Spring is in the air, so let's get outside and start having fun!
Base Camp Shelter (Backyard Safari Outfitters)
Journeys - whether they're a thousand miles or just out to the backyard - start with a single step. But before you start stepping, you need to plan out where you're going to rest along the way. The Base Camp Shelter is a 3-sided tent, which means you won't want to use it in the rain. However, it's perfect for fair-weather overnights, rest stops, shade at the beach or as a place to observe birds, bugs, and other natural wonders. It has a zippered rear window, moisture-proof floor lining, mesh storage pouches that you can fill with healthy snacks for your weary adventurers and D rings for hanging lanterns and other gear. It's also light, extremely compact, easy to carry, and sets up in minutes, thereby removing many of the obstacles that keep kids from enjoying being outside and encouraging them to get out and start having adventures. Ages 5+. About $50. http://www.backyardsafari.com/
Star Wars Jedi telescope (Uncle Milton)
Star gazing is a classic parent-child activity, one that can spark an interest in ancient mythology and/or science. There's plenty to see with the naked eye, but a telescope can make the whole experience a lot more fun - and educational - for everyone. The Jedi telescope works like a real telescope, allowing a closer look at the moon, stars, planets and other celestial objects. When you and your child get tired of seeing things the way they are, you can always explore that famous galaxy far, far away. The Jedi telescope has 10 Star Wars-related images built in, including planets such as Tatooine, Dagobah and Kamino, and even the Death Star. Ages 5+. $22. http://unclemilton.com/star_wars_science/
Walkie Talkies (Backyard Safari Outfitters)
Communicating with basecamp is an important part of any outdoor adventure. And with its two-mile range, you can give the kids some freedom to explore without losing contact. These walkies come two in a pack and include basic instructions and an adventure guide, but not the 8 AAA batteries you'll need. They're easy to use and the sounds quality is good - as long as you're in an open area where there's not too much to interfere with the signal. Perhaps the nicest thing about these walkies is that they allow you to communicate with your child the old fashioned way: using words. No texts, no apps, no data plan required. $30. Ages 6+. http://www.backyardsafari.com/
Little Scholar tablet (School Zone)
When the adventure is over, it's time to get back to the real world. And the Little Scholar tablet can help with that transition. Made by School Zone, which has been manufacturing educational materials and products for more than 35 years, the Little Scholar comes preloaded with 150 apps, e-books, songs and videos, all of which are ready to use right out of the box. The apps are the full versions, which means there's nothing to download and none of those annoying in-app upsells that we've seen in some other tablets. The apps cover a wide range of subjects, including math, spelling and reading in a playful, creative way. Popular titles include the "Start to Read!" E-book series and the "Charlie and Company" video series. The password-protected A+ app is designed for parents, and lets us pick the apps our kids have access to and monitor their progress. Little Scholar runs on Google Android 4.2.2 and has an 8-inch screen with 1024x768 resolution. For kids 3-7 (anyone older than that will want a more adult tablet). $169.99 at online retailers and www.buylittlescholar.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/ .