As a dad, I'm always on the lookout for so-called dangerous toys. My kids were soldering at age 5 (really), and I bought them microscopes, model rockets, and robots just so they'd feel comfortable around technology and science. Now, I think, I've found something surprisingly cool.
The 3Doodler is basically a toy gun that shoots a stream of plastic. The plastic hardens quickly after extrusion and can be used to create 3D shapes. Think of it as a glue gun that isn't designed to stick things together. Instead, it allows you (and your kids) to create structures out of hard plastic.
Created by a pair of toy makers who got tired of building dolls and robots that didn't really walk, the 3Doodler launched last year and is slowly hitting stores. For $99 you get the "pen" and 50 strands of plastic -- enough for a few weeks of regular use. You can buy different color plastics, and they come in strands that can be swapped out at will. Two buttons -- extrude and retract -- control the flow of the plastic out of the nozzle. It's hard, but not impossible, to hurt yourself with this thing, so the creators suggest adult supervision at all times.
Now for the bad news: This toy gun actually requires some artistic talent. As you can see above, I made a cute little doggy and something like a 3D cube. Also, as you can see above, I'm not very good at sculpting.
This is an arts and crafts system that teaches some very interesting lessons about engineering, manufacturing, and even 3D printing. While you won't be able to re-create the Lego Movie with this kit, your kids will definitely have fun building plates, pets, and even little castles. I took it to a Boy Scouts meeting, and my son and his friends built a jet fighter, each kid taking turns making a part of it. The most patient of the boys then "glued" them together with hot plastic. It was a blast.
It's rare to find a toy that's both fun and educational. That's why I rarely write about toys in this column: Usually if they're fun, they're not educational, and if they're educational, they're not fun. Luckily, this is both.
Would you buy a "dangerous" but creative toy like this for your kids?