Tag Archives: crayola

Parents@Play 2018 Gift Guide #4 – Building Strong Families

Building, whether it’s with blocks, bricks, paper, metal, pipecleaners, or anything else, is one of the very best ways for parents and children to spend time together. Here are some new products that will help you keep busy and close during those long, winter evenings.

Tonka Mighty Builders 80-piece Set (Amloid)

tonka mighty builder Young engineers can take their building on the road with this cute set, that includes more than 60 blocks in a variety of shapes and colors, a block-fit figure, an easy-to-assemble-and-take-back-apart truck, and a bunch of accessories (like construction signs). And when playtime is over you’ll be able to put all those blocks back into the durable (and adorable) truck-shapedcarrying bag. Available at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer. For ages 1+. Prices vary. https://amloid.com


Construction Building Blocks 115-piece Tube (Crayola)

crayola construction buildlng blocks

Another engaging building set for the youngest builders. This giant crayon-shaped tube is probably taller than your child and is filledwith large, easy-to-manipulate, colorful (we’d expect nothing less from Crayola) blocks. It’s a great way to learn about shapes, colors, and perseverance. The set we reviewed had 115 pieces, but smaller sets are available as well. Available at your favorite toy seller. For ages 1+. About $20. https://www.crayola.com

Bendy and the Ink Machine Buildable Scene Set (Basic Fun!)

Never hear of Bendy? It’s not too late to find out. This 265-piece set is based on the popular video game, Bendy and the Ink Machine. Inaddition to all the pieces you need to build out the ink machine room, it includes complete instructions and three mini-figures: Boris the Wolf, Ink Bendy, and Bendy himself. Other figures (including Alice Angel, Sammy, and Searcher) are sold separately.  The bricks themselves are compatible with most major brands, so you can build even bigger and more elaborate scenes. Ages 8+. About $25. http://www.basicfun.com

Georello Tech Set #6137 (Quercetti)

georello tech

This is the first kit we’ve reviewed from this Italian toy company and we’re very impressed. To start with, it’s colorful and extremely durable (the company says it’s indestructible, but we know a lot of kids who’d take that as a challenge). But the best part is putting all the pieces together,which will, in the most delightful way, teach kids about gears, motion, chains,and movement. Once it’s assembled, and spinning, it’s absolutely mesmerizing. Includes 165 pieces and complete instructions. For ages 5+. Under $40. https://www.quercettistore.com

The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure (Thames & Kosmos)

treehouse adventure

Pepper Mint is a skilled engineer who wants to take you andyour child on a science expedition to the Bermuda Triangle, where things don’t always behave as you think they should, and the ship’s systems fail. As a result, you and Pepper have to create your own. To survive, you’ll need to create hydraulic machines and a variety of other cool projects that teach basic concepts of physics, engineering, and electricity. The full-color instruction manual uses storytelling to make the STEM education even more fun. Also comes with a Pepper Mint mini-figure. For ages 8+. About $40. https://thamesandkosmos.com

K’nex Bionic Blast Roller Coaster Set (K’nex)

'nex bionic blast

Besides being incredibly fun, roller coasters are wonderful examples of science in action, making abstract concepts like force, motion, inertia, and gravity come to life. This kit comes with everything you could possibly need to build a variety of roller coasters (including instructions, of course). Butbetter still, once you’ve built a few coasters, you’ll be inspired to put the instructions away and build your own. For ages 8+. Under $100. https://www.knex.com

Magformers Sky Track Adventure Set (Magformers)

For kids who are too little, too young, or possibly tooafraid to learn about roller coasters by riding on one, this great magnetic set will give them a lovely introduction to the concepts that make coasters safe and fun. Together, you’ll build a twisty, turny track and create your very own adventures. For ages 3+. About $100. https://www.magformers.com

The Art of Happiness

Art and childhood just seem to go together, don’t they? But who says adults can’t roll up their sleeves and get creative? This week we take a look at two traditional ways of making art, one less-traditional way to express your creativity, and one way to kick back and marvel as others make art happen right in front of your eyes.

