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Toys
Often when we think of rainy days, we picture time spent indoors — reading, building pillow forts and watching movies — desperately concocting ways to ward off boredom and help our kids expel astronomical levels of energy (without entirely wearing us out). But why miss out on all that wet, muddy fun? Rainy days are ripe with opportunity for outdoor play. Kids are biologically programmed to explore and get messy. Oh, how they love mud! It’s like sand, on steroids.As much as we parents... more
Soon the school year will be ending, and we’ll be enjoying the warmer weather and the longer days that accompany the approach of the summer solstice. It’s the ideal time to start spending more time outdoors — and to let our children capitalize on their core strength as kids: Playing!I’m a firm believer that all children need to experience a... more
You don’t need hand-lettering skills or even a chalkboard to create your own printable, shareable, digital chalkboard posters and prints.You just need Snapsprout, a free iPhone app designed for parents, complete with templates that celebrate everything from birth to those first days of school.    free • snapsproutapp.com more
Sick of garish baby toys? This cute little wooden archway — made of 100 percent birch and available in a variety of styles and finishes — is pretty enough to leave out all day long.It adjusts to two different heights and is finished with non-toxic stains. During Minnesota Parent's annual toy test, babies were drawn to the organic-cotton, wool-... more
It started with an innocent Freaky Friday daydream, parenting-columnist style. “Your kids are toddlers now. You should do a guest spot at Toddler Time,” I said to Shannon Keough, Minnesota Parent’s Baby on Board columnist.“And you know babies!” she countered. “Maybe we could trade places for a round?”Well, one thing led to another, and... more
Robbinsdale really is the new, hot place to be.It’s where you can find two of the Twin Cities’ trendiest restaurants — Pig Ate My Pizza and Travail Kitchen & Amusements (not to mention Victory 44, just a stone’s throw to the east in North Minneapolis). In the heart of Birdtown — on a single two-block stretch — you’ll find the... more
It seems like everyone has the travel bug lately. Even parents — a more traditionally tied-down crowd — are doing round-the-world travel. And they’re even bringing their kids, if their many Facebook photos are to be believed.But — as exciting as Iceland sounds and as enticing as Jamaica may be — large-scale travel isn’t right... more
Buying toys for kids with autism spectrum disorder can be tricky, especially when so many item are marketed as “sensory”or ASD friendly. Fortunately, local families have a special resource for guidance in this area: Creative Kidstuff — a local toy store with seven locations in the Twin Cities, plus online sales — has partnered with St. David’... more
The Push and Pull UFO is like a fidget toy for babies age 6 months and up.Four colorful rods with buttons on each end slide back and forth to make engaging clicking noises, offering simple lessons in cause and effect.A button in the middle of the spacecraft emits soft squeaks when pushed just right, encouraging fine motor skills.$9 • peopletoy.co... more
During my daughter’s last hospital stay, I received a tube, a bottle and a few jars of luxury hand cream — lavender-, grapefruit- and musk-scented emollients, in fancy, flowery packaging. It’s a thing. When people want to be supportive during a difficult time, they give you something that smells pretty. I knew about the casseroles, the... more
It’s almost farmers market season.And this insanely colorful, interactive book — from the author of the wonderful Cooking Class for kids — is the perfect companion for little ones, including 100 stickers, 50-plus punch-out paper fruits, veggies and flowers and activities such as mazes, matching games and adorable craft projects.There’s even an eat... more
One of the coolest things about toddler parenting is the constant newness — new milestones, new friends, new foods, new experiences. Particularly satisfying is finding a wonderful new place to explore. If you haven’t already, take a trip to Jensen Lake in Eagan. For the sake of discussing the toddler-friendly nature of this location... more
Parents and children can create funny, lovable stuffed creatures with this Monster Sewing Workshop craft kit, using a variety of provided printed fabrics, felt, thread and stuffing.A full-color manual explains the basic techniques of hand sewing. #lifeskills$24.95 • amazon.com more
