For some digital detox for kids, look to the latest in craft kits


Digital diversions may have us tethered to tech, but screen fatigue is real. Even my digitally native, young-millennial kids prefer printed books these days. And a recent weekend together at home had us busting out some craft kits.

There might have been Netflix in the background, but everybody's hands were busy with markers, paper, clay and pompoms. We all agreed that being hands-on creative, instead of tapping with our fingers, was a simple and satisfying distraction we wanted more of.

Many people, apparently, can relate. Among the innovative gadgets and gizmos at recent toy and consumer products fairs were lots of booths offering kits that explore art, science and a lot in between.

Several newly launched craft kits caught the eye of James Zahn, senior editor of The Toy Insider. One is Purple Ladybug's groovy Prismic art, geared toward crafters age 12 and up.

"These 3D 'puzzles' are essentially works of art," said Zahn. Six styles are available; you fold and connect the pieces to form a sparkly lantern, USB-powered light string included.

"My 14-year-old daughter and I have enjoyed building these together," he said.


Zahn also mentioned a collab between two well-known toy brands: On its 50th anniversary, Playmobil has teamed up with Crayola to relaunch the Playmobil Color collection. You can use Crayola markers to color plastic clothing and vehicles for Playmobil's little figurines. Zahn himself is drawn to the Hot Rod or Motorbike set.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Sanrio's Hello Kitty character.

Among the related new toys: The Woobles' Cuteness Overload Bundle has crochet projects to make Kitty, her friends Cinnamoroll and My Melody, plus extras like a milk bottle, rose and star. Crochet tutorials are geared for left- and right-handers.


"Pottery as a classic craft picked up steam again during the pandemic," Zahn says. "Blue Marble's National Geographic Hobby Series Pottery Wheel is one recent intro that's showing some staying power."

The kit comes with everything kids and grown-ups need to throw a pot or figure, but it uses air-dry clay, so there's no need for a kiln or oven.

No wheel here, but Ooly's Creatibles Air Dry Clay Kit has 12 lumps of colorful clay plus three plastic sculpting tools; once you've made your creation, it just needs a few hours to sit and dry.

And is there a category Taylor Swift hasn't touched?

"Proving that classic play patterns always come back into vogue, the Swifties have put friendship bracelets back on the map," says Zahn. Cra-Z-Art's Shimmer Sparkle Fashion Bead Bracelets come with embroidery yarns, elastic cord, alphabet beads, pony shapes and iridescent, frosted and metallic beads.


Lindsey Gaimei of The Dalles, Oregon, started a laser engraving business in her garage several years ago, which soon morphed into a shop making homemade craft kits. "When the pandemic hit, we wanted to create something for families to enjoy from the comfort of their home," she said.

Her Woodsy Craft Co kits come with laser-cut wood figures, pompoms, string, markers and other bits to create decorative garlands. The Wilderness Kit has wildlife and pine trees to color and string; other kits feature themes like mushrooms, feathers and llamas.


Marisa Jones Issa of Los Angeles likes the convenience of craft kits for her 10-year-old daughter.

"Samantha's obsessed with slime," Issa says. "She just received a National Geographic Mega Slime & Putty Lab Kit for her birthday, and it included DIY ingredients as well as small containers for the slime and putty. A kit's much easier for parents! When she makes slime from scratch, I find glue or shaving cream or contact solution all over the place."

The slime lab kit comes with magnetic, fluffy, color-changing and bouncy putties as well as a glow-in-the-dark slime lab.

Issa likes its source, too: "With the Nat Geo label, I know she's also learning about science."


For budding stitchers, there are wee embroidery hoop kits with stencils of mushrooms, cats, deer, flowers, birds and a ladybug.

Skillmatics' Foil Fun gives kids a canvas background of sea, forest or outer space and an array of colorful foil stickers to design a scene.

For adults, the self-expression and satisfaction of crafting can be something of a stress-reliever.

KiwiCo has some kits for older kids that adults might enjoy assembling. There's a bubble machine, a walking robot, a remote-controlled snake and light-up wire-art kits, among other offerings.

You can decorate your own playing cards with a kit from Kikkerland. The back pattern's whimsical doodle is by Spanish artist Hector Serrano; the front is blank, so you can personalize it with supplied markers.

Also at Kikkerland are kits to make an old-timey, wind-up music box, with cylinders that play tunes like "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" and "Frere Jacques." There's also a kit to make a harmonica.

New York-based writer Kim Cook covers design and decor topics regularly for The AP. Follow her on Instagram at @kimcookhome.