Kaleidoscopes and Amish Quilts

What do kaleidoscopes have to do with Amish quilts?

Plenty, I just learned.  I went to the Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT) yesterday and saw IMG 2013 272x300 Kaleidoscopes and Amish Quiltsa great quilt exhibit, All Star Quilts: The John Wilmerding Collection that features Amish and Mennonite star-themed quilts dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The quilts featured the Star of Bethlehem design, one of the oldest and well known designs and one of the few to come from Europe to America (around 1855), according to quilting.com

Here’s the surprising part

kaleidoscope 300x300 Kaleidoscopes and Amish QuiltsThe geometric designs were influenced by the symmetrical and colorful patterns that folks saw in kaleidoscopes.  The kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Scottish physicist, Sir David Brewster who was interested in studying optics.

The kaleidoscope’s optical shapes are created by fragments of broken glass viewed through a rotating mirror-lined cylinder.  The kaleidoscope (which means “beautiful form to see” in Greek) had a great effect on popular taste and culture and even spawned a phenomenon know as the “Fancy” style.   “Fancy” quilt makers used cloth and thread to translate the complex designs they saw in the kaleidoscope.  Who knew?

Kaleidoscopes: Science of Optics and Fun

The kaleidoscope is the result of Sir Brewster’s scientific study of optics which also included light prisms. However, we enjoy it as a fascinating toy.  People find the patterns relaxing. Some even give it credit for healing through “color therapy.”

Use the kaleidoscope to explore patterns, color, reflection, light, mirrors and angles.  Use a light prism and try to create a rainbow!

If you and your kids are looking for optics science projects or just want to enjoy some optical fun, check out our very beautiful kaleidoscope that is wrapped in leather (7″ long, 2′ wide) and our crystal light prism (made in the USA!).  With care, both will last a very long time.  Leave them out on the table so your kids (and adults) can enjoy them any time the mood strikes.

Next time, I’ll share some experiments you can do with light prisms!

 

Kaleidoscope Photo credit: krazydad / jbum / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Heron’s Fountain – Water Science Project for Kids

fountain connection Herons Fountain   Water Science Project for KidsWhat’s a Heron’s Fountain? It dates back to ancient Greece and it’s a great water science project for kids.  Heron of Alexandria (ca 62 AD) was an inventor, mathematician and physicist who invented what looks like a magic trick.  It’s fun and an opportunity for kids to learn about gravity, air compression and vacuums.  A great end-of-summer project and, as we get ready to go back to school, a great science fair project.

How does the Heron’s Fountain work?

You know what gravity is, right?  You would think that water draining from a top bottle into a bottom bottle would just flow down and stay put.  This experiment defies that logic (which is why it seems like a magic trick.)  Essentially, a Heron’s Fountain uses compressed air to lift water to a point higher than the origin. This action is the same thing that moves water in fish tank filters and some types of coffee percolators.

How do you make a Heron’s Fountain?

Connect two bottles together with a plastic tube (with strategically placed holes) in each Tedco Fountain Connector 157x300 Herons Fountain   Water Science Project for Kidsbottle. We’ve got the Fountain Connection (made in USA!) which has done all the drilling for you.  Fill one of the bottles with water.  When you turn it over, gravity pulls the water from the upper bottle into the bottom bottle and compresses the air in the bottom bottle.  As the water leaves the upper bottle, it decreases the air pressure of that bottle and causes a partial vacuum.  Then water is forced from the lower bottle, up the fountain tube and into the upper bottle, taking the place of the draining water.  Voila!  A fountain!

What do you need?

  • 2 clean, clear plastic 2-liter bottles.  The labels and bottom plastic mount (if it’s on) should be removed so you can see better but just make sure you have a stable base.  Hint: I’ve heard that you can easily remove the labels and plastic mount with a hair dryer.
  • The Fountain Connection – this includes the clear plastic tubes that you’ll need to make the experiment work.
  • Water (or experiment with different liquids!)
  • Food coloring (optional)

(Note: you can make a fountain connector and find and cut tubing yourself.  The cap requires precise drilling to make sure you have an airtight seal and the correct holes in the tubing.)

More Heron’s Fountain science experiments

  • What happens if you add color (red erupting volcano anyone?)
  • What about blending colors?  Red in bottom, blue in top?
  • What happens if you use fluids other than water?
  • What happens if you vary the amount of fluid in the bottle?
  • What if you change the length of the tubes?  (If you do cut them down, don’t cut on the end with the holes!)
  • Try the vacuum and compression experiments illustrated on the back of the Fountain Connection package.

Tedco Tornado Tube 202x300 Herons Fountain   Water Science Project for KidsAnother fun activity is to create a swirling tornado with the Tornado Tube (also made in the USA).  It also uses 2 plastic bottles.  This is a fun, hands-on demonstration of vortex action (think, tornadoes, whirlpools, water spouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite experiments?

A Beginners Guide To Model Rockets

beginguiderockets 194x300 A Beginners Guide To Model RocketsEver wanted to launch model rockets but didn’t have a clue where to start? Rockets can be a fun parent-child or family activity but it can be overwhelming when you walk into Turner Toys & Hobbies and see a huge array of rockets and accessories.  Follow these easy tips so you can be a hero in your child’s eyes when you introduce them to rocketry.

Rocket “Toys”

Have kids under 10?  Start off with rocket “toys” that are propelled by baking soda and vinegar.  The  Meteor Rocket Kit or Rocket Car Kit  both by Scientific Explorer are great choices.  If you have a group of kids, go for Science Wiz’s  Bottle Rocket Party pack.  It has the basic tools but you’ll need to supply the baking soda & vinegar.  Note:  all of these rocket toys require adult supervision.

Ready For “Real” Model Rockets?

Estes Rockets are the granddaddy of rockets.  Turner Toys & Hobbies also carries FlisKit rockets.  They’re  quirky, inventive (the Nantucket Sound Lighthouse Rocket, anyone?) and are made in the USA (in New Hampshire) but they require more skill than the beginning rockets I’m listing below. 

All of these model rockets are designed for kids 10+.  Adult supervision is still recommended for kids under 12.

Rockets are graded so you know what you’re getting in to.  For beginners, look for rockets that say “RTF” or “Ready To Fly”.  These don’t require any cutting, gluing or painting.  The next level is “E2X” (Easy to Assemble). Then they are graded 1-5 depending on the complexity of assembly.

What do I need to get started?

You need:

·         Rocket with included parachute

·         Recovery Wadding

·         Engines

·         Launch pad

·         Launch Controller

·         Batteries for the controller 

The nice thing is the rocket, parachute, launch pad and controller are reusable.  All you need to replace is the wadding and the engines. 

You can buy all these items separately, but if you don’t already have a launch pad and controller, it’s cheaper to buy a set that includes the rocket, pad and controller.  In any case, you’ll still need to buy the “consumables”:  engines and recovering wadding.

Engines

You can’t launch your rocket without the right engines.  Each rocket comes with a recommended assortment of engine sizes.  The last ones on the list are the largest recommended engine size for that model.  If you are a novice you should try the engine marked “First Flight.”  This will give you a sense of how the rocket will fly and descend.   The engines are marked with letters and double in power as you go up.  For example, a “B” engine is twice as powerful as an “A.”  You will need a new engine for each flight.

How High Will it Fly And Where Will It Land?

This depends on your rocket and the size of the engine you use (see above).  RTF rockets can go anywhere from 675-1200 feet depending on the engine size.  As I mentioned above, I recommend starting with the smallest engine (marked “First Flight.”)  

Landings will depend on wind and drift.   It’s unlikely that your rocket will shoot straight up and land in the same place.  Tracking and finding your rocket is half the fun!!  I’ve got some more tips below on how to handle drift.

Best Rocket Kits for Beginners

The Riptide Model Rocket Launch Set RTF is a good choice for beginners.  All you do is add engines, recovery wadding, batteries for the launch controller and you are ready to go!  This rocket can fly up to 675 feet depending on the engine you use.  

The Rascal & Hi Jinks Launch Set RTF  includes two rockets, along with the launch pad and controller.  This way you can prepare the second rocket while the first is flying and descending.  No need to wait to recover the first rocket. These can fly up to 1200 ft with the largest recommended engine (C6-7).

The Flash Model Rocket Launch Set E2X  requires more assembly and tools.  This is great for the kid who has already flown RTF model rockets and wants to try a little more hands-on construction. You’ll need to assemble the motor mount, attach the fins, assemble the nose cone, tie on the reusable parachute, apply the decals and head out to the launch pad!  The Flash Rocket can fly up to 925 feet with largest allowable engine (C6-7) and can be used over and over again. In addition to the recovery wadding, engines and batteries, you’ll need to have glue and a hobby knife and paints on hand.

Don’t have a lot of space?  A lot of folks like the Moon Mutt Model Rocket Launch Set because it’s small and inexpensive and you can launch it in a small space.  It’ll fly up to 200 feet.  The only thing is that it uses mini engines and has a small launch pad that you can’t use with the other rocket models.  It can be assembled in less than an hour and has a plastic nose cone and fins and self-stick decals.

There are loads more RTF and E2X model rocket sets.  Once you have the launch pad and controller you can experiment with other model rockets.  Check Turner Toys & Hobbies for more models.

Flying & Weather-Related Tips

This is kind of a no-brainer but make sure that you have the space to launch a rocket – make sure that there aren’t trees or overhead wires.  Remember that the rockets will drift as they float down to earth. It might end up on a neighbor’s property. The wind will affect drift so think about launching on days without much wind. 

How quickly a rocket descends will help cut down on how far it drifts.  Each rocket comes with a parachute.  You might want to cut a circle in the parachute’s peak or slit the parachute.  This will vent the parachute so it will descends more quickly.   If it comes down too quickly, you risk damaging it on impact.  You can also angle the launch pad SLIGHTLY (just a few degrees) so it points into the wind.  This way, it will drift back to you. 

For more tips, read our earlier post about flying model rockets.  What are your best tips and model rocket stories?

Ready to Launch?

Now you know what you need to launch your first rocket: 

1)      RTF or E2X model rocket kit

2)      Make sure you have a launch pad and controller and batteries

3)      Recovery wadding

4)      Engines – look at the packaging to decide which engines your model can use. 

Remember:  Model rockets are not toys and are not recommended for kids under 10.  Kids under 12 really need adult supervision.  But why would you let your kids have all the fun?  Of course, you’ll be launching with them!

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain

Great Toys for Vacation Fun

Here in Vermont, Winter Break is about to start. Some of you will be traveling, some will be staying home. Turner Toys & Hobbies has products to make Winter Break fun and maybe even educational!

If you are traveling bring along an Eni Puzzle. Eni Puzzles are a great “fidget” puzzle toy with lots of possible solutions and great for spatial relation skills. They come in a small keychain size (which can clip onto a backpack or school bag)

enikeychain 300x300 Great Toys for Vacation Fun

Eni Keychain Puzzle

 

eni 300x300 Great Toys for Vacation Fun

Mini Eni Puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a slightly larger “Mini” size. Each is available in two different colors.

 

                                                                                                                                                                   Woodkins are also great for traveling. A modern twist on dress up dolls – Woodkins consist of a hinged wooden frame with a two dimensional image of a fairy, princess or kid on the bottom half and a matching outline on the top half. Woodkinsfairy 172x300 Great Toys for Vacation FunKids arrange the supplied fabric pieces to create outfits on the bottom half and then close the top half to see the completed outfit. They are quiet, don’t require batteries and can keep kids occupied for hours.

If you are staying home vacation can be a great time for some together time. Puzzles are a great family activity and we have a wide range from colorful jungle frogs frogs1 300x220 Great Toys for Vacation Fun

to a 3000 piece world map (circa 1665).

1665puzzle 300x223 Great Toys for Vacation Fun

Ravensburger 12557 Leaning Tower of Pisa II Great Toys for Vacation FunWe also have 3-D puzzles of famous landmarks including The Empire State Building, Big Ben and The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

 

Learning doesn’t have to stop just because its vacation time. We have science kits from Science Wiz that cover Chemistry, Electricity, Energy, Inventions, Light and Physics. Each kit includes materials, a book with experiments and background information plus access to more experiments and lessons on the web. These kits have been favorites with our customers.

sciencewizphysics 243x300 Great Toys for Vacation Fun

 What toys have you found entertaining, educational (or both!) during past vacations?

 

 

Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

South Park Pinewood Derby 300x231 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

We’ve added Pinewood Derby blocks, car kits, wheels, weights, stickers and tools to the store and the season is getting underway across the country. My son was a Cub Scout several years ago and we built and raced Pinewood Derby with pretty mixed results!

Here are a few ideas that I learned from building a Pinewood Derby Car with my son.  These tips might make it easier, more fun and more likely to build a competitive Pinewood Derby car.

There are a number of options when starting to make a Pinecar Racer. Some scout troops give out wooden blocks – its the traditional way but requires major shaping before it starts to look like a car.

 

Basic Block 300x195 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

Given kids’ short attention spans and the waiting associated with a whole pack getting their blocks shaped I’d recommend starting with one of the pre-shaped car kits like Pinecar Racer Wedge Kit. This way kids can get to the parts of the building process that are more hands on like tuning and tweaking for best performance.

The key to Pinecar performance involves the wheels and axles. The rules are pretty strict about replacing wheels and axles so the best course is to make the most out of what is supplied with the car kit. Two areas that you  should focus on are reducing friction caused by the axles and making sure the wheels are aligned properly.

Polished Axles 300x225 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars A great start to reducing axle friction is using the Axles & Polishing Kit along with a power drill to remove any burrs on the axle and then polish them to be as smooth as possible. Once the axles are polished they can be lubricated (sparingly) with a graphite based dry lubricant like Hob-E-Lube and the wheels can be mounted.Alignment Tool 300x177 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

If you want your Pinecar Racer to be competitive you have to make sure the wheels are aligned and are all parallel to the track – if they aren’t the wheels will be “scuffing” on the track and your car won’t go as fast as it could. You can do quite a lot by eye but to make sure everything is correct use a Wheel Alignment Tool. This tool is inexpensive (can be shared within a pack as well!) and can verify that axle grooves are aligned, clearance between body and wheels are correct, camber is correct and toe in/out are correct. It also measures ground clearance, overall length and width and width between wheels.

Weights are an important contributor to high performance and range from the simple (Adjustable Stick-On Weights) to the complex (Tungsten C of G Weights that can be adjusted fore and aft to shift the car’s center of gravity). PW Adding Weight 300x224 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby CarsPlacement of weights is determined by the style of the car but most cars can use Round Weights that fit neatly into a 3/8″ hole that’s been drilled horizontally along the central axis of the car. If you have a small car and limited places to attach weights take a look at the weights that contain Tungsten. weightComparison 234x300 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

Tungsten has 3 times the density of conventional weights and can be a real problem solver. They come in five different styles including Tungsten Putty which can be added at the last minute if your car is underweight.

Decal Paper 300x242 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby CarsWhen it comes time to decorate your car we have the standard decal and dry transfer sets but also have decal paper so you can make your own decals using a laser or ink jet printer. Another option is Bare Metal Foil which is super thin metal foil used by scale modelers to model chrome, aluminum, copper or gold surfaces. Shiny!

 

Be careful and wear appropriate eye and hearing protection if you are using any power tools in the building process. Remember to have fun out there!

Pinewood Design Cartoon 300x182 Pinewood Derby Time! Some Quick Tips for Building Pinewood Derby Cars

What are your tips for a winning car?

