Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for 2015 Holidays

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

crayola - cling creatorCling Creator (Crayola)
You and the kids can unleash your colorful creativity by making your own clings. Comes with 20 ready-to-go molds, or you can use clay (included) to create your own, even-cooler ones. Just squire out your goop, mix your colors (or go with a single color), let it set for a bit, then stick your cling to your wall, door, window, or forehead. Ages 8+. $24.99. Buy it here.
Crayola - light up stamperColor Wonder Mess-Free Light-Up Stamper (Crayola)
Feeling nautical? Grab a kid and use the ten ocean-themed stampers to create your own stories. If you just had a vision of permanent stamps all over your walls, furniture, clothing, and skin, no need to worry. The ink is totally invisible except on special Color Wonder paper. Okay, if the ink’s invisible, how do you know what color you’re stamping? Because the electronic stamper knows which color you’re dipping it in. Does it really matter how? Includes the stamper unit, 12 pages of Color Wonder paper, three markers, and the 10 stamps. Ages 3+. $24.99. Buy it here.
crayola - crayon carverCrayon Carver (Crayola)
Dads and kids can use the motorized engraving machine (batteries required) to personalize and customize their crayons or write messages to each other. Comes with all 26 letters and 14 icons. Ages 6+. $29.99. Buy it here.
crayola - easy animationEasy Animation Studio (Craoyola)
You and the kids can create your very own stop-motion videos. Pick one of ten characters to be the star of your film, and situate him/her/it in one of five backgrounds or take a picture of anything and use that as your background instead! Color it any way you’d like, using any Crayola products. Then, import the whole scene (character plus background) into the free iOS/Android app. Now the fun begins. Grab the mannequin and start posing, snapping pictures of each position. The software smooths everything out, leaving you with a remarkably realistic, kid-created animation. You can even add sound effects and voiceovers. Ages 6+. $24.99. Buy it here.
ido3dIDO3D Art Studio (RedwoodVentures)
IDO3D is a really interesting product that you and your kids may never get tired of. It’s not exactly a 3D printer, but there are some similarities. Say you decide to make a cube. What you do is use the 3D “ink” to draw each side on the included sheet of plastic. Then use the ultraviolet spotlight to dry and harden the ink. Once that’s done, peel your drawings off of the plastic and assemble them to form your cube. If you can imagine it, you can make it, whether it’s a bracelet or other wearable or just a piece of art. All you need is a good idea and plenty of patience. Young kids may become frustrated if they start an overly ambitious project, so encourage them to start with something easy. But tweens and teens (and you too) may spend days creating stunning, elaborate works of art. Ages 8+. Under $25 at Target or your favorite retailer or visit ido3dart.com.
crayola - thread wrapperThread Wrapper (Crayola)
A whole new way of customizing things. Instead of coloring them with crayons or markers, you can wrap them in thread. Tired of using plain pencils? Wrap ’em. Want to jazz up your ear bud cords? Wrap ’em. Searching for a new look for your sunglasses? You get the point. The kit includes the motorized threading unit and six spools of thread–four already colored, two in white so you can use markers to create your own colors. Ages 7+. $24.99. Buy it here.
stikbot studioStikBots (Zing)
Got a budding animator in your home? If so, this is definitely for you (as long as your child is old enough not to put small things in his or her mouth). The idea is pretty simple: kids can pose the cute plastic figures and use the free StikBot Studios app (for iOS or Android only) to create their very own stop-action. Suction cups where hands and feet would be allow the StikBots to do all sorts of neat tricks. The Bots themselves don’t always hold their posed position and the app can be confusing for very little kids, but overall, it’s a really fun way to bring out your child’s creativity. Ages 4+. $9.99 for a kit with two Bots and a tripod. stikbot.toys/

Building

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. laserpegs.com/
fort boardsFort Boards Custom Fort Builder
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. $110. FortBoards.com
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 littleBits.com.
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 LightStax.com
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 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). pinblock.com

Dolls and Huggables

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 vtechkids.com.
cloud b stay asleep buddyStay Asleep Buddies (Cloud b)
Stay Asleep Buddies play music and have a gentle glow from their bellies. Buddies are great for bedtime, naptime, and take-alongs. They stay on only a short period of time, so little ones will be lulled to sleep and you won’t have to tiptoe in and shut off the music. Batteries and an on/off switch are neatly tucked away on the side of the belly, which makes them hard for a child to see and mess with. The hedgehog is just as adorable and snuggly as can be and will be a great help in easing any lingering fears your child has of the dark. $29.95. Buy it at cloudb.com.
cloud b supermaxSuperMax the Turtle (Cloud b)
This adorable turtle, roughly the size of the palm of your hand (but big enough to fill an entire bedroom with a starry night sky), is great for road trips, vacations, or just going to grandma’s for the weekend. SuperMax has three nightlight color options to choose from and has an on/off switch. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s an essential when stowing battery-operated toys in a travel bag, where they have a nasty habit of randomly turning themselves on. And just in case you forget, the lights are on a timer and will shut off automatically. Bottom line: SuperMax is cute, fun, happy, and will help reluctant sleepers get comfortable enough to drift off. $21.95. Buy it at cloudb.com.

Education and Science

INVICTA challenge flash and thunderLeadership Decision Challenge I: Flash & Thunder (INVICTA Challenge)
INVICTA Challenge is absolutely fascinating—and a marvelous way for you and your child to learn about history and leadership. It all starts by putting your child (with dad as an advisor, perhaps) in the role of a real WWII soldier on D-Day—a Native American paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division named Turner Brashears Turnbull. In real life, Turnbull and his platoon held off 10 times their number of Germans during a critical period of the D-Day landings, preventing Nazi reinforcements and saving countless American lives. Your child gets a historically accurate Operations Packet with maps, details about the mission, equipment the soldiers carry, what to look out for, and information on how the Germans fight and what their goals are. Using the Ops Packet, a 108-page graphic novel, and a superbly designed interactive video game and/or app, your child is faced with the same choices Turnbull was. The success or failure of the mission depends on careful reading, observation, strategy, and good decision making. Turnbull’s story is just the first in what the folks at INVICTA (and the folks at Mr. Dad!) hope will be a long series. Future subjects include Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, and Teddy Roosevelt. For boys or girls, ages 8-14. $34.95. Buy it at Barnes & Noble and spend some time at invictachallenge.com.
netflix project mc2 ultimate lab kitProject MC² McKeyla’s Ultimate Lab Kit (MGA Entertainment)
In case you’ve never heard of it, Project MC² is a new, live-action Netflix original series aimed at tweens (mostly girls). The show features super-smart teenage spy McKeyla McAlister and three equally super-smart friends who undertake top-secret missions for an all-female spy organization, NOV8 (Innovate), where they use their love of science to save the world. The Ultimate Lab Kit is filled with cool, educational experiments that you and your very own super-smart tween- or young teen girl will have a blast doing together. The Kit contains 30+ pieces, including a working 4x power microscope, beakers, a petri dish, instructions for 15 STEAM experiments, safety goggles and more. When you’re done (assuming you ever are), it all packs up neatly into an oversized lab “bag.” Ages 10+. $54.99. Buy it here and watch the series on Netflix.
ride along dooey car bedsheetRide Along with Dooey Car Games (Playtime EDventures)
Playtime EDventures creates products that help get kids away from tech and TV, which they are glued to more often than not. Their goal is to make learning fun and encourage interactive activities that allow kids to use their creativity—and that they can do in their room or while traveling in the car. Playtime EDventures works with early childhood education experts and professionals to incorporate standard curricula in reading, math, geography, art, music, nutrition, and much more. Kids can play and learn- having fun the entire time. Right now, the product line includes bed sheets and a car games CD. Hopefully more are on the way. Visit PlaytimeEDventures.com.
silly sensory starter setSilly Sensory Blocks Deluxe Starter Set (Sassy Baby)
If you don’t know Sassy Baby, you don’t know what you–and your baby–are missing. As you know, we’re huge fans of blocks for a variety of reasons: they’re a great way to build hand-eye and small-motor skills; they’re fantastic for developing imagination and creativity; and they’re a wonderful way for dads to spend time with their kids. You can’t do better than this 40-piece set. What truly sets these blocks apart is the Sassy Stay Trays, which take some of the frustration out of stacking for the very youngest builders so they–and you–can focus on what’s really important: building your relationship. $29.99. Buy them here or visit sassybaby.com.
silly sensory vehicle play matSilly Sensory Vehicle Blocks Playmat (Sassy Baby)
Building with blocks is great, but sometimes kids want to go out instead of up. This delightful play mat allows kids (and dads, of course, to incorporate blocks, cars, people, and more. It also encourages storytelling and provides an interactive, fun way to play, learn, and engage with your baby. $29.99. Buy it here or browse sassybaby.com.
whistlefritz Spanish-Ultimate-CollectionSpanish for Kids: The Ultimate Collection (Whistlefritz)
This is a cute video, featuring a little animated mouse as well as a Spanish speaking senorita. It’s really sweet, and has fun and upbeat music that the kids can enjoy while learning a new language. The one drawback is that it’s entirely in Spanish, which can make it a little hard for kids to follow along unless they already speak some Spanish. We worry that the kids might give up too quickly. That said, this Collection would be great to use in conjunction with other Spanish language learning sets. As the kids become more fluent (which shouldn’t take too long), you can use this DVD more regularly. Ages 2-6. $115.00. Buy it at whistlefritz.com.

