Winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for 2015 Winter Holidays – Announcement

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalWhat do a stop-action animation studio, light-up building blocks, a huggable hedgehog, an interactive graphic novel, a gaming console for toddlers, a rugged diaper bag, and a door for fairies have in common? Well, not much, except that they’re among the nearly 50 winners of the Mr. Dad Seal of Approval for the 2015 Winter Holidays. Be sure to check out these great products and all the rest here.

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.

Military Family Friday: Positive Relationships with Kids + Reserves is More Than One Weekend Per Month

Photo credit: Catherine Lechner/Getty Images

Photo credit: Catherine Lechner/Getty Images

Taking the time and effort to prepare yourself and your children for the upcoming separation will be a challenge; there’s no question that we’re talking about one of the most stressful times of your lives. But as hard as it is, it can help you grow as a family.
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Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Reserves and the National Guard are a great way for those who would like to serve in the military, but aren’t ready for full time enlistment. Some of your Reserve training will transfer directly to your civilian career and will make you a more valuable employee. The education benefits, which may include partial reimbursement for tuition and fees, can help you advance in your civilian career. And, of course, the extra pay helps with the household budget. Everything seems to make perfect sense. But, is there a catch?
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Mr. Dad Seal of Approval: Father’s Day 2015 Submissions Open!

Mr. Dad Seal of ApprovalOakland, CA: May 22, 2015 — Do you know of a great product or service that encourages dads and their children to spend more time together?

If so, the MrDad.com team wants to hear about it!

As one of the leading websites promoting positive parenting for dads, we’re pleased to announce that submissions are still open for the Father’s Day 2015 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval.

But hurry. As you can imagine, Father’s Day is kind of like our Christmas (although we have Christmas awards too), and we’re already receiving lots of entries. The deadline for submissions is June 9, 2015. We’ll announce the winners the week of June 14. You can find out more and get the application process started here.

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The Latest Articles for Military Families

I just posted a new batch of articles for military families on about.com.

This month I covered: the many ways deployment affects parents and children, strategies to help kids keep busy when a parent is deployed, understanding–and handling–rebellious teen behavior, how to make a temporary home feel like a permanent one–something many military families struggle with, and overcoming the challenges of long-distance relationships.

Please feel free to share these articles.

Dating for Dads

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve been divorced for almost a year and I’m just getting to the point where I’m thinking about dating again. My kids (8 and 10) and I have a very close relationship and we talk about everything. But when I mentioned dating to them, instead of being happy for me, they were angry. Is there anything I can do to get them to be a little more supportive?

A: Close relationships between parents and their young children are wonderful for everyone. But occasionally lines can get blurred, which is exactly what happened with you. Your social life will undoubtedly affect your children—especially if you get into a serious relationship. But it sounds like you’ve given them the impression that their close relationship with you entitles them to an actual vote in the matter. It’s really none of their business. You’re their parent, not their friend, end of discussion.

Aside from the boundary issue, your children may simply not want to share you with anyone. It’s been just the three of you for a long time, and they enjoy having you all to themselves. Any time you spend with other people—whether it’s going out for a beer with a buddy or dating a woman who’s not their mother—is time you won’t be spending with them. You’re in a delicate spot here, but here are few steps you can take to get your kids on board (or at least to reduce their hostility).
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