20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

Looking for fun, affordable stocking stuffers for kids? Here are 20 of my favorites – all under $10 each.  I’ve noticed that several of the toys on this stocking stuffer list are classic toys. Even if you didn’t play with them when you were a kid, you can enjoy playing with them with your children or grandchildren.

stockingstuffer 214x300 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!Stocking Stuffers for Toddlers

Here are some fun, affordable stocking stuffers for younger kids.  Some they can play with on their own; others might need a little parental help.

trainwhistle 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!Wooden Train Whistle – Choo Choo!  This train whistle has 4-tones and sounds like the real thing. Made from unfinished pine and high quality birch plywood. Measures 8-1/4″ long by 1-1/2″ square. Decorated with chart showing what 11 different whistle sounds mean (long, long, short, long is the sound for train approaching a crossing.) Made in Vermont USA. Ages 5+  $5.99

ryansroomshoelacing 300x283 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!One-Two Tie Your Shoe Lacing Toy – This lacing toy helps children practice lacing and tying their shoes. Builds hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Wooden shoe measures 4″ long and includes lace. (Shoe colors may vary from image.) From Ryan’s Room. Ages 3+  $4.99

madebymetruck 300x214 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!Made By Me – A great first woodworking assembly project!  Kids can assemble their own Truck, Train, or VW Bug and then color, paint or decorate them.  The individual sets come with smooth-sanded unfinished pine pieces and wooden wheels and axles.  All you need is some glue, a hammer, paints, crayons, stickers or whatever else you might want to use for decoration. A great Grandparent & Me activity! Made By Me’s have received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products Award and Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Creative Toys Awards. Made in the USA. Ages 3+ $3.99

old fahioned top 2 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!Old Fashioned Spinning Top  A table-top wooden toy spinning top with spinning bracket and string. A safe indoor toy that even a 3-year-old can operate with help from Mom or Dad. Ages 3+ $8.99

Engineer’s Cap - Our son wouldn’t take off his engineer’s cap when he was little.  Every boy & girl needs one to run their railroad!  100% cotton. Available in Adult or Children’s size. Blue/white stripes or pink/white stripes.  $9.99

Stocking Stuffers for Ages 5-7

Lots of these classic toys will also be enjoyed by kids older that 7 years.

Marbles – our cool marbles come in a “vintage” metal box and are even made in the USA!  48 marbles & 2 shooter marbles plus a handbook to learn about different marble games. Made in USA $9.99

Dominos – Another classic game.  Dominos can be used in many ways (math games or racing dominos, for example.) Take it to the next level and learn how to play block, draw, Maltese cross, Sebastopol, Bergen, Montana and Texas 42. Comes in a “vintage” metal box and includes a full set of 28 double six dominos and a twenty page handbook covering history, technique and game rules. Made in USA. $9.99

Jacob’s Ladder – I never had one of these growing up and didn’t “get” it until I read the instructions.  So much fun!  This can be played by younger kids, but even 8 & 9 year-olds love watching the wooden pieces cascade as if by magic.  You can also do magic tricks with the Jacob’s Ladder. I have seen cheap Jacob’s Ladders but this is the real deal with quality wooden pieces.  Made in the USA. $8.99

Jacks – This traditional jacks set comes with 5 gold and 5 silver jacks a ball and a cloth storage bag.  Also comes with rules but you can make up your own, too.  $4.99

Whirly Toy – Did you have one when you were a kid?  This one has lights inside the wheel so the fun can continue after dark. It’s quite hypnotic and I – and other adults – have spent lots of time playing with these! Wheel is magnetic and tracks along the metal rod while spinning (and lighting up).  I’ve seen lots of cheap imitations but this is a sturdy, well-made toy.  Comes with battery. Ages 5+ $9.99

Slinky Collector’s Edition – Who hasn’t had a Slinky? The Slinky is still made in Pennsylvania with the original equipment that Richard James created. The Slinky has changed little in over 50 years and is loads of fun.  Great for coordination development, learning about gravity, balance and more. Made in the USA. Ages 5+ $7.99

crystalprism 300x300 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!Light Crystal Prism – A great science toy that’s fun to look at! Natural sunlight is refracted through the prism into the full spectrum of colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Made of polished glass; must be handled with care. Made in USA. Ages 6+ $8.99

enikeychain 300x300 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

Eni Puzzle - A great “fidget” puzzle toy with lots of possible solutions and great for spatial relation skills.  The “Keychain” size comes in two colors schemes: pastels and hot/bold colors.   Ages 5+  Keychain is $6.99

Pommawonga Ring Toss Toy 

pommawongacrop1 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

Toss the tethered wooden rings in the air and see how many you can catch on the wooden stick. Once you’ve caught all the rings see if you can catch the square – but don’t lose the rings in the process. This is a great way for kids to develop their hand to eye coordination.  From Ryan’s Room. Ages 6+  $8.99

ST Side Winder MOD 300x225 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age! Sidewinder Top
This is a great top for beginners!  It’s easier to throw than the wooden top because it comes with a Power Spinner cord that makes it fool proof to spin.  The Sidewinder is a fixed nylon point Spin Top.  Measures 2″ diam x 3.25″ long. Includes fixed plastic point and Power-Spinner for easy launches. Made in USA. Top colors may vary.

flyingstick 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

 Wooden Flying Sticks –  This Flying Stick is an aerodynamically sophisticated version of the old folk-toy stick helicopter. The pitch of the 7 inch rotor can be be changed by wetting and bending. It takes a little practice to get a good flight. Insider Tip: Wait until wood is dry before flying, or it will be too heavy.  Ages 7+  Sold in 16 packs only. A 16-pack is $16.99 but I included it on my list because each flying stick comes out to just over $1.

