Parents@Play Holiday Gift Guide Number 4

Whether you’re someone who’s made an art of procrastination, or you’ve just been holding out for the final, final markdowns on all those post-Black Friday super sales, you’re all out of time. If you’re still at a loss for what to get the children in your life, you can’t go wrong with these.


hovertech target fxHoverTech Target FX (Blip Toys)
Despite what you see on TV and in the movies, hitting a moving target is incredibly difficult. So as you unbox your new Target FX, you’ll also need to unbox a lot of patience. Fortunately, the HoverTech is so much fun that you won’t even notice the time. The HoverTech moves up and down and has a floor sensor that keeps it from landing until you’ve shot it down. Comes with the drone, one charging/docking station, one blaster, and three darts. It’s also available in a two-blaster kit. Ages 8+. Under $35.


hulk smash carMarvel XPV Remote Control Hulk Smash Vehicle (Jakks Pacific)
One of the coolest remote control toys we’ve played with, this car features everyone’s favorite green rageaholic flipping, spinning, doing wheelies, and more on a HYDRA vehicle. He also yells out 10 phrases (including grunts and growls). Hulk’s arms are adjustable and swing, so he can smash everything in sight. They also help him right his car if it falls over so he quickly get back to smashing duty. Nothing else on the road stands a chance. One warning: this is a very loud toy, so if you’ve got sensitive ears, you may need to leave the playroom. All ages, with adult supervision. Under $60 at your favorite retailer.


nono falcon xsNano Falcon XS (Silverlit Toys)
The Nano Falcon XS bills itself as the world’s smallest remote-controlled helicopter, and it’s got the certificate from Guinness World Records to prove it. But that doesn’t matter if it’s not fun to play with and easy to operate. Fortunately, the Nano delivers on both counts. Like its larger cousins, the Nano flies up, down, right, left, forwards, and backwards. Two things to be aware of: Compared to other RC helicopters you may have flown, this one is a little pokey. But that’s not a bad thing if you or your children are new to drones. Second, because of its size, Nano doesn’t do well with turbulence, so use it indoors only, and keep it away from open windows, fans, and air-conditioning units. Ages 10+. About $40.


glo wubbleWubbleX and Glo Wubble (Wubble Ball)
If you’ve ever played with a Wubble, you know how fun these giant ball/bubble/balloons are to smack, kick, and bounce around on. Now the original Wubble has two siblings: WubbleX and Glo Wubble.  Wubble X is essentially a mini-me to the original. The biggest difference is that you inflate your Wubble X with helium instead of air. You still punch and kick Wubble X, but now it also floats around the room as if by magic. The Glo Wubble is simply a glow-in-the-dark Wubble, which means that the fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down or the lights go off. Original and Glo Wubbles retail for $19.99 and include a pump. Wubble X retails for $7.99; helium cans are $7.99. All ages, with adult supervision.


Curiosity PackCuriosity Pack (Curiosity Pack)
Although the Curiosity Pack comes in a box, it’s definitely an out-of-the-box learning system. Each pack contains age-appropriate learning activities that help kids learn about letters, numbers, science, art, and more. The Packs also give parents some valuable insights into how children learn so they can take an active role in their children’s education. Ages 3-10. $35.

Grammar Mistakes, Part II: Which Weigh Do We Go?

more grammar mistakesDear Mr. Dad: Last week you wrote about a number of grammar mistakes that you find annoying. Reading through your column, those mistakes didn’t seem so bad. What’s the big deal?

As I said last week, English is constantly evolving, and that’s a wonderful thing. But no matter how much our language changes, we’ll always have to use words to get others to understand what we’re thinking. Grammatical errors sometimes make clear communication difficult. Here are some of the biggest offenders.

  • Dangling Modifiers. A modifier is a word that affects another part of the sentence. Separating the modifier from what it’s modifying often causes confusion. For example, in your statement, “Reading through your column, those mistakes didn’t seem so bad,” who was reading? I’m sure you meant that you were. But it sounds like the mistakes were the ones doing the reading. It’s better—and clearer—to say, “As I read your column, I didn’t think that those mistakes were so bad.” Dangling modifiers are everywhere: “The cops chased the robbers in their squad cars” (if the robbers are already in the squad cars, why do the cops need to chase them?). “We saw dozens of dangerous snakes and spiders on vacation in Borneo” (since when do snakes and spiders go on vacation?). Fixing dangling modifiers is usually pretty simple: “The cops got into their squad cars and chased…” or “While on vacation in Borneo, we saw…”
  • Uninterested vs. Disinterested. They sound similar but aren’t. An uninterested person is bored or simply doesn’t care. A disinterested person is unbiased or impartial. If you’re on trial for your life, you’d rather have a disinterested judge than an uninterested one.
  • 360 Degrees. One often hears about people who made “a 360-degree change.” They’re trying to say that their life changed dramatically, but making a 360-degree change means making a full circle and ending up right back where you started. To truly turn your life around, all you need is 180 degrees.
  • “Penultimate.” People use this word to mean something that’s beyond ultimate. But it really means “second to last,” as in “this sentence is the penultimate one in the paragraph.” This is the last one.
  • “Literally.” This word means, “Exactly as written or stated.” But people use it in place of “really, really, really,” as in “I was literally crushed when my girlfriend broke up with me.” The grieving ex-boyfriend doesn’t really mean that every bone in his body was smashed. Hopefully. The children’s literature character Amelia Bedelia is famous for taking things literally. When her employer told her to “draw the drapes,” Amelia picked up a pencil and paper and did a lovely sketch.
  • Homophones. These are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. There are literally dozens of them, and using the wrong one can distort what you’re saying in hilarious and/or horrifying ways. For example, putting your hands on your waist (the part of your body just above your hips) is quite different than putting your hands on your waste (your garbage—or worse). Your uncle would no doubt be very upset to find that he was married to your ant instead of your aunt. If you need to move a heavy object, a guy with big muscles would be a lot handier to have around than a guy with big mussels (the seafood). And if that guy with big mussels is broke, he may not have a cent (a penny)—but he probably has a scent (an odor). Other homophones include to, two, and too; way and weigh; flew and flue; road and rowed; and principle and principal.


Photo credit: Trikutam

Netflix: The Perfect Reason to Hope for Snow

mrdad - dream team - white christmasI’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team and receive occasional product and pre-release programming. But it’ll take more than that to influence what I write about.

California, where I live, has been going through one of the worst droughts in its history. At least until last week, when it started raining pretty much nonstop. Sure, I’m quite thankful for the rain. But I’m also a little jealous of the folks living further north, where they’re getting snowed it. When it rains, I still have to go grocery shopping and do other errands that require me to go out of the house. But if I were snowed in (which is extremely unlikely), I know exactly how I’d spend my time: curled up on the couch, buried in blankets, and watching Netflix with my daughter.

If you haven’t put the finishing touches on your holiday shopping, consider giving the gift of Netflix to yourself or someone you love (or even just like a lot). In the spirit of the holidays, the good folks at Netflix curated a list of 12 reasons Netflix makes the best holiday gift for everyone on your list. I’ve made a few tweaks.

12. You can watch anywhere—by the fire, on the big screen, or at the breakfast nook on a tablet.
11. See what Piper’s piping on Orange is the New Black.
10. The kids can meet up with old friends in new ways, like racing to the edge with Hiccup and Toothless.
9. Mom can play White Christmas over and over again and encourage her daughters to reenact “Sisters” like Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.
8. It’s so easy to set up, your five year old can help you do it.
7. Celebrate the classic holiday extravaganza with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring none other than the Rockettes.
6. Legos, Legos and more Legos.
5. Family movie night can happen any day of the week.
4. Learn all you need to know from the first family, aka The Croods.
3. Saturday morning cartoons, solved. (Especially if Inspector Gadget has anything to say about it.)
2. Date night with Frank and Claire. Sounds delightfully creepy, doesn’t it?
1. With Netflix, the whole family wins: The grown-ups get Jessica Jones (and if that isn’t dark enough, there’s Narcos) and the kids get Care Bears, Project Mc2, Fuller House, and five more minutes before bedtime.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, safe, warm, and fun Holiday and New Year.

Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating

Nimali Fernando, coauthor of Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater.
A guide to setting your child on the path to adventurous eating.
Issues: Which milestones to look for as children progress; why poor eating habits develop when they do; steps to help little ones start self-feeding; helpful insights on the sensory system; healthy eating around the world (yes,that may include hot peppers).

A Lifetime of Healthy Eating + Raising a Happy, Healthy Eater

Dina Rose, author of It’s Not About the Broccoli.
Three habits to teach your kids for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Issues: Teaching children to confidently explore new foods; how kids can know when they’re hungry and when they’re full; how parents can branch out from easy-to-like, easy-to-prepare kids’ means to more mature tastes and textures; the three habits: proportion, variety, moderation.

Nimali Fernando, coauthor of Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater.
A guide to setting your child on the path to adventurous eating.
Issues: Which milestones to look for as children progress; why poor eating habits develop when they do; steps to help little ones start self-feeding; helpful insights on the sensory system; healthy eating around the world (yes,that may include hot peppers).