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Create, Craft, Design & Play

Starting with LEGOs and on through robots, children's play is about creating something new. While little ones design the perfect imaginary friend, a middle schooler might try to develop a program that will win a Science Fair prize. The following toys nurture creativity and provide an outlet for it. Growing builders, architects, engineers, painters, and cartoonists will each be pleased with what we've discovered.
Tegu Blocks Tegu Blocks
Ages: 3 - 10 yrs.
Tegu, $125.00

Tegu won the hearts of our parent testers. Its simplicity accounted for this, as the toy combines basic wood and magnets. The set also promotes a clear message of "create, capture, share", while also providing clear support for sustainability. Tegu products are made in Honduras from recycled hardwood. When building is complete, children can take a picture and upload it to the Tegu site. The website mirrors the product's simplicity - it is easy to use, clean, and functional. The discoveries with this toy never end.

The Original Fortamajig The Original Fortamajig
Ages: 3 - 12 yrs.
The Happy Kid Company LLC, Sugar Mountain PR, $49.95

The concept is nothing short of brilliant. 24 Velcro loops are sewn at well-positioned points throughout this 8x8 foot square of brightly colored nylon ripstop. Use the loops to attach to stable objects (chairs, deck railing, table legs, tree branches) to configure and reconfigure a variety of play structures. With no pieces to lose, break, or replace, this highly inventive product is durable, washable, and easy to store. Packaged as a tote-bag carrying-case, the Fortamagig is a perfect travel companion.

Play-Doh Creativity Center Play-Doh Creativity Center
Ages: 3 & Up
Hasbro, Inc., $29.99

Functioning as a work surface and a storage unit, this activity-filled table gives multi-tasking a good name. Housing more than 45 accessories, kids can shape the Play Doh free-hand, or use the cutters, extruders, or the included molds to make realistic or abstract creations. Cleanup is a breeze.

Builders of Tomorrow Set Builders of Tomorrow Set
Ages: 4 & Up
The LEGO Group, $29.99

This set of 650 brightly colored and variously sized blocks is perfect for imaginative play. From the construction of large buildings to small cars and people, the blocks are easy to manipulate and build today and rebuild tomorrow.

Makedo - Kit for One Makedo - Kit for One
Ages: 4 & Up
Reeves International, Makedo (TM), $20.00

The makedo free play range encourages open ended creativity and making. Each kit comprises makedo's resusable connector system, construction tools and an inspiration poster featuring project ideas to get creativity flowing. Manufacturer's Description

Playshapes Playshapes
Ages: 4 & Up
Miller Goodman, $150.00

There is a power in PlayShapes, a toy that inspires free expressiveness and artistic exploration through its modern and playful design. While these are in its purest interpretation a classic building block set, the primary colors on a few pieces resembles eyes, and asymmetrical shapes really bring this toy a cut above the other building block sets. These very things make it an artistic architectural toy rather than just another set of blocks.

Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse
Ages: 4 & Up
Creativity for Kids, $29.99

How many toys out there appeal equally to a preschooler and a "tween", while being environmentally friendly at the same time? The Recycled Cardboard Dollhouse turns out to be a wonderful art project for a range of ages. The package wastes nothing - even the box itself becomes part of the house. Testers loved seeing the house take shape. They spent hours decorating and coloring the many accessories, then embarked on days upon days of using the house as a centerpiece for pretend play, adding and rotating their own embellishments from household items and scraps, to small playthings and trinkets.

Toontastic Toontastic
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Artist: Mark McLawhorn   Designer: Thushan Amarasiriwardena   Designer: Andy Russell   Developer: Alex Fajkowski  
Launchpad Toys,

Toontastic lets users create their own animated stories (cartoons) from a selection of predefined settings and characters, or digitally draw scenes and characters of their own. That in itself is pretty cool, but it's the educational element that makes this app stand out. Users do not make up stories haphazardly but are guided through the traditional storytelling arc of Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution. It might sound like complex material for little ones, but it's presented in a very easy-to-absorb manner. A narrator guides you through each step of creating a scene and if you want to go deeper into storytelling elements with your child, the parent / teacher instructional pages are an excellent tool.

Classic Wood Crafts Classic Wood Crafts
Ages: 5 & Up
Creativity for Kids, $29.99

Classic Wooden Crafts is an arts and crafts activity that comes with over four hundred pieces of wood in a variety of shapes and sizes. Additional materials include feathers, chenille stems, cotton and elastic string, and wooden people and beads. Glue, eco-friendly paints, paint brushes, a marker, and sand paper round out the necessary supplies for making these wooden crafts. One can use the instructions for ideas or just use one's imagination. There are enough materials to use the set multiple times, and when done, the materials can be housed in the bag that is included.

Recon 6.0 Programmable Rover Recon 6.0 Programmable Rover
Ages: 8 & Up
SmartLab, $69.99

The Recon Rover is a track-wheeled robot designed to teach children simple programming. The slow-moving, 11-inch tall, rover has an on-board LCD screen and keypad. Other features include a microphone, speaker, LED headlights, and a cargo hold that looks like a cup holder. The colorful, spiral-bound, 48-page owner's manual has 10 fun missions that will engage users. Each mission has an objective, helpful background information, a briefing, a mission map, step-by-step programming instruction, and a post mission debriefing. The Recon Rover offers great value and it provides many hours of playful learning.

Struxx Robotrixx Struxx Robotrixx
Ages: 8 & Up
MEGA Brands, Inc., $59.99

This 502-piece construction system is a technological revolution that empowers you to build bigger and on a larger scale. Struxx design uses the latest construction technology based on three basic pieces: a ball, socket and rod that click together, offering an unparalleled, larger than life construction system. With cool high tech features like a gearbox, motion detection, sound and light, make your Struxx design move. Dynamic, hyper flexible and strong, the Struxx system offers lots of building ideas, including a jaguar, shark and a T-Rex that really roars. Product Description

Engineer Your Life Engineer Your Life
Ages: 13 - 17 yrs.
Designer: Sonali Patel   Developer: Molly Frey   Director: Thea Sahr   Director: Borgna Brunner   Producer: Catherine Jay Didion   Producer: Arthur R. Smith  
WGBH Educational Foundation,

The Engineer Your Life web site was created to present high-school aged girls with the various fields of engineering, as well as provide them with real-world examples of women in the field. From an introduction to the overall field of engineering, to "meeting" a variety of women engineers, and finally giving advice to students on how to get involved with it themselves, the site is simply designed, cleanly and clearly organized. Just what we'd expect from engineers.


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