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Last Minute Big Boy Toy Ideas for Father’s Day

Ok, I’ve been thinking about Fathers Day, and what us Dads want other than the new Apple Watch. Below are some last minute big boy toy ideas that might reengage our childhood play and/or creativity. If you’ve already got something – fear not – these can be additional Father’s Day gifts from the kids. I’ve added $ signs to indicate their price and all are available from Amazon. Those with one symbol are $50 or below, those with three symbols are over a $100. Please, please, please feel free to post some additional ideas, I will post this article again next year and can include these suggestions.

  1. Lego ($): I would say Lego is a safe bet for most Dads, but if you’re looking for the right box set, play it safe and buy one of the movie classics like Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Star Wars (make sure it’s from the original films), Lord of the Rings, or Indiana Jones. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated look into the Lego Creator or Lego Architecture collection.
  2. Google Cardboard ($): Today my wife said asked me what I purchased on Amazon yesterday for $23, I said Google Cardboard, she said ‘what’s that’. I said don’t worry about it! Google Cardboard is just cool, especially for it’s price. At the moment there’s not an immediate application in the home environment, but it might be of interest for the Gamer and will certainly spark the curiosity of any technology enthusiast.
  3. Arduino Starter Kit ($): There’s a lot to write about the Maker Movement, but these mini/build your own computer sets are growing in popularity and make for a great gift for any dad who’s interested in electronics or computer science. It’s also highly likely that this toy will soon expand into weekend activities with the little ones that might one day lead into a creative outcome that expands outside the home.
  4. Remote Control Helicopter ($): About five years ago my sister in-law purchased a remote control helicopter as a Christmas present. This was one of the best gifts I’ve received as an adult, and I’ve already upgraded it twice. Be sure to get a single propeller with flashing lights. These ones are challenging to fly, but not overly complicated. It’s also something the kids can learn to fly with some guidance. Mind you the Hot Wheels Flying Car is pretty cool as well.
  5. GoPro Camera ($$$): We don’t need to over think this one – or cameras in general. This are artistic gifts that have the power to get the creative juices flowing, especially if it’s accompanied with a video tutorial subscription or book. I would also say that this is another useful item to add to the household.
  6. Telescope ($$): How often do we look up at the Stars? I think a telescope would be a great way to reengage our childhood curiosity and generate new knowledge in an area that is probably unrelated to our work – this is a good thing, especially when it will likely include the kids and/or a bottle of red wine/romantic evening.

Yes, I will be forwarding this article to my wife, who will likely say it’s my Christmas, Birthday, and Father’s Day list combined.

Happy Father’s Day Weekend!

 

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Using Lego to make your story come alive (Lego Story Starter Kit)

Can we all agree that Lego is the greatest toy on the planet? It’s so great that you are still cool playing it as an adult (at least that’s what I tell myself). A colleague of mine has an office full of Lego characters and I’m filled with envy each time I go there for a meeting. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve enjoyed using Lucas to revisit my childhood toys, and I’m always looking for ways to integrate Lego into our play and learning. This weekend I used Lego to introduce my eldest to some of the things we often associate with the United Kingdom (I want him to know about Daddy’s homeland). I started by putting together a map of the country, and then using my collection of figures to create historical characters that I integrated into my story as we traveled through time, and started a really cool story about the country I call home.

Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don't forget the coal miner!
Spot any characters you know? King Richard the Lion Heart, Robin Hood, Big Ben, and don’t forget the coal miner!

After completing our Lego session I had a better appreciation of how powerful this type of activity could be in the cultivation of storytelling skills. It’s certainly different than free play, where children interact with the toy outside of the guidance of an adult, and needs to be guided by an adult. Lego has an amazing collection of resources to expand this type of activity and help cultivate creative thinking, as well as literacy skills. I will certainly be making the investment in a story starter pack (though you might be able to work with the collections you already have) and plan on experimenting with my youngest on how we can bring classics like ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to life off the page. The focus will be identifying the beginning, middle, and end of the story and ways these parts can be changed to effect the outcome. If you’re intrigued start by checking out the Lego Story Starter Kit.

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Choosing Presents that Promote Creativity at Christmas

Santa… Claus… is coming to town! And this means lots of Christmas shopping for parents. My boys haven’t got to the age where they can identify a list of wants and send these off to Santa – and this means their choice of presents is mine to make!   So, what gifts can we buy that will create magic on Christmas morning, but also provide opportunities to nurture and cultivate creativity at home.

Below is a list of five items that I believe can be used to cultivate skills in creativity.

  • The Olloclip can be found on Amazon. It’s basically a micro lens that clips on to your smartphone and lets you take really, really close up pictures. Come Spring you can take your kids on nature walks and grab all sorts of images that will stimulate curiosity and provide a whole new perspective to the tiny world that lives under our feet.
  • My boys are a little to young for this gift but the Makey Makey – An Invention Kit, has got ‘Maker’, ‘Wow Factor’ and a verity of problem-solving skills written all over it. I confess I haven’t checked it out but have identified it for Christmas 2016. I’ve seen people turn bananas into remote controllers for video games.
  • Legos – this stuff doesn’t need an introduction, I just encourage you to be cautious when purchasing ‘branded’ based playsets.. There’s certainly a place for our little ones to reenact the stories they see in the movies, but we don’t want them to be confined to the characters in these worlds. Instead we want them to create their own characters for their own worlds. Apart from that I really don’t think it matters what Lego you purchase. Some kids will probably play, others will build, but whatever happens Legos make create ‘Makers’. I don’t plan to spend this kind of money on Lego, but for educators the story starter kits from Lego Education are worth exploring.

 

  • Science Kits/Telescopes/Ant Farms, anything that stimulates wonder and curiosity for the world around us. I’ll be keeping it simple and purchasing a magnet set. These types of activities will work best with parent participation, who can facilitate questions and arise curiosity.
  • Games should really have their own section. Most games are renown for their problem-solving skills. There’s certainly little debate on the learning that takes place in game. The discussion is usually on whether this learning translates into the real world. Personally I feel that probably varies from game to game. Just to clarify, traditional board games are just as important as digital games. Personally I’m not in a rush to introduce Lucas to video games so I’ll be keeping to simple things like Connect4 – Remember not to give it away – let the little ones try and problem-solving how to win the game.

This is only my third Christmas as a Dad so I’m still learning on what to buy. Generally speaking, play is a creative act so you can’t really go wrong. I’d just suggest that you try and vary the types of toys in order to stimulate a wide variety of creativity skills.

Happy Holidays!

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