Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for 2015 Holidays

fort boards

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval

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



laser pegs helicopterlaser pegs monster truck4 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.

fort boardsFort 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.

littleBits gizmos and gadgetsGizmos & 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 staxLight 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

pinblock silver falconSilver 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).

Dolls and Puppets

flipsies sandy's houseFlipsies 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

Education and Science


Fitness and Outdoors



usaopoly nefarious - mad scientist gameNefarious: 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

Home Life

cloud petCloud 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

sleeper heroSleeper 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.

Music and Video


On the Road


The Secrets to Competitive Admissions: From Preschool to Gradschool

Kim Palacios, author of From Preschool to Grad School.
Topic: Strategies for success at any level of competitive admissions.
Issues:Three things all schools want; two questions you must be able to answer; crafting your story; the role of social media; application fraud and cheating; admissions consultants.

Acing Competitive Admissions + Eating Disorders + College Tuition Sticker Shock

Kim Palacios, author of From Preschool to Grad School.
Topic: Strategies for success at any level of competitive admissions.
Issues:Three things all schools want; two questions you must be able to answer; crafting your story; the role of social media; application fraud and cheating; admissions consultants.

Johana Marie McShane, coauthor of Why She Feels Fat.
Topic: Understanding your loved one’s eating disorder and how you can help.
Issues:Why what seems to family and friends as bizarre, irrational behavior actually makes sense to the person with the disorder; evaluating therapy vs hospitalization; the gender breakdown of eating and body-image disorders.

David Rye, author of Financial Aid for College.
Topic: Getting the money you need ant for the school you want.
Issues: Overcoming college tuition sticker shock; the difference between loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs; how to find little-known scholarships; federal and state grants.

“Please, Daddy, Please? Just One More….”

netlflix delay tactics

netlflix delay tacticsKids are natural—and often quite masterful—negotiators. “Please, please, please, just one more…..” Fill in the blank. One more story, one more piece of Halloween candy, one more game, one more minute, one more beer (oh, wait, that’s you). You could get hit with a “one more” demand at any time and at any place. But there’s one time when those stalling tactics flow especially fast and furious: getting ready for bed. And the plea is always the same: “just five more minutes.”

The justifications for those extra minutes are a carnival of youthful creativity. “I have a headache.” “There’s a monster under the bed.” “It’s too loud.” “It’s too quiet.” “I’m thirsty.” “I’m hungry.” “The sheets are uncomfortable.” “You forgot to kiss me goodnight.” “I forgot to kiss you goodnight.” “I didn’t finish my vegetables.” “I just heard the doorbell ring.” “I’m getting too big for this bed.” “The stars are too bright.” “My stuffie will be lonely without me.” “What time is it?” “What time is it in Timbuktu?” “I have to count my books.” “My fingernails are talking to me.” “I’m wearing the wrong PJs.” And on and on and on.

What’s most amazing about these excuses is that they’re probably exactly the same ones you tried on your parents. Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? In fact, if I were a little more paranoid, I might suspect that my parents had coached my kids on what to say, perhaps in a calculated way of getting back at me for pulling the same crap when I was little.

As parents today, we have access to one weapon to fight the “one mores” or “just five more minutes” ploys that our own parents didn’t have: Netflix. Wait, am I suggesting that we bribe our kids with videos? Kind of. But there’s a twist. Netflix and DreamWorks Animation partnered on a series called “Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites,” and they’ve just released a bunch of new episodes.

So next time your little ones demand just five more minutes or just one more episode, take the wind out of their sails by reluctantly caving. “Okay, if you get five more minutes, do you promise you’ll go to bed with no more complaining?” “Yes, daddy.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, daddy.” Then all you have to do is resist the urge to say, “Gotcha, sucker!” Just click Play on one of the Dinotrux episodes and you’re golden. At least until they figure out some new ways of delaying bedtime even further. Hopefully, Netflix is on the case.


Disclosure: As a member of the @Netflix #StreamTeam, I occasionally receive product and free access to programming, but it would take a lot more than that to get me to recommend something that I don’t truly believe in.

Baby It’s Cold Outside—and It’s Only Getting Colder

Just because the weather outside has gotten a bit frightful, there’s no reason why the clothes you bundle up in can’t be delightful. Check out these snazzy layers (that will last more than just one season) from some of our favorite brands.

swainby half zip fleeceSwainby Half-Zip Fleece (Craghoppers)
When it’s cold enough to need more than a long-sleeve shirt, the Swainby half-zip fleece is just the ticket for the men (and teen boys) in your life. Soft, comfortable, and nearly impossible to stain (trust us—we’ve field-tested this), it also comes out of the dryer without all the ugly pilling that some fleece gets. And the classic styling means it goes well with just about anything. Oh, and it keeps you warm too. The high collar and elasticized cuffs and hem help keep that heat in. Too warm? No worries; that’s what the half-zip is for. $60 at


skipton jacketSkipton Jacket (Craghoppers)
When you need a little more than a sweatshirt—even a warm, fleece one like the Swainby—try Craghoppers’ Skipton Jacket. It’s water resistant, which makes it great for those snowy, sleety, rainy days. It’s also soft, lightweight, super insulated, and nowhere near as thick as you’d think it would need to be to keep you warm in 30-degree weather (which it does). It’s stylish enough to complement any outfit and to wear everywhere you go, and the satiny-smooth lining feels great up against your skin. It has both a zipper and buttons, and you can use either one or both together for added wind protection. To top it off (quite literally) is an attached hood. Two fully functional side pockets are big enough for your hands, a pair of gloves, keys, or your phone. About $180 at sites like

ice bug bootsIcebug Diana BUGrip boots (Icebug)
Sooner or later you’re going to head outside, where you may have to deal with cold, wet, icy weather. The Icebug Diana BUGrip boots are amazing in all those scenarios. Besides being nice to look at, they keep your feet warm and dry, and the BGrip outsole maintains a firm grip on the ground. These half-calf high, fleece-lined boots are good for tromping about on snowy days and keeping your pants dry, too. They’re zippered, which makes them easy to put on, and come with a front lace for easy adjustment. About $200 at or retailers like Amazon.


hi tec bootsSt. Moritz Lite 200 i WP boots (Hi-Tec)
Still got cold feet? Check out the St. Moritz Lite 200 i WP. That’s quite a mouthful, but these insulated, fleece-lined, water-resistant, boots will keep your feet warm and dry as you stomp through the snow no matter how cold it gets. And when you get back, these cuties with their faux-fur tops will have everyone you know asking where you got them. They come in black, brown, or gray and are odor resistant as well, so you won’t have to leave them outside the door to air out. About $100 at


naot vistosoNaot Vistoso (Naot)
Looking for something a little less “outdoorsy” but still ready for winter festivities? The Naot Vistoso will be your go to boot. Zipping up the side, these adorable ankle boots come with a Holiday-ready bow. They’re padded for extra comfort and have a memory foam footbed that molds to your feet, making them even more comfortable with time. Sturdy yet flexible, you won’t feel like you’re doing a balancing act when you’re out, and you won’t feel the need to kick them off as soon as you get home. About $200 at or other retailers.