From the Tiniest Astronaut to Future
Engineers: 12 Ways to Jump-Start
Kids’ Imaginations


The golden ticket: activities and toys that both entertain your kiddo and encourage their future paths. Here, our picks for inspiring the littles in your life.

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    Mini Aesthete With Barbie’s souped-up version of this loved classic, kids can put their feng-shui to the test by designing the three floors and seven rooms. Better yet, the huge assortment of home accessories, which includes an interactive aquarium, allows burgeoning designers to mix and match pieces that make for an aesthetically pleasing home. BARBIE DreamHouse, Amazon, $199

  • Lois Lane in Training Your little one’s inner reporter will come out at first glance of this throwback, 1930’s-style journalist kit, complete with a journal, fountain pen, accordian-style camera, and pretend box of vintage Kodak film. AMERICAN GIRL Kid’s Reporter Set, American Girl, $28

  • Artist You can count on an easel to entertain most any kid for a bit, but the visually inclined will spend entire afternoons drawing, painting, and sketching. LAND OF NOD Kids Art Easel, Land of Nod, $149

  • Budding Baker It’s a given: kids love to roll their sleeves up and take part in the action in the kitchen. For those who love the art of baking, take their interest one step further with the right tools. This hand silk-screened apron makes the best accessory for mini cake-makers, complete with front pockets to hold essentials. ODETTE WILLIAMS Kid’s Apron Set, goop, $49

  • Future Zadie Smith Books and Coookies in Santa Monica has such a laid-back, cool vibe that it makes both kids and adults instantly feel at home amidst the books and activities. The team offers daily story times, music classes, and arts & crafts—perfect for the curious storyteller.

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    Animal Lover If your little one loves animals (not a puppy-frenzy love, but a deep interest in their care), this interactive horse is one of the best ways for them to learn the hands-on details. It responds to touch and sound by nuzzling, nodding, neighing, and walking in different directions—and we’re pretty smitten with the fact that it comes with a bunch of carrots for kids to feed it. Barbie DreamHorse, Amazon, $99

  • Space Explorer The best way to see if they’ll want to take their careers to new heights: At Space Camp, kids can work with NASA and ESA astronauts and scientists at this legit space camp located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

  • Fossil Finder This entire Field Museum was founded on curiosity and the pursuit of knowing the latest and greatest in the scientific world. Here, kids can witness the largest found T-Rex and more than 30 million geological and biological specimens from across the globe.

  • ER Doctor Kids get to tend to imaginary wounds with this small-but-mighty play doctor bag that’s packed with all the necessary instruments: a health record, bandages, and wooden doctoring accessories, such as a stethoscope and syringe. MOULIN ROTY Valise Doctor Play Set, goop, $40

  • Jet-Set Traveler From LA to Charleston, kids get to explore the entire country via this beautifully illustrated book. Author Gabrielle Balkan includes every facet of the cities she covers, including facts with an unexpectedly fun cultural bent (we love the Willie Nelson trivia on the Austin page) and a modern spin (city parks and food trucks get prominent mentions). WIDE EYED EDITIONS 50 Cities of the USA, Amazon, $7

  • Numbers Nerd A visit to the super interactive Museum of Mathematics revolves around hands-on rides and activities that employ mathematical concepts to function—a tricycle with square wheels that rolls across a track, a chair that drifts across a pool of acorn shapes. A few hours spent here will be fun and insightful.

  • Automotive Engineer Though it’s an equal draw for car-obsessed adults, the Petersen Automotive Museum has huge kid appeal. In the Discovery Center they can climb aboard a California Highway Patrol Motorcycle, a Ford Model T, and a racecar. They can also race Hot Wheels and pick up a few tidbits about what makes a car tick. Also, the Cars Mechanical Institute, inspired by the animated film, immerses visitors in interactive stations where they learn about mechanical systems.