Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Category Archives: Arts & Crafts for Kids

Alternative easter basket ideasWe love chocolate eggs and jelly beans but we don’t love seeing our kids sugar out.  Here are some alternative Easter Basket ideas that celebrate spring and a return of the sun and warmer weather. Any of these will be a hit in an Easter basket! And, you can still have candy!

But first, a little science lesson for your young one:

 

For Babies and Preschoolers:

Begin Again Ducky PushAroundsDucky & Car Push-Toys

PushArounds are great for developing balance and fine motor skill development through play. Babies and toddlers love to push and pull these bright stained rolling eco-friendly toys. Shaped from a single piece of earth friendly Rubberwood, this whimsical toy is a delight to hold and play with. Choose either (or both) the yellow Ducky or green Car.

  • Push toys help develop balance and fine motor skills.
  • Rubber wheel rims help protect your floors.
  • Made from eco-friendly materials: Natural Rubber and Rubberwood colored with water-based stains.

Caterpillar “Flapsi” Rattle

Your baby will love Haba’s Flapsi Rattle! It’s a wooden clutching toy makes a click-clack sound when shaken to stimulate baby’s senses.  Made in Germany from Beech wood.  Ages 6 months +.

 

Outside Activities

Egg Chalk

egg-shaped Sidewalk chalkKids love sidewalk chalk and they’ll love this egg-shaped chalk.  It feels good to draw with and looks neat, too!

  • Great outdoor activity to express creativity and imagination
  • Create fun driveway and sidewalk games like Hopscotch, Tic-Tac-Toe and Four Square
  • Colored, non-toxic chalk comes in a 4-pack is shaped like an egg and is environmentally safe
  • Recommended for children 3-years of age and older

 

Super Skip Jump RopeJump Rope

Our “Super Skip Rope” measures 15 feet long – big enough for 3 jumpers!  This is a high quality jump rope (not like those plastic jump ropes that don’t really work.)  Package includes skip rope history, techniques and skip rope rhymes. Colors are assorted. If there’s fewer of you one end can be tied to a door handle or a fence post. Made in USA. For ages 5 and older.

Tedco Sun Art Paper KitSun Art Paper

Make unique and beautiful sun art prints.  All you need is sunshine, water, natural or everyday items & your creativity! Just five easy steps:

  • Select items and create composition,
  • Layout items on paper and cover with reusable acrylic sheet,
  • Expose to sunlight until Sun Art Paper turns light blue,
  • Remove Sun Art Paper and rinse with water, and
  • Let Sun Art Paper dry.

Includes 15 sheets 5″ x 7″ paper and reusable acrylic sheet. Made in USA.

Bug Catcher BoxBug Viewer Box

Spring means the return of bugs & other critters! If your little scientist likes to catch bugs, they’ll love this bug viewer box!  It’s bug friendly: you catch them, view them and then set them free. The Eye Spy bug viewer isn’t just for bugs, though. Your scientist can get a closer look at all sorts of small things like flowers, coins, leaves, stamps and more.

Each container has a magnifying lid with air holes to keep bugs alive while you size them up with the measuring grid on the bottom.  This is one of the highest quality bug boxes you’ll find.  Ages 5+

Ein-o Science Egg Guard kitEgg Guard Science Kit

Egg-dying time is the perfect time to experiment with the scientific properties of eggs.  Investigate how strong an eggshell is. Build shock-resistant egg-protecting devices.

 

Fun kit includes 8 egg protecting contraptions (parachute drop, egg dive, egg flight, super shell, tricky crush, balloon cushion, spine shield and straw cell). Kids will enjoy the action while they learn about physics, gravity and more. Illustrated guide included. Ages 8-14.

Is the Easter Bunny coming to your house?

Photo credit: cyanocorax / Foter / CC BY-SA


very best toys for tweens and teensEveryone talks about the “hot” toys of the year.  Turner Toys & Hobbies doesn’t believe in fleeting fads.  That’s why we’ve put together our “Very Best Toy” gift guides.  These are the toys we consider to be the most engaging and creative thinking toys out there.  These have staying power and will surely get your kids off screens!  Here is our 2014 list of the Best Toys for Tweens and Teens.

1.   Remote-Control Machines (Ages 8-15)

This construction kit from Thames & Kosmos lets you build your own electric vehicles and machines and control them with a wireless remote control unit.  How cool is that?  The kit comes with designs for 10 different models such as a bulldozer, an antique car and a robotic arm.  After you make those, then the sky’s the limit.  A unique 6-button infrared remote allows you to control three different motors simultaneously, moving each of them forward or in reverse. 182 pieces, 10 models and a 48-page manual.

2.   Roominate  (Girls Ages 6-12 – boys can play with it, too!)

A dollhouse for kids to design, build and electrify!  Roominate has come up with a great way to introduce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to girls.  With Roominate, every girl is an engineer.  Girls build their own structure (a house on wheels?), design their own beds, staircases and more.  Then, they make their creations come alive with a working windmill, elevator, or merry-go-round! Roominate is available in both a basic and a deluxe size kit, a studio building set, an architect’s expander pack and a Roominate circuits accessory pack.  Roominate was invented by female engineers from Cal Tech, MIT & Stanford and has won numerous of awards.  The girl in your life will love it!

3.  Candy Chemistry Kit (Ages 10-15)

What a delicious way to learn about science!   This is not a toy which is why older kids will love it. Kids explore chemistry as they cook up candies and chocolates in the kitchen. They’ll learn about important physical science principles related to candy and cooking.  With 25 sweet experiments to perform, kids can discover why sugar crystallizes to make rock candy or investigate the chemistry of gummy bears, to name just two.  Kids can make gummy candies, chocolate shapes, and hard sugar candy using the special tools included.  No hazardous chemicals or food items; you supply the safe ingredients from your kitchen. Comes with a 48-page manual.

4.  Syclone  (Ages 8-adult)

Like spinning tops?  Like mazes?  How about combining the two? The Syclone is a dexterity puzzle for kids, teens and adults alike. The precision-engineered top spins for over a minute.  Once it’s spinning then you can navigate the ramps, jumps and sinkholes of the two 3D mazes before the top stops.  The Scyclone was named 2014 Toy of the Year by Creative Child Magazine.

5.  Ball of Whacks (Ages 14-adult)

One of our most fascinating and addictive toys!  The Ball of Whacks is a clever and versatile puzzle invented by creativity expert Roger von Oech. It is made up of 30 magnetic pyramids that can be taken apart and rearranged in endless ways to form amazing creations: stars, polygons, creatures such as flying squirrels and turtles and more!  But you don’t have to make anything – just pull the pieces apart and watch them snap back.   It’s available in red or 6-colors.  The maker recommends this for ages 14+ because it contains rare earth magnets.

 6.  Artterro Creativity Kit   (Ages 7 – Adult)
This kit is a beautiful collection of hard-to-find handmade papers, wool felt shapes and glass and wooden beads and more for you to create with.  The kit gives suggestions of what you can make (greeting cards, bookmarks, ornaments, gift tags, small sculptures and collages), but you can make anything that inspires you!  The materials have been sourced from India, Thailand, Nepal and the US.
7.  Q-Ba-Maze  (Ages 6-14)

Q-Ba-Maze Q-Ba-Maze is a 3D maze that is also a ball run.  Colorful plastic cubes interlock to form a marble run.  Arrange the cubes in an animal, geometric or any other design you can imagine.  Marbles travel through the maze following a different course each time – the configurations of the cubes are almost unlimited!

The colored cubes add a different visual dimension that wood doesn’t have.  A great way to teach kids about probability, gravity, symmetry, physics and art.  Q-Ba-Maze also has add-on stunts: the Bounce Stunt Set  and the Zoom Stunt Set

Let us know if you have other gift ideas for your tweens and teens.

 

 

 


 

 


10 best toys for babies & toddlers Children learn through play and, as parents, we want to make sure that they have the very best toys and environment for learning.  We don’t care for “hot” toys or fleeting fads.  We look for high quality, well-made toys that will have staying power for your child. There are so many options so we’ve put together our Very Best Toys guides to help you choose the very best for your child.

Our 10 Very Best Toys for Babies & Toddlers

We love natural materials like wood which is a sensory treat for your child.   It looks great, feels great, sounds great when rattled, stacked and knocked over and sometimes even smells great! As long as it is natural or colored with non-toxic stains/paints, it will be safe for your little one to chew or suck on.  It’s not an accident that all of our picks are either made in the USA or in Germany!

Rattles & Clutching Toys

At this age, rattles and clutching toys help improve grasping skills and eye-hand coordination.

1.  Our Haba clutching toys such as the adorable Flapsi Rattle and the Magica clutching toy are made in Germany of sustainable wood and non-toxic water-based stains.  My Very Own Rattle is a classic rattle made in Vermont of a single piece of maple.  Generations of parents have chosen this as their favorite.

