Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vacation Boredom Vaccination

It seems to me just yesterday was February vacation, but here we are again with April vacation soon upon us...though who doesn't remember counting down the days until school breaks and three day weekends? Whether you're traveling near or far or simply staying home and relaxing, here are some great goodies to pass your idle time.

Activities For Cars, Planes, and Things That Go...Rides

That darling company Mudpuppy has loads of fun and fanciful toys, many that may safely survive (or help you survive) long travels. Their Playscenes are fold-out book-like boards with reusable vinyl stickers a la Colorforms. Traveling cross-country or internationally? Try their U.S. or world map scenes. Have a traveler with a particular penchant for construction vehicles/ballerinas/circus animals/astronauts/airplanes....? You name it, there is a Playscene for it. Mudpuppy's Magnetic Dress-Up Dolls are also a surefire hit. These self-contained stylish tins have four background pieces and three sheets of dolls and clothes in Princess, Ballerina, City Girls, Sporty Girls, and Mermaid themes. They also make a Monsters set, with sheets of horrendously monstrous body parts and creepy backgrounds of haunted houses and alien planets. (This one decorates my parents' fridge).

Melissa & Doug puts a new travel-friendly spin on classic games with their Flip-to-Win travel games. These wooden boards fit on laps and you can never lose the pieces going through any turbulence: the pieces are attached. The games include Hangman, with a dry-erase board and marker, Travel Bingo with a variety of themed cards (city, vehicles, country, etc), Bear Hunt, a Guess-Who? style guessing game, and the uber-classic Memory Game with cards to match colors, animals, numbers, and so on. (These might be more ideal for car rides than airplane rides, if carry-on weight is an issue).

For the creative traveler, classic funny fill-in-the-blank game Mad Libs has
branched into funny art with their fill-in-the-picture Mad Art line. These wipe
clean boards come in a variety of themes, from Funny Faces and Wacky Animals to Under the Sea and At the Beach, where part of a fireman/giraffe/sandcastle is left blank for your artist to complete with a funny hat/polka dots/turrets and moat. We also, of course, carry the Mad Libs books, in original and junior formats.

To keep track of all the vacation adventures, don't forget a road trip journal! Mudpuppy gives us a couple spiral-bound, pocket-perfect notebooks Lots of Fun on the Go and Are We There Yet? (The artwork might look familiar if you've read Pseudonymous Bosch's The Name of This Book Is Secret or Chronicle's Pirate Log, all designed by Gilbert Ford). These books have games, puzzles, space to record funny moments (or funny billboards), and my favorite part, in Are We There Yet?, the section to "vent" about annoying siblings, bad fast food, or the lack of good car music.

In addition to all these great sets, check out our activities case, where you'll find everything from treehouse-building, knitting, and origami instructions to hidden pictures, mazes, sudoku, and puzzle books.

Tunes and Tales for Everybody
in Cars, Trains, and Other Things That Go

To remedy complaints of bad music choices/parental karaoke on your vacation voyages, check out our music section, which just got a recent revamp, before you hit the road. Parents and children/teens may all enjoy All Together Now, a CD of Beatles covers, from Music For Little People. Rachel cooed over an adorable CD and board book edition of it (by Tune A Fish Records) in her weekly What Rachel Wants post. For listeners with a funnybone, try They Might Be Giants's No!, Barenaked Ladies's Snacktime, or pretty much anything by Dan Zanes (who will be at the Somerville Theatre the weekend of the 18th and 19th). For quieter moments, try folk/blues guru, Lead Belly, on Lead Belly Sings for Children, full of work songs, spirituals, and traditional folk songs. Like Tune A Fish Records' new version of All Together Now, Soulville is a board book and CD combination featuring ReadRay Frazier, Tabitha Fair, and Chocolate Genius with a kids chorus, covering such bouncing-in-your-carseat motown classics as "Dancing in the Street," "Mustang Sally," and "How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you)".

