The open road is calling your name. Maybe it’s because it’s finally Friday, the weather is good and you’re itching to get out of town. Or maybe it’s just easier said than done; you still have family commitments and a list of errands a mile long. If that’s the case, it never hurts to live vicariously and that’s what we’re doing, thanks to a globe-trotting little girl. Lately Lily is a fresh new face in the world of kids’ entertainment–and a refreshing one at that. This is not a girl who dwells in the virtual world, but who joins her jet-setting parents on their various travels and records her observations about these adventures. Aside from a doll in her likeness made by MerryMakers, Lately Lily adorns graphic T-shirts, infant one-pieces from The Land of Nod, and a travel activity kit, picture book and flash cards from Chronicle Books, all designed to chronicle her extraordinary experiences. So, keep your eyes peeled for this little lady, one who we think will be making a splash wherever she goes.
In a Nutshell: Exercising a bit of wanderlust, this travel-hopping girl lets kids explore their adventurous sides through imaginative play.
As much we love to spotlight those big-ticket items on the top of every wish list, we also like to pay fair tribute to the smaller guys: those companies that fuel kids’ imaginations and give us yet another reason to wish we were little again. Urban Canvas is one of our latest favorites. They make eco-friendly toys fashioned out of recycled and reusable cardboard, including trains, buildings and even bugs. We love their Build 52 Playing Cards, a full deck of blank (save for standard numbers and letters) cards that kids can design and customize to their hearts’ content…and then use to assemble their own house of cards (thanks to their interconnecting edges). Not only is this toy a cool craft, but it lets kids show off their building skills. The set comes in its own drawstring tote, making it an ideal when heading to Grandma’s house for the holidays. It’s one of those gifts that works for boys and girls alike, and is great for any age (4 and up works best).
In a Nutshell: Calling all cardsharks…a perfect stocking stuffer idea that beats a boring old gift card any day.
Week Two of summer vacation and believe me, the novelty is starting to wear off. Since the weather hasn’t exactly been cooperating, we’ve been making trips to the library instead of the beach (at this rate, my 5-year-old will be polishing off “War and Peace” any day now…). Lucky for us, we managed to schedule a short road trip over the long holiday weekend, and that means packing a bag of goodies for the car that will keep two little ladies entertained and occupied (and me from having to say, “Don’t make me come back there!”). We recently got our hands on Where’s the Duck?, a new card game for ages 3 and up that’s easy to play and great for on-the-go. The object is straightforward: match up animal cards into pairs, and the player left holding the duck card wins. Right from the start, my 5-year-old got the hang of playing this and kept her eyes peeled for a flash of yellow. Her older sister got a chance to demonstrate her big girl skills by acting as the dealer, and we sang silly songs like “The Farmer in the Dell” and “Old MacDonald” after a few rounds to keep things moving. Yes, I’ll even croon some tunes if it’ll keep my kids from clobbering each other.
In a Nutshell: If you’re looking to break out something new when “I Spy” has run its course, make some room in your bag for this portable game.
When my girls were babies and we hit the road (even for a day trip to my parents’ house), I was always lugging tons of gear for my own precious cargo. Stroller, portable crib, booster seat…you name it. While I couldn’t, of course, duplicate all the comforts of home, judging from the trunk of my car, you’d have thought I was! For those babes on the go who can’t quite settle down without a little traveling music, comes the ideal solution. Tiny Love’s Take-Along Mobile looks just like the standard-size model snapped onto her crib back at home, but in a travel-friendly version. It attaches to most strollers, car seat carriers and play yards, so your little one will never feel compromised. Five different melodies play up to 30 minutes of continuous music–plenty of time to get your little one off to Dreamland–as three little friends twirl and whirl overhead, inviting little ones everywhere to conk out and get some shut-eye. And if you’ll be traveling this holiday season, some extra zzz’s are definitely in order.
In a Nutshell: This mobile’s on the move, just like you and your baby. Whether you need it to stimulate or soothe, it goes wherever you do.
My 4-year-old’s favorite time of day is undoubtedly the afternoon. After a fun-filled morning at preschool, lunch and (hopefully) some outdoor play, she’s content to hunker down in her room for a while and settle in with her stuffed animals. I’m not rushing her off to be somewhere, so her mind is free to wander. It’s during these moments, the experts say, that kids get to “be kids” and when their imagination really takes shape. For those with an active fantasy life, but who also need to recharge their batteries with a little down time, comes CuddleUppets, a 2-in-1 plush toy that’s as fun on the go as it is for naps or bedtime. We’ve seen other soft travel toys, but none that is as generously sized as this line. Each machine-washable CuddleUppet features an animal head large enough to double as a pillow, with a blanket body that provides plenty of coverage for a sleeping tot. It makes for a perfect traveling companion that can easily stow away when you’ve reached your final destination. And even when you’re not in transit, this toy is just as appealing at home. After all, imagination knows no bounds.
In a Nutshell: Yes, you can take it with you. Available in eight different styles, including Magic Unicorn (shown here), these plush pals are travel-ready and snuggle-friendly.
