fun-n-games

DooDad of the Day: 4 New Back-to-School Apps

September 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS MY KID DIGS

4 new apps for kids - Designer Daddy

Unless you live in a cave — and even some caves have decent Wi-Fi — your kids will very likely get hooked on video games. Just accept the fact that your phone and tablet will never, ever be smudge-free again. Here are a few new apps to educate, entertain and occupy the wee ones in your family. I’m calling these “back-to-school apps,” but they could just as easily be called “prep-for-school” or just “not-annoying-or-violent” apps.

And unless noted, none of these include in-app purchases, and all are ad-free. Also, not a single SpongeBob. Apps tested by me and and my expert panel of one 4-and-a-half-year-old.

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Designer Daddy apps - Cookie Monster's Challenge

COOKIE MONSTER’S CHALLENGE

This deliciously fun app is the first mobile team-up between kiddie powerhouses PBS Kids and Sesame Street. It launches just in time for Sesame Street’s 45th (!) season, which premiers September 15 on PBS Kids (check your local listings).

While the graphics and interface are clean and simple (as they should be), don’t be fooled into thinking this is a simple — or short — activity. In fact it’s pretty elaborate. Epic, even. There are 10 mini games that focus on skills vital to the pre-k crowd – like memory, following directions and self control. There are 9 levels, each one ever-so-slightly more challenging to keep your little ones on their adorable toes. The final payoff is a Rube Goldberg-esque cookie-making contraption that requires completion of all 9 levels for Cookie Monster tp finally get his cookies. I’m not sure how he survives the anticipation!

But Cookie keeps his composure, as did my son… completing each level, finishing each piece of the cookie machine, and feeling pretty darn excited with each accomplishment.

C is for cookie, but we give Cookie Monster’s Challenge an A.

Preview / buy on iTunes  •  Ages 3-5    iPad only    $2.99

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Beware the Blark-Blark!

May 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

Somehow I was able to convince Jon not to play outside after preschool yesterday. Both our allergies were killing us, and given the chance, he’d keep rolling around in the pollen-covered grass until his eyes swelled shut. I instead agreed to play Power Rangers upstairs after dinner. When we finished eating, I hauled my tired butt upstairs to our bedroom (AKA, Jon’s Playroom Annex), and fell to with the Power Rangers play.

I’m admittedly a longtime hater of Power Rangers, whether they’re Mighty Morphin’, Mega Forcin’, or Samurai Warriorin’. But if you’re going to play make-believe, the Rangers and their enemies make for some great inspiration. String together any number of nonsensical words, and you’ve got yourself a weapon, costume upgrade or villain that will fit seamlessly into the established vernacular of the never-ending series.

Case in point, meet Blark-Blark! A creature I made up on the fly, accessorized only by a pair of oven mitts. I’m not really sure of his origin, but his powers include stomping around yelling “BLARK-BLARK!”, shooting Blark missiles at random times/angles and of course, tickling.

blark blark - power rangers - dad

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And here’s Baby Blark-Blark. While his stomping may not be as loud or his tickling as effective, his Blark missiles are infinitely more deadly than his father’s, as they are infinitely more random in their aim and trajectory. Sometimes they don’t even come off, yet are still delivered with a forceful Baby Blark-Blark hand inside it.

blark blark - power rangers - jon

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What’s your child’s favorite form of make-believe play? Feel free to share your own creative ideas, as I’m always looking for more!

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For more fun and games, visit and Like the Designer Daddy Facebook page or follow along on Twitter!

Do You Have That ICK Factor?

April 6, 2014 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS

clx_ick_awards_logo-blue

Designer Daddy, in conjunction with Life of Dad, in conjunction with How To Be A Dad & Mom Spark, in conjunction with Clorox, is hosting an EP-ICK event on Twitter this Wednesday! It’s the CLOROX ICK AWARDS! But what’s with all the conjunctioning, and what makes this so EP-ICK? (Sorry, that was too clever not to repeat)

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Frightful Family Fun at Kings Dominion

October 20, 2013 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

The last time I was at Kings Dominion was about a dozen years ago. I recall the faded Hanna-Barbera characters on the parking lot signs, a Nickelodeon play area for the kiddies, and a whole section devoted to the “Wayne’s World” movies. Having not been a parent then (and never a “Wayne’s World” fan) I assumed that was my final visit.

But then I got an offer for the whole family to check out King’s Dominion’s Planet Spooky Halloween shindig, and decided it was time to give it another try.

We met up with blogger pal Oren and his family and jumped right in to experience as much Planet Spooky as we could cram into a day.

SPOILER ALERT: Planet Spooky is really Planet Snoopy tarted up with all manner of Halloween goodies. In addition to the 18 rides normally found in the “world’s largest Planet Snoopy play area,” (There’s more than one? Who knew?) it features a pumpkin painting patch, petting zoo, foam pit, pedal tractors, a hay maze, live shows and more. We either participated in or passed by every one of those  except the “and more”… Unless the “and more” was winning a stuffed Rasta monkey while playing whack-a-mole. In which case we did do it all.

