educational toys

  • Juballees – Stacking, Rolling Fun for Little Hands!

    juballees - stacking, rolling fun for little hands

    My 4-month-old daughter is just starting to notice toys.  Her main interest so far is putting them straight in her mouth. The same was true when I handed her Juballees stacking balls – but in a few months, she’ll learn there is so much more you can do with them!

    Juballees are uniquely-shaped, hard plastic balls designed for infants and toddlers 6 months and up. The set consists of three balls, which have gentle, fully-encased magnets that let them click together and stack. Each ball has a nub and a dip that lets it link to the next ball or rest flat on a surface. They even make a light rattling sound!

    Each of the Juballees balls also separates into rounded halves. Little hands, like my daughter’s, can grasp one half at a time and use it as a rattle for sensory development. The halves can be stacked upside-down as well, creating multiple building possibilities! Children can also mix and match the sides, which have six different colors.

    Juballees balls help children develop fine motor skills as they roll, stack, shake and click them. Little ones learn about the cause-and-effect relationship as they experiment with the balls, and receive sensory input as they explore the colors and sounds.

    Juballees Stacking Balls Juballees can roll, shake, click, stack, mix and match.

    These great features make Juballees a Summer Top Toy! Get those little hands on them today.

    --Becki

  • 5 Fidget Spinner Experiments You Won’t Believe Worked!

    Fidget SpinnersFidget spinners have instant appeal for kids and adults of all ages. Just pick one up, give it a spin, and you’re hooked!

    They’re so simple, yet so addicting. Fidgeters are quickly finding new ways to spin, stack, do tricks and collect these great new toys.

    You wouldn’t know by looking at them, but fidget spinners are also a STEM toy. People are using fidget spinners to tinker, invent and engineer new ways to play. Kids are learning physics concepts like friction, torque, and balance while using this battery- and screen-free toy!

    Check out these 5 awesome fidget spinner experiments:

    1. Ice Fidget Spinner.

    Slater Brown disassembles a fidget spinner and, using the center bearings, makes his own ice spinner. It takes a few tries to make a mold, but he gets an ice spinner spinning! That’s one cool experiment!

    2. Underwater Fidget Spinner.

    AlexGoPow puts his fidget spinner underwater for some interesting visual effects. Spinning it underwater doesn’t do much, but letting the moving spinner hit the water looks neat on camera. Hope it doesn’t rust!

    3. Fidget Spinner On Fire.

    IncredibleScience puts hand sanitizer on his fidget spinner and lights it on fire for a spinning light show. This entire video is full of impressive tricks and experiments, but the fire is at 5:00. This experiment is hot! (Note: This is dangerous and should be done with adult supervision only.)

    4. Chocolate Fidget Spinner.

    Skazzer melts up some chocolate Mini Eggs to make a delicious-looking fidget spinner that really works. Similar to the ice spinner, but this one’s edible. Sweet!

    5. Popsicle Sticks Fidget Spinner.

    Brains techKnowlogy makes DIY fidget spinners using popsicle sticks, a skateboard bearing, glue and some excellent geometry! Impressive hands-on math application.

    We love that fidget spinners are inspiring creativity, problem-solving and scientific exploration. Have fun, be safe and keep spinning!

    --Becki

  • 5 Ways Your Kid Can Be an Inventor

    It was the early 1990s, and recycling was all the rage. Captain Planet and the Planeteers were battling pollution on TV, and “reduce, reuse, recycle” was becoming a mantra.  So when I was asked to make an invention for a science fair, I made a robot from recycled shampoo bottles.

    To be honest, my robot didn’t do anything other than stand there. (I somehow walked away with an Honorable Mention.) But there are kids out there inventing every day and learning as they go. For some examples, see the kid inventions from last year’s White House Science Fair.

    Whether fun or funcational, the child inventor is learning critical skills:

    “The ability to invent requires something that comes naturally to most young children: creativity and imagination. Creative thinking is an important life skill that can be applied to everything they do, especially to problem-solving, which is what inventing is all about.” –Ellen Church, Let's Invent Something Together!, Scholastic Parents

    Kid Inventor’s Day is Jan. 17. What will your child invent?

    Kids that invented things from the trampoline to earmuffs.


    Here are five toys and books to encourage your kid inventor:

    1. Usborne’s 50 Science Things to Make and Do Book

    Usborne 50 Science Things to Make and Do Cards Set Usborne 50 Science Things to Make and Do Cards Set

    50 Science Things to Make and Do offers kids easy instructions for activities ranging from physics (Fire a Balloon Rocket) to nature studies (Butterfly Feeder) to chemistry (Making Gloop). These hands-on activities will inspire kids to think about how they interact with their world and wonder, “What else can I make?”

    2. LEGO

    LEGO bricks allow kids to build entire creations out of small elements. LEGO builders visualize an end product and use problem-solving to get there, using the tools available and revising as they go. The possibilities are limitless – just check out this LEGO car, full-sized LEGO house and LEGO piano!

    3. Snap Circuits

    Snap Circuits teaches kids about electrical circuits with the parts and instructions for hundreds of projects they can complete solo. Kids can also make their own creations, experimenting with batteries, lights, fans, speakers and more! Just watch this kid explain the circuitry—will he grow up to invent the next smartphone?

    4. Crazy Aaron’s Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit

    Mix, stretch, and observe the results with Crazy Aaron’s Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit. Kids can experiment with three special-effect putties and three concentrated-color putties. Does blue putty glow in the dark better than red? Does glitter affect the stretchiness? The combinations are endless!