Stocking Stuffers for Ages 8+

Kids 8 and older will enjoy any of the toys on the ages 5-7 list, but here are a few that might need a little more physical & mental dexterity.

somacube 300x300 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

Soma Cube Puzzle – This is a classic three dimensional puzzle consisting of seven unique shapes which can only be assembled into a cube one way. Cube measures 2-1/8″ and is made of maple hardwood finished with a clear urethane finish. Made in USA. Ages 8+ $9.99.

 

 

Q-Bitz – This is a fun brainteaser puzzle. We left it out on our kitchen table and our 12- & 13-year olds played with it. The goal is to duplicate the pattern on the puzzle card with the 16 wooden cubes. Q-bitz Solo can be played alone or used to add a player in a Q-bitz game. Three different ways to play including recreating the pattern from memory! Add a timer to see who can complete each puzzle the fastest. Includes wooden tray, 16 wooden cubes, 20 puzzle cards, instructions and is packed in a small tin box for easy storage. Ages 8+  $9.99.

brain 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age! Yomega “Brain” Yo-Yo –  This is the yo-yo that revolutionized yo-yo play. When you throw it down, it sleeps and then remembers to come back up.  Patented centrigual clutch allows super-fast free spin, followed by automatic return.  Ideal for beginners. Includes 5 extra strings.  Colors vary. Ages 7 to adult. $9.99

woodentop 20 Stocking Stuffers for Kids. All under $10 and Sorted by Age!

 Wooden Throwing Top – This is a classic, natural wooden throwing top with a safe replaceable fixed plastic point.  Includes 60″ string and wooden “button”.  It’s a bit more challenging to throw that the Sidewinder above but is a really satisfying spin once you master it. Made in USA.  $7.99. Save 10% when you buy 3 or more.

Visit Turner Toys & Hobbies to see other affordable toys!  Have a Merry Christmas!

 

 

Creative Gifts for Tween Girls

artterrowoolfeltjewelry2 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween GirlsI find that buying gifts for tween girls is one of the most difficult things to do.  Their interests may vary widely but one thing all tweens have in common is the desire to express themselves!

Here are some of our favorite creative gifts that your artsy tween will love.  These kits are rated for ages 7 or 8+ but I know that kids even older than 12 enjoy these projects. Many of these projects require cutting, sewing, gluing or working with fine art wires, beads and marbles.  Project ideas are given but these are open-ended activities that will let tweens explore their creativity.

Decoupage Tote

 

 

Kids can create a tote bag that is decorated with decoupage pictures or artwork of favorite people, pets, activities, or more.  A fun project that lets kids create something that is truly personal.  Even my 13-year old loved it!   Kit includes tote, stencil, accent ribbons, brush, decoupage glue, two sided pattern circles and a design planning mat. Ages 8 + $24.99

artterobookmake 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween Girls

Arttero Eco-Art Kits

We love Arttero Kits!  They’ve done all the legwork of collecting beautiful, quality materials for your arts and crafts projects.  No trips to multiple stores only to sort through cheap plastic beads or fabrics that will bleed. No cheesy-plastic kits that you see everywhere.  These are truly unique.

Arttero materials are sourced from around the world: handmade recycled paper from India and Thailand, wool felt from Nepal, wires, needles and glass marbles are made in USA.  Arttero also has a strong social and environmental mission:  the cardboard packaging is made from 100% post-consumer waste paper and the inks are vegetable based inks. The kits are assembled by Goodwill Industries in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Even the kit boxes turn into a frame for finished artwork!

Arttero Art Journal Kit

artterroartjournal 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween GirlsThis isn’t just a lovely spiral-bound book of blank pages.  Arttero has teamed up with Strathmore Artist Papers to create a unique book with beautiful art paper and inspiration to begin your journalling. The kit includes a spiral-bound (6.5 x 8) journal with a solid book board cover to personalize, 14 inspiring project pages, 5 pages of beautiful handmade decorative papers, 6 solid colored papers, artist-quality drawing paper, and pocket folder to store pictures, scraps and found images.  Great for drawing, doodling, collaging and whatever you can think of!  Great for all ages. Made in the USA.  $12.95.  You provide: Pens, pencils, markers, scissors and glue

artterrodoll 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween GirlsArttero Art Doll Eco-Kit

Make bookmarks, decorations or add these dolls to your scrapbook or art journal!  Requires cutting, sewing and gluing.  Ages 7+ $19.95

Kit Includes: 100% recycled, gorgeous handmade papers, 100% wool felt dresses, glass beads, wooden beads, sequins, craft thread, needles and ideas sheet. You provide: scissors and glue. 

Bookmaking Eco-Art Kit   Arterro Bookmaking Kit 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween Girls

Sew together gorgeous handmade paper and decorate with beads and thread to make four small books. Use as journals, portfolios, scrapbooks, or write and illustrate an original story! Use leftover paper for fancy custom greeting cards. Ages 8 + $19.95 Made in the USA.

Kit Includes: Solid colored and decorative handmade papers (100% PCW), small wood and seed beads, sequins, craft thread, needles, instructions and ideas sheet. You provide: Scissors and glue.

Arterro Creativity Kit 3 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween GirlsCreativity Eco-Art Kit

Arttero has gathered handmade papers, wool felt shapes and glass and wooden beads and more for your tween to create with. Cut, glue and sew greeting cards, bookmarks, ornaments, gift tags, small sculptures and collages. With enough materials for 7 projects, this eco-art kit provides hours of fun with friends & family.  What a great party activity! Ages 7+ $19.95

Kit Includes: 100% recycled beautiful handmade paper, natural 100% wool felt shapes, glass beads, wooden beads, sequins, craft thread, copper wire, needles and ideas sheet. You provide: Scissors and glue.

Wire & Bead Eco-Art Kit     Arterro Wirebead Kit 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween Girls

Honestly, this might be my favorite Arttero kit.  Shape colorful wire and beads into small creatures, a large mobile adorned with beads, jewelry, a beautiful crown, or anything you can think of.  The kit includes enough materials for up to 20 projects – what a great party activity or family art project!  Ages 7+ $19.95

Kit includes: Artist-quality colorful copper wire in 3 gauges, glass beads, wooden beads and rings, shell beads, glass marbles and ideas sheet. You provide: Pliers or tweezers, nail clippers.

Wool Felt Wearables Eco-Art Kit

artterrowoolfeltjewelry3 270x300 Creative Gifts for Tween GirlsDesign a fashionable necklace, bracelet, earrings, pin, or barrette all with this one great kit! Wool felt is really popular right not and it’s fun to work with and easy to use, only simple sewing required. Ages 7+  $19.95

Kit Includes: Natural 100% wool felt shapes, glass beads, wooden beads, sequins, craft thread, jewelry findings, needles and ideas sheet.  You provide: Scissors and glue.

Paint Marker Set    paintmarkers 300x300 Creative Gifts for Tween Girls

Our friends at Mindware have developed a fun 6-piece Paint Marker Set that’s great for creating posters, craft projects and more.  These would be great for your art journal! The markers let you quickly cover large areas and the heavy-duty fleece applicators apply the paint evenly and stand up to repeated use. Just press down to paint – eliminates potential for spills – great for use with groups of kids. Washable, non toxic and acid free paint colors include red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. $12.99 For ages 5 +

I’m pretty sure that you’re tween will love any of these kits and possibly several of them!  Maybe they’ll even let you join them!

Wooden Train Set for Kids – The Santa Train Package!

Wooden train sets are a great way to celebrate Christmas with your child and to create an annual tradition.   I remember when we got our first wooden trains and track for our son.  It was the first taste of what was to become many years of fun in our house. Over the years we added more track and more train cars.

Santatrainpackage Wooden Train Set for Kids   The Santa Train Package!

Why wooden train sets for kids? 

In addition to being fun and inspiring a life-long love of trains (my husband is a big rail fan!), playing with wooden trains is an open-ended, imaginative form of play that helps children develop:

  • hand-eye coordination
  • problem solving skills
  • verbal skills
  • fine motor skills
  • independent play and collaborative play skills

To help you introduce the joy of wooden trains to your child this Christmas, we’ve put together a great Wooden Toy Train package that is specially priced for the holidays at $59.99.  This saves you 20% off list if items were purchased separately.  Our trains, track and whistle are made in Vermont out of sustainably grown wood so you can be sure that your child is playing with a quality, well-made and safe toy.

The Santa Train Package includes:

The Santa Train Set

Santacar Wooden Train Set for Kids   The Santa Train Package!The Santa Train Set includes four cars and features Santa as the engineer on his own magical train.   Mrs. Claus is baking goodies in the bakery car and there is a caboose full of Elves make last-minute toys in their mobile workshop. The Reindeer get a day off, riding in their own railroad car.  The set of 4 cars is wrapped on a piece of straight track. Made in Vermont USA by Maple Landmark. $24.99

Add the Santa Train to your collection of other train cars – these are compatible with most other wooden trains including Brio and Thomas The Tank Engine.

Oval Wooden Track Set

OvalTrackSet 216 Wooden Train Set for Kids   The Santa Train Package!

This track set measures 17” x 33” when built. Set includes 8 curved sections and 4 8” straight sections. Made in Vermont, USA by Maple Landmark. Lists at $34.99.  Our regular price is $29.99.

You can’t have too much track!  These track pieces are compatible with Thomas, Brio and other wooden track systems.

Wooden Train Whistle

trainwhistle Wooden Train Set for Kids   The Santa Train Package!This whistle has 4-tones and sounds like the real thing. Made from unfinished pine and high quality birch plywood. Measures 8-1/4″ long by 1-1/2″ square. Decorated with chart showing what 11 different whistle sounds mean (long, long, short, long is the sound for train approaching a crossing. Made in Vermont, USA by Maple Landmark  Ages 5 & up.  $5.99

Engineers cap

 

 

This is a traditional engineer’s cap – great for working on the railroad.  Our son wore his round the clock! 100% cotton. Available in Adult or Children’s size. Choose from the traditional blue stripe or the pink stripe cap.  Caps have an adjustable strap to fit a range of head sizes. Imported. $9.99

Why not start (or continue) a family tradition of playing with wooden trains!

