Gender-Free Craft Kits – Crunching Time in the Age of Social Distancing

By now, the novelty of no school is getting old and separation from schoolmates and busy routines is becoming more challenging every day. Finding meaningful off-screen entertainment is more important than ever. For school aged kids, crafts can be both entertaining, engrossing, and even educational. And the good news is, many of the new products arriving at our office offer some great options for both boys and girls. Traditionally, most craft kits were designed to appeal to girls—jewelry, knitting, embroidering, etc. All too often, boys’ interests in creative activities have been neglected or narrowly defined. Happily, this season we are seeing a wonderful array of gender free craft kits that

Creativity for Kids Grow 'n Glow Terrarium

(Creativity for Kids $14.99) We like the safety of a plastic mason-style jar for creating a Grow 'N Glow terrarium that comes with a decorative lid, potting mix, organic chia and wheat grass seeds, small garden figurines, small river stones, a plant mister, and translucent and glow-in-the-dark stickers. This is a craft kit with legs...it's not an instant payoff. Encourage kids to keep a log and photos as the seeds spout and get photos of it by day and by night. Parental help will be needed for the set up. Marked for 6 and up. For another kind of terrarium take a look at these Mini Gardens. Ages: Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2020 Click here to purchase the Grow n Glow

Mindware Paint Your Own Unicorn Light

(Mindware $17.95) Kids can hand paint their own special unicorn with the two brushes and 12 paint pots provides. There's no right or wrong way to decorate the popular porcelain mythical creature. Each will be a unique unicorn. Once the art work is done, an adult will bake it in a regular NON-MICROWAVE oven. Once it's cooled off, add the battery operated tea lights and enjoy the lovely glow! Marked for 8 and up. Ages: Older Early School Years, Tweens Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2020 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Mindware Playful Chef Cake Decorating

(Mindware $39.95 ) Newest of the Playful Chef line, this is a cake decorating kit that really works! Face it, what kids often like best is icing on the cake and this kit gives them the tools to make their own fancy toppings. The kit includes: 2 springform pans, 2 reusable pastry bags, 4 decorating tips, 3 cake stencils, cooking instruments needed to bake and frost cakes, 6 recipe cards and instructions with pictorial images to help beginning readers. It comes with 2 types of decorating tips for fancy and fun-to-do ideas that take some fine motor skills. A terrific kit for a rainy afternoon parent-child project or fun for making a cake for a teddy bear tea party or even real pre birthday prep

Dig it up! Discoveries: Space

(Mindware $25.95) Kids with a fascination for space will have fun digging into the 12 asteroids, each of which holds a space object—Alien, UFO, Astronauts, Rocket, and others. It’s like a box of Cracker Jacks with a surprise inside. This kit can be doled out on rainy days or use the individually wrapped asteroids for a space themed birthday party. Each comes with its own chisel and instructions. There’s also a guide with fun facts about space travel. Like other Dig It Up! kits from Mindware, these are to be soaked to soften before kids begin digging. Marked 4 and up...we think early school kids will love these as much. Ages: Preschoolers, Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award

Peaceable Kingdom Duck, Duck, Dance

(Mindware $17.99) Designed for toddlers, Duck, Duck, Dance is an active cooperative game for parents and child. There are no winners or losers, only lots of shared giggles, wiggles, and turn taking. There are several ways to play the game, all involving gross motor activities—and each slightly more complex than the last. In the simplest game, player have a turn to roll the pictorial dice and then do the dance move shown by the animal pictured. On each person’s turn, the player flips over one of the four audience member cards. When all the audience cards are flipped—the game is done. The player’s guide provides other games to play that involve sequencing, counting, and language—games for olde

Peaceable Kingdom Bandits Memory Mix up

(Mindware $19.95) Put four or more of the 50 Garden tokens into the giant spy glass. Players try to memorize the items. Now, the leader turns the spy glass over and removes one item. Who can name the missing item? This is a memory game that kids are often better at than older players. You can play in teams or cooperatively as a whole group. Marked for 3 and up, but we’d say, more like older preschoolers and early school. Ages: Older Preschoolers, Early School Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2018 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Mindware Dig It Up! The Big Egg

(Mindware $20.95) Kid can excavate seven prehistoric beasts from T-Rex to Brachiosaurus. Unlike most toys like this that produce lots of dust and chips of plaster like material, Mindware's Dig it Up! kits are designed to be soaked before kids begin using the chisels packed with the kit. You'll want to protect the surface where the muddy clay will land and you may need to give it a second soak as it begins to dry out. The BIG super-duper 7" egg has a variety of dinos inside...not exactly a scientific notion...but the kit also includes information about the various creatures that will no doubt be fun to play with or displayed as a collection. Marked for 4 and up, we think this might be a bette

Fat Brain Dimpl Digits

(Fat Brain $19.99) We’ve written about other Fat Brain dimpl toys. This newest variation has smaller dimples and no doubt require little fingers, rather than the whole hand to push and press the silicone bubbles to move. So this calls for finer motor skills. It also has some academic add-ons. On one side the bubbles are embossed with the numerals form 1-10 plus the word for the matching numeral. Flip it and the words are written in Spanish and have corresponding dots to count and feel. Of course, by the time your toddler is ready to learn to count or read, this toy is likely to be long gone. That said, it’s a colorful push and pop toy that will no doubt please little hands at play. 1s and 2s

Mindware Paint Your Own Dinosaur Bank

(Mindware $15.95) Dino lovers will like saving their allowance (do kids still get an allowance?) in this dinosaur bank. It comes out of the box in white porcelain, ready for young artists to create their own dream dino. The kit comes with 12 paints, a brush and a guide that introduces kids to color blending, pattern ideas and clear directions. AN adult will need to do the final step of baking the finished paint job in the oven for half an hour. There’s a stopper so kids can get to their coins when needed. This makes a nice craft for kids to give to a friend or sibling—an original dinosaur. Since this is made of a breakable material and requires baking, it is marked for 8 and up. Ages: Older

Fat Brain Wobble Run

(Fat Brain $19.98) Fit the three textured tracks onto the wobbly tower...put them in any order. Put one ball on top and zip-zap, wiggle-wobble it runs down the track! Not only does the tower wobble, the sound of the balls on the textured track also add to the fun. Toddlers use fine motor skills and little lessons in cause and effect as they drop the balls onto the track. When the fun is done, the balls are stored inside the tower. Parents will need to fit the tower together—but once they do it, toddlers will love the repetition of this action-packed ball run. Sitting up babies may like to watch this, but ones and up will love activating it again and again. One and up. Ages: Young Toddlers O

Babu Mirror

(Mindware $16.95) For a sitting up baby, this is a hefty mirror in a wooden frame with pieces of colorful crinkle fabric around its edges. Mirrors are fascinating to babies who study the motions and images they see in a mirror. Unlike so many infant safety mirrors, this one is both safe and doesn’t distort. Listen in the morning and you will likely hear your baby talking to the face reflected back to her in the mirror. 6 months and up. Ages: Infants Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2020 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Babu Tilt and Spin Toy

(Mindware $17.95) Crafted of solid hardwood and painted with water-based finish that is non-toxic and BPA-Free, Babu’s new Tilt and Spin is designed for two-handed play. Toddlers grasp the handles and as they tilt the toy the beads slide and the spinner in the middle twirls along its track. Tilt and Spin is fun way for toddlers to learn about cause and effect as they develop their fine motor skills. A good toy for sensory learning with sound and motion to explore as it spins, rattles, and rolls. No batteries needed—this is a totally child activated toy. 12 months and up. Ages: Young toddlers Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award 2020 Click here to purchase the product from Amazon.com

Fat Brain Spinny Pins Toy

(Fat Brain $29.95) Our tester family loved the sound of the jingly chime bells built into the round bottom bowl that rocks as toddlers experiment with this clever toy. Take a pin out—put a pin in and the sweet sounding bells tinkle. Put them in to stand tall or turn them over and the tall pins sink into the bowl, becoming ball-like bumps. Play a matching game—put the color pins into the matching holes in the bowl. Toddlers will like the feel of the easy to grasp patterned pins, each with a different pattern embossed at the base and top. Use these to press into play dough. Give the pins a spin on the floor...see how many you can get moving at once before your toddler grabs one. Keep in mind,

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Products reviewed by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio are provided by the manufacturer at their cost. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio does not require or accept fees for reviewing products.