Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Category Archives: Science toys

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.

 

 

 


 

 


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.


Tornado TubeI’ve been talking about science toys and science experiments lately (see my posts on the Heron’s Fountain and Kaleidoscope) and wanted to share some tips on how to use the Tornado Tube.  This is about the least expensive science toy out there, it’s fun and you can use it to demonstrate a really important scientific principle.  The littlest ones will be amazed and older kids can use it as a launching pad to learn more about vortex action.  We’ve even had colleges use the Tornado Tube. It’s a great educational toy and it’s made in the USA!

What the Tornado Tube Does

tornado and tornado tubeYour Tornado Tube demonstrates a vortex action.  Examples of vortexes are tornadoes, whirlpools, waterspouts – really any similar fluid motion that happens when liquid or air drops through an opening. You can see it in the bathtub as the water drains, too.

How to Make the Tornado

tornado tubeYou’ll need:

  • 2 empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles
  • water
  • a Tornado Tube
  • food coloring (optional)
  • glitter (optional)
  • a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap (optional)

Ready, set, go!

  • Partially fill (2/3 full) one of the 2-liter plastic soda bottles with water.
  • Add food coloring, glitter, soap or whatever you want.
  • Screw the bottles into opposite ends of the connector tube.
  • Tip the bottle so that the full bottle is on top.  Give the end of the full bottle a swirling rotational movement until you get the vortex going.

Call it a tornado if you’re a meteorologist, or a whirlpool if you’re into oceanography.

The science behind the Tornado Tube

The inventors of the Tornado Tube describe it this way:

The action is the concentration of kinetic energy (motion).   In the atmosphere, wind shear and thermals are the source of the energy which produces the vortex.  In liquids, such as water, the potential energy (mass) is converted to kinetic energy as it descends, pulled by gravity through an opening. A small initial rotation about the opening becomes more violent (higher rotational velocity) as the molecules come closer to the center. The resulting outward force tends to keep the liquid out of the exact center, maintaining a “hole” in the remaining liquid.

What vortexes in nature have you seen?

 

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain


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)


Fountain Connection Heron's FountainWhat’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 Connection Heron's Fountainbottle. 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 ScienceAnother 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?


10_15boygiftSomeone just asked me about good gifts for 10-15 year old boys.   I thought it might be helpful to think about it in terms of their personalities. 

Here are three types of boys I know:

Creator  (C)

  • Likes finding solutions for different kinds of “problems.” A Rube Goldberg type.  Learns, experiments, builds.  Might like blocks, mazes, marble runs or planes and rockets that they can design or tweak for different performance effects.

Sprinter (S)

  • Doesn’t necessarily want to devote a lot of time to an activity – maybe 10 minutes here and there.  Short bursts of concentration but likes to practice things over and over to master a skill.  Might like brainteasers, yo-yos, tops or ready-to-fly rockets and planes.

Tinkerer (T)

  • Likes to use his hands to build things, tweaks them to improve performance.  Can spend lots of time (hours, days) on a project.  Might like advanced rocket and balsa airplane kits that require precision cutting, glueing and painting.  Might like 3D puzzles or puzzles that require a lot of patience.

Here are 6 types of gifts for 10-15 year old boys who are Creators, Sprinters & Tinkerers

1.  Brainteaser Puzzles  (S)

The most jaded tween or teen likes brainteasers.  This is great for kids who want to fiddle with something for a short while and come back to it later – or fiddle with it all day. Here are four popular puzzles:

 

 

  • Mini Eni Puzzle – a great hand-held one-piece puzzle that kids can take with them, attach it to their backpacks.  Great for fidget toy.
  • Logiq Tower    – this wooden puzzle has more than 22,000 possible solutions.
  • Soma Cube –  wooden cube puzzle with only 1 solution

2. Rockets  (C) (S) (T)

I can’t tell you how many dads we meet who practically get misty-eyed when they see that we carry Estes rockets.  Their love of rocketry started when they were kids.  If your family hasn’t tried rockets, maybe this is the time – a father-son activity?

