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Duncan Shotton
Duncan Shotton

12 Amazing Pencils for Jotting Down Your Really Good Ideas

Duncan Shotton
Duncan Shotton

The Yellow No. 2 pencil might be a classic schoolroom staple, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix things up.

1. ARROWS; $7

This colorful set of four pencils is a nostalgic callback to trying to figure out the bow and arrow at summer camp. Each pencil has fletching at the end and looks like a real arrow when sharpened.

Find it: Amazon

2. KING KONG; $3

Fans of King Kong can use this skyscraper-like pencil and its accompanying eraser to reenact the giant ape's climb right at their desks.

Find it: Amazon

3. SAFARI ANIMALS; $7

Animal lovers who'd rather be on safari can get a little taste of the wild with this pencil set, which features a tiger, lion, elephant, and zebra. If woodland animals are more your scene, you can try this pack

Find it: Amazon

4. SPROUT; $15

These seemingly innocuous pencils have a secret: Inside each pencil stub is a pack of seeds. When the pencil gets too short to write with, the owner can plant the pencil in the ground and watch as a plant grows in its place. The #2 pencils are made with harvested cedar wood. The pack comes with eight different colored pencils: brown (cilantro), red (cherry tomato), purple (sage), black (sunflower), blue (forget me not), green (basil), and pink (thyme).

Find it: Amazon

5. TWIGS; $15

Made from real pine sticks, the pencils come in six colors: blue, green, orange, red, yellow, and pink. 

Find it: Amazon

6. RAINBOW SHAVINGS; £5

Duncan Shotton is known for his whimsical product designs. His fanciful pencils have colorful tips that transform into rainbows when sharpened. The pencil shafts come in white or black to make the rainbow interior pop.

Find it: Duncan Shotton

7. MATCHBOOK; $9

These tiny pencils, created as part of the Mexico Design Challenge 2011, have a simple purpose: to make their users think about deforestation. The tree-friendly pencils are made with recycled paper and come in a matchbook-like case; the sandpaper strip sharpens them.

Find it: Amazon

8. SCENTED; $14

Scented markers make frequent appearances in school supply boxes, but what about pencils? These colored pencils have food-inspired smells that promise to give off a sweet smell for two years. The flavors include strawberry cupcake, grape soda, cotton candy, root beer, and more.

Find it: Amazon

9. BENDY; $8

Ever get so frustrated that you wanted to bend your pencil in half? Then these might be the pencils for you: They bend enough to ease anger but won't leave wooden shards in your wake. (You can even tie them in knots!) The pencils, which come in a set of 30, are very fun, but tough to sharpen, according to reviews.

Find it: Amazon

10. DRUMSTICKS; $7

Drummers are known to turn almost anything into a pair of drumsticks, especially writing utensils—which makes these drumstick-shaped pencils the perfect gift for the drummer in your life.

Find it: Amazon

11. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT QUOTES; $14

Arrested Development is one of the most quotable sitcoms to ever grace television, so honor it with a collection of pencils with various quotes pressed into the sides. The pack comes with 12 pencils with six different quotes.

Find it: Etsy

12. BROOM; $9

We’re all familiar with the scourge of eraser pills left over from intense erasing. Luckily, these pencils are shaped like brooms, which are perfect for sweeping away all the unwanted eraser debris.

Find it: Amazon

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Smart Shopping
11 Gifts for the Curious Kids in Your Life

No matter their age, you want to find gifts that will keep the kids in your life entertained, stimulated, and give them a sense of accomplishment—even during playtime. Luckily, these 11 gifts will do all of that, and will encourage their curiosity to grow.

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1. RACE ACROSS THE USA; $22

Race Across the USA
Young Explorers

Want to get kids excited about the next big family road trip? Or give them some talking points about their favorite aunt’s home state? This board game helps them understand the geography of the U.S., as well as trivia on each of the 50 states and the major landmarks and capitals.

Find It: Young Explorers

2. ROOT-VUE FARM; $35

Whether they join FFA or not, kids can get a head start on understanding horticulture with this indoor garden system. Plant any root vegetable—carrots, radishes, onions, etc—and watch them obsess over the underground view of their harvest.

Find It: Young Explorers

3. DROID INVENTOR KIT; $100

This is definitely the droid you’re looking for. Recommended for kids in grades 3 to 8, this customizable robot comes with an app that defines more than a dozen missions for kids to send their creations on. And for any Star Wars fans, the Droid makes 20 different sounds, just like from the movies.

Find It: littleBits

4. SPEEDY RACER BILINGUAL LAPTOP; $26

Speedy Racer Bilingual Laptop
Imagine Toys

Kids ages 3 and up can play games, make their own music, and work on language, math, and memory skills with this activity-filled laptop. Plus, the English/Spanish component will help enhance the child’s fluency in both languages.

Find It: Imagine Toys

5. BIKE CHALK TRAIL KIT; $20

Bike Chalk Trail Kit
Uncommon Goods

Think beyond the coloring book. By attaching thick, non-toxic chalk to the back of a bike, kids can work on increased spatial awareness, collaborative drawings with friends, and may perhaps have a greater appreciation for the large-scale, colorful work of a Basquiat or Pollock.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

6. ROCKET SCIENCE DRESS; $30

For little girls who want to shoot for the stars, this Katherine Johnson-inspired dress illustrates her human-calculator abilities as drawn out on a chalkboard. Rocket propulsion simulation, gravity loss equations, etc. You know, the basics.

Find It: Svaha

7. 3DOODLER 3D PRINTING PEN SET; $43

3Doodler 3D Pen Set
Amazon

This wireless pen allows kids to freestyle draw in the air—the eco-plastic filament cools in place quickly, giving kids plenty of practice with spatial reasoning without the costs of a full 3D printer.

Find It: Amazon

8. A COMPREHENSIVE CURTAIN CALL OF BROADWAY COSTUMES; $29

A Comprehensive Curtain Call of Broadway Costumes
Pop Chart Lab

For musical-obsessed kids, this curtain call of famous costumes can serve as a checklist for any Broadway productions they haven't seen (or, more likely, memorized the cast recording and seen the movie version of) yet. Perennial children's favorites like Annie, Grease, and Wicked are included, but you might want to have an answer ready for when your preteen cousin asks to watch Cabaret.

Find It: Pop Chart Lab

9. THE PLAY GYM BY LOVEVERY; $140

The Play Mat by Lovevery
Amazon

Specially designed by experts to stimulate infants for their first year, this play mat grows with your favorite baby. It has five developmental zones in addition to 24 different stage-based activities—like teethers, mirrors, and colorful flash cards. And, when baby becomes a toddler, the mat converts into a tent fort for further imaginative play.

Find It: Amazon

10. STOP MOTION ANIMATION KIT; $60

Stop Motion Animation Kit
Uncommon Goods

Budding animators who need to fine-tune their skills (and patience!) will spend hours moving these silly characters around slowly, photographing their adventures, and editing the film into mini-movies.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

11. PRESCHOOL KIDNOCULARS; $15

Kidnoculars
Young Explorers

Kid-proof and specially designed for tiny hands and faces, these binoculars can help preschoolers get to know the world around them. Play a game like “I Spy” and have them find squirrels in trees, clouds in the sky, or all those Cheerios they spilled behind their bed.

Find It: Amazon

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Amazon
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Smart Shopping
11 Smart Gifts $25 and Under
Amazon
Amazon

Thoughtful, useful gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money. Whether you’re delighting friends and family with small indulgences or making their lives better with practical gadgets, these under-$25 gifts are a pleasure to both give and get.

1. MAXONAR PORTABLE IPHONE FAN; $12

One of the few things your smartphone can't do is cool you down. This gadget to the rescue: It's a clip-on high-speed fan you can aim at yourself at an outdoor concert, while hiking, or on a sweltering subway platform.

Find It: Amazon

2. ANKER POWERCORE+ MINI LIPSTICK-SIZED CHARGER; $20

Anker PowerCore+ mini Lipstick-Sized Charger
Amazon

Few things are worse than a dead phone. Save your friends from that predicament with this lipstick-sized charger, which holds one full iPhone 6 charge (and about one charge for most other phones). Available in five different colors, it's easy to slip into a purse or bag, and can be recharged with the included Micro USB cable.

