Product Picks: Best Boredom Busters

Cure the nothing-to-do, summertime blues with these 10 family-tested playthings.

Don't Rock the Boat

Balance Boat Photograph by Mark Mantegna

The wooden Balance Boat: Endangered Animal Edition serves as both game and playset -- meaning your kids get double the fun. Our testers tried to pile the animals as high as they could before they all toppled. When that got old, they sent the critters on many an imaginary adventure. Ages 3 to 7 $35, beginagaintoys.com

    DIY Solar Car

    Solar car

    Volta Racers combine building, learning, and playing in one sweet ride. The recyclable foam-and-bamboo car parts assemble without tools, and the completed vehicles are powered by a flexible solar panel that works even in indirect sunlight. Ages 8 and up $24.99, toylabs.com

      Draw Some Rave Reviews

      Photoplay book

      On each page of Photoplay!, by M.J. Bronstein, a silly or intriguing photograph is paired with a creativity prompt. Kids can sketch an alien visiting two cats, populate a house with friendly zombies, and much more, for hours of mixed-media amusement.Ages 5 and up $12.99, chroniclebooks.com

        A Cup of Cuteness

        Hello Kitty Photograph by Mark Mantegna

        Neatly tucked into a clear oversize pot (not shown), the Hello Kitty Tea Set is purr-fect for serving an afternoon cuppa. The set comes with a small teapot and quartets of cups, saucers, and spoons. Ages 3 and up $14.99, toysrus.com

          Turn Your Phone Into a Microscope

          Microscope

          Slide Skyrocket Toys' Quick Attach Microscope over the camera lens of a smartphone or tablet and see what bumpy tree bark, slick cat fur -- or even an uncle's hairy arm -- looks like magnified 30 times. iOS Ages 4 and up $14.99, toysrus.com

            Pet Project

            Lego pet

            Kids clamoring for a furry friend? Buy some time before bringing home the real thing with the Lego Furry Creatures set. The 285 pieces can be assembled (and reassembled) into three animals. The best part? No cages to clean! Ages 7 and up $19.99, shop.lego.com

              Ride the Jet Stream

              Rocket Photograph by Mark Mantegna

              It's hard to improve on the paper airplane, yet the set Straw Shooter Jets does just that. It comes with directions and materials for 60 fliers, as well as 14 straws and 10 nose weights -- enough for a personal squadron. Ages 8 and up $16.99, klutz.com

                A Crazy Card Matching Game

                Loonacy

                In Loonacy, players race to be the first to match the cards in their hands to those on the discard piles. The wackiness of the illustrations (a UFO, a brain, hippies) and the speed of play made this a slam dunk with our testers. 2 to 5 players. Ages 8 and up $14.99, amazon.com

                  Puppets With a Dark Side

                  Shadow Puppets

                  Each themed collection of Mudpuppy's Shadow Puppets Shadow Puppets offers eight stick-mounted paper shapes ready to perform flashlight tales in the dark of night. Six sets available, including pirates and princesses. Ages 3 and up $16.99 each, mudpuppy.com

                    Just Shoot This

                    To complete the 30 missions of Plum's Photo Hunt app, kids head out with a smartphone or tablet. After snapping shots of clouds, birds, and more, they upload them to an online gallery (with parental permission and no identifying info). Added fun: choosing characters from the PBS Kids web show Plum Landing to photobomb the pics. iOS Ages 6 to 9 Free

                    Originally published in the August 2014 issue of FamilyFun