curiosity / learning / science

Curious Stuff

The goal of this blog to provide helpful tips and useful information. It is not my intention to use this blog to sell things.  Well, maybe some things, like books I have written when they are published….

With that confession out of the way, many of the items listed below are frequently mentioned in the activity blogs and may be useful to have on hand to further improve exploration and discovery. I have tried to find items that are reasonable and could make a fun gift.

Every once in a while I come across something for children, their parents, or the whole family, that seems remarkable or special and I want to use this space to highlight it and share it with others. There are amazingly creative and entrepreneurial people out there, producing things that I would have loved to have when my children were young. In fact, I kind of feel gypped that I did not have the range of options that young parents have now. On the other hand, the plethora of “things” for new parents may seem overwhelming and the sheer quantity, and sometimes the astounding prices, may make it difficult to identify what is worthwhile.

The following have caught my attention.


Balance Scales

This balance scale is available from Learning Resoures and other sites. It is very cool because you can weigh liquids as well as solid objects.

I like a balance scale for young children because the the usual standards of measure, things like ounces or pounds, are still new and abstract. A relative measurement, or this is heavier than that, is grasped more readily by young children.

This scale includes measures of volume and you can purchase weights that would allow you to transition from a relative measurement to more precise measurements on standard scales.


Hand lens

A hand lens is a must for exploring the world and doing observations.  Here is a compact lens or magnifier with a lanyard so it is always available for use!


This item is also available through Learning Resources.



This thermometer can be used to measure things being heated on the stove or cooled in the freezer. It can also measure the temperature of bathtub water, soil in the yard, or the air inside or out.  It does it all! You can purchase a thermometer with temperature readings in Celsius or Fahrenheit, so be sure you pick the scale you are comfortable with or wish to introduce to your child.  Safe and easy to use.


Gardening Tools

In general, I don’t think you need to buy separate tools for kids. While in the kitchen, with the exception of knives or other items with sharp blades, children can use what you already have.

However, gardening tools are an exception as a lighter weight and smaller grip will make it easier and more enjoyable for a child to handle.

This set of gardening tools from Kaplan Toys comes bundled in a convenient tote bag to carry to the garden. Take along these tools on walks in the forest, a day at the beach or other adventures.



Knowledge of the physical world and physical science comes from physical play with objects and experiencing first hand their actions (or lack of actions). There is no better “toy” for young children than blocks and ramps. Set up a a track and let loose balls, marbles, or toys with wheels.


Start with a good ramp. You can purcahse cove moldings (mouldings) from a local hardware store. Set these on top to  blocks, cardboard boxes, or furniture to create ramps.

Experiment and rearrange the track for maximum learning and fun.


Containers for collecting/categorizing

Collecting is a favorite activity for young children. Think leaves, pepples, pinecones, buttons, or coins. Egg cartons can be used to store and display collections. Egg cartons are great for categorizing objects, as an alternative type of building block, or cut up for artwork. Mix various paint colors in styrofoam cartons for an artist’s palette. Keep several multi-use egg cartons around and easily accessible for your child to use.


More Ramps

If you do not have time to cut, sand and size molding here is a great option for a large number of pine planks (either 200 or if your child is an ambitious builder, 400). Look for Keva Contraptions on-line.  The kit is available at a number of sites.  Once it is purchased, let the fun begin creating ramps, tracks and chutes.


Bug Loupe

A hand lens is great, but a bug loupe may work well when you want to capture a critter for observation.  Not just bugs, think flowers, herbs and spices, sea shells, or any collectables


Lemon Clock

Check out the experiment included under the Magnificent Metals activity using using a paper clip, copper wire, and a lemon to create a current.  Here is an inexpensive but slightly more sophisticated version of that same experiment, but the same materials are used actually power a watch.



I try to find toys and playthings that are relatively inexpensive. I have a variety of reasons for adopting this position, but for the most part the more expensive toys just aren’t better. Despite the hype, most are not more likely to inspire curiosity or creativity. The Magna-Tiles are an exception I think.  A little pricey, but they look like they can inspire lots of unique structures, children can experience magnateism first hand, and the shapes and colors are fabulous.



Looks like a toy that will inspire the budding architect!


Arctic Animals

The Safari Arctic tube contains some great figurines of animals for the winter animal post, but for any post involving animals. Realistic and a great size for tiny hands.


Backyard Birds

More from this company…Loving their selection of figurines for play, but also observing, sorting, creating dioramas, counting, and sharing!

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