Learning how to be a good friend isn’t easy. Sharing and saying sorry sincerely (when you’ve made a mistake) are required skills. And — as these new stories show — children must also learn empathy, patience, loyalty, inclusiveness and even the ability to look past prejudice and the intimidation of bullies.My Friend MaggieThis tale of friendship... more
When my best friend had her first child, she couldn’t believe how hard it was caring for a baby. She’d heard all the stories about sleepless nights, endless crying and nasty diaper blowouts.She was a longtime babysitting pro and an auntie, too. She was great with kids. She even worked with elementary school children for a living. She had all... more
Gina Matter was a kid when she fell in love with the story of Harry Potter. She discovered the books by J.K. Rowling when she was a struggling reader. Her mother started reading the stories aloud to her before bed.“The series captivated me so much, I began to pick up the books and continue on without her,” Matter said.Today Matter — who lives... more
Yay! Target has launched a new collection of whimsical toddler apparel inspired by the most famous works of Dr. Seuss.Graphic tops, including some sold with matching pants, feature famous quotes and characters and bright patterns, too.Look also for an early reader biography — Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler — geared toward ages 4 to 8.$8.99 and up •... more
This new stacking toy features six gear shapes that spin — rather than slide straight down — a spiral pole.SpinAgain, geared toward ages 1 and older, earned a Parents’ Choice Awards Foundation nod in 2016. We like that it includes a reversible base that can be flat for stability or rounded for a more wobbly challenge; plus it has a removable... more
Not all reading time must be filled with traditional, narrative stories.Each of these books tells its own kind of tale, ideal for parents and kids who like a challenge and time spent poring over beautiful printed pages. The Lost HouseThis is one of the hardest search-and-find books we’ve ever seen!Even after you’ve found everything hidden in... more
Bring on the next MasterChef Junior! Sized just right for little hands, this 17-piece intro-to-baking box was a hit during our annual Toy Test.But this gift set isn’t just a toy. All the tools and pieces are designed for real cooking and repeat use.Though technically recommended for ages 3 and older, it seems like a good fit (with supervision) for... more
This teething ring — made from untreated Indian hardwood and finished with vegetable seed wax — features the added bonus of bunny-esque ears made of organic cotton.If you’re feeling overwhelmed by plastic, check out these “teething ears” (available in many prints and colors) — along with rest of the amazing-looking Finn & Emma collection.... more
Sailing instructor Madison Hobbs had a clear view of all her beginning sailors, working in teams of three to balance and maneuver their 8-foot training vessels, powered only by the steady winds coming off Lake Calhoun.In one boat, kids chatted excitedly, working to angle their sail just right, trying not to tip over. In another, two boys... more
“You don’t have to play the guitar, you know,” the photographer said to 15-year-old Donovan Mack.Sitting on a tall white box, Mack dangled his feet idly as he plucked notes from the instrument. “I like to,” he said, and the soft melody continued as Will Swanson, also 15, moved around him, snapping his camera, trying to capture different... more
The Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, rather than reopening in mid-April as planned, will welcome visitors in June, due to a logistical delay in its multi-million-dollar renovations.The contractor hired to fabricate the parts of The Scramble — the museum’s new four-story climbing adventure, featuring two towers, a spiral slide and a netted... more
Take a trip back in time to your childhood and think about how you loved to spend your days.Many of us can remember joyful, uninterrupted hours of play — whether it was spent building LEGO creations, constructing a fort in the woods or dreaming up imaginary worlds for our dolls. Flash forward to today’s jam-packed schedules, increased... more
Winter is a great time of year to get kids hooked on reading at home. When we’re stuck indoors on cold Minnesota days, get cozy and read!But, when your child is not excited about reading, fostering these habits can be a struggle. Consider these simple strategies to get your child on track:Visit your local library frequently. We try to visit our... more
