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!

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 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 ;)


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!)

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


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.

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!

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.


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.


How to Buy Holiday Gifts for Kids

Every child's personality and passions really start to develop and grow between the ages of 4 and 6. The toddler phase begins to melt away as they become a "big kid" and they start to want to play with toys that not only feature their favorite characters but are also playthings their classmates have at home. If you're looking for a kid’s gift in this unique stage, it’s not easy to win but there are some great ideas.


Do your kids love to sing and perform?  Maybe crooning out "Let It Go" is a fun way to let them blow off some energy before bed? The Frozen Boom Box serves as a real, functioning mic, comes preloaded with music from the movie, and can connect to any MP3 player.

Action toys like the Marvel Captain America: Civil War Iron Man Tech FX Mask your child can engage in some seriously cool imaginative play.

Looking for a progressive take on classic picture books?  The Fujimini Adventure Series brings great lessons, fun characters and strong illustrations.  And it's a safe gift from anyone in the family.  These include birthday cake, sushi and samurai.  So it's an easy way for you to be the cool aunt/unlce.

The LeapReader is designed to teach kids how to read and write all in one place. Slimmer and easier to hold than the original Tag, the new system's reading experience feels exactly the same as the old version — place the stylus on the page, and it will sound out words, read whole words, or read entire sentences.

Marble runs are always fun and the FS-USA/Mega Marbles Marble Fun Run 80 Piece Set is full of enough twists and turns to keep kids watching for hours.

Holiday Shopping… For Our Kids

We love our kids.  I know.  I mean, of course we do.  But there are activities where life is easier without them.  Below are hopefully helpful tips for whether your shopping solo if with half the classroom with you.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.


It’s that time of year again, when stores start showboating their window displays and playing Christmas songs, reminding us that time is short and our holiday shopping lists are way too long. But something is different now — you have a children with you, on pull, pulling on you! How’s a mom to manage all that gift-buying with kids in tow?

Experts (or me and my mom friends) agree the best time to approach the mall during holiday season is early in the week during a workday. Fewer crowds mean fewer germs that your sweet babies can be exposed to and more flexibility for you to weave in and out of shops —and nab that sweet parking spot in front.

Comfort is king when so wear tennis shoes with support and layered clothing for both you and baby, so you’re prepared for changing temperatures as you pop in and out of stores.

The biggest mistake new parents make when holiday shopping is trying to cram it all into one day.  Planning is the key word.  That means creating a shopping list, complete with everyone’s clothing sizes and wishlist items beforehand to avoid frustrated text messages and phone calls mid-shopping day. You’ll also want to jot down which stores you intend to hit up and where they are. So if Home Depot and Kids R Us are in close proximity to one another, get those gifts on the same day. Another thing to try: Call a store ahead of time and ask if they can hold a specific item for you to pick up later. Just, whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before to do it.

Strategizing "is a major stress reducer, because it saves time for the fun stuff.  

Friday, August 31, 2018

Meet the Fujimini Island Hamsters! Pink Hamster and Brown Hamster!

By: Kate Camillo 

Pink Hamster is Green Hamster’s sidekick. She’s very sweet and friendly. She loves birthday cake so much, she dreams about it! She eats more birthday cake than anyone else on the island. She gets into a lot of mischief and trouble with her best friend, Green Hamster.

Pink Hamster’s love for birthday cake is shown in Pink Hamster and the Big Birthday Surprise. She is so excited for her birthday because she loves to eat cake, especially for breakfast! But the other hamsters have a surprise for her, she thinks they forgot her birthday and she gets sad.

