Dear Readers: Every year, right about this time, I get scores of emails from men and women asking for recommendations for last-minute, family-friendlyHolidaygift ideas. And every year I have the opportunity to evaluate literally hundreds of products and services. So, just in time for the Holidays, here are some of my top picks.
Let’s start with the winners of theHoliday2007 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval. This is a program I started about two years ago to recognize products and services that support one of my missions: to improve father-child relationships by giving men the resources, tools, and information they need to be the fathers they want to be. Knowing that most dads would gladly trade a dozen ties and picture frames for a few more hours with their children and family, my team of evaluators and I considered over 75 entries and came up with a short list of winners. Here are just a few of our favorites:
- The Original Fortamajig, from The Happy Kid Company. The Fortamajig is a durable 8’x8′ foot square of colorful, ripstop nylon, complete with doors and windows. Together, dads and kids can build a 4-walled fort, a teepee, a tunnel, canopy, and almost anything else—indoors or out.
- Kids Across Parents Down, written by Jan Buckner Walker. These terrific crossword puzzles are a great way for dads and kids to spend some fun, educational time together. Kids do the “across” clues and parents handle the relatively more-difficult “down” ones. Our testers loved doing these puzzles with their children, and even the kids who had never done a crossword were instantly hooked.
- The Scholastic Video Collection brings 100 of your children’s (and your) favorite storybooks to life on DVD and promotes a love for reading. Kids adore watching the stories (with illustrations right out of the books), and dads can feel confident that they’re providing their children with quality programming. The set includes Where the Wild Things Are, Curious George Rides a Bike, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Harold and the Purple Crayon.
- Excitations.com. Instead of focusing on products, this great website offers a huge range of experiences that will create lasting memories (for the kids or the entire family), including whitewater rafting, parent-child cooking classes, rock climbing, kids’ ski camp, family bike tours, scuba diving, and fitness experiences.
The complete list of this season’s Seal of Approval winners is available at www.MrDad.com/seal.
In addition, we came across several other items that would make great last-minute gifts for anyone in your family.
- Bake Me a Wish gourmet cakes (bakemeawish.com). Although they’re a little pricey, these delicious cakes, which are overnighted to your door, come with a conscience. A portion of the proceeds go to the Make a Wish Foundation, and the company also donates cakes to Soldiers’ Angels, a wonderful non-profit that sends them on to soldiers who are separated from their family and serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
- Stroll-smart. Pushing a jog stroller around the neighborhood is sometimes pretty tough on the arms and back. This adaptor makes it possible for parents who jog to run hands-free, and helps them get that natural stride back.
- Torpedo Entertainment Projector. If a big-screen TV isn’t in your budget (or you don’t have room for one), this is a good alternative. You can watch video from just about any device or player. The downside is that the resolution is low, so it won’t pass muster for many adults. But the kids will absolutely love the 6-foot display.
- And finally, check out HealthyToys.org, an online database of 1,200 toys and other products which have been tested for toxic chemicals.
Thanks for making Ask Mr. Dad a part of your life this year. Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and safeHoliday!