Help your kids build concentration and focus with this 32-card memory game that you can customize with 16 personal photos.We love the retro packaging and card designs. (What a cool gift idea for friends or family!)Bonus: All of Paper Culture’s products are made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper — and every order results in the planting... more
What if you could peer into the mirror and see your future self peering back? It’s you, but you have wrinkles, bags under your eyes, gray hair. How startling would it be? More important, how would this sight change you?This isn’t speculative fiction. It’s something a team of researchers cooked up as a way to help young people make better decisions... more
Sure, spring is technically “around the corner,” but in Minnesota, our reprieve from the cold usually comes not in March or April, but as late as June!Fortunately, we’ve got the scoop on indoor play spaces for kids in the Twin Cities — including more than two dozen venues — at mnparent.com/indoor.Two new additions to our list include... more
I remember, when I was a new mother, looking desperately to my mama friends for advice.I had one friend who — skipping the fake war stories and humblebrags I’d become accustomed to — bluntly said: “I just want a damn shower.” Please pardon the not-family-friendly language, but the inflection/anger is important here.Indeed, just wanting... more
Little kids don’t need anything fancy to get interested in reading. They require only a willing parent and a book or two.But sometimes literary bells and whistles — such as those included with the books here — can be just the thing to encourage kids to use their imaginations, engage in creative play and maybe even go the heck to sleep!  Train... more
Here’s a fun rainy-day / frigid-day activity: Take photos, artwork, invitations and more and turn them into small puzzles!Attach images to the kit’s adhesive 4-by-6-inch foam boards, then slide them through the Make Your Own Puzzles puzzlemaker to safely create perfect jigsaw pieces.Note: This toy was popular with all ages at the annual Minnesota... more
There’s regular PlayDoh (playdoh.com) and homemade play dough (tinyurl.com/playdough-mn). And now there’s Eco-Dough, an all-natural play dough made with plant, fruit and vegetable extracts.It’s lightly scented with essential oils (which keep the dough soft and pliable), so your hands smell and feel great — and slightly moisturized — when you’re... more
Squeezy bath toys are super fun! But how do you ever really get them clean?If the very thought of mold potentially growing inside your kid’s bath toys creeps you out, we suggest you check out Marcus & Marcus’ silicone squirting bath toys, which can be taken apart and easily and air dried — or even run through the dishwasher (top rack only).... more
It’s tempting to hibernate during a frigid Minnesota winter, but your tots have just as much energy to burn now as ever.Making the most of the season, however, requires a bit of creative thinking — not to mention a lot of winter wear. I was reminded of this recently when I helped my young daughters run their very own hot cocoa stand. (Yes,... more
Welcome to our Technology Issue!Yes, it’s that time of year when we address one of the biggest distractions human children have ever known — digital media. Given our issue theme, I thought this might be a good time to return to the story of my 8-year-old son and his technology use.Maybe you remember how, in our June Issue, I wrote about the... more
Your kid wants LEGOs for the holidays: Again. Had enough?We highly recommend the latest iteration of building toys from Lauri as an alternative.Lauri’s new Action-Stackers Big Builder Set includes new joint connectors that allow children to build out (instead of just up).New spinning connectors can be used to create wheels and other features with... more
During research for our annual Minnesota Parent Toy Test, we came across a local company — DoodleTown Toys of Big Lake, established in 1972 — that produces beautiful, handcrafted wooden toys.Michael and Linda Poisson use northern white pine to create their toys, which feature signature smooth edges thanks to painstaking sanding and routing.We... more
Babies love tags! What’s up with that?Satisfy your infant’s fixation with a city-themed soft block from Rose & Rex, which includes four tag-like tabs with holes just right for babies’ fingers (plus an actual tag).Locales so far include London, New York, Brooklyn, Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Sydney.All the blocks —... more
Based on reviews, recommendations and a few personal favorites, this comprehensive holiday gift guide should cover everyone on your list!Chief criteria for adult gifts was either practicality -- something super useful -- or comfort, for the person who has everything but could use a little R&R. Kid gifts were selected for their fun and... more
You’ve heard of The Elf on the Shelf. The 2004 children’s book and doll set has become a beloved, playful tradition among many families. It’s also caused backlash from parents who dislike the concept of a nanny-state elf who spies on kids and evaluates their behavior for gift worthiness.Well, what if you could have the playfulness of an annual... more
The group of parents now raising tweens is the last to grow up — basically — without the Internet. The good news is that, having received our first email addresses on dinosaur systems as college students, we DO know how the web works. We all have Facebook (well almost all of us), plus most of its cousins. We’re hooked on getting answers... more
My parents taught my brother and me to play Monopoly and then spent the next five years finding excuses not to play the game. After all, it takes a lot of time and patience to play board games with children. They forget the rules, they may cry when they lose and sometimes they try to cheat. My brother was famous for hiding a stash... more
Turn off the TV/tablet/phone/LeapFrog and play face to face with these 12 awesome, family-friendly games.Zoo on the LooseObjective: Lead five cuddly animal escapees on a playful adventure by following the directions on the cards. When the zookeeper card pops up, players must get the animals back in place as quickly as possible.... more
I’m so excited about all the awesome toys — and toy-related ideas — we’re spotlighting this month in our annual Toy Issue!Wait. What?You don’t want more toys? You don’t like how your carpet/coffee table/entire existence has disappeared under a thick layer of giant playgyms/mats/bouncers/vibrating chairs, noisemakers and Megabloks? Or maybe it’s... more
Ages 0–3Picture BooksGiraffes Can’t Danceby Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-ReesMeet Gerald, a giraffe who desperately wants to dance, but can’t quite get his long, wobbly legs to cooperate. With perseverance and a little encouragement from a new friend, Gerald succeeds. Gerald’s story will inspire your kids to try, try again, and make their dreams... more
Sometimes the toys children want the most are the very ones that cause parents uncertainty — not just about our budgets, but also our values. Items that top a kid’s wish list can present parents with a multitude of toy-buying dilemmas.It could be a doll that each of your child’s friends has, but comes with a hefty price tag. Or maybe it’s a... more
Meddy Teddy — a “100 percent yoga-poseable” bear — isn’t the first toy to encourage kids to practice yoga.But Meddy, with his serene smile and peacefully closed eyes, may be the first to also encourage meditation, a mindfulness practice parents are finding surprisingly effective in dealing with behavior problems.One Baltimore elementary school... more
If your kid can’t get enough of chewing on your car keys (ew!), you might want to strike up a friendship with Eli the Elephant, Gus the Giraffe, and Leo the Lion — a trio of chompable stainless steel “keys.” Geared toward ages 6 months and up, dishwasher-safe Kleynimals (pronounced “clean-i-mals”) aren’t cheap, but they’ll certainly last from one... more
Check out the wide variety of local toy stores we are blessed with in the Twin Cities! ABC Toy Zone, Burnsville, Chanhassen and RochesterAir Traffic Kites and Games, six Twin Cities locations, including MOAAutism Shop (This store is now online only.)BuyBuy Baby, WoodburyChoo Choo Bob’s Train Store, St. PaulCreative Kidstuff, seven Twin... more
Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash Track Set$44.99 | ages 4 and upFew kids in our toy test could resist this mesmerizing set — a new-and-improved version of an older model from Hot Wheels. Even the veteran parents in the group agreed this toy would definitely be worth the space commitment — and the price. A single central booster (which uses 4D... more
Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE our annual Toy Issue. My kiddos have participated in the official Minnesota Parent Toy Test, and I even rely on the results for holiday ideas. I’ve also genuinely loved checking out all the cool new toy favorites — old and new — with my kids, neighbors, nieces and nephews during each stage of childhood. But the... more