Here are the highlights, in pictures (and a few more words).

woodstock

Spinnin’ and smilin’

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

What’s Got Designer Daddy Dancing? Baby Loves Disco!

September 10, 2013 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

03.10.13-Le-Poisson-Rouge-12-low

TRUE STORY: Several months ago I was daydreaming about how awesome it would be to have a club geared towards gay parents. A place where Daddy & Papa, Mommy & Mama and their broods could meet friends, drink (responsibly, of course) and swap recipes for organic mac & cheese. There’d be a rec area for the kids to stack Legos, watch their stories or generally just tumble about. It would have a chill room to feed, change or put youngsters down for a nap. And of course there would be DANCING.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend texted me a link to something called Baby Loves Disco. My head just about exploded. A dance party? In a club? That we can take our kids to?!? Somebody read my mind and invented The World’s First Club for Gay Dads: Baby Loves Disco! I quickly banged around the internet, contacted BLD, and scored an interview… and a giveaway! (see below)

To clarify, Baby Loves Disco isn’t really (or at all) just for gay dads. In fact it’s been around since 2004, and for a long while was primarily populated by moms and their kids. But still, the best kid-friendly thing to come along in a long while, I’d wager.

I know Papa and I grow weary trying to think of fun, creative — and most importantly — energy-burning activities for JJ. I’ll admit a lot of weekends we’re exhausted, out of ideas and default to the same worn-out options as a lot of parents. Playground… museum… zoo… mall… SNORE. So yeah, we’ve got tickets for our first Baby Loves Disco party locked down. Did I mention a giveaway? (see below)
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BABY LOVES DISCO 101:

  • The “Original Family Dance Party” for parents and kids ages 6 months to 7 years
  • Held at top-notch nightclubs in six cities: New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Philly and back in DC after a 3-year hiatus!
  • REAL DJs, REAL music* – from classic disco to modern Top 40 and dance music. No Barney, no Kidz Bop, no <shudder> Wiggles.
  • Not just dancing. There’s also dance contests, crafts, kid-friendly spa services, goody bags, healthy snacks and juice boxes for the kids, and a cash bar for the adults.
  • Chilled-out “crawl area” where the non-walkers can relax away from the all the dancing feet.
  • And of course, changing stations

Check out the NYC party in action:

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THE GIVEAWAY:

Designer Daddy is here to HOOK. YOU. UP. I’m giving away a Family Pack of 4 Baby Loves Disco tickets, valued at $55! The tickets are good for any BLD party in any of the six cities listed above, for any remaining show in 2013. Visit BLD’s web site for dates and locations.

Date and location must be specified at time of winning notification. Contest ends Saturday, September 14 at midnight. NOTE: the first shows of the season are in DC and NYC on Sunday, September 15! But don’t worry, there are multiple shows in all cities. Now enter the Rafflecopter thingamajig below and dust off those boogie shoes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Feeding a Toddler is One Big Game

July 15, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, THINGS MY KID DIGS

Okay, so maybe that title isn’t the most revelatory ever. But once in a blue moon I have a moment of true parental creativity. I want to savor those moments, as they are few and far between. So this is me savoring…

Like any average toddler, JJ is a picky eater. I don’t even know why you would qualify a toddler’s eating habits as “picky” — it’s just understood. Sure, there’s the occasional hippie/hipster-type who’s little lamb has been vegan/organic/locally-fed from the womb. Don’t you just wanna slap those parents with a cold fish stick?

One of JJ’s favorite snacks are gummies. For a long time he ate only the Gerber ones, which seemed all fruit-filled and healthy. Then he got seduced by the Dark Side, and now joneses for Spider-Man, Batman, or <shudder> Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-flavored gummies. I can only imagine what manor of chemical imbalance is found in them. But I’ve all but convinced myself they’re still fruit-adjacent, and certainly better than soda, hard candy or Doritos. (Hands off, those are Daddy’s)

We were in Connecticut visiting family over the July 4th holiday, and I ran into a Whole Foods to look for the snooty dog food we forgot to bring (for the dog, just to be clear), and I saw these beauties at the register, looking very natural and juicy and non-turtle shaped:

jujustars

Where in heaven can I find some more?!?

They were labeled with a small white sticker, “Juju Stars.” I snapped them up and then promptly forgot about them.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, and the nightly battle over dinner is in progress. Unless his afternoon snack is timed just right, JJ won’t be hungry at a normal dinner time. It might also have something to do with the tides or cicada migration or something. Who knows. Furthermore, we’re not only arguing that it’s time to eat, but also what to eat, how much to eat, and of course STAY. IN. YOUR. CHAIR.

