The Power of Toys

This is a Sponsored Post. I was provided free toys and compensation from Playskool/Hasbro. The opinions in this post are solely mine, and not influenced by the toys or compensation.


It’s always amazing to me, seeing how quickly my kids can pick up on everything. One day they’ve never heard of a show, the next day we watch it on Netflix, and then it becomes all they can talk about. Whether it’s superheroes from Marvel or DC, or Transformers, or anything about dinosaurs (Jurassic Park, Dinotrucks, Dinosaur Train, etc), they become enamored with it.

They see a picture on Netflix, and will almost demand that we watch whatever it is with characters that they know. Then as soon as we’ve watched all of show X, they’re suddenly enamored with show Y. And the cycle repeats.

Sometimes though, you can get them hooked on something for a long time. Maybe it’s that show has multiple iterations (like the Monster High universe), or maybe it’s something more physical.

Maybe it’s a toy.

I’ll be honest, when I was growing up, I wasn’t the nerd I am today. I didn’t obsess over cartoons as a kid. I didn’t read all the comic books. I didn’t own all of the toys. Oh how times change…

Fortunately, I’m now able to give my kids that experience. We can watch everything that exists about a show, whether on TV, Youtube, or DVDs. But toys are still something special.

Toys help bring the characters they love into the physical world.

We were given some toys by Hasbro/Playskool for my older kids (6/6/4) recently, and it was amazing. They immediately took to all of them. Once I got them put together (there’s always a little assembly required) and handed them off, the madness started.

 

SUPER HERO ADVENTURES IRON MAN ARMOR UP FORTRESS Playset

SUPER HERO ADVENTURES IRON MAN ARMOR UP FORTRESS Playset

One of the sets was the “SUPER HERO ADVENTURES IRON MAN ARMOR UP FORTRESS Playset” (it’s a mouth full, but awesome). Almost immediately, there was yelling “That’s Tony!” After watching the various Marvel shows aimed at my kids’ demographic, they could immediately identify Tony Stark and Ironman, and there was so much excitement. It took a little bit, but eventually they were sharing and having a blast. It was easy for them to play with, and to understand, and to customize to however they wanted.

TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS HIGH TIDE Playset

TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS HIGH TIDE Playset

The other twin immediately took to the “TRANSFORMERS RESCUE BOTS HIGH TIDE Playset”. While he didn’t recognize the character from the show (because it isn’t in the show yet), he recognized the logos and got excited. While this one took a little longer to assemble, it worked really well. The character and playset were the perfect size, and he went to town. This made him want to watch the show more, and got him excited about what was coming next in the Transformers Rescue Bots world.

JURASSIC WORLD TYRANNOSAURUS REX

JURASSIC WORLD TYRANNOSAURUS REX

While my boys were playing with their toys, my daughter was having a Girls Night, so their cousin (obsessed with dinosaurs) was the perfect subject for the new “JURASSIC WORLD TYRANNOSAURUS REX” set. A dinosaur that makes noises, and a human trying to capture him were perfect for him. I had never heard so many dinosaur roars in the house, or seen him sit so still for such a long period of time. He was wrapped into his imagination, where he could play with a real dinosaur. While he won’t be watching anything from the Jurassic Park universe yet, he will be playing with this toy for years to come.

I can see my kids playing with these toys for a long time. I didn’t have toys this awesome when I was growing up, and I’m excited to see how their play with these toys change as they grow. And how we all grow and change with them.

Team Rubicon, and #DadsForChange

Team Rubicon, and #DadsForChange

Team Rubicon is a disaster relief organization that helps "bridge the gap" when natural disasters strike, before large relief organizations are able to use their vast resources. Team Rubicon has helped me be a Dad 4 Change.

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The Maker/Hacker Spirit, Applied to Our Kids

As some of you know, I teach lockpicking with The Open Organisation Of Lockpickers. That means that I am actively teaching people how to better understand something they see every day but know nothing about. It also means that I am teaching people how to do something that can be illegal if done irresponsibly (we teach the ethics as one of our core tenets). Locks and physical security are things that affect us every day, but very few people really understand.


Lockpicking tends to be aligned with the Maker/Hacker culture. People want to understand the things in their daily life. To some, that means taking those things apart and learning what's inside them.


For lockpickers, it means taking a lock you know nothing about, and from the outside understanding the internals. Locks are a puzzle in the open. Everyone sees them, everyone knows that when you put the right key into a lock and turn, the lock opens. Very few understand the built-in vulnerabilities of locks, and how they can be defeated.

For others, it may mean making a model rocket with a camera attached to it. It may mean using a 3D printer to make something for a project (or for fun). It may mean subscribing to MAKE magazine and trying out one of the myriad number of cool projects they have available. It may mean stopping by your local makerspace or hackerspace to help tackle that project you have been putting off.

Whatever your reason for giving into the maker/hacker spirit, those of us with kids have an amazing opportunity. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is getting more popular, and what better way to help your little hacker/maker than with projects at home. Not only are you exposing your kids to STEM, you're spending quality time together.

That quality time may be in your backyard building something, or it may be at your local makerspace on a 3D printer, or it may be at a local TOOOL (or other locksport group) meeting, or it could be at local Maker Faire. This weekend is the NYC World Maker Faire (which I will be at, unfortunately without my family). Last month we were in Dover, NH. Next weekend we'll be in Lewiston-Auburn, ME. There are Mini Maker Faires throughout the world.


makerfaire.gif

There are so many great opportunities to get out there, take things apart, put things together (hopefully working correctly), and learn to do something. Why not take your kids with you? I had minimal exposure to things like this while I was growing up. I hope that exposing my kids to these things, and keeping them interested in STEM, will help them in their growth both physically and mentally.

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I've Been Busy

As you've probably noticed, I haven't posted anything in a while. If you've got twins and a job, you can imagine what it's like. I wake up at 4:30, get on the road by 5:30, to be at work from 6:30 to 3. I drive home for 4, then get to spend a few happy hours with my wife and kids.

By the time the weekend comes around, we try to fit in maximum awesomeness. This leaves minimal time for blogging. I'll get back to it soon, and put out more fantastic content soon.

An Online Event Like You’ve Never Seen Before: The Ickies!

What happens when you combine $2,500 in Twitter party prizes, a custom movie poster grand prize giveaway AND audience-driven nearly-live improv comedy hosted by former SNL cast member, Rachel Dratch, for four hours? The epic Clorox Ick Awards is what happens! 

Clorox has teamed with How to Be a Dad and MomSpark to create the "Ick Awards!" 

We’re randomly giving out $2,500 in prizes, all you need to do is RSVP (using the Your Movie form below) and then participate in the event on April 9th with your Twitter account for chances to win. In the first hour, we’ll be giving out $100 good-anywhere gift cards every ten minutes!

For the Movie Poster Grand Prize, if you win you’ll get $100 and custom-created artwork of a movie poster featuring YOU and your chosen movie genre.

How it Works

What will you need?

1. A Twitter account and an internet connection and a pulse.
2. The ability to spend money, should you win one of the random prizes!
3. You’ll also need to RSVP. Use this Rafflecopter entry form right below.

Your Formal Invite to the
#Ickies Twitter Event

When: Wednesday, April 9th from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. ET / 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. PT
Where: Follow the hashtag #Ickies on Twitter
Or use the handy dandy Clorox Ick Awards page on Nestivity.
How: To participate, follow the party tag #Ickies during the hour. When you chat with us, make sure to use the hashtag. Make sure you also follow us at (@HowToBeADad), and MomSpark (@MomSpark)
PRIZES: We will be giving away $100 every ten minutes during the first hour and $2500 in prizes during the event! Don’t forget the grand prize: custom-created movie poster art of YOU!

Disclosure: I was compensated by Life of Dad, LLC for this partnership

Back in the gym, as a family

A few months ago, I wrote about how I had finally gotten back in the gym. Unfortunately, I only made it a few months before my time crunch of a schedule made it practically impossible. I was going to the gym at work during lunch, but it was cutting into my "working" time while at work. I could go before work, but that would mean waking up before 4 AM. I could go after work, but that would mean less time with my wife and kids after spending all day away. This week, we changed that. And by we, I mean my wife and I. We became members of our local YMCA. One factor made us choose the Y over other gyms, and it wasn't price. I'll admit that we pay a little more for the Y over other gyms, but it comes with one key feature that other gyms in our area don't have..

Since we have 3 young kids, we had two choices. Either we have to go to the gym in shifts, and lose the motivation that having your spouse there with you would provide, or we find a gym with childcare. The YMCA was option 2. This way, we're able to bring our kids to somewhere trusted, and be only a few rooms away while we're able to workout together.

We can bring them to the pool, teach them how to swim, and show them that we are doing something to stay healthy and active. This will hopefully get the kids involved in physical fitness, and help fight off the childhood obesity that's rampant in the US.

This is the re-start of our journey to be more healthy, physically, mentally, and financially. We're going to eat, as much as possible, food that is natural, organic or local. We're going to fix our credit and finances so we can buy a house in the next year. We are going to make our life, and the life of our kids, better.

Teaching Our Kids Science

P_Science

As our kids get older, I start thinking about the fact that the twins will be going to kindergarten soon. This means that they will be involved in a real, structured education system. And I'm excited. Math, science, language, and more. While I admittedly didn't apply myself during my high school years as much as I should have (who knows what life might be like if I had), I hope to inspire the kids to do the opposite. It also means that I can get involved with all the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects that I remember from my youth.

Hopefully my involvement will help inspire them to get more involved in one of the STEM fields, and be able to apply that as they get older. I was a huge fan of space and model rockets when I was growing up, but unfortunately I lost focus on that as the years went on. While I'm involved in computers professionally now, it's a field I only really started to embrace as an adult.

There are so many great opportunities in the STEM fields, and I hope that the connections I have made as an adult will allow me to expose the kids to those things. Whether they choose to get involved in the puzzle that is lockpicking (which I'm sure they will), or start ripping electronics apart to understand how they work, or in 3D printing, or in the maker community, my wife and I will be there. Answering questions, giving advice, and, most importantly, not giving up.

There are so many incredible opportunities available for the kids of this generation, and I can't wait to expose our kids to them. Hopefully we can help our kids keep reaching for the stars, always trying to improve.

Also, it's just as important for me to teach our daughter that these same opportunities exist for her. She's not stuck in the typical "female jobs," but can be a scientist, or an engineer, or involved in mathematics. I plan to expose her to the same things that I expose the twins to. It will definitely be harder, but the "girl toys" are starting to make the change. Just look at "Computer Engineer Barbie", who is definitely involved in STEM.

I may not know the answer to the math problems they bring home, but I'll do my best to understand it and help them understand it. I may not know exactly where a wire or connector goes, but together we can figure it out. I may not know how to turn the thing you're imagining into a 3D printed model, but we'll figure it out together.

When we give our kids the opportunities to be life-long learners, they'll hopefully grab a hold and take actions. There are so many possibilities for our children's generation, and it's our responsibility to help them along which ever path they choose.

science_bitchEdit: If you're looking for a great book about science experiments you can do with your kids, look no further than Mike Adamick's upcoming "Dad's Book of Awesome Science Experiments" which is live today in Kindle version, and in physical copy on 4/18 on Amazon.

Oh The Places I've Been

Oh,_the_Places_You'll_Go

As you've probably (hopefully) noticed, I haven't posted in a little while. Turns out that parenting, while working an hour away from home, means you don't have a lot of free time. Add in my beer blog (www.tomshouseofbeer.wordpress.com)/FB page (https://www.facebook.com/TomsBeerHouse), lockpicking (https://www.facebook.com/tooolpwm?ref=hl), snow (oh my hell, there's been so much snow in Maine this year), and this plague that's been going around (one of the twins ended up admitted to the hospital for 2 days with pneumonia), and before you know it, you have a couple of hours a day of personal time. Hopefully things start to smooth out soon, and I'll get more posts up.

On a related note, this sickness is the worst. I can handle normal sick kids, but adding in pneumonia makes it a thousand times worse. We knew he wasn't doing great, but this was awful. All of a sudden, I was glad I had sick days. I stayed home for a few days, so my wife could be at the hospital with our sick one, and I could get the other twin to preschool. Of course, the day our sick kid is better and able to come home, I get to stay home because the base is closed (another snow storm).

When it comes to the beer world, I've been slowly getting more involved, as free time allows. I missed out on Portsmouth Beer Week 2014 because I just didn't have the free time to get out to one of the events.

In the lockpicking world, we've had some good events. We went back to Portland (Maine) for the first time since last summer, and got a good draw. This might just mean that we'll be making trips back to Portland every few months for meetings. Hopefully we'll have some more people showing up, since we stopped meetings there due to low turnout.

Finally, the kids are getting so damn big. They all have a birthday this summer. The twins turn 5, the "and then" turns 3. That means that this fall we'll have kindergarteners. When did they get so big? I remember the twins in the NICU, weighing only a couple of pounds, and "and then" being a chubby little baby (now she's just a chubby toddler. Time really does fly. You blink and your kids are suddenly entirely too big.

So, what's been up with you?