KiwiCo Review ~ Tinker Crate and Eureka Crate for Older Kids

KiwiCo pencil sharpener great for older kids teens

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Are Kiwi Crates worth the money? For our family, yes. Here’s our KiwiCo review.

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and I didn’t have a great gift idea for my 12 and 14 year old sons. I was on the email list for KiwiCo and was getting their holiday specials.

I enjoyed reading their emails from time-to-time. They offered fun and doable science and art activities. My kids and I did some over the years. Others I saved in my endless “to do someday with my kids” list, wherever that is.

Years prior, I saw a friend posting about her kids’ Tinker Crate and another kit on Facebook. I asked her about it, and she was really happy with them. Her kids loved them. Their grandparents bought the subscription for them each year.

Fast forward almost two years later, and I decided to look at what these Kiwi kit crates were all about.

Questions about KiwiCo

My questions and concerns before trying Kiwi crates were:

KiwiCo cost:
  • Will shipping make it cost prohibitive?
  • Are the kits worth the money?
Questions about KiwiCo:
  • Would my kids — who were definitely aging out of toys — want to do this?
  • Will the kits be too easy?
  • Would this be one more thing to pile up in the closet, untouched?
  • STEM kits are popular; what sets Kiwi crates apart?

Basically, I wanted to know: 

Would these crates be another thing I have to nag my kids to do?

Like many parents, I know I’m always looking for ways to engage them and to get them away from electronic devices.

I also know I’ve bought my fair share of crafts, science kits, and other sets and projects thinking we would do them but we never did. Or we finally did them but it was a chore to do — not something to look forward to but something to cross off my mental list.

All of this would just add to my overall guilt about wasting money and the pressure to offer my kids enriching experiences.

Kiwi crates as gifts

But in sort of a feeling desperate state — first world problems of not knowing what to give my kids for a gift — I opened up one of Kiwi Co’s holiday sale emails, and looked at the various kits.

I learned a lot by finally going to their website. I didn’t realize this subscription service was for all ages. Also, I didn’t know they categorized the kits by interest.

For wee ones this would be Discovery and Exploration and Playing and Learning. For ages 5 and up, there is Art, Science, Design, Technology, Art, Geography, Engineering, and Math.

You may have heard of STEM-based learning or STEAM-based learning. This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, A for Art, and Mathematics. 

After receiving several crates now, we learned that Kiwi crates combine many of these STEM/STEAM disciplines in their kits. 

I really liked they were broken down into such specific age ranges. Even better, I saw there are kits especially for tweens and teens.

Kiwi Crate vs LEGO

When I was on the KiwiCo site, I realized this was the first year we didn’t buy Lego sets for my kids.

I love LEGO bricks and sets and so do my kids; they’ve served us well.

However, to get a challenging kit for them now that they’re older, I need to spend hundreds of dollars. Then the model will have to sit out somewhere — collecting dust — and we just don’t have room for it.

My kids love doing LEGO sets but I just can’t justify the expense for something that will take them several hours (at best) and then it’s done. 

These Kiwi crates are fulfilling the same function as the big LEGO sets for us. They give my (older) kids:

  • Something to build and construct
  • Opportunity to follow directions
  • Learning experiences
  • Something fun to do that isn’t electronics

STEM-based learning

My kids are really into STEM. They are in STEM clubs at school, and my older child takes honors science in middle school.

I was happy thinking I could buy the Kiwi Crates for my kids and they would enjoy putting them together. What was also appealing is that everything would be in the kit. As much as it’s great to browse Pinterest for STEM and other creative ideas, it takes so much time to gather the supplies. 

The appeal of the Kiwi subscription is that everything would be there in one box.

I’ll admit there was a big part of me that worried they wouldn’t enjoy them. I thought they would be curious and have the thrill of unboxing the item but then might lose interest.

Still, I didn’t have a gift idea, so I explored the website further. 

One of my children asked for an electronic pencil sharpener — he’d talked about it for months. I saw a picture on the KiwiCo site with a child putting together a pencil sharpener! I thought that was really cool that they offered even practical kits as well. 

Ordering the Kiwi Crate

I ordered the Tinker Crate for my 12 year old and the Eureka Crate for my 14 year old.

I didn’t want them both to have the same kit. Being my older child is capable and good at following directions — and goodness knows they’ve both been doing LEGO sets for the majority of their lives — I opted for the oldest-age kit which is the Eureka Crate.

They run specials often, and I was happy with the deal and price I was able to get. Sometimes there are special codes, etc.

We received the kits in three days, plenty of time for wrapping and to put under the tree. 

Getting the kits

What I liked about Kiwi Co.:

First off, we ordered are kits to be sent to the same address. Both of them fit in a larger box. This box is decorated really nicely. I also appreciated it was the correct size — the perfect fit, really — so that it didn’t waste.

KiwiCo crate boxes
Eureka Crate and Tinker Crate with shipping box

(As an example, a year prior, I ordered three Think Fun coding games from Target online. They sent these three small game boxes to us in two huge boxes — huge as in 20+ of the games could have fit in one box. It was a huge waste of cardboard and of the plastic packaging.)

So, the eco-friendliness shipping box aside, the kits themselves come in fantastic boxes.

What I love about them is they are made with sturdy cardboard. They are perfect for then storing the kits if you want. (If the project fits.) They stack nicely in the closet.

Most toys that my kids used to play with didn’t come with boxes. This meant it was difficult to store. I am a huge fan of boxes!

Each box had a label which said what the kit was. Imagine my surprise when my son’s kit was an electronic pencil sharpener! My younger son’s kit said it was a Paint Spinner. He had one years earlier which he enjoyed, so both seemed like activities my kids would enjoy building and putting together.

What I didn’t like about Kiwi Co.:

One thing though is that even though they asked for both of our kids’ names for them to label the individual crate, on the shipping box, only one child’s name is on it.

So if you order more than one set to the same address, you will want to not wrap the shipping box and present it as a gift. However, because only one box came, I opened it up and saw both of the sets were in that box.

Also, think about if your kids will care whose name is on the shipping box. Mine don’t care.

Giving Kiwi Crate as a gift

Because they were each in their own nice box, I was able to wrap these up easily and put them under the tree.

When they unwrapped them on Christmas Day, they were interested and curious. Again, it’s difficult to surprise older kids, especially tweens and teens. For gifts, they usually get board games, t-shirts, some books, and yes, video games.

We love finding STEM activities for them.

They both said they wanted to do their kits over winter break. 

I knew they would eventually do them and would want to do them but the fact they came up with the idea on their own, instead of wanting to play a video game or watching Youtube, was surprising.

I purchased a 3-month subscription.

Doing the kits

Both kids enjoyed doing their kits. They took about an hour. The directions were detailed but in an easy-to-follow way, not complicated and cluttered. 

What I like is that it teaches kids patience and to follow directions. They learn to take their time and find the pieces they need — just like they did when building their LEGO sets.

We ordered the 3-month subscription and have renewed for another three months. So far, we have enjoyed the subscription for four months. We’ve received four Tinker Crates and four Eureka Crates. This is what we like about them.

KiwiCo Review

Easy directions

Colorful and includes pictures of the pieces they need. These Design Booklets feature what you need to know plus additional information.

Kiwi crate directions
Spin Art Machine directions
KiwiCo directions easy to follow
Close up of first step – easy to follow

As an example, in the Electronic Pencil Sharpener kit, there is more information about the limit switch and about pencil lead.

KiwiCo Tinker Crate
Colorful directions

Educational

Just like any well-made game or activity, these kits teach a lot. My kids are learning about mechanics, engineering, math, physics, and more. It’s educational to build the project and then fun to use it or play with it.

Kids build and refine fine motor skills as well. 

We don’t homeschool, but I could see how it would be appropriate to use to supplement the school day and many curriculums. There are also extended learning opportunities for further enrichment. (We didn’t pay extra for this; it was included in the crate’s cost.) In addition to the directions for the one project, there are also other projects you can do.

These kits cover several disciplines — engineering, art, math, science, technology as well as geography for some kits.

KiwiCo kit
A second booklet teaches related science concepts. It includes simple examples and projects to expand on the skills.

Children learn to follow directions; to trust the process and learn patience; to sort supplies. Again, all the while they are learning, building, constructing, and having fun.

Good variety of projects

The kits are interesting and haven’t been similar. Sometimes the projects have been more fun to build and sometimes they’ve been more fun to play with. Both are a win!

In the four months we have been receiving these crates, these are the sets they’ve received:

Eureka Crate:
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Ukulele
  • Headphones
  • Lock Box
Tinker Crate:
  • Spin Art
  • Color-Changing LED Crystal
  • Arcade Catapult
  • Hydraulic Claw

You also have the option to go to their website and purchase specific kits. As an example, even if you order the Kiwi Crate, you can buy a kit from the Doodle Crate. 

Kiwi Co. Eureka Crate and Tinker Crate great for older kids

The kits have been detailed enough to hold older children’s interest. They are great kits for tweens and teens when not many “toys” and “craft kits” excite them.

These STEM kits have kept my kids interested and engaged in the process. They sit down and work until they have completed the kit. It’s something that’s “doable” and not something they view as a chore to do.

What’s also great is they have choices for older kids. Again, as children age, there are less options for them.

KiwiCo has these subscriptions for tweens and teens:

  • Atlas Crate is up to 11 year olds with a focus on geography and cultures.
  • Doodle Crate is 9 – 16 year olds with a focus on design and art. More info here.
  • Tinker Crate is recommended for 9 – 16 year olds and focuses on engineering and science.
  • Eureka Crate is for 14+ and focuses on engineering and design.

Kids will enjoy constructing and building something they can play with and use.

KiwiCo pencil sharpener great for older kids teens
Building the pencil sharpener

There’s usually a sale

I like feeling like I “got a good deal” and didn’t pay full price. They offer discounts regularly.

Spend time together

We often play games as a means of connecting in our family. Sitting with my kids when they do their Kiwi Co projects — even if I don’t help them at all — is a nice way to spend time together.

Kids look forward to their kits

We ordered the 3-month subscription for the gift. I told my kids they had to work on and complete the kit before they open the next month’s shipment. And if they didn’t have their kits done before the next month, we wouldn’t renew it for another three months.

So far, they’ve been motivated to do their crates.

Practical and enriching kits

Kids construct projects they can use. We have the pencil sharpener sitting out by our homework area. My son still plays with his spin art kit.

KiwiCo kits
Spin Art uses the box it came in for easy storage.

Different categories and ages

Depending on your child’s age and interest, Kiwi has different options. 

Convenience and zero stress

There are many people who enjoy pursuing Pinterest for ideas. 

When my kids were younger, I enjoyed going to Michaels, JoAnn’s, and Hobby Lobby to find craft and science kits.

But with working and busy lives, I don’t have time to do this. Plus, there isn’t a sense of urgency to do these projects. However, when they arrive in the mail each month, there is a bit of excitement that makes my kids more interested in it.

I am no longer wasting money and filling up closets and drawers with art supplies and ideas for rainy days.

Comes with everything you need

In addition to coming with all the materials you need, appealing directions and Design Booklets, it comes with that great box to store everything in, and it comes with a notebook. 

Some of the projects haven’t fit back into the boxes. However, some are part of the box as in the Spin Art machine which uses the box as part of the design. A double win!

Helps refine fine motor skills

Kids need patience and to take care as they handle wires and small parts. It’s great to build and refine fine motor skills.

KiwiCo crates build fine motor skills
Builds fine motor skills

You can cancel at any time

If you know how to log onto your KiwiCo account, you can cancel the subscription or change kits or pause your subscription. It’s easy.

I also very much appreciated getting an email reminder that our 3-month subscriptions were coming due to auto-renew. More on this below.

Experience with Kiwi Co customer service

My kids opened their kits four days after Christmas. My older son was excited to do the pencil sharpener in his Eureka Crate. In putting it together, one of the wires broke apart.

It was a Saturday, but I emailed them right away over what I assume was a very busy customer service time for them. 

I included our order number, an explanation of the problem, and also included a picture.

In almost exactly 25 hours, on Sunday, a rep wrote back to say they will send out a replacement part right away. They shipped it out Monday, and we received a replacement piece early afternoon on Wednesday. 

We haven’t had any other issues.

Automatically renewing Kiwi Co. subscription

We’ve all had times where we agreed to pay for something one time but then see recurring charges on our credit card statements.

This was a concern I had before purchasing KiwiCo.

Would they continue to charge my account?

Not only did I get a confirmation from KiwiCo that my account was scheduled to renew, when I went online, I had options to easily cancel, to change the kits we wanted, or to put the account on hold.

I let them auto-renew. When I later learned I paid full price, I emailed Kiwi to tell them I saw a code for a discount. They credited my credit card for the difference for both kits. 

I’m a huge believer in rewarding loyalty. So while I wish KiwiCo would have given me a discount up front as one of their loyal, existing customers, I was happy it was easy for them to honor the sale price when I wrote them.

So the only complaint would be they should have an automatic discount for their ongoing, loyal customers instead of focusing only on the getting new customers.

Kiwi Crate keeps innovating

It seems Kiwi Crate overall is always trying to create the best possible experience for the kids. Each kit we’ve received so far has been of the utmost quality. It’s not cheap or skimping in any way. There is the main kit plus options for children – teens to take the concepts to the next level by doing even more activities.  

We’ve never tried one of the kits for younger kids. Kiwi Co’s crates are: 

Panda Crate: 0 – 24 months old 

Koala Crate: 2 – 4 years old

Kiwi Crate: 5 – 8 years old

Atlas Crate: 6 – 11 years old

Doodle Crate: 9 – 16+ years

Tinker Crate: 9 – 16 years — We love this crate! Perfect for tweens!

Eureka Crate: 14 – 104 years young — Excellent crate for teenagers!

Happy with KiwiCo Eureka Crate and Tinker Crate

While my kids love doing these crates, I love they are learning as they put the kits together. I love seeing how proud they are that they made whatever it is and that it works!

Most of all, in this day of electronics, I’m thrilled to have found something that my kids are interested in.

They are actively engaged in building their kits. All the while, they are learning and having fun.

So to answer the question, 

Is KiwiCo worth the money?

We absolutely say Yes! For as long as my older children continue to look forward to their crates and want to build the kits, we will keep subscribing. It’s a unique gift for tweens and teens.

I appreciate I don’t have to research online for these types of STEM kits or look through them online and at hobby and craft stores. My kids have fun doing their crates, and in the end, they have made something they are proud of. 

Please note, this is an honest KiwiCo review. We did not receive anything from KiwiCo and chose to write this Kiwi crate review after buying the kits and enjoying them so much. There are affiliate links in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Space Rail Roller Coasters are Educational

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Space Rail Roller Coasters are educational in many ways. Building this coaster teaches physics, engineering, design, and science. All the while, you will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

It will take time and patience to set up. You will want to take the time to read the directions for each step but that is what makes it fun. It’s an educational and challenging set that, depending on the level, takes several hours to complete.

The higher the level, the more difficult the set.

Start with a Level 1 or Level 2 set and let your kids gain mastery over it. It will be doable and enjoyable, and they will learn the basics of setting up Space Rails. These are great sets for parents and children to complete together.  SpaceRails

SpaceRail is educational

Your kids may enjoy building with Lego and other types of creative sets. Space Rail is unique and will further introduce STEM concepts. A nice feature of all SpaceRail sets is after you build it, everyone can have fun running the marbles down the tracks.

Space Rail is a set or game that is educational and challenges your creativity, skill, patience, and persistence.

It’s more than a game in that you don’t take turns playing it. You can consider it more of a model you build and then enjoy playing with. SpaceRail can provide you, your family, and friends hours of learning fun and exhilarating entertainment.

Whether you’re at Level 1 or higher, the SpaceRail game is an exciting activity even prior to playing it. Depending on the level, just assembling a SpaceRail will test your doggedness to construct something as thrilling as the resulting game itself.

SpaceRail can be played individually or with other players, meaning it could be a test for your personal best score or a competitive event with anybody.

The higher the SpaceRail level is, the more difficult it becomes, especially with construction.

Remember that this game is either a deal maker or breaker for you insofar as your rails and tracks are concerned.

Putting these together is no easy task, but the more careful and meticulous you are in doing so, the better the chances of you winning every time.

But it’s not all gaming that SpaceRail has for you.

Building it teaches you some pretty handy stuff, too.

Working your way to each level is one lesson in patience because you can’t just skip levels, unless you want to get frustrated over unstable rails and marble runs that go haywire.

Constructing each level motivates you to do your best with each one, so that’s another lesson learned.

Giant SpaceRail Marble Roller Coaster
Giant SpaceRail Marble Roller Coaster

Features of the SpaceRail

All SpaceRail levels have kits that vary in rail and track lengths and number of parts and pieces, depending on the level to be constructed.

All levels have basic pieces for assembly including tracks, marble balls, and the nuts-and-bolts.

The differences are on the degree of difficulty from said length, pieces, and parts.

All SpaceRail levels require varying cell batteries to power up its high lift elevator.

All SpaceRail games have different ascent, see-saw drops, speed runs, descent, loops, etc. depending on the level you want to construct.

Each of the levels comes with an instruction manual.

Spacerail Level 1

Choosing SpaceRail Level 1 is a great way to introduce this type of set. You will enjoy spending time with your kids assembling the space rails together.

Let the inner geek in you get out and take a look at features which have made the SpaceRail, at any level, worth your money, time, and effort.

Level 1 should be where you start because of its various components that you need to identify and assembled according to given instructions.

Sold as a kit, Level 1 is the introductory SpaceRail model that is priced affordably.

The instruction manual that comes with Level 1 is a guide on how to assemble the roller coaster and, while it provides a clear game outline, assembly of various parts as well as control and release of the marbles which run through it relies on how the player uses his or her strategy to win.

Recommended for children six years old above, older children who are new to SpaceRail can play this, too.

SpaceRail Level 2

This level is even more appealing to all age groups who have become familiarized with SpaceRail Level 1.

Customization of SpaceRail begins at Level 2, in which you can change the design for each time that you play.

One unique thing that Level 2 has is its glow-in-the-dark (GTD) feature.

This level has two separate tracks with the GTD loop the loop and rails.

SpaceRail Level 3

Your Hand-eye coordination should be picking up speed by now.

Customer reviews of Level 3 report the need for ergonomic skills not only to assemble this game but to play it as well.

Level 3 has more steep drops and climbs, 360° degree flip overs, and sharp and high G-turns.

Additionally, Level 3 has more parts to be assembled because its length – all 16,000 mm of it – is longer.

SpaceRail Level 4

Because this level is higher than the first three, there are also more parts to assemble.

Like Levels 1, 2, and 3, this level provides fun, learning, and entertainment.

Read the instruction manual twice, or even thrice, though since more parts translate to more confusion when putting them together (and frustration over wasted time).

SpaceRail Level 5

More intensive labor regarding assembly of additional parts for Level 5 but that is to be expected as you have now reached this stage.

The construction of your SpaceRail Level 5 will be more intricate, undoubtedly, as you strategized how customization will be done for its 32,000 mm rail length.

Oh, and this one is GTD-capable as well.

SpaceRail Level 6

Level 6 is intermediate stage with more accessories than the previous five other levels.

Again, this will entail more assembly time.

The degree of difficulty, however, will really depend on how you will customize your SpaceRail.

More accessories mean more potential for more thrilling stunts, of course, which you should master before moving on to the next three levels.

SpaceRail Level 7

This one escalates, literally, as it has 120 feet of track.

Think roller coaster meets oil rig, that’s how the assembled Level 7 will look like.

Needless to say, this level has more parts than the last six levels but these are neatly categorized, with each piece identifiable with symbols at both of its ends, a real time saver for this huge structure.

SpaceRail Level 8

Congratulate yourself as soon as you find yourself at Level 8 with its 40,000 mm of rail length and an assembled size of 92cm x 44cm x 64cm because you are now official at the advanced stage.

Still, the sheer volume of the parts and pieces of Level 8 should be easy enough to put together not only because of the helpful manual but also because you’re quite adept with these additions.

SpaceRail Level 9

At last, you’re on to Level 9 and while all the features of the first eight levels have now converged in this ultimate SpaceRail game, working on 200 feet of rail length is not a walk in the park.

Still, the sense of achievement has finally come to you with this gigantic roller coaster that you can choose to customize to challenge yourself even more.

How to Play SpaceRail

Playing the SpaceRail Game is easy as pie, regardless of level.

You just drop the marble – or marbles – on top of your assembled level and let it do what it does best: glide and slide through the loops, twists, drops, and turns which you have created.

That’s why the way you construct your particular SpaceRail Game level makes all the difference between playing a good game and playing a great one.

Pros and Cons of the SpaceRail Game

SpaceRail Pros

Based on customer reviews, an overwhelming majority of those who purchased a SpaceRail game, regardless of level, have been satisfied with its performance.

This game has also been considered highly educational for children with its challenge for problem-solving, mainly on putting the parts together to ensure that the marbles perform well.

Assembly of the pieces and parts is what makes the SpaceRail game levels fun, notwithstanding the length of time need for completion.

Customers have reported assembling these parts and pieces was an opportune time for families to bond and for friends to get together.

Parent-customers were also glad that this game didn’t require a keyboard, joystick or console.

SpaceRail Cons

The singular common “con” was not getting the assembly right which is minor, considering that it is not a manufacturer’s defect, only a frustrated customer’s difficulty to follow instructions.

Some customers reported dissatisfaction with the game level they have purchased but this was mainly because what they bought was the incorrect level for their children’s ages, i.e. Level 3 for a 7-year-old.

SpaceRail Level 9 - Spacewarp Level 9
SpaceRail Level 9 – Spacewarp Level 9

What Users Say About SpaceRail

You may purchase it for yourself or receive it as a gift. The Amazon ratings may be varied for the different levels but the common denominator for customer reviews is the uniqueness of the SpaceRail Game, at any level.

Users noted the educational value of the SpaceRail Game presented in a fun and entertaining manner.

Although difficulty in assembly was reported, users also acknowledged that this was normal for levels which advance toward the ultimate goal of reaching Level 9.

Even parents raved about the SpaceRail Game as they ascended to the various levels and enjoyed assembling and playing them as much as their kids did.

Customer reviews found this game exceptional for its value, too.

Should you buy a SpaceRail Game?

If you want an educational game that can teach your child skills like problem-solving, figure classifications, and the like, then a SpaceRail Game is a good buy.

More than anything, this game will encourage a child to be patient and inspire creativity. It will improve building skills, and instill self-esteem upon completion of assembly.

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Best Family Board Games to Play with Your Kids

Best Family Board Games to Play with Your Kids

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When you play family board games with your kids, you are doing a lot of good. You will never regret this time.

And no matter what their ages, it’s never too late to start playing games as a family.

Starting this habit is fun, educational and will pay off in so many ways.

I grew up playing board games, and it’s still something we do when we get together as adults. Because of this, I started playing games with my daughter when she was three years old.

We began with simple children’s board games, like Hi-Ho Cheerio, Memory Match, and Chutes and Ladders.

Later on, we played different games, such as Don’t Spill the Beans, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Jenga, Junior Monopoly, and Junior Scrabble, and Don’t Break the Ice.

We played card games, like Go Fish, with a regular deck of cards. We played Old Maid and Uno.

As she grew, we played games involving more strategy and skills, including counting money. We played regular Monopoly, Yahtzee, Boggle, and card games, like SET.

Depending on how much time we had, we played quick games or longer games.

No matter how much time we played, it was a way to connect us, more so than sitting in front of the TV together.

best family board games

When she was a teenager, she would still want to play games with her father and me.

Even more incredible, a few times she wanted us — her parents! — to play a game with her boyfriend or her teen friends.

What teens want to spend time with their parents?!

Playing family games together always gave us something to do as she aged into adulthood. They are also educational.

Playing games has always been a big part of our family.

My younger sons and I have shared these same positive experiences from playing board games together.

And we are all better for it.

Family game night

While the idea behind a structured family game night is awesome, when it’s more of an everyday thing and less of an event, you will do it much more often. Certainly, parents don’t have always have extra hours each week to play games with their kids; however, you can use the time you do have and make it happen.

You can play a quick game of Yahtzee or Connect 4. Or you can start a game that takes longer, and leave it out to play when you have more time.

There are amazing games available.

The best family games and board games are ones that you all want to play.

They should be age appropriate but it is okay for your child to grow into some skills.

Even as an adult — with games I played countless times with my daughter — I learned new strategies playing the same games with my sons years later.

Best family board games for kids

We are most definitely a Game Family. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing games with my family.

