The Dad

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This Is the Ultimate DC Extended Universe Chronological Timeline

dc movies in order
(Warner Bros.)

For decades, DC made money off all forms of Superman and Batman. Each superhero had his own television show(s) and a slew of movies. While the ultra-good Superman didn’t make much of an appearance in the early aughts (other than on Smallville), the brooding Batman reigned supreme. No matter the legendary actor who portrayed him, Batman was a blockbuster. With the likes of Penguin and Riddler, he’s had some seriously memorable villains. And let’s not forget the Dark Knight films that offered a particularly dark but enchanting look at Bruce Wayne’s most notorious enemy, The Joker.

Then came the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). With the rise of Ironman and the rest of the Avengers, Batman suddenly didn’t have the same draw. After all, who can compete with Thor? Even Superman isn’t worthy. DC needed to find a way to compete with the MCU and with the end of Marvel’s “Phase 1” in sight, DC jumped at the chance. Enter the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Playing off MCU’s lead, it was supposed to be a series of DC Character-led films all connected, full of callbacks and easter eggs. Sadly, it quickly jumped the tracks. (Or the shark, depending on how strongly you feel about the DCEU.)

There is an order to the DCEU films, though, and following it can make them more enjoyable. If you want to watch them in chronological order, so the flashbacks and callbacks make the most sense, here’s how…

DC Movies In Chronological Order

Wonder Woman

First, there’s the Wonder Woman flashback to Zeus’ creation of the Amazon women and their homeland, Themyscira. After all, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is Amazonian. The rest of the movie’s plot line takes place around World War I, when Captain Steve Trevor accidentally finds his way to Themyscira and is thus followed back to London by Diana/Wonder Woman, where she takes an active role in fighting alongside Allied Forces.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel was technically the first to be released within the timeline, even though the events within the movie all happen after Wonder Woman. Most of the film takes place in present-day (-ish), around 2013 with Superman (Henry Cavill) in his mid-to-late twenties. There are several “flashbacks,” however. The film shows the destruction on Krypton, Kal-El’s home planet, as well as his life as a child growing up in Kansas, as Clark Kent.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The vast majority of Batman v. Superman takes place about a year and a half after the events of Man of Steel. The film largely centers on Batman/Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) grudge against Superman because of the events of Man of Steel, so you’ll see flashbacks of that destruction, as well as looks at Bruce’s childhood in the ‘80s. So, still clearly after Wonder Woman.

Suicide Squad

Nearly all of the film’s events take place about 12 months after the events in Batman v Superman. How do we know? The biggest factor is that the death of Superman is brought up in the film. We also witness Bruce/Batman taking a step back and handing over the Justice League reins to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). All clearly signs that time has passed.

Justice League

Justice League pushes the story further into the present, starting about a year after everything that goes down in Suicide Squad. That said, there’s a pretty cool flashback to the fight against Steppenwolf (the supervillain, not the band) that took place in the days of Atlantis and Olympus, thousands of years prior.

Aquaman

Technically, you don’t need to have seen any of the other DC movies in order to watch Aquaman, enjoy Jason Mamoa’s acting and still get the gist of the film. It does, however, take place some time after Justice League. (It also includes gloriously ‘80s flashbacks for a look at Aquaman’s origins.)

Shazam!

Did anyone even watch Shazam!? We won’t judge you if you skipped this one. For the record, though, almost all of the movie takes place over 2018’s holiday season.

Birds of Prey

As previously mentioned, this is where the DC franchise has started to unravel. Birds of Prey. This was the standalone, entirely following Harley Quinn, that fans wanted most. It happens several years after the events of everything in Justice League but pays very little mind to anything Harley did with the Suicide Squad. Hopefully, subsequent movies pull things back together.

DC Movies By Release Date

Man of Steel
June, 2013
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
March, 2016
Suicide Squad
August, 2016
Wonder Woman
June, 2017
Justice League
November, 2017
Aquaman
December, 2018
Shazam!
April, 2019
Birds of Prey
February, 2020

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Why Dads Are Awesome at Playing with Dolls

©2020 Mattel
Post written in partnership with Barbie®

Not all dads grew up playing with dolls, but it’s never too late to start an activity that offers them a chance to bond with their little ones in fun, creative ways that can aid their child’s development. According to an October 2020 study from Cardiff University in collaboration with Barbie®, doll play activates brain regions that allow children to develop social processing skills like empathy. These findings show us that doll play can enable children to rehearse, use and perform these skills, which are not only going to benefit them now, but also helps to set them up for future success. Every parent wants their child to grow up to be the best version of themselves they can be, and it all starts with empathy. By playing with Barbie dolls with their kids, dads can help foster this development in their children and have a whole lot of fun doing it. Let’s take a look at some of the ways dads are amazing at playing with dolls.

You’re Already an Expert

Many dads spent their childhoods involved in the same kind of imaginative play as doll play, just with soldiers, action figures, or miniature cars. Playing dolls with kids uses the same creativity and imagination, and you can even incorporate lasers and dinosaurs.

Fresh Perspectives

You’re never too old to try something new. Playing with your child and Barbie dolls offers dads a fun way to bond and create fun adventures! Go on an intergalactic space journey with mermaid Barbie on her magical DreamCamper™, while making friends with space aliens who only eat marshmallows! Let your imagination run wild, and sit back and observe where your child’s mind goes. This experience gives you a glimpse into how they think, and you’ll create goofy memories that will last a lifetime as your child’s brain enjoys the benefits of doll play.

Teachable Moments

Playtime can be a great way for dads to instill some life lessons in your little one. Ask your child if you can join in and let them take the lead. As you role-play with your assigned Barbie doll, infuse some parenting into doll play. For example, if you and your child are pretending you’re at the beach and it suddenly starts to rain, suggest a fun way to make the most of it! Since doll play can help foster empathy, using dolls to overcome adversity and setbacks can become a valuable tool in your child’s development.

All the Feels

Playing with Barbie dolls can be a great way for kids to express their feelings which is pivotal to developing empathy. Sometimes, it may be challenging for children to verbalize how they’re feeling. However, through doll play, they’re able to act it out and work through the different emotions, allowing you to assist them in the process. By playing together, dads and kids can explore their feelings through role-playing exercises where everyone feels safe and secure.

Exploring New Horizons

Parents desire for their children to grow up in a world built on kindness and compassion, and Barbie dolls can be a great tool to start fostering that from an early age. According to Dr. Sarah Gerson, the neuroscientist who led the study at Cardiff University, “Dolls like Barbie offer a wide expanse of diverse characters and add-ons like professional roles and uniforms (a judge, a football player, or a doll in a wheelchair), that can help children identify with and imagine an infinite range of scenarios.” Introducing new dolls to playtime with different skin tones, genders, and abilities, exposes children at an early age to diversity, and teaches them about inclusivity in an age-appropriate way they can understand. Since doll play activates the brain region related to empathy even when kids play by themselves, dads can help children develop better versions of themselves even when they’re not actively playing together.

Even though some dads might now have grown up playing with dolls, this research shows that it’s never been a better time to start and challenge yourself to something new. By playing with Barbie dolls, you can help your kid develop into an empathetic, kind leader as they grow older.

You can check out more findings from the Cardiff University and Barbie study here.

Study was commissioned by Barbie (2020). Study was conducted with 42 children (20 boys and 22 girls) ages 4-8 years old with full data captured from 33 children.

This post was sponsored by:
Barbie®

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11 Marvel Board Games That Are Perfect For Game Night (With Or Without The Kids)

Marvel Board Games
(Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Family game night is fun. Of course. But, it’s getting a little monotonous, right? You can only play Apples to Apples or Bananagrams so many times — and your partner isn’t keen on letting you teach your ten-year-old how to play Black Ops just yet. What to do? It’s probably time to add some new games into the mix, Pops.

You could go a million different directions when game-buying. There are so many classics you probably haven’t exposed your kids to yet. But, at the end of the day, they’re still the same old games you’ve played for decades. If you’re looking for something new and truly entertaining, try sifting through games inspired by some of your favorite blockbusters or TV shows. There are a ton of Star Wars games, for instance. (Good luck finding some of those original, collectible releases where they didn’t include Rey.) Or, you know, dive into the world of board games inspired by Marvel movies. In some cases, Marvel board games are simply old school games with a Marvel twist. However, they’ve also created some games entirely unique to Marvel. Here’s a look at some of the best we’ve blown through on family game night.

Marvel Board Games
@abcnetwork/Giphy

Marvel Board Games

1. Marvel United

As one of the most popular Marvel board games, Marvel United has players assume the roles of their favorite heroes and then work together to defeat the universe’s most hated villains.

2. Codenames: Marvel Board Games

This is a team game. You’ll be dealt cards with code words on them, and you’ll work together to decipher who each code represents. Your options? Oh, you know, basically everyone in the MCU, including members of Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. Can you get them all right?

3. Avengers Monopoly

We’ve all played Monopoly a million times. And for roughly a billion hours. We can’t promise the Avengers-themed Monopoly will go any faster (you know it won’t). But, when you add in our favorite Marvel heroes and villains, it begins to feel a lot less redundant.

4. Marvel Crisis Protocol

Despite the money involved in some of the deck-building and ball-collecting Marvel games, Crisis Protocol probably feels the most expensive. The core set is about $80. It does, however, come with everything you need to play a truly wild game, complete with a “set” and tons of tiny figurines of the most popular heroes and villains.

5. Legendary Marvel

This deck-building game is the ultimate in nerdy fun. Much like Words With Friends’ seemingly endless expansions, Legendary Marvel has almost as many expansion sets as there are heroes. We like the Venom expansion best, which includes poisoned and venomous villains. It lets you work your way through all the heroes as the bad guys.

6. Marvel Avengers Hero Rush

Hero Rush is for kids six and up, making it perfect for even your littlest Black Panther fan. Hardly any strategy is involved. It’s mostly based on speed and chance. Bigger kids might get a little bored, but it’s a good chance to teach them patience and let “the baby” have some fun.

7. Marvel Champions: The Wrecking Crew

Okay. This is technically a card game. This fantastically fun mission-centric game is family-friendly and meant to be played on a tabletop, so we’ve decided to count it. Can your family of superheroes defeat the wrecking crew? Only one way to find out!

8. Risk: MCU Edition

Have you taught your little monsters the intense joy (and torture) of playing Risk? They might not be stoked on the original history-drenched version. They will, however, eat up this Avengers-filled game of strategy and domination.

9. Marvel Monsters Unleashed

Your bigger kids will genuinely love this strategy game. It features practically all their favorite Marvel heroes and villains, plus a set of monsters created purposely for the game. You’ll work together to demolish some of the fiercest Marvel monsters ever unleashed.

10. Marvel Villainous

Gotta kiddo who roots for the bad guys? They’ll love Marvel Villainous. This strategy game lets players choose between some of Marvel’s most notorious villains (Thanos, Hela, Ultron, Killmonger, or Taskmaster), then work against each other and Marvel heroes to complete their mission.

11. Marvel Battleworld

We’ll say it: Battleworld is a money-grab. In order to best play the game, you have to continue to buy and collect “Battleballs.” Each ball comes with board pieces, dice, and a playing piece. Can it get expensive? Oh, yeah. Really fast. Is it still fun? Also, yes!

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Want To Eat BBQ All Winter Long? Try These Winter Grilling Tips And Flavor Ideas

winter bbq
(Taylor Friehl/Unsplash)

Football is almost over. The leaves are off the trees and (almost) off the lawn. You dug out the kids’ warm clothes from the attic, have Die Hard on loop through the holidays (and beyond?), and have your Marvel movie marathons all lined up and ready to go. What now? It’s winter, my dude. It’s cold, blustery, and gray. For most men, that means it’s time for chili and pot roast, soup, and meatloaf. You know. “Winter food.” But, why? Why can’t we grill and enjoy BBQ in the snow? Why can’t we have “summer food” in January? Guys. We can. We just have to do a little prep.

winter bbq
Giphy

Some Winter BBQ Safety Tips

1. Don’t try to grill inside – even in your garage.

Seriously. Grilling in any enclosed place is a bad idea. You can create carbon monoxide build-up and poison yourself and your family.

2. Dress warm, but not in flammable clothing.

Since you’ll be outside, you’re going to want to be warm. Remember, though, that you’ll be hanging out over an open flame. Wear warm, fitted layers. Make especially sure that your sleeves aren’t too loose or gloves too big. If you’re scratching your head wondering if wool (not really) or polyester (kind of) are flammable then you may need to put more thought into your clothes.

3. Have extra fuel for grilling.

Because you’re competing with colder temperatures (and probably more wind) than you do in the summer, it’s going to be harder to keep your grill temperatures at acceptable levels. To do so will require more fuel. That goes for not just gas but also charcoal, wood, or anything else.

4. Consider a windbreak.

You’ll obviously want to try to avoid grilling in a wind tunnel, as it’ll make it more miserable for you and make you use even more fuel. Try setting up your grill station on the far side of your home, shed or garage so it stops the wind. If you’re really invested in winter grilling, you could consider making a windbreak with PVC pipe and a tarp. Just keep in mind not to get too close to any structure. Even if you don’t set your house/shed/wall on fire, you could still melt or warp siding.

5. Prep inside.

The key to withstanding and enjoying winter grilling? Do as much as safely possible inside the house. In order words: Prep your sauce or rub inside and apply it before you take things outside. If you add more as you go along, have it ready to go. And, for the love, don’t wait until you’re outside to start wrapping or chopping veggies.

The Winter BBQ Menu

With today’s technology, there’s really nothing off-limits or out of season. All those “summer foods” are still sitting at the grocery store, just waiting to be eaten up. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. There are tons of amazing foods with specifically fall and winter flavors. Why not experiment with some “new” flavors when you fire up your grill this winter? Just about any of these can be mixed and matched for a warm, winter-friendly, grill-made meal.

Winter BBQ Meats

Steaks
Chops
Turkey
Venison

Winter BBQ Veggies

Squash
Potatoes
Onions
Carrots
Beets

Grilling Fruit

Apples
Oranges
Pears
Cranberries
Persimmons

BBQ Seasonings

A note about seasonings: You’ll never go wrong with garlic, salt, and pepper and those seasonings are never out of, well, season. There’s something about the seasonings and flavors below, though, that are especially warm and winter-friendly.
Maple
Ginger
Cumin
Paprika
Brown Sugar
Cinnamon

10 Quintessential Songs About Fatherhood

(iTunes)

Sadly, the roller coaster ride of parenting often causes us to lose touch with quality music. We’re too busy. We’re too tired. We’re fine with listening to Raffi’s greatest hits because the kids stay quiet in the car. We’ve got the Paw Patrol theme stuck in our head. Heck, Baby Shark recently became the most played YouTube video ever with 7 billion plays. We must remain vigilant and keep our inner DJs alive. We must replace “Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo-Doo” with quality lyrics as often as possible.

Here’s a list of wonderful songs about fatherhood to help you wage a war against that Peppa Pig theme song you can’t shake.

1. Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder

Far and away the best pop song ever written about the profound joy of seeing your newborn kid for the first time. Catchy as hell, and a testament to both the daddy-daughter relationship and how unparalleled Stevie Wonder’s talent is.

Best lyrics:
Isn’t she pretty?
Truly the angel’s best
Boy, I’m so happy
We have been heaven blessed

2. Show Me The Good Life by Blu & Exile

One of the best tracks from one of the best hip hop albums this side of the millennium. The track covers a lot, from Blu dealing with an unexpected pregnancy to Aloe Blacc running down a list of things he’d wished his dad told him. Doesn’t hurt that the beat is also fresh as hell.

Best lyric:
Trying to hit reset knee deep in debt
Trying to figure how to feed a mouth that ain’t got teeth yet

3. Not All Heroes Wear Capes by Owl City

If you dug “Fireflies” back in 10th grade, you’re sure to dig this sweet and melodic tune about a boy simply revering his dad. The singer celebrates his father’s golden heart, his love of rock ‘n’ roll, and his ability to fix anything.

Best lyric:
He built me a house in the arms of a tree
He taught me to drive and to fight and to dream
When he looks in my eyes, I hope he can see that
My dad’s a hero to me

4. Yesterday by Atmosphere

If the jovial piano beat doesn’t hook you, rapper Slug’s introspective lyrics about his late father, with whom he’s still trying to make amends. Slug also alludes to his own struggles with fatherhood, and his aim to be a better dad than the one he had.

Best lyric:
A whole house full of dreams and steps
I think you’d be impressed with the pieces I kept
You disappeared, but the history is still here
That’s why I try not to cry over spilt beer

5. Glory by Jay-Z

Outside the Royal Family, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s firstborn was probably history’s most highly publicized childbirth. In this charming song from 2012, produced by The Neptunes, Hov speaks on the heartbreak of losing a pregnancy, his relationship with his dad, and his full intent to spoil Blue Ivy, who’s listed as a guest on the track.

Best lyric:
Get ready for part two
A younger, smarter, faster me
So a pinch of Hov, a whole glass of Bey

6. Joy by Talib Kweli ft. Yasiin Bey (Mos Def)

“Joy” is the perfect name for this track in which Talib Kweli recounts the birth of his son, and then immediately follows it up with a verse about the day he first held his daughter. Backed by an uplifting beat, this is the perfect song about the day you become a dad.

Best lyric:
I’m about to be a father, the sights and sounds,
Seem brighter around me
And for starters, I know I’ma work harder

7. Color Him Father by The Winstons

This is a beautiful, touching song about stepdads. The singer talks about “big and strong” man who lived in his house, smiled a lot, and cared for his mom and younger sister. “I think I’ll color this man father,” he says. No, YOU’RE crying.

Best lyric:
He says education is the thing if you want to compete
Because without it son, life ain’t very sweet
I love this man I don’t know why
Except I’ll need his strength till the day that I die

8. Just The Two of Us

You knew this one was coming. In this track that samples the song of the same name by Bill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr., Will recaps that pivotal day in the maternity ward, mulls over what it means to be a good dad, and passes along nuggets of fatherly wisdom to his son, Trey. A classic. The Dr. Evil/Mini Me cover is also great.

