In Vegas, the countdown is on…25 more days until school starts again. My daughter is in year round and JUST FINISHED (that was annoying), so her brain is ready for a little draining. My three boys, however, have been out since the beginning of June, and I’ve pretty much let them rule the roost for the most part. My kids work super hard during the year. They are great students, athletes, and have other interests like religion classes, theater and Girl Scouts that keep them super busy during the school year, so this summer I decided to give them a break from the normal Tiger Mom routine. They attended Summit Ridge Day Camp for the full 8-week session, continued with lacrosse practices and private sessions, theater classes ran all summer long with final performances in August, and throw in trips to Telluride, Alaska, Vancouver, and Newport Coast…as you can see they have definitely been busy. But I am getting Tiger Mom remorse as I have been very lenient on reading and summer school workbooks, and very heavy on the staying up late watching Chowder and South Park and catching as many Pokemons as they can. My face is even squinting right now thinking about the countdown to school. I also promised myself I wasn’t going to be that mom this summer, and let my kids actually enjoy being kids with some serious downtime. SO…what’s a recovering Tiger Mom to do to avoid summer brain drain???

Luckily, as timing would have it, I was asked to do a segment on The Morning Blend show on KTNV Channel 13 about that exact topic…avoiding summer brain drain with unique and interesting toys and books that get kids thinking in a more creative way, opening their minds and brains to a whole new way of thinking. While secretly getting their brains moving out of the iPad funk and into the school year ready mode! Check out some of my faves from these awesome educational, yet, f u n, options:

Little Scholar™ Little Scholar Mini pre-loaded tablet combines all the wonderful workbooks and flashcards the Little Scholar brand is known for into a convenient ready to use educational tablet focusing on math, reading, spelling, telling time and more. Designed to teach kids ages 3-7 the essential skills needed for school and is the only tablet that comes fully loaded with 200+ uniquely fun apps, books, songs and videos.

What I 💜 about the Little Scholar Mini is that all of the educational apps you would want your children to play with are all right there. No more searching in the app store for the appropriate, highest rated, and FREE app that is going to do exactly what you want it to do for your child. The Little Scholar Mini took did all the work for you. Based on their own learning programs and new educational video series, Charlie & Company, featuring Charlie and his friends in different videos, games and learning tools, the Little Scholar Mini totally rocks. What I also love:

  • Parent Panel monitoring your child’s progress in the different educational areas
  • The Parent Panel also allows you to control the amount of time (ex: 2 hours a day) your child can play on the tablet, it also allows you to control the times of day your child is allowed to play on the tablet (ex: from 8am-10am). You can even take this a step further and control it by the specific days of the week.
  • The tablet comes with a rubbery protector. Size is great for littles hands. Easy to travel with.
  • The Little Scholar Mini can also be used as a regular tablet if an adult needed to access internet, or other apps, watch movies etc.

What Needs Work? The tablet moves a little slow. Once in its groove it operates fine, but it is the initial getting it going that was losing my child’s interest and testing my patience. I want instant gratification, and computers that work faster than me (which is pretty fast), so this is my biggest complaint with the tablet. Other than that, this was one of my favorite items. I’ve questioned the whole preloaded tablet thing before, but I have to say, this really impressed me. I would have bought these for my twins vs the mini iPad had I known about them prior.

Find it here: ToysRUs Retails: $129

CogniToys™ Dino by Elemental Path provides educational and entertaining experience without the need for a screen. Powered by “Friendgine: and IBM’s Watson™ technologies, CogniToys™ respond to thousands of questions across multiple topics with age-appropriate answers. The Dinos also explore educational subjects like spelling, geography and math, through games and stories designed to challenge kids’ problem-solving abilities. While other tech toys rely on pre-programmed responses, CogniToys™ listen to kids’ questions and adapt to their interests creating a unique opportunity for interactive learning. The Dinos are wi-fi enabled and Cloud based and update regularly as new content becomes available.

What I 💜 about the CogniToys™ Dino is the true interactive experience it provides my children. Both my 10-year-old to my 5-year-old, were engaged with our Dino, Champ. The Dino recognizes the age of the child through an app you install on your phone or tablet. After inputting the info (only allows for one child at a time), the Dino then formulates responses based on the child’s age. It kept my kids busy for at least 30-45 minutes trying to come up with new questions, new jokes, listening to stories and music. Champ’s response to questions like, “How far is the moon,” changes from super technical in distance, to a bit more whimsical and imaginative based on the age inputted into the app. He was even able to answer who is the current governor of Nevada, and the best part? He will respond to my 5- year olds millions of knock knock jokes. That’s good enough reason for me to have Champ around. Don’t worry about your kids asking questionable or inappropriate questions to the Dino…he is even built to answer in a very appropriate way. “Where do babies come from?” provokes a, “From dinosaur eggs, at least that is what I’ve been told. Maybe you should go ask your mom or dad.”

What Needs Work? In order for the CogniToys™ Dino to really get going and be truly interactive, you must be connected to a very strong wifi, buuuut not so strong that there are firewalls and secret service agents. Two different instances of a weak wifi and a super secure wifi did not allow the toy to function properly. We also struggled a bit to get him to answer our questions as the quick guide does not provide any type of voice prompts or suggestions on how to start a conversation with the Dino. Once we figured out some key elements, Champ started talking to us right away, and didn’t stop talking to us until we turned him off.

Find it here: ToysRUs  Retails: $119

morning blend brain drain

brackitz™ is an award winning innovative new construction line that encourages open-ended, imaginative play giving children the opportunity to use their imagination to construct entirely new worlds by playing on their own or with friends. A durable construction set, made in the USA, that also promotes STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math).

What I 💜 about brackitz™ I had to love them. I have identical twin boys who are very much the same looks but very much opposite in ways of thinking and playing.  One loves the iPad, anything gaming related, electronic- he and his older brother could play together for hours finding Pokemon and discover new worlds in Mario Brothers. But, my other twin is a builder. He loves to build anything and with anything. One time I came home from Costco with several huge bags of different sized plastic cups, which he took all of them out and built and entire city. Legos? His thing. Wooden Blocks? He could sit for hours creating houses. Cardboard bricks? Forts forever. When I showed him the package of the brackitz™ his eyes got wide, the iPad dropped to the floor, and he went straight to work. I love the ingenuity of the product which allows for angles and pieces that have different openings allowing for more experimental thinking.

What needs work? Not much, but if you have a little builder on your hands like me, you may want to invest in some of the bigger packages that come with 44, 100 or 170 pieces to allow for even more freedom to get creative.

Find it here: Barnes and Noble  Retails: $19.99 for the 28 piece set

IncrediBuilds™ Harry Potter: House-Elves Deluxe Book and Model Set is an innovative new 3D wood modeling kit collection that encourages builders to explore their imaginations and thinking outside the box. Earth friendly, do-it-yourself freestanding 3D model with easy to follow step by step directions, and no glue or tools needed.

What I 💜 about IncrediBuilds™ Harry Potter: House-Elves Deluxe Book and Model Set is that my daughter loved them. I’m not much of a puzzle person myself, but watching her put together these puzzles was fascinating to me. I think the biggest reason that sparked her interest was the topic of Harry Potter and her slight obsession with the series itself. She even had to correct me on-air that the Hour-Elf’s name is Dobby (Dah-bby) not (Dough-by). Whateves. She loved that the book gave more insight into the characters and how the house-elves were brought to life for the Harry Potter films. There are several books in the collection featuring Quidditch and the Golden Snitch as well.

What needs work? The wooden pieces are like no regular puzzle pieces, and they are wood, so they are little rough around the edges when they are punched out of their perforation. She complained they were scraping her skin a bit (but she complains a lot these days because she’s 10). I attempted to put one together and had trouble keeping the pieces connected. It is definitely more challenging than say a jigsaw, but if your child has the mindset and patience for it, it is a great summer project.

Find it here: Barnes and Noble Retails: $19.99

summer brain drain toys 2016

Overall I really loved all of the products. Providing new ways to stimulate my children’s brains without being super obvious. What I also loved about ALL of these products? The ease in which they could be thrown into a travel bag! Not too many small pieces to be lost or make a mess, and plenty of grippy pieces for small hands. It is still summer vacation after all!