As summer winds down and we start gearing up for fall and, gulp, the holidays, here are a few great toys and games that don't fit neatly into any particular category.
– Crozzit (Identity Games)
The folks at Crozzit bill it as "the game you always almost win." You may want to read that line again. The goal of this two-person game is pretty simple: Player 1 needs to lay out his or her blue tiles to connect the two blue sides of the board. Player 2 does the same, using yellow tiles to connect the yellow sides. Oh, did we say simple? Ha! There are only three rules that are extremely easy to follow, and since there are only two players, your odds of winning are 50/50. But to succeed, you'll need to use logic, reasoning, and strategic planning. Crozzit comes with a board, 64 tiles, and instructions, and takes about 20 minutes to play – but it's hard to stop after one game – you'll soon find yourself playing best of 3, then 5, then 7, and so on. It's for ages 8+. Under $20. www.identitygames.com
– Chippies (Wow Wee)
Chipper is the latest robotic animal from the geniuses at Wow Wee – the same folks who brought you CHiP and MiP. Chipper is blue, Chippette is pink, Chippo is black, and Chippella is white. Together or individually, these remote-controlled puppies are playful, interactive, and can dance, sing, chase their tail, roll over, bark, give puppy kisses, sneeze, and more. And when they're done playing, they'll explore your home like real dogs and guard it from intruders. You can control them with the RC unit or by petting their head. Chippies play well with others as well as with the larger CHiP dogs. Best of all, you can leave them at home without worrying about the mess you'll have to clean up with you get back, and if you forget to feed them, they'll survive. They're great for ages 5+ and retail for under $84. http://wowwee.com
– Fingerlings (Wow Wee)
Fingerlings are adorable baby monkeys that respond to touch, motion, and sounds, and never let you go. They're pretty curious about their world, but prefer to hang around wherever you are, either clinging to your fingers or using their prehensile tail to dangle upside down from your hand. They also blink, turn their head, blow kisses, and babble – or at least it sounds like babble to us – depending on how you interact with them. Fingerlings come in a variety of colors, including black, blue, pink, purple, and turquoise. They're wonderful companions for kids 5+ and retail for under $25. http://wowwee.com
– Stomp Rocket Ultra LED (D&L)
The days may be getting shorter, but with Stomp Rockets Ultra LED, the fun doesn't have to stop when the sun goes down. Like the original Stomp Rockets, it's 100 percent kid- (or adult-) powered, meaning no batteries are required. All you do is set it up, load the rocket, and stomp. The foam-tipped projectiles (four are included) can soar up to 150 feet, and with the LEDs, they look beautiful at dusk or at night. Assembly is easy and takes only minutes. However, the set is pretty lightweight and tips over easily and will require regular tweaking to keep it working. But it's a blast and the kids will quickly and intuitively learn lessons about force (the harder you stomp, the higher or further the rocket goes), trajectory (how to find the optimal mix of height and distance), and other STEM concepts. For ages 6+ (adult supervision required). $21. www.stomprocket.com
(Armin and Samantha are the authors of the popular parenting blogs: http://www.mrdad.com and http://www.havesippywilltravel.com.
For more reviews of toys and games, visit http://www.parentsatplay.com/)