When It Cools Down, These Will Warm You Up

Now that the weather outside has gotten a bit frightful, we will need to bundle up a little more.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean adding bulk or ugly, clodding boots- check out these lovely layers from some of our favorite brands (that last longer then a season, too!)

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When it’s cold enough to need a little more then just a shirt, check out the Craghoppers ‘Swainby’ half zip fleece for the man and teenager boys in your life.  Classic, comfortable, and nearly impossible to stain in my own personal experience (really, my guy has not been successful yet, and I could swear he’s trying), it also washes well without all the ugly pilling that some fleece get. Besides it’s good looks and great function, it’s really very warm and comfortable.  My son loves it because it’s soft (and it retains it’s softness after repeated washings), has a large pocket, and easy to pair with anything. It is made with a cotton fleece blend, and has insulating technology built in. With it’s high collar that can be folded down or left up for additional warmth, and elasticated cuffs and hem, it’s wearer keeps extra body heat in. Too warm?  No worries- just undo the half front zip for some air.  Get yours for $60 at http://www.us.craghoppers.com

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When you need a little more then a sweatshirt, put on the Skipton Jacket by Craghoppers.  Water resistant, so good for those days that are snowy or a bit rainy, it’s also soft, super insulated, and nowhere near as thick as you would think it needs to be.  It’s thin- as thin as your spring jacket- but it’s been doing the husband good in 3o degree weather with no complaints to be had.  Not only is it lightweight, but it’s also made of soft wool and has a satiny-smooth lining that feels great next to your skin.  It’s very smart-looking, great for work or going out, a compliment to any outfit.  It has both a zipper and buttons, and you can use either one or both together for added wind protection. To top it off (quite literally) is an attached hood.  There are two functioning side pockets, big enough for your hands, a pair of gloves, your keys, or a cell phone- yes, they really do function.  Get yours for about $180 at sites like http://www.backcountry.com/
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Roadtrips with Kids- What to Take

When you are taking a road trip with the kids, you want them to be comfortable and occupied (and quiet!) so the trip will be more enjoyable for everyone.  Here are some new road trip accessories for kids of all ages to help you keep on truckin’.

You’ve likely heard of BubbleBum (an easy to take along car seat that folds up and flattens out for travel).  They have expanded their lines to include Sneck (a seatbelt travel pillow) and Junkie.

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The Junkie helps keep your kids organized, and the car cleaner.  It is both a car organizer and an activity station that can help keep the kids busy once you put their favorite things inside. It is easy to harness into the backseat and store activities, coloring books, snacks, drinks, and more between two children (and carseats).  There are two retractable trays, two cup holders, an insulated area for cold items, and plenty of storage.  The tote bag is removable, so you can bring your “projects” into the house, hotel, restaurant- wherever you are headed next-  easily.  Junkie makes road trips more organized.

Sneck is a travel pillow that lets kids nap easily in the car, filled with micro-beads and is plush on the outside.  The Sneck attaches most headrests easily with a Velcro strap so it stays where the child wants it to.  There is a small mesh pocket that can hold a small toy or electronic device.  Kids can use Sneck 3 ways to find the position that is most comfortable for them to sleep in.

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You can find BubbleBum, Sneck, and Junkie on Btheir website as well as Target.comBabiesrus.comSears.com and Walmart.com. You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

NeckNapperz are easy to take along, adorable, transforming plush pillow/stuffed toys that are perfect for roadtrips, planes, trains- or even for your child’s own bed.  These neck pillows transform from plush toy into a plush neck pillow and back again, which makes them great for dual uses.  Kids are easily bored, as we all know, and being able to entertain themselves while you wait to board the plane or snuggle up with in the car, then use it when they are ready to nap is doubly-useful.

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Toys From TV Shows and Movies

This summer, there are tons of kids movies to choose from.  Of course, rainy days will also allow for some TV time, and kids love to role play and act out favorite scenes from TV shows and movies they love.  Here is some of what’s hot right now.

