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learning express toys
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:
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?”
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.
My husband and I are expecting our first baby this month, and it has been so much fun to buy our baby-to-be gifts that remind us of our own childhoods: books we remember reading like Pat the Bunny, Winnie the Pooh cartoons, and Peter Rabbit room décor. We can’t wait for when our daughter is old enough to enjoy some of the same toys we did as kids, too!
Retro toys can help us connect to our kids and remind them that we, too, were once young. We love that so many great toys have stood the test of time – and some are more popular than ever before!
Here are 5 retro toys that are making a comeback (or never left):
Simon, the electronic memory game from the late 1970s and 80s, is still entertaining kids today while helping them sharpen their memory skills. The battery-powered game is shaped liked a flying disc with four large buttons: green, red, blue and yellow. Simon lights up the buttons in a specific order that the player must repeat, with progressive difficulty. Each button lights up and makes a unique tone when pressed – the same classic sounds I remember from childhood! The only upgrade is that the buttons are now touch-sensitive instead of physical, clunky plastic buttons.
This puzzle toy, invented in 1974, has fascinated generations! The Rubik’s Cube is a 3x3 cube the player twists and rotates to match up the colored tiles on each side. The puzzle has exploded in popularity with a sport called “speedcubing,” a worldwide phenomenon with many official and unofficial competitions. Today’s version has fully-plastic tiles, so there are no more peeling and fading stickers (and no cheating)!
The arcade game Pac-Man was first released in 1980, and quickly became one of the most famous video games of all time. The yellow, pizza-shaped Pac-Man character navigates a maze, eating pellets and fruit and being chased by ghosts. Many versions of this game exist today, including the Pac-Man Mini Retro Arcade Game. This portable game brings home the nostalgia of an arcade cabinet while being just 6 inches tall!
Believe it or not, Lincoln Logs are celebrating their 100th anniversary! Named for President Abraham Lincoln (and the log cabin he was born in), Lincoln Logs are miniature notched, wooden logs for building structures. The 100th Anniversary Tin includes 111 all-wood logs and all pieces are made in the USA.
Spirograph is the geometric drawing toy that has helped kids make mesmerizing works of art since 1965. Place a pen tip in one gear, hold the anchor gear to your paper, and use the pen to turn the gear around and around as you draw. Soon you’ll have an incredible curve design! Today, Spirograph is better than ever, with a variety of updated features to make it easier to use. Many of our design kits include Spiro-putty, which holds the anchor gear in place. The Spirograph Cyclex and Spirograph Junior kits keep the gears self-contained within a plastic frame to prevent slipping. There are options for all ages (3 and up)!
In a world of smartphones, virtual reality games and other cutting-edge technology, there’s something satisfying about pulling out these retro toys and watching kids enjoy them. Try your hand at these too – it’s amazing how quickly it comes back.
Cheers to the toys of decades past!