A mom friend of mom recently treated herself and her family (kind woman that she is) to an African safari…and I don’t mean a trip to the Bronx Zoo. We’re talking the real deal, as in they actually flew to Africa and immersed themselves within the continent’s lush surroundings. Judging from the stories she shared, it was quite the adventure–and one that she’d love to experience again. As for the unbearably long flight and having to schlep from airport to airport? Not so much fun, especially for her young daughter. Because this is the time of year when many of us are taking to the friendly skies or hitting the road with the family, we’ve been busy scouting out travel items for kids that make the journey a little more manageable. Our latest treasure: Skip Hop Zoo Neckrests. These oh-so-cute travel accessories beat the pants off those flimsy airplane pillows: a real pain in the neck. Plus, Zoo Neckrests double as a travel toy companion, so Mr. Teddy can finally catch a break of his. And maybe you can, too. Shhhh…
In a Nutshell: A big brother’s shoulder can’t hold a candle to these comfy neckrests. Because if your kid can sit back and snooze during any part of that trip, we’re all for it. Skip Hop Zoo Neckrests are available in dog, bee, ladybug, monkey and owl.
I can hardly believe that in another year, my younger daughter will be starting kindergarten. It feels like only yesterday that my older girl was boarding the bus for the first time, and now she’s about to enter third grade! Because the little one likes to follow in her big sister’s footsteps (or at least, some of those steps!), she loves playing school even when she’s not in the classroom. I knew then that my preschooler would just eat up Get Ready for Kindergarten, the latest book in the LeapFrog Tag Reading System. If you’re not familiar with this electronic learning tool, it’s essentially a “smart” pen reader that works by touching the page to launch interactive games, reading exercises and other fun-filled activities. We were recently given a review copy of the kindergarten Tag book, which my 4-year-old happily put to the test. Teeming with reading, math and even science activities, the latest book in the Tag learning library did not disappoint. Starting with ABC Snack Time, my daughter followed along as she was prompted with questions about letter sounds in a fridge full of whimsical foods, from broccoli in boots to a teeth-chattering ice cream cone. Next it was on to “The Vowel Show,” a bit trickier for a preschooler just feeling comfortable with her ABCs. What I liked was the fact that she could choose to be challenged and I could lend a helping hand, or stick with what she already knows for independent play (reinforcement and repetition is perfect for this age). Like the other Tag titles, Get Ready for Kindergarten helps set the stage for learning the basics, while letting kids take the lead. If you have a child who loves to learn or, as my grandmother used to put it, “is hungry for knowledge,” then this new book will surely satisfy her appetite.
In a Nutshell: Kindergarten-bound tots who love a good game (and do we love the ones cleverly disguised as educational!) will eat up the newest title in the Tag Reading System. Also ideal for on-the-go learning for summer road trips.
Packing for a vacation with kids is a job in and itself; trying to figure out what will fit in your luggage is one thing. But if you’ve got young kids, you also have to set aside some room for their favorite toys, especially for those rainy, indoor play days (we’ve had more of those than I care to remember!). Whatever toy we are taking along, I want to make sure it’s worth its weight: a toy that can stand up to wear and tear, offer hours of play and, for a refreshing change of pace, one that is powered by imagination, not batteries. Diggin Active’s new BoxSets line is just what every traveling parent is looking for. These carryall playsets, available as a castle or dollhouse, contain all of the basics for inspiring creative, young minds. We relish the details on these wooden sets, from the castle’s movable catapult, to the dollhouse outdoor swing. What’s even better is that BoxSets lend themselves to multiple players of different ages–and that means fewer toys to pack. When playtime is over, all of the accessories and figures fit nicely inside and the carrying handle makes for easy transport. Now if we could get our kids to carry their own stuff, that would really make for a great vacation (sigh…)
In a Nutshell: Playtime on the go just got a whole lot easier, thanks to these well-constructed, portable playsets. Check-in time: now.
Sometimes, my 2nd grader likes to speak backwards–not facing away from me, but mixing up the order of her words. She, of course, thinks it’s hysterical; I find it maddening, especially by the end of the day. Because she gets a kick out of making us work to figure out exactly what she’s saying, it’s a real power kick…for a 7-year-old. But I figure there’s got to be a positive side to her punchy behavior. Maybe this strange sense of little kid humor was the inspiration for Sentence Shuffle Fun Deck. Housed inside a Band-Aid-style box are 56 illustrated cards containing a bunch of words that are out of order (for instance, “scaredy cat is a Linda.”) Players must then unscramble the words to form a sentence and then move on to the next card. Super-fast readers can show off their proficiency, while those just getting comfortable with chapter books can challenge themselves to become better wordsmiths. To up the ante, draw 20 cards, set up a timer and see how many each player can guess correctly. This is the perfect rainy-day boredom buster and works great for long car rides, too. You may find yourself getting caught up in the game play. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Or, should we say, “warn we didn’t you Don’t say.”
In a Nutshell: Kids who think they know their way around a sentence can test their skills with this travel-friendly game.
I’m convinced that my bag will forever contain remnants of my daughters’ fledgling careers as artists. Broken crayons, dried-out markers and scraps of paper and old receipts have served as the materials and canvases for everything from stick figures to cityscapes. In fact, some of their best drawings have taken shape en route to some remote destination, so I often make sure I am armed with sufficient supplies. For convenient creativity, we’ve got our hands on the latest travel-friendly art kit: Crayola’s Color Wonder Tiny Tube. Looks may be deceiving, as this pint-sized container holds over 10 feet of tear-off activity sheets, along with 3 markers. We love the fact that the drawing sheets have adhesive backing, so they stick on to any surface for static (read: in-place) coloring. Hard to believe that everything fits right in the handy tube, which goes directly inside your car’s cup holder. Time to rid the backseat of those hard-guzzled juice boxes and make room for the artistes! Pratt and RISD, here we come…
In a Nutshell: Good things do indeed come in small packages. This mini art set makes a great road-trip companion or Easter basket stuffer.