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Avengers- with several new Marvel movies out there, and more on the way, this line of toys doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.  Kids will love “becoming” their favorite Marvel hero when they put on masks, gloves, grab a weapon, and race to save the day.   My son loves getting to become his favorite hero (and this changes from day to day) and swoop around the house, saving us from danger. Or daddy, in some cases.  He loves his Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Iron Man Arc FX Armor gloves, one of which lights up just like the “real” Iron man.  The masks have large eye holes and are big enough for most kids. The new Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron line lets you choose from Hulk, Thor, Captain America, or Iron Man dress up gear, but sadly (just like the rest of the toy line) does not include Black Widow.   Sorry girls!  We would love to see Black Widow action figures and dress up gear for not only the girls who love these movies and superheros (and deserve a role model hero), but also the boys who want complete playsets.  Yes, there are many boys who do want to play with all sorts of action figures- it’s a new day, toy makers, with open minded parents and children.  You can pick up all the other dress up characters at stores like Target and Toys R Us for varying prices.

The dog wouldn't move, so he becomes a prop, LOL.

The dog wouldn’t move, so he becomes a prop, LOL.

 

Paddington Bear, everyone’s favorite, is here for a new generation from Darkest Peru. No matter if you and your kids are already fans or became so after watching the new movie, your little ones will want a Paddington of their own to snuggle up with.  YoTToy makes adorable plush toys, and Paddington is one of their newest. He comes in several styles and sizes, and one even comes with his own suitcase and marmalade sandwich.  As you grab your Paddington storybook, your child will grab their stuffed buddy to read along with.  Grab your Paddington at http://www.yottoy.com/home.html or stores like Barnes and Nobel, prices vary.
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Can You Build It? Sure, Why Not?

Kids and building go hand in hand- make it bigger, higher, better, more greener- whatever strikes their fancy that particular day. And yes, greener is certainly a word, especially when preceded by “more”. Not only are building toys a good time, but they help with parent child bonding, motor skills and hand-eye coordination, social skills and cooperation, creativity, spatial skills, and more. So, lets get building!

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LEGO, of course, are great building toys. With many sets and sizes to choose from, there is something for every kid (and parent) to play with.  LEGO DC Comics Batman™: The Penguin Face off lets kids recreate and act out scenes from favorite superhero moments. The Penguin has stolen a diamond and has his minions guarding it- Batman must save the day, of course.  Complete with scuba Batman and Penguin minifigs, scuba vehicle and duck boat to build, it also has weapons (because what are superheros without their weapons), Penguin’s umbrella, 2 minion penguins, “diamond”, and more for about $13 on http://shop.lego.com.   Another cool thing about this set is that the Penguin and Duck Boat were also seen in the recent “LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League” movie.  While the movie is quite a mouthful, it was pretty funny, and a good flick for the whole family (and fans of LEGO and/or Superheroes).   If you want to play “real” heroes, take a look at the Swamp Police Starter Set.  For $10, you get 4 minifigs, an alligator, boat, raft, “hideout” spot, and quite a few accessories like a spider, snake, handcuffs, walkie talkie, shovel, and more.

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Building toys don’t have to be all blocks, bricks, and hard edges anymore- have you met Bun Bun? These are soft and collectible stacking stuffed animals, created to be stacked and piled up.  Stacking plush toys have already created a splash overseas in countries like Japan, and they are now hitting the US markets. Bun Bun comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and animal varieties, and encourage kids to be creative and to see how high they can stack their new cuddly toys. Both boys and girls we have tested them with love them, and can’t get enough.  My son is in love, since they combine two of his favorite things- building and animals.  Stuffed animals?  Even better!
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Getting Your Kids To Bed

Getting the kids to go to bed, and to STAY in bed, can be one of the hardest times of any parent’s day.  Starting, and keeping, a bedtime routine is always ideal- but what to do when that doesn’t do the trick?  Sometimes, having just the right “helper” is what the Sandman ordered.

Check out some of these fun and innovative new products for bedtime and beyond.

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Have you met Brobo and his friends?  First introduced in 2012, but available in larger markets now in 2015, these fun and cuddly buddies will keep your kids company and scare away the darkness when it’s time for lights-out. There are several characters available- Brobo, Pep, Mumu, Trex, and Dog.  These adorable, futuristic robot friends are plush and soft, with glowing centers (think Iron Man’s glowing chest piece) that light up.  This is called “Shine Force”, and is activated by tapping it’s hand (or tail) to the light, which also vibrates.  $35 at www.brobo.com
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Fantasy Playthings for Children

Kids need to spend time in their own imaginations, creating worlds and scenarios of their own design.   Children who engage in imaginative play are shown to have better vocabularies, better cognitive flexibility, more creativity, and increased creative performance both on and off the job into their adult years.  They are also more flexible, able to consider other’s opinions, and adapt better in many situations.  Fantasy play is also just a lot of fun- here are a few of our current favorites.

