Sunday, January 13, 2019

So cool! Awesome kids stuff announced at CES 2019

Everyone loves fun toys, electronics and technology.  Finding tech that is safe and fun for kids can be quite the task, but CES manages to pull out some seriously cool stops when it comes to kids gadgets.

Whether you're looking for gadgets that help with the safety of your child, new techy toys, child-friendly wearables, and everything in between, there's something at CES that's bound to catch your eye!

Here are just some of our favorite kids gadgets announced at CES 2019!

Canon Kids Mission Camera

This DSLR-like camera is designed to be both super simple and super easy-to-use for children who are showing an early interest in photography! After your child shoots some photos, you can download them and sync them to your smartphone.

Codi Bot

Tired of telling your kid to pick up after themselves? Well, the Codi Bot is here to sing them into doing their chores! This adorable little robot can be dressed up in different outfits and even allows you to communicate and leave voice recordings for your child, so you're always just a button-press away.

Specdrums

Add a li'l rhythm into your kids' routine and get them learning with Specdrums, a music-focused product for kids which also incorporates the STEAM learning method. Improve language and reasoning skills with a little musical help and have your kid bopping and learning in no time.

Smart Diaper

Yup. It's exactly what it sounds like. Using a Bluetooth device, a sensor picks up whenever a baby has gone number one or number two, alerting their parents that a change is imminent. The Smart Diaper has been designed to combat diaper rash and eliminates the need for the dreaded 'sniff test'.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Choosing between Toys or Video Games for Kids


Video games seem to be the favorite way for kids to relax and have fun. They come in all sorts of genres, all sorts of technical details and with animation so amazing that it really sucks you into an alternate world. I remember that feeling of escaping into another world from when I was young, but back then it was from books: “Anne of Green Gables,” “Junie B Jones,” “Ramona and Beezus,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the Nancy Drew mysteries … and much later, as an adult, the Harry Potter series. Flash forward 30 years and instead of book series, beloved video games are part of the lexicon of childhood fun – Angry Birds, Guitar Hero, Resident Evil 4, Gran Turismo 3, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto.

Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published a paper addressing this very question. Pediatricians still feel that play is essential to optimal child development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth. It also offers a significant opportunity for parents to engage with kids using toys for play and interaction. Our perception of toys has evolved from seeing them as children’s playthings to now seeing toys as facilitators of early brain and child development. This challenges caregivers to decide which toys are most appropriate for their children.


Picking the Right Toys


1. Recognize that the one of the most important purposes of play with toys throughout childhood, and especially in infancy, is to foster warm, supportive interactions and relationships.

2. The most educational toy is the one that facilitates interactions between caregivers and children through supportive, unconditional play.

3. Provide toys that are safe and affordable. Avoid toys that are over stimulating; instead, encourage the child to use their imagination.

4. For guidance on what toys are appropriate, refer to https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1076-tips-for-choosing-toys-for-toddlers.

5. Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretending together while using toys. Use of the local library should be routine for all parents.

6. Limit screen time (TV + computer) to less than 1 hour per day for children 2 years and older. For younger children, between 18 and 24 months of age, screen time should be avoided.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Netflix in January: Here are Great new Family Movies, Shows to Stream

Netflix's New Year's resolution for 2019 must have been — more.

In January, the streaming giant offers more variety for kids and families.

Movies such as  "Ant-Man and the Wasp," and "The Incredibles 2" are ideal for family movie night.

All four "Indiana Jones" movies roll out in January, as does "The Dark Knight".  Both are perfect for older kids.

Animated shows also are part of the mix, including "Happy Feet," "Hotel Transylvania 3" and a new series about a chipper hot dog called "Pinky Malinky."


Here's a look at the best family programming for January. 


Jan. 1
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3)
The Baudelaires WILL solve the mysteries of the VFD in the series' final act amid Count Olaf's constant pursuit. Rated: TV-PG.

Across the Universe
Songs by the Beatles serve as the backdrop for this romance aboard a ship during the Vietnam war between a rich American girl and a working-class British boy. Rated: PG-13.

