Artist Marilyn Scott-Waters believes so strongly the world needs more toys that she gives them away. I found her website last year during a search for a mini paper trebuchet. Her intricately illustrated, printable design turned out to be great at lobbing pennies off the kitchen table. Even easier and more spectacular are the projects in The Toymaker’s Workshop: Paper Toys You Can Make Yourself. Eleven colorful toys are printed on thick paper already perforated and scored, easy to punch out, fold and glue. Best of all, they do stuff: They slide, glide, hop, rock or hold things. Build a wee palace for the tooth fairy (and a box for the offered tooth), little theatres, a toy workshop, pirate ships, a Unicorn Forest peep show and, to house tiny seasonal treasures, a Nature Trunk, plus a delivery van, critter seesaw and antique flying machine. The instructions are brief and clear, and kids eight and older will be able to manage solo. Still, since one of the Toymaker’s goals is to “help grownups and children spend time together making things,” intergenerational collaborations are ideal.
UNFOLD YOUR MIND
Ever wish you could find the time to sit down and give origami a try? Or perhaps you know someone overwhelmed by work who could use a quick, creative treat? Sure, it takes time to make anything, find materials, stay organized and keep up with instructions. But the brilliant idea behind Origami for Busy People is that the time commitment is almost nil. Take an average coffee or lunch break, school pick-up line or doctor appointment delay and make it refreshingly creative. Expert origamist Marcia Joy Miller includes everything necessary to create 27 fun little projects: the how-tos and all the papers. No glue, tape or scissors needed. Models include a reversible star, spring flower, fluted vase, parrot paper clip and projects that spin, make noise, store things and just look nifty on display. Both process and product are not only enjoyable, they’re good for us: Folding flat paper into three-dimensional sculpture enhances cognitive skills and has therapeutic benefits for all ages.
TOP PICK FOR LIFESTYLES
The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal and Joe Meno is a glorious, colorful brick of a coffee-table book. It is “an ode to the brilliance of adult fans of LEGO as well as to the toy they love.” