Wednesday, January 26, 2011

February 2 - Virtual Tour of the Children's Science Center

If you ever read FAMILY Magazine, you probably know how passionate I am about kids and science. I loved science when I was growing up. For a few years I coordinated a volunteer group in the schools that worked with 5th graders doing fantastic science activities. My youngest daughter was a toddler and she went with me to do the activities in the schools and she developed a love of science as well.

Currently I am on the Board of Directors for a group that is starting a children's museum in Northern Virginia focusing on science and technology. The Children's Science Center will be located in Reston. We are hoping to have 50,000 square feet of hands-on activities for kids ranging from preschool to tweens.

The Children's Science Center has started offering a one-hour program and virtual tour for people to see their plans firsthand. I am hosting the one to be held on February 2.

I'd love have some of FAMILY Magazine readers come and meet some of our board members and see the Virtual Tour. This is not a fundraising activity and we won't be asking for donations at this event, but we are looking for advice, feedback and involvement from the community.

If you are interested in attending the Virtual Tour on Feb. 2, let me know. I will send the specifics to you.

In the mean time, visit the CSC website and see what they are all about.

It is a great project and I can not wait for the doors to open.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Is print dead?

I don’t know about you, by my stack of “to read” publications and articles just grows and grows. It is difficult sometimes to keep up with industry news and other reading that I love to do but have little time to spend on. So, I tend to read a whole lot whenever I do find a day or morning when I can focus on catching up. I really believe that keeping up with publishing news is very important and every time I catch up, I vow to do it more regularly…but that never happens.

A few weeks ago I read an article in a trade publication written by Kevin Slimp, a favorite speaker and trainer in the publishing world. I found it extremely motivating and it caused me to change my goals for 2011. Little did I know, but I was not alone. Kevin writes regularly for the trade magazine that I receive and Saturday morning I read Kevin’s monthly article where he wrote about all the publishers that responded to that same article with the same enthusiasm that I felt.

The original article, Will Print Survive?, prompted me to put an aggressive acquisition plan in place to upgrade our software and hardware that we use to produce FAMILY Magazine. I wanted to make our magazine be the very best it could be for our readers and advertisers. Kevin motivated me to think about what our readers want and how we can provide a connection to our advertisers that would go back to our core mission -- to help parents raise kids in the Washington, DC market.

You can read the entire article online at Kevin’s web site, but here is one story (in Kevin’s own words) that struck home to me.

Y2K (as written by Kevin Slimp)
I asked the group how many of them remembered the Y2k scare of the late 90s. Every hand in the room went up.

“Do you remember,” I asked, “how everybody stored bottled water, food and blankets in their basements because they were sure the end of the world was around the corner?”

The audience nodded in unison.

“I didn’t buy water,” I told them. “And do you know why?”

I waited for an answer, but the room was silent as everyone anticipated my answer.

“Because I knew it wasn’t real. It was something that people believed because we (the press) told them it was going to happen. Everyone kept reading in their newspapers and hearing on TV that the end was near. And they believed it.”

Heads moved in agreement. Like in a southern church service, I heard a voice say, “That’s right.”

“Well for the last three years,” I continued, “you’ve been telling your readers that newspapers were dying. That the end was near. And guess what. It took a while, but they finally believed you. And guess what. Your advertisers believed you, too.”

Kevin went on to talk about how we should improve our print product and work to provide the very best printed publication we can for our readers and our advertisers. He also told a story about asking people where they read a specific story – online or in print. I would wager that most people read the story in print. I ask the same question all the time, and people tell me they prefer to pick up a copy of FAMILY Magazine and read it at their leisure.

The bottom line is that I believe, like Kevin does that print is not dead. I believe that we will always have a printed FAMILY Magazine that moms can carry in their purse or bag to an after school class to read while they are waiting on their kids. Yes, there will be more online readers – these have been growing steadily and we have been working to provide a great online experience.

In 2011 FAMILY Magazine celebrates the 20th year of publishing in the Washington, DC market. Print is not going away. And, to further prove that point, FAMILY Magazine had the BEST year in our history in 2010. . . . And they say print is dead?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brenda Hyde's Profile - The Story of FAMILY Magazine

This January, FAMILY Magazine published my personal story of how I started FAMILY Magazine back in 1991. When I meet new people they are always interested in how I started the magazine. Our 20th Anniversary celebration launched in January so we thought it would be a good time to tell the story of FAMILY Magazine. Let me know if you find it interesting.

Brenda ---

Profile Brenda M. Hyde
Publisher & CEO
FAMILIES Magazines, Inc.

Back in 1991, I was frustrated when I could not find a children’s shoe store for my four kids. This annoying situation made me realize that the Washington metropolitan area lacked a good resource for busy moms. So, with the support of my husband, I set out to create a magazine that would guide parents to resources and publish insightful articles.

Now, after 20 years of publishing, I have had the honor of helping parents and advertisers alike. I will never forget the first time a mother told me she was able to help her child with a learning disability because of an article FAMILY published. Or the time a small business owner thanked me for helping them increase their sales. These reaffirming stories inspire me to work hard every day.

Today, FAMILY Magazine helps more parents and supports more business than ever before. We have the largest circulation in the Mid-Atlantic region, and we have won many awards for our magazine. But, most importantly, parents tell us they keep our magazine for over two years because the information and resources are priceless to them.

I would like to take the credit for these successes, but that would just be in vain. Over the years, I have hired some true visionaries. Most of the time these visionaries arrive with babies on their hips, but they come to me with the desire to grow intellectually and fiscally.

However, there is one visionary who has been by my side for the start: My husband of 30 years. He believed in my vision from the very beginning, and he gave me sound advice from the start. He said, “Brenda, this idea needs a detailed business plan.” The plan has served me well, and the habit of planning in detail has come in handy hundreds of times.

In 2010, planning has been my focus. We developed a plan to expand our vision to include both traditional and online marketing strategies. This new vision encouraged us to update the magazine and transform our website. At times, all this planning was challenging, but I have gained precious insights on how to communicate with parents today and develop brand awareness in the marketplace.

Communicating with parents today is different than it was 20 years ago, but I have found parents are still talking about the same issues—such as safety, education, and enrichment.

Getting in front of parents to build brand awareness is a challenge for any small business. It requires consistency, effective advertising vehicles and hard work. In my experience, running a successful small business is part elbow grease and part showmanship. I have pulled countless all nighters, heard thousands of interesting stories, and spoken in front of hundreds of people. Operating a small business is hard work, but it’s full of rewards.

If you’re a mom whose goal is to start her own business, my advice is to find your passion, learn all you can about it, and work hard. My dad use to tell me, “Find your passion in life. It does not matter what you do as long as you are willing to do it for free. You can be a garbage collector or President of the United States. If you would do it for free, then whatever you get paid and however hard it is, you will never work another day in your life.”

That advice from my father has served me well, but the advice I would share as a mother and grandmother is: Don’t forget your kids. Play with them every chance you get. Play more and then play some more again. The memories you create with them will build a castle for the future.

Creating a future with your spouse is equally important. Keeping a good marriage is extremely difficult and you have to work at it. I’ve found that supporting your spouse’s life dreams and learning a hobby together are two of the best ways to keep a marriage strong. These simple gestures are invaluable and will go a long way.

All in all, the FAMILY Magazine’s vision remains the same as it was in the very beginning; to connect parents to the best resources and businesses that will aid them in the great adventure of raising children in our Nation’s Capital.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

20th Year Celebration

New Year
New Magazine
New Website
New Resolutions and Goals

Another new year is well underway. It has brought with it the opportunity to begin fresh. No doubt 2011 will be a year with endless possibilities!

“A makeover shouldn’t turn you into someone else – it should lead to a better you.” Opra Winfrey

When we started planning our January 2011 issue, we decided to make some changes. 2011 is the year in which we celebrate our 20th year of publishing FAMILY, and it gives us a great opportunity to switch things up a bit. In preparation for this January’s issue, we let our imaginations run wild to change and redesign the look and focus of FAMILY Magazine. What you will read is a brand-new, terrifically improved, completely redesigned magazine, yet still geared towards helping you on your journey of parenting.

Not only did we change the print magazine, we have also enhanced our website (whew!). Please visit and enjoy our new easy-to-use search engine and improved layout. You will find it easier than ever to locate resources to help you raise your children.

On the heels of our twentieth anniversary, we are simplifying our look, focusing in on the issues you care most about and adding more to the two sides of motherhood – the mother and the woman. Our focus is helping you find what you need, discover what you want or achieve your goals with ease, while still providing you with the resources you need to raise your family in the crazy Washington, DC area.

As Heidi Smith Luedtke so eloquently says in her article this month, Living Your Life’s Dream, “Time may pass slowly on any given day. It is the weeks, months, and years that whiz by.” Twenty years have passed since my dream to create FAMILY Magazine began. Just recently, I met a woman who was a fellow Brownie leader with me when I first tried out the idea of creating a local resource for moms. We reminisced about discussing FAMILY before it launched, and her pride in knowing she had influenced that very first issue.

In the first issue of FAMILY Magazine, I did not have an article or letter to our readers. It did not occur to me that other moms would want to know about the people who created this publication. Since then, I have discovered that you do enjoy connecting with those who create FAMILY Magazine and indeed our shared experience of parenting is a great connection. During 2011, we will go back and revisit the experiences of FAMILY Magazine over the last two decades. It will be fun to explore how we’ve grown over the years together.

Do you have memories of twenty years ago? Come join us on our Facebook page and share with other moms what you remember from the beginnings of Washington FAMILY Magazine. We would truly love to hear your memories.

Parenting is all consuming, but it brings with it the satisfaction of creating a life. Our own needs and desires are sometimes put on a back burner while we raise our kids. I hope that you will read this issue of FAMILY Magazine and find enjoyment putting yourself first for just a moment. The laundry can wait and sandwiches for dinner won’t be the end of the world. Spend a little “mommy time” this New Year rewarding yourself for the incredible impact you’ve made on your family. After all, you deserve it.

Happy 2011 and I look forward to sharing memories with you all year long.

Happy Parenting, Brenda

Triva from 20 Years Ago:
Circulation of the first FAMILY Magazine was 18,000. The “paper,” as it was known then, was delivered to homes in areas of Northern Virginia where families with young children lived. By the end of the very first year, the circulation grew to 50,000. In 1994, FAMILY increased its distribution to parents in Maryland and DC. Four years later, we were the largest parenting publication on the East Coast. Today, FAMILY can be found in over 2900 locations where moms go with their kids throughout the Washington, DC Metro area.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Award-Winning and Educational Toys and Games

Every once in a while there almost all of us have experienced a computer mess up. Well, it is my turn. I have had several blogs posted in the past 6 weeks that apparently did not make it all the way to the internet. So I am trying to catch up.

This is from a segment on WUSA 9 in December. Our Assistant Editor, Amy Bevins does some great research every year on award-winning educational toys. Her research is then published in our magazine and she shows off the toys on WUSA9. You can see the video on our web site.

Award-Winning and Educational Toys and Games
By Amy Carney Bevins

Walking down the aisle of the toy store can be overwhelming. Bright colors, creative packaging, adorable characters and playful music all compete for your attention and your toy purchasing dollars. So how do you get past all the hype to find toys with long term playing power? Ones that your child will turn to over and over again. Ones that grow with your child. Ones that teach, delight, soothe, excite and become family favorites.

All of the toys and games on this year’s list meet the criteria for being more than just a toy. They teach, foster imagination, get kids moving and bring families together. Hopefully, with the toys on this list, you won’t hear “I’m bored” for at least a week and maybe not even until sometime next year.

Many of the featured toys have also won numerous national and international awards, meaning they were a hit with kids, parents, testers and industry experts. Groups like the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Dr. Toy, Parent’s Choice and AblePlay give awards to toys and games that meet criteria for standing out among their peers*.
*(To learn more about Toy Awards; visit the online FAMILY Magazine Article Archives -

Here is our list of this year’s standouts.

Use these icons to help you select the right toy for your child:

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years)
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+)

Active Play
Toys that will get your child moving, jumping, laughing, and running

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Soft Shapes Trucks
Rub-a-dub dub – learn in the tub. Make playtime, bath time, anytime into fun time. Soft Shapes books are made of heavy duty foam pages and feature pop-out shapes. In the bath, they float and stick to walls and tub sides. Soft Shapes books are also a wonderful first puzzle. Other titles in this brightly colored series include Animals, Dinosaurs, Counting, Shapes, Colors and more.

Approximate Price - $10.99
Awards - Parents' Choice Award, IPMA Best Products, Manufacturing Bookbuilders of Boston - Best of Show, Parent's Guide to Children's Media Awards - Outstanding Achievement in Activity Books

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Play Die Moo and Baa
What is smooth, furry and goes crinkle, crinkle, moo? The Play Die Moo and Baa. You and your little one will discover six fun animals as you roll this soft die back and forth. Feel the sheep’s soft fur, tickle the kitten’s whiskers, peek in the crinkly hen’s nest, and listen to the calf moo softly as you turn the die from side to side. Just the right size for little hands to hold.

Approximate Price - $10.99

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years)
Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Major League Baseball Lubies
Toss a Tiger. Roll a Ranger. Cuddle a Cardinal. Major League Baseball Lubies are super soft, loveable, huggable friends for all ages. From the Nats to the Orioles and the Brewers to the Braves, these adorable, softball-sized critters each represent a MLB team and show team spirit in a unique way. Perfect for an indoor game of catch, your teen’s locker or as a naptime snuggly, MLB Lubies are Fan-tastic fun.

Approximate Price - $12.99
Awards - Mom’s Best Toy Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, iParenting Media Award, Parent Tested Parent Approved Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice Award

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Ez Bat
Batter Up! E-Z Bat is perfect for teaching the youngest players swing fundamentals. Simply slip the special ball on the bat and swing. The more accurate the swing, the further the ball will fly. The unique ball is also easy to catch and throw. No frustrating, tottery tees or wonky pitches; with E-Z Bat every swing can be a home run.

Approximate Price - $15.99
Awards - Mr. Dad Seal of Approval

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Mega Magnifier
Get up close and personal in a big way. The giant 10x13 inch Mega Magnifier provides an enlarged view of your child’s world. Made of sturdy plastic, this huge magnifying glass even floats. See the details of spider webs, dandelion seeds, fabric fibers and more as you explore the world around you.

Approximate Price - $14.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Hot Wheels Wheelie Track Pack/Doll House Play Pack
Bring playtime along with you every where you go. These clever play pack backpacks unzip to reveal play mats and lots of storage. Open the Wheelie Track Pack to find storage for 100 Hot Wheels cars and a brightly colored track, pit and winners circle. The Doll House Play Pack opens to a 2 story dollhouse fit for a princess, and provides hours of creative on-the-go play (doll included). The attached straps make these kid-sized play packs so easy to transport and enjoy.

Approximate Price - $19.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Peanut Ball
Bounce your way to fun and fitness. The Peanut Ball is phenomenally versatile. Use it as a wiggle buster, an imagination platform, an exercise option, a therapy tool and more. The colorful, inflatable peanut-shaped balls are irresistible to kids and can hold an amazing 750 lbs.

Approximate Price - $31.99-39.99
Awards - Dr Toy Best Product Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Skyball Slammer
How can you get a ball to bounce 75 feet in the air? Give it a slam! Use the end of the “slammer” to rocket the “hyper-charged” Skyball into the air and try to catch it with the suction cup on the other end. The Skyball Slammer is perfect for working out those winter wiggles.

Approximate Price - $12.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

Mythbusters Science of Sport Science Exploration Kit
A sweet spot on a baseball bat and the Big Bounce theory – True or Busted? Mythbusters Science of Sport Kit is the perfect combination action and learning! Examine and explore sports myths and truths along with the Mythbuster team. Packed full of activities and ideas, this kit will have you jumping and moving along the path of knowledge.

Approximate Price - $19.99

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Skyball and Bat
It’s a grand slam and a home run all rolled into one. With Skyball and Bat, kids can knock it out of the park. The helium-filled “hypercharged” ball flies up to an amazing 300 feet when hit with the bat. So put on your running shoes and get ready to “Play Ball.”

Approximate Price - $14.99
Awards -'s Sports Toy Of The Year

Creative Play
Toys that will foster imagination, music, pretend play, art, and creativity

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Just Triangles
These unique natural-rubber building blocks put a twist on tower building, helping little minds think outside traditional, square building blocks box. Super soft, squishy and bouncy, Just Triangles can be played with in a myriad of ways - stacking, patterning, tossing, tumbling, creating. Their bright colors, fuzzy-feel appeal and multiple uses make them a great toy box addition.

Approximate Price - $24.95
Awards - Dr Toy Best Vacation Products, Tillywig Toy Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice Award

Infant (0-2 years) Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) City Life and My Animal Farm Play Sets
Hours of playtime in the city or on the farm. The My Animal Farm and City Life Play Sets come with everything your child needs for an imagination adventure. The giant, washable, non-skid play mats set the stage while the soft, squishy, natural foam animals and vehicles invite kids to play. Bright colors and open-ended play make the My Animal Farm and City Life Play Sets a toy box staple.

Approximate Price - $24.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award and SNAP Award

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Crafty Kids Creation Cottage/Shuttle Imagination
Made of 100% recycled cardboard material, these sturdy kid-height playhouses are a child’s dream. Now you can say “yes” to drawing on the walls - of the cottage or shuttle that is. The white exterior is a blank canvas for your child to create a dream cottage or design an out of this world space shuttle. Kids can decorate these play spaces inside and out with paint, markers, crayons and more, making these toys that keep on playing.

Approximate Price - $59.95
Awards- (Shuttle) National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Tillywig Toy Award, Creative Child Award

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Ubbercutter
Ubbercutter is an ideal complement to hobby and craft projects, cutting all kinds of materials without exposing fingers to sharp scissors and craft knives. Make precision straight or angle cuts on items like popsicle sticks, leather, foam core, dowels, plastic and more. From models and scrapbooks to science projects and doll houses, Ubbercutter is a revolutionary cut above.

Approximate Price - $19.99

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Eco Aquarium
The perfect pet is one that requires little care, takes up minimal space and doesn’t shed. With the Eco-Aquarium, you can finally say “yes” to a pet. This 4”x4” self-contained water world is home to two Dwarf African frogs, a plant, living gravel and colorful rocks. Enjoy froggie antics every day, feed them once a week with the included food and change the water once a month. That’s it! Now that’s pet care the easy way!

Approximate Price - $22.99
Awards - TIA Toy of the Year; Dr. Toy Best Green Product; Learning Express Most Innovative New Toy, Parents' Choice Award, Tillywig Top Fun Award, Mr. Dad Seal of Approval

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Eeboo Watercolor Pencils and Sketchbook
A palette of pleasing colors and a place to draw your dreams. The fanciful covers of the EeBoo sketchbooks are a wonderful inspiration to aspiring artists and open to inviting heavy-weight drawing pages. Paired with a lovely tin of 24 watercolor pencils that flow across the page, this duo makes a delightful gift for your favorite art lover.

Approximate Price - $6 (sketchbook), $15 (watercolor pencils)

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Zip-Bins
Play and clean up all with one creatively versatile product. Zip-Bins are the perfect play and storage combination. Zipped up, the bins store Legos, dinosaurs, dolls, cars, horses - whatever your child loves to play with and collect. Unzip the padded bins to open a themed playmat like a dinosaur playscape, a train depot, a fairy castle, an airport and many more. From small shoebox-sized travel cases to giant lidded storage bins, every thing will be easy to play with, clean up and store with Zip-Bins

Approximate Price - $9.99-24.99
Awards – Over 30 awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, Dr. Toy Smart Play Smart Toy Award, Creative Child Toy of the Year, iParenting Media HOT Product Award, NAPPA Gold Award, Middle East Toy Fair Most Innovative Toy Award, TD Monthly Top Toy

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Dangerous Book for Boys Chemistry set
The ability to create smoke bombs and slime, dissolve metal and write with invisible ink. Are you giving your child super powers? Yes! The powers that come from chemistry. In the Dangerous Book for Boys Classic Chemistry set, boys and girls alike learn foundational science skills and can conduct 30 experiments using the included items and common household ingredients. Maybe the next super hero will be your child – Super Scientist.

Approximate Price - $35.95
Awards - Parents Choice Silver Award; Toy Industry Association Toy of the Year nomination

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Contraptions
Just 200 wooden planks and two ping pong balls in the box, but unlimited hours of creative, mind-expanding, old-fashioned fun. Forget all of the physics and math principals your kids will unconsciously be absorbing, Contraptions keeps kids and adults actively engaged in creating huge marble-run like structures for the ping pong balls to roll, bounce, twist, jump and race down. You’ll be surprised at how time flies when you play with Contraptions.

Approximate Price - $49.95
Awards - Major Fun, NAGC Parenting for High Potential Award, Creative Child Toy of the Year, Major Fun Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Project Runway Silk Screen Fashion Design Set
“Just make it work.” Like on Project Runway, kids can design their own wearable fashions on everything from t-shirts and skirts to purses and hoodies. The kit comes with patterns, templates and stencils to get started (and directions for extension opportunities), 6 fabric paints, a silkscreen machine and more. By taking a garment from plain to fabulous, kids can strut their stuff in one-of-a-kind looks that they create.

Approximate Price - $32.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) A Kid’s Guide to Giving
Give a gift that can change the world. A Kid’s Guide to Giving is filled with ways kids can make a difference locally or globally through donations of time, money and items. Whether your child is fascinated by the needs of people, animals or the environment, this amazing resource details over 100 organizations, their missions, how kids can be involved and more. Perfect for kids, parents, scout troops and youth groups, it lists large and small ways kids can make an impact (how to host a fundraiser, grassroots efforts, different types of charity drives, avoiding scams, history of charity groups, etc.).

Approximate Price - $9.99
Awards - iParenting Media Award

Preteen (10-12) T3 Transforming Solar Robot
Make a robot that walks, a tank that rolls or a stinging scorpion. All it takes is a ray of sunshine to set the parts in motion. With basic building skills and a little patience kids can transform the separate parts into three different eco-energized, working robots.

Approximate Price - $19.95
Awards - Toy Fair 2010 Hottest Toys, Dr. Toy Best Children’s Product, Funfare Best Pick of the Season

Spend family time together playing some of these award winning games.

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Puppy Palooza
Peppered with playful pooches polka-dotted and plain, Puppy Palooza is puzzle-fun in an earth-friendly package. Made of 98% recycled materials and eco-friendly inks, this charming 35 piece floor puzzle pictures puppies tall and small, long and short, and perfectly proportioned to please your little puzzle-solver.

Approximate Price - $14.99

Preschool (3-4 years) Elementary (5-9 years) Singin’ Sea Creatures 3-D Sneaky Puzzle
Holy Holograms! This zany 3D puzzle will have a sea full of creatures, numbers and letters floating before your eyes. First, put together this giant 46 piece floor puzzle. Then, transform the puzzle by donning the 3D glasses, adding another level of fun and interest. Numbers 0-9 and letters A-Z seem to pop from the puzzle along with fanciful sea creatures jamming and jiving to an undersea beat.

Approximate Price - $14.99
Awards - National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, iParenting Media Award, WTS (What’s the stuff review) 5-star certified, Creative Child Seal of Excellence

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Dancing Eggs
What has more bounce than a box full of bunnies? Dancing Eggs – an absolutely hilarious game of goofiness. Can you run around the table with a rubber egg between your knees, crow like a rooster, or hold three rubber eggs in the crook of your elbow without laughing? Not likely. A roll of the dice determines what you do to collect an egg. Keeping each one you win without dropping it is what takes this game from fun to truly zany. With a few rule adaptations for ages and space constraints, Dancing Eggs is a riotous game for all ages.

Approximate Price - $17.99
Awards - NAPPA Honors, Major Fun Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Sea Food Puzzle
The perfect opportunity to play with your food. You’ll delight at the inventive undersea inhabitants in a world where everything literally is “sea food.” A banana octopus, pepper fish, portabella crab and more share the sea in this colorful 100 piece puzzle. Look closely, can you find more tasty sea friends?

Approximate Price - $14.00
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Hide and Eek
“The game with 100 elephants and a mouse.” It’s pachyderm pandemonium as players try to collect whimsical elephant cards with the help of one small mouse. Surprisingly sneaky learning slips in stealthily like a mouse. The kids will be so focused on the elephants that they won’t notice they are strengthening skills in math, memory, visual acuity and more – even better, you’ll enjoy the game too.

Approximate Price - $13.99
Awards - Major Fun Award, Creative Child Preferred Choice

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Quadrago
Put a new twist on tic-tac-toe. Quadrago is wonderful for all ages as it is easily accessible to younger players, but has many deeper levels of play that will captivate serious strategists. Slip smooth wooden beads onto silver-hued poles in an attempt to get four in a row – but – surprise! The center section can spin, changing the game in an instant. With its visual and game-play appeal, Quadrago is an ideal family game.

