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)

Hama Beads

Hama Beads are small, hollow, melt-together beads that can be used to create wonderful designs and beautiful artwork. Amazingly, despite their really contemporary feel, they were created over 50 years ago - they are the original bead brand. Beads come in three different size ranges, Midi, Mini and Maxi, and in a vast range of colours. They can be enjoyed by all ages, abilities and genders. They are easy to use and can be beneficial in a number of ways, including developing creativity, imagination and fine motor skills.  We received a lovely selection from Hama.

hama

The 12,000 Midi Hama Beads & Pegboards Storage Set retails at £36.00 (April 2019) and includes a storage Box of 12,000 Midi Hama Beads, and comes three peg boards - a butterfly, a dog and a hexagon - plus design sheet and ironing paper. The clever see-through plastic box is in three parts which clip together and has a carrying handle. It even comes with dividers to slot in, so all the colours can be kept separate. It's been really well thought out to make practical storage that is easy to use. Black, green, purple, orange, blue, red, yellow, white, brown,  pink... and more. So many colours to encourage creativity. A coloured leaflet gives sample designs, but after that, children can just use their creativity to make their own beautiful designs. Once the design has been created, and tweaked to the creator's complete satisfaction, the design is ready to be ironed to make it permanent. With care, the board can then be removed and re-used. We found this did work, with adult help. Buy from Hama Beads.

hama1

We also received  the 7,200 Midi Hama Beads & Pegboards Pink Set, retailing at £22.00 (April 2019). Along with the 7,200 Midi Hama Beads, it includes a unicorn and medium hexagon pegboards, 6 midi beads supports, string, 2 press pegboards, press pen, design sheet, ironing paper and instructions. Again, careful thought has been given to storage, with the beads coming in a 12 section plastic box. The beads have an extra creative element with this set, as some of the beads are multi-coloured; in addition some colours come in varying shades - there's a lovely deep red/gold mix too. There are three simple steps: 1. Place the beads on a pegboard. 2. Place the special ironing paper on top of the design and then iron for just a few seconds with smooth, circular movements. After a few seconds, the colour of the beads will suddenly be more clearly visible through the ironing paper; this means that the ironing is finished. We received a pack of sheets of Ironing Paper (£1.25 April 2019) to complement our kits. 3. Leave the design for a few minutes to cool down and then peel it off the pegboard. 
hama2If children want some help to get started, the set includes a design sheet to create a three different unicorns, a cat, flowers, sloth, flamingo and more... and then the child's imagination is free to roam and create whatever they like. The beads can be moved around before being ironed, so perfection can be achieved!.As well as using the beads on the peg boards, they make lovely necklaces and bracelets. Buy the set here.

hama3

Finally, to complete our goodies, we received the Pegboard Blister Pack. (£7.50 April 2019). This includes five geometric shapes - square, circle, hexagon, heart, star plus ironing sheet - lots more creativity to enjoy, extending the value of the other packs.The Hama range is HUGE! There are masses more sets to choose from, so do have a look through the Hama website. Hama beads are wonderful - they offer hours of non-messy creative play opportunities, with excellent results of which children can be really proud.

PLAYMAIS

Messy Play is great fun and children love it but there are times when it's just not practical and that's the time to get the Playmais out!  PlayMais is an innovative and unusual all-natural crafting toy which is available in a whole range of packs. It is totally safe, being made from organic corn grits and water and coloured with non-staining food colouring. Obviously, young children need supervision (the product is recommended for 3+) but it's good to know that the product is safe. It is so simple to use - shape it easily with your fingers and it sticks by dampening with a minimal amount of water. It's non-messy qualities make it excellent for use in schools where obviously the safety element will be appreciated. Children can start off with the simple 2D creations and as their manipulative and creative skills increase, they can move on to more challenging 3D creations. As well as sticking to itself, Playmais can be stuck to a wide range of other materials including paper, cardboard, glass, wood and even flower pots; this offers great potential for creating all sorts of attractive decorative objects. Playmais has a high educational value and is a great way to promote manual dexterity, fine motor skills, creativity and imagination. It's good to know that PlayMais is a natural product that is 100% biodegradable and doesn't impact negatively on the environment. We received the Playmais Classic Colours and Forms, a big box with over 550+ pieces in six colours - red, yellow, orange, blue, green and yellow.  Along with this, come 14 colourful pre-printed cards onto which Playmais designs can be printed - this is good for learning about colour matching, and the pictures can be used to tell stories. The box also includes 14 printed cards which help children learn the letters of the alphabet, making this an excellent educational resource. The big boxful is ideal for groups of children - or even family groups as adults will enjoy tactile feel of the pieces. We also received Playmais Mosiac which comes in a wide variety of colours with over 500 smaller Playmais pieces plus design templates, sponge and instructions. This comes in a clip close plastic box which is much more useful for storage. See the whole Playmais range on their website; you will also find plenty of free downloads for even more inspiration. A super product with lots of educational and creative value, completely non-messy for easy play fun.

