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Gifts to Inspire Children's Creativity

Gifted kids tend to love open ended toys and materials that allow the user to experiment and arrange things in different ways. This time, I am putting the spotlight toys that nurture the creative spirit and are sure not be cast off a few weeks after the holidays. Every item on this list has years of potential usage, with the exception of the art supplies that are not reusable. My gifted children have spent many happy hours with these playthings, and it's been fun to watch how their play has “evolved” over the years.

Zome Tools are the coolest building toys to come along in decades. The ball and spindle design looks deceptively simple, yet can be used to create a myriad of complicated structures. The spindles are color coded according to length; each length fits a particular type of hole in the ball. Zome tools are excellent for modeling geometric forms, bridges, and more. Kits are popular in advanced math and science courses, for demonstrating hypercubes, buckyballs, DNA strands, and more. Zome workshops held at gifted conferences have been very successful. The kids compete to see who can build the tallest tower or the longest bridge. Please keep in mind that it may be difficult for kids younger than age six to manipulate the pieces.

Play silks are a sensory delight for the tactily sensitive gifted child. These are simple squares of light silk cloth, available in a gorgeous rainbow of hues. Play silks can serve as adventurer's capes, fairy tunics, tents, and more. They are so versatile; young children never seem to run out of uses for them!

Playmobil sets are intricately designed to capture tiny details that delight both parents and child. These sturdy though small figures (about 2.5 inches tall) are perfect for kids who love imaginative play and are past putting things in their mouths. Playmobil can be purchased in enormous sets that cost hundreds of dollars, or as a single figure. My children favor the medieval castle and modern home playmobil, but there are collections for just about any taste. There are farms, construction zones, hospitals, zoos, Native Americans, American Civil War, etc. My daughter currently has her eye on the ancient Roman arena!

Lego is probably a name familiar to every parent. But you might not be aware of the great variety of toys made by lego. There is Duplo, for the youngest builder. These plastic bricks often come with cute little people who are too big to swallow. “Regular” legos can be quite tiny, but they are easy to connect; my boys were using them and building the smaller sets independently by age three. Beyond the basic block sets of the mainstream legos, there are Star Wars and Harry Potter sets. Lego Bionicle goes along with a set of beginning chapter books aimed at preteen boys. Personally, I think the robot like characters are kind of creepy, but millions of kids disagree with me! Finally, for the most advanced young engineers, there are Lego Technic and Mindstorms kits which include electronic components and programming. If your child is really excited about this stuff, Lego has fun annual “Lego League” competitions.

Art supplies! Please, throw out those awful, cheap paint sets with the hard circles of different colors that must be wet. If you invest in some moderately priced, real paints and quality brushes for your child, you won't be disappointed. Painter's canvases can be purchased for just a few dollars, and will preserve your young artist's work beautifully. Sketch pads and professional quality colored pencils are also great gifts.

Play is a child's work, and by providing quality playthings, you will be encouraging flexible thinking and creative problem solving. These skills are helpful in any occupation, and not just for future architects, engineers, and artists.

Play Silks - A Magic Cabin Best Seller!




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