Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids Edition
We love this tablet. The Galaxy Tab 3 can be run in standard mode, and it's the same Galaxy Tab 3 that adults use. In kid mode, there are nice parental controls and preloaded kid-friendly apps with the option to acquire more. You can load up this tablet with apps from Google Play, for example, or the Samsung Kids Store. It's fun right out of the box. We love the carry handle that turns into a tablet stand and stylus version, although the other version with the orange bumper is good as well. For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids Edition (7-Inch with Carrying Case and Stylus) or Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids Edition (7-Inch with Orange Bumper Case)
This new and exciting learning game system is not only fun, but educational as well. The Leapster Explorer is jam-packed with preset games, but also has many downloadable features and apps to add more to the experience. This new version of the Leapster Explorer even includes a camera that is able to both take pictures and record videos. The games can help your child learn everything from reading to geography, but are also engaging so children have fun as they learn. Be aware though, the add on games can be pricy at times. Altogether though, the Leapster Explorer is satisfying and keeps children entertained.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: LeapFrog LeapsterGS Explorer ]
Shape by Shape by ThinkFun
Addictive for young puzzle lovers, this set also helps develop essential math and problem solving skills as kids play. Highly recommended!
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: ThinkFun Shape By Shape ]
This educational toy acts as a microscope with images that appear in their full magnified glory on the television screen. Kids will be actively searching for things to magnify -- coins, fabric, their own skin. The toy is battery-powered, and set-up is easy -- it plugs into the A/V jack on your TV. It's tricky for little ones (they'll need help focusing), but great fun nevertheless!
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: EyeClops Bionic Eye Multizoom, Green ]
How fun is a multi-level rocket ship play house? This one will set children's imaginations to the moon! It comes with a working elevator and a number of important figurines, such as astronauts, space vehicles, aliens, and more. Kid testers loved it. Very cute!
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Kidkraft Fun Explorers Rocket Ship Set at Amazon.com]
Zoomer Zuppies and Zoomer Dinos
These robot pets are both aesthetically pleasing and tons of fun! Children are sure to get excited from just the look of them, but they come with a bunch of fun features that keep things interesting past their appearance. These "robot" pets can sense when your child is playing with them and reacts to their actions. Both the Zuppies and Dinos have distinct moods that change depending on how you treat them (such as growling or roaring when angry), and can even move around on their own. The Zuppies can even play music and come with stickers so your child can customize them to their liking. Both the Zuppies and Dinos can be trained to do tricks, but be aware that it can sometimes be a bit difficult to figure out how to have them successfully perform these tricks. Overall, these toys are very exciting, interactive, and entertaining for kids of many ages. Their realistic reactions and interactive capabilities make them a definite standout!
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Zoomer Dino , Zoomer Zuppies Interactive Puppy - Scarlet , Zoomer Zuppies Interactive Puppy - Candy , or Zoomer Dino Snaptail at Amazon.com]
Tag Reading System by Leap Frog
Designed for children just heading out on the road to reading (beginning readers), the Tag Reader (which looks like a pen or stylus) is a touch-sensitive reading device that "reads" specially designed storybooks to children. Activities that encourage word recognition, other reading skills, and general learning experiences are also incorpororated. Currently, there are over 20 books and games designed for the Tag Reading system, some of which are classics like The Little Engine That Could, and others based on popular characters like SpongeBob SquarePants. The leanring activities are leveled and automatically adjust to a child's responses. Downloadable content is available online and accessed using a USB key.
The Tag Reading System includes a rather generic reading book, and the other storybooks are available separately. As such, you will need to factor the additional expense of books into the overall price of the product. (Kids will definitely need and want more storybooks).
We like the leveling, interactivity, and concept of this product. Downfalls are overall price, if you factor in the purchase of additional storybooks, and only one user can be tracked at a time (kids can share the unit, but the leveling and reporting becomes mixed up that way).
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy LeapFrog TAG Reading System, Green ]
Just Dance Kids for Wii, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3
This incr edibly fun, interactive game puts the video game console motion sensor functions to great use. The Just Dance Kids series of video games provide hours of entertainment, while simultaneously getting kids on their feet and moving. With a very impressive list of much loved (and child appropriate) songs and more than 40 different choreographed dances, kids imitate the dance moves of real children on the screen who go through the choreography with them. It is a definite hit for parties as well, with many different multi-player activities such as group dance routines and dance-offs. The dances range in difficulty and have helpful ratings to differentiate between beginner dances and more challenging dances, which allows children to challenge themselves and gradually move forward as they improve, offering motivation to keep playing. However, some children may find the game frustrating if they try the more difficult levels without enough practice. Just Dance Kids is a huge hit among our kid testers, and is ultimately a great way to get kids moving and exercising on a day in. Our favorite of the game series is Just Dance Kids 2. which very narrowly beats Just Dance Kids and Just Dance Kids 2014. This series is highly recommended.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Just Dance Kids 2 , Just Dance Kids , or Just Dance Kids 2014 ]
Balloon Lagoon, by the makers of Cranium, is a carnival "board game" (without the traditional board) that is truly exciting and educational at once. Best for kids ages 4-7, this game involves spelling simple words, unscrambling pictures, and more, all to the sounds of the merry-go-round musical timer. The object of the game is to collect the most plastic balloons the quickest. The game is battery-operated. Very fun!
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy Cranium Balloon Lagoon ]
Hullabaloo is a high-energy game with so many variations of gameplay that it always stays fresh. Kids learn about shapes, words, and colors, as well as develop listening, cooperation, and strategic skills. The Hullabaloo itself is quite sturdy and attractive, requiring AA batteries. It's easy to understand the rules quickly, especially so for kids with its additional oral instructions.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Cranium Hullabaloo ]
Kids strategize, using their Lego blocks to block their opponents in this intriguing family game that gets kids thinking. It's clever and changeable (rules can be modified to suit your kids' interests, talents, and attention spans), which keeps gameplay very fresh over time. There are total setbacks in the game that makes it better for kids over 7, which happens to be the manufacturers' suggested age.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: LEGO Minotaurus Game (3841) at Amazon.com]
Young children are wild about magnets and about free-play building. This set combines these two kid-friendly activities. Geomag with Panels sets contain rods (one color per set), nickel-plated magnetic spheres (that never tarnish!), and colorful panels of different shapes for unlimited play ideas. Kids can make unique and imaginative structures of all kinds, including such things as spinning tops and simple shapes. It's an educational and fun activity for kids over 3 (small parts), and the possibilities are only limited by a child's imagination, and the number of pieces in the set! It comes in sets with different numbers of pieces. Although the sets with less pieces are fun, most kids will want more pieces. We recommend the 125-piece set.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Geomag Color Variety Game Set, 120-Piece Set at Amazon.com
Magnetic Mosaics Kids
This very creative kit is great for a relaxing "quiet time" activity. The set comes with a variety of templates that kids populate with half-inch magnetic cubes (they're foam) to create interesting designs. The mosaics are built on a tabletop easel. The only down side here is that there
are not enough pieces to make more than one masterpiece at once, so it's not great for kids who like to display their artwork but would also like to start anew.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Magnetic Mosaics - Kids at Amazon.com]
Sets in the Lego City line are a perfect fit for this age group. Amongst others, we like Police Station, as it really is intricate with a whole slew of realistic details, as well as very rewarding to complete. Kids can put criminals in jail (the set includes two prison cells and even tiny handcuffs!), for example. There are three police vehicles included and little figurines. Need more Lego figurines? If your child owns more than one Lego City sets, he/she might benefit from having extra figurines. Try LEGO Community Workers Set. which is a set of community figures from a range of occupations with appropriate accessories.
[For user reviews, or to buy: LEGO City Police 60047 Police Station or all Lego City products at Amazon.com]
These smooth wood and plastic toy cars are all the rage! Automobolox Mini's are perfectly-sized customizable cars that come in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They have detachable wheels and windows so kids can create and recreate their own original vehicles; and they can also connect them together. The cars even come with their own VIN number. The quality of the wood and plastic vehicles is exceptional and the tires are real rubber. This particular set (pictured here) comes with one blue S9, one red C9, and one green T9.
[For user reviews, or to buy: Manhattan Toy Automoblox Mini's 3-Pack at Amazon.com]
These building blocks may not look as snazzy as other building sets, but that's one of the reasons why we love them! Kids are only limited by their imaginations with this set of wonderfully designed and manufactured blocks. Included in the set pictured here are 200 pieces--enough to truly inspire children of all ages. Other sets are available, whether you want to start smaller or add to your existing collection.
Not only are they more affordable, but they're also the blocks kids turn to time and time again. Why? They're simple, well-balanced, and kids aren't limited by colors and awkward shapes when they are building their architectural "masterpieces". (If your kids do like colored blocks, they are also available). Sometimes less is more.
[For user reviews, or to buy: Citiblocs Natural Colors Precision Cut Building Blocks (200 Piece) at Amazon.com]
This fun and easy art activity is appropriate for the whole family. The premise of Window Art is simple, but the results are nothing short of fabulous: slip an included plastic sheet over one of the book's pages of templates, use a black squirt-bottle to trace the outline of a design, then fill with more squirtable color. Each design--whether it's a family of colorful bugs, an ice cream sundae, or a collection of underwater creatures--takes about 24 hours to dry. Once set, the design becomes "clingable"--ready to display on any window of the house. The results are positively vibrant. Your windows (and view) will never look better.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Window Art (Klutz) at Amazon.com]
The Crayola Glow Dome offers a great way for kids to let their imaginations run wild and experience their drawings come to life. This rotating, glow-in-the-dark dome lets kids see their artwork painted on the walls in neon, glowing colors. (Kids are actually drawing on the globe or dome itself.) As soon as the lights go out, they experience a new creative world, that allows kids to put a spin on their usual artwork, inspiring more excitement in their creations. While the thrill of it might not last forever, it's certainly a fun experience while it does last.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Crayola Glow Dome at Amazon.com]
Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL
The Nintendo 3DS is the latest handheld system from Nintendo (the Nintendo DS Lite mentioned below is still a good system, but the 3DS is the latest). It's backwards compatible with the DS, meaning it can play every DS game in addition to the newer 3DS games.
The Nintendo 3DS boasts improved graphics, a robust e-shop with digital downloads of full games, and some extra features. And, of course as the name implies, it has 3D capabilities. Games specially designed fo r the 3DS can be played in 3D without the need for special glasses. The intensity of the 3D can be adjusted to taste with a slider, and it can be turned off completely, as some of our testers have opted to do. Note that the 3D element is NOT recommended for children ages 7 and under, and some kids older than 7 find it disorienting and choose not to use the feature. The Nintendo 3DS XL includes larger screens. Although this can make it slightly less portable than the original version of the 3DS, it is far from unreasonable and can be more appealing to younger children due to easier visibility.
To buy, or for more information: Nintendo 3DS - Aqua Blue , Nintendo 3DS - Cosmo Black , Nintendo 3DS - Flame Red , Nintendo 3DS XL Black/Black, or Nintendo 3DS XL - Blue/Black at Amazon.com]
Nintendo DS Lite
The Nintendo DS Lite is a super improvement on the DS. This lighter, brighter, and more compact edition of a fabulous portable gaming system drew ooh's and ah's from our kid testers. It comes in Coral Pink, Polar White, and Onyx Black. Of course, many girls love the pink version. Like the DS, the DS Lite features dual screens, wireless features, a touch screen, stylus, and microphone. It's more interactive than the GameBoys (for example, with one game, kids can blow into the unit to create bubbles onscreen; in another (Nintendogs ), they can speak commands to their virtual puppies).
Should you buy a DSi? If the kids don't play GameBoy games, then no. Stick with the DS Lite. If not, and you like the idea of having a camera in the DS, then go for the DSi. Our kid testers still play GameBoy games, and don't want to "upgrade" as a result!
NOTE: The better bet is to get the Nintendo 3DS (immediately above) as it is backwards compatible. The 3DS can play all DS games (not GameBoy Advance games) and boasts more features.
To buy, or for more information: Nintendo DS Lite Metallic Silver , Nintendo DS Lite Polar White , or Nintendo DS Lite Coral Pink and Nintendogs Labrador Retriever & Friends at Amazon.com]
Pretend & Learn Cash Register (by Learning Resources)
Playing store is a classic childhood activity that keeps children busy for hours at a time. Pretending they are grown-ups, kids imitate both the customer and the cashier, and playing with a realistic cash register adds an exciting and educational element to the fantasy. Of the many toy cash registers on the market to choose from, the Pretend & Play Cash Register is a particularly sensible choice with its real solar-powered calculator as its keypad. The large, attractive buttons allow even preschoolers to start feeling comfortable with the basic workings of a calculator. As children grow, this cash register provides an excellent introduction to the world of math and helps kids learn practical calculator skills. Along with these skills, they also develop social and vocabulary skills as they model real-world grown-up behavior. A scanner and scale are also featured in this innovative toy. The coin reader identifies both play and real coins, helping kids get comfortable with the names of coins. Children can use the cash register for real-world calculations. Kids can even use the register to handle real money for a garage or lemonade sale! This toy offers hours of pretend play and practical math lessons at the same time.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register at Amazon.com]
The classic game of Bingo has been made a little zippier and more child-friendly. Zingo! features a dispenser filled with tiles, called a Zinger. When kids slide the dispenser, out pops two tiles with images on them. The first child to shout out the object (as long as it matches with a picture on their card) gets the tile. The zingo cards are two-sidedthe yellow side makes for a less competitive game than the red side! This is a great feature that allows families to decide whether they want to have a more relaxing or a competitive game.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Zingo at Amazon.com]
This Mensa-approved brain game not only exercises kids' thinking skills, it's a whole lot of fun. The rules are simple, but the gameplay is nevertheless very clever. Children need to strategize in order to succeed at this game--a skill that helps them across the curriculum.
[For more information, user reviews, or to buy Blokus Classic ]