Best lyric:
Got you home safe, placed you in your basonette
That night I don’t think one wink I slept
As I slipped out my bed, to your crib I crept
Touched your head gently, felt my heart melt

9. Daughter by Loudon Wainwright III

You might recognize this song from the end credits of Knocked Up. It’s an endlessly catchy tune about how much the singer loves his daughter, and will do absolutely anything for her. It’s such a wholesome, affecting ditty, and the perfect soundtrack to any daddy-daughter beach outing.

Best lyric:
Everytime she blinks
She strikes somebody blind
Everything she thinks
Blows her tiny mind

10. Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin

Not many people know this, but Harry Chapin’s timeless ode to his son, Josh, was actually written by his wife, Sandy. He just turned it into music. And that collaborative effort manifest as the single greatest song about the difficulties of parenthood ever written. Few things are as simultaneously tough and exciting as watching your kid grow up, and this song captures it mastefully.

Best lyric:
My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s okay”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah”

10 Superhero Party Games and Activities for Your Little Avenger

superhero party games
(Getty/Mike Kemp)

Kids — along with countless fully grown adults — can’t resist superheroes. And really, who can blame them? Between all that cape-wearing, and flying around saving the day, it is a pretty appealing career. Best of all, unlike real life, if you or someone else has a problem, you can just use a superpower to solve it, without having to think about annoying stuff like logic, money, or gravity. Anyway, if your kiddo has a party coming up and asks for it to be superhero-themed, you may initially be delighted, assuming that it’ll be pretty easy to throw together. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Comics films have dominated pop culture for decades, how hard could it be?

Then you’ll realize that a lot of the superhero games and activities your child wants are kind of dangerous for those without superpowers, and primarily involve climbing and/or jumping off of things. But don’t worry: there are plenty of superhero-themed activities and party games that are perfectly safe and somehow, still really fun. If you’re looking for ideas, here are 10 superhero party games and activities that everyone will love.

superhero party games
Disney

Race against the clock

Superheroes usually have to accomplish something while in a race against time, and this game will give your party guests that experience. Give the kids a simple task — like filling a jar with buttons — and see how many each person can fit into the jar in a minute. The person who gets the most within a minute wins.

Feats of strength

Sadly, not the Festivus activity, but another good one nonetheless. Get a roll of aluminum foil and give each child a few long sheets. Tell them that they’ve just been granted a superpower that allows them to crush metal like it’s NBD. This one’s a group effort, so tell them you’re timing them to see if they can turn that whole roll of foil into small-ish balls (maybe around 4 inches in diameter) in less time than it took a group of supervillains. Spoiler: the kids win.

Don’t touch that kryptonite!

Take those foil balls they just made in the previous game, and tell them that the villains were so mad about losing to them that they turned their metal handiwork into kryptonite. The kid superheroes aren’t supposed to touch the kryptonite with their hands, but they need to move it all over to another part of the room/house/yard. Have them get creative and come up with different ways to do it.

Spiderman

Grab some plastic spiders (or whatever fake insects they have in stock) from the dollar store, along with some of those sticky hands that lose their stick after a few minutes. Put all the spiders (or other dollar store insects) in a particular area, then on the other side of the room/yard, place a cup with each child’s name on it. Using only their sticky hand (the weird rubbery one — not their literal sticky hand), they have to pick up the spiders and move them from the spider nest to their own cup. The person with the most in their cup at the end of the game wins.

X-ray vision

Get a bunch of brown paper bags, and put some sort of (safe) object inside of it. (It could be stuff from around the house, or prizes from the ol’ dollar store, etc.) Have a bag ready for each kid, and without looking, have them feel around inside the bag and try to guess what’s in there using their “X-ray vision” (aka hands).

DIY mask station

Instead of buying the attendees superhero masks, put them to work making their own, and call it a game. No need for anything too fancy — we’re talking half a paper plate and some sort of string. Have them decorate it based on their chosen superpower.

Superhero obstacle course

Let the kids show off their superpowers by going through an obstacle course that you’ve put together with stuff you’ve found around the house. Have them go one at a time, and time them. The one who makes it through the fastest (and without just barreling through and knocking everything down in their way) wins.

The perfect villain

Give the kids some paper and crayons. Tell them to imagine what their arch-nemesis villain would look like and what kinds of powers they’d have. Have them draw the villains, and then take turns telling the other superheroes in attendance all about their nemesis/villain and what makes them so evil.

Take down the villain

Get a bunch of empty plastic bottles or containers (from soda, laundry detergent, snacks, etc) and (carefully) tape the pictures of the superheroes’ nemesis/villains to each one. Line them up in a row, and give the kids bean bags or something of an equivalent size/weight. From a few feet away, have them (gently) throw the bean bags at the villain containers to try to knock them down (like that carnival game, except much easier to win).

Supercookies

Even superheroes need snacks, so why not let the ones at your party design their own? Have some plain (and decently sized) sugar cookies ready to go, and provide the guests with frosting, sprinkles, and anything else edible they want to use to decorate their cookie with their character’s emblem (think: lasso of truth, a spider, the bat signal, a cup of coffee). Tell them to keep their design to themselves, and then once everyone is finished, have people guess what they made.

Why Doll Play is Better Than Screen Time for Kid Development and Parent Sanity

©2020 Mattel
Post written in partnership with Barbie®

Let’s face it: It’s really hard to limit our kids’ screen time these days. From remote learning, apps, and an endless stream of new TV shows, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens. While some screen use is certainly necessary from an educational and entertainment standpoint, taking play offline, specifically playing with dolls, like Barbie®, has been shown to have scientific benefits for childhood development that you can’t get from looking at a screen. Barbie and neuroscientists from Cardiff University have collaborated on a new study that shows how doll play activates brain regions that allow kids to develop social skills like empathy, indicating that doll play enables children to rehearse, use and perform these skills. Additionally, the findings also show that doll play allows children to develop empathy and social processing skills more so than solo tablet play, even when playing by themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why doll play beats the screen when it comes to your child’s development. Oh, and you know, keeping your own sanity because that’s important too.

Doll Play Helps Develop Conflict Resolution Skills

You may have noticed that with everyone home all the time, things can sometimes get a bit testy. Shows and games can provide a welcome distraction, but in most cases, they don’t teach us much. However, by playing with dolls like Barbie, kids can develop empathy that serves them not only in these uncertain times, but also helps to set them up for future success as they grow and develop in life. For example, if your child isn’t getting along with one of their siblings, they can use dolls to role-play and figure out a fun, playful way to work out their problems. So when Mom and Dad don’t have the bandwidth to settle another dispute, see if Barbie dolls can help your kids come to an agreement through the power of play!

Dolls Help Kids Feel Connected

Recess and playdates have certainly taken on a different form in 2020 and for kids that can be a major bummer. When your kid is feeling isolated, the whole family feels the strain. Barbie dolls can be a great tool to replicate real-world play patterns when the option of doing it in-person isn’t always on the table. According to Dr. Sarah Gerson, the neuroscientist who led the study at Cardiff University, “This play allows them to think about how their friend could be feeling (perhaps sad they can’t see each other) and how they might react (comforting that friend).” In the age of social distancing, Barbie dolls can help kids develop key skills they could be missing out on.

Dolls Can Give Parents A Welcome Break Too!

Who said kids should have all the fun? Parenting is a constant juggling act these days, and sometimes you just need to feel like a kid again. When you’re sick of virtual meetings and tired of having your work face on all day, take a play break with your little one. Get down on the floor, get creative, and let your imagination run free! Doll play is an especially fun way for parents and kids to bond because so much of it is created by the two of you in the moment: You and your kid can steer the session towards the interests and inside jokes that are most important to the two of you.

Did Somebody Say No Buttons and Passwords?

Even with parental controls, there’s no surefire way to make sure your screens are totally kid-proof. Doll play, however, is totally offline and carries no risk of your child ordering 100 packs of crayons with the click of a button. Your credit score will certainly be happy. Seriously though, by playing with Barbie dolls, young ones can unplug and let their inner kid run wild as they activate the regions in their developing minds that develop empathy.

Dolls Give Us A Look Inside Our Child’s Mind

The brain region related to empathy development is even activated when kids play with dolls by themselves, so encourage kids to play solo too! When kids play by themselves, they often voice different characters in role-play scenarios. We’re not saying you should spy on your kids, but listen in a little bit and see what kinds of things they like (or dislike) when their mind roams free with Barbie dolls. Staring at a screen is a passive activity, but doll play is the opposite. It can give parents valuable insight into the minds of their kids.

Whether it’s working on more serious matters like conflict resolution or just taking a play break yourself, doll play carries numerous benefits that you can’t get when the screen is shining bright in your kid’s face. By playing with Barbie dolls, kids can become even more empathetic than previous generations and that might just be the biggest benefit of all.

You can check out more findings from the Cardiff University and Barbie study here.

Study was commissioned by Barbie (2020). Study was conducted with 42 children (20 boys and 22 girls) ages 4-8 years old with full data captured from 33 children.

This post was sponsored by:
Barbie®

The Dad Gaming Bootcamp: How To Take Over Rocket League Before It Takes Over You

Rocket League Car on Busy Freeway
(Getty)

I bought Rocket League for my son for his 8th birthday. He’s probably played 20 times since then. I’ve played it nearly every single day since. 6 months later, I am ranked Platinum.

