By Katy Killilea
Are your kids getting more and more curious about how the world works? Our hearts might always belong to Lego, but some new games, toys, and gizmos are working their way in. We tried lots of stuff and loved these especially.
This is a five-inch, solar-powered rotating crystal. It adheres with a suction cup to a clean window that gets plenty of sunshine. Once the sun hits the solar panel, visible gears start cranking and the prism starts moving and your room is filled with a thousand spinning rainbows. Incredible!
Good for kids who are interested in: solar power, mechanics, light, or pushing a jittery pet to the edge of insanity.
Recommended for ages: any age to look at but five or older to handle. (The prism is leaded crystal, i.e. contains lead.)
You know those unnervingly strong magnets sold at the gift shops in museums and at toy stores? The ones that look like stones and come with a little velvet pouch? Jishaku uses them, and a sort of mini-egg-crate mattress, to make a very intense game.
Players take turns placing a magnet on the board (official name: the Force Field). The object of the game is to get rid of your magnets. You have to place yours without attracting any others. It’s a simple concept, but very challenging to master.
Good for kids who are interested in: magnetic force and poles.
Recommended for ages: eight and older to play the game, four and older to play with the magnets! Jishaku comes with the dire warning that accompanies all magnetic toys about the danger to the intestine of one who swallows magnets. (Keep away from babies.)
A 3-D puzzle of the guts of a cow? It’s enchanting! A reasonable number of little bones and organs (twenty-nine pieces in this set) fit right into an eight-inch realistic model cow. Also available in Eyeball, Human Torso, Horse, or Muscle Man.
Good for kids who are interested in: anatomy, biology.
Recommended for ages: eight and older. It’s not easy.
Clear off your dining room table. Twirl the three-inch hoop on its side, and try to flick as many of your wooden hippopotami into the space where you predict the hoop will come to rest. Why is this fun? It’s one of those games that combine skill and planning with luck and surprise. Also, kids love to twirl things on a cleared-off table.
Good for kids who are interested in: geometry, motion, tallying a score.
Recommended for ages: five and older.
Battery Eater (pictured above):
What do you do with a half-dead battery? Feed it to your Battery Eater, of course. All this guy needs is a weak battery and his eyes will dimly glow. He’s perfect as a night light. When every last drop of power has been sucked from your battery, he will glow no more and you can send that spent cylinder to the battery recycling box, knowing you have truly used it up.
Good for kids who are interested in: electrical engineering, conservation.
Recommended for ages: all ages will enjoy this as a nightlight, but an adult should do the battery handling.
What fun stuff have you been playing with at your house? Please share your recommendations in the comments section, below.