Reviews - activities & crafts (page 3)

We have reviewed a selection of activity toys, construction sets and crafts, many of which have kindly been sent to us for review purposes. There are craft activities, construction kits, science experiments and many more. They all offer learning value as well as being enjoyable for your child; creative activities are a great way to enjoy time together.

Reviews-activities-and-crafts (page 1)
Reviews-activities-and-crafts (page 2)

Pepper Mint in the Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure

In this story-based STEM kit, Pepper Mint visits her aunt who is a scientist researching primates. She lives in a treehouse in the rainforest on the island of Borneo. The treehouse is not connected to the electrical power grid, but Pepper Mint and her aunt devise mechanical inventions to accomplish various tasks. They equip the treehouse with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and learn lessons in physics. Projects include a rope ladder, a pulley to lift heavy objects into the treehouse, a rubber-band-powered lift, a rotating palm leaf umbrella, a zipline, a catapult, and a trap door. At the end of the story, Pepper Mint wires up a string of LED lanterns using conductive thread and a battery holder to light up the treehouse in the dark jungle night. While doing this, she learns about electric circuits. The kit includes materials to build the treehouse and do the projects, a full-colour illustrated storybook and step-by-step instruction manual, as well as a scale Pepper Mint figurine. Hands-on science is almost always the best way to teach and this excellent kit opens up plenty of learning opportunities, linking in well with the current emphasis on STEM subjects by the way it covers all the topics. The instructions are clear and many children will happily work through them on their own, giving a good sense of echievement by the end.  Buy from Thames and Kosmos.

Pepper Mint Treehouse 3DBox 1

Pepper Mint Treehouse Model

John Adams Rainbow Science Kit

You've only got to watch children playing with bubbles in the garden to see how fascinated they are by the wonders of colour - and as they enjoy colour, they are learning important scientific principles that will support KS2 learning. Rainbow Science includes five wonderfully colourful experiments to encourage children to learn about and marvel at the world of colour. The experiments are thoughtfully designed to replicate real science experiments and this ties in well with the curriculum for scientific exploration, investigation and recording and teaching important principles. The experiments are - blow a cascading rainbow of bubbles; paint augmented reality rainbows in the air; create a magical unicorn hologram, make a colourful amulet and create a bright walking water rainbow flower; they are suitable for age 8+, although younger children will thoroughly enjoy doing them with adult help. Everything you need is included except for straightforward household items - washing up liquid and sugar. The pack includes rainbow wand and stickers, bubble blower and cap, flannel piece, hologram stage and stickers, rainbow amulet and lid, pipette, scoop, suction cap and cord, walking water container and felt wicks, yellow, red and blue colouring plus clear and easy to follow instructions, which also set out the scientific principles behind the experiments. All the parts are of good quality, strong and robust; the good quality and scientific accuracy means the equipment could be kept after use to form part of a science kit collection. The set also needs the use of an Android or IOS smartphone and a download of the free app (to avoid disappointment, although this is mentioned on the box, it could be highlighted more prominently). This is an excellently thought out kit which is a good combination of fun and learning; a great way to increase interest in science and to encourage children to think about the world around them.

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John Adams Power Tracks Science Kit

Children will learn coding at school, and Power Tracks makes a perfect introduction, giving them a headstart on the basic principles through hands-on experience. Coding is very much part of everyday life, so it's great to see a toy that introduces the concept to younger children. Meet Volty, the programmable robot with the happy smiling face. He loves electronics and he's here to guide your child (with a little adult help) into the world of programming and circuit building. Designed for age 5+, there are large table-top tiles which join together to make any of 20 circuits; then use Volty's direction buttons to program him to drive around the circuit. It's easy to program him and we like the fact that the circuits get progressively more difficult to children can refine and develop their skills, making this a toy with many years of use. There are some surprising hidden features that will show up on the way. As children become more confident, they can design their own circuits, which increases the learning value and age range. It's a learning curve - mistakes may well be made but that's part of the fun - just recode Volty and try again. Volty the robot comes with 24 double-sided circuit tiles, 10 double-circuit diagrams, 40 command cards and instructions. All the parts are sturdy, satisfying and well made and Volty will withstand plenty of enthusiastic handling. It's a fascinating project for children, who will love to see how their simple commands are translated into Volty's movements; their confidence will grow because it doesn't matter if things go wrong - just re-program him. Perfect to encourage an interest in STEM subjects for girls and boys, stimulating curiosity and developing thinking skills.

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Craft Buddy Crystal Card Making Kit Ice Cream at the Markets

We were pleased to review a Crystal Card Kit which features a cute penguin enjoying an ice cream, warmly wrapped up in a matching hat and scarf, and set against a traditional snowy street scene. It's always lovely to receive a home-made card; there's something very special about knowing a special effort has been made to create something personal. The Crystal Art concept, commonly known as ‘diamond painting’, is a universally popular craft suitable for adults and children (ages 8+) alike and is available in a variety of formats, including greetings cards, wall art, sticker form (Crystal Art motifs) and LED wall canvases. Craft Buddy Ltd have established the craft as a growing trend across mainstream Europe over the last 12 months with designs now firmly set on the UK market. DIY Crystal Card Kit is an award nominee for ‘Toy of the Year’. The concept is simple and the results are really effective. Using the pick-up pencil, you simply lift the flat-backed crystals and place them onto the adhesive card to instantly stick. It's a bit like Paint by Numbers, as the card is marked with the appropriate letter to show which colour to use. The results are sparkly, beautiful cards. Click here to see a YouTube video on how it works. The kit includes 1 x crystal card with template, 1 x envelope, several bags of crystals, 1 x magic pick-up pencil, 1 x tray and 1 x jelly wax. Available from www.crystalcardkit.com and all good stores. For more information, visit www.craftbuddyltd.co.uk. This is an unusual and enjoyable craft, very relaxing to do, and it produces a lovely result which will be treasured by the recipient.

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My Fairy Garden: Fairy Light Garden by Interplay

This is going to be a popular item on many wish lists - it's one of Amazon's top selling toys, and not surprisingly as it's just the sort of thing young girls will love. Creativity is encouraged as children create a beautiful home where Fairies Heather and Elvie will love to live; personal to every child, this is so much better than a ready-made toy and will give lots of satisfaction. And for added value, it even includes an enchanted fairy mushroom home that doubles as a night-light - a lovely feature and one that will, hopefully, encourage children to settle down at bedtime to enjoy the soft glow! Just blow on the magic candle through the window to make it light up, accompanied by gentle soothing harp music. There is also a secret home for the hedgehog, a pretty bridge to connect to other gardens in the series, of which there are many. Lots of play pieces are included - fairy figures, animal figures, a fairy bridge with flowers, coloured gravel, fairy dust, and mush more giving lots of scope for imaginative play. The really unusual element, and a nice piece of extra learning and creativity, is the fact that Grass seed is included. You will need to provide some compost for this and keep it lightly watered - a spray bottle should do the trick. If this becomes a problem, you could cut green felt (or even a sample piece of artificial turf) to fill the gap. It all assembles well and feels sturdy when made; younger children will need some adult help, but that's all part of the fun. An unusual toy, but one that children are going to love for its fantasy element and the sheer cuteness.

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