Idle Hands? Not in This House!

Kids have tons of energy—that’s one of the many things we love about them. Sometimes, though, as we all know, they don’t have enough outlets for that energy. As a result, they can do things that we don’t love quite so much. But properly channeled, those idle hands can play, do, create, build, investigate, and get involved in all sorts of wonderful, productive things. Here are some of our favorites.

Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer (Dr. Panda)

dr pandaPerfect for kids who love to draw and design, Dr. Panda combines a physical toy with easy-to-use AR technology to bring your child’s creations to life. Use more than 50 flashcards to place generic items (furniture, clothes, art, plants, and more) into whichever room you want to design. Or, flip the card over and customize each item. Then, using your smartphone or other Android, Fire OS, or iOS device, scan your images into the app and, wow! Comes with flashcards, erasable markers, and a code to unlock the free app. Pre-readers can also learn to spell and pronounce the names of the objects on each flashcard.  For ages 3-8. Under $40.

Zuru Fidgeters (Antsy Labs)

The jury is still out as to whether fidget cubes and spinners help kids (or adults) focus, but one thing’s for sure: they’re definitely entertaining. Zuru’s Fidget Cube has a different fidgeting activity on most of its six faces, so you can flick, glide, flip, roll, click, and more. The Fidget Spinner doesn’t have nearly as many diversions, but its near-frictionless technology means you can get more than minute of mesmerizing spinning action from a single flick. Cubes and Spinners come in a variety of designs, including DC (Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman) and Marvel (Spiderman, Captain America, Hulk, and Ironman) superheroes.  For ages 6+. Around $12-$15 at retailers everywhere.

Tangle (Zuru)

The Tangle may be the original fidgeting toy. I had one more than 20 years ago and actually met the inventor. Now marketed by Zuru, it’s making a well-deserved comeback. Tangle is an amazingly simple device, made of a series of linked pieces of what look like elbow macaroni. But once you start playing with it, it’s hard to put down. Really, really hard. You can get Tangles in a huge variety of colors, textures, and sizes. It’s advertised as “a puzzle, a brain tool, a moveable sculpture, a desktop toy, and more”—and it is. For ages 3+.

Build & Play Kits (Antsy Pants)

Tired of building doll-sized structures that always manage to get underfoot? How ‘bout a lemonade stand or fort or castle that you can actually stand up in? These kits come in a variety of sizes, but all of them are easy to snap together; just as easy to disassemble and store; encourage creative, cooperative, open-ended play; and are ideal for parents and children to build together. Each kit comes with plenty of connectors and poles to build a solid framework. Need more pieces? No problem, they’re sold separately. And if you want to give your creation a more realistic look, you can purchase fabric covers (lemonade stand, pirate ship, donut shop, fairy tale castle, circus tent, and more). For ages 5+. Kits range from about $30 to $80 and are available only at Target.