San Francisco's Exploratorium is the world's first and foremost hands-on science museum. Its store staff knows of what it speaks when it comes to picking hot holiday
items for nature lovers, the scientifically inclined, tinkerers, even artists, on anyone's shopping list. Here are the top 12 selections. Or go to www.exploratorium.edu/store, to find your own cool stuff. For phone orders, call (415) 561-0393.
All proceeds from the Exploratorium Store support the activities of the Exploratorium. Stop by often — in person or on the Web — and take a little science from the Exploratorium home with you for the holidays.
Kids can tap away to new melodies with Water Xylophone,™ from Right Brain.™ They can create a variety of songs and sounds with a real, high-quality instrument that floats on water. They can experiment with music by changing around the detachable keys to make up new melodies, or stick the keys on the walls to turn the whole tub into a percussion instrument! Two mallets and easy-to-follow, color-coded music sheets are included! Works great out of the tub, too. Promotes creativity, music, language, fine and gross motor development, and confidence.
Tub Tunes Water Flute
Forget rubber duckies, now you can play music in the bathtub and learn science at the same time. Conceived by a San Francisco kid who grew up visiting the Exploratorium, this toy was named one of Parents Best Toys of the Year. This real music instrument can be tuned with water to create a variety of songs and sounds. Water Flutes are filled by filling them with water. Kids then follow the color-coded bathtub friendly (waterproof) music sheets to play a tune. Or they can improvise to make a slide whistle or create their own melodies. Ages 4-8. $11.90
Virtual Speed Baseball
A must-have for baseball fans everywhere. Calculate how hard you can throw the ball. This is high tech stuff, DO NOT even think about batting this ball. Instead it requires a pitcher and a catcher at a specified distance. When the ball is thrown, it times itself and converts the relationship between distance and time to miles per hour. The digital display built right on the face of the real leather baseball reads out your speed – the perfect gift for baseball fans who believe they throw a mean fast ball but are algebraically challenged. ($22.90)
Undercover Spy Case
Harness the imagination and curiosity of kids in this junior detective kit rife with forensics science. This smart spy case contains a complete set of essential detective gear including fingerprint powder and dusting brush for picking up and matching fingerprint specimens that kids can locate around the house – assuming that’s the scene of the crime. ($19.90)
Over 100 wacky magnetic face-part photo tiles are ready to install on your fridge, locker or any other steel surface you can think of. Graffiti-ize your family portraits by hanging them and then doctoring your sister’s nose or your father’s chin or construct wild faces of your own creation from scratch. A great party activity, these offbeat eyes, noses, and smiles also double as amusing refrigerator magnets for your important papers. ($14.95)
Block-n-Roll Marble Maze Construction Block System
A Dr. Toy winner, this 200 piece marble maze construction system allows kids to build spectacular structures and watch their marbles roar through ramps, tunnels and drop-throughs. 90 degree turns, crossovers, stops and starts and drop throughs made of durable and colorful plastic fit together to allow both the marbles and the imagination to roll. ($59.90)
Lost in a Jigsaw
This is the jigsaw from hell. Deceptively easy at first, every piece is identically shaped and is seemingly easy to assemble. But once you complete the puzzle, then you have to find your way through the garden maze, comprised of more than 60 garden chambers, each with its own dangers, pitfalls and exits. But there is only ONE correct solution for finding your way out of the maze. If you can’t get out, it’s time to complete the puzzle– again – in another way -- and try to find your way free ad infinitum until you actually find your way free. Includes over 500 diagonally cut pieces. ($21.90)
1000 colorful magnets inspire endless variations in geometric pattern making, whether for pure pleasure or as inspiration for making quilts. A modern approach to the popular folk art common throughout the world, colorful quilted garments were worn for warmth and protection in Asia and Egypt and used as the basis for quilting covers in North America. ($24.90)
This kit combines do-it-yourself ceiling sky making with a star projector that accurately projects a celestial pattern of major stars and constellations onto the ceiling and walls. Then use those patterns as a guide to apply the glow-in-the-dark paint, using five different star markers to match the proper relative size of the stars. A constellation chart with a legend and fun facts provides a fantastic understanding of your very own night sky. ($24.90)
Wedgits Building Board
Wedgits, nest, link and lock together, a very popular building toy that offers creative challenge to the aspiring young engineers and scientists in the family. In a new addition to their line, Wedgits offers a building board, for use will all wedgits sets, providing a solid foundation upon which to construct bigger and better projects. ($12.90)
Wedgits Expansion Set
The expansion set -- with its expansion size pieces -- in conjunction with the new base Building Board, allows children to go bigger and bigger in their designs. ($24.90)