The 10 Best Unusual Kids’ Toys
Bored of stuffed animals and action figures, and looking for something a little more unusual for your kid’s birthday this year? Read on for our pick of the most interesting, distinctive and downright fun 10 best unusual kids’ toys on the market!
1. Toy metal detector
When pirates hunted for treasure, they took to the high seas with only an old map, a thirst for adventure, and a rumor of a chest of gold medallions guarded by the ghosts of a hundred drowned Spaniards on the far side of Skeleton Island. Modern-day treasure hunters, however, can benefit from metal detectors to home in on that buried bounty. And now there are inexpensive toy metal detectors available, meaning kids can use them to see what treasures lie in their own backyards!
Just to manage your expectations: it would require a more sophisticated metal detector than available on the toy market to find really small pieces of metal – if you’re expecting to find Roman coins several feet below the surface then the toy will come up short. But burying coin stashes just out of view will make for a fun treasure hunt – or, kids can just play about with the detector, working out what sets it off and what doesn’t. As well as being fun, it might get children thinking about different types of material and how they can have different properties. And you never know what you might find lurking just below the surface in your own garden!
2. Marbles competition board
Did you know that the game of marbles has its own world championship – held in the English village of Tinsley Green every Good Friday since 1588 when a chap named Giles defeated his rival Hodge to win the hand of a local milk maiden? And while I sense you might not be penciling the 2021 version into your diary, kids can still have great fun playing the ancient ball-rolling game on a toy marbles arena.
Now, I don’t know what the rules are down in Tinsley Green, but I suspect they’re a little more complicated than they need to be for a kids’ game. Fortunately, all that’s really required for a marbles competition board is a rug, a piece of plywood or another flat surface with different ‘target zones’ marked out, and a certain number of points assigned to each zone: players then take it in turns to try and roll their marbles to land on the zones giving maximum points. For a bit of added competition, you can allow players to knock each other’s marbles out of the way!
A marbles carpet from the shop is a timesaver and a good present, but if you’re feeling crafty it would be fairly easy to make one of these unusual kids’ toys with the kids at home – either by drawing on a board or taking to the driveway with some chalk. Of course, remember to be careful when little ones are around, as marbles present a choking hazard to toddlers.
3. Sniper nerf gun
I remember the scene only too well. My fellow troopers and I were huddled in our base, besieged and under fire. As we prepared to break out and make an audacious charge on the enemy’s position, we knew this was our final stand: a time for hearts to be emptied and left on the battlefield, a time when legends would be born.
No, I’m not describing a flashback to a tour of duty: our base was the garden shed, the enemy my brother and his friend Duncan, and our weapons of choice the simple Nerf gun and their pellets of foam. Ah, the classic Nerf: allowing kids to become backyard heroes for many a long year now.
And the latest item in the Nerf arsenal is the sniper. Complete with a sight to look through that makes you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie, the sniper is for long-range combat and adds another layer of intrigue to playing around in the garden of the house. With the Nerf sniper, kids will be able to guard their base against intruders coming from far and wide!
Of course, the soft foam Nerf rockets are harmless – and kids don’t have to use them to engage in battle. These unusual kids’ toys are great for all kinds of fun, like shooting targets together and trying to improve accuracy. Either way, the sniper Nerf is a pretty cool addition to a kid’s toy collection: they’ll love running around the garden with it and giving life to their inner Rambo. Check out this neat review of the best nerf sniper rifles on the market.
4. Ninja Line
If you’re looking for a fun way for your kids to stay active (or to tire them out to make bedtime easier…), then the ninja line could be just what you need.
This piece of equipment allows you to build an aerial jungle gym that kids can hang from and try to make it from one end to the other. The kit contains a ratchet strap that you’ll need to run between two trees or posts. To build the obstacle course, you need to hang the accessories from the strap using the D-rings provided – hooks for kids to dangle from, ladders to balance on, rope balls to grip, and so on.
Slackers produce a few different lines with varying lengths and objects that will help your kids practice their ninja moves!
5. A techy paper airplane
Thought paper airplanes were lame? Did you know that an average leaf of plain office paper has the same strength-to-thickness ratio as the lightweight aluminum sheet metal used in real aircraft? And paper airplanes just took another step closer to their skyward equivalents, thanks to the Powerup Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane Kit.
So how does it work? Well, you start by folding up the paper in the traditional manner (you can use any paper, but Powerup have created a few templates – as well as YouTube tutorials showing you the best ways to fold). Then, you slot in the Powerup apparatus: a small piece of plastic that slots on the plane’s nose as easily as a paper clip, and is connected to a shaft that runs to a small propeller at the back.
