems and avoid foreclosure. By calling 888-995-HOPE, homeowners can speak with a housing expert at a HUD-approved counseling agency at no cost, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and identify potential solutions based on their individual

Caring for Caregivers

Caring for another person, whether it’s a child, an aging parent, or someone else is a selfless- and sometimes all-consuming task. Unfortunately, by focusing so much on the needs of the person they’re caring, many caregivers make a huge mistake: they don’t give themselves enough (or, sometimes, any) time off. Fortunately, there is a solution.

The Ad Council and AARP are trying to raise awareness of the Caregiver Assistance campaign this month, since November is National Family Caregivers month. The Random Acts of Kindness initiative aims to recognize and support the 40 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. Many caregivers are boomer women, often sandwiched between the needs of their parents and their own kids.

A popular misconception is that caregivers are paid medical professionals, providing full-time care to someone in need of daily help, when in reality, most caregivers are family members or friends who are also working and managing their own families at the same time. For many, the caregiving role starts with simple things like scheduling a doctor’s visit or helping with daily errands, but gradually expands over time, until it becomes a major commitment in their lives.

How can you help?

This November they are kicking off a program designed to encourag all Americans to perform an unexpected ‘ Random Acts of Kindness for Caregivers’ for a caregiver. By starting a nationwide movement, we’ll raise awareness of caregiving and caregivers while at the same time reaching caregivers directly—helping to alleviate some of their daily stresses and reward them for their ongoing support.

Almost three in ten people who are caring for someone say their life has changed with caregiving, oftentimes for the negative. More than one in five say their weight, their exercise, or their social life has/have suffered. Emotionally, one in five say they are generally unhappier and one in three say they feel sad or depressed. That’s why AARP created a community where caregivers can connect with experts and other caregivers and can find information and tools to take even better care of the person who once took care of them.

Help out those who are helping others- they have feelings, too, and can burn out. Give them a break, make them dinner, take them out to a movie- something to show you care. Take care of caregivers this month and every month!