Happy Feet
Every Penguin needs a "heart song" to attract a mate. Poor Mumble doesn't sing, but he can tap dance like nobody's business. Rated: PG.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) and Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) go in search of a powerful artifact. The Soviets are looking for the Crystal Skull, too, hoping it can help them rule the world. Rated: PG-13.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 
Indiana Jones must rescue his father who went missing while searching for the Holy Grail. Rated: PG-13.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark 
Indiana Jones battles a group of Nazis looking for the Ark of the Covenant. The 1981 movie is the first in the "Indiana Jones" film franchise. Rated: PG.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 
Indiana Jones searches for a magical stone in India. What he finds are human sacrifices, a secret cult and ancient evil. Rated: PG.

It Takes Two 
Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen star in this story of a rich girl and an orphan who accidentally meet and switch identities to make their loved ones fall in love with each other. Rated: PG.

The Addams Family
Con artists, one claiming to be the beloved and long-lost Uncle Fester, try to swindle the fortune from the eccentric Addams family. Rated: PG-13.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The son of a Nazi commandant befriends a boy his same age on the other side of the  concentration camp fence. The forbidden friendship makes for some unforeseen consequences. Rated: PG-13.

The Dark Knight 
The Joker (Heath Ledger) and his vile antics make Batman (Christian Bale) walk a fine line between being a hero and a vigilante. Rated: PG-13.

The Mummy
A 3,000-year-old Egyptian priest is accidentally awakened, unleashing plagues before going in search of his true love. Rated: PG-13.

The Mummy Returns 
The Mummy is awakened once again and he seeks immortality, but this time something far more evil also has been unleashed. Rated: PG-13.

Pinky Malinky (Netflix original series)
Pinky was born a hot dog and that helps him take a big bite out of life. Always optimistic, he's got his best friends to keep him company. Rated: Unavailable.

Jan. 2
Monty Python and the Holy Grail 
In this comedy, King Arthur and his Knights set out to find the Holy Grail, encountering one silly challenge after another. Rated: PG.

Jan. 9
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Years before he joins the Rebellion, young Hans Solo meets his faithful co-pilot Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, the first owner of the Millennium Falcon. Rated: PG-13.

Jan. 18
Carmen Sandiego
This super thief uses her powers for good, foiling the plots of others' evil plans with her trusty sidekicks.  Rated: unavailable.

Trolls: The Beat Goes On! (Season 5)
In season 5, the trolls get to ride in a submarine, journey in a Fountain of Glitter, get lost in wormholes and play in snow. Rated: TV-Y7.

Jan. 24
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Drac and all the monsters vacation on a cruise ship. But things turn scary when Drac falls for the captain, who harbors a dangerous secret. Rated: PG.

Jan. 29
Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp 
Scott Lang deals with the consequences of his choices as a superhero and father while confronting a powerful new enemy as Ant-Man along side the Wasp. Rated: PG-13.

Jan. 30
Disney Pixar's The Incredibles 2
Mr. Incredible finds he must stay home and manage the house with Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack, while Elastigirl tries to save the world. Rated: PG.

Last call for...
Leaving Jan. 1

Beethoven's Christmas Adventure

Finding Neverland

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Kung Fu Panda

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Monsters vs. Aliens

The Iron Giant

The Princess Diaries

Leaving Jan. 4

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Leaving Jan. 18

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Leaving Jan. 19

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Family Night: The Best Family Board Games to start 2019

Is one of your family's New Year's resolutions to spend more time together?  Great idea!  Also, maybe one of your personal hopes is to get their smart phones out of your kids' hands (even just for a minute) But what do we do?  Well, a friendly suggestion is "Family Game Night."  It gets bold of your goals and it's a heck of a lot of fun!

Here are some suggestions.  Some new games, some classics with a 2019 twist!

Catan 5th Edition


If you regularly have family game nights, you should definitely add Catan into your arsenal of party games. This adventure-based game is perfect for three or four players over the age of eight, who will all battle to collect resources and build settlements on the island of Catan.
The Catan board game comes with 19 hexagon tiles that make up the playing board. These tiles are arranged randomly at the beginning of each game, so no two games are ever the same! At the start, each player gets color-coded settlement, road and city pieces, and the overall goal is to collect resource cards to build structures around the island. Players earn “victory points” as they build various structures, and the first player to 10 points wins!
The premise of the game is relatively straightforward, but there are a lot of rules and obstacles that make the game fun — players can trade resource cards, sabotage each other with the robber game piece and more as they race to become the conqueror of Catan.

