Tag Archives: nsi

Seeing Science in the Eye of the Beholder

With everyone talking about STEM these days, we here at Parents@Play are always on the lookout for great science-themed toys, games, and activities. Here are four that focus on vision that you and your family will love.

Amusin’ Illusions (Scientific Explorer)

amusin' illusions scientific explorerOptical illusions are always entertaining to play with, but haven’t you ever wondered how and why they work? How do 3D glasses get images to pop off the screen (or page)? Why do certain patterns seem to move even when we know they’re not? How does water make objects look like they’re bent? With this fun, educational kit you’ll have the answers to these and a number of other questions about visual conundrums. Amusin’ Illusions comes with a thoughtful and nicely illustrated instruction manual that takes you through the steps of building a number of illusions and explains the science behind each one. A great parent-child activity for ages 6+. Under $14 at your favorite retailer or www.alexbrands.com

Smithsonian Plasma Ball (NSI)

smithsonian plasma ballThis beautiful-to-look-at ball responds to sound, music, and touch and puts an amazing light show at your fingertip, literally. So what do you do with a plasma ball besides look at it? To start with, you can use it to learn—safely—about electricity (including making your own lightning and even charging your phone). If you’ve got a Star Wars fan around the house, you can create a light saber with your plasma ball and a long fluorescent blub. You’ll find some great videos on YouTube with lots of other tips, tricks, and lessons. The Ball plugs in so you don’t need batteries. The manufacturer says it’s for ages 14+, but if you’re there to supervise, younger kids can enjoy it too. Retails online and off for under $35.

Smithsonian Planetarium Projector (NSI)

smithsonian planetarium projectorThis dual-function projector brings the nighttime sky in all its glory, right into your room. The larger projector shows the northern sky and can be rotated to match what you can see outside (assuming there isn’t too much light pollution). The smaller projector uses three discs to show a total of 24 images, which you can project individually or in combinations. These include the planets, some natural celestial phenomena (nebulae, galaxies, asteroids, and more), and human-made items (satellite, lunar orbiter, space shuttle, and more). The Planetarium Projector definitely feels like a toy, but it’s great for learning about constellations and a lot of other cool astrological stuff. You’ll need three AA batteries (not included) and about three minutes for assembly. It’s for ages 8+ and retails for under $40.

Dr. Eureka Mix the Molecules (Blue Orange)

blue orange dr. eureka moleculesAfter you’ve learned about optical illusions, made your own lightning, and gazed at the stars, you deserve a break. So get the family together and get ready for some brain-teasing fun. Despite the name, Dr. Eureka isn’t really about science concepts, but it is about thinking. Each person (the game is for 1 to 4 players) has three test tubes and six colored “molecules” (two each of red, green, and purple). Put a matching pair of molecules in each tube. Then turn over a challenge card, which has a picture of how the molecules should end up. Then all you do is race the other players to make your test tubes look like the ones on the card. It’s simple. Except for the part about not being able to touch the molecules with your hands—you have to pour them back and forth until you achieve the desired result. It’s for ages 8+ and costs under $40. http://www.blueorangegames.com

Blasting into the New Year

Because playing with your kids—no matter how old they are—is a blast, here are some great ways to start your 2017 off with well, a blast.

 

Laser X Two Player Laser Gaming Set (NSI International, Inc.)

laser xThere are a lot of words to describe Laser X, but to keep the list short, we’ll limit ourselves to “Wow!” “Amazing!” “Cool!” “Whooo—hooo!” and, most importantly, “Let’s do it again!” Get the point? We reviewed the two-player set, which, if you’re a laser newbie, is the only way to go. Playing against someone else is infinitely more fun than playing by yourself. This set comes with two laser blasters, two vests, an interactive “coach” who tells you to get down and lets you know when you’re running low on ammo, cool sound effects, and hours of fun. It’s great for outdoor or indoor play, and since the vests and blasters glow, it’s especially fun at night. It’s also compatible with other Laser X equipment so you can field teams. Each vest allows you to select Red Team, Blue Team, or to go rogue and blast everyone. Ages 6-16. $24.99 for a single blaster and vest and $49.99 for a double set at major retailers or at www.GetLaserX.com.

Skypaper PPL-1 (The Bridge Direct)

skypaper ppl-1Making paper airplanes is a great parent-child activity, with opportunities for both cooperative and competitive play. But there’s nothing more frustrating than tossing your newly created aircraft and having it nosedive three feet in front of you. With the Skypaper PPL-1, that’ll never happen.  Instead, you’ll be able launch your planes up to 100 feet. It comes with 24 planes and easy-to-follow instructions. You can download even more at www.skypapertoys.com. Ages 6+. Under $20 at www.toysrus.com and other retailers.

 

Firetek Zyclone Ring Launcher (Zing)

firetek zycloneThis double-take provoking shooter is pretty much the opposite of most other blaster-type toys. Instead of shooting an object at a target, you’re essentially launching the target itself—in this case, a large glowing ring. Since you can send the ring up to 100 feet, this anti-blaster is best for outdoor play. Ages 6+. About $30, only at Target.

 

Air Warriors Ultra-Tek Blasters (Buzz Bee Toys/Alex)

air warriorsBuzz Bee makes a dizzying variety of blasters. Night Tek fires darts up to 72 feet. It comes with six long-distance suction darts and can use long-distance- and foam darts from other shooters. What’s especially cool is the pop-up night vision scope, which allows you to see your target night or day. Destiny doesn’t launch its darts as far (“only” 60 feet). But it can unload 20 in just two seconds! Just load the clip, snap it in, pump the handle, and whoosh. Both are for ages 6+. Night Tek requires batteries and retails for about $13. Destiny doesn’t need batteries and retails for under $28. http://buzzbeetoys.com

Adventure Force Enforcer Belt Blaster (Walmart)

adventure force enforcerThis fully automatic belt driven monster is one of the most unique-looking blasters we’ve seen and will strike fear into the hearts of your less-equipped blaster-battle opponents. It’s accurate and quick—shooting 40 darts in under 30 seconds—and has an 80-foot range. It assembles fairly quickly but takes some time to load up the darts. However, firing it is exhilarating. Batteries required. Ages 8+. Under $30 at www.walmart.com.

 

Magnum Superdrum Blaster (Prime Time Toys)

magnum blasterLike the Enforcer, Prime Time’s Magnum is fully automatic, holds 40 darts, has a range of 80 feet, and is pretty intimidating. What’s nice is that its darts work with other Dart Zone blasters and it can hold darts from other brands. Ages 8+. Under $35 at major retailers. http://www.primetimetoys.com.