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8 Ways to Add Fun to Your Backyard



Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table

Ages: 1 & Up
Manufacturer: The Step2 Company
Price: $69.99

Little ones can make a waterfall, fish, or just splash around in this two-level water table.



OTO Taco Truck/Ice Cream Truck

Ages: 2 & Up
Manufacturer: Famous OTO
Price: $59.00

Food Truckies will have a blast serving up fun in these large cardboard playhouses



B. Woo-Hue Parachute

Ages: 3 & Up
Manufacturer: Battat
Price: $24.99

Catch balls, make a fort, or make up games to play with this 8’ beautifully hued color wheel nylon parachute.



Mini Golf – Full Set

Ages: 4 & Up
Manufacturer: PlanToys, Inc.
Price: $30.00

Kids (and parents) can play a round or two with this eco- and family friendly golf set.



Crayola Neon 3D Chalk

Ages: 4 & Up
Manufacturer: Crayola, LLC
Price: $4.99

Take artistry to the driveway with six pieces of neon colored chalk and 3D glasses.



Ages: 6 & Up
Manufacturer: OgoSport LLC
Price: $18.00

Players use the plastic sling to catch and throw the orange sphere.



Happy Salmon

Ages: 6 & Up
Manufacturer: North Star Games LLC
Price: $14.95

Before and after the meal is served, use the picnic table as a gameboard to match up and act out one of the 72 action cards. Lots of high-fiving, fist-bumping and fin flipping fun will be had by all!



ZL70 – 70′ Zip Line

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: Adventure Parks
Price: $110.00

With a weight limit of 225 lbs., kids and adults of all ages can ride this zip line. If they dare!







8 Fun Games and Apps to Take on the Road



Small in size, but BIG on fun, these games and apps make great travel companions.


Spin’n a Row

Ages: 3 & Up
Manufacturer: Reeve + Jones Group LLC
Price: $11.95

Tic-tac-toe with a twist. Players rotate the balls to make three in a row.




My Gnome on the Roam Adventure Kit

Ages: 3 – 10 yrs.
Manufacturer: My Gnome on the Roam
Price: $59.97

This cardboard suitcase comes jam packed with a book, an adventure guide, a journal, a twig pen, and you guessed it, a Gnome.



IQ Candy

Ages: 7 & Up
Manufacturer: SmartGames
Price: $14.99

With five levels of difficulty, this single-player logic puzzle is a challenge for all ages.




Math Dice® Chase

Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.
Price: $6.99

Players roll the dice and race to shout out the equation and (correct) answer. Game play continues till only one mathlete is left.



Double Play: Word Games With a Wacky Twist

Ages: 10 & Up
Manufacturer: INversionGAMES LLC
Price: $9.99

Players work to form words from the lettered cards in their hand. A fun challenge? The letters change depending on how you hold the card.



Mad Libs: The Game

Ages: 10 & Up
Manufacturer: Looney Labs
Price: $20.00

A fun take on the classic, hilarious word game. Here, players draw words from a deck of cards to fill in the blanks.





Ages: Infant – 12 yrs.
Developer: Epic! Creations Inc.
Download Price: $4.99

This iPad app lets users instantly access a collection of over 10,000 children’s books.



WonderBox – by Duck Duck Moose

Ages: 6 – 12 yrs.
Developer: Duck Duck Moose
Download Price: Free

This educational creativity iPad app lets users explore topics such as, art, geography, and sports then allows them to create videos and images based on what they’ve learned.






7 Questions for Frances England


Frances EnglandParents’ Choice: What inspired you to make music for kids? 
Frances England: I got into children’s music in a very accidental way. When my oldest son, Liam, was a toddler I used to make up songs for him about our days. I’d sit on the side of the bathtub while he soaked in bubbles and we’d talk about what we’d done that day and I’d write little songs about it.

My first songs for children were “Tricycle”, “Paint a Picture”, “Digging in the Dirt”, “Books I Like to Read” – about all the things Liam loved to do.  At the time, Liam was in a cooperative preschool and I decided to put together a collection of these songs as a fundraiser for the school titled “Fascinating Creatures” but had no intention of going beyond that.

Parents’ Choice: How is writing a song for children different than writing for adults?
Frances England:  For me there is really not that much difference. I spend as much time on the lyrics, structure, and construction of the song for both my children’s music and my adult songs. I guess one difference though would be that when I write for adults I tend to leave the lyrics a little more abstract and open for interpretation than I do when I write songs for kids.  But with both groups, I try and touch on subjects that are related to what’s happening in their lives.  When I’m writing for kids, I also think about age groups and make sure the lyrics and messages are developmentally and emotionally relevant, which is something that I don’t worry about with my grown up stuff.

PC: What’s the most important thing to remember when writing a song for kids?

Frances: Kids really listen. Over and over and over again.  So you’ve got to get the songs and the sound right because, if it’s good, it’s going to be in constant rotation.

PC: How would you describe your approach to children’s music?

Frances: I spend a lot of time trying to craft songs that everyone in the family can enjoy. Kids are always at the center of my focus, but I try really hard to create songs that won’t drive the Mamas and Papas cray cray.

PC: What was the first instrument you played?
Frances: The violin – I played for about 7 or 8 years and really wish I’d never given it up. I’m starting to take piano lessons this Spring and I’m so excited about it.

PC: What sparked your interest in becoming a musician?
Frances: Joni Mitchell. I heard the album Blue when I was in high school and immediately ditched the violin for the guitar.

PC: What do your children tell you about your songs?
Frances: My kids are pretty involved in my songwriting process. I am constantly making demos of song ideas and playing them in the car while we are driving around. So I get a lot of feedback.  They are both my toughest critics and biggest supporters and often say things like, “Mommy, it sounds like you are cramming too many words in right here,” or “This is little too moany groany for kids.”  Helpful insights.


Read Lynne Heffley’s reviews of Frances England’s Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winning CDs: Explorer of the World, Mind of My Own and Family Tree.




Hooray, hooray, the 20th of May. Parents’ Choice Toy Awards announcing today!



DashThe Spring 2016 Parents’ Choice Toy Awards have play covered from STEM to stern.

Among our newest winners are a preschool science kit, puppets, a fort building kit and a very dashing robot. There are circuits and mazes and numbers to chase. Math games and word games and those with a twist, a car that is modern – are all on the list.




Did you see the construction toy on our homepage? It’s new and it’s clever, and designed to engage. How about the play cubes so sweet and so dear? The O-Rings so special they made us all cheer. And check out the SmartScope for bugs in a row, the DIY Gamer Kit and electrified dough.


The rhyming is ending not a moment too soon, here’s the full list to read and to swoon.






15 Wonderful Games, Apps, and Even a Book About Words




Loco Lingo Games

Ages: 3 & Up

Manufacturer: HABA

Price: $12.00

Kindergarten, Fastgrasp, and Building Site round out the Loco Lingo series of board games. Storytelling, riddle solving, and rhyming are just a few of the skills they help build.


Tiggly Words

Ages: 4 – 8 yrs.

Manufacturer: Tiggly

Price: $29.95

Designed to work on iOS and Android tablets, this learning system consists of 4 apps and 5 vowel shapes that safely interact with your tablet screen to spell words and build vocabulary.


Grandma’s Trunk ™ Alphabet Game

Ages: 5 & Up.

Manufacturer: Educational Insights

Price: $14.99

Five different word games, such as “What Comes Next?” and “Grandma’s Adventure” are packed into this easy to pack up trunk.


Zingo!® Word Builder

Ages: 5 & Up

Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.

Price: $19.99

Players slide the Zinger to reveal letters to fill up their game boards. Players who make the most words win the game.


Sight Word Spy 1

Ages: 5 – 8 yrs.

Manufacturer: Delightful Bee

Price: $12.95

This card game reinforces word recognition and hones spelling skills. Players race to make matches to win the most cards.



Ages: 8 & Up

Distributor: Popular Playthings

Price: $19.99

Players roll the lettered dice and work to build as many words as possible in the allotted time. But, its not always clear what letters are revealed.


Chain Letters

Ages: 8 & Up

Distributor: Patch Products

Price: $19.99

Like Barrel of Monkeys but, players link letters together to build words.


Last Letter™

Ages: 8 & Up

Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.

Price: $12.99

This update on the classic version of this letter game uses illustrations to challenge players while they work quickly to spot a word to match.


Play on Words

Ages: 8 & Up

Manufacturer: David James Games

Price: $13.99

Players use letter cards to build words and score points. For a fun twist, rearrange an opponent’s letters to get a higher score.


Compound It All!

Ages: 9 & Up

Manufacturer: Lee & Low Books

Price: $29.95

Players work to form compound words from the letters they’re dealt. Seems simple enough until someone steals your letters to win the game.



Ages: 10 & Up

Manufacturer: ThinkFun Inc.

Price: $12.99

The tricky challenge here is to figure out where a word begins and ends on the circular cards. Be the first to figure it out and win the card. The player with the most cards wins the game.



Wonster Words: Phonics Spelling for Kids

Ages: 3 – 6 yrs.

Developer: 77SPARX Studio, LLC

Platform: iPad

Ghostly letters and not-so-scary “wonsters” help kids learn to spell and sound out new words.


Noodle Words – Active Word Game Set 1

Ages: 4 – 7 yrs.

Developer: Mark Schlichting

Developer: NoodleWorks Interactive, LLC

Download Price: $2.99

Platform: iPad

Words come to life for young readers in this app. With just a touch, animated words act out their meaning. For example, make “drop” drop, and “spin” spin.


Mystery Word Town – Sight Word Spelling

Ages: 6 – 10 yrs.

Developer: Artgig Apps

Download Price: $2.99

Platform: iPad

Players help the sheriff of an old Wild West town recover lost gold while increasing their spelling and word recognition skills in this fun themed app.



The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Ages: 7 & Up

Author: Jen Bryant

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Hardcover Price: $17.50

This beautifully illustrated biographical picture book brings us the life story of the creator of the thesaurus.