playmais2 playmais1

playmais7

Playmais Classic 1000 Piece

This box full of creativity contains 1000 colourful Playmais pieces including orange, red, brown, white, pink, green, blue, yellow and more to create all manner of things; a plastic knife and piece of felt are included, along with instructions. The toy promotes creativity, motor skills and child development. The big plastic tub with its securely fastening clip lid is ideal for storing the pieces, and it's easy to rummage through to find the pieces you want. With this big boxful and its range of colours, there's no limit to the imaginative creations that can be made, simply by adding a little water. The pieces can be used whole or cut for greater versatility. Our final product was a gorgeous owl mini mosaic - these mini mosaics are a great way to get started with Playmais; there are two pictures in the box and they make a great gift. dkl have been marketing and selling quality children’s products since 1989. This family business distributes fantastic brands to the toy trade - Hama Beads, Plus-Plus Construction, Bloco Construction, PlayMais Craft, Scentco Scented Stationery, Breyer Model Horses, and Escabbo Bath Toys. Each brand and every product has been carefully selected  to ensure the highest play value, quality and product safety. All their toys are assessed to the industry Toy Safety standards and licensed to use the lion mark.

 playmais3playmais4

playmais6playmais5

   
 

 

 gelli4

Gelli Worlds Dino Pack

This is a lovely opportunity for children (3 and above) to use their creativity to make a play world which they can then enjoy for imaginative play. It is a really innovative product and one that children are going to love. The pack contains 5 sachets of Green Gelli Powder, 8 brightly coloured dinosaur figures, plastic trees and an inflatable play tray. To get going, blow up the inflatable tray (just a few puffs and you're done) and fill it with water. Then pour in the Gelli powder and you almost instantly have a wobbly jelly - a great transformation that takes place really quickly. It makes a great prehistoric swamp and the set offers plenty of opportunities to teach children about the dinosaurs and their world. Parents will be glad to know that there are no harmful chemicals, the product is 100% degradable and environmentally friendly - and, contrary to possible expectations, it's amazingly mess-free. To dispose of it once the fun is over, simply flush down the toilet, ideally diluting it a little more first. The Gelli products are fantastic for sensory play (and this makes it a particularly good toy for children with a range of learning difficulties).

gelli

gelli2

gelli1

 

Zimpli Kids kindly sent us three more packs in addition to the Dino Pack. Glitter Slime Play turns water into glittery slime, all squishy and slimy, which kids will love. It's available in pink and blue. I think it will be great fun for outdoor water play in the summer. Children disappointed there's no snow? Snoball Play turns water into a year-round snowy experience. The 'snow' has a lovely texture - a sensory delight. Make your own snowballs by simply adding together to the Snoball Play Powder and you're ready to make snowballs and go outside for a snowball fight. The product is biodegradable (as they all are), so environmentally safe. Gelli Play turns water into bright red goo - simply add some powder to warm water (you can add more or less, so you can choose your own consistency) and watch it grow into fun squelching goo over a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Colourful and easy-to-follow instruction leaflets are included with each product. Slime is a big thing at the moment and children love it. It provides the opportunity for seemingly messy play that really isn't that messy, making it a hit with adults and children alike. The wide range of Zimpli Kids products is great and gives lots of scope for creativity and imagination.

So Bomb DIY Vanity Case from Canal Toys

These are a real treat and a lovely gift for girls (and boys) to make for their mum. Packed in a lovely purple and green sparkly vanity case are 3 moulds, 5 sodium bicarbonate bags (in yellow, pale green, white, deep pink and light pink), 5 So Bomb powder bags, a decoration bag, a mini pipette and 3 surprise figures. Of course, there's a detailed instruction sheet too. Everything you need is included, so no hunting around for bits and pieces. There's plenty of opportunity for creativity in designing the five fizzy Bath Bombs, so each one will be unique. Everything stores neatly in the vanity case, which will also be very handy to use afterwards. The instructions come in five languages, so children might need some adult help in following these as the font is not very clear (I actually wrote them out for easier use, so there was no problem). Having said that, the instructions are really easy to follow and once you have made one, it all falls into place really easily. Each bath bomb will be unique, allowing plenty of creativity, as there are lots of colourful stickers to decorate them. An especially nice touch comes with the three little plastic models included which are a surprise element once the bomb has finished fizzing; there are 'hundreds and thousands' too, so the final effect is really pretty. Enterprising parents will make sure they explain the chemical reaction that takes place, turning the project into a mini chemistry lesson. It's really fun to do and, even better, there's a lovely relaxing bath to look forward to at the end of it - a craft with a really good purpose. They fizz beautifully and add a real luxury feel to a bath!

 sobombsobomb1

sobomb2

 

