As a young boy, Tom Fassbender remembers being fascinated by Easter Island while watching In Search Of, but he never thought he’d have the chance to actually visit the place — then his family decided to travel around the world.Read the rest
Written by pop-culture authors Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers (who is also a toy camera collector), Camera Crazy is an attractively photographed collection of functioning toy cameras, which were popularized in the 1960s when the plastic 120 film “Diana” hit the market for only $1 a pop. Although always a hit with children, toy cameras have also been revered by collectors and photographers who welcome the artistic challenge of shooting with a plastic box that offers only a fixed focus and single shutter speed. From 1970s Mick-A-Matics and Gobots Cameras (1985) to Tamagotchi Cameras (1997) and Lego Digital Cameras (2011) – and everything in between – this book pays homage to over one-hundred of these cameras as well as many photographs produced by these “toys.” With a camera now included in every smart phone, I hope toy cameras don’t become a thing of the past.
Camera Crazy by Buzz Poole and Christopher D. Salyers
From Futility Closet: a cool little paper boomerang.
Mathematician Yutaka Nishiyama of the Osaka University of Economics has designed a nifty paper boomerang that you can use indoors. A free PDF template (with instructions in 70 languages!) is here.
Hold it vertically, like a paper airplane, and throw it straight ahead at eye level, snapping your wrist as you release it. The greater the spin, the better the performance. It should travel 3-4 meters in a circle and return in 1-2 seconds. Catch it between your palms.
As Steve Hoefer’s uncle would say, “I cut it twice and it’s still too short.”Read the rest
My 11-year-old daughter Jane and I recorded a 2-day video workshop produced by CreativeLive. You can watch it today for free. We'll show you how to make 12 cool projects, ranging from electronic musical instruments to balloon videocameras.
Rob Cockerham says: "I enlisted my kids to help with a trial where I hoped to illustrate the optimum spray angle of whipped cream. I thought it would be 90 degrees, I was totally wrong."
For anyone learning how to speak Japanese, this is a fun illustrated “picture dictionary” with over 1500 words that will help build up your Japanese vocabulary. Designed like some of Richard Scarry’s classic books (What Do People Do All Day, Best Word Book Ever…) Let’s Learn Japanese is filled with colorful scenes, each with a theme such as the doctor’s office, the supermarket, colors, the zoo, clothing, etc, and each theme offers dozens of related, illustrated words.
At the end of the book there is an English-Japanese and a Japanese-English glossary and index so that you can look up a specific word when needed. I originally bought this for my husband and I to brush up on our vocabulary before making a trip to Japan, but now my daughter, who is interested in Japanese, pores over the pages as if she’s reading one of her favorite comic books.
Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen recommend their favorite cooperative board games.Read the rest
I took photos of the cute-looking Raspberry Pi powered Kano computer, which was made for kids to learn how to code their own music, games, and software. Jane and I will hook it up to the TV (it uses any HDMI device as a monitor) and let you know what we think.
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Bob Smolenski developed a game for blind kids to play outdoors. It's called Open Field Echo Sounder. He wrote about how he made it on Medium.
I used Adobe Air to program this app. After years of Flash animation and as3 programming I decided to put those skills into making cross-platform game apps. The biggest challenge was to translate the players movement using the data from the phone. iPhones have detailed direction finding. I use that to “shoot” out an audio ping. The program can sense a “hit test” either on the right, center or left side of the object. Android phones do not have any compass heading data. So I hacked a way around that. Implementing a breadcrumb trail to point the way.
The other programming challenge was to scale a field around the player’s longitude and latitude data. I found a bit of code that calculated your location between the four corners of a 960 x 640 screen.
Video game players have their own jargon and much of it is foreign to non-gamers. My 11-year-old daughter, an ardent gamer, was familiar with more of the words in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! (e.g., griefer, instance, mod, sandbox, unlockable) than I was, but we both appreciated Joey Spiotto’s cute and colorful illustrations that accompanied the terms. The book was written by Chris Barton, author of The Day-Glo Brothers, previously reviewed on Wink.