 

What Makes a Good Kid’s Toy?

This Christmas, before you buy toys, consider this:  What makes a good kid’s toy?  In a nutshell, one that your children will want to play with over and over again and that you can feel good about.  How to tell if it’s a good toy?  We’ve rounded up the best advice out there!

goodkidstoyFB1 300x231 What Makes a Good Kids Toy?

Quality

Blocks Wagon 2 201009 425 300x225 What Makes a Good Kids Toy?

Uncle Goose Blocks & Wagon

Great craftsmanship means the toys will last forever.  Think about the wooden trains or blocks that you had as a kid. You might even still have them!  Even years after you purchased them, parts will still fit together nicely and won’t warp.  If they are quality toys, they won’t break and won’t harm your child.  Perhaps not coincidentally, some of the best and safest toys out there are made in the USA or Europe, are made from environmentally friendly materials and are classic toys – no batteries or cheap plastic parts that will break.

What are some quality toy brands?  We like Haba, Uncle Goose, Maple Landmark, Mindware, Artterro, Guidecraft, Citiblocs, BeginAgain, Roy Toy, among others.

Safety

Is the toy safe?  Is it age appropriate?  If you need help figuring out what toy is appropriate by age, check out this toy guide from NAEYC.  Keep little ones away from small parts. Make sure that your toys are lead-free.  Toys that were made years ago may have been manufactured with lead paint. You can get a lead paint test kit just to be sure.

You won’t have any problems with natural wooden toys like these from Haba.  Any fabric toys need to be labeled as flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Art materials should be non-toxic. Look for water-based stains and dyes.  Sign up to receive product recalls with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What are they made of?

  • Plastic is easy to clean, but it can break.
  • Wood lasts forever and can be wiped down.
  • Wooden toys are aesthetically pleasing to many senses:  visual and tactile (sometimes they even smell good like Roy Toy’s log cabin pine building sets!).
  • Batteries die – usually when you most need them!  Plus, battery-powered toys aren’t recommended for kids younger than 8 years.
  • Are the materials environmentally or socially-responsible?
  • Where are the toys made? Look for wooden toys made from sustainably-grown trees.

Simplicity

The best toys are simple, classic and nurture open-ended play.   Some of these you can buy; others are lying around the house or outside.  Think: wooden blocks, boxes, twigs, clothes or fabric to play dress-up, art materials.  You can get wooden unit blocks from Guidecraft or plank blocks from CitiblocsWooden train sets are always great. Kids of all ages can play with these.

Fun Factor & Play Value

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff.

  • Does the toy promote creative thinking, skill development, or a new concept?
  • Can you play with the toy in different ways?
  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?
  • Will your child want to play with it over and over again?
  • Is it easy for kids to figure out and/or are there clear directions on the packaging so you can help them, if needed?

Parent’s Choice Foundation also has a nice list of things to look for in a good toy.

We’re biased at Turner Toys & Hobbies because we specialize in great toys that your children will love to play with over and over again.  Toys that are high quality, safe, well-made, basic, educational and fun!

What do you think makes a good toy?

 

20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for Kids

Looking for fun, affordable stocking stuffers for kids? Here are 20 of my favorites – all under $10 each.  I’ve noticed that several of the toys on this stocking stuffer list are classic toys. Even if you didn’t play with them when you were a kid, you can enjoy playing with them with your children or grandchildren.

stockingstuffer 214x300 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsStocking Stuffers for Toddlers

Here are some fun, affordable stocking stuffers for younger kids.  Some they can play with on their own; others might need a little parental help.

trainwhistle 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsWooden Train Whistle – Choo Choo!  This train whistle has 4-tones and sounds like the real thing. Made from unfinished pine and high quality birch plywood. Measures 8-1/4″ long by 1-1/2″ square. Decorated with chart showing what 11 different whistle sounds mean (long, long, short, long is the sound for train approaching a crossing.) Made in Vermont USA. Ages 5+  $5.99

ryansroomshoelacing 300x283 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsOne-Two Tie Your Shoe Lacing Toy – This lacing toy helps children practice lacing and tying their shoes. Builds hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Wooden shoe measures 4″ long and includes lace. (Shoe colors may vary from image.) From Ryan’s Room. Ages 3+  $4.99

 

 

madebymetruck 300x214 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsMade By Me – A great first woodworking assembly project!  Kids can assemble their own Truck, Train, or VW Bug and then color, paint or decorate them.  The individual sets come with smooth-sanded unfinished pine pieces and wooden wheels and axles.  All you need is some glue, a hammer, paints, crayons, stickers or whatever else you might want to use for decoration. A great Grandparent & Me activity! Made By Me’s have received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products Award and Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Creative Toys Awards. Made in the USA. Ages 3+ $3.99

old fahioned top 2 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsOld Fashioned Spinning Top  A table-top wooden toy spinning top with spinning bracket and string. A safe indoor toy that even a 3-year-old can operate with help from Mom or Dad. Ages 3+ $8.99

 

Stocking Stuffers for Ages 5-7

Lots of these classic toys will also be enjoyed by kids older that 7 years.

Marbles – our cool marbles come in a “vintage” metal box and are even made in the USA!  48 marbles & 2 shooter marbles plus a handbook to learn about different marble games. Made in USA $9.99

Dominos – Another classic game.  Dominos can be used in many ways (math games or racing dominos, for example.) Take it to the next level and learn how to play block, draw, Maltese cross, Sebastopol, Bergen, Montana and Texas 42. Comes in a “vintage” metal box and includes a full set of 28 double six dominos and a twenty page handbook covering history, technique and game rules. Made in USA. $9.99

Jacob’s Ladder – I never had one of these growing up and didn’t “get” it until I read the instructions.  So much fun!  This can be played by younger kids, but even 8 & 9 year-olds love watching the wooden pieces cascade as if by magic.  You can also do magic tricks with the Jacob’s Ladder. I have seen cheap Jacob’s Ladders but this is the real deal with quality wooden pieces.  Made in the USA. $8.99

Jacks – This traditional jacks set comes with 5 gold and 5 silver jacks a ball and a cloth storage bag.  Also comes with rules but you can make up your own, too.  $4.99

Whirly Toy – Did you have one when you were a kid?  This one has lights inside the wheel so the fun can continue after dark. It’s quite hypnotic and I – and other adults – have spent lots of time playing with these! Wheel is magnetic and tracks along the metal rod while spinning (and lighting up).  I’ve seen lots of cheap imitations but this is a sturdy, well-made toy.  Comes with battery. Ages 5+ $9.99

Slinky Collector’s Edition – Who hasn’t had a Slinky? The Slinky is still made in Pennsylvania with the original equipment that Richard James created. The Slinky has changed little in over 50 years and is loads of fun.  Great for coordination development, learning about gravity, balance and more. Made in the USA. Ages 5+ $7.99

Light Crystal Prism – A great science toy that’s fun to look at! Natural sunlight is refracted through the prism into the full spectrum of colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Made of polished glass; must be handled with care. Made in USA. Ages 6+ $8.99

Firefly Hand-Launched Helicopter Toy -  This toy is so much fun.  We played with this a lot at home this summer (see my post about it).  Works like a sling shot that you point up in the air.  Helicopters down and has a LED light.  Ages  5+   $3.99

Eni Puzzle - A great “fidget” puzzle toy with lots of possible solutions and great for spatial relation skills.  The “Keychain” size comes in two colors schemes: pastels and hot/bold colors.   Ages 5+  Keychain is $6.99

Pommawonga Ring Toss Toy – Toss the tethered wooden rings in the air and see how many you can catch on the wooden stick. Once you’ve caught all the rings see if you can catch the square – but don’t lose the rings in the process. This is a great way for kids to develop their hand to eye coordination.  From Ryan’s Room. Ages 6+  $8.99

Wooden Throwing Top – This is a classic, natural wooden throwing top with a safe replaceable fixed plastic point.  Includes 60″ string and wooden “button”. Made in USA.  Ages 7+  $7.99. Save 10% when you buy 3 or more.

Wooden Flying Sticks –  This Flying Stick is an aerodynamically sophisticated version of the old folk-toy stick helicopter. The pitch of the 7 inch rotor can be be changed by wetting and bending. It takes a little practice to get a good flight. Insider Tip: Wait until wood is dry before flying, or it will be too heavy.  Ages 7+  Sold in 16 packs only. A 16-pack is $16.99 but I included it on my list because each flying stick comes out to just over $1.

Stocking Stuffers for Ages 8+

Kids 8 and older will enjoy any of the toys on the ages 5-7 list, but here are a few that might need a little more physical dexterity.

somacube 300x300 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for Kids

Soma Cube Puzzle – This is a classic three dimensional puzzle consisting of seven unique shapes which can only be assembled into a cube one way. Cube measures 2-1/8″ and is made of maple hardwood finished with a clear urethane finish. Made in USA. Ages 8+ $9.99.

 

 

saturn2crop 300x196 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsSaturn Throwing Top –  The Saturn throwing top or spinning top is imported from Trompos Space in Spain. Unclip the lid to store the included string and button. Internal weight can be raised or lowered to control vibration. Fixed point is more durable for long lasting fun but top still can do advanced tricks. Ages 8+ $8.99

skiprope 300x202 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for Kids  Super Skipping Rope – This jump rope is long enough for 2 or 3 to jump at once. Rope is 15 feet long with wood beads to use as handles. Package includes skip rope history, techniques and skip rope rhymes. Colors are assorted. Can be used by 1 person if one end is tied to a door or a fence (or held by someone else). Made in USA. $9.99

G36Catapultglidercrop 300x194 20 Stocking Stuffers under $10 for KidsCatapult Balsa Glider –  This rubber-launched balsa glider has 12″ wingspan and piggy-backed “Space Shuttle”. Wing and stabilizer position can be adjusted so you can experiment with different settings.  Assembly and flying requires careful reading of instructions, some dexterity & skill.   Made in USA. Ages 8+ $3.99 Save 10% when you buy 5 or more.

Visit Turner Toys & Hobbies to see other affordable toys!  Have a Merry Christmas!