Sure, keeping your kids active is the key to their long-term health. It’s also the key to keeping my sanity, because when my kids don’t get enough exercise, their behavior pretty much goes down the toilet.
Basically, all four of my kids are like labrador retrievers. For best behavior and optimum happiness, they need to be “run” an hour a day.
Here are the top 12 active and sports toys I found at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. I’ve included a mix of indoor activities and outdoor activities, and toys for a range of ages.
I’m pretty sure all these toys and games will be fun for parents, too. Remember, the family that plays together, stays together. And the family that sweats together…well, at least you won’t notice how much you all stink.
Top Picks for 2013: Best New Active & Sports Toys 1 of 13My fave finds to get kids (and parents) moving, from the American International Toy Fair!
Squidgie Ball 2 of 13This cool item comes from Aerobie, which is best known for its high-performance flying discs. The rep at the Toy Fair told me that so many adults asked, "but what does it do?" that they had to start printing instructions on the packaging: "Throw it! Catch it! Squeeze it! It floats!"
Silly grown-ups. Kids will know immediately why this unique ball is so awesome: with its soft, rubbery grip and lightweight, odd design, it's perfect for playing catch. Even little ones will want to play, because it won't hurt at all if you accidentally catch it with your face. It's also a stellar "fidget toy" for kids with ADHD.
Why I Picked It: I brought home a sample to my kids, and they LOVE it. The texture of this thing is just irresistible. I've already ordered three more so they can each have their own. My daughter with ADHD is now using our original to squeeze and flex during homework time.
Age 3 and up. Available at many sporting goods stores and also online from Amazon, $7.40. (You may find it for closer to $5 in stores.)
Nerf Cyber Hoop 3 of 13Download the Cyber Hoop app to your iDevice, and turn your living room into a sports arena. You'll see your score, your action and replays, and hear commentary, just like a professional game. The app also tracks your stats.
Why I Picked It: This is a really smart use of technology, actually utilizing iPhone/iPad apps in a way that genuinely enhance the game. A lot of games and toys are coming with "apps" these days, but too often it's just an unnecessary gimmick. This one works, works well, and makes playing indoor hoops super fun. Bonus: the app also lets you play in real time with friends who also have the device.
Age 8 and up. Available Fall 2013 from Hasbro, $19.99. The app will be exclusive to the App Store, and will be free with the purchase of game.
ChalkTrail 4 of 13Attaching this cool chalk device to a bike of any size requires no tools, and even your kid can do it. Seriously. A great option to make biking even more fun (or to motivate a kid who's a little too addicted to "Draw This" to get up and go play outside), ChalkTrail leaves, well, a trail of chalk behind your bike. A ChalkTrail for scooters is also coming soon.
Why I Picked It: Arts and crafts and being active? Sign me (and my kids) up.
Fits any size bike. Age . Available at Fat Brain Toys, $19.99.
Gibbon Slackline 5 of 13You know what your backyard needs? A tightrope. More specifically, a slackline. Originating in the climbing world, slacklining has evolved into a cross trainer, backyard activity and sport all of its own. Read more about it at Gibbon's super-helpful website.
Why I Picked It: So fun, your kids won't realize how much they're working their core strength and balance.
Available from Gibbon, $74.99 for this configuration.
Nerf Rebelle: Heartbreaker Bow 6 of 13Nerf's new line of toys marketed specifically to girls, Rebelle, is obviously capitalizing on the archery trend inspired by The Hunger Games and Brave. What I like about the line is that in taking input from thousands of girls, Nerf put together something that is genuinely appealing in terms of both design and quality. My favorite item from Rebelle line, this Heartbreaker Bow, shoots foam darts, not arrows. I was really impressed with the performance of this toy: darts fly up to 75 feet, and the bow is surprisingly accurate.
Why I Picked It: Say what you will about pink and purple, but this is not a dumbed-down toy, nor is it a "boy's" toy with some glitter slapped on. The performance was impressive, and if the packaging gets more girls to play outside, then I'm all for it. Props to Nerf for making this bow so high-quality. Super-fun and weirdly empowering to play with.
Ages 8 and up. Available from Nerf in Fall 2013, $19.99.
Nerf Firevision Football 7 of 13Nerf Firevision brings innovative Microprism technology to let you keep playing football, basketball, or simply catch with a flying disc or a bouncy ball, even after it gets dark out. One note: if you're not wearing the Firevision Frames, chances are you won't see the ball or disc coming atcha once it gets dark out. So you should either go inside, or put on a pair of frames yourself and get in the game.