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! by Chris Barton (Author), Joey Spiotto (Illustrator)
Game designer Stefan Feld has designed eight published games that focus on dice. Each takes its own approach to using the 5,000-year-old randomizers without creating a random winner. By Matt M. CaseyRead the rest
A couple of days after I received a review copy of Hello Kitty Crochet I read an article in the LA Times about the 40th anniversary of Sanrio’s iconic character. The most surprising fact I learned is that Hello Kitty is not a kitty. She is a British girl named Kitty White who “lives in London with her mama (Mary White), papa (George White), and her twin sister Mimmy.” Also, she has a pet cat named Charmmy Kitty, which is kind of like Goofy having Pluto for a pet, I guess. Many Hello Kitty fans were outraged by the revelation, but I loved it. Hello Kitty is more charming and mysterious than I thought!
Hello Kitty Crochet, by Malaysia-based blogger Mei Li Lee (her name is so adorable that Sanrio should create a character called Mei Li Lee), has complete instructions for making 18 Sanrio characters, from Kitty White herself to the devilishly mischievous tomboy Kuromi (who reminds me of DC comics’ Harley Quinn). Mei Li Lee does a great job of retaining the cuteness of the characters in their transubstantiation into yarn, which is an impressive feat. I just might have to learn to crochet and try my hand at making these.
Hello Kitty Crochet ($9)
by Mei Li Lee
2014, 96 pages, 7.3 x 7.3 x 0.5 inches, Hardcover
In this immediately enjoyable card game players take on the role of Japanese pyrotechnicians with a shed full of unlabeled fireworks that they must assemble correctly before the show begins. By Jon SeagullRead the rest
Our friends at Backyard Brains (makers of the Spikerbox and the Remote Control Cockroach kits) have been studying Venus Fly Traps lately. They have developed a new product called the Plant SpikerShield Bundle to measure the action potentials generated by plant cells.
Artist Mitch O'Connell recently had a baby. After making a pipe pacifier for his infant, he started a line of baby clothing featuring sideshow characters!
Step right up! The Fair has come to town!
From "The Prince of Pop Art," artist Mitch O'Connell introduces "Lil' Sideshow," a tent full of adorable carnival cutie characters ready adorn all your baby wear needs!
Have your wee one look fashionable on the midway as they turn over a prize winning plastic duck or ride high on the Ferris Wheel!
A circus parade of choices, including the cute "Lil' Mermaid" to mighty "Lil' Strongman" or the even spookier "Lil' Spidora" and mischievous "Lil' Devil Child" on everything from diaper bags to onesies!
If your heart can take it, see them all by clicking on the link
The 1960s were a magical decade in the world of toys. Toy companies like Wham-O, Hasbro, Mattel and Kenner were churning out captivating toys faster than toy stores could keep them in stock. Toys like Lite-Brite, Etch A Sketch, Twister, Creepy Crawlers, Operation, Hippity Hop, Spirograph… and of course Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven (launched in 1963) were all the rage.
With an entertaining narrative, Light Bulb Baking explains how the miniature working oven got its start, dissects the oven, explains how a simple light bulb can bake a cake, and tells us loads of fun anecdotes and trivia about Easy Bake (such as the shelf life of Easy Bake mixes, the horrible burns caused by the 2006-2007 models, and the story of a 9-year-old Easy Bake Baker of the Year who won $5,000 for her Toffee Trifle Cake). The book, which is smartly designed with photos, diagrams and sidebars, ends with a bunch of award-winning recipes that make me want to dig out the old Easy Bake Oven I have somewhere in my garage.
Light Bulb Baking
by Todd Coopee
2013, 178 pages, 8.7 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches (paperback)
When Tom Fassbender took a trip around the world with his family, he wasn’t naive enough to think that it was going to be a year of easy adventure full of laughs and endless fun.Read the rest
This beautifully illustrated picture book takes more than one read to take in all of the delightfully layered pages. At its first level, it tells a sweet story about an old elephant named Marcel who has almost forgotten his birthday, until thoughtful friends and his own reminiscence about his colorful past spark his memory. But the book doesn’t end where the story ends. Inserted into most pages are “index cards” marked with an elephant symbol that have interesting elephant facts, such as listing the differences between Asian and African elephants, describing how they communicate over long distances, and giving us figures on how much they weigh, eat, and sleep.