Approximate Price - $29.95
Awards - Tillwig Toy Award, Creative Child Game of the Year, National Association for Gifted Children Parenting for High Potential Recommended Seal

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Up for Grabs
Up for Grabs takes word play out of the box. “Make a Word or Take a Word.” Not only do you race to make words from flipped letter tiles, you can also steal from your opponents by adding letters to existing words to make something new. C-A-T could become C-R-A-F-T and R-A-T could become T-A-R-P. A fabulous combination of quick wit, creative thinking and serious strategy, this ingenious game is sure to become a family favorite for all types of game players.

Approximate Price - $14.95
Awards - Major Fun Award, Creative Seal of Excellence

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Verbal Volley
Who knew synonyms and antonyms could be so much fun? Like a fast-paced tennis match, players bounce words back and forth (Hot - scorching, steamy, burning, like an oven, spicy, molten – you get the idea). What starts as a simple word game turns into an intense verbal battle. Play against one opponent or match wits in a team vs. team showdown. Created by language and neuroscience experts, Verbal Volley is so much fun, you’ll forget it has a learning component as you battle to have the last word . . .remark, comment, utterance . . .

Approximate Price - $29.95
Awards - Dr. Toy Best Vacation Product

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Abalone
Dubbed by one teen as the “coolest strategy game ever,” Abalone is simple to learn, but a true challenge to master. What seems a simple black vs. white marble game is filled with complex thinking twists. The format is easily accessible for young strategists, but will draw serious game players back again and again as they attempt to outwit their opponents to become Abalone champion.

Approximate Price - $29.99
Awards - MENSA Select Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Labyrinth the Duel
Two wizards duel to see who can capture the greatest treasure hoard. Based on the wildly popular Labyrinth game, this new version puts two players against one another in a quick witted challenge to see who can move their game board pieces to create passages to the treasured items. The ever-shifting game boards, fast-paced play and wide appeal make this a fabulous family game.

Approximate Price - $24.99
Awards - Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award

Elementary (5-9 years) Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) You’ve Been Sentenced
Wild, wacky, witty wordplay. Can you form a hand of random words into a sensible sentence? Can you justify to the “jury” of other players that your ingenious creation is a sentence? Sometimes the story is as good as the sentence in this totally unique, award-winning game of grammar hilarity. With add-on decks including sports highlights, gourmet cuisine, pop culture and more, you will laugh out loud as you strive for wordy success in You’ve Been Sentenced.

Approximate Price - $24.95
Awards – 10 awards including Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, Tillywig Toy Awards laugh Out Loud Award Winner, iParenting Media Award, Dr. Toy’s Best Products Award, Creative Child Seal Of Excellence

Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) Manhattan
Dominate the world one skyscraper at a time. This fantastic game of strategy lets you conquer the globe from Manhattan to Toyko. Will you build the tallest building in the world, monopolize a particular city, or own the most buildings worldwide? Will you team up or go it alone? From the unique game board and play cards to the mental challenges, once you get the hang of Manhattan, you’ll be on your way to global domination.

Approximate Price - $39.99
Awards - Major Fun award, Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year award)

Preteen (10-12) Teens/Adults (13+) 5 Second Rule
Time is ticking. Think fast. Can you do it? The premise of 5 Second Rule is simple – draw a card and give three answers before time runs out (i.e. 3 breeds of dogs, 3 winter activities, 3 Dr. Seuss books, 3 famous Michaels). Sounds easy. But when you turn the 5 second timer, the fun begins. Sputtering, stumbling, laugh-out-loud attempts will have everyone rolling as players try to “Just Spit it Out!” in this fast-paced game of family fun.

Approximate Price - $24.99
Awards - National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, FamilyFun Boredom Buster Awards, iParenting Media Award

Amy Carney Bevins is a freelance writer, Assistant Editor and Toy Expert for FAMILY Magazine, an educator and founder/owner of Chantilly Chefs cooking classes for children and adults. She has been featured on WUSA9, NBC,, AOL Video and Visit her website to read more of her articles, view her cooking and toy videos and learn more about her cooking classes.