Category Archives: Toys

DIY Kite Messenger Parachute Drop

A kite messenger is a clever little device that slides up a kite string, releases a light payload, then slides back down to the bottom of the string for more fun. I made one with some cheap materials and finally found some windy days to test it out. Some kite messenger designs use sails to pull up the kite, but I’m starting out with a simpler design that uses toy parachutes to catch the wind. It can be made in just a few minutes using drinking straws, wire, tape, and a toy parachute.

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Here’s how it works: The front loop of the wire hits a simple cardboard bumper attached high up on the line. As the wire stops, the rest of the unit continues forward, opening the middle section where the parachute is held. Once the parachute releases, the messenger slides right back down towards the spool of string, ready to be reloaded for more fun.IMG_1338
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IMG_9652It’s fun to see the kid’s excitement build as they watch the messenger climb up the string, eagerly awaiting the parachute’s release so they can chase it down.

Here is a tutorial on how to build your own kite messenger. I used replacement Tervis straws that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, because they’re much sturdier than your average soda straw. To hold it all together I used packing tape as well as a bit of super glue for good measure. The climb to the top of the kite line seemed to take a little long, so my next modification will be to use a much lighter gauge wire to reduce the overall weight.

Quick and Easy DIY Juggling Balls

DIY Juggling BallsMy kids are finally taking an interest in learning how to juggle. They’ve always loved throwing balls around whenever I practice, but they’ve never been interested in practicing the proper techniques until now. The problem is, my favorite juggling balls, the MMX Plus, are too heavy and large for their tiny hands. Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from juggler.org to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes. All you need to make your own juggling balls are balloons, tape, an empty water or soda bottle, and some filler (bird seed, sand, or rice). We used rice and the balls turned out great. Ok, kids, time to practice!Balls1 Balls3

DIY Juggling Balls

 

DIY Juggling Clubs

DIY Juggling ClubsI recently wrote about my experience learning to juggle. I hope it has inspired someone out there to give it a try. Please let me know if you do! I still have a lot I’d like to learn juggling three and four balls, but I’ve also become curious about juggling clubs, which are bigger and flashier. While I’m at it, I also want to learn how to unicycle, but I’m afraid that my family may get fed up with too many circus shenanigans at once.

While juggling clubs are a natural progression, I’ve been reluctant to run out and buy a nice set of them  because I still have a ton to learn with juggling balls. Fortunately, I found some great online instructions to make your own DIY juggling clubs. They are made almost entirely from common household items such as empty soda bottles, duct tape, and tennis balls. I scrounged up the majority of materials at home, and only needed to buy some rivets and wooden dowels.Juggling Materials

They look like they’ll do a great job of giving me a feel for juggling clubs before committing to purchasing a professional set. Now I don’t have an excuse to avoid learning clubs any longer. Time to practice!

The Datexx Miracle Cube Timer

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We just got a Datexx miracle cube timer to help the kids with things like toy sharing and limiting their screen time. We love it! I may have to pick up another one just for myself to use for exercising, instrument and juggling practice, gaming, or other activities. It would also be great for personal productivity, meditation, or time management strategies such as the pomodoro technique. You just turn it on, flip it so the desired number of minutes is on top, and do your thing until the alarm sounds. Flipping it over to “0” turns the alarm off.  Overall, it’s very easy to use for kids.Datexx 2
These are way better than your average kitchen timers, especially because there is no ticking sound to stress you out or break your concentration. If you do need to keep track of time, there is a small digital display on one side that counts down to zero. The miracle cube timer comes in a variety of different colors which relate to varying combinations of timed increments, going up to an hour. It is perfect for managing kids at home or in the classroom, or for anyone looking for a simple, fun, and easy way to time their activities.

Scuttlecam Test Run #2

scuttlecam

I’ve been keeping the Scuttlecam in the trunk, because you just never know when you’ll come across parking lot seagulls eager to make new friends. It worked out the other day, as we happened upon a rather large flock on the way out of a grocery center parking lot.
Unfortunately, the seagulls weren’t interested in the least, although we did get the attention of a white SUV that drove over to take a closer look. Perhaps with a large flock, the birds are more skittish, moving together collectively just like a school of fish. The smaller group that we encountered on our first Scuttlecam run was far more accepting of the Scuttlecam. Even though we know better, we prefer to believe that the seagulls just get grumpy sometimes when the weather is lousy.

Barbie Birthday Party Photobooth

Barbie Photobooth

My daughter’s birthday is just around the corner, and we’re making all the preparations for a Barbie-themed party. Party planning for girls of kindergarten age not being my specialty, my wife assigned me the task of building a Barbie toy box to be used as a photo booth. I love playing with cardboard, so this was a perfect task for me. In what was clearly a matter of fate, my neighbors had just bought a patio set and were discarding a huge cardboard box in their weekly trash pile. Upon closer look, it turned out to be three-ply cardboard. This is a cardboard aficionado’s dream come true! We’re talking cardboard that is quite possibly sturdier than the body of my compact car, and certainly far superior to the flimsy, run-of-the-mill cardboard that my son used to build this couch bridge.

Using two of my favorite tools, a jigsaw and a hot glue gun, I cut and refolded the box into a suitable shape and size. I finished it with some spray paint, taped some wrapping paper for the background, and cut out and glued some letters. Voila! An afternoon of work and now we’re open for business.