It's time to gather around the crèche, the menorah or the non-denominational dinner table and show Baby what the holidays are all about — spending time with family and friends, honoring our religious/social traditions and getting lots and lots of presents. “What should I get my baby for Christmas?” is a... more
Infant gear can be so ugly!Who’s this stuff for anyway? Babies?Enter modern-American designer Jonathan Adler, who recently partnered with Fisher-Price on a new line of contemporary items, including a chic little vibrating bouncer with a built-in mobile, featuring a signature high-contrast black-and-white fabric, plus walnut wood accents. $119... more
Few phrases excite me more than "city-wide garage sale."And tomorrow is the opening day of Inver Grove Heights' three-day city-wide sales, which run from Thursday, Aug. 25 to Saturday, Aug. 27.Neon signs are starting to crop up at intersections, and my heart is aflutter. I picked up the $1 directory outlining the 47 participating sales -- a... more
When I talked to Maria about her third-birthday party, a theme immediately emerged: She wanted a mermaid party. For an almost-3-year-old, the concept feels as obvious as it is simply put, “a mermaid party.” No explanation needed.Mermaids have captured Maria’s imagination. We’re not just talking “Little Mermaid.” We read a variety of mermaid books... more
I’ve become that mom who cannot stop talking about her kids. It’s gotten so obnoxious I’ve even begun meetings and presentations by whipping out photos. They’re just so important to me, so central to who I am. If you don’t know about them, you don’t really know me.I am passionate about my career as a writer. But becoming a mom has fulfilled... more
Mother of two Asha Dornfest started her ParentHacks.com blog in 2005.Her recent book of the same name features 134 whimsically illustrated ingenious ideas for simplifying life with kids, such as:Strap your baby into a forward-facing carrier when you trim his or her fingernails.Put the ketchup under the hotdog to minimize mess.At the beach? Stash... more
Summer on the North Coast brings with it that mixed blessing of longer days for parents: Yes, it means more daylight for outdoor fun, but it also means putting the kids to bed well before the sun goes down. Perhaps you can lull your little one to sleep — or at least while away the hours — with one of these new-in-2016 sleep-adventure stories.They’... more
Now that I’m a few years out of the woods, it’s pretty easy to wax nostalgic about the toddler years.I even get a little jealous when I hear about someone’s early morning toddler dance parties (even if they occur at 5 a.m. sharp) or when I see a heavy-lidded dad pushing a stroller to the park on a Sunday morning when any reasonable person would be... more
The Twin Cities is home to an increasing number of playgrounds designed for kids of all abilities.St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development is hosting a grand opening on July 20 to celebrate the completion of the multi-million dollar renovation and expansion project at its Minnetonka campus.Among the features is a new inclusive... more
In Minnesota, we do a great job of making the most of winter, but we absolutely live for the immense relief at the end of our signature lengthy deep freeze. For parents of littles, there’s extra joy in the shift from bouncing off the walls to running barefoot and carefree through the fresh-cut grass. You’ve spent the winter months holed up,... more
Got an aspiring builder on your hands?Brackitz ($59.95 for a 100-piece set) — small wooden planks that connect to clear plastic brackets — allow for a multitude of creations that won’t sag or tip over as easily as some other sets.Find sets at store.discovery.com or amazon.com. more
Does your kids’ dress-up box need refreshing? We recommend these sturdy, wearable Props in a Box ($74.99), available in themes such as The Princess & The Chef, The Dinosaur & The Pirate, The Astronaut & The Fisherman and The Doctor & The Farmer. Kids can use the included props and backdrop with each set to create theatrical... more
Celebrity yoga-instructor Alanna Zabel has created the world’s first yoga doll collection — known as AZIAM Girlz.Each doll ($29.95) features articulated joints that allow for a full range of motion. In fact, they’re flexible enough to do all common yoga poses. Asana, the first in the series of dolls, comes with doll-size fitness accessories,... more
Pillow-fort season is upon us! Keep cabin fever at bay with a Discovery Kids 77-piece build-and-play construction set ($19.99). We recommend you buy two sets (or supplement your fort-making endeavors with your own furniture) if you want to create a roomy playhouse. Retailers include JC Penney, Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Toys R Us and Walmart. more
