Top Picks for 2013: Best New Arts and Crafts Toys

Top Picks for 2013: Best New Arts & Crafts Toys (via Babble)Besides looking for the best new toys in general for ages 5-7 and 8 and up at the American International Toy Fair, I was also on the lookout for cool new arts & crafts toys.

Crafting is great for kids. It’s expressive, it’s productive, it’s sensory, and it’s great for fine motor skills. It can be a social activity or therapeutic quiet time alone.

I found a ton of new kits and individual products that had some great details. I particularly looked for crafts that were flexible in terms of age range, which could be low-frustration for younger kids, or made more complex for older kids.

I also looked for crafts that would be appealing to both girls and boys. Some of the kits I’m listing are definitely geared toward girls, but most of them are gender-neutral. I was thrilled to see plenty of cooking sets, painting kits, and other crafty items that weren’t pink.

What I’d love to see, but didn’t find, are sewing kits that aren’t quite so pink. I mean, presumably everyone should at least know how to sew on a button, right? I can–and do–use plain old needles, thread, and felt with my son, but the pillow kits from ALEX Toys, with their pre-punched holes and pre-cut felt, would be kind of awesome in a more gender-neutral option. Maybe some owls, or a monster or something? Hook us up, ALEX Toys!

Check out the slideshow below for what’s new and fresh in kids’ arts and crafts!

  • Top Picks for 2013: Best New Arts & Crafts Toys 1 of 22
    Reporting from the 110th American International Toy Fair in New York City, here are my picks for the best new arts & crafts toys! Click the arrows to scroll through.
  • Pillow Text 2 of 22
    Available in three designs, ALEX Toy's "Pillow Text" kits are great for novice sewers, and let kids really create something they can be proud to show off. Each pillow has two different text message designs, one on each side of the pillow. All the shapes are precut and ready to go. Follow the easy instructions to stitch the felt shapes on to the fleece pillow square, then stuff. Finish by knotting the edges to create a bright, colorful pillow.

    Why I Picked It: The pre-cut felt pieces are also pre-punched with small holes, for neat, even stitches. A low-frustration piece for kids who are new to sewing, without being babyish or too "little kid."

    Age 8 and up. Available soon at ALEX Toys, $14.30 for a kit to make two pillows.
  • Birdie Banks 3 of 22
    This set from ALEX Toy's Eco-Crafts line includes supplies to make two birdie banks. They're made out of recycled paper but are surprisingly sturdy. Includes 2 recycled paper bank molds, 150 stickers, 2 coin slots and lids, sponge brush, glaze, paper tape roll, 8 adhesive squares, tape dispenser and easy instructions.

    Why I Picked It: Wicked props for such a gender-neutral craft set, a rarity in a field of pink glitter

    Age 6 and up. Available at ALEX Toys, $13.95 for a kit to make two banks.
  • Earphone Couture 4 of 22
    Two separate kits let kids wrap their earbud cords with either embroidery thread and beads, or fluffy yarn and charms.

    Why I Picked It: A fun new option for tweens, it's something brand-new to the market. Great for kids who want a satisfying project that takes more time, either kit will keep a kid occupied for quite a while.

    Available soon at ALEX Toys, $14.30 for one kit (choose from "Wrap It" or "Fluffy").
  • Sensory Sensations Finger Painting Kit 5 of 22
    This set of finger paints comes with six textures that can be added to the paint, to make finger painting an even more tactile experience. The unique additives make the paints gritty, squishy, or spongy.

    Why I Picked It: This is one of those rare items that's fun for any kid, but really brings something unique to the table for kids with special needs, especially those with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. A great find for occupational therapists and parents alike!

    Ages 4 and up. Available at Creative Kid Stuff, $25.00.
  • Embossed Paper Masks 6 of 22
    I love these embossed paper masks! Simply rub a crayon across the textured paper to create a cool pattern, or use multiple colors to bring a cheetah pattern, for example, to life. I brought home a pack and shared them with kids ranging in age from 6 to 12, and they all loved them. The older kids made much more complicated designs, but all the kids were proud of their finished products.

    Note: The package does not come with elastic, which is cheap enough to buy separately at a craft store. However, you might not even want to bother. I didn't mention using elastic to my kids, just to see what they'd do. My younger two just held the masks up to their faces; the older two glued straws to the masks to make them into fancy masquerade-type masks.

    Why I Picked It: I love craft items that work for a wide age range, so that all four of my kids can do the project together. The price is great at only $5 for 24 masks, making them great to have on hand for playdates, parties, or to keep in your purse or diaper bag for those long waits at the doctor's office.

    Available at Launching Success, $5.00 for a pack of 24.
  • Embossed Insect Papers 7 of 22
    Another embossed paper item from Chenille Kraft, these are accurate, detailed images of eight different insects to be colored with crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils, or other media. As with the embossed masks, it's a great choice for a wide range of ages, that can be as simple as intricate as your kid wants to make it.