Wooden Blocks

Educators and child development experts agree that if you are going to get one toy for your child it should be a wooden block set.  It’s the perfect open-ended, creative activity for kids of any age – it also helps with spatial, eye-hand and motor skills.  It promotes problem-solving, social and verbal skills and is a great way to learn architectural and engineering principles.  Kids can create, share and tell stories using wooden blocks.  Here are our favorites:

2. Haba Patience Blocks & Discovery Blocks  (ages 1+)

When is a block not a block?  When it has bells, mirrors, rattling balls and buttons!  Each set comes with six colored wooden blocks.  The Patience Blocks have wooden balls and track behind a plexiglass window and the Discovery Blocks have cubes with a bell, kaleidoscope lens, push button, mirror, yellow lens, and rattling ball. These first stacking toys encourage sensory observation and fine motor skills.

3. Haba Baby’s First Blocks  (ages 6 months+)

The perfect first set of simple blocks for your baby!   These 12 simple cubes are in 6 basic colors that your child can hold and stack.  Blocks are a wonderful way for your baby to develop fine motor skills and learn about stacking and cause and effect.   Use them to teach colors and matching.  Like these other Haba toys, they are made in Germany of beechwood from sustainably grown forests. The blocks are colored with non-toxic water-based stains.

4.  Alphabet Blocks from Uncle Goose (ages 24 months+)

Uncle Goose’s  28-piece English Wooden Alphabet Block Set is patterned after blocks from the turn-of-the-century and printed in the safest inks available.  Each block features a unique animal picture, a number or math symbol, and four upper case letters (two embossed), for a total of four complete alphabets.The blocks are made of basswood that is sustainably grown in the USA.

5. Haba Fantasy Blocks  (ages 1-5)

This is one of the most beautiful block sets that I’ve ever seen. This unique 26-piece block set adds a new twist to block play with vivid colors, patterns and designs. The Fantasy Block set includes different shapes and features – including staircases, roof tops, hidden bells, holograms – even the sun!  Great for stacking, building and story-telling. Winner of Dr. Toy’s Best Classic Toy Award  Made in Germany of sustainably-grown beechwood and colored with non-toxic water-based stains. Some blocks are embellished with high quality acrylic or foil.

6. Haba Stick Together Blocks (Ages 1+)

These are one of the most popular block sets.  The colorful blocks have pegs on top and recesses on bottom so stacked blocks stay in place. Great for eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Perfect for the young architect in your household. 13 pieces. Made in Germany.

Building Toys

7. Haba My First Ball Track (Ages 18 months+)

We’re big fans of ball track and marble runs and this is a great introduction to the world of ball track for your toddler. Get an early start on developing spatial sense, fine motor skills and patience.  The colorful connecting blocks come with pivots that easily lock into place on the bottom of the ball track pieces. This makes constructing easy and keeps the track in place even if your little one bumps against it!  Your child will love the ding of the bell on the finishing block and the special effects ball that glitters, rings or rattles when it rolls.  As you child gets older, this set will nicely complement any of Haba’s ball track sets. Made in Germany. Ages 1-1/2 – 5.

8. Lighthouse Stacking Toy (Ages 1+)

Stacking toys are a staple of childhood. Haba’s Lighthouse Stacking Game stacks easily and is stable as the pieces have lugs on the top and sockets on the bottom.  Your child will have hours of fun stacking the blocks in different order.  Made in Germany of beechwood and non-toxic water-based stains.

9. Haba Noah’s Ark Building Block Set (Ages 3+)

This HABA Noah’s Ark wooden block set has unlimited play value. Your child can act out the story of Noah and the Flood, of course. Or – how about settlers in a new land, or an expedition searching for rare animals? Made in Germany.  Recipient of Dr. Toy Best Classic Toy award and Spiel Gut Toy award.

10. Roy Toy 250-piece Deluxe Log Cabin Building Set  (Ages 3+)

These are the original log cabin logs and they’re still made in the USA!  This deluxe set is made of 100% pine from Maine.  The wooden pieces even smell great!   The set comes with enough parts to build many structures:  farmhouse, forts, barn with silo & corral, treehouse, and any structure that young minds and hands can devise. I love that the set comes in a large, sturdy canvas bag with rope tie.

Any of these are great toys for your child.  What are your favorites?

 

 

 


diy lava lampsWe just participated in the Champlain Mini Maker Faire at Shelburne Farms in Vermont.  IMG_2147[1]Are you familiar with the Maker Movement?  The Maker Movement celebrates a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) mindset – from arts and crafts to science and engineering.  There seems to be a focus on technology which is a great way to introduce kids to STEM or STEAM. (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, math.)

