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THE ROCK FATHER: THE POP CULTURE MAGAZINE FOR FAMILIES THAT ROCK.

Beyond DUPLO: Building New Worlds with LEGO JUNIORS #LEGOJuniorMakers

When it comes to toys, the name LEGO easily stands as one of the most iconic - a name that most would include in a count-on-one-hand list of the must-have toys that every kid should own. LEGO transcends generations, making those perfect little bricks not just great for kids, but for grownups, too (or "kids" of all ages) - capturing the imagination at a young age, fostering creativity and inspiring Makers for countless builds to come. Now comes LEGO JUNIORS, a new line of building sets that help bridge the gap between the DUPLO (for kids 1½-5) and the traditional LEGO realm by presenting kids ages 4-7 with easy-to-build models and simple instructions that can be created with minimal (or no!) help from parents, letting little Makers build something else: confidence.

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Cleveland Rocks: A Visit to The Step2 Company (and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)! #RockFatherTour

THE ROCK FATHER is a 2014 Step2 Brand AmbassadorI didn't realize it until recently, but in 2014, I have already logged more travel miles and visited more cool locales than in any other year in the 37-ish that I've been roaming the planet Earth. Thing is, I'm not done yet - and as I type these virtual words to appear on your computer/device screen, there's other adventures already on the books for the four months ahead. The most recent journey on my 2014 #RockFatherTour was a special one, and a trip that was a little bit different than most - an adventure back to Northeastern Ohio, staying in Cleveland and spending some time in the neighboring town of Streetsboro - home of The Step2 Company, who I've been working with for nearly two years - first as a "Test Driver," and most recently, as one of 10 paid Brand Ambassadors. Along with five fellow Ambassadors (a few couldn't make it this time around), this was our first time working with Step2 in-person, taking meetings and going hands-on with some of the latest products (for kids and grownups!) that are hitting the market now, and all the way into Fall of 2015. If you've ever wondered "Where the Toys Come From," I have your answer...

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Contigo West Loop: How Do You Improve on Perfection? #BestGotBetter

For over a year, I've been singing the praises of Contigo and their crazy-good line of travel mugs and water bottles. As an on-the-go Dad with two little girls, there's a pretty good chance that we're rockin' some Contigo products whenever we're out and about. I'm a big coffee guy (I tend to mention that), and one of my personal favorites has been the AUTOSEAL West Loop (yes, named after a geographic region of Chicago) Stainless Travel Mug. It's always been the best spill-proof mug out there, but how can you improve on perfection? Well, the best got better, and Contigo just proved that. The secret is in the lid.

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The Hot Wheels Monster Jam Halloween Grave Digger is Coming!

Halloween 2014Yes, it's still technically summer, but as you may have heard me mention a time or two in the past, when it comes to Fall and/or Halloween, you can never be too early in talking about it - only too late.  With just a hair over two months until the big day, the Halloween news has begun flowing, and tonight I've got details on a cool little item from the Mattel Hot Wheels Monster Jam collection. For the first time ever, there is a Halloween Edition 1:64-scale diecast version of Grave Digger being offered, but it's exclusively available through Feld Motorsports' official Monster Jam Superstore. Check it out below, right here on THE ROCK FATHER...

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Kindie Scene 6: Lori Henriques, The Twigs, Zee Avi, Stacey Peasley, Bari Koral and Joanie Leeds

Rock Father-Approved!A few times a year, I pull back and look at just how much new family music is coming across my desk here at Rock Father HQ - not only physical CDs (which still prevail in the kids and family realm), but also digital albums. The pile is never-ending, and that's one of the reasons why I've started the Kindie Scene 6 column - a quick look at six albums that are available for your enjoyment right now. This week, I'm highlighting four recent releases along with two that technically came out last year - all of which are worth your time. It's sort of a "Women Who Rock Edition," so let's take that theme and roll with it. Also, this time around, all six albums are Rock Father-approved!

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Local: WTTW Readers are Leaders Tour returns to Gurnee Mills with MISS LORI and ARTHUR...

Gurnee MillsFor my local friends in Lake County, Illinois - mark your calendars, because the WTTW Readers are Leaders Tour is returning to Gurnee Mills. On Saturday, September 6, kids and grownups alike can spend the morning singing, dancing and enjoying story time with a live performance from Miss Lori's CAMPUS and a special appearance by ARTHUR. This FREE event starts at 10:30am at the Lake County Food Court in the Macy's full-priced wing. The first 200 children in attendance will receive a free children’s book.

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Giveaway: Win a WILD KRATTS Toys Prize Pack!

PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent)Animal and adventure-loving kids that are fans of WILD KRATTS on PBS KIDS can now bring the fun home like never before with an all-new line of toys from Wicked Cool. Available online from the Wild Kratts Shop and in-stores at Toys "R" Us, the Wild Kratts collection features action figures, plush and more, and to kick things off, the Kratt Brothers, Wicked Cool Toys and THE ROCK FATHER are going to get one lucky reader set up with a WILD KRATTS PRIZE PACK including a Wild Kratts 4PK Figure Set, one Wild Kratts Wildlife Plush and the Wild Kratts book, “Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales and Dolphins!” from Random House. Check out the details and enter for your chance below!

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Giveaway: Win the Step2 Thomas the Tank Engine Toddler Bed!

THE ROCK FATHER is a Step2 Brand AmbassadorAs part of my gig as Step2 Brand Ambassador, I recently took a trip to Step2 HQ in Ohio to take a peek at some of the latest toys and accessories that are at or headed to retail very soon (more on that shortly). In fact, my kids and I get to check out a lot of great new toys from Step2 (here's the latest) and while we won't be bringing this one home, I know a lot of families our there with a little conductor that would just love to ride the rails of the Isle of Sodor in their dreams with a Step2 Thomas the Tank Engine™ Toddler Bed™ . My friends and fellow Step2 Ambassadors Thrifty Nifty Mommy and Viva Veltoro have teamed-up to host a giveaway for the Thomas the Tank Engine™ Toddler Bed™, and now THE ROCK FATHER is in on the action, sharing your chance to win one of these cool beds below! 

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Review: LITE-BRITE Gets an Upgrade for 2014 with the Magic Screen...

About a year ago, my girls got their first LITE-BRITE, which on the surface, I would've called "an upgrade" from the classic toy that Hasbro has been marketing in one form or another since 1967, if only because it borrowed styling from the iPad and called itself the "Lite-Brite LED Flatscreen." Thing is, while the nostalgia factor was certainly there, the version was clumsy, not as bright as it's old-school counterpart (remember the, big hot light bulb inside?), and the pegs were meant to fit within a flip-open storage tray at the bottom of the unit... one that didn't really fit all the included pegs, and to be stored in it's box, had to be folded flat - thus dumping the pegs. There were design issues (Amazon reviews have not been kind), but at it's core was the peg fun that generations have enjoyed, complete with black paper designs that were essentially use-once-then-toss, but as in the past - we kept them and made them work more than once. Fast-forward a year and the Lite-Brite has received a true upgrade, and what it appears to have taken is some fresh eyes on the project, these courtesy of Basic Fun, who have licensed the Lite-Brite brand from Hasbro and have run with it, sending us for review their first incarnation - The LITE-BRITE MAGIC SCREEN.

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LANA DEL REY gets Lullabied by Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star...

Fans of LANA DEL REY have three new ways to experience her music this week, as the crew at Roma Music Group have just released a trio of new tributes to the talked-about songstress, starting with LULLABY VERSIONS OF LANA DEL REY (Amazon | iTunes) as part of their popular TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE ROCK STAR series of baby-friendly nursery jams based on 14 of Lana's biggest hits and fan favorites. Check out "Summertime Sadness" and the full tracklisting below, right here on THE ROCK FATHER.

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The Great American Road Trip: The J.M. Smucker Company Store and Cafe

Regular readers of THE ROCK FATHER know that I'm a big fan of The J.M Smucker Company. Smucker's is an American tradition, so when I had a chance to visit their headquarters in Orrville, Ohio last Fall for their Holiday Traditions gathering, I jumped at it. While I had a great time and learned a lot (want a killer Brussels Sprouts recipe?), I couldn't help thinking that my family would like to visit there as well, so on our first-ever Great American Road Trip series, I took my wife and daughters to The J.M. Smucker Company Store and Cafe for a late lunch and a little bit of shopping as we made our way back to Illinois last month.

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Review: Ravensburger PLANES FIRE & RESCUE "Real Rescue Planes" Puzzle Set

In all the time that I've been doing THE ROCK FATHER, my little ones and I have never reviewed a puzzle. On the surface, the reason might be along the lines of what you might be thinking right now - "Why would you review a puzzle? - It's a puzzle!" But, the thing is, I don't believe that I've ever owned a Ravensburger Puzzle, and up until last week, I didn't know just how profoundly different the quality of a puzzle could be.

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Back-to-School with RUUM American Kid's Wear #GurneeBTS #Ruum4Fall

Shop RUUM American Kid's WearWhen I last checked-in from our Back-to-School shopping adventure at Gurnee Mills, there was one store left that I wanted to hit - one that's been a staple of my seasonal fashion coverage for kids for over a year now, RUUM American Kid's Wear. What's become crystal clear over the past year is that we have one very fickle young fashionista in five-year-old Addie, who will quickly accept or reject an outfit or item (even ones that Daddy and Mommy really like), but 2-year-old Finley is a little more easy-going, at least for now. With new Fall collections (including Modern Rocker, Woodland and Back to School) in-stores and online at RUUM.com, the folks at RUUM invited us into their store to grab a few more outfits for the girls, and with $100 in Gift Cards and some additional cash from The Rock Father, here's what went down...

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THE ROCK FATHER is proud to work with the following Companies, Allies and Organizations:

PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) Blogger The Rock Father is a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew The Rock Father is a 2014 Step2 Ambassador! Toy State Test Driver The Rock Father is a Weave Made Media Influencer2014 Fox Home Entertainment Insider - Blogger of the Month NETFLIX Stream Team - 2014 member Life of Dad Social Fabric USFGmemberbadge

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