Here Are All 7 New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Lego Sets

Photo courtesy of Lego, used with permission.
Photo courtesy of Lego, used with permission.

It’s Force Friday, and that means brand new Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise is appearing all over the place. We’ve been waiting to see what Lego was going to roll out, and now the sets are here and they are EVERYTHING WE DREAMED OF. Continue reading Here Are All 7 New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Lego Sets

Blu-Bot Moves and Grooves

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
Excited to try out Blu-Bot. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Recently, my son Joey and I had an opportunity to review the Blu-Bot robot toy from Silverlit. We are definitely a household of robot enthusiasts, toy and otherwise, so we were very excited to take Blu-Bot out of the box and see what he had to offer.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
The Blu-Bot’s packaging. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Blu-Bot is shipped in an informative and eye-catching package. Open the Velcro cover to see Blu-Bot’s color (black or white) and to read some basic instructions. At a glance, you’ll be able to see all of the functions he performs with and without his companion app.

In manual mode, without the app, he dances, detects obstacles, acts as a guard, and is able to talk to other Blu-Bot robots. Using the control panel on the back of the robot, you can program his facial expressions and movements, up to 40 steps.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
Blu-Bot’s control panel. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Blu-Bot also works with a free app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices. Look for the appropriate app for your device in the App Store or the Google Play Store. For our review, we used an iPhone 5.

With the app, you can drag and drop icons to create a program. Make him walk, turn his head, change his facial expression, and speak with up to 39 steps. You can choose from several pre-built dance sequences. Blu-Bot can even change your voice. Record a phrase and choose from six preset robot sounds. Blu-Bot will play back your phrase in a robot voice, and the distortion is pretty humorous. You can also use a gesture control feature to give Blu-Bot instant moves.

Blu-Bot on GeekMom
He lights up and has many facial expressions! Photo: Maryann Goldman.

We found Blu-Bot easy to use out of the box. He’s recommended for ages 5+, and I think that’s accurate. Even younger kids can use beginning programming skills to drag his movement icons around and build a quick program.

Blu-Bot can even be used as a Bluetooth speaker. Once you have him paired to your device, play a song, and listen on the Blu-Bot speaker. How cool is that?!? The sound was decent, and he’s functional even when your child isn’t playing with him.

Without a doubt, our favorite feature was the voice-changing option. It’s so easy to record a simple phrase, choose from six different pitch settings, and hear Blu-Bot repeat your phrase in a cute and funny robot voice. This feature is sure to make your child giggle loudly and smile ear-to-ear.

We have several other robot toys in the house including Dash and Dot from the Wonder Workshop, the Lego Mindstorms EV3, and Darkside Ollie by Sphero. Considering that Blu-Bot is under $50, he’s quite functional and a perfect beginning programming toy for a robot enthusiast.

You can find Blu-Bot and other Silverlit toys at your local discount store and at Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Tabletop Game: ‘Harbour’

Image: Tasty Minstrel Games
Image: Tasty Minstrel Games

Harbour is a worker placement game focused on humor and economy. Players run their meeples through town, using the special abilities of the buildings to earn resources, buy buildings, and ship their goods. Buildings have varying amounts of victory points, and each has its own ability. Once a player buys their fourth building, each player gets one more turn, and the game ends. The player with the most points wins.

Opening the box for the first time was an adventure of exploring the decks, abilities, and high quality parts. Players start with a player board, a meeple, and three goods of their choice. The meeple is the “worker” and travels along the harbor gathering resources, buying buildings, or triggering special abilities. Notes from Dockmaster Schlibble accompany many of the cards. Check out his notes for some laughs, which I won’t spoil here!

The harbor always has six buildings available. Each turn, the player must move their meeple to a new location, and use its ability. If the building they visit has a “buy building” symbol on it, they may choose to buy one of the six buildings. To buy a building, they must ship goods valued highly enough to pay for the building. If, for any reason, they earn more than they spend, the player loses that money.

Image: Rory Bristol

The economy is dynamic, but easy enough to track. The Market board has four resources: fish, lumber, stone, and livestock. When someone ships a resource, its demand decreases, and is moved to a lower value. The more value the resource has, the cheaper it is after it ships. The Market board keeps everything organized for you. The upset comes when another player ships the goods you have been saving, making some of your inventory less valuable, and some more valuable. The inland traders are an optional feature, which allow you to sell just one of each good for $3, no matter their values.

The character cards grant a special ability only usable by their player. They also come with a building, which is usable by all players at a cost. Players who use your building pay you a good of their choice for the privilege. They may pay this fee before OR after the action is completed. Each character also has fun flavor text describing the character. On the reverse of the character cards are generic player cards, which can be used if you don’t want to play with special abilities. The generic player cards are identical. The player cards also host your warehouse, where you store your goods. A player may have between zero and six of any good, but never more than six, and never in the negative.

My favorite card
Image: Rory Bristol

Each building has its own ability, cost, victory point value, and symbol(s). Cards cost between $6 and $12, and have victory scores between 5 and 13. There are four symbols which may appear on the buildings. Coins reduce the cost of future purchases. Anchors are a cumulative markers, which are triggered by the abilities on the buildings. Top Hats allow you to avoid the fees when visiting other players’ buildings. The Warehouse symbols are cumulative, and allow you to keep one shipped good per Warehouse when shipping inventory. Some cards have more than one symbol, making them more desirable to players.

Some strategy tips:
• Players can go straight for points, cashing in big and buying the most expensive buildings available.
• Players can go for many Anchors, increasing the income of goods.
• Players can collect Coins, making each purchase cost progressively less.
• Players who try to collect multiple Warehouses may suffer from insufficient inventory/savings.
• Players should never buy more than one Top Hat, as the effects do not increase.
• Players who prefer to play in a cutthroat manner will diversify, and remain flexible, since all 36 buildings are different.
• Synergy can make or break a game. See below.

building synergy
Image: Rory Bristol

Optimize your collection to take advantage of synergy bonuses, making your income grow faster. Always have plenty of at least two resources, to maintain a viable place in the economy.

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

For fun, TMG included the Harbour Master card! Take a selfie, and show the world who’s boss with @TastyMinstrel! Keep the Master card with you during the next game, so opponents know who to fear! Of course, Dockmaster Schlibble has something to say about this. Check out his note, attached to the card above.

Everything you need to play is included in the box, a big benefit in my book. There are 36 buildings in the deck, 14 characters, 4 quality wood meeples, and 20 resource counters. No outside scorekeeper is needed, as the points are printed plainly on the cards.

With a small, well-made box, it can sneak onto almost any gaming shelf, making it a low-impact investment. The cards are easy to shuffle and aren’t too thin. The character cards are pretty beefy, holding up to rough handling very well.

Image: Rory Bristol
Image: Rory Bristol

Harbour also has a single player mode, playing against the Training Dummy. The Training Dummy is actually a competitive opponent, follows easy rules, and players can build strategies built on his turn preferences. Play alone, or with up to three friends. Be prepared for economic chaos with four players. The game becomes a bit of a waiting game, waiting for other players to change the economy to your favor.

TMG suggests ages 10+, but there are a lot of features to track, as well as tracking the progress of opponents. Kids need to be prepared to lose track of the game, and everyone needs to be ready to wait it out when a player has to re-examine the tabletop. I’d suggest 14+ for the most fun play, unless you have young strategists who can keep up.

Harbour is $19.95 on Amazon. The high number of buildings and characters mean that every game is different from the last, providing value beyond the quality pieces and interesting mechanics.

Disclaimer: Tasty Minstrel Games provided a unit for review purposes.

Why People Are Upset About the New Disabled Lego Minifigure

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I’ve written extensively about Lego bricks. I’ve met and interviewed several Lego Master Builders. I’ve been to several of their traveling expo shows. I’ve even spent an afternoon with the talented brick artist Nathan Sawaya.

And because I’m an amputee, you’d think I’d be thrilled about the fact that Lego has finally decided to make a minifig that has a disability. But I’m not. And I guess many parents of disabled children are as disappointed as I am.

What’s the problem? The problem is that in the new Duplo set, Duplo Community People, there is a wide range of people. Many races, many job types, many skin colors. The one disabled figure is an old man in a wheelchair. In the non-disabled world, this might seem like a petty thing to be upset about. But in my world, it means a lot.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

When I was doing my research before my elective amputation, I had trouble finding a prosthetist or physical therapist who would tell me what life would be like for me, once I had one leg. Most of their stories were grim. Most of their patients were elderly. Most were not interested in keeping up with young children and going on hikes on the weekends. I started to feel even more like I would be one of the only amputees in the country.

Then, I dug a bit further. I found some online communities. In the dozen years since my surgery, the media has done a great job of featuring young amputees, and young disabled folks, involved in active lifestyles. I quickly realized I was not the only one. It’s definitely been a huge leap in the right direction.

Then, we get the first-ever disabled Lego person, and it’s back to the elderly person who needs to be pushed around by the younger figure who comes with him.

The audience for Duplo is little kids. My kids switched over to their smaller Lego sets about the time they started school. I would think that Lego would understand their demographic. So why in the world would they proudly have the first disabled figure, when they had the chance to do so much with it, and instead chose the grandfather a preschooler might visit in a nursing home?

This was their big chance to show little people what a truly diverse world looks like. For a preschooler to play with a disabled figure that is a child puts all kinds of new ideas into their heads. Yeah, some kids look different from me. Some have darker or lighter skin. And some might use a wheelchair or crutches to get around. We’re all part of the same world. And we all can be as active as we want.

Photo: Born Just Right Used with Permission
Photo: Born Just Right, used with permission.

I’m not lobbying for an amputee minifigure, although that would be awesome. But come on, Lego folks. Give me a break. Would it have been so hard to make a disabled figure, your first ever, to represent the millions of KIDS who use adaptive equipment to live their lives? Go ahead and include the grandpa. And he can even be in his wheelchair, with his grandson pushing him around. But don’t count him as your big new idea. Those ideas were old news, even a dozen years ago.

If you’d like to have your voice heard, and feel even halfway as passionately about this issue as I do, think about popping over and signing the petition on this page. It’s got a great explanation of what we’d love to see in children’s toys.

Get Ready to Rock Family Game Night With ‘Rock On!’

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

A rock collection always sounds like a fun collection to start, but most kids invariably stop and ask, “But what do I do with it?” Rock On!, a board game developed by Melissa Weisner, has a new expansion that has the answer: Play with it!

Rock On! is both board game and rock collection in one. There are multiple levels of game play, appealing to kids that are pre-readers all the way through elementary age. The simplest level of game play is a matching game, as kids use the game cards to identify 15 types of rocks. As they play, they learn the rock’s name and properties.

The next levels include answering questions that increase in difficulty about geology. My six-year-old was able to answer the first two levels of questions without much trouble. (The ones with words she didn’t know became an opportunity to chat about science concepts we haven’t talked about before.) With only a relatively small number of questions, she was able to memorize some of the answers the more we played, but she doesn’t consider that a downside to the game. She asks to play time and time again.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

I can’t put my finger on the exact reason why, but every time we play Rock On!, my daughter dissolves into giggles. Whether it’s from hearing me trip over some of the rock’s names, or just the joy of playing a fun game together, Rock On! always gets her to smile. She also loves sorting through the 50+ polished rocks that come with the game, and after playing just two or three times, she was able to identify almost all of them.

The newly expanded Rock On! fits the bill of a fun educational game and will spark an interest in geology in every kid that plays it. While $30 may seem like a steep price for a board game, the included rock specimens and accompanying informational cards make it worth it. Pick it up for your next game night and get ready to rock out.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Build Your Own ‘Jurassic World’ With Lego

Image: Sarah Pinault

I’m a sucker for all things Jurassic World at the moment. So when given the chance to check out one of the associated Lego kits, well, I was on that kit like a Raptor on an Indominus Rex. Ahem.

My five-year-old’s Lego obsession has been well documented, but I have mostly stayed on the peripheries of the actual construction, since my husband shares our son’s enthusiasm and I apparently do it wrong. This time, however, nothing was keeping me from the construction site.

We checked out the T. rex Tracker kit. It has 520 pieces and is rated for 7-12 year olds. My five-year-old has great success with the kits that are rated for six and up, and we have had moderate success with the seven and up kits, so we figured this one was appropriate for his level. The kit comes with two instruction booklets and several different components.

Jurassic Lego

We put the T. rex himself together first; a handful of pieces and you’re done. In the time it took us to make the rest of the kit, my three-year-old played happily with the fully constructed dinosaur. The T. rex is quite poseable and has snapping jaws, which have become the source of endless merriment in our house. The T. rex Tracker itself is a vehicle featuring an opening cockpit, dinosaur containment cage, and a harpoon-style trap shooter. There is also a motorbike, three minifigures, and accessories such as a torch with flame, briefcase, and tranquilizer gun. For only 520 pieces, the fully constructed models are a decent size. The T. rex stands over five inches tall, the Tracker itself is 6 inches high, 8 inches long, and 3 inches wide, while the motorbike is understandably of minifigure proportions.

Right off the bat, it is obvious that this vehicle is not featured in the movie. In fact, much of the Lego line available in association with Jurassic World does not appear in the movie. Some of the dinosaurs don’t even appear in the movie. Yet, that does not diminish my, I mean, my son’s enjoyment of the kit. He is too young for the movie, so he simply enjoys that it is Lego and it is dinosaurs. I am somewhat obsessed with the movie, and the vehicle’s absence from the story itself just makes me wonder what kind of deleted scenes I’m going to see on my already-ordered DVD.

The Dilophosaurus that incapacitated Dennis Nedry in the first movie is featured in a kit, though not in this movie. The Dilophosaurus kit does contain a Gyro-sphere, heavily featured in this movie. The Indominus Rex Breakout Kit and Raptor Rampage are taken directly from prominent scenes in the movie, and contain some of the better minifigures. Then, the Pteranodon Capture Kit contains elements from the movie, but there is no Pteranodon capture scene that we know of. After talking to a fellow GeekMom who purchased kits for her family, we agreed that the T. rex and Raptor kits were the cream of the crop, for size and relevance of the kits, but also for the coolness of the dinosaurs.

Image: Sarah Pinault

This is the first Lego kit that I have sat down with from start to finish in well over a decade. As I said before, I usually observe from the sidelines. I found it be utterly addicting. The size of the instruction booklets, though daunting at first, were so well done that it was a snap (and a click) to put together. However, it is definitely not one I could have let my five-year-old free on all by himself. The volume of small pieces and peculiar arrangements would have disgruntled him very quickly without the assistance of a steadier hand, but it is definitely one you could do along with a child under seven.

The T. rex Tracker assembled logically and with great rhythm and symmetry. I have a bit of an obsession with symmetry in life, in everything really, and so watching this piece come together was remarkably soothing. Pieces were color-coded in such a way as to make them easily identifiable, and the process was laid out in an easy-to-understand way. Really, I expect no less from a brand like Lego, but it was nice to have all my assumptions from the past few years of Lego building observations confirmed.

Once fully assembled, it holds together for some quite rough play. There are one or two decorative pieces that do keep coming off, but the main body of the Tracker lends itself to being manhandled at kindergartner-miles-per-hour while chasing a toddler holding a T. rex. After a few weeks of play, we have determined that removing the cage makes it an even more malleable piece in the Lego universe. The cage remains easily attachable for dino-chasing days.

All in all, I am thoroughly impressed with this line. Now I just need to acquire a second set of dinosaurs for myself, I mean, for the younger sibling!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Check Out the Brick Marketplace for Lego Options

Image: Lego
Image: Lego

As any geek or parent knows, it’s sometimes difficult to get the Lego set that you or your kids have your/their heart set on, so it’s great to have options for where to find them. Being an authorized Lego retailer, Brick Marketplace is another viable option for fulfilling your (and your kids’) Lego dreams.

Image: Brick Marketplace
Image: Brick Marketplace

Often cheaper than the Lego online store, Brick Marketplace has featured products and special deals. You can search by theme, age, and category, and also check out minifigs, new arrivals, and sales. The website also tells you how many of each item are in stock, to help you make your purchasing decisions. I love that feature. Plus, with Lego being such a part of our lives, more places to find sets is always a good thing.

I had the chance to try out a set from Brick Marketplace, the Lego Architecture Big Ben. The box was mailed with great care, and the set arrived in perfect condition and brand new. (The Architecture sets are some of my favorites, along with the Creator sets that are houses, and of course, the Volkswagon T1 Camper Van.)

Image: Jenny Bristol
Image: Jenny Bristol

I managed to build the Big Ben set in less than an hour, since there are only 346 pieces. Some of the pieces went together in interesting ways. That’s one of my favorite parts of assembling a Lego set: learning new ways to use the bricks and pieces. “Oh, I wouldn’t have thought to use that piece in that way,” kept coming out of my mouth. As with the other Architecture sets, Big Ben comes with a thick book containing instructions and a really detailed, photo-laden history of the structure.

Image: Jenny Bristol
Image: Jenny Bristol

Next time you’re in the market for a Lego set (like, today, for instance), check out Brick Marketplace. They are competitive in the market, and you can find some real deals. You can also purchase gift certificates for loved ones, and the company has a low price guarantee.

GeekMom received a Lego set for review purposes.

Lego Ninjago Take on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

This short video of Lego Ninjago Kai, a Spinjitsu master, taking on the American Ninja Warrior course is just what you need this Monday morning.

Check out the newest season of Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu on Cartoon Network (check your local listings). Also? There are some very cool new Ninjago sets in the Lego store.

Lego Goes Green and Launches ‘Are You a Lego Maker?’ Challenge

Makers work on a model of the United States during the National Week of Making. Photo courtesy of Lego, used with permission.

It’s been a busy June for Lego. This week they made the huge announcement that they’re investing $1 billion and creating 100 new jobs to find a sustainable alternative to plastic for their bricks. Lego is trying hard to reduce its carbon footprint, and we think that’s great news from a beloved company that uses 6,000 tons of plastic every year.

Then last week in Washington during the National Week of Making, Lego announced the “Are You a Lego Maker?” prototyping challenge. The company will be giving away 50 “prototyping kits” to makers ages 13 and older. Each kit includes a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit, thousands of Lego bricks and elements, access to a Lego Mindstorms Expert Builder, and a copy of the book Spirit of Invention: The Story of the Thinkers, Creators, and Dreamers Who Formed Our Nation.

Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations for Lego, said:

The same inventive spirit at the core of the maker movement is also at the core of every Lego building experience. The introduction of the Lego Mindstorms robotic toolkit in 1998 accelerated the Lego System of Play as a prototyping tool among builders around the world. Since that time, inventors of all ages and all levels of expertise have prototyped their inventions with Lego robotic sets and bricks, creating everything from a baseball mudder to a braille printer to a pancake maker. Many of these inventors manufactured products based on these prototypes that were often patented and sold to the public, so we look forward to seeing what the next generation of makers builds to life.

To encourage that ingenuity and love of tinkering, Lego launched this contest to give young makers the right tools.

To enter, visit the Lego Maker site and tell them what you want to build. The contest is open to U.S. residents only, and it ends July 13th.

Accessorize Your ‘Inside Out’ Movie Experience With Toys From Tomy!

Inside Out Plush Toys TOMY Joy Anger Sadness Disgust Feat
Inside Out talking plush toys from Tomy. Image: Tomy.

I had the chance to see an early showing of the new Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out last night, and I have to say that the movie immediately moved to the top of my favorite-animated-movies-of-all-time list. I laughed, cried, and laughed some more with my kids doing the same right alongside me.

Note: There might be minor spoilers as to a character in the movie below.

In addition, I had a real movie-to-self connection with the main character, a little girl named Riley. She moved from Minnesota to California as she started middle school, and I moved from New Jersey to North Carolina as I started middle school. I still vividly remember being devastated to leave my friends behind and how I stumbled trying to fit into my new school.

I wanted my families’ move to be joyful, but the whole experience left me sad and angry. Riley experiences many of the same feelings I did, and the other main characters of the movie, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, work together to manage her emotions in the central headquarters of her brain, as she navigates her new world.

Inside Out Movie Goers
Inside Out excited moviegoers. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

Children of all ages are sure to want to reenact some of the scenes from the movie, and Tomy has a new line of toys to let them do just that. There are talking plush toys that represent each of the emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. They range in size from 9 to 14 inches and retail for $19.99 each. They come with 3-button cell batteries already installed and have a very well hidden Velcro pouch for battery replacement, if necessary. You’ll love hearing lines from the movie as you activate their sounds by pressing their right hands.

Tomy also has the Console from Headquarters, which features a Joy figure that lights up when she’s at the Console. What a wonderful glow it has, embracing the warmth from the movie! The Console is for kids 4+ and retails for $19.99. You can also purchase additional figures with memory spheres for more glowing Console fun.

Inside Out Console Toy TOMY
Inside Out Console toy by Tomy. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

In addition to the Console, there is also a Headquarters playset where you can use the projector to bring Riley’s memories to life with the three included memory spheres. Better yet, add the Console to the Headquarters playset to recreate even more scenes from the movie. The Headquarters playset is for kids 4+ and retails for $39.99.

Inside Out Headquarts Toy TOMY
Inside Out Headquarters toy from Tomy. Image: Tomy.

There’s one more important character from the movie to talk about. That’s Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from her early childhood. For the cuddler in your house, there’s a Bing Bong plush toy from Tomy, too. You’ll also find the other emotion characters in a plush non-talking format.

Bing Bong Inside Out Plush Toy TOMY
Inside Out Bing Bong plush toy from Tomy. Image: Tomy.

If the movie brings a smile to your child’s face, the toys are sure to keep the smile and great memories going. They would also make great gifts for summer birthday parties. Why not share the fun?

Inside Out Toys TOMY
Inside Out toys by Tomy. Photo: Maryann Goldman.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.

It’s Nerf or Nothing This Summer!

It's NERF or nothing in this house. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
It’s Nerf or nothing in this house. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Just in time for summer, my family was given the opportunity to try out a few new Nerf blasters. We like to put anything Nerf through its paces and that means testing its distance, ease of use, and (in some cases by accident) the pain factor. When it comes to the Super Soakers, we enjoy seeing just how wet we can get in a quick game of soaking.

Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster
The Nerf Zombie Strike FlipFury Blaster is all mine. Mine. Mine. And I’m not sharing it with anyone in my family. Of all the Nerf blasters I’ve tried out in the past, this is by far my favorite. I love the ability to flip between two rounds of ammo and the cool sound it makes when you switch between them. It’s almost like a warning to anyone who messes with you to stop or pay the price. Each round holds seven darts, with a combined total of 14 before having to reload.

I tested the distance of this blaster one morning when trying to get my son up for school. He refused to get out of bed, so I shot at him from the living room (over 20 feet away) and hit him dead on. He got wise and went for cover under his blankets, which didn’t save him much from my Nerf parenting style. A flip change later, and he was getting up while waving a white flag of defeat.

As long as your aim doesn’t stink and you shoot the darts below the face, it doesn’t hurt as bad as the massive Nerf N-Strike Elite darts. If you happen to be in the sight of an opponent who doesn’t understand the words “NOT THE FACE” ::cough::my son::cough::, watch your language and be ready with some ice, because these darts will leave a welt (as my husband can attest to).

Recommended distance from opponent: 5 feet or more to avoid injury.
Retail: $19.99 (and worth every penny)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega CycloneShock Blaster
When it came to testing out the Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega CycloneShock Blaster, I had to add a new ground rule when these are in use. Since the Nerf Elite Mega blasters have darts that look more fearsome than anything else Nerf has put out, close range combat was off limits. The blaster holds six mega darts that have a diameter almost twice that of a normal dart. The power behind this one can launch those suckers up to 90 feet.

NERF dart size comparison.
Nerf dart size comparison. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

Despite having a “no close range” ground rule, that doesn’t mean anyone listened to it. With that said, each of my family members can attest that these suckers hurt when shot. I’d almost say that any Nerf gun with these Mega darts should be off limits to anyone who doesn’t listen to the rules (and considering that my mother’s pups listen better than my 9-year-old son or my 42-year-old husband, it’s safe to say I’m the only one that can play with these now).

To avoid injury, make sure your target is at least 10 feet away when firing.

Recommended distance from opponent: 10 feet or more (preferably more) to avoid injury.
Retail: $21.99

Super Soaker Testing!!
Now, to introduce the Super Soaker part of this review, here is a music video featuring my brother and my son. At one point in the video, my son felt that his Uncle Doug wasn’t getting wet enough with the blaster in hand and resorted to using just the hose on him. Of course, Uncle Doug paid him back for that later.

Nerf Super Soaker FloodFire Blaster
My brother is using the Nerf Super Soaker FloodFire Blaster. This blaster is unique because it allows you to hook it up to a hose and have an endless supply of ammo. Using the hose attachment almost feels like cheating, but who really cares about that in a water gun fight? It’s reach was pretty impressive and it was able to soak my son quite well with little effort on my brother’s part.

Pay attention at the :20-second mark in the video and you can see my brother turn the hose feature on and off. He remarked that you can only keep the hose on for a minute and after that you need to turn the function off or the blaster won’t work properly.

The only issue I have is if you are running around the yard and attached to a hose, it creates a serious safety issue. Because of that, I would say if you want to use the hose attachment feature, make sure your shooter stays in the same place (or only moves from side to side).

Recommended distance from opponent: None. It’s water, so you’re not as likely to hurt someone with this one.
Retail: $25.99

Nerf Super Soaker ZombieStrike Splatterblast
In the video, my son is using the Nerf Super Soaker Zombie Strike Splatterblast water blaster. This blaster can produce four streams of opponent-soaking water at once. I found that some of the nozzles were glitchy, depending on the water level in the gun. However, if you aimed it up a little when shooting, you could get a good stream each time. It was the easier of the two guns for my son to hold and he loved being able to run around with it.

A cool feature of this blaster is with a couple batteries and the push of a button, the water tank can light up. Making this worth the batteries would mean playing at night though, so we are ignoring that feature for now.

Recommended distance from opponent: None.
Retail: $21.99

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Lego Announces Release Date for Fan-Designed ‘Big Bang Theory’ Set

Image credit:
Image credit:

This week Lego announced an August 1st release date for the much-anticipated Big Bang Theory set, which was submitted and voted upon through Lego’s Cuusoo project*.

Earlier this month, Lego released preview images from the set, revealing everything from Howard’s smirky face to Raj’s dog, Cinnamon. Fans will enjoy all the details embedded throughout the set, between the Chinese food containers, one of Howard’s unique belt buckles (the press release photos are showing a game controller buckle), and the equation-filled white board.

Who do we need to thank for such creativity? Alatariel from Sweden and Glen Bricker from the USA, who both have submitted numerous other designs through Lego Ideas, came up with this great design that Lego is now bringing to life.

The set is expected to retail for $59.99.

*The Lego Cuusoo program was re-designated the “Lego Ideas” project about one year ago. Any Lego fan can design and submit ideas through the Lego Ideas website. Simply create an account, assemble a set, take lots of good photos, and garner support. You need 10,000 votes for the set to move on to the Lego review phase. With the Lego Ideas account, you can also browse submitted ideas and vote for your favorites. If your set is chosen to go into production, you can expect to earn 1% from sales.

Blast Into Summer With Nerf’s Latest!

Our sampling of Nerf summer products! Summer arrived quite literally on June 1st here in Colorado Springs. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Our sampling of Nerf summer products. Summer arrived on June 1st here in Colorado Springs. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My sons were thrilled when a box full of Nerf products appeared at our door about three weeks ago. We unpacked a Mega BigShock blaster, Zombie Strike Flip Fury blaster, the FireVision Ignite flying disc, and a Super Soaker Flash Flood water gun.

Sadly, while those east of the Mississippi were enduring a pretty incredible heat wave, we here on the front range of the Rockies were dealing with cold, wet conditions. Our neighborhood had accumulating hail, record rains, and an average temperature of only 52.3F. Yikes!

It wasn’t until this past weekend that my sons were able to truly break out their new blasters and give them a whirl.

My oldest son quickly claimed the Mega BigShock. This is his first blaster that takes the large red “Mega” darts, and he is thrilled to finally have one! Included with the blaster itself are two whistler darts, and my son wasted no time buying himself a package of dart refills with his own money.

The Mega BigShock blaster is small but packs a punch! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
This little guy can send its darts across the length of our backyard (80 feet) and even over the fence! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My youngest son took the FireVision Ignite flying disc out for a spin. Literally! This flying disc is a standard size, but has a battery pack tucked into the back. The disc comes with three A76 batteries ready to go (pull out the protective tab before turning on), and you have a disc that lets you play in low light conditions. I could see this being a perfect thing for an evening on the beach, nighttime tailgates, and good old-fashioned summer play as the sun sets.

My youngest son shows off the Nerf FireVision Ignite flying disc in its well-lit glory. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
My youngest son shows off the Nerf FireVision Ignite flying disc in its well-lit glory. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Nerf’s Super Soaker FlashFlood hits victims with a double-whammy of water: Out of the same 23 oz. reservoir, there’s a bottom pump that fires off a traditional stream of water, but you can also use a top launcher that blasts your opponents with a “flash flood” of water. Or, as my son said, “A whole mess of water!” The streams are advertised to travel nearly 40 feet, and my oldest son, who claimed the FlashFlood as his own, proclaimed that he thinks it works as advertised.

The Nerf Super Soaker FlashFlood water blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Nerf Super Soaker FlashFlood water blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Nerf's Zombie Strike Flipfury double-revolver dart blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Nerf’s Zombie Strike Flipfury double-revolver dart blaster. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Finally, there’s the Nerf Flipfury dart blaster, the company’s latest in the immensely popular Zombie Strike line. My youngest son enjoys the Flipfury, which holds 12 of the traditional Nerf blaster darts in two 6-dart revolver drums. The double triggers look bewildering at first, but you will fire the darts with the top trigger, and use the bottom trigger to flip the revolvers back and forth. The darts travel fast and far, routinely exceeding the 80-foot length of our backyard.

My son’s feedback on the blaster is that loading was easy, and he has yet to experience any dart jams. He’s happy with it.

So where can you get your own Nerf blasters and flying discs? Look no further than your local big box retailer or online through outlets such as Toys ‘R Us or Amazon. To sum up:

– The Mega BigShock is small in size, includes two whistling “Mega” darts, and retails for $7.99.
Nerf’s FireVision Ignite flying disc lights up for fun evening play with an MSRP of $14.99.
– The Super Soaker FlashFlood allows for traditional water gun play with a flash flood option to really soak your opponents. It retails for $19.99.
– The Zombie Strike Flipfury has a double barrel revolver feature that lets users carry double the dart load, with an MSRP of $19.99.

GeekMom was provided with samples of these products for review purposes.

Unboxing Wonder Woman

Items unboxed. Photo by Corrina Lawson.

Loot crates are all the rage now. So when I saw the Wonder Woman hero box on, I decided to join the throng and see what the fuss was about, especially as it was advertised as $70 worth of stuff for $49.

I have two major thoughts on the Wonder Woman box.