 

 

 

There were great robotics demonstrations but our decidedly low-tech DIY lava lamps were incredibly popular.  Even the robotics club high-schoolers and adults loved them!

Lava Lamps – Great Science Project

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This project is a great opportunity for kids to learn about density, color mixing and the properties of carbon dioxide. Ask questions like:

  • Which liquid is on top? Why?
  • Why does it bubble?
  • How does the color bubble up through the oil?
  • Why do the color droplets not burst until they hit the water?

Everyone seemed fascinated about how they “worked” so we decided to write up a tutorial. A lot of teachers were interested in making the lava lamps in class and we talked about how you could break up the steps to accommodate multiple days of learning.  More than 100 kids made lava lamps at our event, so we bought our supplies in bulk but here are directions for making one lava lamp.  Just multiply the ingredients for however many makers you have.

diy lava lampSupplies Needed

  • Empty bottle with cap (12 oz water bottles work well.)
  • Oil (vegetable or baby oil)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Alka Seltzer tablets broken into 3 or 4 pieces
  • Plastic funnel
  • Plastic or metal tray (or something to capture spills if they happen!)
  • Flashlight or other light source
  • Cleaning supplies (oil is slippery!)

 

Lava Lamp Directions

  • Using a funnel, fill the bottles 1/4 full with water.
  • Again, using a funnel, fill the remaining 3/4 of the bottle with oil.
  • Once the water and oil are separated, add 5-6 drops of food coloring.  You can adjust this as you like. The more the better, I think.
  • Watch the drops of oil float down through the oil.  They remain intact as they float down and it’s pretty fascinating to watch.  They’ll lay on the bottom layer of the oil until they break through to the water and the droplets of color burst and color the water.
  • Next, add a piece of the Alka Seltzer tablet.  The carbon dioxide brings up the color into the oil.  When the bubbling stops, just add another piece of the tablet.
  • Shine a flashlight through the side or bottom of the bottle.

diy lava lamp

 

Observations and Tips

  • We used vegetable oil. The vegetable oil worked well but it’s yellow in color so baby oil might be nicer since it is clear.
  • Let the oil and water completely separate, if you can.  This might be a good stopping place to let the bottle sit overnight.   You don’t have to wait for it to completely separate but it will be more visually powerful when you add the food coloring.
  • We had adults pour the water and oil. You can decide if you’d like to make this a pouring activity for kids.
  • Bottles size doesn’t matter unless you are trying to economize on oil (it can get expensive!) Most of ours were 12 oz which means 8-9 oz of oil per bottle. When we ran out of 12 oz bottles, we moved to 8 oz bottles.  They worked just as well as the 12 oz bottles.
  • Make sure the caps fit!
  • We used baking trays with a shallow lip to catch any spills. The shallow trays let little ones see their lamps.
  • Young children might need help putting the food coloring drops into the bottle.  Nearly every child was able to drop the Alka Seltzer pieces in.
  • Color mixing:  we found that yellow and red worked pretty well but red & blue did not. It ended up looking pretty muddy.
  • We used our lava lamp over and over again.  The oil started to look a little foggy.  Not sure if it was reuse or air temperature or humidity.  Don’t know if baby oil would have had a different effect.
  • To cap or not to cap?  We left the cap off during the bubbling process.  What would happen if you capped it right away?
  • Don’t forget clean up supplies – paper towels, wipes, etc.

Light up your Lava Lamp

IMG_2157[1]The kids loved the lava lamps in regular daylight but were amazed when we shone a light through the side.  One child told me later that she used it as a nightlight.

Our neighbors from the CVU Robohawks in Hinesburg, VT made us a light up base for our bottles.  They used a 3D printer to make it (took several hours) then, cut holes and put LED lights and a battery underneath.  Maker Power!!!

Your lava lamp will last forever.  Just add some alka seltzer when you’re ready to watch it in action.


What do kaleidoscopes have to do with Amish quilts?

Plenty, I just learned.  I went to the Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT) yesterday and saw Kaleidoscope quilts at Shelburne Museuma 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 imageThe 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)


Wearable Wool Felt JewelryI 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

Artterro bookmaking kit

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

Artterro art journal kitThis 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

Artterro Doll KitArttero 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   Artterro bookmaking kit

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.

Artterro Creativity Art KitCreativity 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

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

artterro wool felt jewelry kitDesign 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    Paint Marker Art Supplies

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!



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