By Heather Camlot
The holidays are almost here (ack!) and children are furiously writing up their wish lists (mine go so far as to present me their collection of toy catalogues with colour-coded circles so I know who wants what. So darling). To help weed through the 100 circled items on your children’s lists, we put together a few of our favourite things:
We reported on the LeapPad when it first came out in September and the tablet for tots is still going strong, making it onto all the hot toys for 2011 gift lists. Why all the buzz? Over 100 games and apps are available to get your little ones started on the path to learning about music, reading, math, science, health and more; it comes with a built-in camera and video recorder; it’s tough casing means accidental falls won’t break it; and of course it looks like mom and dad’s iPad, which as any parent knows makes it all the more appealing. $100, Best Buy.
When your child enters the storybook world of Once Upon a Monster, he works with old favourites like Elmo and Grover as well as new monster friends to help solve problems and make the world a better place. With each chapter, the player (single or with mom, dad or a sibling) joins a new colourful adventure where he’ll need to follow the monsters’ instructions to learn how to beat the drums, fly like a bird or dance at a birthday party. Entertaining and dare we say educational – in Sesame Street’s inimitable way. $40, Amazon.ca.
Children love discovering new things and this fascinating microscope allows them to do just that – with a digital kick. Plug the device into a computer (or projector or interactive whiteboard) and hold the scope over an item of interest. To focus, watch the screen and then turn the top of the microscope for magnification up to 43 times the original size. To capture the image on screen for future examination, press the single button for still shots or video. The combination of science, technology and exploration will make this a hit for the inquisitive kid. $60, Mastermind Toys.
We know you’re smiling! This rocking T says retro arcade game all over it, and we know dad will grab for it every day he’s in charge of getting the little one dressed and ready. Pick your colour, size and shirt type (T, long-sleeve, onesie), and get ready to kick it old-school. (If daddy’s into gaming and daddy’s girl is into dinosaurs, don’t despair. There are tons of patterns to pick from, too!) $28, Lilikoi Lane.
As any junior spy knows, a successful secret mission requires the right tools. With the ultimate spy watch, your undercover kid has access to eight important tools all concealed in a wristwatch: messages back to HQ will go unnoticed when written on spy paper and delivered via safe-drop message capsules; special instructions will be decoded through the decoder screen or by night vision light; suspects will be tracked through the night with crosshairs and motion alarm; and important rendez-vous will not be missed when armed with world time, stopwatch and alarm. Don’t worry, if the child is caught, the device is protected by locking armour. The location of the secret stash of cookies will remain safe. $18, Sears.
For those brave enough to hand over their iPad, this fantastic set from Crayola can help you feel a little more assured (though we do suggest parental supervision). The iMarker features a soft rubber tip that looks just like a traditional crayola marker and the app contains 60 animated colouring pages, including your standard black and white as well as colour by number and dot to dot. Pick your colour, pick your colouring tool (thin marker, thick marker, crayon, coloured pencil) and get to it. Two great features: the colour won’t go outside the lines and the app only recognizes the stylus – not finger smudges. $25, Toys R Us.
Super Mario is back with a new adventure, new enemies, new abilities and of course a new dimension — without the need for special glasses. Get ready to fight the Goombas and don the well-loved tanooki suit. $40, Amazon.
We weren’t sure in which age group to include these graphic iron-on decals by über-talented Julia Rothman, but with their cartoon-like appearance and whimsical visuals – from ice cream cones to roller skates to letters of the alphabet — we thought they’d look darn cute on onesies and kids’ Ts alike. Let little ones pick their favourite(s), iron on and voilà, a fun and fashionable statement. Once you’ve got the hang of these, let kids make their own designs with your computer and T-shirt transfer paper available at art and business supply stores. $15, Chronicle Books.
First published November 10, 2011, on WorkLivePlayCafe.com.