Star Wars Crayons (Crayola)

crayola star warsIf you’ve got any Star Wars fans at home (something that’s required by law in 47 states), and you love to make art (which is required in all 50 states), you’ll love Crayola’s new Star Wars Limited Editions crayons. These 64-color sets come in collectible boxes that feature either Darth Vader or Stormtroopers. (If you’re looking for the good guys, you’ll find them in a Star Wars-themed set of mini coloring pages that comes with six mini, washable markers.) The crayons are wrapped in snazzy black-and-white labels and each box includes a number of new colors (Outer Space and Deep Space, being just two of them) along with metallic or glitter effects. For all ages. About $8 at your favorite retailer or http://shop.crayola.com/  @crayola

Art and School Supplies (Yoobi)

yoobi art suppliesYoobi doesn’t have as many colors as Crayola, but they’re well on their way, with a strong product line that includes markers, paints, crayons, brushes, pens, pencils, highlighters, and many other ways to transform every surface in your world into an expression of your creativity. The company also goes well beyond art, producing tons of office supplies as well, including staplers, tape dispensers, notebooks, rulers, binders, folders, and a lot more. But what’s consistent across all of Yoobi’s products is that they’re high-quality, vibrant, and stylish. Yoobi also gives back: For every product you buy, the company donates a similar one to a classroom in need in the U.S. Prices vary. http://yoobi.com/  @yoobigives

Socks and More (Pair of Thieves)

Pair of thieves socksNow you can take art with you everywhere you go, with these bright, whimsical cotton-blend socks that are eye-catching, comfortable enough to wear to work or the gym, and cool (in the hipster sense, but also in the sense that they’re breathable and moisture-wicking, which makes your feet feel literally cooler). Pair of Thieves has dozens of wild designs in a variety of sizes, from toddler to dad. Plus, they have some adorable dad-kid matching sets. Oh, and let’s not forget about the stylin’ underwear that’s just as cool (in both senses of the word) as the socks. $8/pair for the kid socks, $10/pair for the dad socks, $16/pair for the dad-kid sets, and $20/pair for underwear. Available at Target or at http://www.pairofthieves.com/  @pairofthieves

Universoul Circus

universoul circusThis circus is an absolute joy, for a number of reasons. First, the dazzling array of colors make it truly a work of art. Second, the performers elevate the art of the circus to new heights. Third, everything takes place in single ring, and the seats are so close that the audience members feel like they’re part of the action. But back to the artists/performers, who hail from all around the world. There were limbo dancers from Trinidad and Tobago, acrobats and contortionists from Ethiopia, trapeze masters from China, death-defying daredevils from Ecuador, a magic act from the U.S., and plenty of African-American culture to go ‘round. Together, they kept the audience entertained—and on the edge of our seats—for the entire 2.5-hour performance.  For all ages. Tickets range from $18 – $35. Check the website to see when Universoul is coming to your town. http://www.universoulcircus.com/  @UniverSoulCirc

Making Spring Clean and Colorful

When Daylight Savings begins, you know that Spring can’t be far behind—and neither are Easter, Passover, and Spring cleaning. This week, we review some Easter bunnies, outdoor art adventures, and a decluttering marvel.

3d sidewalk chalk3D Sidewalk Chalk (Thames & Kosmos).
The folks at Thames & Kosmos can’t help themselves: they include a really fun, educational component in everything they make. Their new 3D Sidewalk Chalk is no exception.  The kit comes with plaster power, dye, mixing cups, molds, and 3D glasses. The fun starts by making your own chalk by mixing the plaster powder, dye, and water (not included). Then, pour the slurry into the molds. When it hardens, you’re ready to start creating art. Here’s where the science comes in: when you put on the 3D glasses, your drawings seem to jump off the sidewalk. The instruction manual explains how and why that happens and includes directions for making rainbow chalk, and more chalk science experiments. Ages 8 and up. About $15. http://www.thamesandkosmos.com/

crayola sidewalk chalkSidewalk Chalk Mega Pack (Crayola)
Crayola’s sidewalk chalk doesn’t have much science behind it, which means it can focus on what Crayola does best: giving kids tools to make colorful art. The Mega Pack includes 12 large chalk pieces: 3 neon, 3 glitter, 3 tie dye, and 3 basic bold colors. No instructions required. The chalk itself is especially easy to clean up—just hose it off—a big plus if your neighbors are persnickety about their sidewalks. Unlike most other sidewalk chalks, these pieces aren’t cylindrical, which means they won’t go rolling down your driveway into the street—with your child running after it. Ages 6 and up. http://www.crayola.com/


alex washable bunnyColor & Cuddle Washable Bunny (Alex Toys)