Cotton Twist: Adventures

First things first - this arrived beautifully packaged (and letter-box sized). Inside the brown cardboard box are four sections, each with a different activity related to the theme of 'Adventure'; they are suitable for 3 to 18 year olds. We received a generic version, although I understand the boxes can be personalised; this is a lovely idea as children love to receive their own post. The box immediately appealed to me as there's virtually no plastic, just lots of natural materials including wood and paper.  Almost everything needed to make four attractive crafts is included, except for felt tip pens (and we all have plenty of those!). The crafts are: Superhero Mask with stick-on jewels , decorative eye shapes and glitter glue. Pirate Catapult with pegs, lolly stick, wooden spoon and elastic band. Wild West Headdress with feather cut outs, self adhesive gems and glitter glue. Model Aeroplane with cut outs, pegs, & lolly sticks. Each comes with a neat little instruction card, and the activities are easy for children to follow on their own. The end result is lovely and the materials are a joy to use. This is a lovely idea and there are many more similar crafts on the website, so plenty to enjoy. What Cotton Twist do, in their own words:  "An inspiration for parties & play, we pride ourselves on making activities & gifts you'll love to give, & children will love to receive. Nostalgic, chic, simple & inherently satisfying, crafts draw upon a palette of raw materials from lolly sticks to boxes, & from twine to felt. Wave goodbye to all that plastic! Crafts are carefully designed to spark learning & play in a fun & imaginative way. A world of make believe is ready to be uncovered." See all the lovely Cotton Twist products on their website; you can buy the Adventures box here, priced at £12.95 (January 2019).

cottontwist

cottontwist1cottontwist2

ScienceWiz Cool Circuits Puzzle

The objective is to solve each challenge - there are 40 in all - by completing the circuit to light up the board. The kit includes a light-up game board, eight 3D fluorescent circuit pieces, a pack of 40 puzzle cards and an instruction/solution book. It's well made and all neatly slots together, with the puzzle cards stored in a drawer under the puzzle board. There are 40 puzzle challenges of increasing difficulty (recommened age is 8+) - tutorial, beginner, student and advanced. Be warned - the advanced are a real challenge and may well have some adults puzzled! To play, put down a puzzle card and solve the challenge shown on the card by making a loop; the circuit pieces fit firmly into the guide posts on the board, giving a satisfying feel. All the conditions on the card must be satisfied and the green channels must be covered with puzzle pieces; the joining positions are also shown. Once the pieces are correctly positioned, watch the board light up as well as listen to the tunes (you can opt not to have these if you prefer). It's an excellent way to support KS2 learning about circuits and the practical hands-on approach will ensure learning is memorable; it helps to develop spatial reasoning and abstract thinking. A super puzzle which children will keep returning to as they advance through the stages.

 cool circuitscool circuits 2

cool circuits 1

Science Wiz: Inventions

This kit is a practical combination of a 40 page full-colour book along with the parts necessary to build a spinning motor, a clicking telegraph, a light flashing generator and a real radio. It is one in an excellent and extensive set of Science Wiz kits, the result of years of testing with children. Step-by-step, highly visual instructions lead young scientists successfully through each invention and as they work through, they will gain a good understanding of the science behind the projects. The visual nature of the instructions is excellent as children can work on their own, and even less fluent readers can enjoy the projects. This is complemented by excellent illustrations which present key scientific concepts in a way that shows children why and how things work - it's hands-on science at its best. The kit offers a really good opportunity for children to extend their learning and it's great to have all the components so neatly packaged - you just need to add some simply obtained household objects. The use of everyday materials demystifies the way common electronic components work. An excellent kit with plenty of options to explore to enhance learning and engender a real interest. See more on the Science Wiz website.

inventionsinventions 1 

Presto Snow®

This amazing product is a super absorbent polymer that expands to 30 times its original volume, absorbing up to 100 times its weight in water and producing a fluffy white snow as if by magic. Just this 100gm pack can make over six litres of light powdery artificial snow. It won't melt and can last for days if you spritz it daily with water to keep it light and fluffy. It's so simple to make - just put one scoop (the scoop is included) of Presto Snow® powder with 60ml of warm water to make about one cup full of snow. It's super for encouraging imaginative play, as children can make all sorts of attractive scenes using other models - a great way to make attractive scenes with snowy bases but it can't be sculpted. I was initially concerned that it might be a bit messy, but not at all - it's really clean to play with and very easy to clear up any that drops. The children had great fun making a snow scene in a cardboard box and it's great to know the product is reusable too. Good fun for chilly winter days when children have had enough of being outdoors.

prestosnow

Pepper Mint in the Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure

This is a superb product that brings in a fantastic range of learning activities while children have creative and imaginative fun. In this story-based STEM kit, Pepper Mint visits her aunt, a scientist researching primates who lives in a treehouse in the rainforest on the island of Borneo. The treehouse is not connected to the electrical power grid, so Pepper Mint and her aunt have to use their ingenuity to 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.

 rainbow2

rainbow3

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.

 volty

volty1

volty3

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.

crystalpenguin

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 much 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.

Sign in