Rubik’s Cube $12
MAKE friend and alum Stefan Antonowicz suggested this classic toy, originally invented in 1974. He says the reason he found it great for his kids is “the colors, and the fact that it moves. It helped me to teach them the rules of a game (‘all the colors on one side have to match’) plus some interesting things about cubes (‘the middle cube can’t move. The cube consists of a number of smaller cubes – how many are there? How many are on each side?’) and math (‘what do you think 3 times 3 is? Do you know another way to say 3 times 3?’)”
3D Drawing Pad $11
This 3D drawing pad is one of those gifts that is super simple, but fun. For a younger kid that loves to draw, this will bring lots of fun and smiles.
MaKey MaKey $50
Imagine for a moment that you could turn nearly anything into a game controller or keyboard. What would you do? Create a drum kit from oranges? Play Doom with your alphabet soup? MaKey MaKey allows you to make music in fun new ways. Almost any object can become a musical instrument. Kids will start looking at the world in new ways after playing with a MaKey MaKey.
Books for Pre-Reader Makers Prices vary
MAKE Education Director Michelle Hlubinka put together a wonderful list of favorite books for little ones that promote maker values like creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving. (There are more good suggestions in the comments section — add your own there!)
I think this cool toy is best described by Amazon customer W.R. Gum: “A simple twist of the heavy chrome-plated disk that you set on top of a concave mirror (furnished) starts it spinning at an increasing rate for at least two minutes. As it spins faster it generates a mysterious tone and changes appearance depending on which holographic magnetic designs you attach and depending on your lighting.”
Trebuchet Kit $26
Every kid needs a trebuchet. This gorgeous kit is 100% made by hand in Michigan. Once you glue together the precision-cut pieces, you’ll have a trebuchet that stands 19″ tall and launches objects up to 30 feet. Everything you need to build the kit is included, right down to ammunition (no special tools needed for assembly!).
Optical illusions are fun no matter what age you are, but as a child, they can be just like magic. This kit contains the materials and instructions for 50 easy and amazing optical experiments, including liquid illusions, mirrors, kaleidoscopes, and 3D images.
This building set for toddlers and younger children is fun and easy, thanks to the magnetic edges that easily join together to facilitate shape-building.
Butterfly Garden $19
Youngsters find bugs endlessly fascinating! I remember watching ants, roly polies, caterpillars, and snails (I know, not an insect) for hours when I was little. With this Butterfly Garden kit, kids can watch the entire transformation process of live butterfly larvae (caterpillars) as they turn into beautiful Painted Lady butterflies.
Mini Theremin $35
The theremin was the first musical instrument to be created that is played without being touched. The sounds are generated by the player’s proximity to the metal antennas. Invented in 1919 by Russian scientist Leon Theremin, the eerie, otherworldly tones that come from this amazing instrument are delightful. This kit is easy to build for an older kid (no soldering required) and is lots of fun to play with, once it’s put together. (Even cats like to play with it!)