Then I notice the Juju Stars sparkling on the counter in their little generic plastic cup. Bells, whistles and the Dora theme go off in my head…

“Hey buddy! Do you want to play a game?”

Miraculously, he stops whining.

“How about I give you one of these MAGIC DORA STARS* for every bite of food you eat? How many stars do you think you can win?!?” My voice was probably sounding a bit crazed at this point as I tried to amp up his excitement.

“YAY! I want to win FIVE!”

So the game began. And he ate a fish stick. Then another. Then his spinach patty. Then drank his fruit smoothie. “DUDE! You won ALL FIVE STARS!”

And yes (THANK GOD IN HEAVEN) he liked them.

The game has now been played (and won) for the last three nights. Woohoo! Daddy wins, too!

But now we’re out of stars. And I Googled the hell out of them, and only found a couple of old photos from 2010. Looks like Daddy will be playing Find the Juju Stars all day tomorrow.

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DORASTARS

*If you’ve watched much Dora the Explorer, you know there are occasional episodes that feature these annoying stars she has to collect on her adventures. Because the show wasn’t already enough like a video game. One morning JJ and I stumbled across this video on YouTube, while having “VIDEOS TIME!” on Daddy’s computer. It’s a video of a video game. So each time JJ begs to watch it, he tries to click on the big green PLAY button, and it pauses the video. DUDE. It’s not going to work. Let’s move on, PLEASE. How about I give you a gummy star?!?
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DDQ&A: Evan Spiridellis

July 10, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, THINGS DAD DIGS

Like most of the world, I was first introduced to the work of Evan Spiridellis (the designer half of the humor site, JibJab) through the still-hilarious lampoon of the 2004 presidential election, “This Land.” In 2011, he and brother Gregg launched StoryBots, an awesome online land of apps, videos, books and activities for kids (and parents). As a longtime fan, I was downright giddy Evan agreed to a DDQ&A!

Q&A with designer dad Evan Spiridellis
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LOGOS

Tell me briefly about your design/illustration career.
My brother and I started JibJab back in 1999. Early on we supported the studio by doing service work for clients like Disney, Scholastic, Kraft and Sony — but the goal was always to build a new kind of entertainment company. So we would take on enough client work to pay the rent and our team, then we would turn down commercial projects until the coffers ran dangerously low. Nowadays, JibJab supports itself by selling our products directly to our audience without commercial interference. We much prefer this approach :) READ FULL ARTICLE >>

Happy Earth Day: Let’s B Global!

April 22, 2013 | By Brent Almond | THINGS DAD DIGS, THINGS MY KID DIGS

I recently checked in with B, toys, my favorite toy creators on the planet, and they asked me to try out their brand new-ish Global Glowball. Being the clever person I am, I thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate Earth Day!

globe

Looking at the Global Glowball (Their toys just have the most awesome names, don’t they?) online, I was immediately intrigued. B. toys always has top-notch playthings: colorful but not garish; creative, never predictable; exciting without being over-the-top-in-your-face. And of course all their packaging is recyclable or recycled [BONUS EARTH DAY POINTS].

READ FULL ARTICLE >>

JJ’s Top 10 of 2012

January 6, 2013 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, THINGS MY KID DIGS

As with any toddler, JJ’s moods tastes shift like the wind. Make that a whirlwind. But these ten things stood out in 2012 as being particularly popular with our breezy little boy…

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Back-to-School Giveaway!

August 18, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

Just in time for back to school — or, for my non-parent / math nerd readers — I’m giving away a pair of numerically awesome goodies! The prize includes magnetic numbers from Mudpuppy and a tin of Fox Run mini number cookie cutters.

The varnished wooden numbers (that come in this awesome storage carton) are exponentially cooler than your run-of-the-mill fridge magnets! They’re bright, bold and funky, and the 40-piece set includes numerals 0 to 9, plus symbols for adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and equaling. Among their many other gorgeous and creative products, Mudpuppy also makes a matching set of letter magnets.

I also own a tin of these cute-as-pie cookie cutters, and have put them to good use in many attempts to lure my toddler to eat. I haven’t yet used them to make cookies, (And really, who wants a cookie that small? Seems pointless.) but they’re great for using cheese to turn dinosaurs into cars or cars into racecars or whatever shapes these nuggets were supposed to originally be.

In any event, magnets + cookies x numbers = MATH FUN! And anything that helps make math less torturous is tops in my book.

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TO ENTER:
In the comments, share an idea for how you’d use the cookie cutters
OR
Share a word or phrase you can spell upside down with numbers (like on a calculator).
Sorry, “BOOBIES” is already taken — see above.

EXTRA ENTRIES can be earned by posting/liking/sharing on Facebook or retweeting/favoriting/DM’ing on Twitter. I can’t make it any easier for you, sorry.

Winner chosen at random. Contest closes midnight (EST) on TUESDAY, AUGUST 22.

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