Find It: Amazon

3. FRED MANATEA SILICONE TEA INFUSER; $10

Fred MANATEA Silicone Tea Infuser
Amazon

Add a little joy to your loved one's morning ritual with this MANATEA infuser, constructed of food-safe silicone. Since it perches cutely on the edge of the cup, they won't have to worry about fishing it out with their fingers. If manatees aren't your thing for some reason (too adorable? too gray?), the same company offers a variety of other nautical infusers, including a deep sea diver, an octopus, and the "TEATANIC."

Find It: Amazon

4. RADIOACTIVE ELEMENTS GLOWING COASTER SET; $20

Radioactive Elements Glowing Coaster Set
Amazon

Impress the chemistry geek in your life with these pressure-sensitive coasters featuring radioactive elements, which light up when you put your drink on them. Each one in the set of four features the atomic number and isotopic mass of the most stable or common isotope of the respective element. Batteries are included.

Find It: Amazon

5. LIBRARY CARD ART PRINT; $12

Library Card Art Print
Etsy

Pay tribute to your favorite reader's favorite book with one of these old-fashioned library card prints, each featuring the Dewey Decimal System number, title, author's name, and first and last lines of a treasured classic—whether it's Tolstoy or Anne of Green Gables. Choose from two sizes (5x7 or 8x10) and a wide variety of titles (or customize with your own).

Find It: Etsy

6. CERAMIC HEDGEHOG PLANTER; $15

Ceramic Hedgehog Planter
Plum & Punch

It's not every day you find a planter pretty enough to be given as a gift, but the gold accents on this hedgehog make him feel extra special. For extra fun, fill it with succulents or air plants (bonus: hard to kill!) before gifting.

Find It: Plum & Punch

7. PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW FINE ART PRINT; PRICES VARY

Louis Renard’s "Fish," Folio 4
Public Domain Review // Public Domain

One of the most interesting history sites on the web also has a gift shop featuring prints of public domain images, drawn from the pages of natural history, travel, ethnography, and other types of fascinating books. (This one is Louis Renard’s Fish, Folio 4, from 1719—the earliest color publication on fish.) Prices vary, but many are around $25 and can be ordered with one of an assortment of frames for an additional fee.

Find It: Public Domain Review

8. PRE DE PROVENCE BUTTERFLY SOAP GIFT SET; $12

Pre de Provence butterfly soap gift set
Pre de Provence

Soaps are an easy hit: Most people like to smell good. This pack of seven pretty shea butter-enriched guest soaps includes familiar favorites like lavender and rose, as well as more distinctive fragrances including sage and starflower. The slightly nubby texture gives them a rustic, hand-made feel that will look beautiful in a bathroom, and the scents will linger.

Find It: Pré de Provence

9. PURE VERMONT ORGANIC MAPLE SUGAR CANDY; $25

Mount Mansfield Maple Products candy
Amazon

Food purists won't be able to quibble with these: The only ingredient is pure certified organic Vermont maple syrup, formed into the shape of a maple leaf and coated with concentrated, crystallized syrup to keep it fresh. Straight from the people at Mount Mansfield Maple Products in the foothills of Vermont's Green Mountains, the candy is packaged in an elegant black-and-gold box and will last for 10 weeks on the shelf—assuming the giftee doesn't eat it all.

Find It: Amazon

10. CAPABUNGA REUSABLE WINE SEALERS; $13

CapaBunga Reusable Wine Sealers
Amazon

Store leftover wine without fear (even on its side) with these caps made of 100 percent silicone, which provides an airtight seal. Each cap in the set features "cheers" in a different language: "Cheers," "Prost," "Santé," and "Salut." Give it to your favorite vino-lover—one who also knows how to practice a little self-control.

Find It: Amazon

11. RAW HONEY SAMPLER; $18

Raw Honey Sampler
Etsy

Who wouldn't love these little luxuries? Eight varieties of pure raw honey, including seasonal harvests and herb-infused treats, straight from a family-run farm in Central Ohio. Aside from being tasty, raw honey is known for a host of healing benefits, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antibacterial properties.

Find It: Etsy

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