As you begin your holiday shopping for your Little Builders and Tinkerers this year, consider these gift suggestions that make learning fun while inspiring innovation and creativity!
For toddler through preschool age, a basic Wood Block Set is a must-have for any play space. This is an excellent tool for developing basic motor skills and stimulating creativity while also exploring spatial relations and early math concepts.
For preschool through early elementary age, Magformers, Magna-Tiles and Playmags are all magnetic tile building sets that taking the building block concept one step further. Thanks to the integrated magnets, tiles easily connect to create complex geometric shapes and forms. The variety of tile shapes and colors also helps teach pattern and shape recognition while developing building and motor skills.
Citiblocs and KEVA Plank Sets allow for more complicated building and design. Using a set of simple wood planks children can build an endless array of structures and contraptions. Due to the fine motor skills and coordination required to place planks, as well as the patience to build complex designs, this is best suited for age 7 and up.
If your Little Architect is looking to build with both design and function in mind, a Marble Run is an exciting way to create, build and immediately experiment with cause and effect. (The little ball or marble can be a choking hazard so best for ages 3 and up.) If you are looking for a more challenging marble course, the Q-Ba-Maze offers complicated building forms that combine sculptural design with a functioning marble run. For example, build a marble maze that also looks like a fish or dragon. Directions (drawn in plan format) are available for a variety of marble mazes on their website. Due to the fine motor coordination and attention to detail required for these builds, this set is best for age 5 and up, and may require assistance to get the hang of this building method.
Every kid loves LEGO sets, but my personal favorite is the LEGO Creator Treehouse, a 3-in-one building set. It’s a perfect combination of “architecture” and “playhouse” for the creative child, plus each build features moving components including a pulley and folding ladder. A fun and innovative twist on the typical LEGO set, especially for the child who already owns tons of LEGOs, is the Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit. This kit includes several LEGO pieces, a variety supplemental components (including balls, ramps and rubber bands), and clear instructions to build ten moving machines! The kit provides a playful and exciting way to explore these many basic physics concepts.
Continuing with the theme of building structures and moving machines, Snap Circuit Jr. provides children with hands-on experience designing and building models of working electrical circuits. The projects include a sound-activated switch, a musical doorbell, a flying saucer, and a siren. Components easily snap together and directions are clear and easy to follow. Best for ages 7 and up.
Beyond building sets, books that inspire innovative problems solving and creativity are a great gift suggestion for any child. Both Iggy Peck Architect and Rosie Revere Engineer are excellent storybooks that feature beautiful illustrations and a touching story that not only sparks creativity and ingenuity, but also emphasizes the importance of having confidence in your individual abilities and ideas.
Looking for a gift for a Little Engineer that keeps on giving? How about a subscription to Koala Crate, Kiwi Crate, or Tinker Crate? You can purchase a 3-month, 6-month or 12-month subscription and a new project will be delivered right to your little Tinkerer each month. Inspiration and all materials are provided to create a variety of fun and innovative projects. Themes can be specified depending on the age of the recipient.