Why I Picked It: Great especially for older kids who are allowed to keep playing outside even after the sun goes down, I chose this toy because of the novel lighting. It's great for those super-active kids who don't want to stop playing ever, but I suspect it might also be just cool enough to get couch potatoes outside to play.
Age 6 and up. Available at Hasbro, $19.99. Other sports sets available; additional pairs of frames available individually as well.
Super Soaker Arctic Shock 8 of 13Does your kid need a little pep in his step? Nothing gets a child moving like being chased by a mom armed with an ice-cold water blaster. The newest Super Soaker has a wide mouth 25 fluid ounce clip that can fit ice cubes, which strikes me as both devious and brilliant at the same time.
Why I Picked It: Dude, we don't have a pool. It gets hot here and I'm only going to run the sprinkler for but so many hours a day.
Available from Nerf Super Soaker in Spring 2013, $19.99.
Old School ‘Flick It’ Football 9 of 13Okay, you're probably not going to work up a sweat with this toy, but it's great, simple fun. Desk football, desk hockey, and desk soccer are just as popular today as they were when we were kids. (So popular that my 6th grade daughters' science teacher just banned them.) FIKI takes flick-it football to the next level of coolness with officially licensed NFL and collegiate themes. This game is a great choice for those of us parents who enjoy indoctrinating our kids to root for our favorite teams. (Feel free to teach them your school's fight song while playing, by the way.) I brought home a UConn set for my husband, and it's a new favorite activity before bed for our six-year-old son to play with Daddy. It's definitely not just a "boy's toy," though; our daughters enjoy it just as much.
Why I Picked It: Sure, you could still fold up some notebook paper into a triangle, but this game is well-priced, and a great prompt for one-on-one time with your kid. If you're not looking for a specific NFL or NCAA team, the "Old School" version, which looks just like notebook paper, is perfection.
Available at FIKI Sports, $9.95.
Pocket Disc 10 of 13I love absolutely everything about this brightly-colored flying disc. They're fun, soft, easy to throw and catch, and fly really far. Also, the people that bring us Pocket Discs are committed to fair trade and creating minimal impact on the environment. The 100% cotton discs are handmade by indigenous artisans in Guatemala. They're available in the Indoor Edition, the heavier-weight (and farther-flying) Sports Edition, and a nighttime version called Luna Disc, that contains LED lights.
Why I Picked It: A great choice for older kids due to the high performance, but also great for little kids because it's so soft. This is the only thing I've ever handed to my kids and said, "here, you can throw this around inside the house."
Available from Pocket Disc, $9.99 for the Indoor Edition; $16.95 for the Sports Edition, $24.95 for the LunaDisc.
Twister Dance Rave Game 11 of 13A fun, modern take on Twister, the Twister Dance Rave lets kids learn dances and show off their moves. Songs from popular artists are included, but you can also plug your own mp3 player into the console. Follow the lights and the beat, stepping on the iconic Twister spots (not a mat) in head-to-head or freestyle play.
Why I Picked It: I love that you can plug your own mp3 player into the console. I can see this being a huge hit with my 11-year-old daughters and their friends, and would be great for parties, playdates, and any time your kids need to burn off some energy indoors.
Age 8 and up. Available Fall 2013 from Hasbro, $34.99.
Twister Rave Ringz 12 of 13I'm not sure if hand-clapping games are back, or if they never left, but it's a thing. I taught my daughters a bunch from my childhood, and they've picked up new ones at recess to show me. Add a little zing to your clapping games with these cute sound-activated rings. Light changes color as you twist, snap, and clap.
Why I Picked It: With instructions for 20 different hand-clapping games included, these rings also can be used for solo games when there's no one around to play with!
Age 8 and up. Available in purple, yellow, black, and electric blue, from Hasbro, $7.99 for a set of two rings
Flip 2 B Fit Game 13 of 13Developed by a mom with input from experts, Flip 2 B Fit is an award-winning board game where kids and parents can try yoga poses, learn about healthy and unhealthy choices, and get moving, in a really fun way. The game doesn't aim for perfection; you don't score points by doing a stretch perfectly, for example. The point is to try it. As kids ove around the board while stretching, jumping, and twisting, they won't even notice that they're building strength, working on cardio, and developing flexibility.
Why I Picked It: I love that the game emphasizes just doing your best and trying the moves. I personally know kids that are so afraid of being mocked for doing something sporty the "wrong way," that they just never want to do anything. This is a great choice for families that are already active, and families that are looking to boost their fitness in a fun way. I can also see this being a great fit in classrooms!
For two to four players, or teams. Age 6 and up. Available at Flip 2 B Fit, $34.95.