Category: Toys + Playthings

The 2016 best board games of the year from Spiel des Jahres. Family game night just got a whole lot cooler!

During the summer I usually let my kids stay up late, but we ditch the screens and play board games together instead. So, each year I keep my eye on the Spiel des Jahres award-winning board games to find the best new board games that are guaranteed to be interesting for the whole family. Sorry, Chutes and Ladders. This German-based award that literally means “game of the year” is basically the Pulitzer prize of board games. They consider games from all over the world, and we’re never disappointed with their choices. So, we wanted to share the winners that were announced today, because it just so happens we have loved...

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The Disney LEGO castle that has us all wishing upon a star.

We all know that there are some pretty amazing possibilities when it comes to LEGOs, from the skills they develop to the fantastical forms they can take. But the new LEGO Disney Castle is honestly pretty jaw-dropping. Disney fans, this is no glorified plastic silhouette of the castle. It’s incredibly detailed, with over 4,000 pieces (yep, you read that right) for your kid’s construction pleasure, along with a few of their favorite characters. But before you get lost in a Fantasia-like stupor looking at these pictures, know that the asking price is definitely a little steep ($349.99) for a...

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16 essential skills kids learn from LEGO, and fantastic resources to help get them going

Of all the toys that have passed through the hands of my three kids over the past dozen or so years, there is no question that LEGO bricks have been the most enduring and versatile. From their first little plastic bucket of mixed bricks, to those 1000+ piece architectural kits that require hours of concentration, LEGO remains a favorite toy — for all of us — even up against the siren song of video games. But even more than just being fun, I love the important skills that LEGOs can teach. I’ve seen so many of them firsthand as a...

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The most adorable cardboard playhouses for animal-loving kids.

If I had a dime for every time I walked into what was once a clean den or bedroom to discover it’s been colonized by tiny pillow forts and sheet palaces, well, then I could buy one of these awesome, animal-shaped HULKI playhouses instead. After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, they are now ready for preorder and I imagine a lot of kids — and parents — will be thrilled. Related: 15 of the coolest playhouses for kids, from DIY to major splurges  Dutch parents Jasper Janssen and Brigit Span created their whimsical playhouses as an alternative to large plastic ones that tend...

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The coolest bike helmets for kids. As in, ones they’ll actually want to wear.

Now that summer is here, our kids are looking for chances to bike, scoot, and skate to the park or pool with us. Yay for extra activity to wear them out, but we can’t help but think about their safety too. And we know it starts with a good helmet. The best helmet in the world won’t do any good, though, if your kid doesn’t want to wear it. To help you out, I’ve spent hours searching our favorite shops (so you don’t have to) to find the very coolest bike helmets for kids. As in, ones they’ll actually want to wear. Our kids...

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The coolest pool floats, from hot lips to flying rainbow unicorns

When I saw the FUNBOY pool floats my pool envy grew three sizes, because, a flamingo? Flaming lips? A rainbow unicorn? I need to have these in my life right now. And not just because they’re freaking cool. They actually give back in an amazing way too. These fancy floats, or “luxury floats” as they’re called (what?), turn out to be celeb favorites, if you tend to purchase your summer toys based on such things. Still, we can see why. They’re all perfect for Insta photo opps, from a golden swan to a giant flamingo, to a hashtag — which we suggest not...

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Shark Week is coming! Get ready with our 10 favorite shark picks for kids

Though the Fourth of July may be the number one holiday of the summer, Shark Week comes in a close second. It’s pretty popular among our readership because our kids get a good excuse to watch an entire week’s worth of programming about our favorite toothy fish. And, for that reason, it’s become somewhat of an annual tradition to round up our favorite shark picks for kids. If your kids are big fans of sharks too, get ready to tune into the Discovery Channel starting this Sunday, and check out our top 10 shark picks we’ve hooked just for you. CMP is an rstyle affiliate You’ll...

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The clever Bring Your Own Book game is our new favorite for family game night.

Now that my kids are old enough to play “real” games — you know, the ones where I don’t have to let them win — I love finding new clever and fun options for when we all gather around the table to play. So I was really excited to learn about Bring Your Own Book, a truly unique activity for our family game night. Created first by Matthew Moore and Luke Nalker, who launched it successfully via Kickstarter, it has been newly released by Gamewright, one of our favorite game companies, for people ages 12+. Since each game only lasts about 20 minutes, it’s perfect for families who might...

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The best friend blankie your child is sure to love.

I have a soft spot for twee animal products in general, but when I received Lewis, the snuggly, adorable travel blanket with the sweet raccoon face, I found myself in a blissful, childlike state, wanting to run outside and climb the nearest tree. The Nomad Travel Blankets from EllieFunDay go beyond adorable though, with a mission to encourage kids to venture outside more often. And Amelia the Bunny, Marco the Panda, and Lewis the Raccoon are all just waiting to be unfurled for an impromptu picnic, flown proudly as a cape, or tucked under a little head for some serious stargazing. Related: 10 really...

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These cool nature kits from Rose & Rex let kids choose their own summer adventure.

We’ve found the cutest new children’s toy, and it includes fairy dust. Or a treasure map. What more could any child want, really? The new, cool nature kits from Rose & Rex are what little kids’ dreams are made of, packed neatly into a cute wooden box. Carefully curated boxes that are sure to inspire kids to create and play, and take their big imaginations outdoors this summer. These nature kits come in two varieties, a Fairyhouse Kit and a Treasure Hunter’s Kit, so there is something for everyone, depending on whether your child is more inclined to whimsy or adventure (not that...

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Clear the table for 11 of the best board games for older kids. (Hooray for outgrowing Candy Land!)

The school year is winding down and I’m looking forward to nights with no homework (yay!) and fewer extracurricular activities on our calendar (double yay!). That means board game night. So I started to track down the best board games for older kids, since mine are quickly outgrowing the likes of Candy Land and Pictionary Jr. Of course, there are always classics like Risk or regular old Chess, which we’ve loved and played for years at home. But I’ve also discovered some newer games for older kids that are a little more challenging for kids 10 and up. And that, of course, means they’re a bit more fun for us adults to...

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Braille Bricks: the coolest new toy for kids with visual impairments

If you know us at all, you know we geek out when we find cool toys or kids’ gear that promote inclusivity. So when we discovered Braille Bricks, the LEGO-inspired building blocks that help visually impaired kids can learn to spell through play, we thought they were absolutely brilliant. And now they’re trying to bring these toys to all kids, everywhere, and we want to help. It’s so easy and doesn’t cost a dime. But first, you’ve got to watch the video of these kids getting their first sets of Braille Bricks. Grab the tissues. It’s heart-meltingly sweet. It’s so, so smart too. These moveable blocks gives kids so...

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Blankie Tails makes a big splash with new mermaid tails for dolls

If our most popular post of 2015, which introduced the brilliant and much coveted Blankie Tails, is any indication, there are now swarms of kids across America, flipping (ha) for their super-soft, well-made mermaid and shark tail blankets that are perfect for cozying up on the couch, or showing off at sleepovers. Lucky for all their kid fans, Blankie Tails just released the perfect complement to their people-sized tails: mermaid tails for dolls. Kind of ridiculous — and yet, ridiculously cute, right? After all, kids are outfitting their American Girl dolls in everything from equestrian wear to leg casts, so why not mermaid tails? I love that these...

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The Misty Copeland Barbie is back and ready for orders. Yes!

The internet’s been all atwitter about the re-release of the Misty Copeland Barbie doll. Can we blame the buzz? It’s Misty Copeland — brilliant prima ballerina, African-American trailblazer, and all-around girl crush. Apparently we’re not the only ones who feel so strongly about a doll representing her. As part of Mattel’s Barbie “Sheroes” collection, made for adult collectors (but coveted by kids too), she sold out within an hour of its original release. So the fact that Target and Amazon are getting more in stock in a few days is fantastic news, especially since the Misty Copeland Barbie dolls I’ve been trolling...

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Your kids will fall in love with these mini dolls on a big mission

You may remember Cuddle and Kind’s beautiful hand-knit dolls, which we featured last fall. We gushed over how cute the line is, and even more impressive, their amazing mission to feed hungry kids with ten meals donated to major hunger-fighting charities with the purchase of every doll. And, wow, did our readers ever respond: This remarkable company has already donated over 200,000 meals to kids in need in just over half a year. Now, Cuddle and Kind’s Little Collection — a new line of the same sweet dolls, but mini versions of their originals — is matching the mission. For every Cuddle and Kind doll purchased, whether it’s their original 20″ or their new 13″ doll,...