The SassyPop Play Pod ($59.99) features gorgeous bright colors, five detachable toys and an especially large base with double padding and high sides to corral your kid.But what really sets it apart is that it twists and collapses down, arches and all, into a convenient travel/storage bag so you can take in on the go — maybe to grandma’s house... more
Today’s games and puzzles are so well-designed — and in tune with kids’ and parents’ needs — they seem to play more like toys! And that’s making more and more of our playtime downright educational. Check out these awesome games (including a local favorite) for stocking stuffers and more!  Cat StaxWhy we love it: This game’s cute,... more
If you’re looking for something extra-special for your kid’s room, we have just the thing: Local woodworker Gary Moore is making toy boxes that look like LEGO bricks (sold as OGEL toy boxes) as well as shelving-storage units designed to look like giant Etch A Sketches (sold as Stretch-A-Sketches).Moore, who hails from Cardiff, Wales, moved to... more
If a Boppy pillow and a Bumbo seat got together and had a kid, it would probably result in something a lot like the Hugaboo baby seat ($59.99).This 100 percent polyester floor seat offers leg and back support for ages 3 months and older. It includes an attached seat bottom to keep Baby from sliding onto the floor, plus two hoops for attaching... more
If you Google “best toys for babies,” you’ll come up with more than 37 million results. The offerings are varied and extensive, including a $23 NogginStik rattle — “not just a toy, a tool for laying mental growth foundation” — and a melodic snail that promises to “enhance sensory awareness, visual skills and hand-eye coordination.” Indeed,... more
Early childhood experts are always talking about how kids don’t need special toys: Just give a kid a cup, bowl or stick and let his imagination do the rest. This, they say, is how children learn — organic, creative, unplugged, self-directed play.And, for the most part, I believe this is true, especially for babies. (Check out the Baby on... more
In the closet, on the shelf, under the bed, even underfoot … there are toys. They’re everywhere! The stuff kids’ dreams are made of are the same objects that create endless nightmares for parents — picking up, cleaning, sorting, finding missing pieces. Toy curation in a multi-child household is a never-ending story. Then there’s all the... more
What do you get when you put 20 kids — age 1 to 10 — in a room full of brand-new toys? Our curious and cute testers, all Minnesota kids, found 30 great toy picks for holiday gift giving.Read on to find the full results to our annual Toy Test, including options for all ages, starting with toys for infants and on up to top picks for teens.... more
Instructions for the Noisy Ball ($25) — based on a traditional folk design — are quite simple, really: Grab, shake, squeeze. Crinkle, jingle, squeak. Its 36 soft velour panels in nine vibrant colors are designed to engage a baby’s senses of sight, touch and sound. And it’s machine washable.   more
My boys are 13 and 11, which means I’ve thrown roughly two dozen birthday parties over the past decade or so (no wonder I’m so tired). I’ve never been a skilled party-giver, but nor am I a fool. In those years of experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about birthday parties. And so, if some cruel twist of fate were to subject me to... more
Need to throw a Minions-themed party on a budget? No problem. Check out these games and crafts. You just need a little planning (and some time to buy supplies) and you'll be on your way! flying minionDecorate a yellow Solo cup with a minion face. Make a hole in the bottom of the cup and place it on a string hung horizontally between two... more
Objective: Bounce your balls onto the grid to create the required patternsAges: 7 and older, but younger kids can play tooPlayers: 2 to 4Cost: $17.99Why you’ll love it: This game is addictive, fast paced and quick to play. It makes a great birthday party game, or even an interesting way to decide who dries the dishes or picks up the toys... more
Most parents love to provide new toys for their children to keep them learning — and engaged for more than a few minutes. Brand-new toys, however, are just plain expensive. Fortunately, Twin Cities businesses and organizations are stepping up to fill that need.Elizabeth Wilcox of Golden Valley — a mother, a former Chinese-immersion teacher... more