These games below are all great family games. All of them are educational in some way.

Once your kids are older and you start playing more involved games, you can continue to enjoy them for years.

They are still lots of fun even as the kids get older.

We’ve owned or own each of these games and have played them all, many times.

There are a few other board games we didn’t like, and I have excluded them from this post.

I will continue to update this post with some other family favorite games.

This list is what I recommend based on when my kids started playing them. As of this writing, my sons are 11 and 12 years. My daughter is 25.

Games for 3 to 5 year olds

Candy Land

This game involves players turning over a card and moving to the next color that matches the card. It’s great for building on color recognition.

If you are ordering Candy Land online and not buying in the store, you will want to be sure you are buying the one with cards.

Try to get as close to the original as you can.

Some of the game’s remakes have lost what it was that made Candy Land so magical and special to play.

Chutes and Ladders

In addition to counting and moving her playing piece, your child may find herself in the lead, only to slide down to last place.

Like with all games, they will start to learn about winning and losing.

It’s a fun game with all sorts of built-in lessons.

Connect 4

While my kids played this at a young age, we still have fun playing it now, even though they are older.

Connect 4 is a great game for when you don’t have a lot of time.

My kids often make up more advanced rules now that they are tweens.

They still have fun letting all the chips fall through the slots when the game is over.

Don’t Break the Ice

My kids loved this game.

They played with it until they were nine and 10 and would probably still play if I hadn’t (unfortunately) donated it when we moved.

I’ve known parents to pass down, donate, or let their kids sell this game at a garage sale much sooner in order to clear out their closets. I always wished they’d hold on to it longer.

If you let it be accessible to your kids — and not keep it in the back of the closet — they will return to it. It’s a really fun game and believe it or not, there is strategy involved.

It’s just a little bit of a pain to set it up — dozens of times — when kids are younger, and they can’t do it themselves…LOL

Your kids will love it.

Don’t Spill the Beans

This game is always fun, and it helps little ones build their fine motor skills.

In my day, the set came with real beans. Now, they are plastic.

It’s a little flimsier and more likely to tip than it was when I was younger.

However, it’s still a fun and simple game.

If you play games on a table instead of on a rug on the floor, you will want to be sure you have a tablecloth or something other than the bare table.

You will have an easier time catching some of those beans that don’t make it into the holder after it tips.

Hi Ho Cherry-O

This game remains a classic for a reason. Kids learn to spin a spinner and follow directions, counting, taking turns, and fine motor skills.

The best thing about this game is there isn’t strategy involved.

So the youngest child won’t automatically have a disadvantage, like in many other games.

Everyone has an equal chance at winning. It’s a quick game.

You can play multiple rounds so all of your children will hopefully get a chance to win.

Hungry Hungry Hippos

This is an action-packed game. My kids always loved playing.

We had one of the original versions with marbles. Like other games with small pieces, you need to be aware of choking hazards, especially for younger siblings. This is game is the most fun for little ones when you can play on a carpeted floor.

If you have more than one child playing, it may be hard for them to reach the game if it’s in the middle of the table.

Lucky Ducks

My kids had a blast with this quacking ducks game, and we went through a lot of batteries. The ducks circle the pond, and you try to find four ducks that match your color before the other person does.

It is a fast game and helps kids identify colors and sharpen their memory.

Like with all of these games, children are learning cognitive skills, such as problem solving and decision making.

Memory Match game

What’s great about the memory game is the different versions available. Depending on their age, you can get start with an alphabet version or a character they are interested in.

There are so many options.

When my kids were small, they had a Thomas and Friends and Toy Story memory games. When they were older, we bought the Mario Memory game. This is how I learned all the Mario characters! My kids had fun trying to help me remember their names.

Basically, whatever your child’s interest, you may be able to find some version of the memory match game. Once, my aunt gave my kids memory match cards with famous paintings that she bought at a museum.

When my son was 10 years old, we bought him an NFL memory match set.

We still play it a lot. To make it more challenging, we play where we have to find matches for an entire division.

It’s fun to watch how my kids modify and add on to rules to make it more interesting for their age.

It’s a great game to build memory skills. I remember this game being one of the first games in which my kids started consistently winning against me.

Who can remember all of those cards?!

Now they beat me in most games, including Monopoly, CATAN, chess, and RISK.

It’s awesome when I’m trying my best, and they continue to win.

Games for 5 to 7 year olds

Jenga

You can have your kids play this younger as well.

We own two sets, and the kids use them to build the tallest tower, among other things.

I’m glad to see they are creative with it in addition to playing the intended way.

I bought this for my boys because my younger son played in school. The teacher had multiple sets, and during free play, the kids would compete to see who could get the highest tower.

So while they sometimes are creative with building, if we had more than two sets, they would do this more often. Sort of like with Lego bricks, the more you have, the more you can do.

The fact that they are being creative in this way, makes me love Jenga even more.

How do you play? Set up the tower with three blocks facing one way and on top that, three blocks facing the other way. Continue until you’ve stacked all 54 blocks.

Players take turns removing a block without making the Jenga tower fall down.

This last time I brought my boys’ Jenga sets out, I was surprised to see folded slips of paper in one of the boxes.

My tween boys had made up some additional rules, like “Pick a brick from the bottom half,” and “Use your left hand,” etc.

I didn’t even know they did it! I love to see how they modify and add on to the games as they are getting older.

Junior Monopoly

Junior Monopoly helps introduce the concepts of counting money. It’s a much less involved version than regular Monopoly.

The rules are appropriate for the age range.

What’s great is you will know when they’ve outgrown this version and when to start them on the regular Monopoly.

Once they’ve aged out, you won’t want to regularly play it again, but it’s awesome for what it is.

Mousetrap

My son played this at school and had been asking for it. It’s the same classic game you may have grown up with.

It’s fun, and when the kids are old enough, they can play on their own.

Whereas many games involve setting up pieces in advance — especially as kids are playing more involved games — the unique twist to this game is players build the board as part of their turn.

They will have fun rolling the die to see where to move their playing piece (mouse) as they travel the game board.

Depending on what they roll, they might have the chance to build a part of the elaborate mousetrap.

That’s what makes the game fun. And chances are, even if your family plays often, kids will likely get to build different sections and pieces to the game.

Kids and adults will enjoy seeing if the mousetrap catches a mouse, which is one of the player’s. It’s sturdy and fun.

There are two steel marbles so watch for choking hazards and so they don’t get lost. You can replace them with regular marbles but it won’t work as well. You really need the weight to enable the trap.

Operation

There are multiple versions but we enjoyed playing the Classic Operation game.

Kids refine fine motor skills as they patiently work to extract body parts without sounding the buzzer.

If you purchase this game, be sure to get something close to the original. It should include real body parts, including the Funny Bone, Wish Bone, Adam’s Apple, Spare Ribs, etc.

Some of the newer versions are much different and not as fun. If you purchase online, buyer beware.

You will want to look for this in a store so you can check out the box and know what you are buying in advance.

Perfection

My kids loved playing Perfection. It’s great to enhance fine motor skills and the ability to make decisions quickly.

I even had my old Lakeside Superfection game in which you would build cubes in the same timed way you do with Perfection.

Sadly, they don’t make Superfection anymore but Perfection is still fun — just a bit easier as your kids get older. Still, they can have fun modifying the rules so that it remains challenging.

Sorry

Sorry uses cards instead of dice to move your pawn. This is a great game to start introducing decision-making.

Which of your markers should you move?

It’s still one of our families’ favorite board games. Somehow, it never gets old.

Tenzi

Get the set with the cards, and it will become a game you can play until your kids are teens and beyond.

Tenzi also makes for a great party game. It’s a great game to play over the holidays with family.

It’s a fun and easy game to play when you have a play date or another family over and the kids are different ages.

The rules are simple, and you can make up your own, especially if you don’t get the cards. You can play however long you want — five minutes or however long you have or want to play.

This is a fast game because you can end when the cards run out or whenever you decide.

Also, a bonus…. This game involves everyone the entire game, so no one has to wait for their turn to play.

Trouble

We had Hasbro’s Trouble Star Wars version but the original is fun as well.

This is one game in which the version really doesn’t matter; it doesn’t alter the game in any way.

It’s perfect to learn counting, and like Sorry, to have to decide which pawn to move. You “roll” the die by pushing down on the plastic dome in the center of the board. The die is inside.

After you press and release it, the die pops up and lands on a number.

Whack a Mole

My kids would have enjoyed playing this when they were younger than six and seven.

However, one of my son’s friends gave this to him for his birthday when he was six. Both boys enjoyed playing for years. It’s a two-player game but sometimes we had Whack a Mole tournaments so three of us could play.

This was also a game my kids enjoyed bringing out when they had a friend over.

Games for ages 7 – 9

Bananagrams

We didn’t love the rules to this game so over time, we made up our own games. Sometimes we divide the letters evenly and do our best to use all our letters. Other times, we take 15 letters at a time to make words.

When my boys were younger, we would often work together instead of compete against each other.

I’m happy my kids want to play because it helps them figure out what words they can make with their letters.

I’ve seen them put together blends and diagraphs they know go together, like tr-, sh-, sch-, ck-, fl-, etc., and try to make words.

It builds on skills they learn in school.

It’s definitely a game in which you will see your kids’ progress. They will make more complicated words and find ways to use all their letters in ways they wouldn’t have years earlier.

Battleship

This is engaging for younger kids and still is fun for my tweens.

It’s a two-player game.

Kids learn to figure out coordinates on their game board and work to find their opponent’s ships first to win.

Boggle

You can play this game at any age and don’t have to make it a contest to see who can get the most words.

This is really a great game to help teach spelling and reinforce skills. As kids get older, they will still be able to play.

This is a go-to game with my adult family members.

Chinese Checkers

We never owned this game until recently when I asked for it for my birthday. I owned it as a child, and played it with my kids at the library and at their cousin’s house. This game involves strategy and goes quickly.

It’s best for an even number of players (you only need two) but works when three of us play.

You maneuver your pieces (like marbles) to get them all to the other side before your opponents do.

You can move one at a time or figure out strategies to leapfrog over your pieces to progress faster.

Find a set that includes an area to store the game pieces.

Clue

I still had my Clue game from when I was a child. Now they have different versions, which is fun too.

To win in Clue, you have to be first to uncover the Suspect, Weapon, and Room. Children will definitely learn skills from trial and error.

They will learn strategies to deduce different ways to get the answer they want.

For example, if they are trying to learn if someone has a suspect, they may learn to ask an opponent a room and a weapon they already have to flush out if the person has the suspect.

LCR – Left Center Right

Don’t make the mistake I did when we first started playing this with my kids.

I thought it would be fun with real coins. It resulted in tears — and my boys weren’t/aren’t criers!

Use the chips it comes with and enjoy this simple game for what it is.

It helps kids learn their left and their right.

Like Hi Ho Cherry-O described above, this game is all about chance.

Everyone has an equal chance to win.

There isn’t skill involved; therefore, younger players will have just as much of a chance as his/her older siblings.

Also a bonus is that it’s a fast game, and it doesn’t take up a lot of room. It’s just three dice and some chips that you can store easily in the small tube.

It’s a perfect game to bring on a trip and was something easy to bring to grandma’s house and have her play with them.

Tweens may still enjoy playing this. However, we don’t play it as we have a lot of other games that involve strategy.

Maybe it’s just my family, but we always call this Left Right Center instead of Left Center Right!

Monopoly

Like all classic games for older children, Monopoly is one you can play repeatedly, even as an adult, and work to refine your strategies.

It really teaches the kids the concept of having an income-generating asset vs just saving money to pay rent when you land on other players’ properties.

Between all the versions of (Hasbro’s) Parker Brothers’ Monopoly and all the Late for the Sky’s -Opolis versions, you will have endless choices for fun. My daughter owned Horse-Opoly. One of my son’s has Puppy-Opoly. In addition, we have many other versions, including Kansas City-opoly and Seattle-opoly.

We also own many versions of Monopoly, including Pokemon Monopoly, Star Wars Monopoly, National Parks Monopoly, Monopoly Gamer (not exactly like the original version), among others.

Parchessi

This remains a classic for a reason. Your entire family will enjoy it.

You can think of it as a more involved version of Sorry.

This is a game older boys and girls will enjoy as well.

Payday

I have my game from the 70’s and my kids love playing Payday.

It’s a classic game that helps kids learn about paying bills and earning money each month.

It’s really quite realistic and engaging at the same time.

My kids still want to play this game even now that they are tweens.

SET game

This remains a family favorite in our house. Talk about keeping the grown ups engaged in a game!

SET is a game in which everyone plays at once; you don’t take turns. You need a flat surface to lay out 12 SET cards.

The goal is to be the find sets before the other player(s). Whoever has the most sets at the end wins.

A set consists of three cards with everything in each of the four categories being the same or different. Players look for color, shape, number of shapes, and pattern inside shape.

In each of these categories, they all have to be the same or all have to be different.

As an example of a SET can be:

  • The shapes on each card are red
  • Each card has a different shape
  • All three cards have the same number of shapes
  • Each card has the same pattern

It’s amazing how a simple game can at times be so difficult.

It really helps develop and cultivate critical thinking skills in your kids (and in yourself!).

While I’m all for playing games with your kids, this is something they can even play on their own, as one person.

Yahtzee

Once kids learn the different combinations of dice, this is a very easy game to play. Yet, there is a lot of strategy to this game that you might miss when you first play.

This is an excellent game for teens as well as younger children.

As your kids get better at understanding the rules and learn the different combinations for the dice, they will learn to figure out the odds of getting the different combinations.

After they roll the dice, they will have to choose what combination to roll for in their next two rolls. After their third and final roll for their turn, they will have to decide where to mark on their sheet.

For example, if after three rolls, your daughter has three fives and two fours, she will need to choose to mark down three fives, or three of a kind, or full house.

Kids will definitely hone their decision-making skills. Throughout the game, they need to add up their dice.

At the end of the game, they add all their points together.

Yahtzee is a great game to teach math concepts, probability, and strategy.

Games for ages 9 – 11

Apples to Apples

My kids started playing this when they were 7 and 8 years old; however, sometimes they didn’t know what some of the words on the cards meant, so I’m putting this in the older age category.

Of course, had we bought Apples to Apples Junior, they would have been fine.

This version is Ages 12+. We were always able to help them by quietly taking them aside to explain the meaning. This was always fun to play in groups or when my kids’ friends came over. Sometimes we play as a family.

We haven’t played it as much recently, but it’s one we do go back to.

It comes with enough different cards so unless you play all the time, you won’t repeat cards.

Backgammon

My kids would have been ready for backgammon when we all learned chess years earlier, but we never had a backgammon board.

It’s fun and a classic. It’s a 2-player game. Kids will make choices on which of their pieces to move to make it to their “home” side before the other player.

I remember my relatives playing together. It just never gets old.

There’s strategy, counting, and it helps kids build critical thinking skills.

CATAN

Start with the red box, which is the original CATAN. Everyone works on their own to build roads, settlements, and cities with sometimes-abundant and sometimes-scarce resources.

The great thing about this game is that when someone rolls, everyone stands to benefit.

It keeps everyone focused on the game and planning what moves they will want to make on their turn.

After you play regular CATAN for months or (like us) years, you can add on another version. It will really take this already-amazing game to a new level.

We have CATAN Seafarers. Before you buy any of the expansion versions, you need to have the original CATAN in the red box.

Extension versions add more to the game so five or six players can play.

Make sure you know what CATAN you are buying.

Expansion is an add-on themed version.

Extension means you are buying the pieces so five or six players can play (instead of four players).

The Game of LIFE

I’d forgotten all about this game from my childhood. My boys played it at their cousin’s house.

We ended up buying it for them the next Christmas because they kept talking about it. Players spin the spinner and travel in a car as their game piece throughout their life until they reach the end of the board to retirement.

Whoever has the most money wins.

It’s a fun game, but my complaints are the game has the same inflated salaries and payouts that it did when I was a kid.

I wish they’d make it a little bit more realistic. Also, I don’t like how you earn money for each additional child you have. (I’m not sure what that’s supposed to be teaching.)

This game teaches concepts though, and some strategy, taking turns, etc., and my kids always enjoy playing.

They really like the pieces.

So while it’s not one of my favorite family board games, my boys like it, so I play.

RISK

I actually had my daughter’s RISK board from the 90’s and played this with my kids when they were 7 and 8 years old, but only because we had it and I thought they were ready.

They were ready; however, we played for short time periods.

Also, I had to very much talk with them about how the game can get heated/stressful when you are losing and how it’s all just for fun.

So, I’ve moved this into the 9 – 11 year old category but my kids and I really enjoyed playing it for years before.

Unless you have hours to play, you will most likely need a place to leave it out so you can come back to it because it’s a long game.

Sometimes, we’ve slid it on a big piece from a cardboard box and put it out of the way until we had time to play again — oftentimes over several days. It is long!

However, it’s fairly simple to learn with not tons of rules like other advanced games.

It’s also ensured my kids know their continents and where each of them are in the world. (Our game board from the 1990’s has North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.)

It’s also fostered subjects such as how countries have been renamed through the ages.

This is a game even teens and adults enjoy.

Stratego

This is two-player game.

If your kids enjoy battles, this is a great game.

It helps teach numbers (lower numbers beat higher numbers), strategy (where will you hide your flag and what strategy will you use to find your opponent’s flag first) and logic.

This is a game your family will enjoy as your kids become tweens and teens.

Suspend

My boys would have enjoyed this when they were younger but received it as a gift when they were 9 and 10.

You learn about balance along with other physics concepts. It’s a fast game.

Board games for tweens and teens

Kids of all ages will learn something from playing games.

In this list of best games for teens and tweens, you will see a lot of games that you can start much younger. However, these are fun games that will interest teenagers.

What makes these board games classics is you and your kids will continue to improve your skills. They are open-ended games that will continue to challenge you and your family. This keeps them interesting and fun to play.

Like all of the games listed, these are all great games for girls and boys.

When your kids are tweens and teens, it’s common to spend less hands-on time with them. Between school, homework, and all their activities, when there is downtime, they are likely to be on their electronic devices.

What tween and teen doesn’t resort to going on the iPad, texting a friend from their phone, or playing a game on Xbox? And frankly, parents are usually grateful for the much-needed break.

However, we all know this is a critical time in our kids’ lives. Playing family board games with teens and tweens will help them in so many ways.

It’s an easy way to spend time with your kids, even if you don’t always get them talking. Just having being together, having fun is important.

Even if they are reluctant at first, find some games that capitalize on their strengths.

Are they into strategy and math? Do they excel in reading or spelling? Just have fun with them.

Don’t criticize their moves or over-explain. Let them figure some things out.

Make it stress-free and fun to be with you.

Start off with a quick game and end on a high note so they will look forward to playing the next time.

Many of these games I have listed above with more descriptions.

Apples to Apples

This is fun when your kids have friends over and you want to get them off electronics. You need at least three people to play.

You can play individually or on teams.

Backgammon

This is a two-player game.

Bananagrams

You or your tween can even play this on your own. As I mentioned above, we modify the rules according to how much time we have and what we’re in the mood for.

You can play for however long you like. No matter your kid’s age, he or she can even use these tiles or Scrabble tiles to spell out their spelling words.

Boggle

It will fun when your kids are really old enough to win against you. In the meantime, depending on their skill level, let them use two letter words.

Or make it so you have to form words that are at least four letters to count. As with all games, remember they are still kids — even though they are older.

No one wants to lose all the time.

CATAN

My sons and I love CATAN. As I mentioned above, what’s great CATAN is no matter who rolls, you can win cards.

This keeps everyone interested at all times.

Even though the original version is fantastic, as your family plays more, the Expansion additions — Seafarers; Cities & Knights; Traders & Barbarians — make it even more interesting.

Catch Phrase

Be sure to pick out a version that’s appropriate for kids. There are some adult versions.

This has been a fun party game for kids and adults. The more people you have, the more fun it is.

You should have a minimum of three to play but can have fun playing with two.

Chess

This is a two-player game. When there are three or four of us, we make a mini chess tournament.

LIFE

Read my review above. It’s a fun game for tweens.

Monopoly

Remember, the different versions of this board game keep it a classic and interesting.

We recently bought Monopoly National Parks Edition. We are all learning things from it.

Monopoly teaches essential skills about not just living to spend money and pay other people. Make sure your kids play this several times when they are teens so they can really see how in order to win, they need to have income-generating properties.

Like in real life, they can’t just spend, spend, spend and expect to win.

Poker

Get some poker chips and a deck of cards, and you are ready to play. I’m stunned my tweens find playing poker so fun.

On a recent vacation meeting up with friends, every time we made the tweens and teens get off electronics, they joyfully returned to playing poker together. You can have a larger set of poker chips or a smaller set.

When we play with the smaller set of about 100 chips, we can easily play for even just 20 minutes until someone runs out of chips.

RISK

You will love playing RISK with your teen or tween because while it’s easy to set up, it takes a long time to play.

This will be a game you can enjoy together for many hours, but you can play in whatever time you have available. This game is best played with at least three people. When you have four or more, someone will most likely be eliminated fairly early on.

You want to make sure that person isn’t the teen you are trying to spend time with! If you don’t have hours to play in one sitting, you will just need a means to set the game board aside and leave the pieces intact.

You won’t want to have to recreate the board once you’ve started. This might mean you move it to the side of the table.

Or, if you don’t have room to leave it out, or have little ones or pets that might ruin the board, you may want to slide it onto a sturdy piece of cardboard and put it under the bed or dresser. (It’s worth the trouble because it’s so fun!)

There are many versions of RISK, including Game of Thrones, Star Wars, The Walking Dead, and more. We’ve always enjoyed the original.

We don’t own any other editions except for RISK Europe, which we love.

RISK Europe

When you think of buying Monopoly in a different version, the game has the same premise, just the characters, cards and board are different.

But you play the same way. With this version of RISK, that’s not the case.

This is a different game than the original. The idea is simple: Take over the world, or in this case, Europe.

However, it definitely has more rules and is more involved. When we bought RISK Europe, my kids were old enough (9 and 11) and interested enough to watch Youtube videos and read the directions themselves, and they taught me to play. Win!

If your tweens or teens love strategy and are learning history in school, this is a great game.

SET

See above for more about SET game. It’s a fast-paced, educational game that adults love too.

Stratego

Kids and adults love this game.

It’s for two players.

We actually play on my parent’s Stratego game. Be sure if you are purchasing this family game online that you read the reviews and know what you are buying.

You will want to be sure you and your kids can distinguish each piece from the other. In this age of battle games online, this is a great way to capture that spirit in a board game.

Players hide their flag and try to capture their opponent’s flag first.

Yahtzee

If you haven’t read above for my description of Yahtzee. Please do so.

You will be amazed at how much your kids’ game-play will evolve playing this game as they get older.

Together, you will be able to talk about probability and the odds of trying for certain dice combinations over others. These games for teens are timeless. It’s likely you and your kids won’t outgrow them.

Play family games with your kids

If you have an extra table or room for one, this is ideal for any game-playing family.

A folding card table is ideal for this. You can start a game and then leave it out.

In some of our houses, this has meant sliding the game board on a big cardboard box cutout and moving it to another part of our house.

Fast games 20 minutes or less

The website, 10minutesofqualityfamilytime.com, discusses the benefits of playing board games, even if you have just 10 minutes.

You can play most of these games for as long as you want, however, they can all take 10 – 20 minutes.

This is great for when you have some time — like right after dinner or before bedtime — but can’t commit to playing for a long time.

Most all games in which there are “rounds,” instead of competing to get to the end of the board, are faster to play because you can end them at any time.

  • Bananagrams: You can even sit with your kids and have them spell out their spelling words instead of playing a game.
  • Boggle
  • Candy Land
  • Cards
  • Catch Phrase
  • Chinese Checkers
  • Chute and Ladders
  • Connect 4
  • Don’t Break the Ice
  • Don’t Spill the Beans
  • Hi Ho Cherry-O
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos
  • Jenga
  • LCR – Left Center Right
  • Lucky Ducks
  • Memory Match
  • Operation
  • Perfection
  • Poker
  • SET game
  • Suspend
  • Tenzi
  • Whack a Mole
  • Yahtzee: if playing with two players

If you are playing with older kids, there are other games you can play that will likely be shorter than 20 minutes as well.

Reasons to play family games

1. Playing family games is a great way to spend time with your kids.

Everyone can put away the electronics and other distractions and enjoy time with each other.

2. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

Even if you have 15 minutes, you can start or play a game, especially card games and games with rounds.

These are much shorter because you can agree to stop at any time.

On school nights, this is ideal.

During the weekends or schools breaks, you can play longer games, like Monopoly, Scrabble, or RISK.

3. Playing games teach valuable skills

Some games are more educational than others.

However, with family game, you child will be learning something or build on existing skills.

Your kids will learn so much from playing games.

  • Taking turns
  • Following rules
  • Being a good sport
  • Counting and adding
  • Spelling, forming words and letters
  • Strategy
  • Logic
  • Matching
  • Colors, Shapes
  • Odds and probability
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Math
  • Spelling (Bananagrams, Boggle, Scrabble)
  • Geography (RISK)
  • Generating income
  • Paying bills

4. Your kids will learn strategy.

Even as an adult, I’ve learned some more involved strategy after playing these games so many times.

5. It’s something you can always do together.

No matter how old your children get, you can always enjoy playing games with each other.

6. It doesn’t cost money after you have the game.

So many ways we spend dedicated time with our kids involve spending money.

Playing board games together is a great way to have quality time with our children, at home, without spending money each time.

Different versions of games

Sure, it’s marketing.

These big game makers want us to keep buying their games.

But it’s been fun to see the different Monopoly game versions.

My one son loves them so much, he’s started collecting them.

Even though it’s usually the same game, it’s  been fun to see the different Monopoly game versions and other versions Parker Bros (owned by Hasbro), Late for the Sky, and Hasbro make.

Sometimes they are the same game with a theme.

Other times, as in RISK Europe, there are different rules.

Either way, having different themed games changes up your game play and makes for a great gift.

Game sets

When a friend bought my son a game set that included checkers, chess, backgammon for his birthday, we started playing backgammon.

Some include a deck of cards, Mancala, and/or Chinese Checkers.

Popular board games are fun but be sure to remember the classics.

Family board games gifts

Some of our favorite games have been gifts.

Especially when kids have so much access to technology, an age-appropriate board game can be a welcome change.

As you play more games with your children, you will want to find different games to expand upon their skills and everyone’s enjoyment.

We’ve heard great things about Ticket to Ride.

I have that on my list for my son’s birthday.

Games as gifts

My son was invited to a birthday party.

We are good family friends with the parents.

I texted them to ask for gift suggestions.

The dad responded with, “board games” along with some other suggestions.

The mother wrote back to say to “forget the board games” because they “had too many.”

I’ll admit to being shocked.

We love games and are always looking for fun family games.

My daughter and sons have always enjoyed getting games and board games as gifts.

One of the best gifts ever was when a relative gave my sons CATAN for Christmas.

We’d never heard of it.

We’ve played 30+ times and will play for years to come.

Best board games

The best family games are educational, fun, stress-free, and ones you don’t tire of.

You want to find fun games to play, and you know your kids best.

Choose games that will interest them and play to their strengths.

Consider how many people will be playing and if there will be older or younger siblings playing.

You want to be sure everyone has a good time.

Board games for kids

Playing board games help kids to learn about saving and spending money, costs, having enough money, and running out of money.

They learn logic, strategy and figuring out ways to win. Through all of this, they are learning about taking turns, good sportsmanship, and finishing the game, win or lose.

All the while, you get to spend invaluable time with your children, no matter what their ages.

Bring a deck of cards or some dice, and your kids will always have something to do. It’s a great way to spend time together that doesn’t involve an outing.

And unlike watching a movie together, playing family games together gives you a way to really connect with each other.

I grew up playing board games and card games with my sister and parents. This is still something we sometimes do when we get together.

It’s a great way to spend time with each other without electronic distractions. When you do this often enough, it’s not so much an occasion as it is just something you do.

While the idea and branding behind Hasbro’s Family Game Night is great, it doesn’t have to be a dedicated event. There are great reasons to play games with your kids.

You will never run out of fun family board games. There are popular games and classics. My kids and I have played all of the games I’ve reviewed above.

If there was something we don’t like about the game, I’ve included that information.

We will continue to update this with other games. We just bought Blokus for Christmas and love it. It’s great for 9 years and up.

There are many we play that I didn’t include that I’m remembering now, including Othello, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble (how could I forget Scrabble?!) and Taboo.

These are especially fun for older kids.

We also play a fair amount of card games, including Monopoly Deal, Quiddler (made by the same company as SET game) and Uno.

With electronics being so prevalent, now more than ever, it’s important to pick up some family board games, and play with your kids.

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LEGO Launches Women of NASA Lego Sets

Women of NASA Lego Sets

Updated:

Women of NASA lego is the new LEGO Ideas Women of NASA set is available!

When you’re shopping for toys, finding educational toys that cater to both genders can be frustrating.

There’s certainly no shortage of science and construction toys.

However, oftentimes toys are marketed toward girls in stereotypical ways.

LEGO is looking to change that.

This fantastic new NASA Lego set was just released November 1st.

This is a 231-piece set which pays tribute to some of the incredible NASA women scientists.

These women made history in math, science, engineering and space travel.

What’s fantastic is that Lego put all of them in one set, so kids can enjoy learning about all of these incredible NASA professionals and don’t have to buy them each separately.

LEGO Ideas Women of NASA

There are four minifigures in this set.

The featured NASA women are:

  • Sally Ride
  • Nancy Grace Roman
  • Mae Jemison
  • Margaret Hamilton

Characters in the Women of NASA Lego Sets

Characters in the Women of NASA Lego Sets
Characters in the Women of NASA Lego Sets

Sally Ride Lego

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, but this isn’t the only way she was revolutionary.

At just 32 years of age, she was also the youngest American astronaut to travel in space, a record that still stands today.

Her gender made her a controversial pick for NASA’s Challenger task force.

As a result, she dealt with countless absurd questions and comments that no doubt prompted some eye rolls.

These included suggestions that the flight would affect her reproductive organs and that she would cry if things went wrong.

Her response?

She pointed out that the other astronauts weren’t asked these questions.

Clearly, not ever.

According to Sally’s mother, there were a lot of people waiting for her to fail.

However, Sally rose to every challenge.

After working with NASA, she went on to become a physics professor.

Later, she founded her own non-profit organization to promote science, engineering, math and STEM education to young people in the USA.

It’s called the Sally Ride Science organization.

Nancy Grace Roman Lego

LEGO made another great pick with Nancy Grace Roman.

She was NASA’s very first Chief of Astronomy, and the first woman to hold an executive position at NASA.

Her role involved overseeing the planning and development of the Hubble Space Telescope.

For that, people think of her as the ‘Mother of Hubble.’

Various organizations have recognized Nancy’s work.

In 1962, she won a Federal Women’s Award.

Life magazine named her one of the most important young people.

In 1969, NASA awarded her the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.

There’s even an asteroid in her honor, so it’s fitting that there’s now a LEGO character, too.

Mae Jemison Lego

Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman in space, and is a hugely inspirational figure.

Her character in the LEGO set has the same famous orange space suit she wore.

In 1992, she boarded the Endeavor Space Shuttle and made history.

She became an icon for young African American girls everywhere.

She’s so much more than an astronaut, though.

She completed a degree in chemical engineering and a doctorate in medicine.

Plus, she racked up countless awards throughout her career.

This includes a seat in the International Space Hall of Fame.

She started out in the Peace Corps.

After her success with NASA, she resigned to pursue her interests in technology and social science.

Then, she founded her own company, the Jemison Group. Jemison has worked tirelessly to inspire young people to take up science and technology, with a particular focus on minorities.

Outside of that, she was an actress, dancer and choreographer. In the 1990’s, she appeared in episodes of Star Trek.

Is there anything she can’t do? This LEGO set will help to continue to inspire a new generation.

Margaret Hamilton Lego

Margaret Hamilton was the lead software designer for Apollo 11.

It was partly due to her work to develop and test the Apollo software that the mission was successful.

If it hadn’t been for her work, the moon landing would have aborted.

Just three minutes before the Lunar Lander reached the moon, the computer overloaded.

It triggered several alarms.

The software she helped to develop was able to recognize the problem and go into recovery mode.

The moon landing was successful.

Hamilton earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

NASA also gave her a special award, including the largest financial award they’d ever given to an individual.

Margaret was a coding pioneer and the first person to coin the term ‘software.’

The most astonishing photo taken of her shows her next to books full of pages of code that she’d written, stacked up as tall as her.

LEGO’s Margaret Hamilton character bears the same long hair and glasses you can see in that photo.

Here’s one of their retired sets that was a big leap in the right direction.

Not in the LEGO set: Katherine Johnson

Surprisingly, Katherine Johnson is not part of this LEGO set.

Katherine Johnson’s incredible mind was integral to some of NASA’s biggest missions.

A genius mathematician, she was able to calculate trajectories and launch windows for space shuttles.

Can you imagine if the Apollo 11 flight to the moon had never taken place?

Without her, it might not have.

Katherine has received a long list of awards and honors for her astonishing work.

However, by far the most prestigious award she received is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Barack Obama gave to her in 2015.

In 2016, she was featured in Hidden Figures.

This film told the previously little-known story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians.

The film’s release was a great step in putting NASA’s previously unsung heroines into the spotlight.

LEGO NASA sets

Women of NASA Lego Sets
Women of NASA Lego Sets

This set is a welcome extension to some previous LEGO sets, which included female scientist figures.

Those sets featured female LEGO characters in a STEM career, instead of the usual shopping, hair salon, or pet store scene.

These LEGO female mini-figures included a chemist, an astronomer, an inventor and a paleontologist.

What great role models!

They were wonderful sets.

However, LEGO made them limited edition sets.

Unfortunately, they sold out quickly.

Here comes LEGO again, with an effort to represent female NASA role models.

These Lego sets will feature revolutionary women leaders from NASA.

These will give kids a chance to enjoy engineering toys in a new way.

LEGO has many sets that focus on space, some include female minifigures as well.

This new set will solely feature the  NASA hero.

Women of NASA LEGO set

LEGO creates great developmental toys, helping to boost fine motor skills, imagination and creativity.

Now they will be help children to learn about STEM careers too.

As well as LEGO sets, there are plenty of other great educational toys for your child to play and learn from.

If you’re into space-themed toys, be sure to check out the Space Rail marble roller coasters.

These are great STEM toys that focus on fine motor skills and attention to detail.

What’s great is that as kids advance their skills, you can buy more difficult sets, much like more advanced LEGO sets with thousands of pieces.

We are excited to try this new Women of NASA LEGO Ideas set.

We love that LEGO chose to feature women NASA heroes.

Again, it’s awesome that kids will enjoy playing with all four mini-figures in one set with 231 pieces.

It seems fun and educational.

We want to teach our children — girls and boys — that they can accomplish anything.

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Best Engineering Toys for Kids- Best Engineering and STEM Toys

Best STEM toys for Christmas, engineering toys Osmo Genius Kit

Updated:

Best Engineering Toys for STEM – Today’s world runs on technology, and it’s easy to project that the future world will only be more technology dependent.

In order for those innovations to happen, we need more scientists, researchers, engineers, and developers. However, recent education trends show that fewer kids are choosing to focus on the academic subjects that are most likely to lead to technological innovation.

For this reason, engineering toys and games that are directed toward STEM subjects are essential.

No matter the reason or season — holidays, summer break, weekend fun — this is the perfect time to select STEM toys or engineering toys for your child or grandchild.

Something we look forward to every month is our kids’ Kiwi Crate.  Each month, they receive a STEM-inspired box. The fun is in putting the kits together. They also enjoy playing with their creations. Children will have fun creating and discovering. There are different STEM kits depending on the age.

These gift ideas are all fun, thought-provoking and beneficial to their future.

Best engineering toys for kids

Gaming: Osmo – Genius Kit

Programming: Dash Robot

Coding: Ozobot Evo Starter Pack

Construction: Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)

Circuit building: Snap Circuits was my kids’ go-to summer toy! circuit toy

Engineering: Spacerails 6,500mm Level 1 Game

Getting Started Early with STEM

You don’t have to wait to get kids interested in a STEM-based subject. The earlier these disciplines are introduced, the more likely kids are to develop a sustained interest.

These subjects are even more interesting to kids when the learning feels more like play.

That’s the beauty of these holiday STEM and engineering toys.

Each one provides kids with fun and exciting challenges to discover, allowing them to learn useful skills without realizing that what they are doing is educational.

Just as vitally, many of these toys can be upgraded with modular parts so that they develop with your child’s skill level.

Best engineering toys

Best STEM toys for Christmas

If you want to give a gift that is bound to delight your child or grandchild this Christmas, you can’t go wrong with one of these STEM toys.

Each toy offers a world of challenges to accept and problems to solve.

Kids think they’re just having fun, but they are actually building the skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

Any of these highly rated STEM toys will provide hours of fun and learning.

Another option is KiwiCo crates. Read our KiwiCo review.

Best STEM toys for Christmas, engineering toys Osmo Genius Kit
Best STEM toys for Christmas, Osmo Genius Kit

Game up with Osmo – Genius Kit

The Osmo Genius Kit lets kids turn an iPad into a multi-dimensional learning device.

This STEM gift is particularly useful because it can be scaled for children 5 – 12 years old.

As the years go by, the child can work to solve more challenging puzzles.

What will they do with Osmo?

The Numbers and Words games make math and spelling a fun adventure.

Tangram develops visual thinking.

Newton opens up a world of problem-solving abilities.

Masterpiece fosters creative drawing.

The kit includes a base for the iPad and playing pieces.

Other Osmo games — like Hot Wheels, Monsters, and Pizza — are compatible with this system.

If there is a drawback with this toy, it’s that it is only compatible with Apple devices.

Perhaps one day, the developers at Osmo will come up with games that are compatible with other platforms.

If your child already has access to an iPad, this engineering toy will be a hit.

Program with Dash Robot

Program with Dash Robot
Program with Dash Robot

When kids play with this innovative little robot, the learning and the fun never stop. Dash Robot comes charged and ready to play right out of the box.

Kids will enjoy Dash’s ability to respond to voice commands.

Fun programs like dancing and singing make him an instant hit.

However, Dash is capable of much more.

Various apps like Blockly, Wonder, Path and Go give kids the opportunity to teach Dash new behaviors through programming.

Your kids will begin learning programming and then advance their skills as they become more experienced.

In addition to the various apps, several snap-on accessories are available to add to the fun and creative challenges.

Dash is designed for kids who are six years old and up. Reading isn’t required to enjoy this engineering toy.

While many accessories are available for Dash, we recommend this, the launcher.

This add-on turns Dash “into a projectile firing machine.”

Your kids are guaranteed to have hours of fun.

LEGO fans won’t be able to resist the opportunity to modify their bot with Dash’s building brick connectors.

Learn to code with Ozobot Evo Starter Pack

Learn to code with Ozobot Evo Starter Pack
Learn to code with Ozobot Evo Starter Pack

If you want to introduce kids to coding the fun and easy way, then you will want to get the Ozobot Evo Starter Pack.

This tiny bot packs in tons of effective learning.

Children will enjoy making different routes for Evo, not even realizing they are learning coding skills.

Kids learn elementary coding with paper, markers and a color language.

Evo is the size of a ping pong ball and packed with power.

On the box it says it’s for ages 8+ but younger kids can enjoy it.

After a lesson on handling it safely, kindergartners at my kids’ school spend time playing with Ozobot Evo.

Even the fifth and sixth graders enjoy it. (Older kids will too!)

OzoBlockly, a graphical drag and drop language, allows kids to drag and drop code to teach their bot even more tricks.

The bot also enables kids to use Ozojis, which are emoticons that the bot acts out.

Kids are free to develop their own Ozojis so that they can express themselves like never before.

Remote control mode puts Evo’s personality fully on display.

Once the child has mastered Evo’s basic functions, they are free to participate in a range of activities and functions, which means the learning continues as they advance their skills.

Create a custom-built Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)

Create a custom-built Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)
Create a custom-built Jimu Robot (BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit)

Kids won’t be able to resist the personality and interactions that come with the BuzzBot / MuttBot Kit.

This robotics kit teaches children how to build codes that make their robot friends seem to come to life.

It’s the perfect engineering toy for kids who love to build.

It comes with six servos and 271 pieces.

Building BuzzBot and his trusty friend MuttBot is a cinch with the instructions, but kids also have the option of building their own custom creation.

Then, they can take it apart and start all over again. The possibilities are endless.

This particular kit is designed to entice kids with little or no building and coding experience.

There are additional kits for builders with advanced skills.

You can find additional BuzzBot friends to add to their collection.

Draw energy with Circuit Scribe

Draw energy with Circuit Scribe
Draw energy with Circuit Scribe

Do you have a child interested in electronics?

If so, then one of these fun-filled kits may be for them. The Circuit Scribe Basic Kit includes everything needed to introduce beginning concepts and allow kids to make their own hands-on projects.

In the kit, you’ll find the proprietary Circuit Scribe pen, which is able to operate on any paper or surface that an ordinary ballpoint pen works on.

This pen is filled with a non-toxic, conductive silver ink that turns an ordinary piece of paper into a circuit board.

With various modules and accessories, it’s surprisingly easy for kids to learn about the basic concepts of electronics.

You and your kids will be amazed by what they can create as they learn about resistance, transistors and elements in parallel and series.

Other, more robust, Circuit Scribe kits also are available to expand the knowledge and the fun.

Learn programming with Sphero SPRK+

Learn programming with Sphero SPRK+
Learn programming with Sphero SPRK+

This quirky little bot comes with an app that makes programming concepts surprisingly accessible.

The block-based programming is approachable to even the littlest programmers.

With SPRK+, kids can tell the bot to navigate a maze or play entertaining games.

Because it’s waterproof and shockproof, SPRK+ can go anywhere and do virtually anything without sustaining damage.

The gyroscope, accelerometer and LED lights make every activity interesting.

Kids can connect with other users via the app to create shared projects or find extra inspiration.

Learn engineering with SpaceRail

The absolute best thing about SpaceRail is that there are different levels. Start at Level 1 for a younger child and progress up to SpaceRail Level 9 for your tween and teen.

This is definitely a toy for older children, though younger ones can do it with adult help.

This is a marble roller coaster game that children — sometimes with adult help — put together. They will learn engineering, physics and even patience as they work their way through the instructions.

The reward will come at the end when they can put the marbles on the run — that they built themselves — to test it out. This is an engaging toy and one that doesn’t offer immediate gratification, unlike everything today in our world of “I want it now.”

The child will have to build the toy himself/herself, most likely with some adult guidance.

It’s a great toy to bring the family together.

Even the Level 1 box says it’s for ages 15+ so it’s definitely a challenging toy.

What is STEM?

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

These four disciplines are frequently interrelated.

Education in STEM is the key to producing creative, critical thinkers who have the technical skills and knowledge required to keep making strides in these key industries.

Kids who participate in a STEM program are preparing themselves for a future which may include advances in medicine, infrastructure, building more efficient communities and more.

Why is STEM important?

In earlier decades, the U.S. was a world leader when it came to technological innovation.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that only 16% of American students profess to be interested in a career in a STEM field.

This means that we have a shortage of graduates with the technical qualifications needed to succeed in these industries.

Students who graduate with STEM-based degrees will find employment in computing, engineering, the physical sciences, life sciences or mathematics, but only if we start them off on the right foot.

Kids need to learn to become critical thinkers.

Choosing the best STEM developmental toys is a great start.

STEM toys help with overall academic success

Even if your child eventually decides not to enter a STEM-based career, they will still feel the benefit of playing with these innovative and thought-provoking toys.

Playing with any of these holiday engineering and STEM toys may spark a wealth of creative talents and foster a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.

That’s the kind of holiday gift that we should all love to give and receive. See the KiwiCo sales for a great STEM gift.

If you want to buy holiday gifts that the whole family will enjoy, these are all great engineering toys as well as programming and coding toys. In addition, these are perfect to supplement summer learning.

These fun, innovative and smart toys are designed to prepare kids for future challenges in ways that are always fun and accessible.

You’ll love what your children create, and their sense of accomplishment will drive them to even bigger accomplishments.

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9 Special Needs Toys That Will Challenge and Amuse

special needs toys

Updated:

Special needs toys – Caring for children with special needs is a challenging but rewarding task. It requires long hours of sacrifice, unconditional love, and plenty of patience.

Of course, you want only the best for your child — and that includes play time.

Educational toys are a great tool to use in nurturing the development of your special needs child.

Toys that provide more than just simple entertainment value are ideal. Not only do they give your child the pleasure of a good time, but they also aid in the development of your child’s brain.

On the hunt for special needs toys that will both challenge and amuse? Look no further.

We’ve put together the best options out there that will both inspire and delight your child.

Recommended Special Needs Toys

Read on for a glimpse of the best special needs toys on the market today.

special needs toys
Having fun with toys

Monster Toss

This Monster Toss game is a great toy for children with Down syndrome. Since this condition often leads to difficulty with motor skills, this makes it easy and enjoyable for special needs children to play.

The best part is that special needs toys like this can be customized and adjusted.

This way, they adapt to whatever level of difficulty is appropriate for your child.

You can move the “monster” holes closer or farther away depending on how advanced your child is.

Puzzles

Puzzles are fun at any age. Children with autism are especially likely to enjoy working with puzzles.

Children on the autistic spectrum tend to enjoy working with patterns and systems.

Being able to assemble a puzzle and organize it into the logical sequence it belongs in can be a very pleasant experience for children on the autistic spectrum.

Choosing puzzles based on a theme that your special needs child is interested in will help to hold their interest.

Puzzles that picture geometric shapes or blocks can also be of special interest to autistic children.

Choose pieces with less pieces — the pieces will be larger — for kids who are working to develop their fine motor skills.

Aquadoodle Classic Mat

The Aquadoodle mats are an excellent choice.

Not only are they fun, but they also provide a mess-free place to get creative. They are one of the best special needs toys because they provide your child a place to create, draw, and “paint.”

They do this without requiring anything more than a pen filled with water and a mat.

The Aquadoodle mat will help your child practice drawing.

It also allows them to use their imagination in a particularly enjoyable way.

This is a very easy toy to take with you.

Ball Pits

Small at-home ball pits are one of the best special needs toys.

They give the child a place to crawl around and feel safe and secure.

These types of activities also provide endless hours of entertainment, thanks to the many colorful balls to play with inside.

Ball pits give children with special needs, especially ones in infancy or toddlers, a sensory place. These pits allow them to crawl around and experience the unique sensation of rolling around in the plastic balls.

They can practice grasping the balls to help boost motor skills. They can also notice the different variations of colors around them.

Lego Bricks

Legos are one of the most developmentally appropriate toys out there.

They are great because kids (and adults!) can follow the directions for a set or they can experience free play as they please.

Children with developed fine motor skills can also benefit from organizing Lego into colors and sizes.

They can build and create while using their imagination.

Larger-sized Lego bricks, called Duplos, can be great for children with special needs.

This is because they are over-sized, and do not have small parts to lose or get hurt with. Building and construction toys are also excellent for building STEM skills.

The Infinite Loop

This toy is a great toy for children with special needs.

This is because it works with the limited movements of children who are affected by muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or any other conditions that relate to motor systems.

The Infinite Loop is also great for children who use a wheelchair. Kids can hold it in their laps.

It helps to improve dexterity of their arms and torso.

Plus, it also aids in concentration as your child works to keep the ball on the track.

Leapfrog Hug & Learn Baby Tad Plush

This Leapfrog toy is an adorable and interactive toy that helps to teach shapes, colors, and more.

It also can play music, including classical music at bedtime.

Though this educational little frog may not be categorized under special needs toys, it is certainly a fun option that many special needs children could enjoy.

Interacting with the toy may bring your child quite a bit of delight.

Fidget Tools

Fidget tools and toys are now mainstream but were intended for individuals with trouble focusing. Fidget toys, including spinners, cubes and puzzles and more, work to stimulate fine motor skills while keeping kids engaged.

Trading Cards

There’s a reason that trading cards have stuck around for so long!

Even with the influx of technology and screens galore, kids are still getting a kick out of good old-fashioned trading cards.

It’s simple, really: playing with trading cards is more than just fun. It also assists in essential areas of development.

These include patience and dedication, organizational abilities, and even social development. On the bright side for you as a parent, trading cards are rather inexpensive.

At just a few dollars for a starter pack and no additional parts or tools needed, trading cards provide a low barrier to entry.

This will help to give you peace of mind as you figure out how much of an interest your child has in this type of toy.

Spacerails and Marble Runs

Similar to a marble run in concept, Spacerails takes it to a new level.

Spacerails is both educational and fun. It is a game that builds creativity, skill, persistence, and more.

