Don’t know what to get for your offspring? Bored with the predictable offerings of the chain retailers? Here are 10 unexpected toys that you should consider for your kids this holiday season.
Ball of Whacks A creative building toy by Roger von Oech. It’s a thirty sided rhombic triacontahedron divided into 30 pyramid pieces, which can be used to design a huge variety of new shapes. Really gets your kid’s spacial relations flowing!
Bilibo As an adult, you’re probably asking, what is a Bilibo, and what the heck would you do with this thing? Have no fear — your kids will know what to do! Available from many online retailers, including Fat Brain Toys. (Note: I totally plagiarized this from Luckykiddos, but she’s my wife, so I may get away with it.)
Erector – Special Edition Set Erector sets are a classic toy for future engineers, but many of the modern kits are underwhelming, and come in crummy little Styrofoam and cardboard packaging. This one has lots of pieces, plans for 25 models, and a carrying case. But we all know that the fun begins when your kids start creating their own designs from scratch. OK, it’s a far cry from my dad’s No. 8 1/2 kit I played with as a kid, but a wonderful toy for Makerlings nonetheless.
Hex Bolt Board This is a board with countersunk screw threads for kids to screw bolts into. Great for really young ones who are working on their Maker skills early. I built my own instead of buying it, but it was admittedly not quite as smooth and nice looking as this one.
Automech Kit Sure, it’s devious to teach your kids about transmission and gearing with pulleys and rubber bands, all under the guise of a fun, build-it-yourself drag racer. But that’s what parents are for!
Lego pneumatics Hard to find, but well worth the effort! These kits have valves, pumps, pistons, tubing, and switches that integrate into all manner of Lego and Lego Technic creations. Ebay is one place to find complete sets, as well as the Bricklink classifieds. Another way is to get parts from the Lego Education site.
Frigits They take up a lot less space than a marble run, and are more open ended. If you want to enable your budding Rube Goldberg, this is the toy to get.
Price: $11.00 – 32.00
Old VCR or tape deck – Most of us got our start by taking apart everything in the house, much to our parents’ chagrin. Why not encourage your kids to explore, by giving them an electronic cast-off to dig into? You can raid your garage, a yard sale, or thrift shop for one. Put a bow on it, and give them their own screwdrivers and diagonal cutters. Tell them to be careful around the power supply, and then let them pull out all the interesting looking bits. My son and I built a terrific race car out of an old cassette tape player. He’s very proud of the reduce-reuse-recycle theme at play, and so am I.
Price: free – ~$15
Zome Virus Kit – Zome is a molecular modeling kit based upon a 61-zone structural system. It uses balls and rods to create well over 61 zones of awesome. Use the free ZomePad Reader software to download 3D instructions for building additional models.
Shadow Magic – This looks like a lot of fun. Hang the surface up in a dark room, use the included flash to zap a shadow onto it, then draw with the light pen. It may be ripe for a re-Make. Give your kid a can of phosphorous paint from United Nuclear, and an old camera flash!