Sequence Game

You may not have heard of the Sequence Game before, but this card-based strategy game is sure to become a family favorite. This board game is easy enough for kids to learn and tricky enough to keep adults on their toes, and people love it so much that it has more than 1,400 5-star reviews on Amazon!
You can play the Sequence Game individually or in teams — the game is recommended for kids ages seven and up, but many reviewers say younger children enjoy playing when paired with an adult. Here’s how it works: Each player or team gets a hand of standard playing cards, and during each turn, they put down one card and cover the corresponding spot on the game board with a chip. The objective is to get five chips in a row, and each round usually takes 10 to 30 minutes.
The Sequence Game is a great family board game, as it’s easy to learn, inclusive for all ages, and endlessly fun. This board game requires a combination of strategy and luck, and your family is sure to get increasingly competitive the more you play!

Codenames
For a fast-paced team game, check out Codenames. The premise of this board game is to guess the identity of “secret agents” with help from your team’s spymaster, and the word play will keep both kids and adults challenged and entertained through multiple rounds.
You can play Codenames with four or more people broken up into two teams. There are 25 cards on the table, each representing the two team’s secret agents; however, only each team’s spymaster knows which cards are which. During gameplay, the spymaster gives one-word clues to their team, helping them pick the right “agents” and avoid the other team’s cards. For instance, if the secret agent’s card reads “dog,” the spymaster might give the clue “pets.”
Gameplay typically moves quickly, finishing in around 15 minutes. This fast pace lets you switch up teams or demand a rematch — which might be necessary if things get competitive.

Scrabble

Scrabble reigns as one of the best word-based board games. This highly-rated classic can get pretty competitive with seasoned players, but it’s also a lot of fun with children who are learning to spell and working on their vocabulary.
This family game is designed for players eight and up, and there can be two to four players per round. However, don’t be afraid to team up, especially if you’re playing with younger kids! Scrabble comes with a game board, 100 wooden letter tiles, 4 tile racks, 1 drawstring letter bag, and game guide. To start the game, each player draws a certain number of tiles, and then players take turns creating words on the board, building off existing words and earning points for each letter. You can increase your points by landing on designated spaces for double or triple word or letter scores.
Scrabble has been around for many years, and it’s sure to be popular for many more, thanks to its simple, yet addicting gameplay. This board game is exciting for players of all ages, making it a must-have for your family’s game collection.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best Nintendo 3DS Games to Buy in 2019

In 2018 we spent an entire blog series explaining why video games are actually good for our kids.  So, with that, we decided to go a step further and actually recommend our 2019 favorite.  Enjoy!



Affordable, easy to play and lighthearted, Super Mario 3D Land takes the cake for the best 3DS game overall. The platformer game combines the side-scrolling 2D Mario games with a modern free-roaming 3D game with various power-ups, big beautiful levels to play in, plus fun and varied gameplay mechanics.
Super Mario 3D Land features bright colorful worlds where players control Mario who can dash, barrel roll, ground pound, leap, climb and race against a time limit. The game is loaded with various items from previous Mario games such as the leaf power from Super Mario Bros. 3 that gives Mario a raccoon outfit that allows him to float in the air and attack with his tail — players can even save an extra power up to use later. A few other power-ups give players a different way of gameplay that helps them complete levels and overcome enemies and bosses, so they can save Princess Peach from Bowser.

With gameplay that allows open-world exploration of more than 41 levels, Scribblenauts Unlimited is a longtime staple on the Nintendo 3DS and one of the best puzzle games for any platform. There's no mission to rescue a princess in this portable puzzle adventure, instead, players will be focused using the in-game notepad to complete tasks, puzzles, and challenges.
When it's time to take a break from mindless action games or shooting down hordes of zombies, Scribblenauts demands players use their minds and imaginations to solve puzzles by summoning any object that might help. It’s an incredibly novel approach and one that works fantastically well and incorporates Nintendo's 3DS Street Pass functionality to play online and see how players around the world have solved the same puzzle. Throw in an object editor and the possibilities — as you play and later replay — are nearly unlimited. On top of incredible gameplay, the cartoon-like visual experience of Scribblenauts leaves you wondering how the game developers managed something so great on a gaming system so small. 


Super Smash Bros. comes to the Nintendo 3DS as the best fighting game on the platform, allowing players to play and fight as their favorite video game characters (Mario, Sonic, Mega Man and Pac-Man). The multiplayer fighting game has players duke it out with various attacks and techniques to deal damage to their opponents, so they can knock them out of the area for a KO.
The huge 58-character roster (including downloadable content) gives Super Smash Bros. one of the biggest fighting games available in existence where you can play as Ryu from Street Fighter II and Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7. Super Smash Bros. has multiple modes from a solo challenge campaign where players fight AI opponents to an online multiplayer versus mode for friends or anyone around the world. Aside from it’s fighting modes, the game is loaded with items such as trophies, music records, replay videos and photo albums of players’ most epic battle moments.