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Safari LTD makes  a wide variety of figurines that are perfect for imaginative play.  No matter whether your child likes to pretend they are on a farm, in a faraway land, under the sea, or with mythical creatures (or maybe a mash up of the above), they can find fun new friends they will enjoy playing with for years.  Sturdy, with realistic painting and anatomies (of course, even the dragons!) these toys can take a tumble and look no worse for the wear.  They are fun to collect, but don’t need to stay on a shelf to be enjoyed.  You can find creatures in all shapes and sizes at https://www.safariltd.com/

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HABA puppets are great for children of any age (HABA recommends age 1 and up, but as they are soft with no loose parts or buttons, younger would be OK in my opinion as well).  They are soft-bodied with sewn-on faces and easy to manipulate parts.  These simple and cute puppets are basic use- one finger holds up the head, one moves one arm/hand, another moves the other.  They have many smiling, friendly faced choices that will give your kids many happy hours of theater-show creations.  There are also themes you can get in a set (one by one) such as Red Riding Hood, royal family, and more.  Finger puppets are also available. I have machine washed and hung-to-dry mine, which as any parent knows, is a bonus with messy kids who love to play.  Most puppets are about $15, see http://www.habausa.com for choices.
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Keeping The Kids Busy During Long Winter Days

Versatile- play with it inside, take it outside, pack it up and bring it along with you to grandma’s, even take it into the tub- is the new Playmobil Take Along Zoo and Aquarium.  This set comes with trees, pools, fences, and quite a few animals (such as zebras, giraffes, lions, fish, walrus) and human caretakers as well.  All of these pieces fit easily into the case, which folds up and is easy to store or take along.  When open, one side is the zoo, and the other the aquarium.  Your child can really fill it up with water and let the sea creatures have a swim.  It comes with quite a lot of pieces for one set, and there is room in the case for a few more should your child have some other “animal friends” that want to visit.  Available for $49 on Playmobil’s site.

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If you are stuck inside like many of us this winter (the temperatures have been crazy lately- more days in the negative then the positive degrees for much of the country) you are breaking out fun indoor playthings. Some inexpensive ways to replenish or restock are by American Plastic Toys- made right here in the USA, and really low cost.  Take the Fashion Doll Coupe- for only $5 (yes, really) you and your kids can take your toys cruising all over the house.  Since the wheels are plastic, they won’t leave those ugly and annoying black marks on your floors, either. The car is a two seater, and fits most popular dolls as well as smaller stuffed animals and toys.
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Getting Your Game On

Looking to add on to your world of gaming?  Check out these fun playthings that will keep your little one (OK, you too) entertained through the long winter months.

pic4Got a little gamer?  The cute 7.5 inch plush from Nintendo are soft and great for bedtime cuddles (or anytime).  You can find them in characters like Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Link, Red Pinkmin, and Yellow Pinkmin for about $8 in stores like Target and Toys R Us.

Again, good for the younger gamers among us (and some of the bigger players who are young at heart) is JAKKS Pacific’s Hero Portal.  The latest additions of the Plug It In and Play TV Games come in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers (each console comes with 2 heroes). These are simple to use-  since the games are built into the controller, there is no additional gaming console needed. The Hero Portal just plugs into the A/V jacks of any standard TV and contains all games with no additional consoles, wires, or software needed.  Just pick your Hero, place him or her on the portal, and begin battling your way through 6 stages and 18 missions in each game.  You can also unlock secret missions and characters with booster packs. Available for $40 at stores like Amazon.  Additional characters and consoles sold separately.

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Angry Birds Telepods are a lot of fun for any fan of the game- and by now, we are guessing that’s nearly everyone.  The latest sets come in Transformers or Stella (the pink lady bird) variety.  There are so many options of sets and characters available, that we will focus on the Telepods as wholes rather then any one set.  With many price points and sized sets (some even have play houses) available, there is one that is right for every budget and every fan.
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