Life in our house runs much more smoothly when my boys are well exercised. I mean sweating, panting, begging for water level of exercise. From the time our kids were old enough to walk we’ve tossed them out into the back lane with the rest of the neighbourhood kids to ride bikes, play street hockey, rollerblade, and shoot hoops. And while our kids still LOVE building bike jumps and throwing around balls, I’m always on the lookout for a new toy or activity that will further cement their love of physical exercise.
But sometimes the rain in Vancouver means going outside is not an option (or at least my boys utterly refuse to put a toe outside when it is bucketing-down). And I’m not one of those moms that can handle kids treating her house like a parkour park. So when the weather is miserable (or we just need some downtime) I like to pull out games / toys / activities that are mentally stimulating. For 2017 we’ve put together a Active Kids Gift Guide – a list of gifts that are either physically or mentally taxing. Here’s hoping our ideas help make your shopping a bit easier this holiday season.
Physically Active Gifts
Yvolution Y Flyer – My boys LOVE LOVE LOVE their scooters. They have to be one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. When I discovered the Yvolution Y Flyer I knew this new stepper-version of the scooter was going to be a BIG hit. Just imagine, the equivalent of a stair-master on a scooter…and my kids will have no clue of the added exercise, because they are PLAYING! Featuring super grip foot plates for ultimate comfort and control and unique forward propelling motion, the Flyer is the ultimate wheeled toy. Many scooters have a foot-wheel brake set up. My kids sometimes use that, but they generally like to drag their shoes on the ground (you can imagine how much I appreciate that shoe-destructive move). The Y Flyer actually has hand-brakes, just like a regular bike, making the stepper-scooter even more intuitive for kids. The Y Flyer has a strong steel frame that even my kids can fold in half. I love finding a toy that I can easily pack up in the back of our car for times the kids just need to burn off a bit of crazy energy. And if you are thinking the Yvolution Flyer is for younger kids, don’t let the 3 wheels trick you. This fun toy is designed for kids aged 7+ years. There is a weight maximum of 154lbs. You can find the Yvolution Y Flyer at Canadian Tire, Walmart & Toys R Us stores.
Wheelster Classic Hoverboard – now don’t go thinking that the Wheelster Classic Hoverboard requires no effort, and that kids are just standing on the board. It takes some serious core muscles to remain upright while moving. My boys have been yapping about “needing” a hoverboard for a while. My husband also thinks they are super cool – something about Back to the Future movies has been muttered a few times. Seeing as I love my kids to be outside whenever possible, I’m all for investing in a toy that makes playing outdoors ever more appealing. And be sure to hop over to our contest page as we are giving away one Wheelster Classic Hoverboard just in time for the holidays!
Ety Kids Earphones – bare with me on this one. I know the first impression of earphones is a kid slumped on the couch, staring at a screen listening to music. BUT earphones can be so much more! Earphones can get kids up and moving, wiggling their hips and dancing their sillies away. My boys both have (ancient, 2nd generation) iPods packed with music they love. And while I love nothing more than cranking the tunes when I’m cooking, all three of us blasting our music simultaneously is more than even my band-teaching husband can handle. Solution: the Ety Kids Earphones. These wonders were engineered to deliver safe sound output while providing the exceptional sound quality the inventor, Etymotic, is known for. Ety Kids Earphones seal the ear canals, blocking external noise, so kids and teens can hear every detail without the need for high playback levels. By controlling the earphones themselves, it isn’t necessary to restrict the volume setting on a music player, phone, tablet or computer. So while my kids burn off their after-school energy dancing to tunes, I am comforted knowing their ears aren’t being ruined by volume dial cranked way too high!
Heelys– Oh how I wish the Heelys wheelie-shoes were around when I was growing up! There is a part of me that is ridiculously jealous every time I see a kid wheeling around the grocery store. How many hours did we all spend waiting – bored out of our minds – for our parents to finish their mundane tasks? I completely get why my boys have been BEGGING for Heelys for years. I don’t know why I waited so long. Guaranteed as soon as my boys get their shoes there will be an instant debate as to whether they wear the shoes outside (which means NEVER again in the house) or keep them as inside shoes and fly around the main floor of our house. Regardless of where the boys end up wearing their Heely’s I love the fact that the shoes make moving and exercising fun. In case you haven’t heard of these ultra-fun wheelie shoes here’s the 4-1-1. Heelys are shoes with a single or double wheel in the heel. They allow the wearer to go from walking to rolling simply by shifting their weight to their heels. The wheels can be easily removed and the shoe instantly morphs into a “regular” shoe. The double-wheel variety are great for first-time skaters, because two wheels provide more stability and balance. Once the skater is ready for one wheel, the smaller wheel can easily be removed, turning them into a normal pair of Heelys. Please note that not all sizes and styles come available in the two-wheeled model.
STIGA Snowracer SX Pro – Anyone else have all their fingers & toes crossed for a repeat of last year’s EPIC snow dump? In all my years of living in the Lower Mainland I don’t remember snow like that. Talk about magical for kids! I actually took my kids to the elementary school I attended because it has the BEST sliding hill ever. I was a bit worried the hill’s prowess was exaggerated in my mind; more than 2 decades had passed since my last visit. My memory didn’t fail me, the hill sliding-perfection. But our sliding toys were just sad; our sheets of plastic were West-Coast-pathetic. When snow is an annual question mark it seems hard to justify having an array of snow toys. That being said, when the snow does land I guarantee the West Coast kids get more use out of their snow toys than any other kid across the country. Our kids slide until there is just grass left. After last year’s dump I’m not willing to risk being under prepared in the sliding department. We are getting snow toys! And I can’t think of a more fun ride down a snow-packed hill than the STIGA Snowracer SX Pro from Having Fun Yet! The Snowracer was designed for speed; the curved up tips allow for quick maneuvers and backwards sledding. The no-slip grip handle bars and protective-foam paddled crossbar help mom & dad breathe a bit easier (you know those kids are going to push the Snowracer to it’s limits). Take time to have a look at the Having Fun Yet site; you can find additional snow-sledding options, plus STIGA hockey tables, and thrill rides.
Mentally Active Gifts
Operation Escape Room, Break Free, and Safe Breaker – My 7 year old has an insane obsession with board games. I LOVE playing board games but after repeated rounds of the same board game, I need a change. As a means of survival every Christmas we add at least one new game to our games cupboard; this year we are adding THREE. Spycode Toys has come out with 3 interactive games that throw the player into the ever-popular and slightly dangerous spy world. Sadly I’m a big chicken and there is no way I am ever going to try a real escape room, but the idea of playing a board game with an escape room theme has me super excited. Operation Escape Room turns your home into an escape room: in a set amount of time, and with a varying degrees of difficultly, the players have to complete the three puzzle challenges in order to get the key and complete the game. You can make it easy by having the puzzles on the table, or you can get someone else to cleverly hide them around your playing space ramping up the pressure as this is a timed game. Gotta love a game that incorporates mental challenges with fine and gross motor skills. This game is intended for kids aged 6 years & up.
It’s time to Break Free from handcuffs. This game is for up to 4 players and the goal is to extract your wrist from a handcuff. There are 3 levels of difficulty and time is of the essence. The person who breaks free first gets the most points. I guarantee there will be oodles of laughter as players race to un-cuff themselves. Word of advice, go to the bathroom BEFORE you start this game!
The best listening ears will succeed with Safe Breaker. This fun game has kids listening for musical clues to try and break open a safe. If you guess wrong an alarm sounds and your turn is over. Guess right and the safe pops open and you collect gold coins. The person who collects 4 golden coins or 2 diamond coins wins. Safe Breaker is a compact game that would be great to pack in the car for visits to grandparents or nights away from home.
Thumb Chucks & Tumblestix – I have vivid memories of sitting through countless university lectures fascinated by my fellow students who could spin pens around their thumbs. Some people are incredibly dextrous; I am not. I’m the person who launched her pen across the aisle in the silent lecture hall and shrunk into her seat with embarrassment as the pen bounced down multiple stairs. The Thumb Chucks are giving me serious flashbacks to those university days but in the interest of everyone’s safety, I’ll let my kids play with them. The versatile toy is great for fine motor skill development. The fact the chucks glow means your kid can play this any where at any time (okay maybe not during school because that’s not going to end well) but it is perfect for any free time your kids has. Another dexterity toy is the Tumblestix. An oval-shaped fidget toy that lights up, can be tucked in a pocket, and manipulated on any hard surface. Roll it around, wiggle it back and forth, and use your imagination – there’s a whole lot of fidgeting fun to be had.
StikBot Pets – My eldest entered the world fascinated by technology. Imagine his horror at being raised in a household that severely limits screen time. For years he would BEG me to buy him a smart phone (he never managed to convince me a toddler needed one). But as he gets older I’m not adverse to him using technology for learning purposes. For months now he has been muttering at me about his need for “StikBots”. As he waits for his parents to give into his request he’s been using his camera and LEGO to try and mimic the stop-motion effect of StikBots. Obviously LEGO mini-figs don’t quite cut it when it comes to stop-animation. The StikBot figures are incredibly clever. Each figure has multiple sections that move independantly allowing your child to create a moving scene. The camera stand and suction cups on the creatures feet go even further to making the stop-motion process a success. StikBot Pets is the newest edition to the SkitBot line up of characters.
MyFunEnvelope – Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, and why not? Who wouldn’t love opening the mailbox to find a magical parcel full of treats! Well MyFunEnvelope has created a year-subscription package for crafty kids. Each month your child’s craft subscription will include four pre-packaged crafts and activities with easy kid friendly directions. They will also receive one STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activity kit focusing on making learning a fun hands-on experience. Everything they need to complete the crafts will be included – even the glue, markers, crayons, and scissors! The price is just $18 per month. Your account is billed on the 1st of the month and your child’s package ships on the 15th. The envelopes are never holiday-themed so you don’t need to worry about packages arriving after the holiday has passed.
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