Congratulations to these fine products, which were awarded the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for the 2015 Winter Holidays! The Seal recognizes products that facilitate father-child relationships by getting dads and kids engaged and having fun together.
We’re now accepting submissions for our 2016 Spring and Father’s Day seasons.
Art, Crafts, and Beyond
4 in 1 Helicopter and 6 in 1 Monster Truck (Laser Pegs)
Laser Pegs has a variety of products that take Lego-type building to a whole new level by adding lights that flash, blink, and generally make what you’ve build look very cool. The step-by-step instructions are easy enough to follow that even young builders will be able to take charge. Plus, the 4 in 1 Helicopter has only 47 pieces, and the Monster Truck has 67, including the battery-operated base, which makes both construction and cleanup a lot easier. As their names indicate, the kits we tested let you build multiple vehicles. But because Laser Pegs are compatible with other building systems, you and the kids will never run out of projects to do together. Unfortunately, girls are sometimes reluctant to do building projects. But we think that Laser Pegs’ colors and lights will attract plenty of girls and encourage them to see building as not for boys only. Ages 5+. Helicopter kit is $14.95, Monster Truck is $20.95. http://laserpegs.com/
Fort Boards Custom Fort Builder (Formal Frog)
One of the great things about building something with your child is that you enjoy it as much as he or she does. Fort Boards are no exception. They’re delightfully simple: Each pack includes 44 8″x8″ panels and 46 connectors that allow you to snap the panels together at nearly any angle from 45 to 180 degrees. You can also get packs of design cards that allow you to customize your fort (or igloo or whatever you’re building) to look like metal, stone, or wood. For ages 5 and up, but littler kids can enjoy them with your supervision and older kids will enjoy them without it. $100. FortBoards.com
Gizmos & Gadgets (LittleBits)
This kit is great fun for dads and kids who enjoy building, tinkering, and inventing. Gizmos & Gadgets comes with all the materials, electronic building blocks, tools, and detailed instruction you’ll need to design and build more than 15 projects, including a functioning racecar and a bubble machine (many more are available on the littleBits website or through their free app). And of course, there’s no limit to the number they can come up with on their own. For ages 8+. $199.95. Buy yours here or visit the littleBits site.
Light Stax 36-piece Classic Set (The Lazy Dog & Co.)
From a distance, Light Stax look like Duplo (Lego’s jumbo size bricks for preschoolers), but connect at least one Stax block to the power base, and every other block that’s connected—directly or indirectly—will light up. The base, which can run on batteries or a USB cable, has enough juice to light up at least 100 blocks. Light Stax projects provide an illuminating opportunity for dads and kids to use their imagination and creativity while working together. Best of all, they’re a something you and your child will return to over and over. Take advantage of the auto-shutoff feature, which allows you and your child to build a completely new nightlight every night. Stax come in sets from 12 blocks to more than 100, and prices run from $35 to $250. Buy a set here or visit LightStax.com
Silver Falcon (Pinblock)
Rather than manufacture yet another LEGO-compatible building system, the folks at Pinblock came up with something completely different. There is only one type of block, which looks like a European electrical plug. Pieces can stack, twist, go together to create walls, or even make wearable gadgets. That element of simplicity means you’ll spend less time scrounging around trying to find some custom piece and more time exercising your creativity. The kit we reviewed was labeled SIlver Falcon, but since all of the the 900 pieces are the same (only the colors are different), you and your kids could just as easily build an Empire State Building, Tower of London, unicorn, or an inedible turkey sandwich, You’ll get plenty of old-school building and bonding fun here. The pieces are very small and easily swallowable, so keep them away from little kids. For ages 7+. $47.96 (1,000-piece Freestyle kits range from $44.95 to $49.95). pinblock.com
Dolls and Puppets
Flipsies 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 $27.99. Buy it here or visit vtechkids.com.
Education and Science
Fitness and Outdoors
Nefarious: The Mad Scientist Game (USAopoly)
Designed by Donald X. Vacarino, creator of the popular Dominion and Kingdom Builder games, Nefarious pits you and other evil geniuses against each other to see who can bring the world to its knees first. All you have to do is build the most dastardly and terrifyingly cool device, amass the biggest fortune, hire the most minions, and do the most sabotage and espionage. Special Twist cards turn the rules on their head so you’ll never play the same game twice. A unique board game that fosters friendly competition and, if absolutely necessary, cooperation. For 2-6 players, age 13 and up. Buy it here or visit USAopoly.com.
Cloud Pets (Jay@Play)
When bedtime looms, these cuddly, plush companions from Jay@Play are good for a lot more than snuggles. Just download the free app from the Apple Store or Google Play and you (or mom, grandma, grandpa, or anyone else) can record a message for your child. You can send the message from anywhere, but not directly to the Cloud Pet—it has to go through a Bluetooth-enabled device that’s in the same room. A blinking red light lets your child know that a new message is waiting; they just squeeze the Pet’s paw to hear it. Kids can reply to the message in the same way—from their pet to the nearby device, and on to Dad (or Mom) in Timbuktu. Comes in Puppy, Kitty, Teddy, Bunny, Elephant, or Unicorn. $19.99 at CloudPets 12in Talking Puppy – The Adorable, Huggable Pet to Keep in Touch Through the Cloud, Recordable Stuffed Animal” target=”_blank”>Amazon or visit http://cloudpets.com.
Sleeper Hero (Purple Pancakes LLC)
When kids are little, bedtime can be tough on everyone: they may be afraid of the dark or of being alone, and you may be afraid (then angry) that you’ll be up all night dealing with them. SleeperHero is a doll-book combo that’s aimed at eliminating some of that nighttime tension. The book is about a child who has trouble falling asleep in his own bed but is befriended by SleeperHero, who’s there to comfort and banish the bad guys and monsters hiding under the bed. For the parents, the doll has a light on his chest that glows red when it’s time for the child to stay in bed, then changes to green when it’s okay to run around and wake everyone up. Naturally, you can set both times. Ages 3+. $49.99. http://www.sleeperhero.com/
Music and Video
On the Road