How many times has your child “decorated” a favorite stuffed animal with a Sharpie? If that sounds familiar, you’ll love Alex Toys’ Color and Cuddle line. The idea is pretty simple: make a toy that’s snuggly, let kids draw on it, and allow them to change their mind whenever they want. And that’s exactly what happens: color, wash, repeat—as many times as you’d like. The only rule is that your young artist needs to use the included markers. The Washable Bunny is perfect for Easter. Other options include a bear, a doll, and a pony. Ages 3 and up. All are about $21. http://www.alextoys.com/


funshine easter bearFunshine Easter Bear (JustPlay)
This 16-inch, soft, cuddly, plush gets your child’s best Care Bear ready for Easter too. Cleverly disguised as a bunny—complete with Easter Bunny ears—Funshine is a great addition to any Holiday basket. $24.95 at Amazon and elsewhere.





fujitsu ix500 scannerScanSnap iX500 Scanner (Fujitsu)
When we think of “spring cleaning” the images that come to mind usually have to do with sweeping and mopping and maybe reorganizing the garage. But what about all that stuff in your file cabinets? Worse yet, what about all the stuff—including those boxes of old photos—that should be in file cabinets but is sitting around in piles? The ScanSnap iX500 can help. It’s incredibly easy to install and even easier to operate. Drop in a stack of documents, press the button (there really is only one), and in seconds all that paper is transformed into pdfs or Jpegs. Then you can save it to your computer or upload directly to Dropbox and other cloud services. The ScanSnap handles everything you can throw at it, from business cards to long (up to 34 inches)  documents. Put it in crooked? No problem. ScanSnap straightens is out. Upside down? It’s rotated automatically. A great way to keep those important family documents and memories organized. $499.  http://www.fujitsu.com/us/products/computing/peripheral/scanners/scansnap/

Out with the Old, in with the New: a 2012 Toy Fair Recap

Well, it’s that time of year again. Hundreds of toy manufacturers and game publishers from around the world are converging on New York to show off their latest products to retailers, buyer, the media, and, of course, reviewers like us. The 2013 Toy Fair, organized by the Toy Industry Association, will feature roughly 100,000 products, including 7,000 debuts—every type of toy, game, electronic entertainment, and indoor-or outdoor activity imaginable. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2012. We’ll be telling you about 2013’s offerings throughout the year.

Crayola Digital Light Designer
crayola digital light designerThis fun and adaptable new artistic medium lets children draw, imagine, and create using a special stylus and colored LED lights (which means no crayons to smash into your carpets and no tiny pieces to collect). Kids and adults can design their own games, create moving text messages, and even do full-motion animation, all on a spinning, 360-degree domed drawing surface. Save up to fifty creations. Runs on batteries but can also be plugged in to keep the fun going even longer. Ages 4+. crayola.com

broboBilled as “huggable night-light toys,” these plush robot friends are designed to help young children learn to be brave in the dark. Kids take Brobo (or one of his many pals) to bed and can control the light themselves: Touch Brobo’s hands to his chest and he glows with a soft, comforting light (with a 5-minute auto shutoff feature). As with so many toys these days, parents and kids can extend the Brobo experience with animated webisodes, games, and books that encourage friendship, family, adventure, and learning. Ages 2+. brobo.com

Rockboard Descender
rockboard descenderWho says you have to shred on a smooth surface? Rockboard’s Descender is a true all-terrain board that uses high-performance tank-like treads to make skateboarding a year-round experience. Yes, you can even use the Descender in the mud and snow. One of the nicest features is that it holds up to 200 pounds, so dad can get out there and make a fool of himself. Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Ages 6+. rockboard.com

Dino Dig
dino dig uncle milton national geographicEducation meet fun….and dinosaurs. National Geographic has partnered with Uncle Milton to create and absolutely wonderful way for parents and kids to spend quality time together. Each kit lets kids (and their parent-assistants) excavate—and assemble—the bones of a very accurate scale model of a dinosaur. Tools, a brush, and safety glasses included (no batteries required!), but you’ll make a real mess. Also comes with great learning materials. Ages 6+. unclemilton.com

