11 Brilliant Gifts for the Young Explorers in Your Life

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iStock

If your favorite kids can’t stop asking “why,” if they love running their own experiments, and if they never stop learning new things, these 11 gifts are a great place to grow their curiosity even further.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. FLACK KIT; $300

Imaginations will soar as high as this DIY airplane once it’s assembled. This kit comes with everything necessary to build this RC airplane, from the radio to the charger. All they'll need are a few simple tools, like a screwdriver, and your enterprising young engineer can pilot their first plane. No soldering of parts required.

Find It: Brooklyn Aerodrome

2. WONDERHOOD GRAND HOTEL BUILDING SET; $60

This deluxe building set from Wonderhood Toys—a company devoted to helping foster the next generation of women architects—includes 24 illustrated panels. The pieces can be connected together in different combinations in order to create a hotel building, complete with an elevator. The STEM-friendly kit also comes with two figurines, so that kids can play with their creation once they’re done designing and building it.

Find It: Wonderhood Toys

3. FIRE TABLET; $50

It might be too early give the younger set in your family a smart phone. Fortunately, the Fire Tablet is the perfect middle ground between allowing the curious kid in your family space to learn and explore on their own and being able to keep a close eye on what they’re doing. Amazon Freetime can be downloaded onto the budget-friendly Fire Tablet, which is a subscription program that only grants kids titles they’ve been given access to and allows parents to set daily screen time limits on the tablet.

Find It: Amazon

4. SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION BOARD GAME; $29

Designed by a NASA scientist who has led a major space mission, this award-winning board game introduces kids to space science ideas and concepts. As they compete, players tackle the in-game challenges of developing and launching various space missions. Other players may sabotage your space exploration attempts with government shutdowns and hardware memory swipes, reflecting the real-life struggles of launching a successful mission to space.

Find It: Amazon

5. THINK & LEARN CODE-A-PILLAR; $31

Future coders and programmers can get started early with this caterpillar-shaped toy from Fisher Price. Kids learn while rearranging code-a-pillar’s body segments and figuring out what combination will make it move forward or backward, left or right.

Find It: Amazon

6. SOLAR PHOTOGRAPHY KIT; $15

Help a young artist harness the power of the sun into prints. The instructions for this budget-friendly kit are simple: Set an object or transparency on the sunography fabric included in the kit, let the sun shine down, and then remove the object for the coolest tan line ever.

Find it: Uncommon Goods

7. LITTLE PASSPORTS SUBSCRIPTION BOX; $18 per month or $180 per year

Take your favorite adventurer on a once-a-month trip around the world without ever leaving home. This subscription box service introduces preschoolers to geography through themed lessons. (There's also an option for older kids.) The first box comes with an orange suitcase, world map, an activity booklet and passport stickers, and every monthly box after that contains activities and souvenirs surrounding that month’s theme, such as art, food, landmarks or celebrations.

Find It: Little Passports

8. DA VINCI MINIMAKER 3D PRINTER; $168

It may be small, but this miniature 3D printer can whip out 6-in. creations at 100mm/second. It’s also easy to use, thanks to its 9-point calibration detection, which assures a level print bed. Your curious kid will also have access to loads of resources, like online courses and 3D modeling software specifically designed for beginners. Of course, if they want to hit print right away, there are thousands of 3D models available on the company’s website.

Find It: Amazon

9. AUTHOR'S KIT; $44

As every writer knows, nothing is more exciting than seeing your name in print for the first time. With each author’s kit, your young writer creates a story and dialogue to go along with a wordless illustrated book. Then, the company prints it and sends a copy, complete with author’s bio, to your doorstep. Every author’s kit also includes writing games, an official author’s certificate, and an idea pad to get them inspired.

Find It: Write Brain Books

10. MECCANOID G16; $145

Every tech whiz kid dreams of building their own personal robot, and now they can. MeccaNoid stands 4 feet tall and includes programmable LED eyes, voice recognition capabilities, and 10 motors, which allow it to smoothly move its arms, head, and feet. Although young programmers have three methods for programming the robot, MeccaNoid also comes with 3000 preprogrammed phrases.

Find It: Amazon

11. PROPS IN A BOX; $60

Help budding actors and directors get their movie or play off the ground with whimsical backdrops and quirky costumes. Each box has props for two distinct characters, a backdrop to hang, and access to the Props in a Box moviemaker app.

Find It: Props in a Box

25 Back-to-School Products That Earn High Marks

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iStock

New school style: Whether you're starting college, shopping for the kids, or just want an excuse to treat yourself to new office gear, Mental Floss has you covered. Equip yourself or a loved one with these stylish and functional school supplies.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. COFFEE AND DOUGHNUT POST-ITS; $13

coffee and doughnut Post-its
Courtesy of Post-it

Add some flavor to your notes with the two-pack set of coffee and doughnut Post-its. Each of the 60 sheets is 3.20-by-3 inches.

Find It: Amazon

2. PACKIT FREEZABLE HAMPTON LUNCH BAG; $16

PackIt Freezable Hampton Lunch Bag, Blanket Stripe
Amazon

This spacious lunch bag is designed with a freezable lining, so it can be folded and placed in the freezer. When you're ready to take it on the go, it'll be ready to chill your food for hours. Bonus: It's also lead- and BPA-free.

Find It: Amazon

3. MONSTER REUSABLE SANDWICH BAGS; $11

Orange Monster Reusable Sandwich Lunch Bags
Amazon

Save the Earth and amuse little students with these reusable, dishwasher-safe bags. Each set of four includes two sandwich bags and two snack bags—all with an easy-to-grip opening.

Find It: Amazon

4. BENTO BOX FOR KIDS; $40

OmieBox Bento Lunch Box With Insulated Thermos For Kids
Amazon

This three-compartment bento box is roomy enough to fit a hearty, healthy lunch. The BPA-free container—available in five bright colors—is leak-proof, easy to open, and comes with a built-in thermos.

Find It: Amazon

5. LARGE MONTHLY PLANNER; $15

Large Personal Monthly Planner
Amazon

JStory's minimalist planner is made of thicker-than-average paper and includes a column for notes. And the blank design offers flexibility: You fill in the dates yourself.

Find It: Amazon

6. ORANGE LINED NOTEBOOK; $9

Rhodia Staplebound Orange Lined Notebook
Amazon

French brand Rhodia earned a strong following among artists and designers for its high-quality paper that's unbelievably smooth. The cover is sturdy so you can take notes anywhere.

Find It: Amazon

7. HONEYSTICKS BEESWAX CRAYONS; $23

crayons
Amazon

These sustainable crayons are made of 100 percent beeswax from New Zealand. (They smell like honey, too!) The thick shape is perfect for toddlers to hold.

Find It: Amazon

8. MOPHIE POWERSTATION XL; $66

external battery
Amazon

An external battery is a must for days when shuttling around campus from classes to clubs to rehearsals is unavoidable. This slim rose gold option has two USB ports and is compatible with both smartphones and tablets.

Find It: Amazon

9. CABLEKEEP; $13

Nice GLD-02 Goldie CableKeep
Amazon

This helpful gadget for iPhones holds both your power adapter and USB cable while keeping them tangle-free. It also functions as a stand for your phone when the Cablekeep is plugged into the wall.

Find It: Amazon

10. PARKLAND BAYSIDE KIDS' BACKPACK; $28

Parkland Bayside Kids Backpack
Amazon

Tote books in style with this eco-friendly backpack, featuring a polyester exterior made from recycled water bottles.

Find It: Amazon

11. LEGO BRICK BACKPACK; $50

LEGO Brick Backpack
Amazon

This whimsical statement backpack from LEGO features a padded handle and shoulder straps, so it's as comfortable as it is cool.

Find It: Amazon

12. HERSHEL NOVEL DUFFEL; $81

Herschel Supply Co. duffel
Amazon

Class up your gear with this stylish duffel from Herschel. It features a padded shoulder strap and a special compartment for those dirty cleats.

Find It: Amazon

13. ANTIQUE BRASS PHARMACY FLOOR LAMP; $50

Dawson Antique Brass Pharmacy Floor Lamp
Amazon

Overpower dim dorm room lighting with this brass floor lamp. Its height can be adjusted from 33 inches to a maximum of 55 inches, while the arm can be adapted to shine light at a variety of angles.