    Why I Picked It: I love the detail, the price point, and the gender-neutral aspect of this craft item. There's also a dinosaur set and a really beautiful set of embossed leaves, which would be great in the classroom or as an add-on activity to a family hike.

    Available at Launching Success, $5.00 for a pack of 24. Also available in Dinosaur Theme and Embossed Leaf Set.
  • Potholder Loom 8 of 22
    Yes, I know that potholder looms aren't new. I know this because I've bought at least five of the plastic ones, which inevitably break while my kids are trying to stretch too-tight loops across the loom. Harrisville Designs brings us a significantly better-quality loom, as well as loops that are custom-made to fit every single time. The price is a little higher than the plastic looms, but if you've got kids who love to craft, this one is by far the better value. Also available are packs of richly-colored cotton loops in individual colors, mega-packs of loops, and adorable purse kits.

    Why I Picked It: At $16.95, the Harrisville Designs loom is about twice what I paid for our last (now broken) plastic loom. But my kids not being frustrated by broken loom teeth and ill-fitting loops is priceless.

    Ages 8 and up. Available in specialty stores and directly from Harrisville Designs, $16.95 for the traditional loom. Potholder Purse Kit and the "Lotta Loops" Mega-Pack are each $19.95, and individual packs of single-color loops are $7.50.
  • Crayola Melt ‘n’ Mold Factory 9 of 22
    We have a really old version of this cool toy, and my kids love making swirly crayons out of the ever-present crayon bits we accumulate. This newer version comes with molds to make crayon-shaped crayons and ring-shaped crayons. Expansion packs will be available to make little crayon cars and crayon bugs.

    Why I Picked It: I have a ton of reasons for picking this toy: the old school one we picked up at a yard sale is probably 15 years old, and still works perfectly--a testament to Crayola's attention to quality. However, it only makes regular crayons, and now I totally want to make crayon cars. They'd be AWESOME party favors or classroom gifts.

    Age 8 and up. Available from Crayola in July 2013, $49.99.
  • Crayola Marker Maker 10 of 22
    A cross between a chemistry set and a magic marker factory, this set is a fun new twist on blending color. The kit includes everything kids need to create up to 16 customized markers, including labels for the markers, so kids can name the cool colors they dream up. Comes with a color chart so kids can mix precise amounts of ink, or kids can just wing it and experiment on their own. Although my first reaction was OMG, ink mess disaster, the set is well-designed and probably won't make too much of a mess. (Although what's the fun of arts & crafts if you're not making at least a tiny mess?)

    Why I Picked It: My kids really, really like their Crayola Melt'n'Mold Factory (see last slide), and I've never seen a kit to make their own markers. They've already experimented with mixing paint colors, but this would be a fun and longer-lasting lesson in color combinations. Also, I love that labels are included so kids can creatively name their creations.

    Age 8 and up. Available from Crayola in July 2013, $24.99.
  • Crayola Jewelry Boutique 11 of 22
    This kit lets kids make beads out of Model Magic, which are then coated with a glaze to make them glossy. Colors cam be swirled to make beads that are surprisingly appealing to older kids and even adults. This is a great set for a kid who wants to make jewelry for herself or to give as gifts.

    Why I Picked It: The finished product looks great, without being too difficult to make. I especially liked that Crayola includes ALL the extra pieces needed to make earrings, bracelets, and necklaces, including cords, clasps, posts, and charm settings. A similar set I saw from another company showed off the jewelry on the box cover, but didn't *actually* include all the supplies.

    Age 6 and up. Available at Amazon, $21.19.
  • My Little Pony: Decorate Your Own Pony 12 of 22
    I'm in love with these Blank Flanks.

    Why I Picked It:If you've ever checked out the crazy custom ponies on deviantArt, you'll get the massive possibilities here. At only $4.99 (and coming with its own blank white box), it's a perfect birthday party activity or just a special craft activity for anyone. Grab some Sharpie markers and get designing! Note: we're planning on using chalk to color the hair. Also note: if you think I'm just getting these for my kids and not myself, you're out of your mind.

    Age 3 and up. Available now from Hasbro, $4.99.
  • My Little Pony: Decorate Your Own Pony (View 2) 13 of 22
    You even get to design your own box for your custom pony!

    Available now from Hasbro, $4.99.
  • Play-Doh Color Sticks: Box o’ Color 14 of 22
    Play-Doh is launching a new line of small-size sticks of Play-Doh, perfect for on-the-go use. Color Sticks come individually wrapped in easy-to-use 1 oz. packets. Shown here is the Shown here is the Box o' Color, which comes with 16 Color Sticks. A larger "Rainbow Set" of 33 colors will be available in Fall 2013, and will retail for $9.99. Also, Play-Doh fans should be on the lookout for Play-Doh Plus, a lighter, fluffier formula that's perfect for pretend frosting and whipped cream.

