Halloween may be over, but costumes are still alive and well in many households. I don’t know about you, but I definitely got more than one night’s use out of my costumes as a kid. In fact, we had a whole dress-up box full of Halloween costumes, dance recital outfits, wigs, tutus, etc. My mom would find extras at yard sales or after-Halloween clearance sales. My neighborhood friends and I used them all year long, whether playing house, coming up with plays and performances (that our parents graciously endured), or just for the fun of it. Here are a few fun costumes that kids can enjoy any time, inspired by some of my favorite disguises of Halloweens past: [Read more...]
Growing up, we’d pack up the car and take the 8+ hour road trip from Rhode Island to Virginia to visit my mom’s side of the family several times a year. In those days, before the commercialized Internet (much less wireless Internet), tablets, apps, and before most people even had a basic cell phone, my sister and I entertained ourselves with books, magazines, car games, audio books, and my favorite of all: GeoSafari.
Educational Insights’ GeoSafari Laptop looked different back in the ’90s than it does today, but the concept and overall user experience is mostly the same. By the third grade, I was a whiz at geography. I could identify every state and state capital, the oceans and seas, mountain ranges, rivers, Central and South American countries and capitals, and more. While GeoSafari isn’t just about geography, it was what I used the most. (To this day, I still kick myself for not trying out for Where In the World is Carmen San Diego? I totally would have won that trip at the end.) I credit GeoSafari for my enthusiasm for geography and maps, which I still have to this day. [Read more...]
Kids love to make stuff. Arts and crafts, do-it-yourself kits, construction sets—you name it. I loved crafts as a kid, especially the kinds that didn’t quickly run out of the included supplies, so I could start over if it wasn’t quite right the first time.
Recently, I took home Schylling’s Metal Pot Holder Loom. It was the first time I’d made one of those over-under hook-and-loop pot holders since elementary school. Even back then, I remember taking great pains to get the weave tight, so there weren’t gaps or curves. This time was no different, except that the loom is now significantly larger. The kit includes a metal loom, a metal hook, a plastic crochet hook, an instruction manual, and enough loops to create two pot holders and still have some left over. One quiet weeknight, I settled in with a good show on TV and started making a pot holder. The little girl in me still enjoyed the process, and I put thought into the design before beginning. The result was an even, tight, and pretty awesome-looking kitchen accessory, if I do say so myself. [Read more...]
Not all science toys are created equal. Today’s kids live in a world oozing with technology, discovery, gizmos, and gadgets—and toy store shelves reflect this environment. Classics, such as volcano kits and fossil excavation sets, will always retain their charm and their ability to excite and inspire kids. However, more high-tech items, such as solar-powered robots and hovercrafts, are the toys of today—and tomorrow.
There is immeasurable value in science toys. Kids gain knowledge and understanding of the world around them by immersing themselves in a hands-on activity that lets them comprehend how things work, where things come from, or how to use one thing to power another. Providing kids with fun and exciting alternatives to mind-numbing video games or TV shows is a great way for parents and caregivers to encourage learning and positive play, even outside of school hours.
Hovercrafts, once a thing of sci-fi and fantasy, are now a reality. Thames & Kosmos offers kids the opportunity to build their own working hovercraft with the Air Stream Machines kit. The kit teaches kids about air mass and air pressure by letting them experiment with propellers, impellers, blower motors, and fans. Kids can even build a batting machine that suspends a ball on top of the stream of air. [Read more...]
The best way to learn is hands-on, and there are lots of great toys that let kids learn about the world around them—while having fun at the same time! With solar-powered toys, kids come to understand how the sun provides energy and how to harness it for their use.
OWI’s 14-in 1-Educational Solar Robot Kit, recipient of Best Green Products Award 2013, is a solar-powered robot that transforms into 14 different robot modes. Kids can easily change from a tail-wagging dog to a running beetle, a walking crab to a surfer, a speedster to a zombie chaser, and others. The robot kit provides unique accessories and parts that allow the robot to move on land and in water. It moves in direct sunlight and allows kids to create and use their imagination. There are two levels in building the robot kit. Level one includes Turtle-bot, Beetle-bot, Quadru-bot, Boat-bot, Walker-bot, Dog-bot, and Wheel-bot. Level two includes Roly Poly-bot, Auto-bot, Slither-bot, Surf-bot, Zombie-bot, Crab-bot, and Row-bot. Additional features include adjustable polarity on the solar panel to change direction of motor rotation, a retractable robot head which can be quickly stored in the upper body and can be installed in the front, top, or rear of the gearbox, and a transparent housing so kids can see the movements of the gears. [Read more...]
Apples to Apples has emerged as a go-to party favorite for players of all ages. Since its debut in 1999, the game has become incredibly popular and has been reinvented time and time again to cater to different audiences. It is now published by Mattel and is available online and at retailers worldwide.
Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples Party Box contains more than 1,000 cards. Each player begins with seven red cards that contain “Things.” One player selects a green card and reads the “Description” aloud. The other players must then decide which of their red cards is the best match for the green card. For example, if the green card says “A day at the park,” players must choose the best card to fit that card. Players can select anything from the literal (perhaps “picnic”) to the silly (“dancing clowns”) to the ironic (“sad and lonely”). The player that read the green card must shuffle the cards and then pick the one they like best. The player that put in the winning card keeps the green card. The first player to get five green cards wins. [Read more...]
During a recent game-testing session here at The Toy Book, I had the opportunity to play Fandooble, from Mindtwister USA. This game took a few rounds to get the hang of, but once I did, I really liked it—so much so that I called dibs and took it home. Last weekend, I hosted my two teenage male cousins from Sweden. Needless to say, it could be a challenge at times to find activities that we all enjoyed; after all, a 13-year-old boy and a 28-year old woman don’t have a lot of common ground. Fandooble was a great solution, and we played several times during their visit. I even purchased another copy to send home with them as a reminder of our time together.
The game includes four dice and a bag of gold coins. The dice bear images of green dragons, red dragons, knights, wizards, treasure chests, and Fandooble—the money-snatcher. Each player begins the game with five coins in their “stash.” The rest of the coins are kept in the middle. [Read more...]
Every kid wants a pet. Some start small, asking for a goldfish or a hermit crab; others go all-out from the get-go and ask for a pony; many more go for a more attainable, yet oft-denied option: a dog or cat.
For parents that want to let their kids have a pet but don’t want to take on the responsibilities of a larger animal, there are plenty of toy choices that will let kids have the enjoyment of a live pet.
Sea-Monkeys are a classic item that originated in the 1950s. Kids “hatch” their own brine shrimp—nicknamed Sea-Monkeys—from numbered packets and follow instructions in an enchantedly illustrated instruction booklet, depicting the Sea-Monkeys as a magical underwater society. The graphic element of Sea-Monkeys is enough to lure many kids in, but watching the Sea-Monkeys come to life and grow keeps kids interested, and teaches them responsibility as they must feed their pets each week. [Read more...]
I don’t know about you, but to me, the concept of trading stocks is one big, complicated, web of confusion, reserved for professionals, the wealthy, or older people. I’ve felt little left out in the past, when I’ve heard of friends of mine buying stocks, and thought, “I should do that!” The problem is, I have no idea what I’m doing, let alone where to start. That is, until I was introduced to Wall Street Magnate (WSM), a groundbreaking new fantasy trading community that lets people learn the ins and outs of the capital markets. The site uses real-world financial information to offer a realistic and fun fantasy trading experience online, with up-to-the-minute data from all of the major U.S. Stock Exchanges.
WSM allows “traders” of all ages to learn crucial skills in an exciting and social atmosphere. Users have $100,000 in simulated cash to trade stocks listed on the NYSE, NASDAQ, and AMEX. Members climb the corporate ranks by increasing their Status and Title. WSM provides an easy-to-use and intuitive interface for fantasy trading. The site accounts for both dividends and stock splits in a real-time environment, and features social club play where members can collaborate or face-off with their friends while also competing against other clubs. “Traders” can track and document their complete trading history with sortable spreadsheets that can be easily exported. Member profile pages become the central gateway to fantasy trading, where privacy settings can be adjusted at any time. Members can quickly view a snapshot of their portfolio performance, their current achievements, friends’ status, club information, messages, and the WSM Ticker. The WSM Ticker allows members to see live activity streaming in real-time, including 24/7 news from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters Business, Yahoo! Finance, and CNN Money; the 20 most recent stock trades and new trades to hit the site; critical updates regarding buy and sell orders; all Status and Title upgrades achieved by themselves and friends; stock splits awarded for currently held stocks; dividends paid on currently held stocks; ticker posts; and recent friend and club updates. [Read more...]