Find It: Amazon

14. EGYPTIAN COTTON TOWEL SET; $24

bathroom with towels
Amazon

This set of soft Egyptian cotton towels from Amazon's Pinzon brand includes two hand towels, two washcloths, and two bath towels—all listed as 100 percent cotton and at an affordable price.

Find It: Amazon

15. WHITE MARBLE MACBOOK KEYBOARD SKIN; $12

White Marble MacBook Keyboard Skin
Nordstrom

Protect your keyboard while adding a little luxury to your Macbook with this white marble keyboard skin.

Find It: Nordstrom

16. MAGNETIC CHALK BOARD; $18

chalkboard
Amazon

Get organized with this wood-framed chalk board, which comes with chalk and two vintage-style magnets.

Find It: Amazon

17. COFFEEBOXX SINGLE SERVE COFFEE MAKER; $230

portable coffee maker
Amazon

This ultra-durable single-serve coffee maker is great for the dorm as well as the campground. It's water- and dust-resistant and works with K-cups.

Find It: Amazon

18. TRAVEL MUG; $25

 Zojirushi SM-SA48-BA Stainless Steel Mug
Amazon

If you need java to survive, pick up this sleek vacuum-insulated travel mug, which features a splatter-free push-button lid. It's also lockable, so you won't be that person who spills coffee in class.

Find It: Amazon

19. SIX-PACK OF STACKING DRAWERS; $32

stacking drawers
Amazon

Stack these versatile transparent drawers to create a dresser so you can fit your huge wardrobe in your dorm room.

Find It: Amazon

20. FACETED TAPE DISPENSER; $7

gem tape dispenser
Amazon

This elegant copper tape dispenser will give your desk some class. It's also weighted, so you can grab with ease. (Roll of Scotch tape included.)

Find It: Amazon

21. COUNTERTOP MICROWAVE; $84

microwave
Amazon

Master the art of dorm room microwave cooking with this 1000-Watt model, featuring that all-important popcorn setting.

Find It: Amazon

22. SATEEN SHEETS; $18 AND UP

sheet set
Bed Bath & Beyond

These 400-thread-count sateen sheets feel silky to the touch: They're a simple way to make your dorm room feel luxurious.

Find It: Bed Bath & Beyond

23. TOUCHSCREEN MIST CLEANER; $10

Two-In-One Spray and Microfiber Cloth
Amazon

Use this screen-safe spray to remove dirt and fingerprints from your phone. It comes in a bottle that's coated with microfiber cloth so you can spritz and wipe all in one.

Find It: Amazon

24. MESH SHOWER BAG; $13

 Saltwater Canvas, LLC Zip Top Mesh Shower Bag
Amazon

No more feeling around outside the shower curtain for your shampoo. Take this quick-drying mesh shower caddy right into the stall with you.

Find It: Amazon

25. MINI FRIDGE WITH DRY ERASE BOARD; $250

 Igloo FR326M-D-BLACK Erase Board Refrigerator with Neon Markers
Amazon

Make your dorm room unique with this fun fridge that has a dry erase exterior and comes with neon markers so you can write notes directly on it. No paper and magnets needed. It also includes a freezer unit and ice cube tray.

Find It: Amazon

The Brilliant $20 Gadget That Will Keep Your Beach Umbrella Firmly Anchored in the Sand

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iStock

Failing to properly secure your beach umbrella is more dangerous than you think. Tumbling, airborne umbrellas can be a safety hazard, with the potential to collide with beach-goers. Recently, a woman in Maryland was struck in the chest by one that was carried away by high winds.

Usually, it’s simply a matter of inconvenience—chasing a rogue umbrella is not how anyone wants to spend their day. Today recently broke down some preventative measures to help keep umbrellas secured, including using a rocking motion to bury it in the sand and making sure at least one-third of it is underground. You also want to tilt it into the wind so the gusts help keep it secured. 

The best way to avoid umbrella-related mishaps, though, is to opt for a sand anchor. These cheap-but-effective devices are like giant screws that bite into the sand for a much more secure fit. You then place the umbrella pole in the anchor. You can find the Beachr Beach Umbrella Sand Anchor, which fits all sizes of umbrella, for $19.97 on Amazon.

Experts like beach superintendents also advise you to consider taking down umbrellas if it's too windy and never, ever bringing a patio umbrella to the beach. With a larger surface area to catch wind, they can be extremely dangerous.

[h/t Today]

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