Experts now say what our maternal instincts already knew: that imaginative playis good for our kids. Maybe your little one is a budding artista, or perhaps you just want to give him or her a nurturing nudge in that direction. Here are seven super-innovative gifts for all ages that will get your kids’ creative juices flowing.
1. Magnetic Tin by Mudpuppy ($14.95)
(Ages 3-5 years)
These magnet tins—which come in a variety of themes, such as princess, robot, and monster—are kind of like paper dolls-meet-Frankenstein. Armed with backgrounds upon which to place your creation, kids can use tiaras, dresses, or—in the case of the Monster Tin, claws and limbs—to put together their vision, whether it’s designing a princess gown or creating a scaly, toothy creature. When they’re done, the magnets and backgrounds go back into the compact tin until next time.
2. Little Tikes Double Sided Doodle Board ($19.95)
(Ages 36 months-15 years)
Tentative toddlers and seasoned doodlers alike will love this sturdy plastic doodle board. It has a chalkboard on one side, ruled for practicing penmanship (and complete with compartment for chalk and an eraser) and a magnetic drawing board on the other (along with a “pen” and three magnetic shapes). Doodle a design, and then when you’re ready to start over—whoosh, just pull the lever on the side to wipe the screen clean.
3. Rolobox Reusable Wheel Kit for Boxes ($13.95)
(Ages 3-7 years)
Incredibly innovative but super easy, the Rolobox Wheel Kit turns any cardboard box into whatever vehicle your child’s little heart desires, whether it’s a wagon, race car, or go-cart for a favorite stuffed animal. Just attach the wheels and then decorate the box however you like. When the box wears out its welcome—or just wears out—you can easily transfer the colorful, sturdy plastic wheels to a new box. No tools required!
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4. Melissa & Doug Fashion Design Activity Kit ($15.99)
(Ages 4 and up)
Kids who grew up in the 80’s (like me) will no doubt remember this innovative gem of a toy—a series of plates featuring fashion designs that you could put together to create a look, place under a sheet of paper, and then use a crayon, rubbing your way to high fashion. Once rubbed onto paper, the designs could then be colored or otherwise embellished. Luckily, Melissa & Doug have brought this treasure back and made it available to a new generation of little fashionistas.
5. 642 Things to Draw: Journal ($11.28)
(Ages 5 and up)
Do you remember, as a child, staring at a blank piece of paper, crayon in hand, wondering What should I draw? This journal both answers that question and inspires the budding artist by providing, as the title indicates, 642 ideas of things to draw that range from easy (an egg) to complex (a typewriter) to imagination-provoking (a zombie) to downright challenging (how, exactly, does one go about drawing New Jersey?).
6. The Unfinished Swan—PlayStation 3 ($14.99)
(Ages 10 and up)
Parents who worry about the blood, guts, and all-around violence of today’s video games will be heartened to welcome The Unfinished Swan into their homes; the new game offers up a universe that at first glance appears to be a white void of nothingness into which the titular swan has escaped—but gradually appears to the players as they wield a tool as benevolent as they come: splatters of paint.
7. Knitting: Learn to Knit Six Great Projects ($24.95)
(Ages 10 and up)
The Klutz series of “How To” books for kids is comprehensive, to say the least—it covers a huge range of projects, from nail art to astronomy to jewelry-making to paper airplanes. Klutz is to be commended for tackling a tricky topic like knitting and making it both doable and fun, too. Learn to Knit utilizes illustration and photography to take the knitter-to-be from the very basics (like the right way to hold a needle) to the knitty-gritty—er, nitty-gritty—like actually creating a hat or scarf. Learn to Knit comes with all the necessary accouterments, such as yarn and needles.