Father builds DIY 'American Ninja Warrior' course for daughter in back yard


Lylah, who is five, can now begin training for "American Ninja Warrior" in earnest, thanks to the DIY ingenuity of her most excellent dad.

Read the rest

'Voyage of Time,' Terrence Malick IMAX film with Brad Pitt narration, is an awesome cosmic meditation


You know what America needs right now? A little perspective.

For that, I recommend you head to your local IMAX theater and see Terrence Malick’s “Voyage of Time: The Imax Experience.” It's a psychedelic meditation on the history of the cosmos that's very kid-friendly, and a wonderful reminder of the big, big picture.

Read the rest

Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Kit for $10


This chain reaction kit is on sale at Amazon for just $10 right now. It has parts and instructions to build a bunch of different Rube Goldbergian machines.

Design and build 10 amazing moving machines - teach your bricks new tricks. Comes with 80 page instructions, 33 LEGO pieces, instructions for 10 modules, 6 plastic balls, string, paper ramps and other components.

Read the rest

Great deal on Electronics for Kids book


I have a copy of Electronics for Kids: Play with Simple Circuits and Experiment with Electricity, by Oyvind Nydal Dahl. It's a full-color introduction to electronics, and is useful for kids and adults who want to get started in hobbyist electronics. Right now, this 328 page book is on sale for just $11 on Amazon.

Why do the lights in a house turn on when you flip a switch? How does a remote-controlled car move? And what makes lights on TVs and microwaves blink? The technology around you may seem like magic, but most of it wouldn't run without electricity.

Electronics for Kids demystifies electricity with a collection of awesome hands-on projects. In Part 1, you'll learn how current, voltage, and circuits work by making a battery out of a lemon, turning a metal bolt into an electromagnet, and transforming a paper cup and some magnets into a spinning motor. In Part 2, you'll make even more cool stuff as you: Solder a blinking LED circuit with resistors, capacitors, and relays Turn a circuit into a touch sensor using your finger as a resistor Build an alarm clock triggered by the sunrise Create a musical instrument that makes sci-fi sounds

Then, in Part 3, you'll learn about digital electronics--things like logic gates and memory circuits--as you make a secret code checker and an electronic coin flipper. Finally, you'll use everything you've learned to make the LED Reaction Game--test your reaction time as you try to catch a blinking light!

With its clear explanations and assortment of hands-on projects, Electronics for Kids will have you building your own circuits in no time.

Read the rest

Two new great books for Arduino and electronics projects


No Starch Press just released two nice books. Arduino Project Handbook by Mark Geddes has 25 beginner-friendly projects that use Arduino (a low cost electronic prototyping platform), including a Simon-like memory game, a weather station, and a wireless ID card entry system. Electronics for Kids, by Øyvind Nydal Dahl, starts with an easy-to-grok explanation of voltage and current, and has a lot of practical information about components and tools and instructions on how to use breadboards and a soldering iron. The projects look like fun, too. One is a musical instrument that makes sci-fi sounds, and another is a sunrise-activated alarm clock.

Both books are full color throughout and beautifully designed.

Read the rest

Watch this helpful "Kids Guide to the Internet"


....from 1997.

On your mark, get set

Now we're riding on the Internet

Cyberspace, sets us free

Hello virtual reality

Interactive appetite

Searching for a Web site...

(Thanks, UPSO!)

Read the rest

Mold hard boiled eggs into a bunny and a bear cub


This video shows how to turn hard boiled eggs into cute animals with plastic molds, and what I'm guess is soy sauce. Amazon sells the pair for $2, including shipping.

Read the rest

Death is Stupid talks straight to kids about a topic most grown-ups struggle with


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Death is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham The Feminist Press at CUNY 2016, 64 pages, 8.5 x 8.6 x 0.5 inches $13 Buy a copy on Amazon

Death is Stupid does what so many grown-ups struggle to do with their kids. It tells them the truth that they already know. In collages of illustrations and dialogue, Anastasia Higginbotham walks readers through the confusion and questions that come when someone dies. Using two concurrent narratives, one that broadly voices and validates the feelings and fears kids have around death, the other focusing on a little boy whose grandmother has died, Higginbotham masterfully draws connections for young audiences and their grown-ups.