Fitness and Outdoors

3 in 1 Adventure CourseLil’ Ocean Explorers 3-in-1 Adventure Course (MGA Entertainment)
It’s baby’s first obstacle course–the perfect prep for Marine Corps Boot Camp. The 3 in 1 Adventure Course engages and stimulates your baby as he bounces from one developmental milestone to the next, from crawling to sitting to standing. And it’s a great way for dad to be there, camera in hand, every step (or crawl) of the way. A perfect toy to encourage active play–and a great bonding activity for Dad and baby. $79.99. Buy it here or browse LittleTikes.com.
Perfect Fit Trike 4-in-1Perfect Fit 4-in-1 Trike (MGA Entertainment)
You don’t usually think of a trike as something that grows with your child, but it actually does. In the early days, when your little tyke hasn’t figured out how to steer or pedal, Dad can use the push bar to do both. As the child develops the fine- and gross-motor skills to be able to turn and pedal, you can disconnect the push bar and give her room to make her own decisions. The 4-in-1 Trike is a great way for dads to transition from “I’ll do it for you” to “let me show you” to “I’ll be here if you need me.” Good practice for those teen years. $99.99. Buy it here or browse LittleTikes.com.
air warriors Ultra-Tek SnipeAir Warriors Ultra-Tek Snipe (Buzz Bee Toys)
You and the kids will be impressed with this cool blaster from Buzz Bee. Between the bolt action, the detachable scope and barrel, and everything else, the Ultra-Tek Snipe is more than three feet long and blasts darts up to 72 feet! The dart clip is part of the Ultra-Tek Clip System, so it’s completely interchangeable with the clips from other Ultra-Tek blasters you may have around the house (if you don’t, you really need to get some more). The Snipe comes with the scope, barrel, 10 long-distance soft foam suction darts, and thee and eight-dart clip. Ages 6+. $19.99. Buy it here or visit buzzbeetoys.com.
air warriors Gem 2 PackAir Air Warriors Ultra-Tek Gem 2 Pack (Buzz Bee Toys)
With the Ultra-Tek Gem 2 Pack, there’s no waiting around for your turn on one of the larger blasters. Instead, you’re ready for a one-on-one duel–just you and your kid. The slides pull back easily and the darts load with no problem and advance automatically. So you’ll end up with hours of fast, dart-blasting action that you can enjoy from more than 70 feet apart. You get two blasters and six long distance suction darts. $6.99. Buy here or or visit buzzbeetoys.com.
air warriors Air Max TyrantAir Warriors Air Max Tyrant (Buzz Bee Toys)
Okay, when it comes to dart blasters, this is a beast. First of all, you can hit your target up to 80 feet away. Second, it comes with 20 Air Max suction darts and a 12 dart clip that reloads quickly and easily. Just pull back the slide, which automatically advances the darts, and you’re invincible. The clip is part of the Air Max Clip System, so it’s interchangeable with other Air Max clips from other Air Warriors products. $14.99. Buy here or visit buzzbeetoys.com.
air warriors predatorAir Warriors Predator (Buzz Bee Toys)
A nice intro to blasters. The bolt action makes it easy to operate and the 30-foot range makes it a little more manageable than some of the others (and no, you still shouldn’t shoot things indoors). Comes with a detachable scope, four soft, foam darts, and a secret storage compartment to hold your ammo. $12.99. Buy it here or visit buzzbeetoys.com.
dino hunterz crossbowDinoHunterz CrossBow (Zing)
Dinosaurs are hot again this year–and so are bows and arrows (between “The Hunger Games” movies and the “Arrow” TV show, could it be any other way?) The Dino Hunterz Crossbow encourages active play for both fathers and children. For safety-conscious parents, these crossbows can shoot only suction-cup arrows. Place the arrow hooks through the Crossbow loops and latch onto the pin. Release the safety, pull the trigger and watch the Dino Dartz fly! Sounds a little complicated, but you’ll master it within a minute (your child will do it in 20 seconds). With arrows shooting over 45 feet and a special Dino-scope for supreme accuracy, T-Rex (or Dad) doesn’t stand a chance! Each Dino Hunterz Crossbow comes with three Dino Dartz suction-cup arrows and one Dino Hunterz Crossbow. Ages 8+. $19.99. Buy it here or visit zingtoys.com.
firetek zeon bowFiretek Zeon Bow (Zing)
The Firetek Zeon Bow is a mini version of one of our favorite bows: the Airstorm Firetek. Just two-thirds the size of big bro’, the Zeon launches light-up zarts up to 35 feet (about one third of the Firetek’s 100-foot range). The soft-foam, suction-cup tips make it perfect for indoor play—as long as you’ve put all of your fine China and Ming vases out of reach. Comes with three zarts. Ages 5+. About $14.95. But at Amazon.
madd gear mini drifterMini Drift trike (Madd Gear)
With its solid steel construction, this Drift trike can give dads a measure of confidence that when their kids pull a 360, the bike will hold together (that’s something you can’t say about all drifters). The Mini Drifter’s front wheel has a solid hub (ensuring that nothing will get caught in the spokes) and an inflatable tire (ensuring that it grips the road). But the most important part of any drift vehicle is the rear tires–you want them as smooth as possible so when you yank the handlebars to one side, the rear end will spin out. The Mini Drifter definitely delivers, making it a sure-fire hit for any kid (and his or her proud, camera-toting dads). Please make sure riders always wear a helmet and proper safety gear. Ages 7+. $99.99. Buy it here.

Games

dino popperDinosaur Poppers (Hog Wild)
We’re delighted to welcome the latest additions to Hog Wild’s giggle-inducing Poppers line, which we first discovered in February. Back then, it was the Love Popper, who shot “kisses” to the object of your desire on the other side of the room. Now, it’s dinosaurs. The basic idea remains the same. Load your figure with one of the soft, foam balls, squeeze the figure’s belly, and watch the eggs (or spitballs or whatever you want to call them) fly. There’s a Triceratops, a T-Rex, and even a Pterodactyl that they call a “bird of play.” Depending on how hard you squeeze, you could launch one of those projectiles up to 20 feet, so you may want to do your popping outside. Ages 5+. About $10 at your favorite retailer or hogwildtoys.com.
InnoTVInnoTV (VTech)
If you’re a gamer, trying to get a toddler or preschooler interested in your passion can be a challenge. Here’s where the InnoTV comes in. It features a wireless controller that sports an easy-to-use joy stick, a wheel, and a few colorful buttons. It ships with a few educational games that little kids will love, and there are some excellent two-player games as well (but you’ll have to buy a second controller). All in all, a great way for your little one to acquire some gaming skills in those all-important years before he or she is ready for Call of Duty. Under $60 at Amazon, or visit vtechkids.com.
irish fairy doorIrish Fairy Door (The Irish Fairy Door Company)
This is just about the cutest thing ever. So many kids get caught up in the world of fairies, trolls, and gnomes—thanks in part to current literature, TV shows, and movies. The Irish Fairy Door is such a fun and sweet way to “welcome” the fairies into your home and your imaginations. It’s not only a fun idea; it’s also an ongoing imaginative play experience for the family. Choose your fairy door (and yes, there are colors that are not just traditionally “girly,” so everyone can play), then pick the perfect place for your fairy to live. You can then register your fairy online. There are holiday wall art accessories, clothes lines, and more to spruce up the fairy’s abode should you choose. Don’t overlook the Christmas items, which are perfect for the elves. But this is such endless fun that you and your family will be able to enjoy it all year ‘round. $19.99. theirishfairydoorcompany.com.
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 USAopoly.com.

Home Life

circle of calmThe Circle of Calm (Circle of Calm)
As dads, we want to help our kids be their best possible selves. But one of the biggest challenges for dads (and moms too) is to help a child with mental health issues. The Circle of Calm program was created by Steven Maybruch, a proud dad and psychotherapist. It’s based on the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and is designed to help kids recognize negative, worrisome thoughts and provide a way to interrupt those thoughts before they become entrenched patterns. The program consists of two parts: an ebook that’s designed to so dad can read through it with his child and learn about worrisome thoughts and why they crop up. The second part is a simple silicone wristband that acts as a tangible reminder of how to switch from negative thinking to calming, positive thinking. A great tool to have in your fatherhood arsenal. Ages 7+. $11.99. thecircleofcalm.com.
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. $29.99 at cloudpets.com.
cozy comforts kitchenCozy Comforts Kitchen (American Plastic Toys)
Who says dads can’t be in the kitchen? This ultra-modern kitchen features the latest in realistic kitchen design including: single-cup coffee machine, raised “gas” burner that makes a boiling water sound when pots and pans are placed on it, microwave, refrigerator, oven, toaster, recycling and play bins. Efficiently engineered, the Cozy Comforts Kitchen has eliminated all screws and replaced them with snaps and press fits for easy (and injury-free) assembly. In addition, all of the accessories (plates, cups, forks, knives and spoons, two pieces of toast, muffin tin, pan with lid, touch screen phone, spatula, large spoon, strainer spoon, and strainer) are ready for play; no clipping or trimming required. Best news of all? It’s gender neutral, so everyone can play. Ages 5+. An incredible value at just $35. Buy it here or browse APT’s website.
happy baby wrapHappy Wrap (Happy Baby Wrap)
Babywearing is an easy and effective way for dads to get tons of cuddle and bonding time with baby while boosting those all-important feelings of competence and confidence. These lightweight, breathable wraps have no buckles or rings are one-size-fits-most, so you and the baby-mama can share one wrap. They come in a variety of prints and can safely and ergonomically (translation: less back pain than many baby carriers) support a baby up to 25 pounds. $48-$55. happybabywrap.com.
health stories for kidsHealth Stories for Kids books by Brian Wu (Health Stories for Kids)
The Health Stories for Kids (HSFK) books address family, friendship, and health conditions in a way that makes sometimes-complicated and sometimes-scary topics engaging and accessible to kids and parents alike. In each book, author Brian Wu explores a specific topic through an easy-to-read story with characters kids will identify with. Fort Applegate & the Battle of Wounded Knee talks about the immune system, The Zoo Flu Frenzy talks about the flu, and Emily’s Best Gift Ever deals with new babies. For parents, each book includes tips for caregivers, a glossary, and a resources section. There are a number of other titles, including celiac disease and asthma, all are available on the HSKF website. For ages 8-12. Kids on the upper range can definitely read the books themselves; younger ones might want to read with dad. $2.99 each at Amazon.com.
legend of rangerThe Legend of Ranger, The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly (Opus One Studios)
Ranger is a reindeer who lives in the shadow of his big brother, Rudolph who, as we all know, is the star of the show. Unfortunately, Ranger can’t fly. But that’s not going to stop him from dreaming about being a part of the sleigh team instead of the ground crew. Written by Alan Salisbury and illustrated by Roberta Baird, The Legend of Ranger is a bit too long to be a picture book, but it’s a great length for a winter snuggle in dad’s lap. And the message about the importance of believing in your dreams is a nice one for kids. Ages 3-7. $12.95. Buy it at Amazon or opusonestudios.com
nature's baby shampoo and body washShampoo & Body Wash (Nature’s Baby Organics)
Today’s dads are involved in every aspect of parenting, and bathing the kiddies is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the best jobs ever. Really. But some of the “baby” shampoos and bath products out there have a—there’s no nice way to say this—stench. That’s not a great thing under normal circumstances. And it’s especially unpleasant if anyone in your family is sensitive to scents. Nature’s Baby has figured out a way to clean and moisturize our littlest monsters, leaving them smelling delicious–like coconut and pineapple. Also comes in lavender chamomile and vanilla tangerine. $17.95 for a 16-oz. bottle. naturesbaby.com.
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. sleeperhero.com/
tubby tableTubby Table (Tubby Table Toys)
Why is it that so many of parenthood’s rites of passage involve water? The first one, of course, is learning to bathe a slippery newborn without having him squirt through your fingers. Then, when that baby becomes a toddler and transitions to the full-size tub, there’s figuring out how to keep water (and toys) in the tub and off of the bathroom floor. Tubby Table has got a solution and it’s one of those why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-sooner products. The basic Tubby includes a water wheel, a construction area, cups, and more. You can customize your table with activity mats (sold separately) that feature race cars, tea parties, and zoo animals. Whether you go for the standard version of one of the upgrades, two things are for sure: (1) since you won’t be worrying as much about clean up, the whole bath experience will be a lot more fun for everyone, and (2) never, ever leave your child alone in the tub. Ever. Ages 18+ months. $39.99. tubbytabletoys.com.

On the Road

down range baby diaper bagDown Range Baby “Got Your Six” Diaper Bag (Down Range Baby)
One of the first things you notice about the Down Range Baby (DRB) diaper bag is that it doesn’t look like a diaper bag at all. No floral prints, no fluffy bunnies. That might be enough all by itself to recommend it. But there’s more: DRB is solidly built, has tons of Velcro-closure pockets, and is plenty big enough to carry anything and everything your baby could possibly need. Best of all, once your baby is out of diapers, the DRB bag can easily become a laptop bag, briefcase, or overnight bag. It was created by police officer Jeff Shepard, a guy who loves being a dad and knows–like everyone who’s reading this—that fathering is masculine. Highly recommended. $290. downrangebaby.com.
zoomkitZoomKIT (Kids Go Co)
We all know that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous. But so is turning around to talk to the little ones in the back seat or trying to keep your eye on the road while digging around hoping to find that crayon that one of them dropped on the floor. Designed and developed by a team with more than 40 years of experience in the kids market, ZoomKIT increases car safety by reducing distraction and keeps the kids’ paper, art supplies, and even food in one easy-to-clean area. It also allows kids to be enriched and entertained whether they’re on the go, in a restaurant, or just trying to stay busy in an airport. What could be better than keeping the kids (and, by extension, Dad and Mom) safe, calm, and happy? 18+ months. $49.95. Buy it here or see more at kidsgoco.com.