The best racing game on the list goes to Mario Kart 7, where players race against 17 different Mario characters on wild tracks and build unique karts, each with their own unique attributes. The game allows for wireless multiplayer matches in the same room or over the Internet with a broadband connection.
In Mario Kart 7, players choose their own unique vehicle kart and customize it with accessories that give it a competitive advantage (for example, big tires will help with off-roading). There are eight different cups with 32 courses, including tracks from previous Mario Kart games from past Nintendo systems (SNES, N64, Gameboy Advance, Wii, and DS). The game also changes the dynamic of racing by throwing players over big jumps and having them use parasails to glide. There are also underwater portions of tracks where players utilize a propeller to steer and get ahead.


Fire Emblem: Awakening is a tactical, turn-based, role-playing video game where players control a party of characters on a top screen tile-based map and strategically overcome enemy forces and earn experience points. The game features an optional classic mode where characters who die in battle are permanently dead for the entire game, giving a sense of reality and weight to each in-game decision made (casual mode disables this, and characters who die are restored after the battle).
Fire Emblem: Awakening starts players off by choosing their avatar’s gender, hair color, feature types, voice and class system to give players a sense of ownership and self with their main character. Multiple difficulty modes range from "Normal" to "Lunatic," giving new players a chance to figure out gameplay and tactics while more experienced players get a thorough and tough challenge. In-game characters have a chance to work together, creating relationships (and sometimes not) and boosting morale for better attacks and defenses — the game not only forces players to figure out strategies in war but also in love.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Host a New Year's Eve Party Your Kids will Love

Let's be honest, New Year's Eve probably didn't become fun for you until you were an adult.    And New Years was one of your favorites throughout your twenties.  But now you have kids.  You might go out without them, but why -- because you're still be thinking about them anyway.


But kids don't mean the end of fun.  Just a different kind of fun.  But you already knew that ;)



BUBBLY DRINK FOR YOUR TOAST!


This is a great time to teach your kids hospitality.  Grab a bottle of bubbling cider and silly, fancy plastic champagne glasses. As a family, encourage each of you to announce a goal for the New Year and make a toast to the New Year when you finish your count down and wild celebration! (whatever time you choose!)
SWEET TREATS TO CELEBRATE 



There are so many types of sugar cones! You can pick out different shapes, like Christmas trees, but this is perfect for a New Year’s Eve treat! Add ice cream for a delicious desert

DRESS LIKE A KING (OR QUEEN) FOR THE HOLIDAY



It's time to get royal!  Grab some silver or gold party hats or crowns.  Flashy items like glitter glue pens, glitter, sequins and anything you can think of to make a fun New Years Eve party hat for the big countdown! You can pick it all up at the Dollar Store.




AWESOME PARTY GAMES ALL NIGHT LONG
Every kid’s New Years Eve party needs games!  After all, it's family fun night!  Think birthday games, board games, hands-on games that capture your kids' imagination!
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Monday, December 10, 2018

Holiday Movies Your Kids Will Love (and Parents too)

December is a busy month for all of us.  But not only do we still need to relax, we also need to celebrate the holidays and we need to spend "easy time" with family.  Movies do all three goals.

When you're ready for some quality family time amid the chaos of the season, there's nothing better than curling up with one of our holiday favorites. From all-time classic holiday movies for kids such as A Charlie Brown Christmas to sweet  
holiday-themed romance for older tweens and teens like Elf, you're sure to find a festive flick that's just right for your family.





A Charlie Brown Christmas
Repelled by the commercialism he sees around him, Charlie Brown tries to find the true meaning of Christmas.


Frosty the Snowman
A living snowman and a little girl struggle to elude a greedy magician who is after the snowman's magic hat.



A Muppet Family Christmas
Kermit and his friends spend Christmas staging a surprise visit to Fozzie Bear's mother's farm.



Arthur Christmas
Santa's clumsy son Arthur sets out on a mission with St. Nick's father to give out a present they misplaced to a young girl in less than 2 hours.


The Santa Clause
When a man inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.



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Elf
After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

via GIPHY