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A reusable tablecloth our kids can draw on? Yes, please.

With family picnics and outdoor parties on the horizon, I’m loving Jaq Jaq Bird’s Chalk Board Table Runner that gives kids — and adults, if we’re being honest — a creative canvas on which to doodle while they (cough) patiently wait for their food. It’s a much better way to keep kids occupied and in their seats than playing with their utensils. At 6-feet long, this portable table runner offers ample space for an entire group of kids to draw side-by-side. Or, hang it on a wall for some space-saving art opportunities. I even love that this table runner can be used to deliver...

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13 awesome, affordable gifts for kids who love horses

While I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of horse racing, I do usually pour myself a mint julep and watch the Kentucky Derby (without the hat) each year. My kids and I are fascinated by the sheer beauty of the stunning horses — an interest that, for me, began when my Mom gave me a classic Breyer horse — Black Beauty, of course — when I was 7 years old. From that point on, I was hooked on horses. So, moms and dads, whether your child heads to the stables every day after school or just dreams about it while they...

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May the Fourth be with you as you fly one of these cool Star Wars kites!

You don’t need to live in a galaxy far, far away to grab one of these cool inner-space worthy Star Wars kites from Think Geek on May the Fourth or any other day. And you won’t even need the force to get one of these babies into the air — just a decent breeze and an open field. Made of nylon sail material, they’ll be durable to withstand just about anything except for enemy fire and power lines, so keep them free from both. Related: More than 40 cool Star Wars The Force Awakens birthday party ideas! Word at the cantina...

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13 amazing superhero gifts for girls who can (and will) do anything

I love that it’s become par for the course these days to raise our girls with the knowledge that they can do whatever they want and be whomever they aspire to be — astronaut, organic farmer, singer, plumber, President. And we’re all hoping they use their undeniable powers for good, which, if you think about it, is kind of the essence of a superhero. So, in honor of National Superhero Day (yes, that’s a real thing!), we’ve rounded up some of our favorite superhero gifts for girls who can do, well, anything. (Top image: superhero capes from Lovelane) From dolls and capes to books and artwork, I think these are some wonderful gifts that...

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Melanites: The brilliant new doll line celebrating brown boyhood

I am so happy to discover Melanites, a new line of dolls created in a “celebration of brown boyhood,” thanks to the wonderful mind of Boston entrepreneur and minority youth mentor, Jennifer Pierre. While we’re always on the lookout for cool dolls for boys, as well as multicultural dolls that represent the varied ethnic and racial identities of our kids who want to play with them, this is one toy line that aims to accomplish both. Related: Target removes boy and girl toy aisles, Internet implodes. Jennifer’s goal is to take on the normalization of hypermasculinity, and help more boys of color to feel valued and empowered in society through a...

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Doll carriers that prove babywearing isn’t just for grownups

When both of my big kids became older siblings for the first time, they wanted to take over most of my mothering duties for me. Feeding the baby, changing diapers, and of course, babywearing. I eventually passed an unused baby sling down to my daughter, and she carried her dolls around the house — and to the grocery, the café, church, Target — with pride, just like I carried her baby brother. While we’ve seen baby doll carriers for kids on Etsy for a while now, we love that our favorite companies are making carriers for kids that match the ones we’re...

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7 of the absolute coolest new ride-on toys for kids. Let’s get cruisin’!

With a hint of spring in the air, it’s time to take stock of the cool ride-on toys out there so that our kids can stop hibernating with their handhelds and enjoy the great outdoors instead by pedaling, gliding and zooming around our sidewalks and driveways. And if your kids shot up a few inches this winter, you may have a good excuse to consider some new wheels. Here are some of the latest and greatest new ride-on toys that have zoomed into our view that we are certain will make our most adventurous young riders very, very happy. Related: Best gifts...

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Fisher-Price hires Jonathan Adler, and wait until you see what’s coming for babies and toddlers

This post has been updated with corrections. Fisher-Price is of course the brand behind many of our favorite childhood toys like that now iconic telephone and the little gumball machine looking push-toy. So their big announcement this week that Jonathan Adler — yes, that Jonathan Adler — has signed on as their new creative director in charge of baby and children’s items is huge news for those of us fans of his modern, clever design work. And those of us fans of modern, clever children’s gifts and gear that won’t break the bank. It’s not a totally shocking move for him considering he’s got...

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Disney LEGO minifigures are released, but look who’s missing.

Now that they’ve been revealed, I’m looking at the new Disney LEGO minifigures with great interest. I mean, I doubt there’s a kid on this planet who doesn’t imagine an array of 18 Disney characters transformed into LEGO minifigures and know right away that there will be at least one they absolutely have to have, please Mom, I’ll do anything, pleeeeeease….!  Related: 19 cool Rey Star Wars toys and gifts, from LEGO to tees to wall art It’s a fairly diverse selection, with characters ranging from classic Mickey and Minnie, to Pixar faves, and even less blockbuster-ish characters like Stitch, all available in May in those $3.99 surprise packs. But looking...

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Have bike, will travel: The super cool Durban bikes

Anyone who has seen my garage knows that we do not lack for bicycles. But, I always wished for a bike small enough to just toss into the trunk of my car alongside the kids’ scooters for weekend rides in the park or on the boardwalk. Which is why I was extremely excited to try out the Metro Special Edition foldable bike from Durban (yeah, the one seen on Ellen), a snazzy looking set of wheels that folds down to a portable size. What could be cooler? Made primarily for urbanites who may not have room to store a big bike in their apartments,...

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A toy that’s as magnetic as the man himself; Happy Birthday Mister Rogers!

To commemorate what would have been Mister Rogers’ 88th birthday today, we’re going to get him all dressed up for the special occasion. How about a purple cardigan and a pair of roller skates? Or maybe a fireman’s hat, sunglasses, and a bowtie? With the Hello Neighbor! Mister Rogers magnetic dress up set, you can dress up one of your childhood favorites in a whole host of getups — iconic smile included. Related: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Mister Rogers sticky notes The magnetic wardrobe and props, which include King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and X the Owl, come...

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Over 20 of the best bunny gifts for Easter, whether you’ve got toddlers or tweens

Ready for Easter? We weren’t either until we started searching the web for ideas, and got excited when we found so many totally adorable bunny gifts for Easter out there! And there’s no chocolate, Peeps, or jelly beans in this bunch — not that there’s anything wrong with those. We just thought it would be fun to find some cool, non-candy gifts for Easter baskets, for babies all the way up to our not-too-old-for-Easter-gift tweens and teens. CMP is an rstyle affiliate Shaped like those iconic Peeps candies we can’t stop eating despite ourselves, these Easter bunny crayons from Custom Crayons by...

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Creative kids can now design their own dream dollhouse and take it everywhere they go

We’re big fans of toys that inspire creativity in our kids. And if they’re small enough to fit in a backpack, even better. The Dollhouse Book by Rock and Pebble is perfection. This house-shaped cardboard-cover book is a 30-page blank canvas, literally, for your child to custom-create their own dream house. They can design at home or on-the-go. No more impatient waits for food to arrive at the table or for a sister’s dance class to be over. And once they’ve designed every room of the most amazing home ever, they can set it up to play — anywhere. Which they totally cannot do with that...

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Beating boredom with cool wooden toys inspiring art, design, engineering and imagination.

Walking the toy aisles of most big discount stores can make any parent feel dizzy, to use a polite word. Where are all the cool wooden toys? Where are the toys that inspire imagination? Why does it seem like every toy made for kids these days is some beeping, flashing, plastic monstrosity that isn’t built to hold a kid’s interest through the year? Well, not all…but lots of them. So I’m always reassured when I find smaller toymakers doing really special things. Like my latest discovery, the innovative company Once Kids, which makes cool wooden toys that help our children get in touch with their inner artist, designer, or engineer. And...

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Creative toys for an 8 year old — no beeps, boops or batteries

My daughter loves her screen time, that’s for sure, but lately I have been keenly aware of the other creative toys that she, as an 8 year old, really gravitates to, without any prompting from me. Or really, the toys that I realize I’m always telling her to put away, 16 times in a row before she listens. So maybe I’ll stop asking her to clean them up. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who secretly — or not-so-secretly — loves that quiet time when I’m reading or working, and the kids are next to me playing quietly, without...

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