Family Time is 2018 O R E G O N FA M I LY
“The Field” turns a beautifully simple idea into hours of imaginative play (see page 22). 20
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the Best Time Gift Ideas for Kids of All Ages by Kelli Matthews
In a world in which we are often looking at screens instead of each other, this year’s holiday gift guide might just bring your family together around a table or a book or to learn something new. Games Galore My family loves board games of all sorts from easy to play with a quick start and simple concepts to more complicated and challenging. Between my family and a few friends, we tried eight different games this year; I’ve ranked them roughly by age and level of challenge.
Veggie Farm Sorting Set The perfect game for a busy preschooler! The Veggie Farm Sorting set teaches kids ages 3+ how to count, match, and sort by color or type. The pieces are brightly colored, sturdy and fun to hold. A friend’s three-year-old instantly took to putting the pieces in the bushel baskets and then sorting them onto the foam mat. This game is engaging and helps develop pre-school abilities such as color recognition, matching sorting and counting skills. • $25 • Major retailers
Game of Space Magnets are endlessly fascinating. This dead-simple, but addicting game uses (very strong) magnet rocks and a four-piece board/mat. It’s meant for two players and each plots their space rocks’ positions on the board with the objective of not attracting another magnetic rock. If your piece attracts another, add it to your pile. Whoever loses all their rocks first wins the game. The rounds move quickly and my kids begged for “one more time!” as they figured out just how close you could place two magnets together before one would make the other move. It takes some spatial reasoning skills to play and the board can be configured to amp up the difficulty level. • $24.99 • TheGrommet.com
uKloo As the mom of a first grader, I know first hand the challenge of getting young kids to commit to reading when it’s slow and can feel tedious to sound out every. single. word. Of course they get the hang of it with practice, and this early literacy game can help. My son giggled running through the house looking for clues his big brother had mapped out (bonus points to uKloo for pulling big brother into the fun). Even the earliest of readers can read the clues (thanks, in part, to a visual map that helps when they get stuck) and kids will focus on sight words and basic sentence construction while hunting for a surprise. • $20 • uKloo.com, Amazon, Wal-Mart, major retailers
Stick Six is a simple yet challenging strategy game that takes Connect 4 to a new dimension.
The game of “Space” utilizes powerful magnets to create a fun, addictive game that also teaches skills of spatial reasoning.
In the same vein as the classic game, Connect 4, Stick Six uses colorful suction cups on a clear honeycomb board. You start with a giant clear playing board, then start strategizing — you’ll see so many options to get six in a row (or a circle). The game is simple enough for young kids to play along, too. Pro Tip: give the brand new pieces a quick clean so the little suction cups stay on the board. • $30 • FatBrainToys.com O R E G O N F A M I L Y. C O M • D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8
Shadows in the Forest A 2018 gift guide favorite! Shadows in the Forest is entirely unique — it’s meant to be played in the dark as a board game variation of flashlight tag. Adorable forest creatures called ‘Shadowlings’ hide from any sign of light, while ‘The Seeker’ moves around the forest trying to catch them. The Seeker (one player) plays as the glowing lantern and tries to freeze the Shadowlings (up to six players) by casting light across the trees. As the light moves, the shadows change. The Shadowlings work together to move in the darkness and continue hiding behind the trees to avoid being captured. • $20 - $25 • ThinkFun.com, major retailers
Rest Stop Created by Eugene-area teacher, Tim Olguin, Rest Stop is a card-based game that mixes strategy and luck. With just a hint of Oregon Trail, the purpose of the game is to complete their road trip across the country. You start with just your car, but you’ll need food, gas and rest in order to make it. You can “speed” to make up ground if you get stuck, but you might get stopped!
Shadows in the Forest is a 2018 Gift Guide favorite!
match them up with the remaining 34 tiles. However – Here's the kicker: None of the tiles actually match. In order to find matching patterns, players have to look at either the two adjacent sides of two tiles, or the four adjacent corners of four tiles. Whoever can match the most tiles wins the game! With several ways to play (collaborative, solitaire or racing), you won’t tire quickly of this game. • $20 • FatBrainToys.com, major retailers
Iquazu And every game is different! My tween loved this game (as did I), but it was also simple enough that we could coach my first-grader along, too. • $25.99 • GameCrafters.com
Acuity This game is harder than it looks! A pattern-matching game takes 70 different bright, beautiful patterns. You start with 36 tiles are set out in a grid, then try to
This is a beautiful strategy game from German maker, HABA. It take a bit to set up and figure out the play, but we found once we got started, the narrative and game play was very compelling. The premise is that an indigenous-type tribe, the Inox, are working to save their gemstones from the Evil Rhujas by hiding them behind the rock wall of the Iquazu waterfall. Iquazu is great for ages 10 and up and easy to catch on for casual gamers. • $50 • Elephant’s Trunk or Amazon
More than Games This year’s guide is about more than board games, believe it or not. But even if your family isn’t competing (or collaborating) around the table, these gift ideas can be family or parent-child together fun.
BrainBolt BrainBolt is a memory-testing twist on handheld electronic games like Simon. Tiles light up in random order on the handheld, wireless game console. Perfect for solo play or there’s a head-to-head mode to share the game with your child. • $22 • Amazon
Giant Recycling Truck A 2-foot long recycling truck may not bring everyone together, but the imaginary play that happens with giant, rideable waste management vehicles is pretty impressive, none the less.
half-acre field has been all four in the time we’ve been testing it. The Field can be used indoors, or outside, for hours of turning imaginations into reality. Each field comes with animal figures, a tractor and trailer and even arrives with a Certificate of Title.
• $24 • Amazon, major retailers
• $35 (half-acre) or $50 (original) • Amazon
The Field “The Field” was created by the owner of Class Grass Ireland an artificial turf company. His son’s request turned into a beautifully simple idea — a “field” designed as a blank canvas for young imaginations. Is it a farm? A yard? a school? or maybe a park? I think our
Kids learn hands-on science concepts with the BYOL solar light kit.
Work and Playstation Too Active Minds & Bodies: Fully Desk and TikTok Chair Furniture is probably not at the top of your kid’s wish list, but when we got it set up, my kids were excited about the Jarvis Standing Desk from Portland-based Fully. I mean, who jockeys for their turn to use a desk? My kids do now. The desk moves up and down and has a whiteboard top for jotting ideas and doodles awhile they work. When the desk is lowered to normal height, the Tic Toc Tyke chair has just a little wobble for active sitting.
The Fully Desk moves up and down to keep up with active kids.
Build Your Own Luci (BYOL)
I can tell this desk is going to be a favorite spot for homework, project work and doodles.
Luci, from MPOWERED, is a popular line of inflatable solar lights for camping, backyard fun and everyday living. The company’s new Build-Your-Own Luci (BYOL) kit teaches kids hands-on scientific concepts while building a customizable solar light. My kids’ eyes lit up along with their new solar light. It’s a simple kit with three modular disks, a transparent cover, two USB cables, a whole bunch of LEDs and an activities booklet. To get started, just connect the solar panel and battery disks via the USB cables and the customizable LED light board will light up!
• Jarvis Stand-Up Desk: starting at $420 • Tic Toc Tyke: $179
•$35 • mpowerd.com
Kids have a very real physical need to move and there is growing evidence that kids excel when their active minds and active brains are engaged.
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Learn piano and have fun anywhere, anytime!
Roll-Up Piano & Hoffman Academy Learning piano basics doesn’t have to be time consuming or require a large piece of furniture. The Rock & Roll It flexible roll-up piano can be played anywhere. It features multiple keyboard tones and demo songs and it runs on batteries or USB so you can play when you travel, camp, or move around the house. Practice on the built-in speaker or hook it up to the sound system for a performance, then roll it up when you’re done. • $50 • TheGrommet.com Combine it with a subscription to Hoffman Academy lessons online. Started by Joseph Hoffman, the brick and mortar Hoffman Academy is located in Portland! The online lessons focus on an “ear before eye” philosophy and incorporate child development and learning theory. My 6-year-old tried a few lessons on both the Roll-Up Piano and our electronic keyboard and he picked up on the basic ideas and was playing “Hot Cross Buns” for days. All video lessons are free, premium accounts with more resources available for $18/month. Visit hoffmanacademy.com for more info.
ArmoGear Laser Tag
Turn your My kids love birthday parties backyard into a at Putter’s in West Eugene so laser tag arcade! they can play laser tag with friends. The ArmoGear Laser Tag is an at-home laser tag with arcade-style features to bring the fun to your backyard. The set has an 150200 foot shooting range, invisibility mode, night vision and wireless target vests. It works inside or outside — my kids and their cousins spent hours chasing each other around the yard. • The 2-pack is $75 and 4-pack is $150 • ArmoGear.com, Amazon
JBL Clip Bluetooth Speaker If you have an older kid or a teen, music is likely a big part of their life. Attach the JBL Clip 3 to a backpack or bicycle and enjoy hands-free entertainment for up to 10 hours – all with exceptional sound. It’s also waterproof and made of rugged materials — perfect for teens. • $60 • JBL.com, Amazon I hope this gift guide has given you some new ideas for games, toys and gadgets for the kids in your life. Turn the page for gift inspirations for Mom!
Family Music Roundup If you’re looking for some great children’s music to share with your family and friends, we’ve gone through and picked out the best. Lucky for us, Oregon is home to some of the top names in kindie (kid+indie) music and several artists will be playing venues in Portland this winter and are worth a trip to see. This holiday, give the gift of music with these five albums that are sure to make kids sing, dance, laugh, and think.
Winterland The Okee Dokee Brothers Winterland, a new Americana Folk album by the Grammy Award-winning duo, the Okee Dokee Brothers, makes the perfect gift for families who love the outdoors. Their exuberant yet introspective collection of 16 original songs offers a refreshing, wide-eyed view of the most exciting time of year. Winterland makes the perfect carride soundtrack for trips to Mount Hood or Mount Bachelor with songs about playing in the snow and enjoying the outdoors. While also embracing the cycles of loss and new life, darkness and light, bitter cold and warmth, Winterland reflects that winter is not only a season, but a feeling we carry within. The Okee Dokee Brothers will perform at McMenamins Mission Theatre in Portland on March 17 at 3 pm. Tickets are $12 and available at www.mcmenamins.com/events/196458-theokee-dokee-brothers.
Why Why Why Ants, Ants, Ants Why Why Why by the new Portland-based kindie duo Ants, Ants, Ants is a curious album that celebrates a childlike wonder of the natural world. Johnny Clay and Dave Gulick have been members of Portland’s independent music scene for the past decade and their new project for kids and families reflect childhood at its best with a collection of warm and playful songs. Their stylistic nods to 1970s era Sesame Street, School House Rock, and “The Point” by Harry Nilsson target not only the
kids in our lives, but the kid in all of us. This winter, Ants, Ants, Ants will release “Christmas Time” a new song for the Holidays. They will also be playing venues and libraries across the Pacific Northwest. Learn more at www.antsantsants.com.
Red Yarn’s Old Barn Red Yarn Beloved Portland-based family folksinger and puppeteer, Red Yarn, tells of an epic barn dance where critters of all kinds are welcome in his album Red Yarn’s Old Barn. Red Yarn’s playful and personal country rock songs paint the Old Barn as an inclusive microcosm of the U.S. The first track sets the welcoming tone as Red and his wife, Miss Jessie, invite a diverse band of animals into their ramshackle barn. With an apathetic rooster, an activist hen, a proud horse, a neglected cow, a free-spirited sheep, and a rigid sheriff, the cast of characters represents many sides of American democracy. As the story unfolds, a wild barn dance sparks a disastrous fire. But the community reunites to rebuild, for “it takes a village to raise a barn.” Red Yarn is playing venues across Portland this winter. See his show schedule at www.redyarnproductions.com.
Hold Tight Shine Bright The Hold Tight Shine Bright Collective In response to the separation of immigrant and refugee families at the border, 33 of the top artists in family music banded together to create Hold Tight Shine Bright. All proceeds from this compilation album benefit RAICES Texas, a nonprofit organization that provides legal aid to displaced immigrant and refugee families. The dozens of children’s musicians, artists, collaborators, and contributors on this album believe that families seeking refuge in the U.S. need to remain together. The album features of 27 songs of hope and comfort and offers the opportunity to start a difficult conversation with children about the current political climate. Hold Tight Shine Bright can be purchased digitally on iTunes and Bandcamp.
Nothing Is Impossible The Story Pirates Perhaps you know the Story Pirates from their top podcast for children. They are a nationally touring children’s comedy troupe who turn kids’ stories into hilarious songs and sketches. The Story Pirates recently released their first album Nothing Is Impossible offering listeners an eccentric array of topics and uniquely fun insight into the imaginations of children. Lin-Manuel Miranda calls the first song on the album “Fart Out Loud Day” a “masterpiece.” The song is based on the story submission of two sisters in Colorado. Nothing Is Impossible is perfect for children and families who love to laugh. Learn more about the Story Pirates at www.storypirates.com.
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oms appreciate thoughtful gifts, too, right? Sometimes we just need to nudge our families a little. I had a chance to review a range of gift ideas this year — feel free to clip our 2018 Mom “Stocking Stuffer” gift guide and post on the fridge.
Look Good, Feel Good You can’t go wrong with jewelry to look good and I found two beautiful ideas for this year’s gift list. The Mama XO Necklace from Isabelle Grace is a sweet reminder how much the name “mama” means. Send (or receive) love and a hug with this mixed metal piece on a dainty chain. ($59 from IsabelleGraceJewelry.com)
If statement jewelry is more your style, the very sparkly Plaid Nouveau Collection from Chloe + Isabel may be the perfect fit. Colorblocked emerald and teal with pave crystal earrings and bracelet will absolutely turn heads. ($88 from ChloeandIsabel.com) If “feel good” is your favorite treat, check out Warm Human’s Solid Aromatherapy Scents. Visit WarmHuman.com to find your scent with “shop the feeling.” I tried relaxed, calm, peaceful (can you see where I’m headed…) and Blue Chamomile came up each time. Hint, hint! The scent is soft and you can wear on your skin or in your hair. ($14.95 from WarmHuman.com) Newton & Co’s Spanish Hand Salve is bliss on dry winter skin. My hands just can’t get enough. It’s made with hempseed oil and deeply moisturizes without leaving the skin feeling greasy. The scent is “Spanish Sage” and mixes white sage, lavender and Myrrh. ($9 at NewtonPlus.co)
Send (or receive) love and a hug with the Mama XO Necklace from Isabella Grace.
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A strong eyebrow can make a real difference and Medford, Ore.-based SurvivorEyes has a creative eyebrow kit that has — hands down — the best brow pencil and brushes I’ve ever used. SurvivorEyes brow kits are designed & created by a breast cancer survivor to create natural-looking, beautiful brows that are easy to apply and last all day. The founder quickly realized that lots of people need great brow kits and this one delivers and does so with a beautiful purpose — each purchase supports charities that help those struggling with hair loss. The kit comes with templates to match the size and shape of your natural brows, a pencil and a blending brush. ($19.95 at SurvivorEyes.com)
There’s really nothing like a great facial moisturizer, am I right? With dry (ahem, “maturing”) skin. I’m always on the lookout for new products to try. Brevena sent me a day and night moisturizer to try and both make your skin feel soft, smooth and yes, even a little lighter, tighter and brighter. It has something called a “Macro B Complex,” which the company says is the special sauce. ($159 for both day and night from Brevena.com or Amazon)
Treat Yo’Self Goetze’s Candy Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — not familiar with that name? You may know it better by one of its candy brands - Cow Tails. A box full of caramel creams could not have made me happier. Caramels are my favorite. Whether eating right out of the wrapper or incorporating it into one of the delicious recipes the company has on its website, these little gems will make your day, too. You can find them at Fred Meyer, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. So, let’s be real. Chocolate and caramel creams are really the way to your heart. At least that’s true for me. OCHO Candy (Organic+CHOcolate) sent me some minis and some candy bars to try in lots of flavors and fillings. The caramel and peanut butter are my personal fave, but any of them will make a fun, inexpensive stocking stuffer that’s miles above regular grocery store chocolate. ($1.99+ at Albertson’s, Safeway, Whole Foods or OCHOCandy.com) OCHO Candy is really the way to Mom’s heart!
Meal subscription boxes are everywhere these days! Spice Madam is a new take on this idea — rather than all the ingredients, you get the spices unique to a particular county or region of the world with recipes, trivia about the country and tips for how to prepare an authentic meal. Spice Madam sent me a box from Greece and it smelled so good. I love Greek food and immediately tried the tzatziki recipe. Yum! The recipes ranged from simple (like the tzatziki) to more complex (baklava). The meal would be easy to customize, adjust for dietary restrictions or modify for picky eaters. (The subscription is $20/month at SpiceMadam. com and Oregon Family readers can get $10 off with code OREGONFAMILY10) My favorite thing to do when I’m cooking (like with the Spice Madam recipes) is listen to music. A little hip-hop on the bluetooth speaker, a little olive oil in the pan and off we go. I love the JBL GO 2. It’s small and compact, comes in 12 different colors and has five hours of playtime. ($39.95 from JBL.com or Amazon) Stocking stuffers for moms don’t have to be complicated. Feel good, look good and treat yo’self.