Pocket Referee (Vraney, Inc.)
We love the Pocket Referee. It’s a very simple, very low-tech solution to one of the worst parts of being a parent: having to continually play King Solomon to children arguing over whose turn it is, or who gets the last cookie. The Pocket Referee is a silver dollar-sized coin (it comes in gold or antique brass finish) that passes from child to child. The holder of the coin either uses it to be the current decider and passes it on to the other child, or holds on to it when the decision just isn’t that important to him. This is a dad-invented product that deserves a shot if you have two or more kids who fight about every decision. And don’t we all?
Periodic Quest (Periodic Quest)
Periodic Quest is a game that will orient the whole family toward the Table of Elements. We recommend this product only for dads who have at least a basic familiarity with the Table of Elements. Dads expecting to learn science along with their kids may get a little frustrated, but if you’re interested in chemistry and you want to share your passion with your kids, this game is a real winner. For ages 12 and up.
Daddy Sneaks (by Sharlene Weingart)
In this charming story by Sharlene Weingart, Daddy–a goateed, hip-looking guy–takes the whole family, pets and all, camping. You’d think that in 2011 there would be more books with positive father role models. Sadly, no. But that just makes the engaged, loving, caring–and kinda sneaky–Dad stand out even more. Ages 3-6.
If you like Scrabble, Anagrams, and Boggle, you’ll love all four of these games. Actually, you’ll love them even if you’ve never heard of those other games. Besides being really fun, they all have a few things in common: boys and girls will both enjoy them, they’re fast–no sitting around waiting for everyone else to take their turn, you don’t need a board or even pencil and paper, they can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids, they come in really cute packages, and they’re a great way to help early gradeshoolers with spelling and those know-it-all teens and tweens build their vocabulary. Oh, and they’re addictive as hell.
Bananagrams is the one that started it all. Players turn over tiles and race to be the first to use them all, cross-word style.
Appletters offers a fun twist on Bananagrams by allowing words to be built from only the first or last letters. So instead of a crossword you’ll end up with more of a snake. It’s actually three separate games in one–each appropriate for a different age group.
PairsInPears stays true to it’s word-bilding roots, but adds a memory and matching component. Very fast paced.
Zip-It might be the fastest of them all–you can play a hand in under 20 seconds–but you’ll want to stick with it for longer than that. Zip-It uses lettered cubes (like dice) instead of tiles and the zippers on the carrying case are used to keep score. Again, lots of fun for everyone.
Baby Goes Pro DVD (Baby Goes Pro)
This DVD introduces toddlers to five popular sports: baseball, basketball, golf, tennis, and soccer. It was created by tennis pro Gigi Fernandez. The idea is to introduce very young kids to sports while giving them a chance to see real athletes in action–all coached by a pretty entertaining monkey. No guarantees that your baby will be the next Tiger Woods (on the course, not off) or Cy Young winner, but it’s a great way for dad to open the door to sports in a low-presure, fun way. Ages 3-6.
Create Your Own Floor Puzzle (Cobble Hill)
This is one of these “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” things. A blank, 36-piece jigsaw puzzle that provides a great opportunity for dads and kids to work on a cool project together. But with Mother’s Day just around the corner, it might also be a fun way to make a memoriable, meaningful gift for mom.
Kids Photo Growth Chart (Kangaroom)
Watch your child grow by feet and inches and have the photos to prove it! If you have kids, you have photos (from school, sports teams, birthdays, holidays, etc.), and until now, you probably haven’t had a good way to display those yearly photos!! Our brand new Kid’s Photo Growth Chart-a totally unique way to keep track of your child’s growth physically, as well as in photos. This hanging organizer can be customized as your child grows and changes: one side for photos of your child and the other side for photos of favorite friends or family. Customizable labels and personality cards (to record favorite things and thoughts for each age) are made to slip in front or behind photos to create a lasting keepsake of childhood! Don’t let your child’s photo history sit in a messy drawer any longer!
