Tag Archives: smartlab

Indoor Fun and Imagination

Summer’s almost here and we’re looking forward to spending plenty of time outside. But as we all know, summer sniffles, rain, or even excessive heat can keep families inside. Here are several great ways to keep busy—and entertained—indoors.

Bing-Bang Bounce (SmartLab)

bing bang bounceWarning: This toy makes learning about physics fun. The object is pretty simple. Set up a Mousetrap-like course where, if everything’s perfect, you use a launcher to fire a ball at a target. If you hit it, it launches a second ball at a new target. If that one hits, the third ball goes flying towards its target, and so on until you get the last ball into the “victory cup.” Along the way, you’ll be learning a lot about action-reaction, momentum, trajectories, angles, and, perhaps most important, persistence, because setting up your course will take a lot of trial and error and experimenting. Bing-Bang Bounce includes an adjustable blast-off launcher, four adjustable target launchers, four targets, and six Bing-Bang balls. About $34.50. For ages 8+. http://www.smartlabtoys.com/

Paw Patrol Create a Story
Despicable Me Big Wall (Colorforms)

colorforms - despicable meColorforms have been around since the early 1950s, so there’s a pretty good chance that you (and maybe even your parents) played with—and loved—them as kids. Over that time, Colorforms have been so popular that Time magazine recently added them to its list of the top 100 toys of all time. The technology is almost exactly the same as it was when you were sticking those pieces of vinyl to every shiny surface in your house.  But the playsets—which started off with Popeye in 1957—have definitely kept up with the times. We recently had a chance to review two new sets, which quickly brought back wonderful memories of childhood. Paw Patrol Create-a-Story ($16) includes 61 Coloforms and four different backgrounds. The Despicable Me Big Wall set ($20) includes a giant (2’ x 3’) play scene and eight giant figures. Both will keep kids 3+ entertained for hours, sticking and resticking, with no mess to clean up. http://www.colorforms.com/

Sew Science (SmartLab)

smartlab sew scienceCombine crafting, DIY electronics, and a little education, and you’ve got Sew Science. Each kit (there’s Cuddly Critters and GloBots) consists of a family of three doll-like figures that light up when they hold hands. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the lights and handholding, your child will have to sew pre-cut felt-pieces together, fill them with stuffing, and use conductive thread to attach LEDs and snaps in the right places. (Don’t worry: although “conductive thread” sounds a little dangerous, it’s perfectly safe). Fortunately, there are complete instructions. Kits retail for about $20. For ages 8+. http://www.smartlabtoys.com/

Mo Willems Bus Soft Toy (Yottoy)

yottoy pigeon mo willemsThe latest book-based plush toys from YOTTOY look like they jumped off the pages of some of your (and your kids’) favorite children’s stories and right into your lap, which is right where you’ll want to keep them. The bus soft toy is based on Mo Willems’s classic, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” and features profiles of the main characters (the pigeon and the bus driver). The bus itself is soft and huggable and very well made, with all the details embroidered and not printed or screened. If you’re in the New York area, there’s a wonderful exhibit of Mo Willems’s art at the New York Historical Society (nyhistory.org) that runs through September 25, 2016. Prices vary. For all ages. For information on YOTTOY’s other book-plush combos, including Paddington, Eloise, and The Little Prince, and other related products, such as finger puppets and book ends, visit www.yottoy.com/

“S” is for Science

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) is all the rage these days, and that’s a good thing. Without a working knowledge of all of those subjects, our children will be woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of the fast-changing world they’ll be living in when they finally reach adulthood. This week, we take a look at several excellent science-related activities that, besides being a fantastic way for families to spend time together, introduce the kids (and mom and dad) to a number of complex concepts in a fun, engaging way that will keep everyone entertained (and learning) for hours.

smartlab glow-in-the-dark scienceGlow-in-the-Dark Lab (SmartLab)
How many synonyms can you come up with for “glows in the dark”? Stumped? Try these: fluorescence, phosphorescence, chemiluminescence, bioluminescence. Those are just a few of the many science concepts that are introduced in this kit. Children and their adult supervisors can work together on as many as 20 separate projects, all of which glow in the dark: including a lava lamp, slime (no self-respecting science kit would be without it), alien blood, ink, bouncing balls, fake snow, and more. Comes with a well-put-together instruction booklet and almost everything you need to do all the experiments. You’ll need to provide your own glue, salt, flour, corn syrup, baking soda, vegetable oil, vinegar. But you won’t need batteries. SmartLab also has a number of other kits, including Squishy Human Body, That’s Gross Science Lab, and All-Natural Spa Lab. All retail for $24.99 and are for ages 7 and up (with adult supervision). http://www.smartlabtoys.com/

ravensburger csi science kitCSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Ravensburger)
Those CSI shows on TV have helped make forensics cool. While real CSI techs don’t generally carry guns and make arrests, they do use science to solve crimes. It all starts with the fascinating booklet written with the help of Mark Benecke, an actual criminologist and forensics expert, who introduces 12 different science-based activities real crime solvers use every day. In it, kids learn how to work a crime scene, collecting evidence, analyzing fingerprints and tire treads, examining drop shapes, literally splitting hairs, and even isolating DNA. Besides the booklet, the CSI kit comes with everything (a magnifying glass, plastic bottles, safety goggles, powdered plaster, crime scene baggies, fingerprint cards, and even a CSI ID badge) that you and the kids will need to solve robberies, catch someone in a lie, make copies of keys, and more. CSI is part of Ravensburger’s Science X series, which also includes kits that teach about crystals and gemstones, fuel efficient cars, electronics, circuits, optics, magnets, and more. $34.99. For Ages 8 and up. http://www.ravensburger.com/

sciencewiz inventions science kitInventions (ScienceWiz)
Of all the kits we’ve reviewed, this is our favorite. It’s not quite as hip and cool as the others, but no matter. This kit contains almost everything you’ll need to put together a number of projects that actually work: a radio, telegraph, light generator, and spinning motor (you’ll need toilet paper tubes, cardboard, aluminum foil, glue, scissors, and a D-cell battery). It comes with a nicely illustrated, easy-to-understand, 40-page booklet that goes far beyond simply telling you how to put things together. Penny Norman, the brain behind ScienceWiz, gets deep into the Why, explaining the science behind each project in a way that really brings those concepts to life. Other similarly engaging kits from ScienceWiz explore DNA, chemistry, energy, rocks, magnetism, physics, light, and electricity. Each retails for $19.95. But they’re a little cheaper if you join the Science Kit Club and sign up to receive a new kit every two months.  For ages 8 and up. http://sciencewiz.com/