The Roarin’ Shark Shade Pool ($34.99) from Intex is 80 inches wide and holds 32 gallons of water. Its partial sunshade and inflatable floor make it a good fit for the toddler set.It’s recommended for ages 2 and older. more
Objective: Collect the penguin’s eggs by remembering their colors when your turn rolls around.Ages: 4 and olderPlayers: 2 to 4Cost: $29.99Why you’ll love it: This imaginative twist on the classic Memory game not only features penguins, (and what kid doesn’t love penguins?), but it also develops brain-building recall skills.  Pengoloo... more
Take a browse through the local parks-and-rec or community ed brochures and you’ll be amazed, if not completely overwhelmed. Our wonderful Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs offer an extensive array of enrichment opportunities for the whole family. Talk to your neighbors and you’ll hear many parents breathlessly list off team sports and... more
Chewbeads — a popular maker of colorful, chew-safe necklaces — has introduced a stroller / car seat toy attachment known as the Gramercy. It seems like the perfect distraction for curious babies who like to touch, tug, and chew on the go. It’s 100 percent silicone and available in four colors.$15 • chewbeads.com more
Donnie Lemke, a children’s book editor who lives in St. Paul, and Bob Lentz, an art director in Bloomington, have joined forces — as Lemke & Lentz — to create a cool collection of interactive, die-cut books.Donnie Lemke with his daughter, CleoBob Lentz with his son, LincolnTheir super-sturdy Book-O-Beards, Book-O-Hats, Book-O-Teeth and Book-O-... more
Name of the game: Rock Me ArchimedesObjective: Move your marbles from the center of the teetering platform to your end without letting either end to touch the ground.Ages: 8 and upPlayers: 2Cost: $34.99Why you’ll love it: This game not only helps kids (and even us adults) develop their strategizing and estimation skills, but it also... more
Name of the game: Sock Puppet CharadesObjective: Act out what’s on your card using sock puppets and a series of provided props.Ages: 8 and upPlayers: 3 to 6Cost: $24.99 Why you’ll love it: What could be more whimsical than a game of charades with the kids? Charades with sock puppets! And these sock puppets are adorkable as well as adorable... more
A friend of mine recently confessed, “I don’t have the make-believe gene. I love my kid, but I don’t like to play with him.” While I consider this mama to be one of the very best I know and saw absolutely no shame in her confession, I felt something shamefully “superior” inside. Pride? Relief? Accomplishment?I consider myself a... more
A couple weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner. Their younger son came, too, and our boys were charged with entertaining him while the grownups hung out doing grownup things. The guys rose to the challenge by digging through their bins and shelves for toys that a younger dude might be interested in. That turned out to be a... more
I attended my first JBF sale (that's Just Between Friends if you don't know out about them yet) last September. I had a list of a few things I was looking for, but I also didn't know what to expect. It was impressively organized and made shopping less overwhelming. The first pair I stopped to check out some shoes and found these funky shoes... more
Beat cabin fever by building your own roads or railways — ndoors! — with award-winning PlayTape, available in a variety of widths, lengths, colors and designs, including railway track. Vroom! Learn more at inroadtoys.com. Price: $7.99–12.99 more
As most parents do, I often think about my children and wonder what kind of adults they’ll be when they grow up.I hope they will become altruistic individuals, giving more than they take from the world.But my children are constantly bombarded by messages from billboard ads, celebrity figures and TV commercials that scream the opposite — that... more
Playing games is a fun way to unplug from our many electronic devices — and build a sense of connection as a family. Board games, stacking games and card games also provide educational opportunities for children to practice important social skills such as taking turns, self-control, communication and perseverance. Check out these quick, fun and... more
FirstBIKE, like any good balance bike, helps kids develop balance and eventually transition to a pedal bike. But this super-sturdy bike also features a rear-drum brake, a steering limiter, mud guards, sealed bearings and — perhaps most interestingly — a MonoSki attachment, allowing kids to transition “seamlessly from sun to snow.” It’s recommended... more
Do you shudder a little when you buy your LEGO-loving kid yet-another set? Sure, they’re absolutely worth the cost, but they (and the cost) pile up fast. Solution: Rent LEGOs! Pley — a new monthly subscription service — is the Netflix of LEGOs (or Netbricks, you might say). You choose a set; they ship it; you build it, break it apart and send it... more
The baby mobile. That adorable musical nursery accessory expectant mothers envision as part of the ideal nursery for their baby. I was no different. The bedding set I fell in love with was the Disney Baby Peeking Pooh crib set. I've been a Winnie the Pooh fan for as long as I can remember and I'm especially partial to Tigger. The bedding set... more
Among the many, many things you swore to yourself while waiting to become parents — including but not limited to no screen time, no Dora, no yelling, no sweets — top on the list of good intentions was “no spoiling.” You would raise a well-mannered and thoughtful child. One who says “please” and “thank you,” holds doors open for little old... more
Yep, we did it again.We packed a bunch of kids (including our own), age 6 months to 9 years, into a room filled with play things for our annual toy test. Look what they found! Note: Though we list specific local retailers — who helped make this toy test possible with donations and loaner toys — many other local retailers and online outlets... more
Walk into your average toy store, and the thing you notice almost immediately is the noise. There are toys that talk. Toys that sing. Toys that beep and chirp and make all sorts of other indescribable sounds. And many of these toys will bring joy to the children who receive them.But how long will that joy last? And will these toys help stimulate... more
Jessica Flannigan of Maple Grove — author of the Live the Fancy Life blog — knows how to throw gorgeous parties. Her oldest son Bodhi’s third birthday party this past spring was no  exception, even though she was starting her third trimester of pregnancy during the planning.She simply went store-bought (mostly Target... more
Parenting is full of unexpected phenomena.One of the craziest, if you ask me, is insanity that ensues when a young child opens his or her birthday presents at a big, public party.It started for our family during the preschool years when we began having bouncy-house birthday parties for our son.After jumping around like crazy animals for an hour,... more
With Earth Day approaching, you might be wondering how to involve your toddler in the ecological discussion. They are old enough now to enjoy some Earth Day events, participate in eco-friendly habits such as recycling, and even start to see that their world goes beyond your finished basement.“Now wait, Jen,” some of you might say, “we already... more
There is a sweet duality in the developing toddler brain — boundless imagination alongside a tendency to be extremely literal. We ask them not to actually eat the dusty, colorful fallen leaves on the ground and later make a “garden salad.” Or we watch as they stare — perplexed — at the dark sky, after the announcement that it’s raining cats... more
A long traditionToy theater, as In The Heart of the Beast’s Education Director Bart Buch explains, is a unique and intimate combination of art and performance that allows artists complete control of the production. Originally sold as kits of popular plays in the 19th century, a typical toy theater sits about a foot or two tall and looks just like... more
It’s no secret that winters in Minnesota are long and cold. If you have a new baby, dragging yourself and your tiny little bundle of joy out into the subzero tundra might seem like an insurmountable task. Getting out of the house can be crucial during these dark months, if only to help preserve your sanity. Plus, if you have an older child in... more
Babies. What an excellent excuse to make googly eyes, goofy sounds, and to splurge on adorable newborn outfits. Is your favorite person about to give birth? Chuck the outfits, the booties, and the bottles. What every new parent does need is more time and more money. Both are in short supply.Unfortunately, you can’t add hours to the clock or... more
If you have a tween, you’ve been parenting long enough to have navigated a number of safety issues regarding your offspring, whether it’s seat belts, sunscreen, or secondhand smoke. But if you’re like me, you may have overlooked a concern that’s been right under your nose all along—or, more accurately, on either side of your head: hearing loss.... more