Gogo Kidz Travelmate(GoGo Babies)
If you’ve ever had to shlepp a sleeping infant or toddler through the airport to the very last gate in the furthest terminal, your back is probably still sore. Next time pich up the Travelmate. It’s kind of like a hand truck that enables you to roll that car seat with ease. Not only saves your back, but can do wonders for your mood as well. So when your child wakes up, you’ll be ready to play.
If you come home and your son or daughter is often covered in paint, flour, or mud, then the Kobli smock is for you. It’s just a simple, water-repellent shirt that you put on backwards like a hospital gown. It covers you from the waist up with elastic at the wrists to keep you clean if you either are diving in for a welcome home hug or to take part in the activity. The Koobli is not for the dad of any child, but you’ll know immediately if this is a lifesaver for you.
Wet Happened? Zippered Wet Bag (ItzyRitzy)
We don’t know how moms handle it, but we’ve found ourselves many times at the pool with wet children and now soaking wet bathing suits to carry out in the cold air and then drop, soggy, onto the floor of the car for the ride home. With all the chlorine on the floor and floor mats, I’m surprised it hasn’t faded the fabric. Itzy-Ritzy makes just the thing for this problem: The Wet Happened? bag. It’s a nice cloth bag on the outside with a zipper closure that keeps the water in. Perfect when you take kids to the pool, or need to stash wet stuff to put in the suitcase for a trip home after a day at the beach. Yes, a plastic bag, does the same thing, but sometimes dads like a gadget that does something better and cleaner–and sometimes the kids want to make a fashion statement.
Easy Stroll (Goosey Loo Industries)
Okay, if you’re over 5′ 8″, most strollers just aren’t comfortable. Some come with extendable handles, which makes taking the kids out for a walk less painful. But not all do. The Easy Stroll gives you complete, one-hand stroller operation, which allows you to stand up like a real Homo Sapiens and relieves some of the stress on your shoulders. Installs on any stroller in minutes.
Doodle Roll (Imagination Brands)
The Doodle Roll is a fun addition to a bag to take to the restaurant or on a plane ride. It’s a low-cost roll of paper, prepackaged with crayons. Creative dads will use it to doodle and draw along with their kids as they might in a restaurant that provides paper tablecloths and crayons for the whole family. The unique on-the-go dispenser, handy crayon-caddy and safe tear-away edge allows Dad to interact as much or as little as he and his children choose. It’s also a fun way to engage in free-spirited doodling without the limit placed on kids by the four sides of a sheet of paper. Dads can also use it to play simple games like battleship and tic-tac-toe, the only limit is your knowledge of games. It also makes a great way to make a banner for Mother’s Day.
XRanger 2000 (Xploderz)
Maybe it’s the Marine in me (you know what they say, once a Marine…), but I have nothing against guns–as long as they’re used safely. In our house the shoot-above-the-knee-and-you-lose-it-for-a-day rule is set in stone. But even if you’re not a big gun fan, it’s hard to miss the entertainment value in the XRanger 2000 (the 2000 refers to the number of rounds of ammo that are included). Aimed at kids who’ve outgrown the soft darts but are too young for paintball, the Xploderz firing system (they deliberately stay away from the word “gun”) shoots a soft, round, water/gel pellet that explodes harmlessly on contact. Easy to clean up and doesn’t stain. And, in case someone does shoot above the knee, it’s completely painless (I had my daughter shoot me in the chest from five feet away and didn’t feel a thing). .
Wii Party (Nintendo Wii game)
Take Mario Party 8 and remove the tedium of waiting between mini-games and use your own avatar rather than playing as Mario and you have a good idea what Wii Party is all about. It’s big, big collection of mini-games that gives a fun play option for everyone in the family. We loved it. It’s simple to play. People can move in and out, and games are short enough that no one gets bored. All games can be played by almost any age at some level.
There’s always one parent who is more concerned with plastics or air quality or over-doses of sun exposures. For the dad who is the worrier in the family, the Snooze Shade is a simple solution for outdoor strolls. It’s UPF 50+, breathable black fabric, so perfect for letting junior sleep even in bright glare while protecting his young skin, blocking out 94% of sun’s rays. It can also be used to shade from insects.