Gift ideas for Construction-loving kids
Do you have a little one in your life who loves all things construction? We compiled a list of our favorite construction and STEM-themed toys that have been tried and tested by my kids. The list of toys is in order from toddlers to tweens.
*Disclaimer: some of the links below are referral links
Dressing the part is important to our kids. They loved this kit which comes with a hard hat, tools, tool belt, vest, and safety glasses. Good for ages 3 and up.
Get your construction costume here
Magna-tiles of all shapes inspire future engineers and architects but we particularly enjoyed the builder's edition.
Buy your magna-tiles
My little guy thought he was a pretty big deal when he got this toy. "Mom, it has REAL tools!" The 4 in 1 take-apart toy transforms into a dump truck, cement mixer, crane, and excavator using a battery operated screwdriver.
4 in 1 Take-apart Toy
A trip to the beach is not complete without construction equipment. We had Tonka dozers and this Little Tykes cement mixer. Bonus: the mixer bucket pops off so that you can use it to build sand castles. Good for ages 3+.
Little Tykes Dirt Diggers 2 in 1
Speaking of sand, the kinetic sand dig and demolish kit is a fun sensory activity that we use in the dead of winter when everyone has cabin fever! The kids love hiding shells or plastic toy dinosaurs in it. Buy sand here
Older kids can build their own woodworking projects using pre-cut pieces. They can make their own treasure chest, shelf of toolbox.
Young Woodworker's Project
I cannot even begin to tally how many hours of fun this John Deere has delivered. We have an older model that has gone through 2 kids and, unfortunately, I think my 6 year old may outgrow it this summer. He uses it to haul wood, tow friends in a wagon behind it, and gather veggies harvested from our garden. It's his favorite!
John Deere Tractor
Kiwi Crates are another awesome option to build interest in STEM activities and construction. There’s the option of a monthly subscription or of buying a single box. My kids’ favorites have been The Astronaut starter kit and Santa’s Light up workshop. They have specific kits for each age group.
Save $10 with this referral link.
This year, our 8-year old is getting this Smartivity DIY Pinball kit. It was a Toy of the Year finalist in 2022. Smartivity creates sustainably built STEM toys. Recommended for ages 8-14.
Buy your Smartivity kit here
I have been taking a break from children's books to write something new. Just over a year and a half ago, I lost a friend to suicide. Shortly after, I had snippets of new songs coming to me. Now, I've never been musically inclined. I have not played an instrument in over 20 years. I have always been able to write rhymes but having melody accompanying it was something totally new. Then, I remembered how much my friend had loved music. And just like that, an entire song with melody came to my mind about the aftermath of suicide.
I was not sure what to do with this.... I reached out to MN Musician Mary Bue who does some creative coaching on the side. I remember thinking, "This may be nothing.....but it may be something." She encouraged me to keep writing and recording anything that came to mind. She asked what I heard and when I sang it to her, she sat at her keyboard and immediately played the melody. I got goosebumps! Mary recorded a draft of the song for me and I shared it with a colleague and mentor who said, "She needs to record that professionally." Mary agreed and asked what else I heard to which I replied violin and cello. She wrote those accompanying pieces and the next thing I knew, we were all in a studio with producer Tom Herbers.
The song titled 'Aftermath' will be released via a virtual concert on March 11 at 7pm CST. You can enjoy an exclusive performance from the comfort of your own home. My hope is that the song helps others feel less alone in the aftermath of suicide.
Pre-save the song on spotify by clicking here.
7 At-home Activities for Social Distancing
As we retreat into our homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it can be challenging to keep our children entertained without turning to screen time. Don't get me wrong, my kids have seen Moana a time or twelve. But if they aren't stimulated throughout the day with new activities, they are way more likely to antagonize each other and test my limited patience. I gathered 7 of our favorite activities--some for kids and some for adults--that you can do while practicing social distancing.
1) Snow Painting--Ok, this one is really only applicable if you live in an area that still has snow (hello, Duluth, MN). Fill an old spray bottle with a cup of water and several drops of food coloring. I like to dig through the recycling bin to find an old cereal box or something I can make a stencil out of. In the picture below, I made a heart stencil that my kids used to make heart balloons, flowers, and dragonflies.
2) Bubble Foam--My kids love this sensory activity. Added bonus: they're killing germs on their hands as they play! We use this recipe from Busy Toddler. Whip up 2 parts water, 1 part bubble path, 1-2 drops of food coloring. I like to hide plastic toys in the foam for them to find. My little guy likes to play car wash and he drives his trucks through it.
3) Obstacle Courses--Another family favorite. I place a broom across two chairs to have them army crawl underneath it. Couch cushions come off and become lily-pads they have to hop between. A hula hoop is placed on the floor and they have to roll it between one point to another. A tennis ball is staged and they have to throw it into a 5 gallon bucket before moving on. My kids like to compete against themselves. So, I put their names on a chalk board and, underneath, I record their times for Heat 1, Heat 2, and Heat 3.
4) Dance Parties--Remember the days where you danced your buns off and didn't have a care in the world? Crank the tunes and challenge your kids to a dance-off. This is a sure-fire way to boost everyone's moods.
5) Hunger Games--I know, it sounds morbid, but it is SOOOO FUN. We made up this game based on the book a few years ago. It is intended for older kids (10 +). Fill old, unmatched socks with flour and tie the ends. Place the socks on the floor in a central location. This is the cornucopia for those who have read the book. Start in a circle around your weapons. GO! Grab a sock or two and if you hit another person with it, they are out. Last person standing is the winner. This can be played indoors or out but we recommend outside if you have the space.
6) Online Workouts--If I don't work out, I get cranky. Here are a few of my favorite free online workouts. 15 Min HIIT from Nourish Move Love. Free yoga classes from Yoga Glo.
7) Take a Virtual Tour--While the zoos and museums may be closed, they're still offering tours--virtually! Yes, this is technically screen time but I like the educational component. Our favorite is the Smithsonian's National Zoo.
What are you doing to stay busy? I'd love to hear your ideas or your feedback on these activities. Be well!
It all started with my daughter Reese and her love for excavators. While driving around town, she would yell, “Excavator” from her car seat as we passed construction sites. I would respond, “An impressive rig! Its main job is to…” Reese would finish in response, “Dig, dig, dig!” We continued the tradition after my son was born.
With the peak of the #MeToo movement a year ago came a cultural awareness of representation. It made me take a closer look at how women were included or portrayed in various areas of my life. I realized that the construction-themed books we were reading to Reese did not have any women in them. Not even one. This was the first sign for me. What message was that sending to my equipment-loving daughter? I want her to grow up believing that with passion, grit, and hard work, she can be anything. I want my son to grow up seeing that a female welder or sprinkler fitter isn’t a novelty.
Around that same time, in the winter of 2018, I attended an event put on by the local school district designed to introduce 10th grade students to the trades. As I watched students laugh with each other while they donned harnesses and balanced on steel beams at the ironworkers’ booth, I overheard a teacher admonishing a student, “See, this is where you will end up if you don’t start doing your homework.” I was horrified and livid. In hindsight, I wished I had marched over to them and said, “Listen, if you want to make two-to-three times more than your classmates with degrees will make and be able to drive your grandchildren around town one day and say, ‘I built that’, these careers are for you.” But I didn’t speak up. I stayed silent and started brainstorming ways to change society’s perception of our industry.
I mulled over the two needs I had identified:
Laura grew up exploring the woods and mine-pits of Virginia, MN. She has always been a book worm and was often reprimanded as a child for sneaking a flashlight and a book under her covers and reading well past her bedtime. Her mission in life is to embrace adventure and instigate fun.