Highlights from the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash

Our friends at Kidz Vuz always know how to throw a party. And luck us, we had the chance to participate in their really cool Back to School Bash.

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Held at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash was a great mix of fun family and tween brands, many of which we already know and love. We did, however, have a chat to chat with brands or products that were definitely the epitome of The Next Kid Thing! I’ll have to do several posts about the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash, but for now, I wanted to share some of our favorite new and upcoming things in the kid realm. 

MetKids, one of my personal favorite concepts at the BTS Bash is a digital aspect made for kids, with and by kids. I was shown a cool app that kids can use in collaboration with the Met. There’s a cool app that kids can use while at the Met, as well as on its own. The features will launch soon, but I loved learning about MetKids. What a fun way to get the kids more engaged while at my favorite NYC cultural institutions! 

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LegoDimensions seemed to be Jack’s absolute favorite booth, considering we spent most of our afternoon there! Lego Dimensions is a new game that merges physical LEGO brick building with digital gameplay. 
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It will feature some of your family’s favorite brands including DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, Scooby-Doo and The Simpsons…all in the Starter Pack!  Players begin the LEGO Dimensions experience by building the LEGO minifigure heroes, LEGO Batman, LEGO Gandalf and Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie, and fire-up the game.  

 

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Following the in-game build instructions to assemble the loose bricks, creating the LEGO Gateway and placing onto the LEGO Toy Pad to transport the characters into the game.  It will be available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation4, PlayStation3 and the Wii U system from Nintendo.  On the heels of the popularity of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, we’re absolutely loving this concept and can’t wait for it to be released on September 27, which just happens to be Biggie’s birthday! 

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Biggie had a great time checking out Wonder Workshop. He had a chance to play around with robots, Dash and Dot and get a glimpse of the fun of coding and engage in STEM! I loved seeing all the kids control these cool robots. I even had to jump and raise my feet a few times when the robots went rogue! So fun! 
 
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We had such a great time at Kidz Vuz Back to school bash and will be sure to share more of my favorites!
 
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Pixels is Out-of-This-World Funny

If I had a quarter for every game I played at the arcade with my brothers and friends at our beloved Aladdin’s Castle, I could most certainly be a wealthy world leader by now. Instead, I’m more than happy to write about the new movie, Pixels, where a group of guys (including the fictitious leader of the free world) relive their childhoods and join forces with the government to conquer aliens and secure hero status for gamers everywhere.

 

 

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Having grown up with video games at our fingertips, the latest buddy comedy, Pixels, is a hilarious nod to the classic arcade so as this genre of entertainment has evolved from our childhoods. In the film, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler,) Will Cooper (Kevin James,) Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad,) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) are kid video game phenoms who battle it out in the 80s. Fast forward to real time, Will Cooper is the President and his best friend, Sam, is an electronics installer who partner together to figure out how to save the world with their video game skills. Lamonsoff, a theory conspirist, and The Fire Blaster round out the gaming gurus with their over-the-top characters who exudes ridiculousness throughout Pixels. Michelle Monahan’s Lt. Violet Van Patten is fierce as the female lead who keeps the guys in check, especially Sandler’s Sam Brenner.

 

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When the aliens feel threatened and proposition Earth to several “real-life” video game duels, Sam and company must join forces to save the world with their gaming skills. The movie’s premise is as hilarious as it sounds, and truly lived up to the same Sandler-esque comedy our generation knows and loves. Like most of Sandler’s films, this one had its fair share of significant one-liners that kids of the 80s can appreciate.

As expected, Pixels is a riot, filled with gratuitous video game references, action and nostalgia, ideal for this generation’s parents who were arcade enthusiasts. Older kids would get a kick out of Pixels, but if they’re not up to their 80s pop culture, expect to whisper explanations throughout the film.

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Last week, I had the chance to sit in on the blogger junket with the esteemed director, Chris Columbus, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Michelle Monahan and Kevin James. The ensemble was “on” and kept us on our toes and fed into the kid interviewers in the crowd.

Sandler made us chuckle with his experience and thoughts of the way we grew up playing at the arcade. In fact, the arcade he went to as a kid was really called the Electric Game Factory, just like in the movie. We learned that Michelle enjoyed exuding girl power as her turn as Lt. Van Patten. Josh Gad’s ability to charm the room was no surprise. And, quite frankly, it was an honor to listen to Chris Columbus speak, considering many of us have grown up with his artistry on the screen.

But it was Kevin James, who is typically, the awkward secondary character who kept his cool during our interview…until I asked my fellow Mets fan what he’d do if he was really president to ensure the Mets made it to the World Series.

Without hesitation, the funny guy says, he’d institute mandatory siesta every day.  Considering the upswing that the Mets are on right now and my personal appreciation for siestas, I’m totally down with that!

 

 

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Skylanders SuperChargers Reach New Heights with Vehicles; Debut Set for September 20

Activision announced its latest installment in the Skylanders Franchise today. Skylanders SuperChargers will debut on September 20, 2015, which will bring this beloved game to new heights.

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In SuperChargers, Portal Masters will take the helm of high-octane vehicles on land, sea and sky. From vehicular combat, races down rapids and aerial dogfights, Activision says SuperChargers will feature story-driven gameplay, vehicle-based and on-foot adventures, puzzles, mini games, activities and platforming.

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SuperChargers Dive Bombers

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SuperChargers will have 20 new character toys and 20 new vehicles. Starter Packs will include two new Skylanders characters and a new Skylanders vehicle, as well as a new Portal of Power. The game will be available for preorder starting today, June 3 for $74.99. According to Activision execs, the previous Portal will be functional with this game, as well as a Digital Players’ version where the game itself can be downloaded on select consoles, adding even more play value to Skylanders SuperChargers. I’ll share details on that once it’s released.

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Skylanders SuperChargers feature a new class of heroes. The namesake SuperChargers boast swift moves, powerful attacks and new weapons. The developers, Vicarious Visions, have given SuperChargers special in-game abilities that will uplift players to take on Kaos.

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First Look at SuperChargers at #MTSKylanders

Back in February 2011, I remember standing on my tip-toes in the back of a room of journalists, trying to see the stage while listening to Activision executives talk about their next big thing. It was a video game that combined video games and tactile play with collectible figures, that would go on be a major game changer.

Yesterday, I stood on my tip-toes to get a glimpse of Skylanders, but in a much different setting. I had the unique opportunity to attend an intimate lunch hosted by Momtrends to learn about the latest installment of Skylanders. The beloved franchise is unveiling their fifth installment in their character-driven game and they gave a select group of NYC bloggers a firsthand look.

 

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As major Skylanders fans, it was a treat to get the first look of this new installment of the game we love so much. Skylanders has perfected upping their own ante with each new installment. Is it any wonder why the game remains the top console game for kids? Upon first look, my mind was blown. The vehicles and SuperChargers add a whole new dimension and explore different terrain at a new perspective. The SuperChargers will surely be well received by kids and gamers alike. The vehicle figures alone add so much tactile play value; I see even younger Portal Masters-in-training getting into the mix with the introduction of the cars, planes and vessels.

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Skylanders, as a whole, is the embodiment of The Next Kid Thing, and I’m thrilled to give you a first look of the game in-play.  The video I shot looks and sounds very much like a bootleg because of the setting. Because of the nature of the reveal, we were asked to sign an NDA and video opps were informal since it was a luncheon. Nevertheless, here’s a first look of Skylanders SuperChargers in action:

 

Skylanders not only gave us an exclusive sneak peek of SuperChargers the day before the official announcement, they treated us to a very special Skylanders-themed gift bag. In it, we received a lunch box, Thermos Foogo, Gil the Grunt pillow, Crayola Color Alive book and various stickers. In honor of the SuperChargers unveil, I’ll be giving away one of these fun goody bags!  I’ll post an update on this soon.

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A big thank you to Activision for always including bloggers in your outreach. As a family who has been a fan since the first unveil, it was an honor to be included in yesterday’s luncheon. 

Thank you to the Momtrends team for hosting a lovely and delicious lunch where I got to see friends, eat delicious food, craft and geek out!

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Skylanders SuperChargers will be available on Xbox 360™ and  Xbox One™video game and entertainment systems from Microsoft, PlayStation® 3 and PlayStation® 4 computer entertainment systems, Nintendo’s Wii U™ system, and a different, unique adventure will be made available on Nintendo’s Wii™ system and the Nintendo 3DS™ hand-held system. Additionally, the complete Skylanders SuperChargers experience will be available on iPad®. The game will be available on September 20 in North America, September 24 in Australia/New Zealand; and on September 25 in Europe. 

 Full disclosure: I attended a hosted event and received exclusive information to share with my audience. I received swag bags and lunch, but as always, opinions on NKT are my own.

NKT Faves: Christmas 2014 Goodies, Lego, Disney Infinity 2.0, VTech and more

Happy 2015, everyone! Like all of you we had a busy holiday, so much so we took a mini-social media break. We seem to always have ongoing medical issues and work life consuming everything that it’s a necessity to recharge when we’re all together.

Anyway, we’re back and ready to focus on the new year.  But before I do, I wanted to share some of our favorites from Christmas.

Because we check out toys all year, as you can imagine, gift-giving can be tricky.  Thankfully, Santa and our relatives get that, and so the boys’ gifts certainly reflected this.

I thought I’d share a round up of the boys’ favorite gifts:

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Legos continue to be the absolute favorite toy in our home. Santa gifted the boys a couple of Lego sets: Duplos Joker Challenge and Minecraft Cave set. Admittedly, we haven’t assembled either set in their entirety yet, but we’re getting there. As Biggie’s big gift, we got him the Lego Movie Super Cycle Chase.

Littles got a couple of fun gifts that he’s been eyeing. He got the Fisher Price Grow with me Roller Skates. My little guy has been “skating” with his physical therapist for quite some time. As Early Intervention is winding down, I thought it would be fun to get him his own pair of skates. I love that there are multiple functions to help the kids grow with the skates. He’s currently on the first function, which lets him “walk-skate” until he has enough coordination to move on to the next level.

Another fun toy that Josh received was Vtech’s Go Go Smart Wheels Airport playset. I will never forget the look on his face when he first opened that gift! I was so in the moment, that I was too slow to catch a picture. He’s been begging for the Go Go Smart Wheels toys, but we haven’t had a chance to get it for him. Lucky guy got it from my parents. I love how smart this playset is; he can navigate the plane around the tracks and at specified points he can learn all the “smart” little quips about the airport.

The big gifts for the guys was Disney Infinity 2.0. This follow up to the first Disney Infinity features more characters than ever, including our favorite super heroes. The graphics are stellar and game play is truly an adventure. Since this game is still super new, we’ll do a follow up, more in depth review.

Perhaps Biggie’s favorite and really big gift was his iPad Mini. This gift was actually his birthday present, but we conveniently used his birthday money from relatives to pay bills or something else responsible. Since I had several Amazon gift cards, we got him his much deserved Mini, which he has been burying his face in ever since he opened. Upside: he’s learning how to type more efficiently. Downside: I get emoticon-filled texts every other minute.  Honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Hope you guys enjoyed your holidays! Looking forward to sharing more fun stuff in  2015!

 

Review: Thomas & Friends Play and Watch App

Like many other preschoolers, my little dude is absolutely fascinated by Thomas & Friends. There’s something about those quirky locomotives and their daily duties that mesmerizes their audience. 

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Designed to further engage young fans of the show, Thomas & Friends has released a brand new app from PBS Kids called, Thomas & Friends Watch and Play app.  There are three problem solving games that encourage open-ended play: Track Builder, Track Repair and Steam Team Snapshots. I totally thought the snapshot game was a photo app to take selfies. ha! Not quite. These games are fun for preschoolers to explore and create on their own. I appreciate that the graphics are just as robust on these games, as they are on the show. 

