Summer’s here, and if your family is like mine, that means having lots of ideas in your back pocket for fun activities, with maybe a little learning thrown in.
Liz Staples, the founder of Nature Calls Toy Store, is no stranger to having trouble finding appropriate learning toys for kids. She founded the store eighteen years ago after searching, in vain, for science kits in the Upper Valley for her son. She’s watched these kits grow and expand, over the years, with the advent of STEM and schools’ new focus on science teaching. Her store carries dozens of science kits, which encourage kids to experiment, mix ingredients, create slime, and generally mess around to learn.
As much as kids love the kits carried in the store, their parents don’t always feel the same way. “It’s the parents who are unsure of their own skills and knowledge who try to reign it in and are afraid to try something different. So we try to reassure the parents that none of this is difficult. It’s basic science. Some of the kits we carry have online support so if they have a question about an experiment they did with their child that didn’t come out right or they come up with a different result, they can email the company and ask why, and the company will get back to them.”
There are also tons of science fields to explore. “There’s a chemistry section, there’s electricity and electronics, and physics and robotics. Plus there’s other sciences—geology, astronomy, oceanography. It goes everywhere,” Liz explains.
Not only can you keep your kids entertained with experiments this summer, they can make pretty cool birthday parties. Liz remembers one of her favorite stories: “We have these wooden dinosaur kits. A customer bought the biggest kit he could. He took all of the wooden bones, dug a big pit, and threw a couple of bones in every once in a while. So he filled the pit with the bones and sand, and he gave each of the kids a shovel and brushes. They had to find all the bones, and then they had to assemble the skeleton.” The kids had hours of fun finding and assembling the bones, then took paint guns and painted the dinosaurs with paint pellets.
For Liz, that’s the best part of what she does. “It’s just the happiness factor of all of it. People really want to spend time with their kids, unplugged, just trying out something new. I love encouraging trying something new. Be brave, take a step, and it’s all okay.”