Sometimes it feels like I’m amazing at this game, but I know that compared to many, many others…I’m terrible. But that’s exactly what keeps me coming back. It’s what experts call “flow” and it’s so addicting. Like throwing back some Planters Pop & Pour, proud sponsors of The Dad Gaming League, once you start, you just keep coming back.

Rocket League is the most sport-like game I’ve ever played. The strategy and coordination, sure, but I think mostly it is because of the progression of skills. It’s one of those games where you can come in, learn the basics, and have a blast. But there are so many skills that can be honed and refined over days, weeks, months, and YEARS, just like real sports. Yes, really. The soccer car game. 

Normally we write comprehensive “getting started” posts that will help newbs get up to speed immediately while giving experts some tips and tricks they can use as well. However, the skill range of Rocket League players is just massive. The difference between a first time player and a Grand Champ is hard to fully comprehend. And that’s what makes the game so great.

So here we’ll list out the top things to focus on, in order of importance, to get started in Rocket League. But a lot of these things may just link out to other sources. And that’s because a single comprehensive training guide for Rocket League cannot exist. Everyone’s journey will be different. 

PREREQUISITE: HAVE FUN

So there are a ton of Rocket League guides out there right now. 99% of them are geared towards mechanics and skills and how to sweat it out and grind and get better fast. We have a lot of that too, but more geared towards casual players who want to have a good time. See, above all else, we recommend you go into Rocket League with one goal in mind: to have a good time. In true dad fashion, we know it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, we just want everyone to try their best and have fun.

Rocket League lends itself well to sweaty players who want to prove to everyone they are better than them, talking trash along the way. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We encourage you to go into it expecting to have fun and doing just that. So while you can work your way up the ranks and do all of the right things, try not to take it too seriously, and absolutely don’t be a toxic player. Tell the other team, “good shot,” when they make a good shot. Never use “what a save!” sarcastically. And say “gg” at the end of each match, win or lose. This is what being a dad and Rocket League are all about.

So work on your skills if you wanna, but above all else: have fun and treat teammates and opponents kindly. *Dad steps off his soapbox* 

Now, for how to play. 

Camera Settings
Before you even get in to try your first training module or play your first practice game, change your camera settings. The defaults are just so bad. They’re very zoomed in on the car and tough to see the full field. Making this change will make your experience so much better and your leveling up so much faster. You’re welcome to jump right in the game and play with the defaults, find what you like, and change later, but I’d recommend changing them to the below settings right out of the gate…

Play the Bots
The most accessible way to get started is by playing the always-polite bots. In local matches, you can play against varying skill levels of bots. Play some games against the easiest bots, then when you find yourself winning most, increase the difficulty. The max difficulty for bots is not anywhere near the max skill level of real people, so you can use this to get your skills up before jumping into online play.

This tip is listed early because you can jump in and play against bots right away for fun. All the while working on the below skills and returning, again and again, to practice what you learn.

Training Training Training
As I’ve gotten better at Rocket League, I’ve realized the importance of training. It’s laughable, but I’ve even told my wife, “Sorry, I can’t hang out tonight, I have to TRAIN.” This particular move is NOT recommended, but for real, training is important.

You should spend a certain amount of time each RL gaming session in training before you jump into a match. There are a few methods of this.

When you start the game up for the first time, it’ll walk you through the basic controls. This is important for getting started, so take it seriously. From there, there are built in training modules for things like shooting, defending, etc. Try those on beginner. There are also custom modules that are really great for honing particular skills. You can browse them within the RL interface, or Coach JSU gives some really great training package codes in his videos.

Lastly, FREE PLAY is an invaluable resource. It’s just you and the ball. Seems basic, but you can do all kinds of things. Practice dribbling, knock the ball in the wall and then try to nail a shot, or even use your infinite boost to learn to fly.

Kickoffs
This skill is so early mostly because I want to get the word out that LEFT GOES FIRST. Kinda kidding but not really. You’ll notice that you are positioned randomly for kickoffs. Some spots are closer to the ball than others. Whoever is closest should go for it and the other people can defend or boost up. The far left and right diagonal spots are always closer than the back positions. So whoever is there, goes. And if there is one on the left, and one on the right, the one on the LEFT goes! When in doubt, use quick chat to let your team know “I got it!”

The easiest way to get to the ball fast is full gas and full boost all the way through. Then double jump (flip/dodge) into it at the last second. More advanced technique allows for flipping on the way to the ball to get there quicker and preserve boost.

Speed (Boost and Lips)
Rocket League is a game of accuracy and positioning, but above all it is about SPEED. Getting to the ball or in position quickly is vital, and boost is the easiest way to make this happen. But don’t use it all up and have nothing left. You’ve gotta preserve boost.

