Archive for the ‘toys’ Category

Fun family card game – Jungle Speed

Jungle SpeedLooking for a fun family game that everyone from kindergartners to grandparents can enjoy?  Jungle Speed is a new game that encourages the family to sit together around the table and take turns playing a card from the stack in front of them.  The little ones will enjoy the fact that they don’t have to hold cards in their hands, and adults will like the easy play that allows conversation.

The concept is simple – play a card, and check to see if it matches any of the other players’ top cards in shape or color.  If it does, grab the totem!  First one to grab the totem wins the round, and the other player takes both stacks of cards.

The game shifts with the addition of three special cards, alike enough to be a challenge, but different enough that a quick 5 year old can play — and keep pace with Mom or Dad.  We were sent this game to check out recently, and it’s quickly become one of our go-to games.

Disclosure: I was mailed a game to review; I received no compensation for this post.

Fisher Price iXL

Now, I’m not normally a big fan of electronics for little kids, but since I let them play on my iPhone, I agreed to let them try out the new Fisher Price iXL.  This sturdy little touch-screen device comes pre-loaded with a number game, a read-aloud story, and a doodling program.  The cute animations are of little monkeys that make us all laugh, and the story is appropriately paced for preschoolers.  I’ve enjoyed their interest in this iphone-sized personal electronic device (it’s significantly thicker than the iPhone, but approximately the same length and width.

What I didn’t expect was how much more fun we’d have with it when we put the CD in and customized it, which I finally did this weekend.  Now each of the boys have their own login, customized with their name, picture, favorite colors — and the included story picks up on the favorites that I entered, so the story is slightly different for each kid! 

I also spent a little time uploading some favorite pictures of family and friends, as well as MP3 files of our favorite kids’ CDs — and now the iXL is their very own digital picture frame (with full-featured doodle program for them to customize their own pictures!) AND MP3 player.  Which means we now have music whereever we go – and with a good speaker so that they (and only they) can hear their music in the backseat of the car, at Grandma’s house, or in the playroom, even if I forget to turn the music on!

Which I do sometimes.  Motherhood?  Is demanding.  This little device empowers my kids to flip through photos and play their own music — I’m sure we’ll be using it a lot this holiday season! 

Now, where did I put that Christmas music?

Disclosure: Fisher Price sent me an iXL to review after BlogHer. 

Playmobil take along tower

By the looks of things around here, our family has fully entered the Lego phase of boyhood. Legos are everywhere, especially in the little one’s hands, where he creates Jet Zoomer after Jet Zoomer, interrupted only by Boomers (which adults would call guns, but I swear I’ve never even told him the word).  My kindergartner outgrew Fisher-Price playsets long ago, and my preschooler went through the play people phase very quickly, abandoning them for Matchbox cars before he turned three.  But somehow, the Playmobil is still attractive.

Before I had kids, I had visions of perfectly arranged Playmobil sets dotting the living room – the veterinary office, the zoo, the fire station.  Then I had kids, and I saw how fickle a young child’s interest can be, and I satisfied this craving with a bag of secondhand Playmobil from the church garage sale.  But that bag contained two castles, just right for a battle, and the children and I put it together and play with it every so often.

Then the mail came on Wedesday, bringing two of Playmobil’s latest creations: the Knights Take Along Tower and the Pirates Take Along Dungeon.  My kids were hooked.  The littlest claimed the dungeon (“You’re in the dungeon!” being one of his favorite pronouncements) and my kindergartner was happy to take ownership of the castle and its knights.  They happily played for an hour, battling knights vs. pirates, putting the accessories on and off, and most particularly firing the cannon at each other (one comes in each set). 

It’s been four days now, and the mock battles continue.  The tower and dungeon each have a handle for easy carrying (by them, no less!) and all the pieces fold up inside for easy cleanup.  This is a great new addition to our playroom – and our travel kit, where they will surely go along to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, most likely with a couple of the Unicorn Take Along Castles for their girl cousins.  The easy cleanup and low price ($12.99) make these an attractive gift for any child 4-7 who likes battles, cannon, and/or lots and lots of small pieces and accessories.

Disclosure:  I received Playmobil’s Knights Take Along Tower and the Pirates Take Along Dungeon for this review. 

Just plain Lego bricks!

Lego basic bricks 6177I don’t know about you, but I love Legos.  Not the fancy, branded sets that build one thing or maybe two, the latest $99 starships, $199 Harry Potter sets, or $399 kits to build the death star (what?).  I love the basic, red, green, yellow, blue, and white sets that are an open-ended invitation for children to use their imagination and play, building houses, bases, creatures, skyscrapers — where ever their imagination takes them that day.

My children are getting good at the kits (oh, we have ‘em), and they’ve always made their own “jet zoomers” to zoom around the house, but now they’re discovering the beauty of open-ended construction with the little bricks, and oh, it’s beautiful.  Widget and I spent yesterday morning constructing a “base” and some vehicles with his little guys and all of our blocky bricks, and it was beautiful.  Just the perfect way to spend the day with your kindergartner (and his 103′ fever). 

When he went to bed, I went online to grab some more bricks, so his next “base” could be more than a few bricks high, and we could build a skyscraper more than four bricks wide.  I thought it would be easy to find the basic sets online, the ones that we used to have, before they all got so specialized and intricate (which I do love, for older children, but for littles? bring on the bricks!).  It wasn’t easy, so I asked my twitter peeps.  And they answered — in spades!

Where have all the basic legos gone? 

There are two easy ways to find them, locally at your Toys R Us, Walmart, or Lego store, or online at lego.com.  The magic words are ”basic bricks.”  Here are two sets that I recommend if you’re looking for “just the bricks, ma’am”:  

The little set is $12.99 for 280 bricks.  I’m picking up a bunch for birthday parties.  (You’ve been warned.)

Disclosure Clause: This post was not sponsored or prompted by anyone or anything — it’s just too hard to find these things, and I wanted to help make it easier for others looking for the same thing.  This is for you, @yankeedrawl and friends — and a big THANK YOU for all the ideas to @mommy4cocktails @canape @minkymoo @angiekeenan @pgoodness @verybloggybeth @brandie185 @ejwillingham @bigbluemomma @squawky @nowseriouslykid @jodifur @centsiblelife @velma @thejesterman @joufy and @joeymom who made great suggestions, including legos.com, Toys R Us, WalMart, Target, Amazon, the Lego store, CraigsList, yard sales, and eBay.  Some of you are a lot more patient than I am. :-0

Originally posted on Toddler Planet.

The new Tag Reader

Leapfrog has done it again!  Just in time for the 2009 holiday season, they’ve introduced two must-haves for the kid into reading, audio books, or just plain do-it-yourselfing.

  • The new Leapfrog Tag Reader has 32 MB of storage — twice as much as the old reader —  which allows it to hold up to ten full-length books, or even more of the delicious new phonics readers.  It still has all of the great features that it had before, including the ability to read a page at a time, a word at a time, and and to uncover new sound effects and dialogue hidden in the illustrations.

And now it comes in purple.  I mention that because that was a key selling point for my little ones, shopping for their cousin who is absolutely crazy about the color purple.  I didn’t find a pink one, but there is a special edition Disney Princess (Ariel) reader out there for those of you with little princesses.  [My boys are fine with just plain green.]

Tag books have always come in classic [Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Green Eggs and Ham, Olivia] and Disney [Spiderman, Dora, Diego, Kai-lan] type books, but now there are more than ever before.  30 full-length books, to be exact, all with special features in the illustrations that range from sound effects to dialogue that complement the understanding of the text.  Leapfrog has also introduced the new

  • Phonics readers, each of which introduce a new sound or two, with multiple-letter sounds highlighted so they are read as a unit.  The phonics books also allow the child to click on a special symbol and then touch a word to hear it spelled.  I didn’t think this would be a big deal for my just-five year old, but within minutes of unpacking the box, he was in his room, reading the book, and spelling out loud, “P-I-G, pig.” 

So yeah, they work.  I’m not saying they’re teaching him to read — that’s my job — but these books do serve an important purpose in the path toward learning to read.  The Tag Reader helps my child explore books in a way that goes beyond puzzling out the pictures at this almost-reading age, and helps him slow down and think about the parts of the pictures, the parts of words, and how the pictures complement the story told in the text.

They’re also fantastic for car rides.

The one caution that I would share with you about these activity books is that they are just that — activity books — and that they do not replace reading with your child, reading to your child, or teaching him a single thing.  But they’re a wonderful tv-replacement, or dvd-replacement on those long car rides across the country.  We’ve had ours for a year and a half, and the kids are still jazzed about them.

Edited to add:  Leapfrog’s Cyber Monday specials are now good until Thursday: Free shipping and up to 75% off books, readers, and gift packs.

Disclosure:  Leapfrog sent me a new Tag reader and two sets of phonics books for review.  I was not paid for this post or even asked to blog about it.  [I was so impressed with the new reader that I bought two for my little nieces, and books to go with them, on sale at Target.  Shhh.  Don’t tell my nieces before Christmas.]

Stomp Rocket!

How did I never see this before?  While visiting the Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, FL (just down the road from the fabulous Kennedy Space Center), the kids picked out a new toy:  the Stomp Rocket Junior.  It’s a kid-propelled, air-powered, foam rocket launch system that’s easy to set up and hours of fun.  The kit comes with four reusable foam rockets, and they soar pretty high in the air if you give it a good STOMP!

Hours of indoor fun for a rainy day.  Also endorsed by Creative Child Magazine, who gave it a Top Toy of the Year award.

Disclosure clause:  We paid for the Stomp Rocket Junior and neither the Space Walk of Fame Museum or Stomp Rocket’s manufacturer know that we wrote this post.

Teaching preschoolers about money

Last week, we were at Grandma’s house when Widget came home all excited about the real! working! cash register! he played with at his friend Callie’s house. She’s quite a bit older, you see, and someone to be admired. He was full of news about this toy, about the money, and the cash drawer, and the real! working! scanner! that beeped and everything. We listened, of course, but didn’t think much more about it.

In the week since, he’s been simply obsessed with coins, change, pretend dollars, and what they mean. We’ve exposed him to the meaning of money, both what it’s worth and what it can buy, but we haven’t done any hard core teaching of the principles yet.

I think it’s time.

Today, he asked me, “What can I do to earn coins?”

I so totally hooked him up with some chores. And, at a coin a chore (small ones for small chores, big ones for bigger chores), he helped us clean the house this morning.

He put the coins in his little bag and carried them around all day. And then he started talking about the cash register again. The one with the scanner. I went online and found it. It is very cool — it does actually have a scanner, and it does actually scan. It’s called the Zillions Talking Cash Register, and, thanks to Grandma, it will be arriving here for his fifth birthday — which is coming up more rapidly than you can imagine (me, the mother of a FIVE year old?).

We’re going to use it as a tool, and teach him how to convert pennies to dimes and nickles to quarters, and teach him what a dollar can buy. We’ll introduce him to the concept of buying that matchbox car he wants with his very own money, and maybe we’ll even start an allowance.

Maybe.

Of course, I’m not the only mom talking to her kid about money this week. Moms with bigger kids are facing back-to-school buying and, well, not buying, and they’ve got a priceless moment in front of them. How do you buy everything you need on a budget? How do you decide what is a need, and what is a want? Since Widget is just entering pre-k, and he’s already told me that he wants a new backpack “when my Diego one wears out,” it looks like we’ll be skipping the back-to-school frenzy.

And that’s good. Because I just blew the wad on a real! working! cash register!

This blog has been linked to the weekend PBN blog blast on teaching kids about money.