Imagination and Coordination

This week we take a look at a number of toys that combine imagination and fine motor skills.

playmobil horse farmTake Along Horse Farm (Playmobil)
As readers of this column know, we’re big fans of building systems. But not every child shares that particular passion. This colorful, realistic set is perfect for the child who doesn’t mind putting a few pieces together, but would much rather spend his or her time getting the horses fed, groomed, exercised, and ready for to ride. The 81 pieces include two horses, three humans, a couple of dogs, a wheelbarrow for delivering food (or removing horse manure), scrub brushes, and more. The barn itself turns into an easy-to-carry case so your little equestrian will be able to pack up the whole thing and take the show on the road (or just back to his or her room). Ages 4-10. $35.53 at Amazon.

playmobil sunshine preschoolSunshine Preschool Set (Playmobil)
Like the Horse Farm, this set doesn’t require much building, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, with 394 pieces, there’s almost no limit to the number of entertaining, home-related scenes a creative boy or girl can concoct. The setting is, as you might guess from the name, the Sunshine Preschool, and the kit includes one adult figure, four children, and a dizzying array of accessories: a music area complete with instruments, a climbing wall, a clock with moveable hands, backpacks, pencils, paintbrushes, a coffee pot, mugs, a chalkboard, two toilets, and a lot more. The only risk is that after spending time at the Sunshine school, your child may refuse to go to his or her own preschool—Sunshine is definitely a hard act to follow. Ages 4-10. 394 pieces. $99.99 at Amazon.

flipsies SandyFlipsies Sandy’s House and Ocean Cruiser (VTech)
Sandy is just one of the Flipsies, collectible dolls that are designed to inspire the little girls who play with them. Sandy wants to be a marine biologist, and each of the other Flipsies has her own unique dreams. Carina’s on her way to medical school, Styla runs a fashion boutique, Eva wants to be a veterinarian, and Clementine has a thing for ice cream. All of the Flipsies (each is sold separately) can switch clothes, accessories, and even hair. But what’s especially fun is the MagicPoint locations that are in each Flipsie’s habitat. Put Sandy in one of the MagicPoints on her Ocean Cruiser and she’ll tell you something nautical. Put her into a MagicPoint in Styla’s salon, and she’ll tell you something that’s appropriate for a budding biologist with a strong sense of style. Ages 4-9. Prices vary, depending on the kit. This one is $56.62 at Amazon.

tugie, marbles the brain storeTugie (Marbles, the Brain Store)
Tugie (pronounced “tuggie”) is a fun, engaging game that’s super easy to learn and definitely has that “let’s play another round” quality. There are 12 colorful disc-like pieces that stack on a spindle, plus a gray one that sits on the very top. Each disc has a string attached. Players take turns rolling a die to see which color they need to remove by tugging on the string. If you get your disc out, gently place it on top, and it’s the next player’s turn. But you’ve got to be careful—if you knock any pieces off the spindle, you keep them. The player with the fewest wins the round. Each round takes no more than a few minutes to play. Tugie requires a fair amount of hand-eye coordination (not quite as much as Jenga) and a bit of luck. Ages 5 and up. $29.99.  http://www.marblesthebrainstore.com/

Good Touch Bad Touch

LIttle Girl in a Blue Armchair, Mary Cassatt

LIttle Girl in a Blue Armchair, Mary Cassatt

LIttle Girl in a Blue Armchair, Mary Cassatt

Dear Mr. Dad. I have a five-year old daughter who is obsessed with sex. Every day, she’s got a new question that I don’t know how to answer, like “How do babies get in there?” and “What’s sex?” She’s fascinated by other kids’ private parts and spends a lot of time touching her own. How can I answer her questions and how can I keep her from embarrassing herself (and me!) in front of other people?

At least some of your daughter’s behavior is a normal part of discovering who she is and what the various parts of her body—including her genitals—do (we’ll get back to that below). It’s also normal for her to ask a lot of questions. As adults, we have a pretty good grasp of the role genitals play in sex, whether it’s for pleasure or reproduction. Kids your daughter’s age don’t. Yet.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where sex seems to be everywhere and children are exposed to sexual images and ideas at much younger ages than we were. That means having “the talk” a lot earlier than we’d planned to. It’s important that you answer your daughter’s questions in a relaxed way, giving her answers that address her concerns but aren’t so detailed that they overwhelm her.
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The Amazing Story of Taylor Wilson


Tom Clynes, author of The Boy Who Played with Fusion.
Topic:
Extreme science, extreme parenting, and how to make a star
Issues: The amazing story of Taylor Wilson, an American teenager who became the youngest personever to build a working nuclear fusion reactor; the equally amazing choices Taylor’s parents made to fully support his intellectual passions; the social challenges of being off-the-charts brilliant.

Raising Quirky Kids + The Boy Who Played With Fusion


Mark Bowers, author of 8 Keys to Raising the Quirky Child.
Topic:
How to help a kid who doesn’t quite fit in.
Issues: The fine line between geeks, nerds, and the quirky and mild-autism or Asperger’s; identifying your child’s quirks; optimizing social skills; tracking your child’s development; managing challenges at home.




Tom Clynes, author of The Boy Who Played with Fusion.
Topic: Extreme science, extreme parenting, and how to make a star
Issues: The amazing story of Taylor Wilson, an American teenager who became the youngest personever to build a working nuclear fusion reactor; the equally amazing choices Taylor’s parents made to fully support his intellectual passions; the social challenges of being off-the-charts brilliant.

Back-to-School Healthy Snacks and Superfoods

Where did the summer go? In the frenzy to get the kids ready for the new school year, we’re going to spend an absurd amount of money on clothes and supplies. But we often forget about healthy snacks and lunches. Here are some of our favorites.

kuli kuli morengaKuli Kuli
Move over, kale, there’s another superfood in town, and it’s called moringa. What, you’ve never heard of it? Well, you will soon, because moringa (leaves of the moringa oleifera tree, which grows in South Asia and West Africa) may very well be the world’s most nutritious green. Moringa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and it may cure or prevent as many as 300 diseases. But it also packs a serious nutritional wallop. According to the good folks at Kuli Kuli (the Oakland, Caliornia-based importer), gram for gram, moringa has twice the protein of yogurt, 4x the vitamin A of carrots, 3x the potassium of bananas, 4x the calcium of milk, and 7x the vitamin C of oranges. Kuli Kuli has moringa as a powder, as a tea, or mixed with other ingredients into delicious, gluten-free, high-fiber, filling-and-satisfying vegan bars. https://www.kulikulifoods.com/

crispy fruit freeze dried Crispy Fruit freeze-dried fruit (Crispy Green)
Snack foods don’t get a lot simpler than this. Each bag of Crispy Fruit contains exactly one ingredient: tangerine, apple, Asian pear, banana, cantaloupe, mango, or pineapple. That’s it. The fruit itself tastes exactly like what it’s supposed to, is pleasantly crunchy, and kind of melts in your mouth. Your kids will love it—and so will you. Plus, it’s easy to pack and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Buy it at Amazon and other retailers or at http://www.crispygreen.com/

mamma chiaMamma Chia
Mamma Chia has a wide range of, you guessed it, chia-based products that are gluten free, nutritionally dense, mostly vegan (some products contain a little bit of honey or milk), and non-GMO. Best of all, every one of the products we tried was really, really good. The granola clusters are great by themselves or sprinkled onto something else (yogurt, for example). If you’re new to chia, it’ll take you a few seconds to get used to the texture of the squeeze pouches and energy drinks. Available at many grocery stores or at http://www.mammachia.com/

chine chia organicsShine Organics
Shine has four nutrition-packed superfood pouches, each with a self-explanatory purpose: calm, elevate, purify, and revive. The ingredients are certified organic, gluten free, vegan, and kosher, and the chia seeds are milled so you’re less likely to get them stuck between your teeth. The pouches themselves are BPA-free. Shine pouches are technically for adults, but kids can certainly eat them, although they taste so good that you won’t want to share. Available at Target. http://shineorganics.com/

element rice cakesElement rice cakes (Element Snacks)
Being a gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free household, we eat a lot of rice cakes. Unfortunately, aside from not having much taste, rice cakes also tend to fall apart, which means that the dog gets more of it than he deserves. Element rice (and corn) cakes have solved both of those problems by coating thin hard-to-crumble wafers in a layer of deliciousness: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, strawberries and cream, and sweet vanilla and orange. They’re free of gluten, GMO, preservatives, and corn syrup, and contain only 5 grams of sugar and 80 calories. Available at select retailers or http://www.elementsnacks.com/

juicy juice Juicy Juice
100% fruit juice, in moderation, is great. But kids sometimes drink too much of it. Juicy Juice comes in 12 mouth-watering, no-sugar-added flavors and are available in 4.25-ounce boxes (the equivalent of ½ cup of fruit), which makes them great for lunches. At retailers everywhere or http://juicyjuice.com/

Let’s All Cheer for Team Spirit

A and Z
Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Two, four, six, eight
Who do we appreciate?
The [opponents’ team name] !!

 

Anyone who’s played, or coached, or just watched youth sports has heard that cheer. The idea behind it is a good one: the winning team is thanking the opponents they just beat for having playing hard and done their best.

It’s also a subtle reminder to winning teams that how you win can be as important as whether you win. Insulting or humiliating your opponents simply isn’t acceptable, and neither is cheating or playing dirty. Being on a team that plays with integrity makes players feel good about themselves, helps bring them together, and builds team spirit.

That last part, building team spirit, is easier said than done.

A and ZWhen kids are very young, one of the primary goals of youth sports is to make whatever they’re involved in so much fun that they want to come back and do it again next year. Sure, people talk about winning, and the majority of coaches and parents support that goal by emphasizing sportsmanship, skill building, self-improvement, and teamwork. One of my favorite things about my daughters’ swim team is the emphasis on best times. There have been a number of instances when she’d ask me right after a race what place she’d come in, and I’ve had no idea. But I could always tell her whether she’d made a new best time.
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