If your adventurers prefer more narrative than melody, try our audio books. Upstairs we have some picture books that come with an audio CD or tape, but I'll be focusing on chapter books on tape here. For the pre-K through beginning readers who may want to read along or are familiar with these funny amphibian pals, author Arnold Lobel reads four of their books in the Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Other early readers will enjoy the adventures of Jack and Annie, the brother and sister duo of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series. Their audio books can be enjoyed in either sets, including books 37-40, or individually, as in the most recent installment, Moonlight on the Magic Flute. You can't go wrong with Roald Dahl's contemporary classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, performed by Eric Idle (sound familiar? He's from Monty Python and the Flying Circus), or Astrid Lindgren's irrepressible Pippi Longstocking, read by performing artist Esther Benson. For older listeners with a penchant for thrillers or sci-fi, try Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and cast. Finally, because I just can't not include this perfectly appropriate title, there's Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne, read by Jim Dale (you may recognize him from Harry Potter audiobooks, which we, of course, also carry).

Games and Gardening for the Great Outdoors

Even if you're not vacationing in any palm-tree-dotted locale, we have plenty of great toys to ring in the spring-time. The ultimate toy of April, is of course, a kite. Our selection of Premier Kites ranges from diamond and mini sled kites to penta and hawk-shaped kites. Other classics we have include rubber horseshoes (from Schylling), Chinese jump ropes (from Toysmith), DIY rubber band jump ropes (from Simple Toys), and Stomp Rockets (from D&L Company).

What fun is being outdoors if you can't get a little sticky? We have a whole bunch of bubble-making goodies (all care of Little Kids). For the toddler set, we have spill-proof (no bubble-drinking worries!) Mini Bubble Tumblers and My First Bubbles Bubble Maker. For those who want a little more action in their bubble-making, we have the Bubble Blastin' Plane, which shoots streams of bubbles and has a working propeller. My favorite is the Cowboy Bubble Shooter, because of its no-spill holster for refills. If these aren't enough, you can make super giant bubbles with the Bubble Twister, which comes with a tall wand and bubble tray.

Our newest game for outdoor gamboling is Boochie by Gamewright Games, a wacky twist on the ancient game of bocce. It takes a bit of explaining, so bear with me. Each player has their own bean ball and hoop that they try to get as close to the 12-sided foam Boochie ball as they can. Are you with me? Here's the wacky part: your wrist band has a rotating disc that gives you a new challenge in each round, say, to throw with your eyes closed or toss between your legs. Points are awarded by the numbers facing up on the main Boochie ball. (If only we had the space to set up a game in the chapter book room...)

April is also a great time to cultivate a green thumb! The folks at DuneCraft have combined two of our great loves: Curious George and green, growing things. Curious George's Outrageous Farm is a self-contained terranium in which you can grow wheat grass, tomatoes, and catnip. It is, of course, decorated with Curious George and the man in the yellow hat, and has farm animal figurines to "graze" in your garden. For the jurassic-fan gardener, try the smaller terranium, Dinosaur Discovery Adventure Garden, in which you can grow such "prehistoric"-looking plants as pine trees and asparagus ferns. For the gardener with his/her head in the clouds, there is another option: Outer Space Adventure Garden, to grow space-y, touch-sensitive plants alongside Martian sand that never gets wet. Individual seed packets of the Adventure Garden plants are available. I have saved the most fearsome plant for last: Curious George's Fly Trap! This vicious, carnivorous plant should only be given to the boldest gardener.

And it wouldn't be April without some spring showers, and the all-important, all-soaking puddle stomping! We have Hello Kitty umbrellas, rainbow striped umbrellas, and animal-themed umbrellas for walks in the rain. For those who want to stomp unhindered, we also carry Hatley raincoats. Sadly, we only have infant sizes left in the Curious George yellow raincoat, but while those are still in stock, you can order them from our website. Hatley's other raincoats that we carry at the moment are glow-in-the-dark (!), with apples or aliens and astronauts themes.

Whatever you do or wherever you go this vacation, be safe, be messy, and have fun!

No comments: