Smart Toys and Fun Gifts from PBS Kids

My friends at PBS Kids always have fun things happening. Between fantastic programming that consistently wins awards and accolades to aligning really great collaborations, PBS Kids undoubtedly has a wonderful presence in our lives.

And since it’s gift giving season, I thought I’d share a few fun gifts that are part of PBS Kids’ Collaborations.

 

Plan Toys PBS Kids

As a long time fan of Plan Toys, I absolutely LOVE this collaboration with PBS Kids. Like all PlayToys, the line of PBS Kids toys are sustainable, educational and safe. The toys range from play cameras, play boats, a pull alligator, music instruments and toy banks. I’ll share a video of my kids playing with some of the toys. I can’t tell you how much we love this line. Everything in this line is under $30, making them an ideal gift for babies and kids on your list. 

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One-hundred percent of net proceeds from the purchase of the toys in this holiday partnership will support PBS KIDS’ mission to empower children to succeed in school and in life. Additionally, Whole Foods Market will donate 1 percent of total sales, up to $25,000, to Whole Kids Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving children’s wellness and nutrition. The toys are available at Whole Foods nationwide and vary in price.

 

PBS Kids Party App + Moff Bands

No stranger to technology, PBS Kids has tapped into the wearable technology space by collaborating with Moff Bands. Moff is the maker of the award-winning Moff Band, the world’s first wearable smart toy.

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The Moff Band enables kids to play sounds and games through movement. Powering the Moff Band is a cloud-based motion and position recognition platform that analyzes and learns users’ real-time behaviors and patterns. PBS Kids partnered with Moff Bands to release the new, free PBS KIDS Party App. The app can be played with a mobile or tablet device, and is enhanced with a Moff Band. Be on the lookout for a video on our YouTube Channel!

 

PBS Kids Scratch JR.

We are so into coding, so PBS KIDS ScratchJr is really exciting. With Scratch Jr., kids can create their own interactive stories and games featuring their favorite characters from Wild Kratts, Nature Cat, WordGirl and Peg + Cat! Designed for kids ages 5-8.

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By combining programming blocks, kids can make characters move, jump, dance and sing. In the process, kids will learn to solve problems, design projects and express themselves creatively. PBS KIDS ScratchJr allows kids to not only learn to code, but also code to learn. If you love STEM and coding as much as we do, be sure to check out this app! You can download the app for free on the App Store and Google Play.

 

Full disclosure: As a PBS Kids VIP, I received this information and samples to help promote the brand and the properties. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Unique Gifts at Target for the Holidays

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to get a preview of holiday gifts at Target. As usual, Target’s gifts and exclusive collaborations don’t disappoint, so I thought I’d highlight just a few of my favorite finds for this holiday season.

 

1. Tapas Entertaining Set

This very cool Tapas Kit would make a great hostess gift or a delicious alternative for friends who are foodies. 

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2. Wing Sauce Set

In our home, we are geeks about a lot of things, and that includes Buffalo wings. Almost every Friday night, we head to a local restaurant and indulge in this fried bar staple. It’s hard to find a sauce and consistency that appeals to all of us, so I especially loved this wing sauce set. How fun would this be for fellow wing aficionados or friends who love spices and sauces! And for about $12, you can’t go wrong!

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3. Archer Farms Turtle Snack Bites

Okay, so I should totally keep quiet because I may just want these truffles all to myself. Archer Farms always has a great selection of delicious treats, and these Turtle Pecan Snack Bites are no exception. They combine the melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness with the taste of a rich pecan Turtle confection. At under $5, you should definitely buy a few of these for stockings or stash them away for the winter. Whichever works.

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4. Project MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit

When I first learned the premise behind this cool lab kit, I was immediately smitten. The Project MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit is inspired by Project MC2 which is a show on Netflix about 4 smart girls who love science and use their spy skills to go on missions for a secret organization. This kit includes a working microscope, 30 pieces, such as a funnel, beaker, safety goggles and more. At $45, this science kit would be great for any budding scientist spy!

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5. Unicef Kid Powerbands
This was, perhaps, one of my absolute favorite gadgets at the Target Holiday Preview. A fitness tracker for kids, the Powerband is described as one of the first wearables-for-good. The more active kids are, the more power points they earn, which, in turn, becomes a charitable donation of food for less fortunate kids around the world. There’s an app that pairs with the Powerbands where you can track your fitness activities, as well as navigate the different global missions and learn about different countries. For every band sold, Target donates $10 to the United States Fund for Unicef. The bands are available on Target.com for $39.99.

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Kicking off the Holidays in Style with Momtrends

It’s been a yearly tradition to kick off my holiday season with my friends at Momtrends their Annual Holiday Soiree. This year, they celebrated their 5th annual event!

Nicole Feliciano, the trend-spotting and style savvy founder of Momtrends, has a true knack for gathering the most influential voices in the Tri-State and beyond. Every event is filled with fabulous brands and amazing products, and this year’s Soiree was no exception.

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Momtrends’ Holiday Soiree featured a myriad of brands who help make the season brighter, ranging from Cabi to Pom Wonderful.

Epson showcased their Ecotank printer that boasts high quality prints and photos, and an impressive printing capacity. Apparently, with this printer, you don’t have to change the tanks for 2 years! My blogger pals and I had a blast posing in the backdrop and we even took some Epson prints home!

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The Cabi fashion show was a highlight of the night. It was so lovely to see Cabi’s functional styles on real women, including my friend, Divina of DancingHotDogs.com. The cape and tailored skirt makes for a polished look for the holidays!

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Telaflora once again showcased their beautiful flowers, which would be perfect as centerpieces or hostess gifts. Among the beautiful red and white arrangements, I really loved the Peanuts collection!

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While hanging out with friends, we noshed on the various snacks dipped in Tessemae’s sauces and sipped on Pom-tinis. The all natural sauces from Tessemae’s has quite the back story. Some brothers began bottling the salad dressing upon realizing the true demand of their mom’s delicious recipes. Many years later, these dressings are available at Whole Foods, among other retailers.

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With pomegranates in season right now, it was great to taste various cocktails with this delicious fruit. After learning how to open this delicious fruit, I’m excited to include it in more recipes and snacks!

What are delicious beverages without containers to serve and transport them? I loved learning all about Igloo’s latest products, including that very cool party tub! As a major sports family, we use those Igloo coolers and containers incessantly!

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On to the baby and kid stuff:

I always love seeing my friends from Hasbro showcases their awesome toys. Hasbro was in the house and had their classic games to highlight. They have so many fun toys and games this holiday season, but it’s the classics that make family time so fun.

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I loved learning all about Bedgear and their very cool textile technology. This company makes waterproof crib sheets, wicking pillowcases, among other cool products. They were super cozy and perfect for napping after Turkey dinner.
 

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Perhaps one of my favorites of the night was Mudpuppy! As a kid product enthusiast, I loved the aesthetic and range of innovative books, games and other stationery product from Mudpuppy. IMG 0105

From the cool chalk board posters to the magnetic puzzle kits, I am totally smitten with this fabulous brand. And as luck would have it, I won a very generous prize kit from Mudpuppy as part of the evening’s raffle. Though I’m unlucky in so many other aspects, somehow, my luck balances out whenever I attend Momtrends’ events. So, thank you to the Momtrends team and to Mudpuppy for this awesome prize kit! After sharing a separate review on the products, I will be making a donation to the children’s hospital for kids to enjoy while receiving treatment.

Thank you, as always, to the Momtrends team for including me in such a lovely event. It’s always an honor to be included with so many smart and savvy women! Be on the lookout for more thorough reviews of more products spotted at the Holiday Soiree!

Healthy Snack: Mango Pomegranate Smoothie

One of our absolute favorite snacks around here are smoothies. Smoothies for breakfast, a mid-morning snack, an after school snack—it doesn’t matter the time of day, we love our smoothies. We’ve been known to listen to the blender demo people at Costco, watching them blend entire carrots at a time. I’ve been swooning over high power blending technology for quite some time, so imagine the thrill it was to get a first hand demo of Panasonic’s MX-ZX1800 high power blender. 

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This blender has the capacity to chop, cream, blend, heat, grind, churn—pretty simplify things in the kitchen. 

For our first foray with this amazing appliance, we gave a tried and true smoothie recipe a whirl with a bit of a seasonal twist. The mango pomegranate smoothie is a tart but sweet snack and makes a great complement for breakfast. 

 

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The citrus and Vitamin C provided by the mango and orange juice is ideal for prime cold and flu season. The pomegranate, which is in season, is such an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber and more Vitamin C. The seeds not only add a little color, but also a sweet juicy flavor. The kids love digging into this smoothie and crunching the seeds.

A few pointers for opening the pomegranate: slice one end, score the fruit from top to bottom 3-4 times around and then wiggle a knife on the end where it was sliced to pop open the fruit. Place the opened fruit in a bowl and scoop out seeds with a spoon.

 

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If I do say so, this tastes even better than my local smoothie shop! My favorite part of this recipe is the ease and minimal effort for such a creamy treat.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 cup frozen mango cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds 

Combine yogurt, mango and pomegranate seeds in blender. I like putting the mango at the bottom to ensure it gets chopped just so.

 

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When opening the pomegranate, scoop out seeds above the blender so that juice can add to the mixture.

 

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Add orange juice until it fills almost to the top of the fruit mixture. Blend using the smoothie function, adding more juice as necessary. Serve with a handful of pomegranate seeds and enjoy!

 

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Mango Pomegranate Smoothie

 

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt

1 cup frozen mango cubes

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds 

 

Combine yogurt, mango and pomegranate seeds in blender. When opening the pomegranate, scoop out seeds above the blender so that juice can add to the mixture. Add orange juice until it fills almost to the top of the fruit mixture. Blend using the smoothie function, adding more juice as necessary. Pour into glass and enjoy.

Top Toys of 2015

From Toy Fair in February to recent holiday media events, I’ve been scouting toys and trends all year for The Next Kid Thing. I have several lists in the works, but before the biggest shopping day of the year kicks off, I wanted to share some of the coolest toys that I think might be the big sellers this season.

I put this list together based on the play value, my kids’ reaction, price point as well as accessibility. I’ve been checking out the toys’ popularity online and in person and have compiled, what I think, might be some of the hottest sellers this season. Some obvious picks did not make my list because the supply is more accessible or the price is out of reach for many people.

Keep an eye out for more of our picks. Until then, I present The Next Kid Thing Top Toys for 2015.

 

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1. Sit-to-Stand Ultimate Alphabet Train

 This is the latest version of Vtech’s popular Alphabet Train. The multi-phase toy is intuitive and is perfect for tots who are sitting, toddling or already on the go. I love that this toy grows with kids and offers so many different types of educational play and function. On sale, I’ve spotted this great toy in the $40 range.

 

2. Bright Beats Dance and Move Beatbo

Beatbo first caught my eye at Toy Fair because of its bright and simple aesthetic. Beatbo dances, sings and has engaging educational games, perfect for curious toddlers. Beatbo can be found at major retailers for $35.

 

3. Paw Patrol Interactive Mission Chase

 Chase has all kinds of features, making him quite the hot commodity. Chase is bigger in size and has cool details for making missions easier. Paw Patrol toys, in general, are popular, so make sure to pick up Chase before he becomes hard to find later in the season. This Chase is #1 on my little guy’s list.

 

4. Paw Patrol Patroller

This Paw Patroller vehicle holds 3 vehicles when closed and several more when opened, making it an ideal gift for Paw Patrol mega-fans. This cool vehicle has multiple functions and landed on several top toys’ lists, and will certainly be another popular toy this season. Head’s up: Target currently has a 20% off Promo on toys. Head to their site to take advantage of this deal.

 

5. Shopkins

Just like it’s been all year, expect anything Shopkins to be super popular this holiday season. Right now, playsets and blind bags are in stock, but expect anything Shopkins to be a must-have for kids who appreciate these super cute collectibles. I love this Ice Cream Truck!

 

6. Clever Keet

Little Live Pets have been a favorite for animal lovers, and Clever Keet is no exception. This clever guy can chat and respond to your voice. He dances and even rides his little cart. 

7. American Girl Grace Thomas

The 2015 Girl of the Year Grace Thomas encourages savvy kids to pursue big ideas and embrace the business world. Available for only one year, the Grace collection includes an18-inch Grace doll featuring long dark-brown hair and blue eyes, plus several French-inspired outfits, accessories, and toys that reflect her interests, such as the premium French Bakery Set with more than 60 pieces.

8. Girl Scouts Cookie Oven

The very cool Girl Scouts Cookie Oven is making quite the buzz this holiday season. With this fantastic toy, kids can bake their favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors at home while learning how to bake. 

9. Interactive R2-D2

With the upcoming release of the latest installment of Star Wars: the Force Awakens, it’s no surprise that Star Wars toys will be among the hottest toys this season. One toy that made our list of hot toys is Thinkways’ Interactive R2-D2. He projects images, turns his head while he talks, is voice-activated, among other cool features. With over 1000 programmable action combos, this smart toy will be a favorite for kids and adults alike.

10. BB-8 Sphero

BB-8 Sphero has been a hot Star Wars item since Force Friday earlier this year. This interactive droid is app-enabled and has voice-recognition, and has been dubbed the coolest Star Wars Toy by various outlets. Another toy that’s expected to be a popular multi-generational gift, this guy might be hard to find later in the season.

11. Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions joins the market as the latest toy to life video game. But this time, this video game has the clout of its beloved Lego franchise and characters to back up its foray onto consoles. From fun characters from the Lego Movie to classic superhero and cartoon figures, Lego Dimensions is already popular for kids and families. Since spotting it at the Kidz Vuz Back to School party, this game is #1 on my older guy’s list!
Head’s up: Lego Dimensions is featured on Target’s Cartwheel for 35% off for two more days, which makes it around $65. Combine this with an additional 5% off if you have Target RedCard. To compare: Toys R’ Us has Lego Dimensions on sale for $64.99 on Black Friday at 7am. 

12. LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum

LeapFrog’s latest LeapPad Platinum has some of the coolest features yet. It features a faster processor and crisp screen. In addition to the popular LeapFrog games and easy-to-navigate interface, the LeapPad Platinum features the unique and cutting-edge ImagiCard technology. My preschooler is obsessed with ImagiCard and I appreciate how reinforces counting, colors, alphabet, as well as tactile manipulation.

As of today, all of these toys are available in stores and online. Be sure to take advantage of pre-Black Friday sales and coupons which are proving to be cheaper than schlepping out to stores in the wee hours later this week.

Stay tuned for more gift ideas with all of my NKT Holiday Gift Guides!

 

 

Odd-tober and Halloween Shows on PBS

We’ve been busy getting ready for Halloween over here. As we finish carving pumpkins and all the usual fun stuff, I wanted to share some cool stuff that’s been going on at PBS.


Earlier in the month, in honor of Odd Squad, PBS kicked the spooky season with a one-hour special and the return of Halloween-themed family favorites from various series! The premiere featured “Odd Squad: Against the Odds,” which will included five 11-minute stories with Olive, Otto and the rest of the gang as they solve the community’s strange problems.

 

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“Odd-tober” will continue on PBS KIDS this week with the return of family Halloween favorites, including “Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest.” Favorite episodes from series such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts, PEG + CAT and Dinosaur Train will also air throughout the week. Don’t forget to check out games and stream the Halloween-themed episodes free on pbskids.org and the PBS KIDS Video App.

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We’re all about that crazy Curious George and his silly shenanigans. What are your favorite Halloween shows on PBS?  

Reading Rainbow on YouTube Kids

As we’re in the thick of fall festivities with friends, when the kids aren’t busy chasing each other around outside, we sometimes find them huddled in the corner on their iPads. For almost all of our younger kids, the first app or site they head to, without fail, is YouTube. Just like us, the kids are starting to say, “Guys, check out this video!”

And as the kids check out, I often nudge my friends and make sure they know all about the awesomeness that is YouTube Kids. For kids in that younger age bracket, you can’t go wrong with the content that’s curated and offered on YouTube Kids. Despite the ads, YTK is a no-brainer for us, especially when it comes to educational content.

Reading Rainbow on YouTube Kids

One of the channels I absolutely love seeing on YouTube Kids is Reading Rainbow. Yes, THAT Reading Rainbow, the educational delight of our youth. I can still remember watching it on that rolling tv on the media cart in our blackened classroom. As a book lover, LeVar Burton’s voice and enthusiasm of education and reading resonates so much joy, especially now as a parent.

I appreciate that my kids can check out Reading Rainbow on YTK at their leisure and learn all about STEM topics such as 3D printing, athletics and tech, and even how astronauts poop in space! It’s the classic books, though, that bring back the best memories, and ones that I’m thrilled to share with my kids via YouTube Kids.

Looking for a fun way to reinforce lessons at home or to bring a classic book to life? YouTube Kids is a great resource. The YouTube Kids App is free on iTunes and Google Play. As with any app or online content, make sure you know what your kid is watching!

Toca Boca Celebrates Major Milestone

If they’re on the iPad or my phone, at any given moment one of my kids is probably playing a Toca Boca app. Like so many others, we are obsessed with these fun and interactive apps.  This is one of Little’s latest creations from just yesterday!  I love finding crazy hair dos or concoctions in my photo stream!

 

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Whether it’s crafting the craziest ‘do in Toca Boca’s Hair Salon or cooking it up in Toca Kitchen, my kids can’t get enough of these great apps—it’s no wonder that they’re the number 1 mobile-first kids’ brand in the App Store.

 

On Tuesday, the beloved developer just hit a mega milestone with a 100 million downloads across their 28 apps! Check out this infograph they created to document all those downloads!

Toca Boca Celebrates 100M Downloads

 

Congrats, Toca Boca! Here’s to a million more!  To download any of the classic or latest Toca Boca apps, be sure to head to the App store!

Going Back to School with Target

The other week, I had the pleasure of attending a back to school event hosted by Target. The event highlighted great back to school gear and cool new styles that the retailer is featuring this season.

 

As a lunchbox fanatic, I was thrilled that model, actress and mom of 3, Camila Alves was onhand to personally share lunchbox tips!

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For those of you in the throes of back to school shopping, Target had several tips to offer that I’d love to share:

School supplies
DIY notebooks, markers, stickers and washi tape to add a personal touch

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One of the biggest trends in back to school supplies is personalization. Graphics are always awesome, but kids can truly make their gear unique with vibrant stickers and washi tape.

Backpacks & lunch bags
Target has some cool new gear that’s worth checking out. The Eco-friendly Embark Backpacks, Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bags and Circo Light up Backpacks


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While I love and am now carrying around the Embark Crush Resistant Lunch Bag as my kids’ drink container these last few days of summer, it was that light up backpack from Circo that really caught my eye!

 

 

 

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I love that it can be switched on and off, unlike those flashing sneakers that always blind me. I thought this was a cool feature that could double as a safety feature when out at night!

Lunch items
Market Pantry and Simply Balanced products to make back-to-school snacks easy peasy.

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Truth be told, one of the main reasons almost everything I own is bought at Target is because I can get all of my shopping done under one roof! And that goes for lunch box supplies. I appreciate that Target has organic and inexpensive drinks and snacks to fill the kids’ lunch boxes. Even better, Camila shared several amazing recipes to make back-to-school snacks even more delicious!

 

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Kids’ Fashion
From Stevie’s Shoes to the new stretchy denim assortment to plaid—lots of plaid, Target has all of the best trends in stock at reasonable prices.

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Styles from my teenage years are back: moto boots, mixed patterns and plaid consumed me in the early 90s, so it’s fun to see them back on racks as my kids start school. I loved that Target had talented kid dancers at the event showcasing the stretchy jeans. With two very active boys and one who would rather see my kids in clothing other than athletic gear, I appreciate jeans and styles for active kids!

 

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And leave it up to Target to make school shopping totally seamless. Target’s new tool: School List Assist. The tool, which is in beta, is a curated assortment of the most common K-8 supplies on the list making it quick and easy for guests to find what they need. With a few clicks, you can purchase the supplies you might need and pick them up in store or have them shipped to home. For those of us who are still traveling and soaking up every last minute of summer, School List Assist sounds like it’s key in the time managment assistance department!

 

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Be sure to check out your local for the latest deals for back to school gear and supplies. And don’t forget to match and stack deals with your Cartwheel App!

Our Favorite Goodies and Gadgets for #ForceFriday

In case you missed it, today is THE day! Force Friday, that is!  Today marked the day that retailers released the highly anticipated toys and gadgets for the upcoming Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens. 

In fact, collectors and Star Wars die-hards were waiting in line at midnight to get their hands on the newly released merchandise for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to check out some of these cool goodies and gadgets before they officially hit the shelves. Here’s a quick round up of some of my favorite cool toys and gadgets for #ForceFriday!

Chewbacca + Furby=Furbacca

I mean, c’mon! Furbacca speaks wookie and interacts with an app. This is perhaps THE coolest Furby out!

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Legendary Jedi Master Yoda

Legendary Yoda from Spinmaster is unlike any other Star Wars toy. It stands at 16 inches, has voice recognition, speaks 115 phrases that tout Jedi Wisdom and Lightsaber mastery. He can show off his Jedi Lightsaber skill, as well as his 360 Lightsaber attack! One of the coolest things about this Master Yoda? My friend Amy, one of the creative minds at Monkey Bar Collective, wrote the toy script for Legendary Yoda. Legendary, indeed!

 

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 If only I had 4k to invest in my very own Star Wars bed from Pottery Barn Kids. How insane is this thing? 

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Speaking of the Millennium Falcon, Lego has several new sets in honor of the Force Awakens. The Millennium Falcon is such an iconic Star Wars ship, so it’s great that this generation of Star Wars fans will appreciate it too—whether a bed or a Lego set.

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BB-8 Droid from Sphero

Gadget fans are going crazy for this guy. The app-enabled BB-8 Droid from Sphero is proving to be the must-have for Star Wars fans, collectibles and geeks alike. Gizmodo is even calling it the “coolest Star Wars toy ever.” I saw several friends in my feed hit Toys ‘R Us at midnight for this cool gadget.

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In case you weren’t able to snag BB-8 at TRU, our pals at Bed Bath and Beyond are getting in on the Star Wars #ForceFriday frenzy, too. Word on the street is, BBB has some still in stock. Unfortunately for us, you can’t use your stash of BBB coupons on this droid!

 

Did you score some good stuff for #ForceFriday? What were your favorites?