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Album Book for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Philadelphia Chickens

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This is a unique book. Sandra Boynton (most famous for desktop calendars and coffee mugs with phrases such as “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down”) wrote a musical and got performers (Kevin Bacon, Eric Stoltz, Meryl Streep, etc.) to sing the songs on the included CD.

The CD is about 48 minutes long and includes 20 songs. The book includes illustrations and lyrics in the first half, and sheet music for all songs in the second half. A younger child can listen to the songs while following along in the book, and an older child can try to play along using the sheet music.

The inclusion of celebrities on the recordings will not appeal to kids, but it’s fun for adults to hear the actor Scott Bakula sing about Pig Island:

The only way to get there is by Piggy Express — You’ve got to close your eyes and then whisper, “OOO, YES!”

The music itself is not remarkable. The melodies are not memorable enough to have you humming them afterward. The fun is in the words and the pictures.

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for 3-year-olds for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Video

Backyardigans

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This is a Nick Jr. cartoon that was very popular with our kids. The music is particularly good.

5 animal friends play together with a different theme (Egypt, under-the-sea, space, cowboy, etc.) each episode. The friends take turns being the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ and the overall tone is very kind and gentle.

It ran from 2004 to 2010 with a total of 80 episodes.

You can watch for free at NickJr.com if you have a cable tv account, and it’s available on amazon’s streaming video service as well. (And they’re all on YouTube too, although you may have to hunt for them.)

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for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Game

Robot Turtles board game

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This is a clever game that got a lot of media attention when it came out, touting its ability to teach STEM concepts, specifically logical thinking.

The box says for ages 4 and up but I don’t think 4-year-olds are able to grasp all the rules of the game, which are a bit complicated even for me. However, once we laid out all the pieces, we came up with all sorts of new games to play and had quite a lot of fun building ‘snow forts’ and taking turns trying to move the ‘lasers’ around in order to melt them.

My son got quite obsessed with the game in fact, even though we had yet to actually play it according to the official rules, and every day for about a week he wanted to play again, until he eventually got tired of it. It sits prominently on a shelf in the living room and we’ll get it down again soon. The reason we haven’t yet is because the rules are complex enough that an adult has to sit with the kids and walk them through each step.

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for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Magazine

LEGO Life magazine

LEGO has a free magazine that comes out 5 times per year.

In some ways the thing is one huge ad, but the puzzles and activities (mazes, code-breaking, etc.) are pretty fun and our 6-year-old looks forward to it coming in the mail.

The cost is free, but you do have to sign up for a Lego ID, which means giving your email address.

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for 10-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Magazine

Ask magazine

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I had never heard of Ask until we got it as a gift. It’s somewhat in the same vein as Ranger Rick, but with a much snarkier tone. There is Marvin, a raccoon character in Ask, but unlike Rick, Marvin is a bit of a jerk.

There are no ads and each issue is a mix of long-form articles and comics.

What is most striking about Ask is the articles are quite deep and detailed. Articles on candy, or explosions, or glass get into the chemistry and physics of the subject with much more detail than is found in most media aimed at adults.

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for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 3-year-olds for 4-year-olds for 5-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds Video

Wallace and Gromit

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I remember seeing “A Grand Day Out” at an animation festival around 1990, and then seeing “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” a few years later. I was so thrilled by them (not least by the incredible chase scenes toward the end of ‘Trousers’ and ‘Shave’) that I seriously considered animation as a career.

Our kids love these, in particular the first one, “A Grand day Out” in which Wallace and Gromit build a rocket to visit the Moon. We’ve tried to show them more recent Wallace and Gromit adventures such as “A Matter of Loaf and Death” and “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” but they found them to be a bit too scary.

The themes are very much G-rated and are hilarious for both kids and adults.

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Book for 10-year-olds for 11-year-olds for 12-year-olds for 6-year-olds for 7-year-olds for 8-year-olds for 9-year-olds

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

 

Calvin and Hobbes ran as a daily newspaper comic strip from November 1985 and November 1995. It was an essential part of my childhood and manages to resonate with children and adults today.

Watterson did not have children during the time he was writing the strip, yet showed real insight into the dynamic between an active child and his exhausted parents.

There are several collections of the strip available.

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