Estes 1403 Riptide Model Rocket

Riptide RTF Rocket

Sprinters (or novices) need a ready-to-fly, or RTF, rocket that requires almost no assembly with a launch set like the Riptide. (S)

Estes High Flier Model Rocket

Estes High Flier High Altitude Model Rocket

Creators and Tinkerers will like anything E2X & beyond (though start with the easier levels if your child is a novice).  The High Flier Model Rocket Kit  is a Level 1 skill level and flies up to 1500 feet.  It needs some assembly and painting and a launch set if you don’t have it. (C) (T)

For more information about rockets, please see my earlier posts:  Unplug your kids! and Model Rockets.  Feel free to call or email us if you’d like specific guidance.

3.  Building Toys (C)

The creator will take the basic units of these sets, add in stunts and then create all kinds of amazing contraptions or layouts that would make Rube Goldberg proud. Check out the videos!

Crazy Wall Coaster

I talked about this in my Kid Inventor post.  The Wall Coaster is basically a marble run that you attach to a wall and reposition as you experiment.  Also comes with stunt sets that make it that much more fun:

Q-Ba-Maze Big Box Set

Interlocking plastic cubes make this a 3D maze and marble run – physics & art in one set.  There are three types of cubes: hole in the center, one to the side, or two to the side.  Experiment with how the marbles run through the maze.  Use multiple marbles at once.  Only made more fun with stunt add-ons like vortexes, tubes, pivot trampoline & more:

4.  Flying toys  (C) (S) (T)

Is the boy is into planes and flight?  There are all kinds of planes and kits that will appeal to Creators, Sprinters and Tinkerers.

 

 

  • The Guillows Airplane Design Studio lets you design and build your own airplanes, biplanes, gliders. Comes with enough supplies to build 4 motorplanes and 4 gliders. (C) (T)

There are lots of other ready-to-fly planes that will appeal to both Sprinters & Tinkerers.  These are all rubber-powered (not radio-controlled) and many require little assembly but can be tweaked for enhanced performance.  (S) (T)

 

 

  • The P-51 Mustang requires minimal assembly and is rubber-launched. It loops, dives and flies great.  Can be tweaked for different flight patterns. (S)
  • The G36 Catapult Glider has 12″ wingspan and piggy-backed “Space Shuttle”. Great for learning basics of catapault launched gliding. 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. (T)

Balsa airplane kits will appeal to Tinkerers. They require patience and dexterity, to.o

  • The Cadet Model Airplane Kit  Recommended age 10+. Build-time: 4 hours. Requires use of simple tools such as Exacto knife, pliers and artist’s brush. One of the first teaching designs when created in the 1940’s, this is the simplest model using stick-and-tissue construction. (T)
  • The Balsa Model Spitfire is recommended for ages 12+  Wingspan: 27″.  Rubber powered but can be converted to gas power. Requires a lot of attention to detail & patience! (T)

I’m partial to Ornithopters because I think they’re really cool.  They’re mechanical devices that fly by flapping their wings.

 

 

5.  2D & 3D puzzles (T)

 

 

Check out our Gift Guide to Puzzles – it includes puzzles for older kids.  Ravensburger’s 3D series of famous landmarks is fun – and take several hours to build.  Try the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or the Empire State Building.  Or, try a 1500 or 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle or something devilish like the Krypt 654 piece Blank Puzzle. No image – just a uniform slate gray surface which includes a circular design.

6.  Tops & Yo-Yos (S)

Tops and yo-yos are classic toys and are great for kids who want to do something with their hands, master skills and reach for the next skill level.

For beginners, you can’t go wrong with the Wooden Throwing Top or the Trompos Saturn Top.

For more advanced throwers, try the Blizzard.  It spins smoothly on carpet, pavement, palm of the hand, or other rough surface. 

Why not pair a yo-yo with the Yomega Mania DVD?

The Yomega Brain is great for beginners.  The Yomega Raider is for more advanced users.

Hope this helps you think about what your Creator, Sprinter or Tinkerer might like.  You can always email or call us if you’d like help sorting out some of these choices.

 


unplugkidscoverThe #1 thing I hear is: “I can’t get my child off the screen.”  Unplug your kid with these 8 screen-free toys and activities that they’ll love enough to put down that electronic device!  For some of these, all you have to do is leave them out on a table; others require some supervision – a great way for you to play with your child!

1.  Gyrobot

A robot that can walk a tight rope!  The Gyrobot – Science of Gyroscopes Kit makes learning about the importance and power of gyroscopes fun.  Includes a  24-page educational booklet. Winner of Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Toys of 2013.  Requires 3 AAA batteries (not included). Ages 8+  Take a look at the video!

 

2.  Rockets

You definitely can’t leave these lying around but who doesn’t think rockets are cool?  Many kids develop a life-long passion for rockets so now is the time to nurture that passion.

We carry Estes model rockets that come in all skill levels.  If you don’t have a launch set and controller, you should get a rocket package that includes them because it’s more cost-effective.

Estes 1403 Riptide Model RocketFor absolute beginners, look for “RTF” ready-to-fly rockets.  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 rocket, parachute, and controller are reusable.  You will need to get some parts separately (see link for full description).

See our earlier post for more rocket flying tipsThe youngest recommended age is 10 years with adult supervision.

3.  Science Kits

Science Wiz Physics We carry the award-winning Science Wiz science kits.  The Physics Science Kit is a great way to develop a basic understanding of the laws of motion, weight, force, mass, velocity and acceleration. A 40-page science book, materials and illustrated step by step instructions let children play and learn by themselves.  24 different activities including launching a bottle rocket, performing tricks with inertia, measuring mass and spinning water upside down. The Physics Science Kit has won awards from Creative Child Magazine and Dr.Toy Best Toy and Best Vacation Toy. Ages 8+

Other Science Wiz Kits: choose from Chemistry, Inventions, Light Science, Electricity, Energy, Crystals and Capacitor Car.  Some kits may require supervision.

We also have party-sized kits that will engage and entertain 5-6 children:  Bottle Rocket Party Kit and the Crazy Chemistry Party Kit.

4. Marble Ball Track 

Marble ball track is a great open-ended, classic toy that lets children build and experiment – a great toy for future engineers.  Start with the basic Haba Wooden Ball Track set and then add on accessories so your child can expand the creative possibilities.  Kids as young as three can play with basic sets but older kids can really bring out their inner Rube Goldberg.  Watch what they can create. The sets are made of sustainably grown hardwood and are manufactured in Germany.  These will be around for your grandchildren!  My husband still has his! Ages 3+

Two of the HABA add-ons that I like are:

5. Q-Ba-Maze

Q-Ba-Maze Q-Ba-Maze differs from traditional ball track in that it’s 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. Ages 6 -14

6.  Citiblocs

Your child probably isn’t playing with the chunky building blocks of his childhood but s/he’ll love creating all kinds of sculptures with Citiblocs – plank blocks that come in different colors. You can use then as building blocks and/or dominos.  Look at the video below to see an AMAZING Citiblocs creation!

I leave a few bags of these on my coffee table and kids and adults are drawn to them. They come in Cool Colors (blues & greens), Hot Colors (red, orange, yellow, pink) and Natural wood. Made of sustainable New Zealand pine.

One of Time Magazine’s “15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses” and recipient of numerous awards.  No snaps, magnets or glues needed with these blocks – just imagination & gravity!  

 

7.  Brainteaser puzzles

I have seen middle school kids drop everything to play with brainteaser puzzles.  In the 6th grade, my son was obsessed with Maple Landmark’s Mental Aerobics – it was the first and the last thing he did each day.  The puzzle is a tangram with 102 possible solutions and is made of Vermont hardwood.   It has won several awards and has been recommended by the National Association for Gifted Children. Ages 8+

Eni Brainteaser PuzzleAnother popular puzzle is the Eni Puzzle.  Middle-schoolers love them but kids as young as 5 will have fun with them, too – as will adults!   This puzzle is a perfect travel companion as it requires no batteries, notepads, pens, pencils or electrical outlets. Great for developing hand to eye coordination, simple problem solving skills and spatial relationships.

The Eni is a great stocking stuffer or goody bag gift!  There are two sizes:

  • The Mini Eni Puzzle  offers lots of solutions as each column has 8 pieces by 8 colors.  Comes in black/white or bold hot colors.
  • The Keychain Eni Puzzle is obviously smaller with 4 pieces by 4 colors.  You can attach it to a backpack or computer bag.  Comes in pastels or bold hot colors.

8. Paper Airplanes & the PowerUp

 Power Up Airplane conversion kitYou’re thinking: “My child is so over paper airplanes.”  Not when your child sees the 12 really sophisticated designs and hot graphics in the Whitewings Hotshots Paper Airplane book.  Your child can make planes that fly far and straight & can be tweaked for maximum performance. Ages 4+

Triple the fun when your child adds the PowerUp to his paper airplane.  It’s the world’s first electric-powered paper airplane! Make a paper airplane that flies well, clip on the PowerUp Power Kit and your creation can fly for 30 seconds or more after a 20 second charge with the included charger. Ages 8+

How hard is it to unplug your child?   I bet that any one of these will do the trick!

 


Kids are natural inventorswall coaster kid invention.  Famous kid inventions include the trampoline & Popsicles.  Here’s a list from Women’s Day of some other things kids invented.

When we were at Toy Fair last year, we met Jake who invented the Wall Coaster when he was 12.  He spent time in his basement – with his dad’s help – messing around and came up with something like a marble track – but it goes up on the wall!   The young inventor’s idea was simple: how can you make a marble roll down a wall? After weeks of experimenting with different materials and concepts, the Wall Coaster was born.

The Wall Coaster uses plastic track that adheres to the wall with reusable non-stick adhesive.  The track can be set up and moved into any configuration you want.  It’s a great activity to learn about and test scientific concepts such as:

  • Centrifugal force
  • Gravity
  • Friction

There are two kits (Super Starter Set and Extreme Stunt Set) and trick add-ons (Super Loop and Crazy Stairs.)  The sets come with track, non-stick adhesive, marbles (including glow-in-the dark marbles!)  Here’s a video showing how it works.

How can you help your child become an inventor?

Inventors try to solve a problem, fill a need or make something better.  The Young Inventor Challenge, an annual competition of the Chicago Toy Fair, has an amazing Inventor’s Guide that has activities that lead your child through the invention process.  The keys to success:

  • Imagination
  • Brainstorming….which leads to
  • The BIG idea
  • Prototyping & building
  • Testing &
  • Revising, if you need to.

Imagination

It all starts with imagination.  I really love the questions from the section on “Imagination:”

What do you imagine? Have you ever spent time dreaming about a really cool idea you had? If you could pick only one game or toy to play with, which would it be? What is it about that game or toy that appeals to you so much? Do you make up new rules to the games you already own? Do you make up games to play with cool bits and pieces of stuff you have laying around? Do you play with your toys in new and entirely different ways? Could you make a better game or toy? A large part of invention is seeing old things in new ways. What do you imagine?

This year’s Young Inventor Challenge will be held November 23-24 at the Navy Pier in Chicago.  The deadline to register is November 4th.

Have you or your children ever invented anything?  Please let me know!


Made in USA Toy SaleTo honor American workers this Labor Day, we’re offering one of our best sales ever:

20% off Made in USA toys

I noticed that some big toy makers and toy stores are having sales this weekend but I noticed that they didn’t mention anything about American-made products.  Then it dawned on me – it’s because they don’t sell anything that’s made in USA!

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According to the US Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

So let’s celebrate the wonderful craftsmanship of US toymakers!   Use code LABORDAY at checkout. Choose from among:

 

Sale through September 3rd. We carry other fine made in USA toys and furniture but are unable to include them in this sale.  Sale excludes Vermont Dory, Mountain Boy Sleds, Little Colorado Furniture.

Remember that when you buy American made toys you are supporting your neighbors and contributing to a strong US economy!

Please check out these groups support Made in USA:

Made in USA Challenge

Buy Direct USA

For more information on the value of buying made in USA, please read my earlier posts:  Toys Made in USA, Made in America Toys – At What Price? and Made in USA Still Matters according to Businessweek.

Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA



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