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In addition to the three games, Thomas and Friends features a video player that showcases episodes within an interactive frame that kids can pretend to be the conductor.

Thomas and Friends Watch and Play is available now for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and costs $2.99. The app is rated for 4+, but my 2.5 year old could navigate through most of the app on his own. This is the first Thomas app that offers full-length episodes, in addition to games that promote problem-solving. Waiting in the doctor’s office with a restless preschooler just got a little bit easier!

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We had a great time getting a sneak peek of Thomas and Friends Watch and Play app, and we had a lot to say about it. Check out our video as we navigate through the app for the first time:

 

Full disclosure: I received a promo code to facilitate this review. As always, opinions are my own on NKT.

Trap or Treat: Skylanders Trap Team Halloween Video

Some of our favorite characters who just might already live in a fantasy land are starring in a Halloween-themed video to give us a glimpse of some ghoulish shenanigans. In honor of Halloween, the Skylanders Trap Team released this Halloween video to get us in the spooky spirit while sharing some of the latest installment of Skylanders.

Happy Halloween!

 

Disclosure: This video was sent to me from Activision for promotional purposes. I was not compensated for this post, but received samples to facilitate a review of this game. As always, all opinions are my own.

Best Halloween Costumes for Boys 2014

We’re just few days away from Halloween, and more than likely, you’ve got your costumes all picked and ready to go.  But for those of you who don’t, I put together a round up of some of the most popular boys’ costumes for the 4-8 year old range.  Four is a bit beyond the cutesy animals and eight isn’t quite into all the gory monsters quite yet.  There’s quite a few boy costumes that touch graze the gore factor but focus on that super hero/machismo theme.

Saban’s Power Rangers have some of the fiercest costumes at reasonable price points.  My guys had the chance to check out the toddler ranger and the Red Ranger, both of which were bold and appear powerful with the muscle detailing.  What we liked most about these costumes is that they featured a lot of details and were true to the characters from the show.  

Spider-Man must have some kind of record for being one of the most popular Halloween costumes.  This Marvel costume that can be found at Party City boasts lots of muscles and webbing details the only thing missing are the instant webs!

Batman is another favorite boys’ costume, particularly with the younger and much older boys.  This toddler Batman costume mirrors the old school dark knight costume, and one that’s likely to be a hit with the littlest fans.

Ninjas seem to be a longtime favorite for boys, presumably for its mysterious, yet powerful stature.  As opposed to the common black ninja costumes, this ninja costume from Halloween Spirit has green details that set it apart. Double swords and a draped mask complete this mysterious get-up.

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Ninja Turtles are, perhaps, one of the biggest comebacks in terms of revived characters and surrounding frenzy.  TMNT is expected to be one of the most popular costumes for boys this Halloween, so be on the lookout for all types of turtles, specifically in the likeness of Leo, Donnie, Mikey and Raphael.

Expect to see a lot of video game-inspired costumes this weekend, including Minecraft, Mario and lots of Skylanders.  Activision’s über popular video game franchise recently released a new installment, Trap Team, so be on the lookout for Skylanders of any kind.  My older guy will be donning a Chop Chop costume, which is essentially a ferocious skeleton warrior.

In case you’re on the lookout for a last minute costume, all of the above can be found at Walmart, Target, Halloween Spirit or Party City. Happy Trick or Treating!

 

Trick or Treat at Jenkinson’s Boo on the Boardwalk

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, there’s no shortage of festivities, and that includes down the shore, here in NJ! In the spirit of Halloween, Jenkinson’s gets all tricked out for Boo on the Boardwalk. The fun on the boardwalk includes trick or treating, crafts and lots of tricks in between. We were onhand last weekend to experience the fun and I have the photos to prove it.

 

Boo on the Boardwalk has lots of games for the kids to play, with plenty of prizes too!  Entrance includes 2 free games, and there are several games that you can pay to play.

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I love that kids of all ages can participate in the games! Littles had a blast with this Plinko-like game! Lucky us, he won 5 little prizes!

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Boo on the Boardwalk is slated for this weekend, October 25 and 26 from noon to 4:00. Get the kids dressed up and head to the boardwalk for lots of family fun!

 

In between all of the activities, we did some trick or treating! We forgot our trick or treat bags, but Jenkinson’s gives you a bag upon entry.IMG 1578

 

The boardwalk performer, aka Frankenstein, entertained the kids with a little show!

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And what’s a visit to Jenkinson’s without a visit to the aquarium? We had a blast checking out our favorite friends.  We even caught the penguin feeding for the first time, something we always missed over the summer!

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We loved that the animals had their own pumpkins throughout the aquarium!

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And to stay in the Halloween spooky spirit, I was able to get my fortune read right by the penguins exhibit.

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Apparently, all of my ongoing struggle will pay off in the end! Good to know!

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It was a wonderful fall day on the boardwalk, which is my absolute favorite time at the beach: less crowds, more beauty and just as much fun! If you have a chance, be sure to check out Boo on the Boardwalk this weekend at Jenkinson’s!

 

Full disclosure: I am a Jenkinson’s ambassador and received compensation as part of this program. My family received complimentary admission to facilitate this review, but as always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk Set for Boo at the Beach October 18-19 and 25-26

With the crispness in the air, there’s no doubt that Fall is here. With the cooler temps, comes some of my favorite activities of the year: sweater weather, apple-picking, pumpkin everything and Halloween. As a kid, I loved heading to the beach in the fall months because it was the time for locals to take back our beach. There’s nothing quite like being at the beach in the fall. It’s like a whole different creature!

 

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Good news for those in NJ: Boo at the Beach is back! Starting next month, Jenkinson’s will be decked out for Halloween-themed weekends. On October 18-19 and 25-26 from noon-4pm, head to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk to enjoy Trick or Treating, face painting, arts and crafts to celebrate the Halloween festivities at the beach. For more information about Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and their events, be sure to check them out online.

Review: Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff-Paper Planes

In between road trips and time at the beach, we’ve been reading quite a bit this summer.  My soon-to-be first grader absolutely enjoys reading everything in sight, so it’s been quite fitting to be a part of Parragon’s Book Buddies program.

 

 

Last month’s Book Buddy titles included Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff- Paper Planes.  Both books were perfect for my six year old to bring along on our road trip to Va to my high school reunion.  The books kept him entertained for most of the seven hour trip.  He loved flipping through the different planes and learning how to perfect his craft.

 

Disney Boys’ Book of Fun is a beautiful hardcover book filled with colorful pages of beloved boy-centric characters.  From Mickey and pals to Lightning McQueen to Buzz, this deluxe activity book is geared to boys who appreciate reading, doing mazes, drawing and doing puzzles.  

IMG 5679IMG 5681Each page is a different activity that keeps kids engaged and unplugged.  My son, who has recently discovered the joy of comic books, loves the different comic-style pages included in the book.  I love how comics teach kids the importance of story sequence, something that’s of importance for young, eager readers.  Another feature that I absolutely loved is the different games that can be played just like a board game.  Again, so perfect for traveling or simply unplugging at home.

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Boy Stuff-Paper Planes is yet another relevant title for my young reader.  This book helps kids to make cool paper airplanes with simplified templates.  This kit includes a book with instructions on how to fold 25 different airplanes, a pad of pre-printed templates and a variety of stickers to decorate the planes.   IMG 5684IMG 5687IMG 5690 The planes range from standard rockets to Birds of Prey to Robots—you name it, this book covers it.  My son loved how practically everything is included for handcrafting a fleet of super cool paper planes.  The only thing we were missing were scissors for several of the templates.  This kit is absolutely perfect for any kit who appreciates the art of making and flying paper planes.

 

Full disclosure:  These books were provided to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.  Affiliate links are included above.