    5. Air-Stream Machines Kit

    Hovercrafts aren’t just science fiction! Kids will learn about how air pressure works while building their own hovercrafts that can traverse water or land. The impressive and functional results will build kids’ confidence and even spark an interest in engineering. What vehicle will your child dream up next?

    I’m inspired by all the kid inventors out there! Keep your kids motivated with opportunities to stretch their imaginations in new ways. I can’t wait to see what they create.

    Happy inventing,

    Becki

  • 2 Great Toys to Build Visual-Spatial Skills

    2 Great Toys to Build Visual-Spatial Skills: Magformers and 3Doodler StartI was babysitting my 8-month-old cousin the other day, and watched her struggle with a problem: How to get the pacifier in her mouth the right way. She had the fine motor skills to pick it up and bring it to her face, but getting the nipple facing the right direction took several tries. Before my eyes, she was working on the visual-spatial skills needed to look at the pacifier, understand which way it needed to face, rotate it in the right direction, and bring it to her mouth.

    We use our visual-spatial skills - the ability to tell where objects are in space, how far objects are from you and from each other, and mentally rotate and transform objects – constantly. We merge in traffic and estimate how much furniture can fit in a room, for example. Architects, graphic designers and physicists rely on these abilities to do their jobs.

    Two of our Holiday Top Toys are excellent for developing visual-spatial skills: Magformers and the 3Doodler. Both of these toys involve creating 3D objects out of 2D pieces, boosting those object transformation abilities!

    3Doodler Start Essentials Pen Set

    With the 3Doodler Start, kids flex their visual-spatial skills by envisioning the 3D sculpture they want to create and figuring out how to build it with the 3D pen. The 3Doodler Start Kit includes an activity guide with two-dimensional shapes kids can trace, lift off the page, then connect together to assemble their structure. For example, the Eiffel Tower can be assembled by tracing four flat shapes. As they gain confidence, kids can move on to designing their own 3D creations!

    The 3Doodler is easy to use and safe for kids 6 and up. There are no hot parts, messy resins or glue. The pen charges up and is used either wirelessly or plugged in, making it even easier to doodle anywhere!

    Magformers

    With Magformers, children build 3-D creations from flat geometric shapes. Cylindrical magnets are encased in each side of the plastic triangles, squares, hexagons and other shapes, and each side of each piece sticks to any other piece.

    The sets come with diagrams to help kids get started with their 3-D shapes. Once they get the hang of it, they’ll be building castles, airplanes, towers, or whatever they can imagine.

    Magformers construction sets come in various color schemes and are great for kids 6 and up. For the child who loves cars or electronics, the Magformers Walking Robot Set and Magformers XL Cruisers Set include a walking mechanism or wheels to set your creations in motion.

    They're also great building toys for younger children (with supervision). Since any side of a piece can attach to any other side, it's easy for preschoolers to grasp the concept and start building quickly.

    Both Magformers and the 3Doodler combine science, technology, engineering, art and math, making them perfect toys to promote the STEAM educational approach.

    Happy building!

    Becki

  • 5 Reasons Your Kids Should Make Stop-Motion Videos

    Stikbots CollageIf you remember the classic movies “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” you know how impressive stop-motion animation can be. Yet basic stop-motion animation is so easy to make, even a 4-year old could do it!

    All you need is a smartphone, a tripod, something to appear in your videos, and a stop-motion video app. Stikbot, one of our Fall Top Toys, makes it super easy – just provide the smartphone!

    Stikbots are 2.5-inch-tall plastic robot characters with suction-cup arms and legs who love to star in stop-motion videos. Each Stikbot kit comes with 1-2 Stikbots, ready to dance, wave, or hold any pose you choose as you take photos. The Stikbot Studio kit includes a tripod to hold your phone steady, and the Stikbot Studio Pro kit includes a green screen stage!

    Stop-motion videos are more than just fun – they’re fantastic learning opportunities. Here are 5 reasons your kids should make stop-motion videos:

    1. Stop-motion videos are a great opportunity for creativity for a wide range of ages. Kids as young as 4 through teenagers enjoy setting up characters, developing a story, shooting photos for the stop-motion animation and adding sound. Younger kids may just have a Stikbot walk across the table, while older kids can create complex plots and experiment with green-screen animation.
    2. Making stop-motion videos promotes planning and storytelling skills. From storyboarding to planning each tiny motion the characters make, stop-motion animation requires thinking ahead.
    3. Making stop-motion videos boosts kids’ confidence. It’s fascinating to see a series of photos easily turned into animation through the Stikbot app! Your child will be eager to show off his work. If you post it online with the hashtag #Stikbot, Stikbot’s official YouTube or Instagram channels may share it!
    4. Stop-motion videos are a great teamwork activity. From director to set designer to camera operator, there are plenty of roles to go around! Whether it’s a family activity or a group of friends, making a stop-motion animation together requires communication skills, delegation of tasks and cooperation.
    5. Stop motion videos tie into STEAM education. Stop-motion animation is a great outlet for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math projects. How many frames per second should you use? How does the lighting affect shadows on the Stikbots? What props should you use to communicate the story? Making a stop-motion video is an interdisciplinary project rife with learning opportunities.

    What are you waiting for? Lights, camera, action (one frame at a time)!

    --Becki