Playing with Spacerails consists of building a track that can be utilized to work as a marble roller coaster.

This set will be good for those kids who have good attention to detail.

Most children need help setting this up. After you build it, children with special needs, including autism, may enjoy rolling the marble down the track.

Spacerails can be played on many different levels, from beginner to advanced. This gives your children the opportunity to advance at their own pace.

Plus, they can teach themselves new strategies and problem-solving methods.

Becoming better and better at Spacerails is something that your child can take great pride in. Plus, it’s something that you will enjoy both participating in and watching as you go.

Toys for children with special needs

Does your child with special needs have a favorite toy? Tell us about it below.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the toys we’ve mentioned here and any other special needs toys your family has grown to love.

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Best Science Toys That Will Inspire a Generation

Ozobot fun

Updated:

Best science toys – Remember how fun it was to play with toys as a child?

You may not have realized then it was also helping your brain development in a huge way.

In fact, scientists have found that the more stimulation a child’s brain receives at a young age, the more developed their brain will be in the coming years.

Playing with STEM toys is a fun and educational way for kids to receive this kind of helpful stimulation.

A great gift idea, no matter your child’s age, is a subscription to KiwiCo. Read our KiwiCo review.

Best science toys

We all want the best for our child’s development.

It’s great to know we can give children the gift of education through play.

STEM and science toys make it easy.

Kids are innately curious, and science toys make it fun.

These toys will inspire kids to think critically and to develop a growth mindset.

STEM toys for older kids

Ozobot

This toy combines critical thinking, coding, and drawing together in one.

It develops fine motor skills as well.

It comes with markers for kids to draw paths in blue, red, black, and green.

The little robot, Ozobot, will follow the route, enjoying the twists and turns.

Ozobot will also light up with that color when he is on it… when he rolls over a green line, he turns green.

best science toys Ozobot
Ozobot on the puzzle track or kids can draw their own and learn coding.

The Ozobot Starter Pack includes a two-sided puzzle track which is fun to use.

Kids will have a great time making their own routes as well.

The orb, which is about the size of a ping pong ball, contains sensors.

These sensors are programmed to complete different actions depending on which color is beneath them.

Kids can draw paths for him to follow, and change the color line order for him to do different commands.

My 11 year old had the chance to play with these in science class at school and used his money to buy one that weekend.

He still loves it.

He bought the Starter Pack.

It is enough on its own without buying all the add-on characters, etc., at least to start.

Ozobot fun
Have fun drawing your own track for Ozobot.

This is a great toy because you don’t need a separate device to enjoy playing with it.

It’s also portable but you need a flat surface and to bring paper and markers.

So it’s good for a restaurant but not at the ballpark.

As long as your child will be careful with it, young children will enjoy Ozobot as well.

Little Bits

Oh how we love Little Bits in our house.

These small sets are sort of like Lego in that the more pieces you have, the more fun it is.

We started getting our kids the smaller set with 10 pieces, called the Electronics Base Kit.

They were able to make a lot of contraptions.

best science toys Little Bits
Little Bits pieces combine for endless fun

Over the years, Little Bits has done more marketing to encourage kids to incorporate Little Bits with objects around the house, to make different “machines.”

My kids haven’t ever done this.

They enjoy playing with them on their own, by mixing up the colorful pieces from their different sets.

The pieces are magnetic and easily stick together.

We now own four sets total, and they enjoy mixing the pieces to design different sounds, lights, etc.

We plan to get Little Bits’ latest set, the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, for Christmas. It looks like a blast!)

One of the sets we own is the Korg Synth Kit.

It says on the box it’s for ages 14+ but we bought this for our kids when my youngest was 8, and he was able to do it.

Though he had experience with the other Little Bits sets.

We like Little Bits for their portability too.

Kids can play with some of the Little Bits sets on their lap in the car.

They don’t require a separate device in order for them to work.

Most pieces are 1 – 3 inches long.

Little Bits uses a 9V battery.

Boolean Box

Kids love screens and electronics. With this toy, your kids can build their own.

They’ll develop some serious skills while doing it.

Technology is a great addition to the educational toys of today.

And finding a way to incorporate it, rather than making it the central focus of the game, is best.

This kit comes with everything your kiddo needs in order to build their own Raspberry Pi computer.

It also comes loaded with software that will promote your child’s understanding of coding.

It’s so great, it made this list: Time Magazines Eight Toys That Can Make Your Kids Smarter for 2017.

The only thing we didn’t like about this is that it’s marketed toward girls.

We wish the color was more gender-neutral.

Still, boys and girls will both enjoy building their very own Raspberry Pi.

We don’t own this toy (because we bought them Kano, but they’ve used the Boolean Box at a friend’s house).

Kano

A runner up and similar to the Boolean Box, if you like this idea for a toy is Kano.

Our children continue to learn a lot from it and have fun.

Our school offers an online subscription over the summer for kids to learn and keep up with coding skills.

My kids have never been interested in doing it but they will pull out their Kano and code.

I like that it’s more of a tangible coding toy — more of a manipulative — than just logging mindlessly onto a computer and go to a website to learn coding.

best science toys kano
Coding with Kano

They use Kano for coding to make up their own games.

It’s (a more neutral) orange than the pink Boolean.

We bought our kids these for Christmas when our kids were 8 and 10 years old.

That was two years ago, and they still enjoy taking their Kanos out of the box to code.

Jimu Robot Kit

With two hundred parts that snap together, six motors for joints, and everything you need to build Jimu yourself, this robot is a blast.

Jimu is challenging to build, and that’s what makes it great.

This is the perfect opportunity to join your child in creating something and learning together.

Once built, kids can control Jimu from a smart device, learning coding basics as they go.

As they get more skilled in coding, they can do more complex maneuvers.

Kids can also build the robot using their own ideas and construct their own character.

My kids used these in a science camp over the summer.

If you have more than one child, definitely start with getting one to share. Jimu is fun to build together.

If they play with it often and you have more than one electronic device for them to operate it, you can always get the other models so they won’t be the same.

STEM toys for younger kids

Dot and Dash Robots

This is a great toy for starting around 5 – 6 years old.

Dot and Dash come already assembled and ready for learning and play.

This makes them great for little ones who are just starting out with STEM toys.

They provide another opportunity for early education about coding.

Your child can create code that will have Dot and Dash dancing and singing all over your home.

Dash has wheels and comes with the capability for impressive maneuvers.

Dot is a bit more basic.

It can be programmed to play different games with your child.

My kids, who are older than this age-range, played with these at their cousin’s house.

I wouldn’t recommend them for children over 8 years old as they will lose interest in time.

However, older siblings will enjoy playing with them from time to time.

My kids did have fun with them.

Cubelets

These are small cubes. They’re geared toward younger children (ages 4+) but older children will definitely find them fun, especially if they use them in combination with other toys they may have.

There are different sets, some with more cubes than others. We recommend starting with a smaller, less expensive set.

If you children enjoy them, you can buy the larger sets with more cubes.

More cubes makes it that more fun, as kids can do so much more with them.

We love that Cubelets are portable and don’t require any device to make them work.

Kids can play with them in the car or at a restaurant.

Something fantastic for my family is Cubelets are compatible with Lego, definitely extends the “playing life” of these toys.

Kids can use them combined with other toys too… that’s what makes them great.

Kids use their imagination.

Some blocks serve as motors, some as sensors, some as batteries.

As they try out different combinations, your kid will learn all about component placement.

Code-A-Pillar

This one from Fisher-Price is great for the littlest of curious minds.

Although this caterpillar-like toy doesn’t involve coding in the way many other STEM toys do, it does provide the knowledge base for children as young as three to get in the mindset of a programmer.

By changing around the parts of a Code-a-pillar’s thorax and abdomen, your child can change the toy’s path as it scoots around.

There are sound effects and music as well.

There’s an expansion pack sold separately which gives your child more options, but it isn’t necessary.

Your children will grow their skills with engineering toys.

LEGO Women of NASA sets

Soon LEGO will be releasing five sets featuring NASA scientists.

What an innovative way for girls and boys to become acquainted with NASA and STEM careers as they build and play make believe with the minifigures.

We can’t wait for LEGO to release these sets.

What is a STEM toy?

You may have heard about STEM toys.

But what are they, exactly?

STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

STEM toys aim to encourage children to foster skills within these areas.

You may have heard of a curriculum called STEAM. The “A” includes Art.

best science toys
STEM toys inspire kids

Although STEM toys do incorporate these subjects, they’re about so much more than that.

STEM education concentrates on how these areas of study link to each other, and how they can be used in the real world.

When kids are using problem-solving skills and having fun at the same time, they will not only enjoy themselves, but they’ll develop a lifelong love for learning.

Best science toys can keep them off screens

Although there are a lot of great games for kids on computers, we think it’s best for a child’s health and development to limit their screen time.

In fact, pediatricians are concerned about this  issue.

Studies show extended screen time can lead to myopia, or nearsightedness, in children.

For this reason, it’s best to monitor and limit how much time your child spends sitting at the computer.

Some screen time is fine, in moderation.

These toy suggestions for kids science toys that will get your child out of the computer chair and get their brain stimulated.

Great gift ideas for kids

STEM toys make some of the best gifts for kids to keep them engaged.

When we’re young, all we know is that we want to explore, play, and have fun.

Providing children with the opportunities to grow, develop real world skills, and stimulate their developing brain function is one of the greatest gifts that you can give them.

If you want to see success in their future, kids science toys are the perfect way to make that dream a reality.

These best science toys for kids inspire 21st century learning in a developmentally appropriate way.

No matter what your child’s age, you can find the perfect STEM toy.

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Best Educational Toys for STEM Learning

best educational toys

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Best educational toys – Giving children a strong STEM education at a young age is vital to their future success.

Even if they don’t grow up to become scientists or engineers, kids develop certain skill sets in childhood.

Our goal as parents and educators is to create a love of learning in children. Inspire them to have a growth mindset and for them to learn to be critical thinkers.

best educational toys
Best educational toys for STEM learning

Toys are fun.

If your kids play with the best educational toys, they will learn to think of STEM as a game or puzzle.

These positive experiences will translate to achievement in the classroom later on.

And that positive reinforcement will make your kids more successful adults.

Best educational toys

It all begins in early childhood, and toys are some of the best ways to start that process.

What seems like playtime to us is actually important learning for kids.

Remember playing family board games helps kids build numerous skills.

Learning Resources Science Lab

These activity kits from Learning Resources let your child experience a lab right at home.

They will love having tools of the trade, including test tubes, beakers and goggles.

This can be fun to set up in the kitchen, on a table or outside.

Let your kids mix, create and experiment.

This set recreates the thrill of laboratory experimentation for kids.

They will learn science is fun, and the lab is a great playground.

Skills they’ll learn

This toy teaches actual experimentation, instead of just providing a set of rules for your kids to follow.

While this obviously isn’t the same as giving your children free range over a chemistry lab, it is a great way to introduce these skills to your children from a young age.

In addition, the science lab kit teaches children valuable chemistry and lab safety skills.

This set will even teach your kids science terms.

Finally, this is one of the best educational toys for teaching chemistry.

Goldie Blox and the Builder’s Survival Kit

Combining a story, a toy, and a game, Goldie Blox is one of the most fun all-around toys you can find.

It comes with a story book, in which your kids will help a young woman named Goldie Blox solve various problems.

They’ll choose between difficulties and either build simple or complex inventions.

This is a toy that exercises both the intellect and imagination.

This is a great choice for anybody who has a child who’s been prone to get lost in their daydreams or a good book!

What kids will learn

The most obvious skill your kids will learn here is physics.

While this is a construction toy, your kids will be learning while creating and imagining.

This is also among the best educational toys out there for teaching problem-solving.

When your child plays with Goldie Blox, they use construction and engineering to help her with the trials and tribulations of her fictional life.

See also best science toys and best engineering toys for kids of all ages.

SpaceRail

SpaceRail is a roller coaster toy that features 9 increasingly difficult levels.

You should start by purchasing the Level 1, to introduce your kids to the toy and constructing it.

If your kid likes construction toys, marble runs, or roller coasters, they’ll love this one.

It works by allowing players to build a track and then roll a steel ball down the track — success requires a firm knowledge of STEM skills.

One of the other benefits of SpaceRail is that there’s are increasingly difficult sets.

After you’ve accomplished setting up level one, there are eight more levels for you and your child to learn with.

As children get older, it’s more difficult to find toys that will engage them. SpaceRail is a toy that even older teens will find challenging.

It’s also a great way for parents and children to spend time together.

Skills they’ll learn

This is one of the best educational toys for teaching construction and engineering skills at a young age.

On top of that, the SpaceRail is a physics toy.

Getting an early start on physics can be good news for ensuring success in high school and college.

In both cases, you’ll help your children develop an interest in practical sciences from a young age.

They will learn to follow directions and organize pieces.

They’ll have fun setting it up and then testing it when they’ve finished.

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Trading Cards

From baseball cards to Magic: The Gathering, trading cards are some of the best toys for teaching STEM skills to children.

You should choose trading cards based on your child’s interests.

If your son or daughter likes Pokemon, get them Pokemon cards.

Maybe they’re interested in sports, then get them baseball or football cards.

If you get your kids trading cards they’re genuinely interested, you’ll be using the one of the best educational toys out there.

One of the primary advantages of trading cards is that while kids may not think of learning as fun, they’ll be learning through play with these innovative cards.

What kids will learn

Perhaps the most important skills kids can gain from these cards is the ability to learn a set of rules.

Even relatively simple games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh have intricate rule sets, and learning those as a child will translate to stronger analytical and rule-following skills later in life.

Beyond that, these games are highly effective at teaching math skills.

Most of the games use statistics in the form of attack and defense points.

This is a great way to make math and statistics fun from a young age!

Learn about the best educational toys

The best educational toys help us parents to help our children succeed.

There are so many incredible resources available.

Choosing STEM-based toys are a great start.

Developmental toys, even magnetic toys and other science sets, all work to increase your child’s awareness of STEM principles.

If you want to test the cognitive abilities of your children, check out our sections on the CogAT test.

If you want to learn more about toys, we have a section on that.

And if you want to stay up to date on preparing your children for a STEM-based world, read our blog.

Hands-on education with manipulatives is critical.

Give your kids a head start.

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Do Construction Toys Increase an Interest in STEM?

Construction Toys Increase an Interest in STEM

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Construction Toys Increase an Interest in STEM – By now, most adults have realized the power and importance of STEM fields.

America especially needs more doctors, engineers, and mathematicians moving forward.

But to fill those vacancies, we need people to choose those careers.

How can we get our kids to be more interested in STEM subjects in school?

What can we do now to help our children become critical thinkers and to have a growth mindset?

More parents are looking to developmental toys as a potential answer.

While many adults played with Legos growing up, they probably weren’t thinking about the benefit it’d have on their futures.

They just wanted to play with toys.
Construction Toys Increase an Interest in STEM

Construction toys help kids

Now, people think that construction toys like Legos might actually be beneficial to increase kids’ interest in STEM at an early age.

As our schools fall farther behind the rest of the world, it’s tempting to believe that toys can make a difference.

We take a look at whether or not construction toys actually make kids more likely to want to learn more about subjects in science, math, engineering, and technology.

Great construction toys

Although companies like Legos have been around for decades, the interest in construction toys for cognitive development is pretty new.

It really vaulted into the popular conversation when GoldieBlox launched its viral marketing campaign back in 2013, which featured a video with girls designing a Rube Goldberg machine.

It was the perfect combination at just the right time.

Not only was GoldieBlox a STEM-focused toy, but it was aimed at young girls.

We need more people in STEM in general, but women are significantly underrepresented.

After GoldieBlox, even more companies jumped on the bandwagon. Roominate, which aims to teach kids about mechanical engineering and circuits through building an ‘amusement park,’ also named young girls as its target market.

Leapfrog, a long-established company, got on board with a laptop that’s meant to teach toddlers computer literacy.

Companies are getting on board, and parents aren’t far behind.

Lots of new parents want to find toys that will both keep their kids entertained and be educational, instead of just plopping them down in front of a screen.

They’ll do that enough when they’re teenagers!

Now is the time to captivate them with toys…. help them to be curious and to imagine… to be active in their play, not passively watching a screen.

It seems like the STEM toy movement is here to stay. So are STEAM toys.

(The “A” in STEM stands for Art.)

So is it really as beneficial as people say?

How do construction toys help children?

Good news for both parents and kids — it looks like all that time playing with Legos was actually good for us.

Scientists are still learning, but right now, it looks like the toy companies are right.

Research shows that structured play with construction toys can increase spatial skills in kids.

Let’s say you put together three Lego bricks on the kitchen table in a certain shape.

Then you bring in your three-year-old, sit them down, and ask them to make the same shape with some random Lego bricks on the table.

Odds are, they won’t be able to do it.

Their brains just aren’t that far along yet.

But — and here’s the important part — practice makes perfect in this case.

Another three-year-old with more experience playing with toys similar to Lego might have better spatial skills and would be able to make the exact same shape.

The more they play, they better they get

The more kids play with engineering toys like Legos, GoldieBlox, or Roominate, the better their skills get.

The most important part of the research is that the play has to be structured for the benefits to kick in.

The structure creates a puzzle that kids have to figure out.

It’s that added challenge that helps to promote the most learning.

Find the best option for your child

The toys mentioned above aren’t the only options if you’re looking for a good construction toy to help your child start learning.

The recent boom of STEM-inspired toys means there are a lot of different options to choose from.

Three Little Piggies, which is great for kids over three, uses the story of the three little pigs to help kids build both logic and spatial skills.

Kids have to figure out how to save the piggies and lock out the Big Bad Wolf.

Pretty great motivation.

Don’t worry — if you have a child who’s easily scared, there are puzzles that can be solved without the threat of the wolf.

There’s also Wonder Workshop, a robotics toy great for any kid older than six that even responds to the world around it.

It comes with hundreds of challenges and puzzles that will keep kids’ brains active.

Our Zoob sets have been fabulous toys in our household.

The only downside is that it really helps to have more than one set, much like Lego bricks.

The more Zoob pieces the kids have, the more they can construct, build and create.

They’re made of plastic but very sturdy.

We’ve owned four sets, and all through the years, only one Zoob broke.

Kids can follow the instruction book or make up their own designs.

These are the sets we own and my kids still play with, even though our oldest is 11. The Zoob STEM sets are excellent.

Puzzlets is a game for ages six and up that focuses on the technology aspect of STEM.

It helps kids build their coding skills early. While kids of yesterday learned how to type, Puzzlets has games that will help kids learn the basics of coding.

Something for the family

Educational games and toys, including construction toys have been proven to have a great effect on the development of kids.

But what if you want to have some fun as a family?

If you’d like something that will keep both kids and adults entertained, the Giant Space Rail roller coaster is your best bet.

The bigger the coaster, the longer it takes to assemble — and the more fun it is to figure out the challenge of putting it together.

As players build the coaster, they gradually build their own spatial and logic skills at the same time.

It has a variety of designs, so the game will never get old.

This is a great toy as your children “age out” of toys.

Even teenagers will enjoy putting together an advanced SpaceRail system.

For parents who want to promote STEM to their children while also enjoying some quality time as a family, this is a great option.

Engage your child’s curiosity with construction toys.

These manipulative are some of the best educational toys.

They inspire creativity, build fine motor skills, stimulate the imagination and give kids confidence in building and creating.

Learn more about the best science toys for kids, no matter what their age.

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9 Incredible Things You Can Do With Magnetic Toys

magnetic toys

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It’s always fun learning about developmental toys for kids. There are so many options. Best are toys that kids will use in different ways or for years to come, even as they cast aside other toys. Magnetic toys are great. They teach kids about science and let the kids explore in tangible ways.

Magnetic toys are perfect for your budding engineer.

Magnetic manipulatives can be used in many different ways.

Depending on the magnetic set you buy, your child will have fun sorting, building, creating, and using her imagination.

Even better, when he outgrows the magnets — which won’t be for years, as even older kids love them — you and your kids can use them in engaging projects.

Here are 9 amazing things you can do with magnetic toys for some family fun.

Investigate the Magnetic Content of Food

Iron is one of the most essential vitamins we need to survive.

Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis have low levels of iron.

However, it is found in a lot of breakfast cereals.

The first thing you will need is a neodymium magnet.

After you have the magnet, select a cereal that has a high percentage of iron and smash it into tiny bits.

Grab your magnet and hover it above the cereal.

In cereals with higher traces of iron, you should be able to see tiny specks of iron pull onto the magnet!

Learn which are the the best science toys and see how they can help your child.

Magnetic Ball Marble Run

Use your child’s small magnetic ball to create a marble run out of old paper towel and wrapping paper rolls.

You can even cut up pool noodles in half (horizontally) for longer ramps.

It doesn’t have to be magnetic for it to work; any marble or small ball will do.

Make Painted Wood Sticks

Painted wood sticks or popsicle sticks are another great way to get more use out of your child’s magnetic toys and encourage imaginative play.

You can have your little one paint on the wood sticks in fun and creative designs.

After they are done painting and they dry, take your magnetic disks and put one on each end of stick using a hot glue gun.

Your kids can enjoy playing with the sticks on any magnetic surface.

The fridge is the obvious choice but it could lead to fun little designs around the house.

They can make different designs with the sticks.

magnetic toys
Enjoying magnetic toys

Magnetic Fishing

This can be a fun game for the kids to play on a lazy weekend.

You will need the magnets, paper clips, glue, string, sticks, and any other craft supplies to make the fish.

You will make a fishing pole by tying the end of the string to a stick and putting the magnet on the other end of the string attached to a small piece of the stick.

Once the magnet is attached you can place the paper fish in a bowl or behind a sheet you hang and have your kids start fishing!

Create a Refrigerator Puzzle with your Magnetic Toys

If your child likes doing puzzles, this next tip will be a blast.

Choose one of your child’s puzzles, and adhere magnets to the back of each piece small magnets with super glue.

Your kids will be able to do puzzles on the fridge without you worrying about lost pieces and have company while you are busy in the kitchen.

Magnetic Sculptures

As your child becomes more involved with science, building things may pique their interest.

Another excellent way to get the most out of your magnetic toys is to use the magnets to build sculptures.

For safety purposes, using nuts and bolts for this activity will be a lot safer than any other materials to build with.

Metal lids will also come in handy.

If the magnets from your toy are not big enough to fit in the metal lid, adding flat, ceramic magnets should do the trick.

Once the magnets are in place, you can start adding the nuts and bolts onto the other side of the lid.

If you feel the magnetic structure losing its strength, put another ceramic magnet in the structure, and you shouldn’t have any problem expanding whatever your child builds!

Learn about how construction toys can boost your child’s interest in STEM learning.

Magnetic Slime

Kids love to get messy, and this could be the messiest idea on the list.

To get things started you will need plain Elmer’s glue, liquid starch, iron oxide powder, and of course one (or a few small) neodymium magnets.

To make the slime you will need to put 1/4 cup of liquid starch into a bowl with two tablespoons of iron oxide powder.

You will stir the bowl until it starts to make a liquid form.

Add in 1/4 cup of glue and continue mixing for a few minutes.

Then you will get your hands dirty and mix it by hand!

By this point, it should become the stretchy form you will use!

Pat the slime dry using a paper towel to get any excess liquid off of it.

Then it will be ready to use. Grab your magnet and have fun!

Create a Mini Magnetic Field

This is a simple trick and shouldn’t take much time to get set up.

You will need a round neodymium magnet and copper piping slightly larger than the magnet.

Stand the pipe up and drop the magnet down.

Instead of dropping down quickly, it will slowly descend to the bottom.

This will be fun, exciting, and entertain your children, whenever you bring it out.

Make Jingle Bell Wands

This tip is geared towards younger children but should get them in the holiday spirit.

To make the magnetic jingle bell wands, you will need craft sticks, bells, magnetic disks and a hot glue gun.

First, you will need to glue two magnetic disks on each side of the Popsicle stick.

Once the magnets are in place, glue the bells onto magnets.

Once the bells are securely on the magnets, your child will have a jingle bell wand to enjoy for the holidays.

Keeping Kids Entertained

Magnets are some of the best educational toys for early exploring of STEM concepts.

Magnetic toys are educational and teach about simple science concepts, fostering creativity and exploration.

With any magnets and small pieces, supervise young children and watch younger siblings.

Keep kids entertained with these amazing activities.

These ideas can be all be managed within a small budget and can be enjoyed by children of all ages.

There are so many ways you can get extended use out of your child’s magnetic toys.

Can you think of other fun uses for magnets?

Leave a comment below.

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