Toys, games, kits, apps, and books designed to jump-start creativity in your kids.
Building Toy: Back to Basics
Tinkertoy--the classic creative construction set--celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with the aptly dubbed 100-Piece Building Set. Now all plastic (some even bendable), the colorful spools, rods, flags, and other pieces still provide hours of inventive play.
Ages 3 and up, $34.99, tinkertoy.com
Thinking Toy: Dare to Design
Like a reality-TV show, the Extraordinaires Design Studio puts creative skills to the test. Kids get an Object Card that describes something to sit on, say, or a communications device, then devise that thing for a special client previously selected from the Character Cards (a rap star, for example, or an acrobat). Our testers rose to the challenge with such inventions as the Bathrobe of Dread for the Evil Genius and a shell phone for the Merman.
Ages 8 and up, $44.99, marblesthebrainstore.com
Travel Toy: Storytelling Is in the Cards
Have you heard the one about the elephant who played hide-and-seek with the alligator? With the Volcano Island edition of Tell Me a Story, you just might. The 40 illustrated prompt cards get kids imagining and sharing all manner of wild tales.
Ages 3 and up, $9.95, geniusbabies.com
Artful Apps We Love
Juxtaposer lets kids combine snapshots into crazy mash-ups right on a phone or tablet. Simply swipe to swap heads, add people or props, even change backgrounds. iOS.
Ages 7 and up, $2.99
Snap a photo of anything around the house, then use KaleidaCam to transform the image into a kaleidoscopic pattern. Laundry has never looked so good! iOS.
Ages 7 and up, $1.99
Creativity flows literally and figuratively with LiquidSketch. Use the iPad's gyroscope to move colorful on-screen liquid through logic puzzles or build contraptions with blocks, pumps, and paint. iOS.
Ages 7 and up, $1.99
How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy
Hands-on Fun: Think Outside the Box
Box World Adventures provides patterned paper, stickers, and instructions for 15 awesome projects. The Russian cathedral, shown here, is made from a box, paper cups, cardboard tubes, and a potato chip canister. Other cool projects include a British double-decker bus and an Empire State Building.
Ages 4 and up, $19.95, chroniclebooks.com
Box Props are accessory sets that transform containers into silly faces and cute vehicles. The kid-friendly Scrus are used to make holes in the box and act as connectors for the thin, illustrated plastic pieces.
Ages 3 to 8, $9.95 to $14.95, mymakedo.com
Craft Supplies: Just Add Inspiration
Creativity Kit has everything we look for in a DIY craft product: high-quality--and gorgeous--materials, including patterned papers, bright felt shapes, glass beads, and shiny sequins, plus open-ended directions that encourage kids to fashion creations from their imagination.
Ages 7 and up, $19.95, artterro.com
Page Turners: Books That Feed Creativity
This nifty journal, The Family Doodle Book (shown at left), gives parents and kids a place to draw and write together. Its 65-plus imagination starters ("Everyone draw your earliest memory") prompt pleasurable scribbling--and cross-generational conversations. Fill in all the pages, and you'll end up with priceless art indeed: a one-of-a-kind keepsake.
All ages, $14.95, amazon.com
The Pocket Scavenger (shown at top), by artist Keri Smith encourages kids to see the world with new eyes. Among the simple scavenging missions: finding everyday objects (paper clip, feather) and gathering items by interpreting clues ("something orange"). With space to tell the story behind each discovery, Smith's journal offers quirky fun as well as rich opportunities for self-expression.
Ages 8 and up, $15, amazon.com
Fans of The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch and aspiring writers alike will devour the undercover author's Write This Book (shown at right). This entertaining DIY mystery, with its funny asides and facetious footnotes, gives insight into the writing and bookmaking process. Readers join in by naming characters, drafting flap copy, and titling and writing chapters. Bosch even divulges tips on the fine art of procrastination.
Ages 8 and up, $16.99, amazon.com
Learn to Speak Film (shown at bottom middle), by Michael Glassbourg, lets kids in on the "Action!" Comprehensive yet accessible, the book explains basic cinematic concepts, such as framing and lighting, to take Spielbergs-in-training from first shot to finished trailer. Glassbourg also conveys the highly collaborative nature of moviemaking, with chapters on each crew member's role and quotes from real folks in the biz.
Ages 9 and up, $14.95, amazon.com
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun