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.

(Video) Game On!

Is there ever a bad time for video games (except bed time, of course)? Here are four new games that your kids will love, assuming you’ll stop playing them by yourself and give them a chance.

yo-kai watchYo-Kai Watch
The city of Springdale is inhabited by humans and creatures called Yo-Kai, some of whom are mischievous, while others cause real harm. The problem is that Yo-Kai are usually invisible. You play as either Nate or Kate and your task is to keep Springdale safe. Fortunately, you meet a nice Yo-Kai named Whisper who gives you a special watch that allows you to see other Yo-Kai. You and Whisper befriend Yo-Kai and put together a strong team that can do battle with the not-so-nice Yo-Kai. This is not your traditional “capturing creatures” or battle game. Instead of directly controlling the action, you’re more of a manager, telling your Yo-Kai how and where to attack and giving them special items to make them stronger. Yo-Kai Watch is available for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS and sells for $39.99 at your favorite retailer or the eShop.

This new game from 13AM Games brings a fun and interesting party platformer for the WiiU. Each player (from 1-9) is a different color and it’s a mad dash for the finish line. But this is no simple foot race. Obstacles like moving platforms and lava come and go. Runbow is perfect for classic game players who’ve got a pretty good handle on how to time their jumps. Younger players may find the game a bit frustrating, at least in the beginning. The more players you have—either locally online—the more fun and frenetic it’ll be. Pick it up for $14.99 in the eShop.

yoshi's woolly worldYoshi’s Woolly World
If you’re looking for a calmer, cuddlier platforming game, you’ll love Yoshi’s Woolly World, which stars one of the Mushroom Kingdom’s most beloved characters. Yoshi’s takes Kirby’s Epic Yarn to a new level. Each character and environment has a handmade touch that’s visually pretty cool. As Yoshi, you must reach the end each level, gathering as many collectibles on the way as possible, and turning your enemies into yarn balls by swallowing them. For beginners, just finishing the level will be enough. For more experienced players, collectibles are key. There are also Amiibo extras where you can add a second Yoshi in the form of Samus, Woolly Yoshi, or even Mario, just to name a few. The game itself is available at retailers and the eShop for $49.99, or in a special pack which includes a Wooly Yoshi for $59.99.

disney infinity 3-0Disney Infinity 3.0
This is the third installment of the always-fun Disney Infinity line, and brings in characters from Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars, including Yoda, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. This game is great for beginner gamers because it’s so easy to pick up and play. Each player picks a character from the Disney Infinity figures they own (characters from the two previous games work in this one), and play as him or her throughout the game. Certain game levels work with specific characters. But our favorite part of the game is the Toy Box, which is filled with the very best creations from players all over the world Disney Infinity 3.0 is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. There’s a Star Wars-themed starter pack that includes the Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition video game, Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition base, Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker figures, Twilight of the Republic play set piece, and a Web Code card. Prices vary.

Sometimes You Just Want to Be Alone. Or Not.

Although our focus here at Parents@Play is on games, toys, and activities families can do together, we all have days when we just want to be alone. That’s especially true during the Holidays, which are prime time for stress and family tension. This week, we take a look at four excellent games from ThinkFun ( All of them are challenging, relaxing, and can be (or are intended to be) played by one player.

thinkfun amazeAmaze
Amaze is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. No batteries, no parts to lose, just a tablet with an attached stylus. And the goal is simple too: trace your way from Start to Finish without lifting the stylus from the surface. There are 16 different mazes to choose from and we recommend that you go through them in order, from easiest to hardest. What makes Amaze different from ordinary maze games, is that you can rearrange the maze itself as you go. But you’re not just making holes in walls. Creating one opening closes off others, so instead of taking a short cut, you could end up boxing yourself in. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun knot so fastKnot so Fast
On each of the 40 challenge cards, there’s an illustration of a knot. Some are made from one piece of rope, other require two. Pick a card and all you have to do is use your rope to re-create what’s on the card. And by “all you have to do,” we mean “Good luck with that.” The knots are, thankfully, divided into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert categories. But even the beginner knots are quite challenging. There’s also a bit of trivia about the origin of each knot and what it’s used for. This is a fantastic way to brush up on your fine motor- and spatial reasoning skills, whether you’ve used them recently or not. For 1-4 very patient players, ages 8 and up.

thinkfun gravity mazeGravity Maze
This is another engaging, meditative/frustrating (in a good way) “all-you-have-to-do-is” game. In this case, you’re building mazes out of color-coded towers of different sizes with the goal of carrying a marble from top to bottom. Cards (again, thankfully, in four levels) tell you where to put a few of the towers on the game grid, and give you hints as to which colors you’ll need to add to complete the marble run. But it’s up to you to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Comes with three marbles and 60 challenges. You simply provide logic, spatial awareness, and serenity. For one player, but you could certainly add a timer and compete head to head with one or more others. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun visual brainstormsVisual Brainstorms
The 100 brain teasers included in this game will keep you captivated, entertained, amused, relaxed, and challenged for hours and hours. On one side of each card there’s an illustration and an explanation of a particular problem. On the other side—which you’ll need to restrain yourself from looking at—is the solution. There are logic puzzles (five guys run out of mine, A is not in the front, B is two behind C, D is neither here nor there, etc.), spatial puzzles (looking at a bunch of gears and pulleys, if you turn the first one clockwise, what direction will the last one turn?), and many more. For pretty much any number of players ages 10 and up.



Shooting Stars

Little kids have access to more technology than ever before. And one of their favorite activities is taking pictures. For parents, the challenge is finding inexpensive, good-quality, easy-to-use cameras. This week we look at two devices that satisfy all three requirements, as well as some toys that make use of an alternate definition of “shoot,” and something that’ll help instill some order into your spring and summer.

kidizoom smart watchKidizoom Smart Watch DX (VTech)
VTech has packed an amazing number of features into one kid-friendly smart watch. For example, your little one can take photos, shoot videos, play games, and record his or her voice. He or she can also use the Smart Watch DX as a pedometer, timer, alarm, and, gasp, as an actual watch (choose a clock display from among more than 50 analog or digital options). It’s all accessible through an easy-to-use touch screen display. The rechargeable battery lasts anywhere from a day to two weeks, depending on usage. And the internal memory can store a day’s worth of pics and vids that Mom or Dad can USB over to your computer for editing. The DX watch is splash- and sweat proof, but not intended for underwater use. Ages 4+. $44.99


snap petSnap Pets (WowWee)
Snap Pets are cute, easy-to-use, Bluetooth cameras that are great for taking selfies, group shots, and more. It all starts by pairing the free app with your Pet (they come in a variety of colors and animals). Once that’s done, you can start shooting. Sometimes it’s hard—especially for people with small hands—to hold the phone for a selfie and push the shutter button without messing up the shot or dropping the phone. But Snap Pet gives you several options. The Pet is small enough to fit in a child’s hand and all you do is hold it at arm’s length and push the button on its head. Your selfie is automatically Bluetoothed over to your phone or tablet. Want to include yourself in a group action shot? No problem. Just put your Pet down, set the timer, and start dancing. Phone ran out of juice? No problem there either. The Snap Pet can store up to 20 pics that you can download, edit, and share with your besties later. Ages 6+. About $29.95.

air warrior blastersAir Warrior blasters (Buzz Bee Toys)
Taking pics isn’t the only kind of shooting kids like. And Buzz Bee (now part of the Alex Brands family—and you know how we love Alex!) has a whole collection of fun, safe, blasters for the whole family. All of them shoot foam suction darts and offer a wonderful opportunity to talk to kids about gun safety. The Predator launches those darts up to 30 feet; the Snipe sends them flying up to 72 feet; and the Tyrant blasts as far as 80 feet. Ages 6+. Prices vary.

epson labelworks label makerLabelWorks Label Printers (Epson)
Winter is barely underway, but we’re already starting to think about spring cleaning and even plan for the summer, both of which involve plenty of organization. For those of us with not-very-legible handwriting, creating labels for files or trying to put a child’s name on the inside of a piece of clothing is a frightening prospect. Epson’s LabelWorks line makes that a lot easier. Depending on the unit and the label material, you can create just about any kind of label, including crack-and-peel, tape, and iron-on. Kits generally come with several label cartridges and a keyboard that prints letters, numbers, symbols, emojis, and a lot more. Prices vary.

Are the Holidays Really So Close?

As temperatures drop and family playtime starts moving indoors, you’ll find yourself wanting to break out (or acquire) new playthings for your little ones. Here are some adorable options that we’re sure will make their way onto your holiday wish lists (yes, we’re already thinking about the Holidays).

zoomer chomplingzZoomer Jester and Zoomer Chomplingz
Last week we introduced you to Zoomer Kitty. Now it’s time to meet her new, prehistoric relatives. Zoomer Jester is a new species of Zoomer Dino, called the Jokeasaurus, and, as you might guess, he loves to make you laugh. Balanced on two wheels, Zoomer Jester can spin around, chomp, and growl. Yes, he can get angry, but he also giggles. He detects movement with his nose and you can control him by using your hands or the remote control. He’s eager to please and if you’re patient, he’ll “learn” tricks. When you’re done playing, be sure to charge him up so he’ll be ready to go for the next round of fun. Prices vary. Available in stores like Toys R Us and Amazon. Zoomer Chomplingz are mini versions of Zoomer Dinos, but they deliver just as much fun. With mouth- and nose sensors that detect motion, they’re quite interactive. They also come with a bone to play catch with. These little guys make all sorts of noises (including gas, which just about guarantees that the kids—and dad—will love them even more). Set your Chomplingz to “guard mode” and they’ll protect your room (or your dinner!) and will ferociously growl at those that dare to trespass. Three different Chomplingz are available everywhere, and five are exclusive to a specific store (i.e. Walmart or Toys R Us). Check  for pricing and info on where to buy your favorite.

cloud petCloud Pets
When bedtime looms, these cuddly, plush companions from Jay at Play are good for a lot more than snuggles. Just download the free app from the Apple Store or Google Play and you (or grandma or 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.


little bits gizmos and gadgetsGizmos & Gadgets (LittleBits)
This kit is great fun for kids who enjoy building, tinkering, and inventing. Gizmos & Gadgets comes with all the materials, electronic building blocks, tools, and detailed instruction they’ll need to design and build more than 15 projects, including a functioning racecar and a bubble machine (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. Learn more at

strawberry shortcakeStrawberry Shortcake 35th Anniversary Edition
For the Strawberry Shortcake lover in your life—or the girl who grew up in the 80’s—there’s a cute Strawberry Shortcake Classic 35th Anniversary Edition Small Doll, who looks and smells just like she did way back when… This special edition reproduction of the original doll is exclusive to Target for $10. If you’re looking for something cuddlier, consider the Strawberry Shortcake Classic Rag Doll 35th Anniversary Edition. She’s great to take along on trips, put in your baby stroller, and tuck into bed with your child at night. At $20, she’s also great for collectors.

Build Me a Story

Play is supposed to be fun, right? But these days, there are a lot of toys and games that take away some (or most) of the fun by having so many elaborate rules that any hope of creativity is stifled. At the same time, having no rules at all can be so overwhelming that it’s impossible to start. The best games—the ones you want to play over and over—include some basic rules but also give the players plenty of space to improvise. This week we take a look at several family games that do exactly that: give you some guidelines but then get out of the way and let you do things your own way.

how to tell a storyHow to Tell a Story (book by Daniel Nayeri)
The best stories are the ones that have a basic structure and some familiar elements, such as action, conflict, and the characters’ motivation. But putting those elements together isn’t always easy. How to Tell a Story is like a creative writing workshop in a box. The 140+-page book includes some excellent insights into how to write (or just tell) a story. But the best part is the 20 story blocks, which have unique illustrations on each side. They fall into six color-coded categories: red (people or animals), blue (things), orange (places), yellow (descriptions or emotions), green (actions), and purple (relationships). The idea is to roll the blocks like dice and use what’s on each face to create your stories. You can make up your own or follow some of the prompts the author provides (“I found it,” said the [person or animal], lifting the [thing] into the air.) An absolutely wonderful way to stimulate creativity while learning how to be a better storyteller. Ages 3 and up.

magicademyDisney Imagicademy (Wonderforge)
Another clever way to make learning fun. Imagicademy Animals takes kids on a tour of the animal kingdom, learning about what each species eats, where they live, how they protect themselves, and what we as humans can do to protect them and their environment. Kids and parents will love the huge variety of clever-yet-educational activities and games, such as word scrambles, crossword puzzles, animal bingo, matching games, drawing challenges, and vocabulary (did you know that a group of mice is called a “mischief”?). Imagicademy Science brings a similar approach to the world of science. Guided by the beloved characters from the movie Frozen, kids will learn about weather, physics, color, light, our five senses, and more. Both kits come with a 60-page activity book, colored pencils, stickers, a storage pouch, and more. Ages 4 and up. Only at Target

dohdlesDohdles (Kosmos)
Like most board games, the goal of Dohdles is for players to be the first to move their pawn from a starting space to an ending space. And like many board games, players can move their own pawn forward or do something to keep their opponents from advancing. Unlike most other board games, though, players don’t have to roll dice or pick cards or answer questions to move. Instead, they use modeling dough to create a small sculpture that other players will have to identify (the word doghdle, by the way, combines the words dough and riddle). The trick is to make your dohdles hard—but not impossible—to guess. The sculptor (called Dohdle Master) can score points when opponents guess correctly. Comes with plenty of modeling dough that doesn’t dry out, stain, or smear. Takes about 40 minutes to play. For 3-6 players 10 and up.