Last Minute Father’s Day Gift for Neat Freak Dads

dyson v6 absoluteFor the neat-freak dad: Dyson v6 Absolute (Dyson)

You might think your vacuum is fine, but unless you have a Dyson V6 Absolute, it probably isn’t. Most vacuums will either pick up tiny dust or the biggest stuff, but not much in between. This one, well, this one is amazing. It’s only five pounds and cordless, two features that might make you think it’s not very powerful. But you’d be wrong. The Absolute has two heads, including a soft, non-scratching roller so it can handle everything from wood to carpet. It also has a clear canister that’s easy to empty and lets you see all the junk you’re vacuuming up, which makes it easy to retrieve those LEGO pieces. And HEPA filtration cleans a lot of allergens out of the air. Runs for 20 minutes on a charge. $600. http://www.dyson.com

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for Father’s Day 2015

Mr. Dad Seal of Approval

Congratulations to these fine products, which were awarded the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for Father’s Day 2015. 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 2015 Fall and Holiday seasons.

Art, Crafts, and Beyond

alex toys cobra bandsDIY Cobra Bands (Alex Toys)
Got a boy who likes to make things but is having a hard time finding cool stuff aimed at him? Or is it more of an “ugh-crafts-are-for-girls” problem? The truth is that quite often, crafts and craft kits do tend towards the pink and sparkly. Honestly, not that many boys are going to be into making earrings and BFF picture frames. So what’s a crafty boy to do? Well, Alex, one of our favorite brands for all-things-artistic, has a kit that includes everything boys could possibly want to make their own cobra bands (basically bracelets, but in male-friendly colors and styles, and uber-boyish buckles). There are instructions to follow (a handy skill) and new knot-tying techniques to learn (if the Boy Scouts do it, it must be masculine, right?), including the dangerously attractive cobra knot. Even boys who aren’t particular craft-oriented will enjoy this one. $18. Age 6+. @alextoys http://www.alextoys.com

crayola color aliveColor Alive Action Coloring Pages (Crayola)
Recent research has found that coloring books can help adults de-stress and improve creativity. Yes, adults. So if you’ve been avoiding coloring with your kids because it seems so immature, get over it and make coloring a regular family activity. You’ll have a ton of fun. Color Alive Action Coloring Pages combines traditional coloring and technology in a very clever way. There are several Color Alive books: Barbie, Skylanders, Enchanted Forest, and Mythical Creatures. All have 16 pages and include seven crayons and one special effects crayon that unlocks special features. Start by coloring a page any way you want. Then scan the character with the free app (available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices), tap the 4D button, and your character nearly jumps right off the page. Kids and dads can interact with characters, take pictures (even selfies) with them, and save their unique creations for later. When you’ve burned through the original 16 pages (now that you know how much fun coloring with your kids can be, that’ll happen pretty soon), you can download more from inside the app. $6.49 for each book. Ages 4. @Crayola http://www.crayola.com/

Alex Hair ChalkGuy Gear Awesome FX Hair Chalk (Alex Toys)
Who says boys can’t color their hair? Certainly not Alex Toys. Their line of gear for guys is aimed squarely at school-age boys (and dads) who aren’t afraid to buck fashion trends. Getting ready for Crazy Hair Day? Want to try out a Mohawk without cutting any hair? Want to wear your favorite team’s colors? This hair chalk is just the ticket. It goes on easily and, best of all, washes out with shampoo (getting your child in the shower is up to you). Comes with six chalk pens (none of which are pink) and an instruction book/style guide. Ages 8+. $12.50. @alextoys http://www.alextoys.com/

 

light up trace case alex toys
Light Up Trace Case (Alex Toys)
Definitely a great toy for kids who love to draw. Actually, “toy” may not be the right word. Perhaps “art product” would be more accurate. Whatever you call it, this item is very cool for both boys and girls. The Trace Case itself is a child-ified version of the kind of light table that adult artists use to trace. It comes with 25 preprinted backdrops and 15 acetate drawing sheets with a huge variety of heads, bodies, eyes, and other stuff that your young artist can “mash up” to create his or her very own silly cartoon character. It’s fun, easy to do, and is a great way for kids to flex their creativity while learning some basic drawing principles at the same time. Requires 3 AA batteries. $35. Ages 5+. @alextoys http://www.alextoys.com

 

Building

citiblocs 200 piece setCitiBlocs 200-Piece Natural-Colored Building Blocks (CitiBlocs)
It’s hard to get more basic that this, but it’s also hard to find a toy that will enchant you and your children for longer periods of time. Bottom line: this set is awesome. There is something here for absolutely everyone, regardless of age, experience, or building ability. This set comes with a nice building guide that has illustrations of a bunch of creations to try: towers, ships, dragons, a whole town, and more. Of course the guide is nothing more than suggestions. You and your little engineer will learn about building, balance, cantilevers, and much more. Don’t be surprised if your child starts talking about wanting to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright or Julia Morgan. $60. Age 3+. @alextoys Poof-slinky.com

 

build & imagine day at the beach Day at the Beach (Build & Imagine)
With all the talk about the importance of STEM skills, building with our kids becomes more important every day. And while we don’t hear as much about them, cooperation, creativity, and imagination are way high up on the list of skills our children will need to succeed. Build & Imagine’s Day at the Beach kit gives dads and kids a wonderful opportunity to work on those things at pretty much the same time. All of the pieces in the kit—including two dolls (Lucas and Emily), walls, ceilings, clothes, pets, accessories—are magnetic, which means you can easily create any scenario you want, depending on the details of the story you and your daughter spin together. Sipping umbrella drinks by the pool could quickly turn to panic when a tsunami hits, wiping out all the buildings. But some of the pieces will undoubtedly float to nearby islands where scrappy survivors can rebuild. And even if you don’t have to deal with a natural disaster, the magnets make cleaning up (or having the characters clean up) a warm, ocean breeze. Several other water-themed sets are available: Marine Rescue Center and Malia’s Beach House. $39. Ages 4+. @buildandimagine http://www.buildandimagine.com

imagination supply diy go kartDIY Go Kart (Imagination Supply Co.)
If there’s one stereotypical dad-child activity, it’s building. And what’s more fun for a child than to build something with dad and then be able to play with it? If you agree—and even if you don’t—you and your child will have a blast putting this go kart together. The kit is made of wood and requires absolutely no tools to assemble. Besides building confidence and helping with manual dexterity, spatial reasoning, and problem solving, the plain wood pieces are just begging to be painted, drawn on, stickered, and customized any other way possible. Truly STEAM in action. Ages 7+. $24.99. @imaginesupplyco http://www.imaginationsupply.co

keva brain bender juniorKEVA Brain Builders, Junior (MindWare)
KEVA is one of the lowest-tech toys available, but also one of the most versatile, most educational, most mind-expanding, and most fun. But while master builders (and their dads) may have a few thousand KEVA planks in boxes all over the house, that can be a little intimidating to the novice builder. And sometimes having endless possibilities (which is what you have with KEVA) can be panic-inducing. This set, with just 20 planks, is a perfect way for someone who’s just getting started and maybe needs a little inspiration and confidence building. It comes with pics of recognizable objects (flower, snake, towers, and more) and instructions for how to take those 2D images and turn them into 3D reality. Plus, it all neatly packs up in a zippered carrying case. $15.95. Ages 5+. @mindwaretoys. http://www.mindware.com

moulin roty large toolboxLarge Tool Kit (Moulin Roty)
If you enjoy woodworking and using tools and you want your child to share your interest, you‘ll absolutely love this tool kit. The “wow!” factor starts even before you get to the tools: the wooden storage box is well-made, with nice clasps and a solid handle, and has a familiar, retro feel (plus you get to learn how to say “toolbox” and “toys of yesterday for today’s children” in French). Before you open the box, get your camera ready so you can capture the wide-eyed, open-mouthed joy on your child’s face. Inside, you’ll find a variety of fully functional, child-sized tools (no plastic here), including a hammer, philips and regular screwdrivers, piers, t-square, ruler (with metric measurements), c-clamp, sanding block, and more. Some of the tools are less-than-fully functional: the saw, chisel, and planer are dull, which is a good thing and emphasizes that adult supervision is required when using any tools. $75. Ages 8+. @bonjourpetitUS http://www.bonjourpetit.com

modarriModarri Cruzer and Camo (Modarri)
Racecars are not just for boys, and neither is building them! Designed by three dads, Modarri cars (we tested the Cruzer and the Camo models) can be configured and reconfigured in a variety of ways. And when you own more than one model, you can mix and match to your heart’s desire, swapping elements of the chassis, hood, seat pan, seats, fenders, frame, and wheels. There’s a lot here for dads to love. First, introducing your kids to the idea of working with their hands is a great way to spend time together. Second, speaking of hands, these cars come with a real suspension, which makes it really fun to steer your Modarri through the tightest loops and hairpin turns using only your thumb and index finger. $20. Ages 6+ @modarri_cars http://www.modarri.com

zoob galax-zZOOB Galax-Z Z-Star Explorer (Alex Toys)
The ZOOB Galax-Z Z-Star Explorer is completely out of this world. Really! This kit is massive, and comes with 304 ZOOB pieces, engine shells, domes, tail wings, blasters, support beams, cockpits, turbines, and two helmeted Zoobonauts to man your vehicles. You and your future astronaut will be able to build some truly amazing space ships and saucers to explore outer space, infinity, and beyond. The kit also includes detailed instructions for how to build a Drifter, Light Speeder, Cosmic Craft, or Z Star Explorer, but you and the kids will have just as much fun creating your own vehicles. ZOOB products encourage kids (and those who put a roof over their head) to use their imagination, create, design, and, when necessary, follow instructions. There’s plenty to learn here, and even more fun to be had. We love it, and you will too. The box is reusable for storage as long as you don’t tear it apart getting it open—so don’t do that. $150. Age 8+. @alextoys http://poof-slinky.com/

 

Dolls and Puppets

moulin roty dinosaur shaadow puppetDinosaur Night Time Shadows (Moulin Roty)
Most of us have made shadow puppets, either for our own amusement or for our kids. But, honestly, how many do you know how to make? We’re guessing four or five: a bunny for sure, a dog, a horse, a bird, and maybe a swan. Those are great, but a little limiting. What if your story really needs a T-Rex or a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus? If you’ve got Moulin Roty’s Dinosaur Night-time Shadows, you can easily add a little pre-historic adventure to your bedtime routine. Actually, why limit your daddy-child bonding to bedtime? You can use these nicely detailed, laser-cut silhouettes anytime, anywhere. Other themes include Castle, Circus, and Paris Rooftops. $18.50. Ages 3+. @bonjourpetitUS http://www.bonjourpetit.com

moulin roty penguin dad and baby puppetHand Puppets (Trudi/Magicforest, Ltd.)
Although this line of adorable, plush hand puppets by Trudi is officially called Mama & Baby, it could just as well be Papa & Baby. Our first reaction when seeing these puppets was, “Awwww.” They are absolutely irresistible. And the fact that they’re incredibly soft just adds to the charm. There’s something about puppets—perhaps more than any other toy—that allows parents glimpses into what’s really going on in their children’s head. That’s in part because there’s something about puppets that helps kids “tell” us things they might not be able—or want—to verbalize. The daddy puppets are easily operated by dad or child; same for the baby finger puppets. But whether you’re doing a deep dive into your child’s head or you’re just having some good, old-fashioned make believe, your whole family is going to be spending a lot of time with Trudi. These puppets come in four styles: Hen, Penguin, Owl, Koala, and they’re all machine washable. Ages 3+. $25. @bonjourpetitUS http://www.bonjourpetit.com

 

Education and Science

Clifford water scienceClifford Water Science (The Young Scientists Club)
Of all the childhood age groups, preschoolers are by far the most curious–and many of their questions have to do with science: Why is the sky blue? How old are rocks? Why do boats float but rocks sink? Unfortunately, most kids don’t start learning about science until they hit kindergarten or 1st grade. Enter Clifford Water Science (part of an extensive line of science kits), which will turn your preschooler into a scientist. It starts with the 20-page manual, which is narrated by a spunky kid named Emily Elizabeth. She introduces a whole series of engaging, educational, and fun water-based experiments. You and your child will learn about floating and sinking, the water cycle, how to make rain, suction, and some very cool things you can do with celery. Comes with a measuring cup, pipette (a little dropper), chromatography paper, and test tubes—everything but the celery. Ages 3+. $19.99. @TYSclub http://www.theyoungscientistsclub.com

Mirari Flip Flop ABC BlocksMirari Flip Flop ABC Blocks (Patch Products)
As kids, most of us had ABC blocks, but you’ve never seen any like these. On one side of these clear plastic cubes is a bold, colorful letter. Turn it around, and dancing on a string inside is an adorable animal or object that starts with the same letter (unicorn for U, star for S, grapes for G, and so on). There’s also a magnetic “magic wand” that your toddler can use to control the figures. Flip Flop blocks are incredibly engaging (for adults and kids) and they’re great for building fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and of course, letter recognition (who knew that learning the alphabet could induce so many giggles?) They also introduce the concept of cause and effect. Our only complaint is that not all of the letters have a corresponding figure (the ones that don’t feature a dancing letter instead). 12 months+. $49.99. @PatchProducts http://www.patchproducts.com/

gelly wigglers scientific explorerGelly Wiggle Bugs (Scientific Explorer)
Remember “Creepy Crawlers”—those realistic, wiggly bugs that you created by squirting some kind of mystery goop into metal molds that you baked in a little oven (usually burning and scarring yourself in the process)? Okay, well Scientific Explorer’s Gelly Wiggle Bugs are kind of like that—except that you can skip the burning-flesh part of the process. Instead, you mix powders and water, pour the concoction into molds, and let them set for the allotted time. Then, voila! You’ve got yourselves some colorful bugs. The instructions say to keep your creations in the airtight container, since they’re basically gelatin. We didn’t follow those instructions and our bugs shrank to about half their original size. But it’s pretty hard to play with the bugs while they’re in their container, so we stand by our choice. $12.99. Ages 6+. Okay for younger kids as long as you make sure they don’t eat the bugs, which look a lot like gummies or Jell-O Jigglers. @alextoys. Poof-slinky.com

i-mat animal worldi-Mat My Animal World (Creative Baby, Inc.)
When we first got this product, we were a little hesitant. Do toddlers really need technology in everything they do? But after trying it out, we’re big fans, in part because the tech part is a nice-to-have option, not a must-have one. The mat itself consists of four 2’x2’ pieces that you put together to create a 4’x4’ soft mat that’s covered with illustrations of 50 animals from all over the world. The name of each animal is in a speech bubble above it. You and your baby can roll around on the mat and you can have him or her name various animals or make the appropriate noise; no tech needed. But if you want to go further, break out the “voice pen.” Turn it on, pick a language (English, Spanish, or Chinese), and when your child touches the pen to any of the animals, the pen says the animal’s name and makes its noise (don’t worry—all the electronics are in the pen). There are also two games: one where the pen asks the child to locate a particular animal by name, the other where the quest is to find the animal by its sound. Your toddler will love it, and happy baby = happy daddy. 18 months +. $79.99. 18 months+. @USACreativeBaby. https://www.creativebabyinc.com

lazer bug vacLazer Light Bug Vac and Bug Watch (Backyard Safari)
A bug vacuum? It’s not as weird as it sounds. Kids like bugs and other creepy crawlies that they find in the dirt or elsewhere. The vacuum gently sucks the bugs into an observation chamber where you and your budding entomologist can study them. From there, you can either release your tiny friends back into the wild or transfer them to the “bug watch” (a slightly smaller observation chamber that’s worn on the wrist) for closer examination. The lazer (spelled that way to indicate that it’s not a real laser) illuminates those bugs in the dark, dank places that bugs like to hide and kids like to find them. What a great way for you and your child to get a close-up view of nature. Be gentle—bugs outnumber us and they have lots and lots of friends…. This toy, er, science equipment, needs 4 AA batteries. $34.99. Ages 5+. @alextoys http://www.backyardsafari.com/

petra's planet
Petra’s Planet (Dramaforum)

Petra’s Planet is an online, virtual world where kids can learn and explore different parts of the globe and learn about cultures, animals, and more. Petra herself is a curious, good-hearted 7-year old girl. One day, while exploring a wardrobe at the theatre where her Mother works, Petra discovers a magical way to travel around the world. She dresses up in different costumes and has amazing adventures with her new friends. She discovers exciting countries and learns about their cultures while helping her new friends with all kinds of problems that they might have. Petra’s Planet is a warm, wonderful way for dads to encourage their children to develop an appreciation for the world around them. The on-line world is safe—and free—for everyone. There are premium memberships that unlock additional content and features. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.99 per month. @PetrasPlanetEDU http://www.petrasplanet.com

alex ready set shapesReady, Set, Shapes! (Alex Toys Little Hands)
A really fun way for dads and kids to explore colors and shapes. There are actually several ways to enjoy this kit. First, use the geometrically-shaped ink stamps and stickers to create anything you want. Second, use your creation to encourage your child to see shapes in everyday objects. If you look for them, squares, circles, rectangles, and diamonds are everywhere. Hey, It’s a great way to get your preschooler ready for high-school-geometry. Ages 4+. $17.99. @alextoys http://www.alextoys.com/

 

 

 

science explosion young scientists clubThe Magic School Bus Science Explosion (The Young Scientists Club)
The Magic School Bus has a long history of making science accessible, fun, and memorable for kids—and plenty of adults. We’ve reviewed a lot of their products and they never disappoint. Science Explosion is actually two games in one. The first is a matching game; the second is a little harder and involves strategy and critical thinking. Both expose players of all ages to nature, physics, chemistry, biology, and more. Move your pawns through the board, passing challenges as you go. First one to the end gets to explode the volcano. Magic School Bus provides the education, you provide vinegar, baking soda, and the players. The combination is a recipe guaranteed to turn learning about science into a real blast. $29.99. Ages 5+. @TYSclub http://www.theyoungscientistsclub.com

 

Fitness and Outdoors

air hogs sky stunt jetAir Hogs Sky Stunt Jet (Spin Master, Ltd.)
The Sky Stunt is a great plane for dads and kids to fly together, but it’s not for complete novices. At least one participant should have some experience with RC planes or helicopters. Yes, Dad, there’s a good chance that you’ll be taking lessons from your child. But if the goal is to spend time together, does it really matter who’s teaching whom? We think not. You launch the Sky Stunt by throwing it into the wind and once you get the hang of the controls you can start experimenting with banks and stalls. And when you’re ready to get your daredevil on, push the red stunt button and hope for the best. Having the ducted fan (which, for those who don’t know, means that the fan—aka propeller—is inside a cylinder) right below the fuselage protects the blades from damage. Given that you’re going to be doing a lot of crashing at first, that’s a good thing. $49.99. Ages 10+. @SpinMaster http://www.airhogs.com

cotton canvas teepee pacific play tentsCotton Canvas Teepee (Pacific Play Tents)
Got a little one who loves the Old West? There’s no better way to live out your fantasies than with this awesome cotton and canvas teepee. It assembles in minutes (a little longer if the kids are helping), and once it’s up, it stands a full eight feet tall and is big enough inside to accommodate one dad, a couple of kids, and a dog. There’s a mesh window so kids can watch out for bad guys (or know when to attack if they happen to be the bad guys. Hey, you’ve got to be ready for anything. There’s also a Velcro opening, which makes comings and goings easy and, because sometimes you’ve gotta ditch the sheriff, right? When you‘re done, you can either take the teepee apart and store it in the cool bag it comes in, or you can just “hug it” closed and put it into a corner until you until the great outdoor calls again, which will be in about an hour. $246.99. @PacPlayTents http://www.pacificplaytents.com

razor delta wing scooterDelta Wing Scooter (Razor)
Let’s face it: some kids who want to ride on scooters don’t always have a great sense of balance. That, in turn, can leave them less-then-completely confident in their ability to ride. Here’s where the Razor Delta Wing comes in. It’s sort of a V-shape and the rider puts one foot on each of the wings and holds on to the handlebars that are on a post that comes out of the apex of the V (it’s easier to see this in the picture to the left). You don’t need to be able to balance, and you move it by wiggling your booty side to side. Yes, you’ll look a bit odd, but it’s a hell of a workout for the legs, thighs, and butt. One of our young testers loved, loved, loved the Delta Wing—more than his bike, his scooter, or his roller skates. And he was always up to go for a ride—even on hot days. The Delta Wing handles well, brakes quickly and easily, and is a smooth ride. Does it get any better than that? Always wear a helmet and other safety gear. $90. Age 6+. @RazorWorldwide http://www.razor.com

razor ground force drifter furyGround Force Drifter Fury (Razor)
Kids don’t have a license but they’re still after the coolest wheels in town? No prob. The Razor Ground Force Drifter Fury is the most awesome go-kart-on-steroids that you’ve ever seen, with speeds up to 12 miles per hour (so don’t forget your helmet). The kart comes pretty much assembled and what little there is to do is quite simple. The Fury comes with rechargeable batteries that last up to 40 minutes of continuous use. It also has a flag, spark bar (how cool is that?), and hand operated rear brakes. Once you get the hang of it (which isn’t hard), you’ll be able to do some very cool tricks with the Fury. And by “you,” we actually do mean “you”—but only after you’ve given the kids a turn. There’s supposedly a 140-pound weight limit, but at Toy Fair earlier this year, we saw a full-grown man really working it, and he weighed quite a bit more than 140. You and your kids will have an incredible amount of fun with this thing. Just make sure your camera or phone is fully charged because the Fury is made to be shared on social media. Owner’s manual included. $350. Ages 8+. @RazorWorldwide http://www.razor.com

VTech kidzoom action cameraKidizoom Action Camera (VTech)
Action cameras are pretty hot right now, and for good reason: it’s really fun to get those action shots and footage. And the Kidizoom is built to capture every bit of action your little ones can get into. The camera comes with two mounts and a waterproof case so the kids can strap it to a bike, a skateboard, a helmet, or just about anything they can think of. As we all know, kids aren’t always going to get the mounting right, but that’s okay, since Kidizoom is durable enough to take a tumble. Whether you’re capturing their first rafting trip, learning to ride a bike, or just a hike through the woods, this is the perfect all-around camera for kids. It’s easy to set up, easy to operate, and, best of all, will make sure you don’t miss any of those precious memories. $60. Ages 4+. @vtechtoys http://www.vtechkids.com

crayola outdoor colorfoamOutdoor Colorfoam (Crayola)
When I was little, one really hot day my dad had me and my sisters strip down to our underwear and we went into the backyard and painted each other. The fact that I so vividly remember that day decades later is a testament to how much fun it was. Painting your kids or having them paint you is just one of the delightfully fun things you can do with Crayola’s new Outdoor Colorfoam. Just attach the nozzle (included), and spray away. Works on walls, dirt, grass, sidewalks, possibly even the dog (but be careful of the eyes). The foam easily washes off or disappears over time. But the memories of the fun and the laughter will last a lifetime. $3.99, Ages 4+. @Crayola http://www.crayola.com/

razor jr. mini modRazor Jr. Mini Mod (Razor)
Razor is all about getting kids and adults outside and moving. The Mini Mod, part of the company’s Razor Jr. line, is a great introduction to motorized scooters and gives toddlers a chance to zip around in style (“zip around” is a relative term, since the max speed is 2 MPH). Mini Mod is very stable and moves only when the foot pedal is pushed. More important, it stops moving when the pedal is released. Comes with a rechargeable battery that allows for about 40 minutes of continuous riding, and will take you 10-15 minutes to put together. At 2 MPH, it’s doubtful that anyone could get hurt, but make sure your little one always wears a helmet and stays out of the street and away from potential falls (I wish we didn’t have to say that, but you can’t go a month without hearing about a child who was injured or killed in a completely preventable accident). $70. Ages 3+, up to 44 pounds.@RazorWorldwide http://Toysrus.com