Brown Hamster is the wisest hamster of all the hamsters. Everyone always comes to him to ask for advice. He is very level headed and always gives great advice. Green Hamster and the others sometimes think he is boring, but he is always the friend they go to when they are in trouble. Brown Hamster is the chef of the group and his favorite food is salad! He does not like when people lie, lying is the worst! Brown Hamster is a great friend to have because he cares about everyone and always wants to help.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Meet the Fujimini Island Hamsters! Green Hamster and Blue Hamster

By: Kate Camillo

Green Hamster is very curious. He is always looking for something adventurous and exciting! He is always in the middle of whatever is going on, he loves being involved and sometimes, being the center of attention. His best friend, Pink Hamster is by his side all the time. They love hanging out together. Green Hamsters favorite phrase is “It’s not fair!” and you can hear him shout it from all over the island. All of the hamsters live in a glen with an obstacle course! He is a great friend to have and everyone loves him because he’s so funny and is full of fun!

You can learn more about Green Hamster by reading Green Hamster and the Quest for Fun. This book shows his adventurous nature and his hatred for boredom! He likes to be doing something all the time and having fun every chance he gets. No matter how many times he leaves the glen, he always comes back to his hamster friends.

Blue Hamster is the fastest runner of all the hamsters. He always wins the Hamster Race, which they have everyday. He is super athletic and has a lot of energy. He is a great sport, he knows that winning is not everything. He encourages everyone to try their hardest. You should always do your best when faced with a challenge. He lives in the glen with the other hamsters. Blue Hamster is a great friend to have because he pushes you to do your best and never give up!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Meet Fujimini Island's Silver Bunny!

By: Kate Camillo

Silver Bunny is a tomboy who loves surfing and going to the beach. She loves hanging out with Blue Penguin who teaches her how to surf.

Silver Bunny also knows taekwondo because Orange Bunny taught all the bunnies. Silver Bunny
loves to be active and she loves to be in the sun by the beach. In Blue Penguin and the Sensational Surf, Silver Bunny accidentally drifts from her friends while surfing. She gets into some trouble when a sea monster pulls her under the water! To learn what happens to Silver Bunny and if she gets saved, read Blue Penguin and the Sensational Surf. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Meet Fujimini Island's Orange Bunny!

Orange Bunny is a taekwondo master. She teaches taekwondo to all the other animals on the island. They love it! Although Orange Bunny looks sweet on the outside, she is very strong and quick. 

I would not get her mad if I were you. However, she believes that fighting is only necessary when it is the last option. Problems should be solved through patience and understanding. Her skills came in handy when she was able to help the animals build a raft to help the tortoise samurai. Orange Bunny is a great friend to have because she helps you find strength in yourself to help solve problems. She is powerful, but sweet and humble.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Meet Fujimini Island's Dynasty Dragon!

By: Kate Camillo

Dynasty Dragon is a red dragon on the island with a special gift. He is sometimes called White Dragon because he can shift into a cloud and becomes white. In one of the books, Black Tortoise goes on a secret mission to find Red Dragon. It is important to not scare him away.

He resides in Fu Fun Forest as told by Pink Hamster. She had a dream about a dragon who was very friendly and it happens to be Dynasty Dragon! He is a great friend to those on the island. Dynasty Dragon gets into some trouble on the island when he gets stuck on the Turtle Boat that’s going into battle! Dynasty Dragon’s mother hid him on the island because of his special powers.

The friends on the island believe he can see the future. Dynasty Dragon’s mom is very important to him, he loves her very much. Dynasty Dragon is a lot of fun and is great at hide and seek.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Meet Fujimini Island's Blue Whale!

Written by:
Kate Camillo

Blue Whale is Fujimini’s biggest friend, but he’s shy! He thinks he’s too big! All of his friends, the other animals on the island, love him! On occasion, he’s swallowed a friend or two by mistake.

He loves to have fun and just wants to be included. He tries hard to control his temper and excitement because he splashes water around if he doesn’t.

As a whale, he splashes his friends pretty easily, but he always says sorry for being too excited. He will do anything for his friends, even fight danger to make an underwater rescue happen. He is the head of Fujimini Island’s Search and Rescue Water team. If the animals on the island ever need help in the water, he is always ready to help.

Blue Whale is a great friend to have and he will always have your back.