La Dee Da Dolls
la dee da dollsIf you’re concerned about the body-image messages young girls get (and if you’ve got a tween- or teen daughter, you should be), you’ll love these adorable dolls. To start with they’re dressed in a way you’d be happy to see your daughter emulate—not the typical half-naked, overly sexy, body disproportionate dolls that many feel encourage eating disorders and self-image issues. Yes, their heads are out of scale, but the chest isn’t, which is something else moms and dads will appreciate. Plus, they’re pretty, stylish, fun, glittery, and colorful which the girls will appreciate. These dolls also encourage travel and learning about new cultures. Ages 5+. ladeeda.com

Incredible Creatures
safariltd amazing creaturesThese amazingly realistic models are a great way to have fun and learn a ton about animals. There are a few dozen options, ranging from sea otters and pufferfish to bald eagles and honeybees. Some are larger-than-life-size (like the bee), other are smaller (like the otter), and some are exactly the right size. Ages 4+. safariltd.com

The Art of Childhood

If you’re like most parents, your refrigerator and walls are covered with your children’s art. But their creative play does a lot more than just make you proud. Kids who are involved in the arts are often more self-confident and self-reliant. Art helps kids improve fine-motor skills, follow directions better, and get along with peers. Various studies have shown that kids who are involved with the arts are more likely to excel academically, participate in math and science fairs, and win awards for writing. Here are some great sets that will help your child find his or her inner Picasso. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to have some fun.

crayola ultimate art caseCrayola’s Ultimate Art Case (www.crayolastore.com) is perfect for the young artist on the go. It comes pre-loaded with all the basic supplies to keep your little Rembrandt busy for hours—pencils, markers, watercolors, brushes, stencils, and more. With lots of internal compartments, organization is easy. And there’s plenty of extra space to store paper, glue, scissors, or anything else that might spark creativity. $15.99. Ages 4 and up.

stand up easel from melissa and dougMelissa and Doug easels come in two sizes. If you have a larger room or space, the Deluxe Standing Wooden Art Easel($79.99) is ideal. It includes a dry-erase board, chalkboard, locking paper-roll holder, child-safe paper cutter, easy-to-use clips to keep the paper steady, and a good-sized plastic tray for holding supplies. The easel is adjustable, so it can keep growing right along with your child.

table top easel from melissa and dougIf you have less space or want something a bit more portable, try the Tabletop Art Easel ($39.99). Like it’s standing cousin, this one includes chalk- and dry-erase boards. But it’s also magnetic and comes with markers, chalk, and magnets. There are two supplies trays, one of which has cup-sized holes to hold paint or brush-washing water. If your young artist is especially prolific, you can also buy a separate supply and accessory kit ($34.99) that works with either easel or on its own. Comes with poster paint, spill-proof paint cups, brushes, jumbo rainbow chalk, a roll of paper, and more. Ages 3 and up.

kiwi crate from kiwicrateKiwi Crate is a subscription service that delivers a new art project-in-a-box. Each one is designed around a certain theme (such as science, dinosaurs, gardening, colors, animals, superheroes, etc.) and includes three related project ideas and all the materials you need. Just add inspiration and you’re ready to go. There’s additional, related material online. Kits are reviewed by experts and tested by kids and cover a range of developmental areas including creating, discovering, communication, gross- and fine-motor skills. $19.95/month. Ages 3-7.

For older kids or those who may want a bit of a challenge, EK Success Crafts (www.eksuccessbrands.com) has kits and individual supplies for scrapbooking, needlecraft, jewelry making, embossing, painting, creating personalized thank-you notes, and more. Perfect for family projects. Prices vary depending on the product.

paper punk from paperpunkPaper Punk (www.paperpunk.com) is an interesting combination of origami and building blocks. Start by folding paper into geometric shapes, which you then connect using adhesive dots (included) to create a variety of cool things that are a cross between an art project and a toy. You can buy individual kits for snakes, cars, snowmen, robots, dogs, cats, and birthday cakes, or use your paper blocks to build anything you want. Then customize to your heart’s content. $18.95 each. Ages 6 and up.