Spring blooms delight adults while children start to anticipate the longer, hotter days of summer. To keep the junior set entertained on the home front during April showers or August doldrums, turn to the ever-increasing number of products encouraging flights of fancy and bursts of creativity.
For the young-at-heart who just want to do some good old-fashioned imaginative play, Elope Inc., of Colorado Springs, Colo., has the world's most wonderful—and mind-boggling—selection of Little Daydreamers puppet hats. From dragons (including a charming rendition of Norbert, Hagrid's prize find from Harry Potter's adventures) to zebras, giraffes, pandas, tigers, dinosaurs, bugs, aliens and much, much more, including more traditional wizards, pirates and princesses, these creations are exquisite. Even the littlest daydreamers, ages one to three, can join in, with astronauts' and firefighters' helmets, kings' and princesses' finery, and the cutest wee Merlin hat this side of Tintagel. Call (800) 553-5673, fax (866) 333-5673, e-mail email@example.com, www.elopehats.com.
Creativity for Kids (a Faber-Castell company), in Cleveland, Ohio, announces a brand new line of 21 mini activity kits. Smaller in size than other kits but otherwise equal in merit, these tempting tidbits of inventive construction provide plenty of fun at a very promising price point ($4.99 suggested retail). Choose among Kooky Crazy Mini Cars, OptiArt Glass Magnets, Jazzy Autograph Fun Caps, Lucky Bamboo Wind Chimes, Rhinestones & Roses Barrettes, Glamour Girl Fun Glasses and many others—there's something for a variety of ages and tastes.
Fresh additions to existing lineups include wooden Pen Animals to paint, Fan Mail (in its most literal form) to write and send a refreshing message, and Look (2) Too Cool Books to make your own journal or notebook with vivid optical covers. Cool Wool teaches you how to produce felt from natural wool, then use it to create a craft project—perhaps a pillow, hat or purse—stitched with embroidery floss. Le Most Cute Objects takes Limoges to the limit, with miniature glazed white ceramic boxes in the shapes of stacked trunks, birdhouses with birds and overstuffed armchairs, ready to be fabulously painted; like the original, each box has a metal hinge and clasp to securely store tiny collections. Slightly larger collections may require a Mini Metal File Cabinet, which is just that and paintable too. True young Frenchwomen will also admire the spirited line of Madeline-based activity kits debuting this spring. Call (216) 589-4800, fax (216) 589-1298, www.creativityforkids.com.
At Curiosity Kits, in Hunt Valley, Md., the creative forces are putting real power in kids' hands. The Easi-Art Maker is the first children's oven made for all kinds of arts and crafts. Easy and safe, the mini-oven can cook up projects made from shrinkable plastic, bakeable clay and powdered enamel. The low-temperature heating element, manual locking mechanism, removable rack, clear oven window and bell timer help make it child friendly for little ones to use with minimal parent involvement and for bigger ones to use independently. Nine new activity kits, ranging from Crazy Clay Erasers to Enamel Frames and Shrinkerz Earrings made from shrinkable plastic, accompany the niftily Nickelodeon-looking appliance.
Harold had his purple crayon, but now we have Magnetti, spaghetti-shaped magnetic strips you can bend, move and cut to make pictures on any magnetic surface. On-the-Go Magnetti comes with its own magnetic drawing board and carrying case. Tired of all that out-of-the-box thinking? Rest your growing self (up to 220 pounds) in your very own hand-painted classic butterfly chair. The Paint-Your-Own-Chair kit includes a 36-inch-tall foldable chair with sturdy black metal frame and roomy canvas seat, six colors of fabric paint to mix and match, and plenty of design ideas.
When you get the munchies, Curiosity Kits has the chocolate kitchen covered—with Chocomaker (invent your favorite candy bar with marshmallows, raisins, crispies and peanuts, developed by keen teen and contest winner Angela Shingleton), Chocolate Oozin' Alien Eyeballs (filled with gooey green vanilla cream), Chocolate Monster Pops and Giant Crunchy Chocolate Bugs. Oh, and Chocolate Ladybugs for the more demure. Call (410) 584-2605, fax (410) 584-1247, www.curiositykits.com.
Dowling Magnets, in Sonoma, Calif., creators of magnetic games, gifts, science kits and teaching tools, adds to its lines of colorful magnet frames, word bubbles (fun addition to the frames) and magnet crafts. Fridge Art includes 18 precut flexible magnets and precut foam in assorted shapes and colors, glitter glue, jewels and google eyes—all the better to fend off those midnight food raids. Puzzlegrams contain six magnetic precut puzzles, four watercolor pens and six mailing envelopes—send a message to be reconstructed on a school locker or family fridge. Magnet Magic holds children spellbound with over a dozen magic components and step-by-step instructions in bewitchment. Science Sets, for ages 10 and up, get technical with an electromagnetic kit, electric motor/generator set and magnetic levitation project; Simply Science kits offer similar magnetic curiosities in smaller formats for a younger audience. Call (800) 624-6381, fax (888) 366-2329, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dowlingmagnets.com.
Front Porch Classics in Seattle, Wash., adds some high-seas swagger to its archival-quality line of classic, low-tech games, toys and kits with Dread Pirate, a rollicking adventure of a board game played on a wonderfully illustrated and aged treasure map with cast playing pieces, dice, replica doubloons and pirate treasure, housed in an authentic wooden pirate chest. Or try Old Century Baseball, a nostalgic pinball-like wooden game reminiscent of an old-time baseball stadium. Bring out the lemonade, it's summer, and a scorcher. Call (206) 545-1084, fax (206) 545-1099.