Fun Activities to Keep Kids Busy
Without the ongoing support of Pixar and Nickelodeon, keeping kids busy for extended periods of time—particularly when the weather isn’t obliging—is maddeningly hard. These activity-centric toys are great for grabbing—and most importantly, keeping—fleeting attention spans (admittedly, those of adults, too). And they’re all gloriously analog, which means littles get to flex their imaginations the old fashioned way: Without the neon glow of an LED screen.
We can personally vouch for the boredom-busting effectiveness of hypotrochoid kits because we all had them growing up. Possible design variations are literally endless, which translates to hours of productive quiet time.
If you have a budding architect on your hands, this minimalistic, natural lime-wood construction set from France will become a fast favorite. The idea is that the blocks can be arranged in a single structure, or broken up into an entire city for infinite combinations. They’re also pretty great looking, meaning it’s not such a big deal when the cityscape reaches across the living room.
Depending on age, kids may need an adult to help out with cutting—other than that, these awesomely detailed Japanese paper robot kits don’t require additional supplies. Pieces come ready for assembly, so all they have to do is follow instructions and fold. The robots have weirdly expressive features (some come with their own teeny sidekicks or pets), which makes them even more endearing.
3-D puzzles aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, but what makes the Lock Nesters special is that they’re also 3-D printed. What’s more, the colorful creatures are really cool looking (you’ll want to display the finished product) and well-designed—some can even be customized. The shapes vary in difficulty: Albert the bear is the simplest of the bunch, while Heiner the dinosaur can take hours to assemble. They’re best suited for older kids as the parts are small.
Traditionally, paper dolls are sort of fashion-focused. The Paper Family, however, takes the concept of dress-up to a more wholesome place. Each matching outfit is themed and meant to inspire imaginative play, so if the family is dressed in their cold-weather gear, for example, they may end up on a ski vacation, ice fishing, or building an igloo.
Whether it’s the primary color palette or the pleasing geometric shapes it creates, this puzzle has an almost hypnotic effect on kids (and adults, too). What’s really thoughtful is that the pieces stay put thanks to magnetic backing and a steel base. Oh, and it also comes in a travel-friendly size.
Definitely an oldie but goodie, a simple flower press can easily provide a whole day’s worth of kid-friendly activities with a bit of planning: Start by going on a flower picking expedition, then decide which blooms to display fresh and which to press. Works great with leaves in the fall.
It’s no secret that all kids are obsessed with stickers, which makes this 100-strong, London-themed set a fail-proof pick. They stick to most smooth surfaces—from paper to walls to glass—and can be arranged to create all manner of detailed scenarios. Parents will appreciate that they’re removable and reusable.
Drawing For Grown-Ups
According to the forward-thinkers at London-based School of Life, coloring can have a therapeutic effect for adults, helping to calm anxiety and improve focus. (Unsurprisingly, people in Europe have been onto coloring as a tool for de-stressing for years.) Think about it: coloring is a repetitive, almost meditative action that requires just enough concentration to keep the mind quiet, but no real critical thinking. While the general idea is the same, the difference between coloring books for grownups and those for kids is in the level of difficulty, so completing a page leaves you with a pretty awesome feeling of accomplishment. Here, a few options for giving it a go: