#10 - Drawing Conclusions
Going old-school with this first one, mainly cause I just found this book in a box while packing and it prompted the whole idea for this post. Drawing is an easy one with a little instruction book like this one pictured and you already have all the supplies laying around the house! I got this book when I was in grade school. In 1989. Yep, I've had this book for over 30 years. It lost it's cover, but the rest was in pretty good shape so I decided to scan it in and share it with everyone! So if your kids enjoy drawing and want to learn to draw some cars they didn't know existed, download this PDF free of charge and let them have at it! There's also plenty of other books out there that have updated cars, so you can definitely find something your kids will be excited about!
#9 - Model Citizens
My interest in cars can be traced all the way back to a plastic model I got for my birthday one year as a kid. I loved how I could examine and interact with all of the pieces of the car, inside and out, and I could build this little rolling masterpiece all by myself. Now, I was extremely young, so when I was done it obviously looked nothing like the picture, because the picture was not of a mono-chromatic mess adorned with crooked torn decals with fingerprints melted into a now hazy windshield. This model however only furthered my interest in cars and I built more and more models as I grew up, each one looking better and better, until I could afford to get the real thing to play with. Plastic models are great for teaching patience, perseverance, and attention to detail. At first it can be an incredibly frustrating experience as kids, like I was, just want to get to the end-product as fast as possible. This causes delicate parts to break and other mistakes made with permanent consequences (see fingerprints in hazy windshield...). I had to learn on my own to slow down, take my time, pay attention to what I was doing and follow the instructions, but a parent or older sibling as a mentor will speed this process up and create some great memories in the process while bonding (no pun intended, at least not when I typed this). Now for obvious reasons I'm partial to this 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS model from AMT, but there are thousands of plastic models available. Even if you're not into cars, you can get planes, boats, even tanks and submarines! Just don't forget to get the other necessities like glue, paint and paint brushes, and tools for getting the parts off of the sprues and placing tiny pieces. Here's a pretty cool all-in-one kit that I wish I had as a kid, but I would recommend a bigger mat or lay down some newspaper or use a drop cloth like in this kitas well to protect your table or countertop.
#8 - Netflix and Grill
We all need to eat, so make it a family night! Fire up the grill and make some burgers and hot dogs (or beyond burgers and tofu dogs, I don't judge), gather in the family room, and watch some classics like Two Lane Blacktop, Gone in 60 Seconds, or the Fast and Furious Deci-ology (yeah, I made that word up, but it's getting close right?). You can even still get these cool car shaped food baskets (that I used to get my mini corn dogs meal in at a local restaurant) to serve dinner in instead of plates. To make movie time feel even more like you're at the theater or drive-in, you can get these popcorn tubs and pre-portioned packets of actual movie popcorn! (actual results may vary, read all instructions and cautions carefully. Also make sure to use the right size pot, popcorn expands!)
#7 - LEGO Me
I mean, come on. It's a classic, but it's not all houses and the minecraft-esqe landscapes that we grew up with. Lego has been the Aerosmith (or Madonna) of the toy world by morphing to stay relevant! They continuously release new kits in every genre, so much like plastic models, no matter what your interest is they have a kit in that genre. There's even Lego stores set up like candy stores where you can buy pieces in bulk, or buy just the one special piece you need to complete your life size replica of the Back to the Future Delorean. Lego is also great cause the whole family involved at the same time, with kits spanning all age groups. For the young'ns this Ninjago kit (ages 4+) is a great starter and for the middles this Ferrari kit (ages 7+) is pretty cool too. For something more realistic and challenging (and therefore more expensive) this Porsche 911 RSR (ages 10+), Land Rover Defender (ages 11+), and Mustang (ages 16+) are sure to be a hit with the tweens/teens and even Mom and/or Dad.
#6 - Shocking! (but not really)
Automotive electricians are in demand! Ever since I learned about this company I've wanted to buy some for myself cause they look so cool. Little Bits makes kits to teach kids about circuits and electronics in a fun, easy, and safe hands-on way. This Gizmos and Gadgets kit has several projects to build, but with some adult assistance you can use the parts to build your own custom creation. Snap Circuits also has some pretty neat kits to teach the fundamentals of electricity like this kit with over 300 projects to build! For the more advanced in the family this R2-D2 kit even teaches some entry level programming!
#5 - Life in 3D
This is a hobby I've absolutely enjoyed diving into. It's so fun to design something on Tinkercad, and having it actually come to life on a 3D printer. I have things on my desk at work that I've printed and more than once they've been the topic of conversation. I started by borrowing a friend's Flashforge Creator (which I can't even find a link to anymore), then upgrading to my own Creator Pro, and now I have a Creality CR-10S Pro (which I love) but it looks like it's been upgraded to the CR-10S Max. A widely acclaimed entry printer is the Ender 3 Pro though. It's comparatively inexpensive, doesn't take up a lot of space, and is pretty easy to use. I also recommend starting with PLA filament like this MatterHackers Pro PLA because ABS will just make you angry with adhesion and warping problems. You could also use the software included or an open source slicing software, but my life got a whole lot easier when I broke down and bought Simplify 3D. Obviously the first model you print is the calibration cube to figure it all out, but you're not part of the club until you print a 3D Benchy without supports! There's tons of other models available for free download on sites like Thingiverse. There's also a ton of resources online to get you going and to help troubleshoot or fine-tune your prints. One YouTube channel that has helped me out quite a bit is 3D Printing Nerd. He's not only extremely knowledgeable, his videos are easy to digest so all ages can understand even the complicated bits.
#4 - That's Hot (Wheels)
I never had my own set but I always had fun at friends' houses building tracks all over the room. Those were simpler times back then with only straights and connectors, where to make a corner you just curved the track. Well kits these days come with banked hairpins, loops, and even accelerators! This one pictured is a good starter kit with all those elements included, but to have the most fun I suggest getting the add on kits and see if you can make a car visit every room in the house! (Don't forget to make a jump!)
#3 - Part of the Game
Games are one of the oldest forms of family entertainment in existence, but they don't look the same anymore. We're not limited to just a few either, there's new board, card, and tabletop games coming out every week! One creative one that caught my eye is CoderMindz. It's a board game that teaches programming while you play! Two others that look fun and that I just added to my cart are Formula D and Rallyman GT. Both of these games also come with expansion packs, so gameplay will never run dry!
#2 - Can We Build It? (Yes We Can!)
Yeah, I know, but all other subtitle puns for this toy seemed inappropriate.
If your kids need something a little more advanced than Legos, they can step up to the real nuts and bolts and steel of Erector! I only had the basic set growing up but now they have this cool 25 in 1 Supercar Set, plus a bunch more including a Ferrari!
#1 - All Hands On Deck
There's no greater bonding opportunity than having your kids be involved with something you truly enjoy and are passionate about. Your enthusiasm will pique their interest and add a lifetime of memories to the bank. Cars can be a dangerous hobby though so make sure they're not only learning skills, but how to perform them safely and all the hazards involved as well. Their curious little minds will cause their curious little hands to get them in to trouble very quickly. This proper training was on display when a friend came over with his 5 year old in tow, and as we were poking around the garage he reminded his son "what are the rules with tools?" To which his son quickly responded "no [safety] glasses no tools!" While it was cute to hear, and even cuter to watch him confidently try to lift an engine block by himself, I also admired his Dad for teaching him to be safe at such a young age so he could be a part of the projects, instead of just pushing him away with the cliché "you're too young, it's too dangerous, get back in the house." Now I know that we all need our octane therapy time but don't forget that these tiny humans are the next generation of the workforce. If you don't teach them, someone else will, and you just might not agree with the curriculum!
While there are obviously metric tons of other options to occupy your kids, this collection will not only be fun for the young auto-nut in your family, it will build skills as well as relationships! Try some of these with your families and let me know which ones you and your family enjoyed the most!