The story opens, gracefully straight-forward, “When a loved one dies people can say some stupid things.” The line stretches over the course of three pages in which the boy goes from surprised to sad as he hears, “I know exactly how you feel." "Don’t cry." "Just be grateful for the time you had with her.” We follow him through the funeral and days after, through the rituals of grief and remembrance, through the fumbling adult attempts to explain and comfort. Through his experience and the narrator’s staccato interjections (“Dying is not a punishment. But it mostly doesn’t feel fair.”), readers are given the space to explore the well-intentioned answers and advice that grown-ups pat into the palms and shoulders of the kids they love, and the ways in which those hugs and kisses can land like blows. Read the rest

'I renamed all my Pokemon whatever my 2 year old called them'


“For your mild amusement, I renamed all my Pokemon whatever my 2 year old called them,” says IMGUR user June1920. Sort of jealous they caught a Claws Parrot.

Read the rest

Alien Invasion in My Backyard – From slobbery robots and aliens with briefcases to didgeridoo lessons


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Alien Invasion in My Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling Andrews McMeel Publishing 2015, 112 pages, 5.3 x 8 x 0.4 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

TV will tell you the truth is out there. Decades ago folks would warn you to “Keep watching the skies!” But kids know the truth: The mysteries aren’t out there, they’re right here. They are in every bump from the attic, that weird locked door in the basement, and, especially, the often mystifying backyard. Kids know that’s where the real mysteries lie, and we’re all lucky that Ruben Bolling knows it, too.

Alien Invasion in my Backyard, the first in the EMU Club series, is a fun and ridiculous (in just the right way) story of the creation of the Exploration Mystery Unbelievable Club. The book itself is intended to be the Official Report of their first mystery and written by eleven year-old President Stuart Tennemeier who, other than planning on a growth spurt in college, is planning to document all their amazing adventures. His best friend, CEO Brian, and his little sister Violet (no title because Mom makes them let her join) join him to solve all of life’s important mysteries. And we can’t forget Sergeant at Arms Ferdinand, Stuart’s loyal dog who proves critical to cracking the case. As an Official Report the reader gets direct access to the EMU Club files, including photos of their whole adventure lovingly taped to the lined graph paper it’s printed on. Read the rest

Deceptive Desserts – Bake the most ghoulish sweet treats you'll ever eat


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad! by Christine McConnell Regan Arts 2016, 288 pages, 8 x 10 x 1 inches $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

Take a ripened crafter, mix in a pinch of YouTube lessons on cake decorating, blend that with a humorous fascination with the macabre, and you’ve got Christine McConnell’s new cookbook, Deceptive Desserts. Read the rest

Mover Kit - a programmable wearable kit for kids


My friends Bethany and Daniel, founders of Technology Will Save Us, have developed the "world’s first active wearable that kids, young and old, can make and code themselves." It's called the Mover, and it looks like a lot of fun to build, program, and use! Read the rest

The NYT's tips on spooking your kids into not smoking weed


At The New York Times, Lisa Damour tackles the changing vocabulary of talking to teens about marijuana. Once good for standard-issue parental rants about drugs 'n' crime, legalization and research are making the issue more complex. You might even have to talk about the science!

Our most successful conversations might be the ones where we join our teenagers in questioning authority – that is, discussing what legalization does, and doesn’t, mean. Indeed, it’s easy to be on the right side of the law and the wrong side of science. Cigarettes and tanning beds serve as handy examples of legal ways to harm yourself. Savvy consumers are expected to look to the available evidence, not legislation, when making decisions about their own health and well-being. In terms of the science of marijuana, we know that adolescence marks a critical period of neurological development and that cannabis is harder on the developing teenage brain than on the comparatively static adult brain. Specifically, studies suggest that regular marijuana use during adolescence harms the parts of the brain responsible for learning, reasoning and paying attention.

It's an odd column, mind you: still very much in the "how to win arguments with your disobedient offspring" vein. Middle-aged, middle-class America, always on the precipice of an epiphany. Read the rest

An inventor, maker, and toy designer shares his favorite projects


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The first thing that struck me about Make Fun!, a collection of toy and game projects from former Mattel designer Bob Knetzger, was how many of my favorite projects from the pages of Make: magazine were his. Bob has contributed to the magazine for over nine years, and this collection represents a best-of from that run (with some original projects as well). WINK’s own Mark Frauenfelder (founding editor-in-chief of Make:) also contributes the book’s introduction.