As if jumping from story to elephant facts weren’t enough, the book is also saturated with yet another layer: miniature encyclopedias on certain topics mentioned in the story. For instance, when Marcel is reminiscing about his days at sea, we get a page of “On the Sea” related word entries. We learn about clipper sailboats, longships, a nautical mile, and more. While sitting with Memory, my attention span was constantly challenged by these fun extras that kept beckoning me away. I finally gave in and read all of the sidebars first, and then eventually went back and read the actual story from beginning to end. Unlike some children’s books, which are ready to be recycled after the first read, this is an illustrated book for all ages that has real staying power.
The Memory of an Elephant, by Sophie Strady (author) and Jean-François Martin (illustrator)
The genius of this game’s design is in the simplicity of what you are allowed to do on a turn, the intricate and divergent results those actions can achieve; and the way the physical design of the game board makes it all work automatically. Jon Seagull reviews.Read the rest
Oliver Frantelle, from Paris, built this Mid Century rocking chair from the instructions in my book, Maker Dad. He says: "We had so much fun that I wanted to report. First, it looks real cool. Second, it’s comfortable and cozy. Third, it makes my neighbors jealous!" Im jealous, too, Oliver -- yours looks a lot better than the ones I built!
The amusement I get from looking at this weird-looking card is worth more than the 60 seconds it took me to make it. No tape, glue, or hidden cuts are needed. If you can't figure out how to make one, someone in the comments will show you how to do it.
Coconuts is a goofy dexterity game from South Korea that has no business being as much fun as it is. Jon Seagull says its appeal is a testament to the power of great product design.Read the rest
The bristlebot is one of over a dozen how-to projects my daughter Jane and I taught people how to do. You can check out the rest of the parent-kid project videos here!
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“Most people think that taking a family of four on a trip around the world for an entire year would require a long discussion and some careful consideration,” says Tom Fassbender. “But for us, the decision was made with the speed of a single text message.”Read the rest
What makes a computer different from a person? A computer doesn't have bones. Smart children are interviewed about computers in the 1984 episode of Sesame Street. (via Reality Carnival)
I snapped this photo of the CreativeLive stage where Jane and I will be teaching our "Kids Crafts with Maker Dad" class today and tomorrow. There's still time to RSVP for the free live video.
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Without question, cocktails are the most fun and playful type of drinks on the menu, with their vibrant colors, toy-like swizzle sticks, plastic straws, paper toothpick umbrellas, swords of stacked fruit, and the exotic-shaped glasses that contain the concoctions. And yet – the cruel irony of it all – cocktails are off limits to children!
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I’m always amazed when one of my daughter’s friends comes to me and says she’s bored. As if I’m supposed to put on a pair of tap shoes and dance a jig for her. My daughter knows better than to say the B-word, but I can always tell when she’s at a loss for something to do by the way she lies limply across the arm of the couch, her head dangling towards the floor, her voice depleted of emotion. Next time this happens I will suggest Unbored (which, when she picked it up for the first time yesterday, didn’t put it down for almost an hour).
A collection of inspiring activities, projects, and articles on freeing up your creativity (by the authors as well as many other DIY experts, including an introduction by my husband Mark), Unbored offers a zillion ways to keep busy, stay engaged, and connect with the outside world. Start a band, make a zine, teach “your grown-ups” how to geocache, trick your friends into saving the planet, tell your politicians what you think, build a backyard fort, make a pet robot controller… The book is fun, instructional, edgy (create different colors of fire, take an adventurous gap year between high school and college, spray paint your bedroom walls, read banned books), and has insightful lessons on how to engage with life rather than allowing life to pass by like a boring television commercial. And as a parent, it’s nice to be reminded not to fall into the trap of smothering helicopter parenting, passive parenting (screens!), over-scheduled parenting, and all the other pitfalls of modern life that turn our kids into lethargic, helpless, unthinking slugs. Unbored belongs in every kid’s – and parent’s – library.
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