Thursday, April 19, 2012

P is for Pied Piper Toys

So, before we had 4 kids in 3 years, we were married for almost 4 years without children, and we spent an incredible amount of time working guessed it. Children. Before we got married, we both spent a lot of time also with children.

Teaching school PE, Bible, swimming, youth group, and VBS and day camps and outreaches from America to Taiwan to the Ukraine to England to Siberia, and a fair bit of places in between...

Along the way, we have found a lot of inexpensive toys that kids go gaga over. I call them Pied Piper Toys because they attract kids like bugs to a light, or like the original pied piper's pipe. (If you don't know the story of the Pied Piper, you need to spend some time reading books to children.)

To make it in this list, there has to be a version that is $20 USD or under. Some versions may be a bit more expensive, some are a lot cheaper, but our experience is that they are worth much more than their price tag. 
 #10. Super Bubble Maker. We have one that supposedly can make a bubble as long as a bus. Right now we are still haven't made it past the short bus stage, but when we pull this out, kids totally love it.
 #9. I used to teach PE to elementary kids, and a parachute is one of the funnest toys out there for VBS, PE, and whatever. Check online for games that keep them entertained for...minutes. (Hey, they're kids, what did you expect? Hours?)
 #8. Stomp Rocket. This one is awesome. It can go like a hundred feet high. This makes kid's eyes get really big. Sometimes grown ups too. As my young models are demonstrating, it's so simple a 3-year old (sometimes with a bit of help) can do it. And, you can even do Physics lessons with it. Everybody wins.
 #7. Super Sprayers! Beating the summer heat! I would show you the sprayers that I just made, that are almost just like the picture above and below. The problem is, after construction, I plugged them in, turned on the water, and found out that even though I had been conservative with the number of holes, we still don't have enough water pressure where we live to make it spray more than a couple of inches. For those of you who live in high-water-pressure countries, it's super easy to make, and I'll probably make one when we are in the US. (I hear they have high water pressure there.)
 This sprayer is even faster to put together than the one above, and our garden hose screwed right into the pop bottle. But, alas, the water pressure did not make it look like this. It was more like a spurting trickle. Our dog likes to drink out of it.
#6. Come on! Let's go fly a kite, up to the highest height! But seriously, catchy Mary Poppins tunes aside, kites are really fun and easy to use, unless there are trees around. And some kites will be lost. But that teaches children about loss. It's better to start with a kite than a dog.

I had a student in PE one day, who kicked the kickball, was heading to first base, looked up in a tree, and saw his kite he had lost there last year. He broke down in tears and was unable to continue to first base. I gave him some time, because, obviously kites are important.
 #5. Ok, I haven't seen this one in the US. But, for like 50 cents, you can buy this light-up helicopter toy that you launch at night with a rubber band, and when we did it at our apartment in Manila, it seemed like all the kids in the condo wanted to try to catch it as it came down. I have to see if you can get it in other countries.
#4. Of course, Coke and Mentos. My kids absolutely love this, and hey, even adults do too. It's easy, relatively cheap, a bit messy, but lots of fun. And, you can learn the science behind the suds from Mythbusters! (Who doesn't want their preschooler to understand the principles of nucleation?!?)
#3. Yup, one of the favorite toys kids have is you. At this time, I am the perfect size for a horse, nice to jump on, soft enough to be a punching bag, and I can still wrestle all four of my kids at the same time. They absolutely love it when I chase them them, wrestle them, and just do general roughhousing with them.

For a great article on this, check out: The Importance of Roughhousing With Your Kids .   They say, "Neuroscientists studying animal and human brains have found that bouts of rough-and-tumble play increase the brain’s level of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF helps increase neuron growth in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, logic, and higher learning–skills necessary for academic success." 

Yup, mom and dad, you are the cheapest toy in our list, and probably the most effective for long-term success in life for your kids! Bring on the toddlers and lets wrestle!

Wait! Where's #2 and #1?!?  I'm not telling.

No, actually, it's your turn. We are always on the lookout for inexpensive, awesome toys that kids (and us) can have fun with. What are your Pied Piper toys that kids love? We have four kids! We wanna know!

Pictures are either ours or from Google.


Dennis and Valerie said...

Haha! I love this post! Especially this line, "And some kites will be lost. But that teaches children about loss. It's better to start with a kite than a dog." We've enjoyed the #5 Light up helicopter toy ended up teaching our children about loss... :) Good thing it was they had experienced that before our turtle died.

Anonymous said...

Love it! We JUST made a super-bubble recipe from pinterest. The kids thought it was great.... and so did their mommy! My kids can play for hours on end with a couple shovels, buckets and a pile of dirt. This made me think of you:

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Brian! All great ideas, especially loved hearing the last one... you! Another one our kids loved was huge boxes... refrigerator, stove- size etc. cut windows-- make a house, draw controls--make an airplane... with 4 kids, you might need to make two entrance/exits! It doesn't last forever, but makes for hours of play! And basically free, unless of course you only buy the fridge to get the box. :-)