Make: Fun! features full step-by-step instructions for some 40 projects. They range from the very simple, fun, and ephemeral, such as the actuated “Ouija Be Mine” Valentine’s Day card and “Gnome Holiday Hats” to a classic “Diving Spudmarine” bathtub toy to more elaborate builds, such as constructing your own “Kitchen Floor Vacuum Former” and building a “Desktop Foundry.” Some of my favorite projects include the “Monster Candy Snatch Game” (think: Operation), the “E-Z-Make Oven” (think: Mattel’s Thingmaker), and vacuum forming your own “Tiki Masks.”

Make: did a really nice job on the production of this book. The projects are well photographed, in full color, and the instructions are well laid out and easy to follow. And there are fun little “gimmicks” that serve the playful spirit of the book (a flip-book animation on the page edges, QR-code videos for some of the projects, and colorful templates and paper project components in the back). You can see the videos, view the templates, and find out more on the book’s companion website. Read the rest

Book with fun examples of painted rocks


I bought a book about rock painting in 2001, and posted about it here. I still have the book, and more importantly, we still have some of the rocks my family painted 15 years ago. The book has lots of inspiring examples of the kinds of things you can paint on rocks. The book is out of print, but you can buy used copies on Amazon starting at just 24 cents, plus shipping. Read the rest

Attack of the Journal – Part journal part sketchbook and a great companion to the Star Wars Jedi Academy series


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

When an author who writes books for grown-ups is successful at translating his voice into books for kids it’s a win-win. Jeffrey Brown, author of graphic novels such as Clumsy and Funny Misshapen Body has done just that with his series Star Wars Jedi Academy. These graphic novels follow Roan, a young Jedi fumbling his way through middle school’s version of the Jedi Arts. This latest installation, Attack of the Journal, is part activity book part sketchbook and a great accompaniment to the series. It features familiar characters from the books, but you don’t need to have read the actual novels to enjoy the journal. Unlike many character-based activity books for children, Attack of the Journal gives the reins over to the reader. Instead of preprinted mazes and simple seek and finds, Brown’s activities are open-ended and challenge readers to try drawing new things and to write their own stories.

The book is great for elementary-aged kids, but even younger can have fun with the “Draw Your Friends As Aliens” page or attempt a self-portrait. I found it’s a great way to practice letters and words with kids in a way that is fun for everyone. Even the fact that it’s a hardback makes whatever you create inside feel more important. Jeffrey Brown’s sense of humor and kind encouragement are felt in the journal activities, helping young authors and illustrators not take it too seriously if their “Create your own Lightsaber” page looks more like a Wookie. Read the rest

Minecraft: Blockopedia – for full-on Minecraft geeks, as well as over-the-shoulder admirers


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Shaped like a hexagon to mimic the dimensions of a cube, Minecraft: Blockopedia is designed for full-on Minecraft geeks, although those of us who have only watched the game over the shoulders of children and loved ones will find plenty to admire here too. After the briefest of introductions and a quick glossary to help noobs make sense of the stats that accompany each block’s name, it’s off to the races, with page after page devoted to blocks made from rocks, blocks made from plants, blocks that serve particular functions (a ladder), and blocks that do particular things (acting as a switch).

One of the coolest characteristics about Minecraft is how it chooses to observe the laws of nature and physics, or ignore them. Sand, we are told, can be a cave-in hazard, but when it’s smelted in a furnace, it turns to glass. Both statements are true, but don’t go looking for glowstone the next time you’re spelunking – it is only found in a sinister dimension of Minecraft called the Nether. And while sugar cane in both the real world and the Overworld of Minecraft can be used to make sugar, guess where it can also be used to block flowing lava?

Though the format and illustrations in Minecraft: Blockopedia are the book’s most prominent features, it’s still a book filled with lots and lots of, you know, words. Writer Alex Wiltshire mostly plays it straight (“Water is incredibly useful.”), but often he lets the language and logic of Minecraft add color, as in “Sticky pistons are made by crafting a piston with a slimeball…” and “If you dig podzol without the silk touch enhancement it drops dirt.” Got that? Read the rest

More posts