When you hit supersonic speed, you’ll notice a trail behind your wheels. This is essentially MAX SPEED. So when that happens, you don’t need to use boost anymore. Preserve it.

The quickest way to accelerate is actually not boosting, but flipping. So if you need to get back on defense and go the whole length of the stadium, try to boost a little to get started, and then do two rapid front flips to hit supersonic speed as fast as possible. If you get used to flipping forward to gain speed quickly, you’ll preserve boost and get where you need to go fast.

Flipping into the ball at the last second has the same speed effect, but this time on the ball. Flipping into the ball is the best way to blast a harder shot.

Positioning (Rotations)
Positioning is nearly as important as play mechanics. Even if you have amazing skills in everything else, if you spend the whole time chasing the ball around the field, you’re not going to have a good time, bro, and your team will lose and hate you.

An entire book could be written about positioning and rotations. But the thing to know is that a good and efficient 3s team will always be “rotating” or taking turns being in particular positions. If you’ve spent time on offense trying to pass or take shots, when you run out of boost or possession changes, it is most likely time to get back on defense so whoever was back can move up. It’s not about fairness; it’s about a smooth movement of players around the field to set up pass/shot opportunities and all the while make sure the goal is covered.

With good rotations and positioning, your team won’t need someone planted in the goal, not moving. There will be smooth movement and someone who is ready to be goalie when needed, but also able to take advantage of missteps by the other team.

Shot accuracy and Big Booms
Take some shots when you have an opening! The key to getting better at shot accuracy is to take a lot of shots. In training, sure, and also in games. Keep at it and you’ll gradually get better. Focus on lining up the shot as well as you can as you approach. Those are higher percentage shots.

The other key part of getting good shots is hitting shots with power. A slow moving ball is an easy one to save. But if you hit the ball solid, with speed, and you flip into it right at impact, you’ll launch it at a speed that is much tougher to defend.

Dribbling and Flicks
Just like in soccer or basketball, dribbling is maintaining possession of the ball and moving down the field to where you want to take it. Free play is an amazing place to practice this. Most recommend turning ball cam off when dribbling. Just drive around, slowly tapping the ball on the front of your car and get used to this. Then, when you’re in a game, don’t just blast a wild shot from way downtown, put your dribbling skills to use. This is especially important in 2s or 1s games, with less people to come take the ball away.

Once you have your dribbling capabilities down, you’ll find that sometimes, if you creep up on the ball quickly from the side, the ball will slide onto the top of your car. If you have the ball on top of your car and you single jump or flip forward, it’ll POP into the air straight ahead. Congratulations, that’s your first flick. This type of shot is great for catching opponents off guard who may be coming to challenge your dribble, but also great for popping the ball over a goalie who has to fly high to try to get it.

Aerials
For new players, aerials are easily the most intimidating skill. Don’t let it be. Work on the other stuff first.

The thing about aerials that I found is that it starts with something far simpler: boost+jump.  Early on hitting jump and boost at the same time felt so strange, but for us dads with adult-sized thumbs you get accustomed to it. So start by getting used to hitting boost and jump at the same time when trying to reach those slightly higher shots.

Once you have that down, you’ll find you can press and HOLD boost and jump at the same time. The holding of the boost button will simply allow your jump to continue. If your car is aimed upward, you are flying. Again, just practicing this, and doing it in game when trying to reach balls, will get you used to the mechanics very naturally.

To get higher even faster, you can press that jump button twice. As long as you aren’t pressing any direction on your joystick, your car will push a bit higher on that second press (rather than flipping). Try that to get higher faster.

Just by getting in the habit of this boost+jump button pressing, it’ll naturally lead to more advanced mechanics on aerials when you’re ready.

And Beyond…
Again, this article attempts to give you some skills and things to think about as you start your Rocket League career. But mannnnnnn, people in those champ, grand champ, and SUPERSONIC LEGEND ranks are just unreal. They all have their own styles and mechanics. So if you’re at the level where you are ready to progress, seek out some more advanced material. There’s a ton on YouTube and other places. And join up with a group like The Dad Gaming – Rocket League. There are a ton of extremely elite players there, who are always happy to help folks of all skill levels!

For more of a hands-on look, check out some clips on The Dad Gaming Youtube page:

Above all else, have fun with it! Rocket League is my favorite video game of all time. I love it so much, and I can’t wait to stock up on some Pop & Pours on tournament night to play with all the great Dad Gaming League friends –  It’s gonna be a blast!

(This article was written by the head of The Dad Gaming, Joel Willis. Though he will readily admit he’s not very good at this game, he is getting better all the time. And everything he knows about the game was taught to him by Rocket League Grand Champ and Coach JSU, who also advised on this article and created the instructional videos referenced.)

This post was sponsored by:
Planters