Crayola Sidewalk Chalk Mega PackSidewalk Chalk Mega Pack (Crayola)
Crayola’s sidewalk chalk doesn’t have much science behind it, which means it can focus on what Crayola does best: giving kids tools to make colorful art. The Mega Pack includes 12 large chalk pieces: 3 neon, 3 glitter, 3 tie dye, and 3 basic bold colors. No instructions required. The chalk itself is especially easy to clean up—just hose it off—a big plus if your neighbors are persnickety about their sidewalks. Unlike most other sidewalk chalks, these pieces aren’t cylindrical, which means they won’t go rolling down your driveway into the street—with your child running after it. Ages 6+. $10. @Crayola http://www.crayola.com/

 
backyard sports sonic boom batSonic Boom Bat (Backyard Sports)
There’s something magical about the crack of a baseball meeting a bat. It’s a sound that every fan wants to hear and that every player, regardless of age, wants to make. The Sonic Boom bat has a large, hollow barrel (called the “sonic boom chamber”) that makes it easy for young players to connect with the ball (one is included). The chamber also produces that major-league home run sound with every hit. Baseball bats are among the lowest-tech playthings available, but Backyard Sports has managed to incorporate a bit of technology. The bat has a small display that generates QR codes that players can scan to unlock parts of a free online game and power up in-game characters. The more you hit, the more codes you get. Ages 5+. $27.99. @Official_BYS https://www.backyardsports.com

 

Games

mindware animal trivia challengeAnimal Trivia Challenge (MindWare)
Think you know animals? Wanna bet? How far can an owl turn its head? How many gallons of saliva does a horse produce every day? Rank reindeer, moose, and elk by the size of their antlers. The play format is pretty basic: roll a die and make your way from Start to Finish, answering questions to advance and avoiding nasty predators that will make you go back. Questions come in three categories: “Know It” cards ask multiple-choice and true/false questions. “Name It” cards have you identify an animal from a photo. And “Rank It” has you order a list of animals based on something like speed or antler size. Some board games turn into bored games when the questions are too easy for the adults or too hard for the kids. With Animal Trivia Challenge, there are always two options: Beginner or Advanced, so everyone will be challenged, learn a lot, and have a wild time together. $24.95. 2-4 players ages 7+. @MindWareToys http://www.mindware.com

attila blue orange gamesAttila (Blue Orange Games)
Just about a year ago, we reviewed Battle Sheep, another strategy game from Blue Orange. Like Battle Sheep, Attila is deceptively simple, allowing you to set up your pawns (in this case they’re knights) anywhere you like on a multi piece game board that you and your opponent also set up however you’d like. And as with Battle Sheep, the goal is to block in your opponent. Seems pretty simple—there are only a few pieces (all of which move just like knights do in chess: two squares up and one over, or two over and one up) and the board is so small. But don’t be fooled. This game takes a lot of planning, strategy, and spatial reasoning. Thinking that being taller and making more money than your child assures you of victory is a big mistake. But win or lose, Attila is a great one-on-one game that you and your child will want to do over and over. $15.99. Age 7+. @BlueOrangeGames http://www.amazon.com

idel dominate sliding gameDominate: The Sliding Game (Ideal)
This is a fast-paced, two-player game that’s easy to learn, but presents a new challenge every time you play. Here’s how it works. Players each have a set of 17 tiles emblazoned with a piece of road, straight or curved. Arrange them in six columns, any way you want on your side of the board. Then, in the middle, lay out the six orange tiles—each with a shape on in—randomly. One player rolls the dice (one die has numbers, the other shapes). Now, both players frantically slide their tiles around trying to create a path from the column that matches the number on the die to the shape on the other die. First one with a path wins. The whole thing takes two minutes max, but you won’t want to stop after one round. Play best of seven or nine or 21 or any other odd number. This is a great test of spatial reasoning, strategy, planning, and quick thinking. Be prepared, Dad: kids are almost always better at this than we are. $29,95. Ages 8+. http://poof-slinky.com

leapsandlegends2Leaps and Ledges (MindWare)
Another winning game from MindWare, this one combining strategy and luck in a very frustrating way. Just when your plan is coming together, when you’ve got your pawns in the perfect position, you’ve blocked your opponents’, and you’re on the brink of victory, some crazy thing happens that turns your plan on its head and sends you back to square one. That balance of luck and strategy makes Leaps and Ledges a great game to play with kids of different ages. In a lot of games, your age and wisdom will outweigh your kids’ youth and inexperience. Leaps and Ledges manages to level the playing field in a way that leaves you with no choice but to snort, giggle, and generally have a good time. For 2 to 4 players, ages 8+. $29.95 @mindwaretoys http://www.mindware.com

inroad play tapeThomas & Friends Track PlayTape (InRoad Toys)
Most dads—and some moms—have fond childhood memories of playing with cars and trains, and of creating long, meandering stretches of track or roadway all over the house. Cleaning up, however, wasn’t nearly as fun. And we can all still remember the profanity-laced yelps whenever mom or dad stepped on a piece of leftover track (or a leftover train or car) in the middle of the night. Now, along comes InRoad Toys with their new PlayTape, which makes you wonder why no one had thought of it before. PlayTape is essentially a roll of roughly 2-inch wide tape imprinted with a pattern of either a roadway or a railroad track. It sticks to most flat surfaces, you can run in anywhere you want, and if you decide to move it, it comes up easily without leaving any gunk behind. Best of all, you can step on it all night long without doing long-term damage to the soles of your feet or teaching your kids any new words. PlayTape comes in a variety of lengths, widths, colors, and roadway styles. $7.99 to $14.99. Ages 3+. @InRoadToys http://www.inroadtoys.com

Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 Q-BA-MAZE 2.0 (MindWare)
Whether you’re a huge marble maze fan or you’ve never heard of them, there’s something wonderfully engaging about Q-BA-MAZE 2.0. On the most basic level, it’s a construction set consisting of colorful cubes that you can interlock to create just about any shape you want. Each cube has one of three tunnel-like holes designed to let a marble pass through. Some of those holes go straight through from top to bottom. Some go in the top, then turn 90 degrees and exit through a side. And others go in the top and have two side exits. The general idea is to build your maze so you can drop a marble in at the top and have it come out the bottom. How you do that is up to you and your child, but whatever you do, you’ll be using plenty of spatial reasoning and artistic juices. The real magic happens when you use the double-exit cubes, making it so you never know for sure which way the marble will go (kind of like Pachinko, if you’re familiar with that insanely popular Japanese game). The double-exit cubes introduce an element of probability into the mix: what are the odds that the marble will go to the right or the left? If you put in more double-exits, how does each one change the odds? You and your child can build identical structures and race, or build one together and try to get your marbles to go in certain directions. Either way, it’s a great way to spend time with the kids—and that’s what it’s all about, right? $39.95. Ages 6+ @mindwaretoys. http://www.mindware.com

Home Life

batter worldBatter World (Batter World)
Weekend mornings are for lazy breakfasts, comics, and coffee (okay, maybe juice) with the family. But what if that lazy morning turns into a mad rush, or you decide that you want that Sunday breakfast experience on a Tuesday? If pancakes are on your menu, Batter World can make your life a little (or a lot) easier. Batter World is pre-made batter that comes in ready-to-use pouches that you keep in the freezer and thaw out the night before you need them. Open the cap, pour out what you need, re-cap, and put it back in the fridge ‘til next time (you’ll need to use it within a week or so). The package is so easy to handle that young children can actually help out. Comes in three varieties: original, multigrain, and gluten free. All are delicious (not an easy task for gluten free, which, all too often, manages to be taste free as well). $5.99 for original and multigrain; $6.99 for gluten free. @Batter_World http://www.batterworld.com/

pediatrics for parents newsletterPediatrics for Parents (Rich Sagall, M.D.)
With all the time we spend talking about the amazing benefits of playing with our kids, we sometimes forget that there’s a lot more to being a dad. One of the most important things (arguably more important than playing) we can do is to make sure our kids are as healthy as possible. That means going to as many pediatrician visits as we can and reading great dad books. Pediatrics for Parents is a terrific monthly newsletter that’s chock full of interesting articles on an amazing variety of topics—all written in perfectly understandable English. Editor Rich Sagall takes what he describes as a “commonsense approach to childhood health care,” and he stresses “preventative action, accident prevention, when to call the doctor and when and how to handle a situation at home.” http://www.pedsforparents.com

jahgoo weepotWeePot (Jahgoo)
Let’s get this out of the way up front: moms can help toilet train boys, and dads can help girls. But having a same-sex teacher makes it a little easier, especially for boys, who have different routines for Number 1 and Number 2. Number 1 can actually present a bigger challenge because of the aiming and splashing factors. WeePot has a whole new take on potty training for boys that reduces both problems by encouraging boys to, as their slogan goes, “pee like a wee man.” It’s also—considering what it is—a rather stylish bathroom addition. But back to Number 1. The idea is really rather simple. Find the right height for your son, then attach the device to your bathroom wall in seconds using a powerful suction cup (no holes to drill). Make sure he sees the small target. A few years ago, cleaners in Amsterdam’s airport noticed that when they put an image of a fly on the inside of their urinals, the surrounding floors were about 80% dryer. Apparently, we’re a lot more careful when we’ve got something to aim at. Laugh if you must, but WeePot turns peeing into what it’s truly meant to be: a wonderful father-son bonding experience. Ages 2+. $19.99. http://www.babiesrus.com

worry eaters haywire groupWorry Eaters (They Haywire Group)
Got a kid who won’t sleep due to nightmares? Or maybe it’s those first-day-of-summer-camp jitters, or the fact that mom is having a new baby, or even just the stress of learning to use the potty. Or it could be something that seems like nothing to you but is a huge deal to your child—it’s a big, bad world out there and kids worry about a whole lot of things. Enter Worry Eaters, adorable, plush, flat-ish toys that kids can snuggle with and confide in. Better yet, these little guys snack on worries! So have your child tell the Worry Eater what he’s worried about, or have her write it down (or you can help with that part if she can’t write yet) and let the Worry Eater chow down. Boom, worry gone! (Burp). Listening in on those conversations may give you some important insight into what your kiddo is fretting about. Sometimes kids will tell their inanimate pals things they won’t tell us. Here’s a thought: wouldn’t you like a new snuggle buddy who can keep your worries at bay? So why not get a big one and a little one, and you and your child can both sleep better tonight. Prices vary by size and model. Ages 2+. @haywiregroup http://www.haywiregroup.com

Music and Video

baby-manual-dvd-with-discs-large“The Baby Manual” Movie (Parent Education Media)
Co-created by a new dad in search of answers, this is a concise, entertaining, visual tutorial that deals with just about everything new parents will face. You’ll see and hear from real families with real problems, as well as from a wide variety of experts, including baby sleep coaches, pediatricians, lactation consultant, CPR instructors, and many others. $59.99. @BabyManualMovie https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thebabymanual (enter code “FREE” to watch)

kidzgear headset+splitterDeluxe Stereo Headset Headphones with Boom Microphone (Kidz Gear)
I’ve never been too keen on loaning out my headsets to other people—even my own kids. Could be because of the various lice scares we’ve been through. Or because I don’t want my rather expensive equipment to get trashed. But whatever the reason, I think everyone in the family should have their very own set. And even if I didn’t have a problem sharing, most adult headsets are usually too big for little kids. These kid-sized headsets solve all of those problems: They fit smaller heads, their over-the-ear pads are so comfortable that your child won’t want to borrow yours anyway, and they’re reasonably priced. Kidz Gear headphones have “KidzControl Volume Limit Technology” which, as you might guess from the name, keeps the volume well below danger levels. And the boom mic, makes it perfect for interactive game, learning languages, or just talking on the phone. These headsets ship with a nice headphone splitter cable which lets you plug two headphones into one jack so you and your child can snuggle up and watch or listen to something together. Available in a variety of colors. Ages 8+. $29.99. @KidzGear https://www.gearforkidz.com/

let's boogie rock 'n' rainbowLet’s Boogie! (Rock ‘n’ Rainbow)
Let’s Boogie! is a CD full of songs about the joys of getting outdoors and being active. And just a few notes into the first song, “I Like to Ride My Bike,” you and your kids will be up and dancing (or out riding your bikes). Other activity-inducing songs include “Let’s Boogie” and “I Can’t Fly” (which goes on to say, “But I can jump like a kangaroo”). The band members are, quite literally, a colorful bunch: Lady Red, Blue Elvis, Purple Stardust, Doctor Orange, and Mellow Yellow. You may find their goofy antics to be a little much, but if your children are anywhere from 4 to 6, they’ll love the pure childishness and you’ll eventually give in–with a big smile on your face. “Everybody Farts,” with lyrics that include, “I’m farting in the morning time/I’m farting when the night time comes/I’m farting in the pouring rain/and I’m farting in the sun,” is guaranteed to get everyone in the house (except maybe mom) giggling. $14.97 for the CD, $9.99 as a download. Ages 3+. @RocknRainbow http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rocknrainbow

Parenting During the Holidays after Divorce: Naughty or Nice?

A guest post from Angie Hallier

The holidays can be a rough time for divorced families. Traditions that were established for the family during the marriage inevitably change. One parent may be without the children for a part or all of the holidays, and there may be less money to go around than there was when the family lived in one household. But the last thing you want is for your children to have bad holiday memories to grow up with – memories of fighting, anxiety, stress, and guilt. Believe me, bad holiday memories will stay with children into their adulthood. I recently met a successful TV talk show anchor who told me he never had a happy Christmas until after he was married. His childhood was filled with horrible memories of divorced parents ruining Christmas by fighting every year over who would have the children, and then acting so poorly the children felt horribly guilty going to the other parent’s house. He said he and his siblings actually had to split up once so each parent could have “some” of them.
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Three Things Men Should Know About Buying Jewelry for Women

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Then again, they say pretty much the same thing about chocolate, don’t they? Hmmm… Chocolate diamonds! You couldn’t possibly go wrong with chocolate diamonds. Or could you? It’s all so confusing….

The problem is that as guys, we look at jewelry differently than women do. Some women would like to have us believe that we’re incapable of appreciating the subtlety of fine jewelry. But that can’t be true—plenty of famous jewelry designers are men (think Tiffany). Whatever the reason, we have a miserable time figuring out what to buy. Here are three quick tips that should help:
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What Not to Buy Him for Valentine’s Day

When it comes to buying gifts, it’s a tossup whether it’s harder for a man or a woman. But when Valentine’s Day comes around, all the promos are for feminine gifts, leaving a poor woman puzzled about what to get her man. According to a recent survey, 37 percent of men would be devastated if their significant other forgot Valentine’s Day. So spend some time and money to make your guy feel special. There are plenty of myths surrounding what to buy a man you love. The stereotype suggests that you should buy him manly gifts such as tools and beer, but hardly any guy actually fits just those stereotypes. Getting him a gift that goes against the trends shows that you love him enough to be interested in what he actually wants and needs. And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?

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