So far, this Father’s Day has been pretty nice. The kids slept in until about 6:30 which is late for them. My wife then took them downstairs while I woke up at a leisurely pace and did some mild stretching. We then headed out to a nearby diner before the rush and had a nice breakfast in a relatively quiet restaurant–just how I like it. After that, I did some gardening with the kids; we planted wildflowers, pulled up ivy and bushes, bagged yard waste, and planted sunflower seeds.
After a quick lunch, the best thing, as of this writing, happened. I took an empty bin from the storage unit in the play room and filled it with the LEGOs from my childhood. The kids eyes widened as the bin filled to the top. We set them up with the pieces on the floor of their bedroom, and it has been pretty quiet up there since. I have immeasurable joy in sharing these favorite toys of my youth with my kids. I spent hours with these and have added to the collection over time, as well. There are all kinds of thinking skills that come from building with LEGOs, and that is a nice benefit. However, the biggest source of joy was watching them eagerly dive into the same pieces that kept me building my imagination all those decades ago.
It is always the box. Even at an older age, my kids love the box it comes in, whatever the it is. A few weeks, maybe a month, ago we received a tabletop sorter to help straighten up the front hall table, and as Amazon often does, it was packed in a box at least three times its volume. This box is big enough for both kids to fit in comfortably, and it immediately became a favorite toy. The kids cut a few windows in and drew a few buttons inspired by the book The Nowhere Box. This has again become a favorite book at bedtime, also. The box has been an airplane, a train, a Nowhere Box, and a bed among many other things.
Being made of thin cardboard, it has also shown the wear and tear of life as a toy for a three and almost six year-old. The three year-old explored removing the tape from the box, and it became a ripped, flattened shadow of its former glory to the grief of both kids. I was ready to recycle it, but they demanded that it be repaired. Out came the extra-wide duct tape, and after some major repairs, they have the box back. I love that they play well together in this springboard for imagination. I’ll keep repairing it until there is no more cardboard left.
Over the years, many presents have entered and exited our house. My wife and I have made Amazon wish lists for each child to help guide people who don’t know what to get for them. It is fun to find cool things and add them to the list. We often use the lists ourselves when considering things to get the kids.
When people don’t use the lists, it is interesting to see what they think the kids might like. Recently, their grandfather brought a punch-out, cardboard robot for my daughter to construct. They had a great time doing that, and the robot has been a central toy in the kids’ play since. Similarly, my sister gave the kids a magnet from France. It depicts a typical French breakfast. My son is entranced with it and serves us breakfast in bed during all hours of the day.
From the list, we got quite a few things. One of the great hits has been Rolobox, a set of wheels for cardboard boxes. The kids, with our awesome nanny’s help, affixed the wheels to a shoe box that has now become a doll stroller.
The other toy, also given by my sister, from our list that has currently captured the family is a Moomin matching game. We are starting to read the Moomintroll books at bedtime, and I am so happy to be sharing these favorites with the kids. The matching game is made of good quality components, features the characters of the books, and helps build the memory skills of both kids. They love it.
The seventh night of Chanukah came and so did the package from Lakeshore Learning. In it was a set of farm animals. Having done some research on the topic, I wanted a variety of animals, the least amount of vinyl smell, and some assurance that the paint was not lead based. Lakeshore Learning provided all of these in animals that were nicely sized. There are many animal collections out there, but these stood out in the reviews as being very nice. Indeed, they are. The kids loved picking them out of our Chanukah bag and then putting them to sleep in the barn that we already had.
Cutting out the game tiles with my matte cutter.
I attend a biweekly game developers’ meetup, and one of the games there instantly attracted me. It is a tile based game in which players build mixed up castles. There are three castle types, and there are tiles that morph between them. I finally asked the developer for print and play files so that I could make a set to start playing with my daughter. I finished putting together a set on Monday night. I can’t wait to introduce her to this fabulous game. The art is stunning, and the game concept is very engaging. I really hope the designer can make a go of getting it produced. I will be first in line to buy it.
Today, I played two games of Connect 4 with my daughter before her quiet time. In the first game, I managed to get 7 in a row, but in the second game, I missed that she had set up a four where I thought I was protected. Now, she didn’t do it intentionally, but she won fair and square without me trying to let her win. That is great.
It will be a while before the kids can play this, but a game about bugs! What fun. I love Kickstarter for bringing games to me that I just can’t wait to play (with my kids, of course).
I don’t know when I have been more excited about a new game. Robot Turtles has taken Kickstarter by storm. It blew past its initial goal of $25,000 to, at the time of this writing, be knocking on $565,000. The result is a huge community of invested people and a much better production value on the games. It feels like going downstairs on December 25th when I was a kid. Even though I knew what was in many of the packages, I was still excited and eager. I’ll have to wait to share this treat with my kids until December some time when it ships.
A while ago I spent some time researching dolls. I eventually settled on two by the North American Bear Company: Rosy Cheeks Baby and Big Sister. We finally got around to ordering because both kids are really into playing with their stuffed animals as babies. They put them to bed about once every five minutes, and at other times, I hear all of the language I use with the kids directed at the stuffed animals. It was time, past time, for them to get dolls. Both kids immediately started playing with them and continued all day.
Today, I introduced my daughter to Connect Four. Actually, she played a huge version of it at my wife’s college reunion a few months ago, but this time we were able to really play it. She loves it, and it looks like she will pick it up pretty quickly. Another game we can play together! Yay.