Boing Boing 

Build curvy, complicated, organic structures with ZOOB

Most of the really great construction sets are rectangular in shape, or they obey rigid angles. Lego, Kapla Blocks, Kinnex, or Zomeworks are fabulous kits that foster open-ended creativity. But they all tend toward very rectilinear structures. ZOOB is the first construction set I’ve seen that encourages organic, free-flowing builds. There are five basic ZOOB shapes centered on a ball-and-socket connection. When you click them together you have full 180-degree freedom in how the connection is oriented, leading to creations that are curvy, complicated, or ones that repeat like vertebrate in a spine, or carbons on a chain, or even amino acids on DNA. I was surprised by how sophisticated you could make the forms; you may need a bit of patience to get complex ones to fit perfectly (note to 8-year olds). In fact the force and precision needed to assemble pieces may be beyond toddlers, but school kids should have no problem. The plastic pieces are largish, unlike lego, so the finished forms can be quite hefty.

ZOOB
Ages 6 and up, 125 pieces
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

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Why the Strange Change Machine is my favorite toy

We all have memories of our favorite toys. Sometimes it’s hard to point at just what made them so special. This one, though, is obviously dangerous.Read the rest

Wobbling 8 Ball

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If you have a pool table, or know someone who has one, you need to get one of these Wobbling 8 Balls.  

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Huge, futuristic 3D printed mech-tank

Singaporean toymaker Michael Sng made Boudicca, a T1 Training Colossus -- a 3D-printed robot tank with 400 custom parts and servos controlled by an Arduino.

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Antique toy museum, racist warts and all

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Frank Kidd, 83, is the proprietor of Kidd's Toy Museum, a private collection of 20,000 antique toys, from cars and trucks to figurines to, Kidd's favorite genre, mechanical banks like the one above. Some of the toys reveal a lot about the era they're from.

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Does this McDonald's Minions toy say "What the fuck?"

Some parents are complaining that a Minions talking toy available at McDonald's sounds like it says "What the fuck!" Gotta love audio pareidolia.

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Crazy and amazing unofficial Barbie fashions from the 1960s

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Collectors Weekly's Ben Marks says, "Schiffer Publishing has just released 'Doll Junk: Collectible & Crazy Fashions from the ’70s & ’80s,' by Carmen Varricchio, who fills almost 200 pages with images of Barbie and Ken knockoffs and the campy fashions that manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe thought would appeal to little girls.

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Hey, kids, let's play militarized police force!


The Pentagon's 1033 program makes sure that every Barney Fife has his own rocket launcher, and Playmobil is right there with him.

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WATCH: Gentleman mods daughter's pink mini-Mini

After his daughter complained her toy car was not fast enough, YouTuber ThatHPI GUY decided to mod it so it could pop wheelies.

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Comic about the invention of The Slinky

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Over at Backchannel, Andy Warner's delightful comic about how a naval engineer invented The Slinky.

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Green plastic army men remade in sterling silver

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Good Art Hlywd remade the classic green army men toy figures in sterling silver.

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USB Microscope — a zoom function for the real world

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I had the earlier version of the Plugable USB Handheld Digital Microscope and liked it a lot. The second version just came out and I love it. Smaller than a prescription pill bottle, the microscope has a USB cord that can be plugged into any computer. Download the software here and start looking up close at money, leaves, circuit boards, bugs, skin, hair, and anything else.

The scope has a built-in, adjustable-brightness LED for illumination. The brightest setting is not always the best - try different levels of illumination and let the software auto-adjust the contrast. I also learned that in order to see things at the maximum 250X magnification you need to follow the instructions in the FAQ.

The scope comes with a suction-cup gooseneck mount that is very stable, and a plastic board with a grid pattern, which helps you align and locate the thing you are looking at. You can also simply hold the scope against things. The software takes still photos and movies, and hasn't crashed on me yet (the earlier version was buggy).

At this price, the microscope is an amazingly entertaining device and I find myself grabbing it to check out all sorts of things, including splinters, skin cuts, bugs, and playing card designs.

Plugable USB 2.0 Handheld Digital Microscope with Stand
By Plugable
$35 Buy one on Amazon

Top row (left to right): One black whisker and many white whiskers on my chin, strawberry seed, George Washington’s eye on a $1 bill at 250X
Middle row: Snap blade knife at 250X, pixels on an iPhone 6 Plus display, seal from $1
Bottom row: Nickel, George Washington’s eye on a $1 bill at 50X, Snap blade knife at 50X,

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Kids can build their own games with this nifty block toy

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Bloxels lets kids design playable spaces using physical blocks on a grid—that can then be captured by a tablet device and translated into a real digital game. The creator, Pixel Press, says it's like "coding with Lego."

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Super Balloon – As with all Wham-O toys, so simple yet so delightful

Chances are you’ve heard of many classic Wham-O toys such as the Frisbee, Silly String, and the Slip ’N Slide. The Super Balloon is another Wham-O invention, originally introduced in the 80s, that never quite reached the same legendary toy fame. The good news is that a new version of the Super Balloon is being produced today, so you still have a chance to enjoy an underrated classic toy with your family and friends.

To inflate the Super Balloon, you run into the wind with it, finish it off by blowing it up with your mouth, and then just twist, fold, and seal the open end with a rubber band. A large open space is the best place to use it. My kids love when I throw it as high as I can into the sky, so they can run across the field trying to catch it as it slowly sails back to the ground. They also enjoy spinning it in the air and bouncing it off of walls. With two or more balloons, you can have some very humorous jousting tournaments or slow-motion sword battles.

We did find that the material is susceptible to rips and punctures due to hard play, although some scotch tape repairs gave us a few more hours of play. It’s also hard to control on windy days, therefore it's great as a backup when there isn’t enough wind for kite-flying. This is quite a large and unique toy that you don’t see every day, and when we took it to a local park, we had several families come to check it out and play with us. – Mike Evans

Wham-O Super Balloon
Wham-O
Ages 6 and up, inflates to 10 feet
$12 Buy one on Amazon

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Watch paleontologist critique dinosaur toys

Columbia University paleontologist Paul Olsen: "Absolutely nothing about this... is even vaguely correct."

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Fury Road Ponies: Guzziline is Magic!

Artist Kelsey Wailes (Etsy) modded a set of Mad Max: Fury Road My Little Ponies of outstanding glory.

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Lily McDonnell's adorable plush toys

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Monsters, ferrets, aliens, foxes and more are all on display at freelance illustrator and designer Lily McDonnell's website, MyBeautifulMonsters.com.

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Check out her etsy shop.