Three Gender-Free Fantastic Art Activity Kits

Rec_mmbanksFinding arts and crafts activities that will appeal to both boys and girls can be challenging since so many kits are so gender-specific.

Here are three from our Platinum List that will appeal to everyone!

Creativity for Little Kids Finger Paints (Creativity for Kids)

Crayola Crayon Maker (Crayola)

Money Monster Banks (Creativity for Kids)

Five Great Color Concept Toys/Games for Preschoolers

If you’re working on color concepts in your house, playing games can be a fun way to reinforce the concepts.  Here five favorites:

Candy Land Castle Game (Milton Bradley)

eeBoo Preschool Color Memory Game (eeBoo)

Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster (Mattel)

Color Wonder Paper and Markers (Crayola)

Lego Duplo (Lego Systems)

Complete reviews are on our site

Pick of the Day: Crayola's Crayon Maker

It’s back!  Last month I showed everyone had to make Crayon Muffins on the Today Show from old crayons…one of my favorite activities that I used to do with my mother as a kid.  Those are still fun to do–but it does involve an oven and you do have to be really careful about the hot tins, melting crayons, etc.

We were happy to see at Toy Fair that Crayola was bringing back their Crayon Maker (a former Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award winner)…this time with a huge improvement in design…you can see the crayons melting in the chamber (the old design had a solid piece of plastic).  The heating element is a 60W bulb (the tapered kind). I sort of wish the bulb was included–since not everyone has one of those bulbs hanging around the house but I can imagine the shipping issues would be too complicated.  There is a warning on the box that the bulb is not included…a plus. I really  have a problem with the small print warnings on some products- you get the product home, everyone is psyched and then you find you don’t have an essential element.

Just like the original — you load up your old crayons into the chamber–it heats up and voila you get new crayons! The chamber does not open until the tray has cooled–a very important safety feature.

There’s something so happy and life affirming to have new crayons…the possibilities of what you might do with them  always struck me (and sometimes meant I was staring at a blank piece of paper).  I also realize that I still feel  happy when I open a new box of crayons (the smell especially)…does that mean I’m forever 8?

Crayola 3D Chalk…what makes it 3D?

One of our testers who really liked the 3D Chalk kits just raised a great question…is there something in the chalk that makes it 3D or will the 3D glasses make all chalk 3D…we posed this question to the folks at Crayola…

“Yes, the 3D glasses will work with any Crayola chalk and out sidewalk
crayons.  The ones that come with the Crayola 3D Sidewalk Chalk Kit allow for the best results
because we paired warm and cool colors together.”

Al Roker had a fun time with these glasses on our outdoor toy segment last year…click here to watch the segment.

Crayola Beginnings Baby Drop and See

We got mixed reviews on the new Crayola TaDoodles Drop & See. This three level ball run is designed so that your toddler needs to push a lever at each level to release the ball to the next level.  The toy is marked 9 months and up and that’s where the problems arose for our testers.  Our nine month old testers could not make the levers work.  In fact a play group with mostly 18 month old toddlers also had difficulty. The biggest complaint is that the toy falls over easily–unless it’s against a wall which is hard to make happen when you’re talking about a toy for on the go toddlers.  Nothing like asking a toddler to only play with something in one location!

Even without the falling over issues, our older toddlers had problems making the red cat lever operate. Our testers were creative — suggesting that the levers should be bigger and that the base should be wider to address the tipping issue. Everyone liked the concept but all had suggestions on how to “fix” the toy to make it better.

The testers that were 2+ could make the toy work–and even our younger testers enjoyed making the balls go from level to level with help…but still, we think the age label is too off the mark to make this one an award winner.

Pick of the Day: Crayola Window Crayons

My mother is giving a speech today at the University of Maryland  for her new book, Stanley Hayami: Nisei Son…go mom.  Apart from writing 50 plus children’s books and parenting books, my amazing mother has written this book–based on the diary of a young man who was sent ( along with 120,000 other Americans of Japanese descent ) to internment camps during World War II.  Stanley then served in the Army–and died serving his country.  My mother has taken this primary source and brought his story to life with such clarity and emotion, that people are moved to tears when they “meet” Stanley.  I recently heard her speak at NYU–and again I marveled at how my mother is such a gifted story teller.  I also highly recommend Dear Miss Breed–the story of a dedicated librarian who became an incredible and consistent source of support to so many children and their families sent to camps during WWII.

p91405bAll of this is by way of my saying that my mother and I usually play with window markers and crayons together.  So I’m proud that she’s off giving another speech–but I miss that she’s not here.  I have just tried out Crayola’s new Window Crayons. At first I felt a little awkward coloring on our office windows by myself–but I’ve loosened up…and have created a garden of flowers and grass. Try it, it’s liberating.

If you’re ok with kids drawing on windows/sliding doors–this is a REALLY FUN activity. At only $4.99–it’s a great buy. Comes with five colors.

Trends from Toy Fair 2009: It's BACK, Crayola's Crayon Maker

03-9000_crayonmkr_trayupCrayola’s Crayon Maker (a former Oppenheim Toy Portfolio  Platinum Award winner) is making a come back. It’s smaller than the original unit which seems fine and best yet, the dome is now clear so that you can watch the crayons melt.  Not sure why this process was hidden before behind blue plastic. With all the talk of repurposing products, I love the idea that old crayons that would normally be thrown out become brand new crayons your kids will enjoy using. We’re looking forward to testing the new version.

Better than the Big Box of Crayola Crayons

I didn’t think it was possible to make a better crayon dispenser than the big box of Crayola crayons we all used to look forward to at the beginning of the school year. That new crayon smell, the built-in crayon sharpener–brings you back, right? This year Crayola came up with the Crayola Telescoping Crayon Tower–pull on the center of the plastic tray and you now have three levels of crayons (150 in all), plus a sharpener. It’s one of those products that make you wish you could have one of your own for your desk. A really great gift, and at $14.95–you really could buy two!