Now here comes the magic: that plastic piece on the nose contains a chip, and by downloading an app you can connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. That allows you to control the propeller in two ways. You can manage the throttle with a slider on your phone’s screen, and you can steer the plane by moving your phone from side to side, which turns the rudder.
The screen display on the app is simple, yet still makes you feel like a real pilot: there’s a ‘fuel level’ meter (showing the battery charge) as well as attitude indicator (that instrument on a plane that displays the earth and sky to show how level you’re flying).
And the similarities to real-world flight don’t stop there. Kids can make modifications to the wing design, flaps, the type of paper used, and so on: then they can watch to see how these changes affect the plane’s flight. Paper airplanes have always been used for experimentation purposes (Da Vinci built himself a small parchment glider when investigating the principles of flight), but now that there’s a paper plane that stays in the air for more than a few seconds, it’s so much easier to watch the effect of those modifications. For any aspiring aeronautical engineers out there, this is a toy that will go down very well indeed – in fact, just as well as it goes up!
6. Rocking unicorn/tiger/animal of your choice
The kind of rocking horse we know today was popularised in the 1700s, with wealthy landowners using them to allow children to develop their balance as practice for riding real horses. But seeing as nowadays most of us don’t grow up preparing for life as a jousting knight, there’s no need to be limited to the humble horse: why not clamber onto a whale and pretend to be voyaging through the ocean blue? Crate and Barrel produce a range of animal rockers – including zebras, hippos and polar bears – to show that our rideable unusual kids’ toys need no longer be limited to the equine.
7. Video Game Creation Kit
Creating video games – sounds like something a little complicated for a child, no? Well, this seemingly advanced technological feat can now be accomplished by any youngster, thanks to these sets.
So how do they do it? You’ll need a device like a tablet or smart-phone (preferably with a decent-sized screen), on which to download an app. In the version produced by Doodlematic, you then need to draw five things on paper: an avatar (the main character), a setting, a goal, an enemy and hazards. So, for example, you could draw a Nemo-style clownfish as the hero, corals and, starfish to create an underwater setting, a shell as the goal that you need to reach, an evil octopus for an enemy, and some jellyfish and crabs as hazards for you to avoid.
These drawings get scanned into the app, and magically turned into your very own video game! In this example, you’d be controlling the friendly orange fish as he strives to reach his home shell, dodging crabs as the villainous octopus chases him!
Of course, the end result is not likely to be a game that’s going to be the next big release on PlayStation this summer. But the fun is not so much in the playing– it’s in the creating. The design process isn’t always smooth: while trying to develop new games and virtual obstacle courses, it’s likely that some of them won’t work and the game will get stuck. Fixing these will need problem-solving skills and creativity – which is exactly what, at their best, video games should encourage!
8. Cardboard igloo
Building dens and forts is a classic childhood activity. But how about this distinctive cubby house from Prezzy Box, inspired by the traditional dwelling place of the Inuit peoples of the Canadian Central Arctic?
Let’s face it, the igloo is one of the most awesome types of shelter that human cultures have invented: with an external temperature of -45°C, the inside of an igloo can reach 15°C from body heat alone. And while kids hopefully won’t need to use these to keep out the cold of an Arctic night, a cardboard igloo is still a cozy place to snuggle into, play some games or just generally hide away from mum and dad.
9. The Aqua Shield
The inventions of the tank, the airplane, and the long-range rocket all brought about sweeping changes to military strategy: now there can be a similar revolution in the tactics of the summer water fight, thanks to the Aqua Shield.
The Aqua Shield is a water gun that’s also, well, a shield, allowing you to pivot between attack and defense. Shelter behind the shield as you approach your opponent, before blasting a jet of water from the front of it once you’ve found the right spot! Backyard water games just entered another strategic level!
10. Tin Can Robot
Just finished a can of Sprite or Coke? Don’t throw the can away yet – along with a kit from 4M, you can use it to make a cool little robot. The kit contains a basic battery, wiring and other parts that you need to build the frame – slot the can in to form the body, give your robot a name (optional) and you’re ready to go! The finished device isn’t super techy, but it’s still a delight – its googly eyes wobble around as it does a funny walk around the floor or table.
This robot needs a bit of time to assemble, but it’s less complicated than many such kits out there and is a good way to get started on DIY unusual kids’ toys. And you don’t need to settle for a robot that looks like it’s sponsored by Sprite – why not paint the can your way for some added personalization?