    Why I Picked It: Perfect for keeping in my purse to allay boredom in waiting rooms, car rides, and sitting through a sibling's talent show rehearsal. Also, the Color Sticks will look great in Easter basket but won't cause cavities.

    Age 2 and up. Available from Hasbro, $4.99.
  • Little Cook Chef Jacket and Hat 15 of 22
    Does cooking fall into the arts & crafts category? Let's just agree that it does. If your kid is planning on being the next Top Chef, this set is much more fun than a simple apron. (Note to apron fans: this company does make cute aprons in styles for boys and girls, as well as gender-neutral.) Learning how to cook teaches kids science, math, how to follow directions, and life skills. I love this high-quality set.

    Why I Picked It: I'm teaching my kids to cook because, frankly, I hate cooking. Hopefully someday they'll start making the dinners around here.

    Fits children age 6-8. Available at Sassafras, $29.95.
  • Little Cook Pizza Baking Kit 16 of 22
    Sized for smaller hands, these tools are perfect for getting kids excited about making real food to share with the family. Make your own pizza dough using the enclosed instructions, and learn how yeast makes the dough rise. Also, if your little one is into baking, check out the other great kits to make cookies, pretzels, and other goodies at Sassafras.

    Why I Picked It: Baking cookies is all well and good, but remember, the goal here is for me to be able to stop making dinner. Pizza is a major step in that direction.

    Age 5 and up. Available at Sassafras, $11.95.
  • Framed ‘Stained Glass’ Art 17 of 22
    Press the pre-cut, translucent stickers into the right spaces, and you'll end up with a great little piece of art that's already framed and ready to hang in the window. Great for fine motor skills.

    Why I Picked It: I love Melissa and Doug's approach to crafts: they really want kids to feel successful and proud of what they create. I love, love, love that this kit is already framed and ready to hang.

    Age 5 and up. Available at Melissa and Doug, $10.17.
  • My Own Mailbox 18 of 22
    Melissa and Doug, known for their high-quality wooden toys, created this sturdy wooden mailbox for kids to customize to their hearts' content. The hinged door opens to make room for two postcards and a ruled letter and envelope, all reusable with the wipe-clean crayons that come with the set.

    Why I Picked It: Old-school in the very best sense, this classic toy reminds us all of a time when "you've got mail!" was not accompanied by an annoying beep.

    Age 4 and up. Available at Melissa and Doug, $19.99
  • Paint Your Own Vases 19 of 22
    Thank you SO much to Mindware for realizing that painting stuff is not a girls-only activity. Unfortunately, most of what I see in the "paint your own" category tends to involve fairies and princesses and whatnot. I love this set, which comes with three different porcelain vases, because it appeals to the artistic talents of both boys and girls of a wide age range. Great for a kid who likes to make gifts, too!

    Why I Picked It: Um, my son likes to paint, too, people.

    Available at Mindware, $19.99 for a kit including three different 5-inch vases.
  • Think-Doh 20 of 22
    Think-Doh is a silicone clay that's very different from anything else I've used. Pliable, doesn't crack, brightly-colored and glossy, you can make very detailed little projects. In particular, it's great for making miniature anything.

    Why I Picked It: My 11-year-old daughters and their friends are obsessed with making tiny things. This would allow them to make things in much finer detail than any other clay we've used.

    Intended for age 3 and up, although I'm pretty sure a 3-year-old didn't make those itty-bitty foods in the photo. Hopefully coming to stores soon, but right now the only place I can find it is direct from the manufacturer on eBay, $48.53 for the large, 9-color set.
  • Scratch Magic Mini Notes 21 of 22
    These 3-1/2-inch square, mini-sized Scratch Magic papers, neatly packaged with their own wooden stylus, are perfect for party favors, Easter Baskets, and keeping in your purse for those emergency boredom rescue. In specialty toy stores where Melissa and Doug products are sold, you may find these in counter-top displays, in which case you may be able to find other styles of Mini Notes (princess, neon, etc.). There were only a few places that sold the individual packs online, so I'm listing the cheapest one.

    Why I Picked It: Super-handy and perfectly portable craft for just about any age.

    Age 5 and up. Available where Melissa and Doug toys are sold, and also online at Texas Art, $1.50 for a pack of 8 papers and a wooden stylus.
  • Snifty Pencils and Scented Pencil Toppers 22 of 22
    I came across these pretty pencils with deliciously-scented toppers at the Toy Fair, and was a little disappointed to find out that they're not available in too many stores. However, it turns out you can get them as a fundraiser, so I thought I'd mention them here. Basically, your organization buys a case of 500 individually packaged pencils for $275, and sells the pencils for $1 each. That's a nice profit of $225.

    Why I Picked It: Easy-peasy school fundraiser. Bonus: your quirky kid who likes to sniff everything won't be the only one sniffing these things. Social WIN.

    Available at Snifty, $275 for a case of 500.

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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