Hard to believe that in another month, school will be out for summer. While I’m not about to start singing an Alice Cooper song anytime soon, I do want to be ready–ready, that is, for the kids being at home and having plenty of stuff to keep them entertained before camp begins. We’ve been blessed with a big backyard, so as long as there’s no rain in the forecast, I am usually ushering them out to play, much to their chagrin. Since we know how challenging it can be to keep kids busy without breaking the bank, we love products that multitask like us moms. ALEX’s Gigantic 3-in-1 Net Set maximizes its worth by offering plenty of play options in one toy. An adjustable net is perfect for a number of summertime sports, like volleyball, badminton and tennis. Two over-sized rackets, giant birdie, 2 tennis balls and jumbo inflatable volleyball (with hand pump) complete the set. Designed for kids ages 3-7, it’s perfect for the active kid who loves to change games faster than we can keep up with.
In a Nutshell: Head off the cries of “There’s nothing to dooooo” this summer with an outdoor play set that’s big on fun.
Still looking for last-minute Easter basket stuffers? We’ve got some great suggestions that work for girls and boys, from a name that’s synonymous with creativity. New this spring, Crayola has introduced Chalk Grab ‘N Go Games, a line of classic games based on its colorful sidewalk chalk. If you’ve got kids, chances are you have a bucket of sidewalk chalk hiding somewhere in your garage, like we do. With these fun games, chalk extends its usefulness beyond hopscotch and sidewalk sketches into more active play. Each packaged game–Chip Shot Golf, Foot Hockey, Bean Bag Toss and Obstacle Course–contains all the tools needed to play, including four sticks of chalk. Not only are these games ideal for backyard play, but they pack easily for trips to the park or for family vacations. Our favorites are Foot Hockey (no ice necessary) and Obstacle Course (a game that never gets old and can be made different every time). So, whether you’re looking to jazz up outdoor playtime or add something special to an Easter basket, we’ve found some real winners.
In a Nutshell: Chalk it up to a good time. These games give new life to sidewalk chalk that goes from ho-hum to hooray!
Get a grip already, Mother Nature! What’s with the one nice day that taunts us with sunny skies and mild temps….only to be faced with tomorrow’s promise of cold rain and highs in the low 40s? It’s making everyone a little bit stir crazy, and I’m not just talking about the kids! Well, if there’s anything this erratic season is teaching us, it’s to seize the day and take advantage of the outdoors whenever the weather permits. Today was one of those days meant to spent outside, so after homework time, we happily hit the backyard to try out a new toy. Nerf Sports Bash Ball is, hands down, the best excuse to play a game of catch, soccer, dodgeball…you name it. You may wonder, “what’s so special about an ordinary ball?,” but that’s just the thing. The Bash Ball is NOT your everyday ball. It’s not only lightweight, but features an open-ended design with plenty of spots for easy gripping and handling. And that means it’s perfect for all ages and skill sets. Trying to master a simple game of catch with your kindergartner? The Bash Ball is easier to grasp than your average supermarket bouncy ball, as my 5-year-old quickly found out. If you’re up for a game of soccer in the backyard, it’ll be your goalie’s best friend (read: no pain). An unexpected bonus: If your ball accidentally ends up in a bush or other hard-to-reach spot, you can retrieve it one-handed! We can’t wait for summer to see how this ball works in the pool and at the beach!
In a Nutshell: Dodgeball, kickball, volleyball, soccer, handball, catch…you name it. No matter your game, this is your go-to ball.
Can we fast-forward to spring already? These 20-degree mornings are getting boring already, and my kids REALLY need to get outside and be…well, kids. Remnants of dirty snow doesn’t lend itself well to sledding, and it’s still too cold for bikes and scooters. With the forecast calling for near 50-degree temperatures this Saturday, you can bet your bippy I’ll be shuffling those kids out the back door faster than you can say springtime. Because no parent is immune to the cries of “but there’s nothing to dooooo…,” may we offer a suggestion? Diggin Active’s Squap for ages 6 and up turns an ordinary game of catch into something extraordinary. Easy to play, this game doesn’t involve a steep learning curve and goes right out of the box into the backyard. Each player gets a paddle that they open to release a ball and then snap to catch it. A new version, Squap Extreme that’s due out this spring, comes with redesigned paddles and three types of balls: one for beginners, a classic version and a bouncy ball that lets advanced players show off their new-found skills. No matter how you play it, Squap is great excuse to get outdoors, and get ready for spring. We’re headed outside. Catch ya later…
In a Nutshell: The game of catch just got a whole lot more interesting. This portable toy works well at the beach, the park…or even your own backyard.
Yesterday’s weather was perfect: sunny and in the 60s, with just a hint of fall in the air. After a rather buggy summer, my 5-year-old was happy to finally be back outside where she could play undisturbed by those pesky critters. So we took out her trike and she happily pedaled back and forth, and even giving her stuffed panda Bamboo a ride. As I watched her attempt to maneuver herself through various twists and turns on her path, I realized that the days of ride-ons were pretty much behind us now. Even though she is almost too big to fit inside her convertible coupe, she still likes to cruise around the backyard, her knees bumping against the dashboard much to her (odd) delight. Well, if my now-kindergartener could go back in time, I’ve no doubt she’d have a grand old time aboard the soon-to-be-released yoMOTO Wheel of Power. One of the more stylish ride-ons we’ve seen in our day, this luxury vehicle (if every there was one for kiddos) sports solid, sturdy wheels; your choice of either red or blue detailing; and is topped off with either an American or Prince Lionheart flag that cheerfully announces “Make way for the driver!” Of course, we love the fact that it doesn’t run on batteries, but rather is powered by imagination–strong leg muscles don’t hurt either. In stores this October, the yoMOTO Wheel of Power has all the makings of a perfect gift under the tree this Christmas. On your marks…
In a Nutshell: Put your kid in the driver’s seat with a stylish ride-on that’s bound to take them places.
With temps steadily climbing into the 80s this week and school due to let out this Friday, our thoughts are turning to ice pops, the beach and all things summer. Because we know firsthand how much the kids need to get outside and play, we need the perfect excuse to keep them there. Enter the NERF Super Soaker Arctic Shock Water Blaster. This is so not your average water gun. Deep within its recesses of this mega-sized toy is a removable wide-mouth clip that can hold up to 25 ounces of H2O–along with plenty of ice cubes–for primo ammo. One blast from this super-cool soaker, and your most unsuspecting buddy will never know what hit him. Then again, if this summer winds up being another scorcher, this water toy may provide some welcome relief.
In a Nutshell: Beat the heat whether you’re on wet or dry land. No matter where you roam, you can cool down with the mother of all super soakers.
My kids have a serious case of cabin fever. After a lousy winter and a slow start to spring, they’ll take any partly sunny day above 40 degrees to play outside. Case in point: my 4-year-old blowing bubbles last week, while wearing her heavy coat, gloves and a hat. As I write this post, snow flurries are swirling around and there’s no foreseeable end to this extended winter. Well, even if the calendar and the weather can’t agree, we’re still thinking spring and keeping an eye out for outdoor toys sure to herald signs of warmer weather ahead. Our latest find is the coolest sidewalk chalk of the season: RoseArt’s Surprise Inside Sidewalk Chalk. Think of it as the chalk that keeps on giving, long after your resident artists’ renderings have faded away. We got our hands on a package and my girls got to work. Each set contains seven colored pieces (plenty for a small group of friends or siblings) in a different theme: a skull, sun, flower or starfish (guaranteed to please even the most tortured artists). As the chalk gets used up, the lucky kid who grabbed the center piece of chalk will be treated to a special treat: one of 20 collectible figurines. For all of our Passover peeps, think of it as a new take on a game of hiding the matzah. And for those looking for some fun Easter basket stuffers, Surprise Inside Sidewalk Chalk is bunny-approved.
In a Nutshell: Keep your eyes on the prize with a new kind of sidewalk chalk with an added element of fun.
Springtime is less than two weeks away, with the baseball season immediately on its heels. If your little slugger is chomping at the bit for Opening Day, there’s no time like the present to grab his glove and ball and head outside. Or better yet, give him a chance to perfect his catching skills with a cool new Japanese-inspired toy. Otherwise known as the traditional cup-and-ball game here in the States, Yomega’s Kendama helps kids fine-tune their hand/eye coordination as they expertly toss a tethered hard-plastic ball onto the cupped surfaces of a hammer-like handle. We got our hands on an early product sample of this product, and let’s just say that this game is not as easy as it looks. With just the right flick of the wrist, you can release the ball into the air and catch it just in time. But, if you don’t judge it right, you’ll be out of luck. After a bit of practice and figuring out just how high to throw this ball without whacking it against the hammer, we actually managed to catch it several times in a row. We highly recommend playing Kendama outdoors, where you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver the ball without causing any collateral damage. And once you’ve really gotten the hang of Kendama, try catching the ball on the hammer’s spike. A challenge even Yogi Berra might have welcomed in his day!
In a Nutshell: A great game of solo catch. As much fun to say as it is to play.
My kids are in love with Fun. That’s the cool indie pop band that just took home two Grammys, including one for song of the year. I can’t quite put my finger on their latest musical obsession. (I’m just thankful for the reprieve from Katy Perry.) Maybe it’s because my 4-year-old likes the rockin’ electric guitar; it may explain why I sometimes catch her playing air guitar in the privacy of her room–and how I am then ushered out (you know how temperamental those creative artists can be). Well, if she can’t master the fancy finger work of Jack Antonoff, she can certainly have “fun” (hah!) trying. Or, better yet, I can set her up with a bubble-blowing instrument of her. You read that right: Little Kids has come out with the Fubbles No Spill Bubble Guitar that is bound to get budding entertainers excited about making music in a whole new way. As players press each of the guitar’s three buttons, they’ll hear different rhythms. Combine that with strumming the strings to add some melody, they’ll be jammin’ in no time. But the experience enters a whole other level when they hit another button that launches a stream of bubbles out of the guitar’s neck. (You can also turn off the sound for bubble-blowing play only.) Now that’s some serious pop music making!
In a Nutshell: Get ready to rock–and pop–with a bubble-blowing guitar that takes center stage at playtime.
These days, we’re hard-pressed to find a family with kids under the age of 5 who don’t own some toy made by Melissa & Doug. Be it a wooden puzzle, a pretend pizza-making kit or a craft set, many of the mom friends we know with young kids are familiar with the brand name and are more than impressed with the quality of their selection. One of our favorite lines under the Melissa & Doug umbrella is the backyard-focused Sunny Patch, a fresh-faced collection of gardening toys, sand/beach gear and rainy-day accessories. Now, we can really get the outdoor party started with the latest extension to the Sunny Patch line: Pool Party, featuring nearly 30 different toys and activities to keep kids entertained while in the water. We saw the entire assortment on display at this week’s Toy Fair in NYC, and couldn’t decide which one we liked the best. Perhaps because we’re Long Islanders born and bred, it was Louie Lobster Claw Catcher that caught our eye. Kids will have a ball squeezing Louie’s handle to make his claws shut, while trying to grab any of his three fishy sinkers floating past. The more you splash around, the more waves you make and the harder it is for Louie to catch his dinner. We think Louie will be a big hit with the kindergarten and up crowd this summer.
In a Nutshell: Everybody into the pool…a new line of whimsical water toys are coming soon to a backyard near you.