One, there is awesome stuff and I’ll use every bit of it, especially the keychain and the water bottle, which will see daily use. The Wonder Woman doll will go on my writing desk, where my collection of Jim Gordon figures will be her Queensguard. Diana can also chat with my Nora Roberts bobblehead and roll their eyes at the world ruled by men.

Additionally, there was the fun of opening it, as you can see in the video, which features guest appearances by two of my minions and Smokey the cat. I apologize for the flip halfway through. I blame the cat, who had to get in on the action. I had to adjust my camera hand to shoo him away.

Second thought: The box is a bargain, but not spectacularly so. I’m a frugal New Englander. What I consider a bargain is the $60 I paid for $180 worth of clothes at the Bon Ton Department store after-Christmas sale. This box would have to be priced much lower, between $20 to $30 for me to rave about what a bargain it is.

But it is a great loot crate and does provide value for the cost.

The items inside:

  • Wonder Woman T-shirt—women’s XL size
  • Wonder Woman 32 oz. water bottle
  • Wonder Woman decal (not for painted surfaces)
  • Wonder Woman keychain
  • Wonder Woman plushie doll
  • Wonder Woman socks
  • Wonder Woman eraser that is too cute to use
  • 2 Wonder Woman pins
  • Wonder Woman comic—JLA #63, which is from the Joe Kelly/Dough Mahnke run
  • A mystery coupon code for up to 25 percent off, good for 30 days.

This would make a tremendous gift for Mother’s Day, birthdays, and holidays. My kids wanted to divide up the stuff once we opened the box, but it’s mine, all mine. also offers hero boxes for lots of DC and Marvel Heroes, as well as limited-edition boxes, such as this month’s box for Marvel’s Secret Wars.

GeekMom received this item for review.

The BB-8 Toy Coming to a Store Near You Soon!

BB-8 Interpretation
BB-8 Interpretation. Drawing By: Johnny Goldman

I have a new obsession, and it’s BB-8.  I watched the latest Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer at least 10 times, and my biggest take-away was the new, super cute, and wonderfully round droid, BB-8. Watch out R2-D2, you’ve got some competition!

This week, I’ve been on a quest to seek out all things BB-8 from understanding the technology behind him to who’s got the best t-shirt design. New products seem to be popping up by the minute. How exciting!

Sphero Photo: Sphero

I learned that conceptually BB-8 maneuvers similarly to Sphero—“The app-enabled ball that does it all.” That’s right, there’s already a cute, round robot toy on the market complete with apps to move him around, change his colors, and for gaming fun. He’s quite versatile!

What I was even more excited to find out, though, is that Sphero is designing a BB-8 look-alike toy. If you’re as interested as I am, and already anticipating the biggest item on your child’s holiday wish list, then you’ll want to sign-up for e-mail updates on product availability.  “This is the droid you’re looking for.”

Currently, you can pick up a Sphero 2.0 for $112.99 on Amazon.

Giveaway! ‘Star Wars’ Commemorative Collection Action Figure Set

Episode IV Commemorative Figures © Hasbro/Lucasfilm/Disney
Episode IV Commemorative Figures © Hasbro/Lucasfilm/Disney

As you can tell, GeekMom is a huge fan of Star Wars, and we are overjoyed at the chance to share our enthusiasm with you today on Star Wars Day.

A few weeks ago, Disney, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox sent us a box packed with goodies from a galaxy far, far away, and today we want to share the Star Wars wealth.

This is your chance to win the complete set of Digital Edition Commemorative Collection action figures from all six movies.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

To enter our giveaway, just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and leave a comment about your favorite Star Wars film for up to three entries! If you already like/follow us, it will still enter you in the giveaway.

A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and displayed below. You must reply to the email notification within two days in order to be considered a winner.

U.S. entries only. Contest ends May 9, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Special thanks again to Disney, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Fox for providing the collection.


LEGO Classic Arcade Games Could See Production With Your Help

Image: SpaceySmoke
Image: SpacySmoke

The latest cool build to go up for voting on Lego Ideas is one that’s sure to appeal to anyone who grew up in the ’80s and spent hours pumping quarters into a machine at the local arcade. It’s a set of three arcade games especially for Sega fans.

Image: SpaceySmoke
Image: SpacySmoke

The first game is Space Harrier which was released in 1985 and designed by Yu Suzuki. It used what they called Super Scaler technology to give things a 3D effect. In the deluxe version of the game, the whole cabinet moved as the player moved the joystick so this Lego version moves left, right, up, down, and tilts.

Image: SpaceySmoke
Image: SpacySmoke

There’s also Out Run which came out in 1986 and was also designed by Yu Suzuki. This time the cabinet moved according to how you turned the wheel in the racing game so this model moves left and right.

Image: Thunder Blade
Image: SpacySmoke

The last game is Thunder Blade which came out in 1987 and had a seat that rotated to match your motions as you piloted a helicopter. This model follows suit with a seat that rotates in a circle.

Image: SpaceySmoke
Image: SpacySmoke

The set even includes three minifigs. Set designer SpacySmoke made a Male Sega Fan, Female Sega Fan, and a miniature Yu Suzuki to immortalize the game designer in Lego form.

The set needs 10,000 votes to be considered for production by Lego. You can lend your support and help make this set something that we all can play with one day.

(via NerdApproved)

When Toys Seek Revenge

toy revenge, toy retaliation,
Maybe they’re all plotting to get back at us. Photo: CC by 2.0 Jason Scragz‘s flickr photostream.

I once wrote about a child who is growing up without any purchased toys, a boy whose childhood is remarkably rich. That doesn’t mean I’m all that high-minded myself. The sheer volume of Lego bricks contained in my home is proof. I also take a childlike delight in buying ridiculous toys. In fact, I still glow with pride at finding a bagpipe figure to give my bagpipe-playing son. It’s decked out with authentic looking kilt, sporran, and pipes, but the real thrill is the button that makes it emit a better-than-whoopie-cushion-sounding fart.

But looking at it from a toy’s point of view, being a plaything probably isn’t all fun and games. First, the strain of adoration in the form of grabby little hands and screams of “mine” followed, inevitably, by weeks or months of inattention. Or maybe that’s just how The Velveteen Rabbit felt about it.

No wonder toys tend to get back at us. You’ve experienced this. A Barbie turns up on the passenger seat in an awkward naked pose just when you offer to give your boss a ride. Lego bricks are suddenly underfoot when you have bare feet. The stuffed animal with Velcro paws that somehow snags your one decent silk shirt. Who among us hasn’t been a victim of toy retaliation?

Here are a few of our Revenge of the Toy tales.

Ruth: I work from home and often on our third floor, which seems to be The Land of Creepy Noises. One day, I heard a voice downstairs. That is not a good feeling to have when you’re home alone on the third floor, and we’d had break-ins before, although in another house, but as a result I’m a bit sensitive about hearing people who don’t belong in my house! I crept down the stairs and waited, listening at the bottom. Eventually, I heard talking again, but I couldn’t make out what the voice was saying. I got brave and went looking. Found nothing. Absolutely nothing. For days, I would occasionally hear this voice. Reasonable conclusion: I’ve lost my mind. It wasn’t a toy voice. It was a human voice. At the end of the week, we discovered that the kids had left a book open. But not just a book. The kind of book that grandma can record her voice reading to you. All week, I’d been creeped out by my mother-in-law’s tales of Mater and Lightning McQueen.

Laura: We had a toy called The Insultinator which, as you might imagine, spewed mild insults such as, “You’re a gross slimy weasel,” at the press of a button. Yes, I bought it. I’m so easily amused that I bought another and gave it to friends as a perfectly relevant wedding anniversary gift. Their son discovered it a few years later and couldn’t be parted with it, which explains why it was in his carry-on as the family went through airport security. As he put the bag on the conveyor, the thing went off. Suddenly, the guards could hear someone saying, “You’re a giant ugly obnoxious jerk.” With stern faces, they pulled the bag off the conveyor. That joggled the toy again, and it said, “You’re the ultimate big sloppy loser.” It took several explanations just to get permission to take The Insultinator out of the bag. The whole line behind them backed up as various security officials kept pushing its buttons to make each other laugh.

Sarah: This weekend, we bought our youngest a Poppity Pop Musical Dino. It wreaks havoc if you forget to turn it off. When you walk past it a little too heavily, plastic balls start spitting out at you. We moved the furniture around last night and when I dropped the couch, I had to duck behind it to avoid getting hit by all the little balls

Judy: I was home alone a few years ago (a rarity in itself), and I was enjoying the nice quiet house to get caught up on some writing. I kept getting this creepy feeling that someone was in the house. Every time I’d go take a lap I’d find no one, but swore I was hearing someone talking. Then, suddenly, as I was quietly contemplating the last paragraph I’d written, I heard a very distinct voice say, “Where are you!?” “Where are you?!”

I literally jumped out of the chair and spun around. My heart was racing as I dug through the stuff on the office shelves until I found it… a little Waldo doll that probably came in a Happy Meal, one that repeated phrases when it was bumped. It spoke in the creepiest voice. I don’t like scary movies or being scared, so all it took was a tiny Waldo to creep me out!

Patricia: As a military family, we have to move every 2-3 years. It becomes second nature: Remove the batteries, light bulbs, candles, and cash from your belongings before the movers come to pack things up. It’s a standard practice to minimize theft and damage. On one move, I had to remove over 200 batteries from the kids’ toys! We would hand-carry the batteries and re-install them at our new location. On our 2008 move between North Carolina and Nebraska, I must have forgotten to remove batteries from some of my sons’ wooden Thomas the Tank Engine cars. I could hear two Troublesome Trucks giggling mischievously as the box was dollied out of the house in North Carolina, and again when it came into our new house in Nebraska.

Corrina: The Nintendo 2DS got lost the first week of December. Had no idea where it went. Concluded the son lost it at school or on the bus. When I went to take down the Christmas tree, I found it *inside* one of the boxes with unused Christmas decorations. No, I have no memory of how it got there. At all.  I certainly didn’t put it there. I blame the cats.

Ruth: A few weeks ago, we were at my cousin’s house. Our collection of children was playing with a pair of walkie talkies. My husband and I had *just* watched the episode of Doctor Who with the creepy little boy in a gas mask walking around asking, “Are you my mummy?” We played a game with them where we’d hide one walkie talkie, and they’d use the other one to find it. They went in the other room, we hid the walkie talkie, and despite the fact that he was totally asleep in another room when we watched it, my three-year-old’s voice came out of that walkie talkie, “Are you my mommy?”

Sarah: When our friends moved houses, it unsettled their couch. They realized there was a toy stuck in the mechanism somewhere that they couldn’t reach. Every time you’d flop down on it, you’d get to listen to a nursery rhyme.

Laura: My husband and I were lying in bed one night after I’d just nursed our baby to sleep. We heard a faint and intermittent scratching sound on, or was it in, the wall under our window. Because the baby was sleeping in a bassinet right next to our bed, we kept asking, “Did you hear that?” in the quietest whispers we could manage. After we confirmed that we weren’t imagining it, we couldn’t sleep. As you know, once you attune to an annoyance it becomes vastly more annoying. We eliminated possible causes like tree branches (weren’t any) and heating system (wasn’t on). My husband and I both slipped out of bed in the dark room, crawling along the floor with our ears to the wall. Whenever we did, there was no sound. Once back in bed, it started up again. We decided it had to be a mouse or squirrel trapped in the wall. That made it worse.

I couldn’t help but imagine those desperate scrabbling little paws, the frantic black beads of the small creature’s eyes. “Back up,” I said to it with my sleep-addled mind, as if I could send it thought messages. “Breathe out to make yourself small.” The man I loved next to me clearly wasn’t on the same page. “It’s trapped,” he whispered. “It’s going to die in the wall and stink up the place. I should kill it now.” He discussed various methods of death and extraction while I, in a heightened emotional state of postpartum exhaustion, decided I’d married the wrong man. It was suddenly obvious I’d vowed to spend my life with some kind of monster. Using poor judgment, I shared that thought with him. Then we lay awake, me weeping with sorrow in the quietest way possible and he fuming. In the morning, we discovered the real source of the sound. Our son’s remote control car was under a rocking chair in our room, right next to the window. Intermittently, it picked up enough random radio signal to scoot back and forth slightly, scraping its antennae against the wooden chair seat. The creature that threatened our marriage didn’t exist. Yeah, we felt silly.

Stay strong, remember toys are supposed to be fun, and share your Revenge of the Toys tales with us in the comments.

Adventures in Photography: The Toddler Years

All Images: Master Tobias Pinault

Having a large family that live mostly three thousand miles away, has meant that we take more pictures and capture more video than I would have thought possible. It’s a blessing in disguise, both cumbersome in storage and wonderful in experience, as we have such a large record of the lives of my children.

As my eldest grew he began to develop a fascination with the devices we used, so we got him his own camera. We’ve been excitedly watching ever since to see what develops.

First, the choice of the camera. There are several pre-school cameras on the market and it is easy to get lost in your child’s needs vs. the cmaera specifications. I did what any self respecting frazzled mom would do. I went to Target and bought the one that they stock!

Thus we ended up with the VTech – Kidizoom Digital Camera. For somewhat of an impulse purchase, it has been pretty impressive. It came with batteries that last long enough for your child to turn it on, take a few pictures, and freak out when the batteries die. Due credit, they do warn you on the packaging that the batteries have a VERY limited lifespan. Seeing as this was for a three year old we went top of the line on batteries and stocked up at the dollar store. There came my first pleasant surprise. The dollar store batteries lasted three weeks with my son clicking fairly consistently on a daily basis. This camera doesn’t suck up too much juice when in use. Even now he is older and has begun using it to make movies, the batteries hold up pretty well.

My second pleasant surprise, which shows how much attention I was paying in Target (bad GeekMom, bad!), was that the camera came with three games. One of these is a photo based game, the other two have photo options, which means your child can include their own pictures in the games they play. At the time we were trying to wean our son off his Ipad games, and so this proved a very useful distraction. Now that his brother is old enough to play along with him, they both enjoy making up new games on the camera with the pictures they take. It has become something they do together, and quite well. They can usually spend ten minutes or so sharing the camera before we run into brotherly discord.

For a shaky hand, both of my sons are able to take a lot of pictures, and have a decent percentage come out clear, pretty much all I ask for in a camera aimed at his age group. The specifications of the camera, which I rarely pay attention to in my own device, seem to be decent:

  • 1.3 megapixels with 4x digital zoom
  • 128 MB internal memory (up to 1000 photos)
  • Optional photo effects, meaning frames, mustaches and such
  • Video recording with sound
  • Takes 4 AA Batteries – device turns off after three minutes of idle time to preserve battery life.
There are a couple of downsides with this device. While the case is exceptionally sturdy, the battery covers come off with ridiculous ease for little fingers. My son had it cracked within 24 hours, although due credit, he very soon lost interest in removing the batteries. This provided me with ample time to teach him about the correct way of inserting batteries, which he was fascinated with. Also, the camera comes with a port to attach to your computer but doesn’t come with a USB cable. Luckily my husband is a hoarder and so we had the appropriate cable.
A Pre-schooler’s impression of JoAnn Fabrics. Prompted by a frustrated mom asking a bored pre-schooler to “take pictures of the things you see honey.”

I have found that my son responds well to being given tasks with his camera. If we don’t provide tasks, he inevitably starts to film the ceiling until the camera turns off.

Here are some options for fun photo projects with your toddler:

  1. Find like things. While running errands, have them find a group of certain things. In the grocery store, have them find their favorite foods. In the craft store have them find their favorite colors.
  2. Designated Family Photographer. Bring it to family gatherings and prompt them to take a picture of everyone they know. In photobook form, this will also make a great gift for grandparents.
  3. Nature Photography. Take a walk in the woods and have them photograph all the animals/plants/flowers/birds they can find.  Add variety to this based on what seems to take their interest that day – follow your child’s lead.
  4. My favorite things. To help adjust them to a new baby in the house, have them take pictures of all their favorite things to show the baby.
  5. Make your own blog. Teach them how to blog! At each stage of construction in a brio/playdoh/lego/blanket-fort project have them detail what they do. Help them write up the instructions.
  6. Map your world. Take a tip from the GeekMom book and make a map of your neighborhood, have your child take pictures and create a pictorial guide to where they live.
  7. My favorite things (the most wanted list).Make a photographic Christmas list. Take them to Toys’R’us and let them roam free with their camera. Make sure you have had plenty of caffeine and repeat after me “No, you can’t have it. No, you already have one. No, you already broke that.”
  8. Quite time book. After following tip #7 have your child photograph pretty things in your garden to help calm you down after your nervous breakdown, tell them to create a “Quiet time book” for mommy and see what they think will soothe you.
  9. Storyboards. Have them photograph each of their action figures/dolls/action dolls, print out the images and help them create storyboards of adventures involving their toys.
  10. On the move. Give them the camera in the car and play an updated version of I-spy. The resolution of the camera may not cope with high speed pictures, but it should prove entertaining on road trips.
  11. Snowed in. Since many of us appear to be snowed in right now, use the camera as a defense against cabin fever. Use the above indoor projects or suit up and go outside to document snowflakes, snow formations, and icicles. Then look at the pictures over hot cocoa.
Share your kids pictures on the GeekMom Facebook page, we’d love to see what your geeklings come up with!

Get Even More Hands-On With the iPad With Osmo! (Giveaway!)

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Have you ever wished your kids would use the iPad camera for something other than selfies? Osmo might be just what you’re looking for. With three educational apps designed with both style and substance, Osmo is an accessory for the iPad that will transform your kids’ usual screen time into a play experience that’s actually engaging.

Osmo comes with a camera attachment, a stand for the iPad, and accessories for playing the free apps aimed at ages 6 and up. There is very little initial setup; with an iPad Mini, we did have to make a quick adjustment to the stand to hold it properly. A reflector slides on top of the iPad camera and then you’re all ready to get playing.

Tangram for Osmo is a fun twist on the tangram puzzle. The seven pieces are manipulated in front of the iPad, and reflected on the screen as pieces are moved into place. The app, like the other two Osmo apps, doesn’t come with irritating music or blaring cartoon characters, but with a simple interface and soothing sounds as pieces make the shape on the screen. With a great selection of puzzles and varying degrees of difficulty, this game isn’t just for kids—I enjoyed grabbing the pieces and taking on a puzzle myself.

My daughter is a new reader, so I was most excited for her to get her hands on Words for Osmo.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Clear, colorful photos give my daughter a hint for the word she needs to spell, and she uses the letter tiles that come with Osmo to complete the word. The “Junior Reader” setting helps her, as she is just getting started with reading and spelling, which frees her up from any frustration she might have felt trying to put the more advanced words together.

For even more bang for your buck, you can upload your own photos and words for unending play possibilities. Words for Osmo can also be played against a friend, adding a social dimension to the game.

Newton for Osmo is a one-of-a-kind game that takes your drawing and puts it on screen as soon as you put it on paper. The goal is to draw a shape that bounces a ball into the targets. You can draw any shape or thing you can think of, adding a fun, creative element to the app—and kids love seeing what they draw appear instantly on screen.

Normally I would balk at the price ($79.99) for an iPad accessory, but the Osmo is such an interactive and fresh play experience that it doesn’t feel overpriced. New apps are already in development, giving the Osmo a long shelf life with many intriguing possibilities for play.

Win your own Osmo!

This is your chance to win your own Osmo! To enter our giveaway, just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email so we can let you know if you win). You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two entries! If you already like/follow us, it will still enter you in the giveaway.

A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the contest and displayed below. You must reply to the email notification within two days in order to be considered a winner.

U.S. entries only. Contest ends January 31, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GeekMom received a promotional item for review purposes.

Watch the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer in Lego

Star Wars Screen Shot
Image: Screen Shot

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only just made its debut but already people are having their way with the video. YouTuber Snooperking wasted no time putting together a Lego version of the trailer that includes everything from the trisaber to the Millennium Falcon’s triumphant return.

Don’t miss the subtitles that were not in the original trailer and add a nice dose of humor. Also, be prepared to worry over whether or not you remembered to turn off the oven.

(via NerdApproved)

GeoToys: Smart Playtime Plus a 20% Discount for GeekMom Readers

geography blocks, GeoBlocks,
Blocks with purpose. (

Although we have more access to information than ever before, it appears most of us suffer from geographical illiteracy. A Roper poll showed half of young adults in the U.S. are unable to locate New York on a map and only 37% of young Americans can find Iraq. A more recent survey found only one in six Americans could correctly identify Ukraine. Facts like this spur us to do something about it.

That’s what motivated Bob Galinsky, an inveterate traveler who wanted to help his kids learn about geography by making it fun. Back in 2005 he used a map and scissors to create a puzzle of Europe with pieces shaped like individual countries. Next he cut maps of Africa, Asia, and the Americas into puzzles. Paper maps became real puzzles when he launched Geotoys. Now, award-winning GeoPuzzles are available worldwide and have been translated into a dozen languages. In addition to puzzles, Geotoys offers geography games and gifts.

Now our readers can get 20% off all Geotoys items from December 1st to December 31st . Just use the code GEEKMOM20 at

Try GeoBlocks, a set of 20 blocks made from sustainably harvested wood. Perfect for a two-year-old to stack, even more interesting for an older child.

Build the world. (
Build the world. (

Check the selection of inflatables including globes, dinosaurs, and wild animals.

Toss the planet around. (
Toss the planet around. (

Choose from all sorts of puzzles including different areas of the world, foreign languages, animals, dinosaurs, solar system, and history.

All sorts of puzzles. (
All sorts of puzzles. (

And browse through a selection of 14 card games such as Medieval History Go Fish, GeoCards Europe, Constitution Go Fish,  and Flag Frenzy.

Smart play. (
Smart play. (


That deal again? Get 20% off all Geotoys items from December 1st to December 31st . Just use the code GEEKMOM20 at

Tiggly Counts Adds a New Dimension to iPad Apps

© Tiggly
All images © Tiggly

Tiggly gives a whole new meaning to “hands-on learning” with their new Tiggly Counts toys, designed to interact with their three educational math-based apps for the iPhone and iPad. The Tiggly Counts counting toys get kids aged 3 and up engaged in a unique way with the screen by counting, adding, and playing with friendly characters.

Tiggly Counts comes with five colorful counting toys that are placed on the iPad screen to supplement learning math and number concepts. The toys, inspired by Cuisenaire rods used in Montessori, encourage hand-eye coordination and quick thinking. Three free companion apps, Tiggly Cardtoons, Tiggly Chef, and Tiggly Addventure, use fun characters and bright colors to get kids interested and engaged.

Tiggly ChefWe had a lot of trouble with using the toys with the iPad Mini, resulting in some frustration from my five-year-old, but when we switched to the full-sized iPad, things went much more smoothly. The toys must be pressed on the screen firmly to get it to work consistently with the app. My daughter enjoyed the apps so much, though, that she often plays both modes, with and without the counting toys.

Tiggly Chef is her clear favorite of the three games. With a title character full of personality and wacky concoctions in the kitchen, my five-year-old giggles every time a new creation is unveiled. The math concepts are age-appropriate, and she even learned to recognize a new food or two. (Apparently she never knew what garlic looked like unpeeled.) It’s the finished meals that keep her playing, though. “I wonder what he’s making!” she exclaims every time she starts cooking.

Tiggly Cardtoons, while adorably creative, seems better suited to younger kids who are practicing their early counting skills. Tiggly Addventure is probably best for kids 4 and up, with the challenge of completing number lines in the correct sequence. Both apps are fun, but Tiggly Chef keeps my five-year-old going back for seconds.

Tiggly Counts are a great set of toys for adding a new dimension to your typical iPad educational games. Priced at $29.95, it’s not a cheap stocking stuffer, but is a unique option this holiday season for young kids who would enjoy a new way to play with the iPad.

GeekMom received a promotional item for review purposes.

GeekMom’s 2014 Gift Guide of STEM Toys and More!

Image: Cathe Post

I get excited about toys. They are mostly marketed to kids, but as an adult I find myself putting many of the things recommended by other writers on my own wishlist.


Elemental Building Blocks A full periodic table in wooden block form, painted with bright, non-toxic ink. Great for all ages! $36

Image: Lottie Dolls

Robot Girl Lottie doll  Are you looking for an alternative to Barbie for a special kiddo on your list? Go for the Lottie Dolls. My favorite is Robot Girl Lottie (partially inspired by a former GeekMom writer) and her buddy Busy Lizzie the Robot. These dolls are appropriate for young kids and encourage exploration into science and engineering. $19.95


Gears! Gears! Gears! Gears! Gears! Gears! Get little engineers building with this 95-piece set. Gears, cranks, connectors, and interlocking base plates provide open-ended construction possibilities. The pieces snap together to create moving action and are compatible with other Learning Resource building sets so you can add on over time. Ages 3 to 7. $23.99


BBOPTM Ball Kids can bounce, roll, even climb inside HearthSong’s BBOPTM Ball. It fits kids ages 6 and up. Sold separately, get two for double the fun. $39.98

Image: Mezco Toyz

Breaking Bad Action Figures Yeah, action figures, bitch! Toys R Us may not like them, but we’re guessing there are a few people on your list that would appreciate having a Breaking Bad action figure displayed prominently. Mezco currently has several incarnations of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, as well as season two’s creepy pink teddy bear. Each one is a limited piece, making it even more coveted than a batch of Blue Sky. $13.95 and up


GeoBlocks Effortlessly learn while playing with classic blocks made from sustainable wood. Each of these 20 blocks provides information about different countries. Stack them to make a map! $31

Image: Patricia Vollmer
Image: Patricia Vollmer

Groovy Lab in a Box This is a unique subscription box experience in that it’s providing themed STEM activities to older elementary school students, ages 8-12, or grades 3-5. I am in love with the concept and potential of this program. The program is available through the company’s website. Prices range from $36.95 for a single box (plus shipping) down to $23.95 per box for a 12 month subscription, with >1 month subscriptions including free shipping. $25


Land of Nod Play Canopy and Cushion Land of Nod has loads of gorgeous play tents, but the ceiling-suspended canopies with giant cushions are a small child’s dream. Windows for peeking out, lovely designs on the canopies themselves, and a safe space to get lost in thoughts make them a great gift for exploring the imagination.  $199


Little People Disney Klip Klop Stable These Little People horses and riders are almost hypnotically fun for toddlers. Hinged back legs let the horses “walk” down the track with the most satisfying clickety clack. Other princesses and their horses are sold separately. Ages 18 months to five years. $45

Littlest Pet Shop Style Set
Image: Hasbro

Littlest Pet Shop Style Set A cute little salon that comes with three exclusive pets: Minka Mark, Kitery Banter, and Sunil Nevla. Kids can decorate the pets and the salon, which comes with a reversible backdrop and customizable wall panels to change the look. Lots of neat little accessories make this a fun set. Ages 6 and up. $39.99


Loopdeloom I love the Loopdeloom because it’s simple and quick to learn how to weave. The instructions are easy to follow and I had my first project done in about an hour. It looks like it’s marketed to children, but adults who want a relaxing and portable craft will enjoy it as well. $29.99

Guardians of the Galaxy Big Blastin'Rocket Raccoon
Image: Hasbro

Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Big Blastin’ Rocket Raccoon This version of Rocket is nice and tall at 10″, and he comes ready in his battle stance. His blaster spins, lights up, and plays sound effects while he yells, “It’s Rocket time!” Ages 4 and up. $29.99

Image: Monster Factory

Monster Factory Mythicals Monster Factory’s adorable collectible plush Mythicals line is set to start shipping mid-November (you can pre-order now). Choose from six mythical creatures that stand almost 11″ high. They’re great quality and so much fun. $45

My sons were chomping at the bit to open up our sample Nerf blasters. I had to make them wait until I had a camera available first. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
Image: Patricia Vollmer

Nerf Zombie Strike Blasters Fight Zombies with Nerf’s latest offering of blasters! The Crossfire Blaster is visually appealing with a design that was first seen in last year’s Nerf Rebelle Guardian Crossbow. With a range of over 80 feet, it can hold up to four fluorescent green Zombie Strike darts, easily loaded up front, for quick succession firing. The Fusefire is a disc-launcher blaster, and comes with five glow-in-the-dark discs, which can easily be stored in the front of the blaster. You can purchase additional discs separately. $16.06

TMNT Blimp

Playmates TMNT Blimp In the words of my son, the TMNT blimp is “fragile, but still fun.” It inflates to 30″ long and can carry all four turtles + a pilot. $25.99

Playskool Heroes Marvel Super Hero Adventures Spider-Man Crane Capture Track Set
Image: Hasbro

Playskool Heroes Marvel Spider-Man Crane Capture Track Set Spider-Man defeats Electro in this preschool set featuring a Spider-Man figure on a motorcycle, a flat plastic Electro figure, and a playset with a crane. It works together with other Playskool Heroes Action Figure Racing launchers and vehicles. Ages 3-7. $19.99


Plush Treehouse with Animals This is an adorable playset. Five beanbag forest animals fit into a plush carrying-case 12″ treehouse. Great imaginative play for ages 3 and up, perfect to take as an on-the-go toy. $24.99

Image: Gamewright
Image: Gamewright

Rory’s Story Cubes MAX If you enjoy regular Rory’s Story Cubes, check out the MAX version. These larger cubes are great for large groups or for those with poor eyesight or coordination. Roll the Cubes and begin your story, working each image into the tale. Or use them for brainstorming, creative writing, problem solving, or foreign language learning. The uses are limitless. $19.99


Slackline Slacklining is a great way for kids to build strength, confidence, and balancing skills while having fun. The two-inch-wide nylon webbing extends up to 50 feet; an extra training line to hold on to makes it ideal for slackliners of varying skill levels. Ratchet tensioning is simple to use and to set up. Includes protective tree pads, instruction manual, and carrying bag. For up to 800 lbs. total weight. $69.98


SpruKits Build your own poseable action figures with SpruKits. There are Sprukits for all ability levels. Some take 15 minutes to build and some take 2-3 hours. Everything necessary is right in the kit. No cutting, gluing, or painting is necessary. Characters available in SpruKits include DC Comics characters, Halo Universe characters, and Nicktoons LBX characters. $9.59-34.99

Image: Tegu

Tegu Magnetic Wood Blocks Sustainably sourced and made from FSC-certified Honduran hardwoods, these magnetic wooden blocks will delight your teen and your baby alike. With magnets completely encased in the wood, stick these babies together in any combination to make your own delightful sculptures. Ranging from very simple sets to more complex systems, there’s something for every taste and price range. Price Varies

Electricity & Magnetism. Photo credit: Thames & Kosmos
Electricity & Magnetism. Photo credit: Thames & Kosmos

Thames & Kosmos Electricity & Magnetism Electricity & Magnetism is an experiment kit with block-like circuitry bits you can snap together. A booklet provides sample circuits that teaches the basic principles of electricity and magnetism, of course. After that—or before, if you’re not the type of read instructions manuals—you are free to play and create your own circuit designs. $44.99

Robo-Beetle. Photo credit: Thomas & Kosmos.
Robo-Beetle. Photo credit: Thomas & Kosmos

Thames & Kosmos Remote-Control Machines DLX The Remote-Control Machines DLX is a set of building blocks to construct remote-controlled robots. While there is a certain charm to having building sets of only one type—say, Lego—so that all your sets are interchangeable, I was surprised by how much I appreciated the change of scenery. It was a whole new experience thinking in terms of the pegs and holes design of Thames & Kosmos versus the interlocking bricks design of Lego. $113.48

GGSW Ultimate Amazement Park Playset
Image: VTech

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Amazement Park Engage in all kinds of great racing play with this extra large playset from VTech. It has three different course options, sound effects, and lots of different vehicles (sold separately). This is a nice, big playset for any little car lovers. Ages 18 months to five years. $59.99

Image: VTech

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch An oversized smartwatch for kids that holds up to 800 photos and 6 minutes of video. The watch comes in several colors and has a voice recorder and some built-in games, but the basic camera is the real draw here. Age 4+, but great for preschool children. $59.99

Image: WowWee

WowWee Toys MiP Robot MiP is an awesome little robot that uses GestureSense technology for precise control with hand movements. You can also control MiP from your smartphone, and its two-wheel design is so well-balanced and smooth that it’s stunning to watch in action. MiP has several different modes for play. It’s ages eight and up, and this is one adults will love, too. So. Much. Win. $99.99


Zoomer Dino Zoomer Dino is a next generation interactive toy. This creature responds to motion. He can get angry, chomp his jaws, roar, and chase. His eye color changes with his mood. Pull his tail and he’ll rampage! You can tame this touch-sensitive Dino, teach him to perform tricks, follow you, even dance. He balances perfectly. Charges with a USB cable. $105

GeekMom’s 2014 Lego Bricks Gift Guide

Lego Guide
GeekMom’s 2014 Lego Brick Gift Guide. Collage: Cathe Post

If your geeky house is anything like mine, Lego sets and accessories have been added to a majority of the family wish lists. Here are some recommendations from the writers at GeekMom to you:

Lego Superheroes Knowhere Escape Mission Building Set. Image: Cathe Post

Lego Superheroes Knowhere Escape Mission Building Set Instead of buying an advent calendar this year, GeekMom Cathe bought a couple of Lego sets and divided them up (a page of instructions a day) to cover the days and left the minifigures for last. This set features Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy along with some other standard and unique bricks. $36.97

Lego Movie Cloud Cuckoo Palace. Image: Cathe Post

Lego Movie Cloud Cuckoo Palace One of the most imaginative Lego worlds comes in an affordable set with one of the more popular characters—Unikitty! $19.97

Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Molds. Image:

Lego Building Bricks and Minifigure Molds For the Lego brick lover in your life: Make candy, soap, crayons, ice cubes, bath fizzers—the possibilities are endless! $12.35

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.35.08 AM
The Lego Movie. Image:

The Lego Movie If you have a Lego fan on your list who doesn’t own this movie, it is a must have. There is something for everyone, young and old. A geek favorite. $17.73

Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary. Image:

Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary Lego Friends Jungle Tree Sanctuary includes a Mia mini-figure, plus lion cub, parrot, turtle, and monkey. Accessories include walkie-talkie, microscope, computer, binoculars, backpack, camera, and much more. Build a three-floor set with birdhouse, bedroom, laboratory, and paddock with pond. Ages 7 and up. $40.93

DUPLO Creative Picnic
Lego Duplo Creative Picnic Set. Image:

Lego Duplo Creative Picnic Set If you have a toddler or preschooler who loves kitchen and food play, this is a great set to add to your Duplo collection. It’s also a great introduction to Duplo, with real-world items that inspire representational play and work on those fine motor skills. Ages 18 months to five years. $24.99

Lego Juniors Race Car Rally. Image:


Lego Juniors Race Car Rally This set is great for a young car lover. The Lego Juniors line, for that transitional stage from Duplo to regular Lego, has some nice sets available. But, this racing set kept one GeekMom editor’s toddler busy for quite some time. It’s a 350-piece set that comes with two minifigures. Ages 4-7. $29.99

Lego DC Super Heroes: Phonics Boxed Set. Image: Scholastic

Lego DC Super Heroes: Phonics Boxed Set Your youngster can learn their vowel sounds in this book series featuring heroes from the DC universe. Books in the series focus on a sound per book and have the Lego cartoon art we know and love. $11.10

Giveaway: Win a $100 Mega Bloks Hot Wheels Prize Package!

A peek at the $100 prize package. Prizing and samples courtesy of Mega Bloks.

Who doesn’t love Hot Wheels? I have fond memories of Hot Wheels being around the house when I was a kid. I even remember countless friends and relatives playing with Hot Wheels. Now, my own son has quite a collection brewing.

Is it possible to perfect something as timeless as Hot Wheels? Instead of wondering, check out the new Mega Bloks Hot Wheels™ Super Race Set 8-in-1. This new package combines the thrill of Hot Wheels with the construction and creativity of Mega Bloks.

Mega Bloks recently sent me one of these things to test out—and my 8-year-old was pretty much frothing at the mouth about that. It sat in the corner for about two days, unopened. While there, he was constantly eyeballing it, studying the box, and asking, “Is today the day?”

When that day came, I can’t say that I was 100-percent excited at first. Typically, when I see a box that has “289 pcs” emblazoned across the front, I picture myself wincing with foot pain in the middle of the night. Even worse, I think about all of those pieces that end up whenever the extra sock goes—and how the set usually just sits after those few pieces have gone missing.

Well, that’s one of the great things about this package. Designed for ages 5 and up, the set does include instructions on how to build eight different cars. However, there are plenty of pieces, allowing kids to create something that they can truly call their own. My son had a blast sitting on the floor, spreading all of the pieces out (keeping each of the numbered bags in respective piles, of course), and building away. Then came the tweaking. Oh, there was so much tweaking! It’s a lot of fun and seeing that mind and those hands working away is definitely worth getting a few lodged in between my toes here and there.

Mega Bloks Hot Wheels Super Race Set 8-in-1. Photo: Mega Bloks.

Could you see your little one getting revved up about this set? Well, Mega Bloks has offered to send one of these sets out to one GeekMom reader, along with plenty of other goodies. The entire prize package includes the following:

Wheelie Racer
Roger Dodger
Bad to the Blade
Fast Fish
Dune it Up
Super Race Set 8-in-1
Speed Racer Pit Stop

This is a $100 prize package, people!

To enter this race, you NEED to log into the Rafflecopter widget below, using your Facebook account or email address. This is not negotiable. We need that email, so we can let you know if you win! Then, go to the comments section below and answer the question: What was your first car? (That’s for fun.) You can like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter for up to two additional entries. (A total of three.) If you already like/follow us, it will still enter you in the giveaway. Our winner will be chosen at random, when the contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, November 7, 2014. The winner’s name will then be posted in the Rafflecopter widget, so you can check back to see who won.

Good luck!

Prizing & samples courtesy of Mega Bloks. Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine Puts a Playful Spin on Movie-Making

© GoldieBlox
© GoldieBlox

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine is one of the latest GoldieBlox construction kits to hit toy store shelves, and the only one that makes great use of a free companion app. Wary of criticism that GoldieBox toys don’t offer much incentive to play more than once, I’ve never picked up one of the kits before, but my five-year-old got a kick out of the app—and it piqued her curiosity to explore the concept of movie-making. I was happy to see the construction kit have the same effect. GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine is a fun kit for girls (and boys) that encourages the development of building skills and inspires creativity for unending play.

© GoldieBlox
© GoldieBlox

If your little builder is reluctant to give the kit a try, I highly recommend starting with the opening cinematic in the GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app. Not only did my daughter watch it three times in a row before we even got the kit, she insisted on watching it again before we got started building for “ideas.” The high-quality animation, full of personality and energy, gets kids genuinely excited to start building.

The kit’s storybook and colorful pieces caught my five-year-old’s interest immediately. Instructions for building are clear and concise, with diagrams she could easily follow as a pre-reader. The kit is aimed at kids ages 6 and up, but preschoolers can have just as much fun with a parent’s help and supervision. I only had to step in with the building when she wasn’t able to push in an axle or other piece hard enough to get it to stay in place.

Once the zoetrope is constructed, the fun doesn’t end there, to my relief. The kit comes with several different card sets for different movies, and the booklet includes quite a few “DIY” how-tos for even more ways to make one-of-a-kind movies with paper and pencils. And you can make even more with the companion app.

The GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app walks kids through making an animated 12 frame movie, with tutorials voiced by GeekMom/Mythbusters alum Kari Byron. The app offers the option to AirPrint any movie your child creates, which can then be placed into the zoetrope for more movie fun without a screen. Unfortunately, it took some jerry-rigging to get this to work with our printer; an option to save and email a PDF version of the cards would be a lot more convenient.

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine is a fantastic starter kit for giving a little girl the confidence to build something all by herself.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

The zoetrope (my daughter’s favorite new word) inspires creativity with one-second movies that can be played without end. While the kit pieces can’t be used to build much of anything else than the zoetrope, they can be combined with parts from other kits to build original creations or those found on the new web site. All in all, the kit comes with enough pieces and ideas that it put my fears about a one-time toy to rest.

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine is now available on and Toys R Us for a suggested retail price of $29.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

15 Toys Your Toddler Will Love

15 Toddler Toys
Photo collage by Jackie Reeve. Product photos from company websites and

When my now two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hannah first transitioned into that stage when she was too old for her baby toys but not quite ready for the whole magical world of preschool toys, her dad and I were a little stumped. What do toddlers play with other than anything that’s dangerous or valuable to their parents?

We experimented a lot, especially since my daughter has some sensory and motor planning issues. We’d stuck somewhat closely to the age recommendations on toys, until her speech therapist told us to challenge her. Then we found wonderful toys that skewed older but were fine if introduced with adult supervision, toys that were right on target for her age, and toys that were more like whole experiences that will grow with her.

There are so many great toys out there, but here are the things our daughter plays with incessantly (I’ve listed the retail prices, but almost all of them are available on Amazon for less):

Tolo Teatime Shape Sorter: An instant hit. It’s strangely pricey for a teapot, but it’s absolutely indestructible. First Hannah used it as a shape and color sorter, then it evolved into her first tea set. Now she serves us imaginary drinks daily, usually out of the same designated cup for each of us. $35.99

Little People Disney Princess Klip Klop Stable: A second birthday present from a classmate, we weren’t sure about this one. Disney Princesses hadn’t made an appearance yet at our house, and we were completely okay with that. But the Little People horses and riders are almost hypnotically fun. We bought all of the extra princesses, and the little ramps they came with made the princesses into great bathroom toys while potty training, too. $39.99

Fisher-Price Barnyard Bingo: Our speech therapist introduced us to this one. It’s meant as a multiplayer version of Bingo, but we found that it’s great for vocabulary practice. Hannah is obsessed with farm animals and this is a nice, portable toy for matching colors and animals. $20.99

Melissa and Doug Shopping CartWe learned the hard way how loud this can be on wood floors, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’ve shopped out of the kitchen cupboards with this, Hannah has transported her prized possessions around in it, and sometimes she just likes to race around the kitchen pushing it. Such great quality, and I love that it’s metal instead of plastic. $69.99

Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote: My mom and I took a road trip with my daughter this summer and stopped at the Crayola Experience. I stocked up at the gift shop and bought this travel clipboard set so Hannah could color in the car and not make a mess. We don’t leave the house without it now. A lifesaver on car trips and in restaurants. $13.99

VTech Go! Go! Smart Animals Zoo Explorer: This set is fun and substantial. It lives in my sewing studio, so my daughter can hang out and play while I work. I wish all of these big playsets came with more than one figure or car in the box. We bought extra animals for $7.99 each, and that felt like more of a sting than usual for extras. But it can keep a two-year-old busy for quite a while. $39.99

Symphony in B: I remember seeing this on a best toy list a few years ago, and then the music teacher at my old school had it to use with students. I loved it immediately, and now at home we have classical dance parties with it. It also turned into a great fine motor skill tool, as my daughter learned how to line up all the instruments in their slots. $99.99 (I’ve never actually seen it for this much; it’s usually significantly lower.)

Land of Nod Home Sweet Home Play Canopy: We loved the idea of a tent as a second birthday present, and this ceiling-suspended version is covered with stars and kind of magical. Hannah spends lots of good kid time in it. I wish I had one in an adult size. $199 with cushion

Melissa and Doug Deluxe Latches PuzzleAll Melissa & Doug wood puzzles wear like iron and feel so great in the hand. This lock puzzle is my daughter’s favorite, and I’ve given it as a gift to other toddlers. They all love it. If you need a few minutes to grab a shower or catch up on email, give this to your toddler to occupy their time. $24.99

Doc McStuffins Get Better Checkup CenterLast summer, I started singing the praises of this play vet’s office after seeing it at a toy preview and didn’t stop telling people about it until New Year’s. Almost a year later, Hannah still plays with this Christmas present every day. It was her first real non-baby toy, and it’s been one of the most successful things we’ve ever given her. $99.99

LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic BasketI’ve lost track of how many picnics we’ve had on our living room floor with this set. It was one of those toys we picked up as a treat one day at Target and for nearly a year now, it has regularly seen action. $21.99

Playmobil My Secret Playbox Horse StableThis was a recent acquisition that made me nervous at first. There are so many small pieces, but after playing it together with Hannah a few times, we realized she had no interest in trying to eat them. This is one of those know-your-child toys. If they’re still putting everything in their mouths, skip this one. If not, it’s a really sweet little horse stable with tons of little tools for grooming and feeding. It’s another one that gives a surprising amount of language practice, and the best part is that the whole thing (with all of those little pieces) folds up into a lockable box for storage. $27.99

Crayola 24 Count Sidewalk ChalkSidewalk chalk is always great for a sunny, not-too-cold day. But the Crayola colors are incredibly vibrant. And the shape of each chalk stick is like a rectangular crayon, so the pieces won’t roll all over your driveway. Sometimes nothing beats an afternoon on the ground outside making chalk scribbles. $7.29

Scrambled Eggs Shape Sorting FunThis turned out to be another great travel toy. You will spend some time looking under seats for the occasional missing egg half, but we’ve taken this in the car, on the plane, in restaurants, everywhere. It fits in a purse or bag and is a really nice, distracting activity to get those fine motor skills going. $12.74

Little Partners Learning TowerThis isn’t a toy, but it has provided loads of quality play time together in the kitchen. A year ago, we added this to our kitchen and it’s the best piece of equipment in it. Now my daughter can stand on a step stool without falling off, but she still wants to be in her tower whenever we have kitchen time. The adjustable height means she can always be perfectly positioned to play with her little pots and pans and felt food, or to help me roll out pie dough or make a cake. $199.99

What toys do your little ones love?

Disclaimer: GeekMom received some items for review purposes.

A New Remote-Controlled Robot Kit From Thames & Kosmos

I was shopping Amazon’s back to school specials a couple of months ago and found a good deal on Thames & Kosmos Electricity & Magnetism, an experiment kit with block-like circuitry bits you can snap together. It looked like fun so I bought it, not really knowing exactly how interested my 4-year-old would be. The daughter of nerds loved it, shocker. She was so ridiculously excited about building her very own circuit and we were amazed at the amount of focus and effort she put into this toy—a rare occurrence, believe you me. So I was pretty excited to see if we could repeat the same success with one of Thames & Kosmos’ newest items, the Remote-Control Machines DLX.

Robo-Beetle. Photo credit: Thomas & Kosmos.
Robo-Beetle. Photo credit: Thomas & Kosmos.

The Remote-Control Machines DLX is a set of building blocks to construct remote-controlled robots. Included in the box are one IR remote control, one battery box with receiver, three motors, and a variety of frames, rods, gears, wheels, connectors, and other odds and ends for a total of 212 pieces. Also included is a thick manual which contains the instructions to build 20 different models, split into these categories:

The Robotic Arm—Model to make a robotic arm.

Can Robots Push and Crawl?—Five models, from bulldozer for pushing to animal-inspired crawlers.

Robots for Transport—Think of transport in terms of weight lifting rather than distance on this one. Five models for moving loads, such as a fork lift and elevator.

Driving Robots—Here are the distance transportation vehicles. Four models consisting on variations of cars and trucks.

Goooooal!—One model to stage a robotic soccer game.

A Look into the Future—Four models which explore air and space.

The DLX kit is a revamped version of their popular Remote-Control Machines kit which was well received, judging by the Amazon reviews. The previous model consisted of 182 pieces and the instructions on how to build ten models, whereas the DLX version contains 212 pieces and the instructions to build 20 models.

So was it a success? Did it win my 4-year-old’s fleeting attention span? I’d say yes. She is definitively too young to sit through an entire model build, so I started off by building one of the models by myself at night. The next morning, she was excited to find our new robot. The remote control was a great draw, compared to other robotics kit we’ve tried that only used an on-off switch. After the fun of controlling the robots started to wane, she started to explore how she could modify it. After a few iterations, she painstakingly pulled it apart back into its bare pieces. I thought was interesting that she stopped playing with it, not when it stopped working as a remote-controlled toy but when she could see every piece laid down on the ground. Pretty cool.

I should also emphasize that my daughter is half the age of the suggested age group, the set is labeled as 8+. I think an older child would get more play time out of the toy, being able to follow instructions and build the models from scratch themselves, but it doesn’t preclude smaller kids from enjoying it as well, with adequate safety precautions taken to avoid choking on the pieces of course.

The obvious question is how it compares against Legos. We have a big box of Lego bricks at home and it’s definitively a different building experience. It is interesting to think in terms of the pegs and holes design of Thames & Kosmos versus the interlocking bricks design of Lego. I wouldn’t say one design is better or worse from a casual user perspective, but the variety has been fun just to get that extra challenge of spatially planning things a little differently.

While the Thames & Kosmos building sets are obviously not compatible with your existing Lego brick collection, the Thames & Kosmos sets are compatible with each other. This includes construction kits, physics kits, the wind power kit, and the hydropower kit. The Thames & Kosmos Remote-Control Machines DLX is currently priced at $110.47 on Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Introducing the Lego Store Flatiron District in New York City

All photos by Jackie Reeve.
All photos by Jackie Reeve.

New York is no stranger to Lego stores or Lego culture, but today a brand-new flagship storefront is opening on 5th Avenue. This will be the 76th Lego store in the United States, and it is impressive.

Last week I took a tour of the construction site while everyone involved was working to get the store ready for today’s soft opening. Construction on the store began in June, and the signature Lego sculptures were just being installed the morning I was there. The brick art was built by Lego Master Builders in the Czech Republic and shipped to New York as 38 pallets. The shipment just arrived last Monday.

Brick sculptures are one of the best things about the Lego shopping experience, and this store has some great New York-themed art. The Statue of Liberty arm stands eight feet tall, with minifigures at the base and in the torch. It took four union guys to lift and piece together that arm.

Lego Flatiron Liberty Arm
All photos by Jackie Reeve.

It’s a great photo op in the store.

Lego Flatiron torch closeup
All photos by Jackie Reeve.

The front windows feature the coolest New York culture- and street art-inspired brick murals. During my tour the mosaics were not yet installed in the windows, so I had to wiggle into a tight space to see them.

Lego Flatiron mosaic 1
All photos by Jackie Reeve.

I adore the mosaics. A life-size Brickley the Dragon Lego sculpture weaves around the shop’s walls as well.

The shop will feature the first ever Lego Lounge, a space with oversized couches, books, and charging stations so families can stay and play. At the heart of the lounge is a Lego replica of the entire Flatiron neighborhood, including the Lego store itself, for kids to build and play with. The lounge also includes a Duplo building area for toddlers and preschoolers.

A selection of almost 500 Lego sets and Lego-inspired items will be available for sale, which is insane when I think of the inventory at other Lego stores I’ve seen. Lego Store Flatiron District will be hosting a Monthly Mini Model Build for kids ages six to fourteen on the first Tuesday of every month. Kids can learn to build a new mini model each month and then take it home for free.

The store’s soft opening is today, but there will be a very cool grand opening celebration in Madison Square Park (just across the street from the store) throughout Columbus Day Weekend. Visitors can help Lego Master Builders with a 20-foot-tall, full Lego brick version of the Statue of Liberty and get a certificate for participating. It’s totally free, and the whole family is welcome. The celebration hours are Friday, October 10th from 4pm-6pm, and Saturday, October 11th through Monday, October 13th, 11am-6pm.

The store itself will have a different grand opening special for each day of the weekend.

Friday: Free Collectible LEGO T-Shirt with a $50 purchase
Saturday: Free Limited-Edition LEGO Store Set with a $75 purchase
Sunday: Free Exclusive LEGO Minifigure Set with a $50 purchase
Monday: Free mini Statue of Liberty Set with a $35 purchase

Lego Flatiron mosaic 2
All photos by Jackie Reeve.

If you’re in New York City this fall, the new Lego flagship is definitely worth checking out. If you’re in town before Columbus Day Weekend, you might get ahead of the almost-guaranteed crowds, too.