1. Snap Circuits Junior
This set had taken the basic elements of electric circuits and turned them into a set of blocks that snap together, making them suitable for a young age range. This particular set is the smallest they offer. The larger kits allow for more elaborate projects. We are starting small since somewhere down the line I intend to purchase the student kit.
2. Pattern Play
This set includes a set of blocks that fit in a tray and pattern cards. The goal is to simply recreate them. Since the blocks vary in color and length, it can be tricky to get the pattern correct. This also means that it is self correcting. It is highly engaging.
3. Toobeez Life Sized Building Set
This building set is a blast! Elora still needs a little help constructing more complicated structures but the overall design for adding and removing the toobs is very child friendly. The size of the creations you can build with this set is quite impressive. All three of my children will play in something they've created for hours. I'm also pleased with the quality as the final results are sturdy when engineered correctly. Our set came with a storage bag which makes is easy to put away when finished.
4. Angry Birds: Knock on Wood Game
We have a bit of an Angry Bird obsession here, which I hear isn't unusual. This game is surprising good for the mind. The game cards require participants to construct the structures pictured. It's a good lesson in spatial awareness. Then you get to employ physics as you attempt to knock it down. My children like to play with it cooperatively and they rarely play it as the game was intended.
5. Quercetti Georello Toolbox
This is a fabulous set for learning about gears. I love that structures can be built multilevel. The large chain is a very interesting feature as well. There are ample pieces for large inventions and it all fits back into the box for storage.
6. Guidecraft Animal Train Sort and Match
This sort and match had scenes to recreate with a host of magnetic pieces. I love the small detail changes in size and color as it requires some visual discrimination to complete. This is also available in different options such as flowers and trucks. And yes, it all fits inside the wood storage box.
7. Real Tools
Don't be fearful of real, child-sized tools. Children adore them and they are generally safe when proper guidelines and supervision are in place. Many of the big-box home improvement stores, like Lowes, offer free workshops. They also sell kits that children can use at home. But of course, kits aren't needed. My children are happy to hammer a nail into any old scrap of wood. My favorite tool set is the Young Builders Tool Set that is available from Montessori Services. They also sell a manual if you want to teach a young child real woodworking skills.
8. Aven Zipscope Digital Microscope
For those unfamiliar with digital microscopes, they magnify items and display them on your computer screen. This also allows for the capture of pictures and videos. Every time I pull it out we lose track of time! There are so many fun things to look at... skin/hair, clothing, rocks, insects, food, toys... you name it. If you can hold the scope up to it, you can magnify it. We've even used it to compare how different art materials look on paper. If you are interested in this one, Amazon has it on their lightening deals nearly ever year during the holiday season.
9. Wedgits Starter Tote
The Wedgit blocks are so much fun and are very unusual in how they stack. I like this starter tote because it includes a base block and a set of building cards.
10. Snap Blocks
Snap blocks are intriguing because they stick together with, well, snaps. It can take some thought to build a structure. It also helps refine fine motor skills due to the snaps. Elora in particular enjoys them. We do not have the set listed above. Instead we have this set from Lakeshore Learning.
11. Plan Toys Balancing Cactus
This is intended to be a game. However, it often gets used as open ended play. It's fun to see how far out you can build branches by carefully constructing your cactus to accommodate the varying weight of the pieces.
12. Trucky 3
Trucky includes three empty trucks, a set of blocks and a puzzle book. The goal is to fill the trucks according to the designs in the pattern book. While this is similar in concept to other "match the picture" activities, the 3D nature of the blocks adds an extra twist. The more difficult patterns are challenging.
13. Complete Funprint Drawing Book
Fingerprint art is a blast, especially for those children who have enough penmanship skills to begin to draw more purposefully. This book gives step by step examples of how to turn your finger prints into artwork. Then your imagination can take it from there. Don't forget to add some washables stamp pads.
14. Lakeshore Learning Can Do Kits
I adore these Can Do kits from Lakeshore Learning. Each one includes an assortment of simple science experiments. My favorite aspect is that the instructions are pictures meaning they can be conducted independently by a non-reader. The kits include sound, light, force and motion, sink and float, magnets and magnification. You can see all of the kits here. And don't forget, Lakeshore almost always has available coupons.
15. Symphony in B
This is a fun toy for exploring the instruments of the orchestra. It can play a number of pre-loaded songs. You can choose which instruments play along by placing in them designated area. It's fun to see how each one changes the song. It also highlights which section each instrument belongs to and which ones tend to play melodies vs harmonies. This is generally only available at Target although sometimes third party sellers make it available on Amazon.
16. Jumbie Jam Steel Drum
I am fairly particular about instruments for my children. I really wanted a steel drum and looked high and low for one that had the real traditional tones. All of the child-sized ones I saw had a clangy tin sound. It wasn't the true rich tone that you come to think of with steel drums. I saw a demo of this model and was blown away. And yes, it really sounds that lovely in person. I love this drum and so do my children. The stand is adjustable so it will grow with them. It also comes with a book and CD. If you are serious about getting one, I suggest watching prices. I ended up getting a fantastic deal through Musician's Friend thanks to a coupon.
17. Guidecraft Storybox
Each storybox contains all the figures necessary to recreate a classic tale. We have the Hansel and Gretel box and I must say that the craftsmanship on the pieces is gorgeous. I also appreciate the diversity in the line which includes classic tales from Asia and Africa.
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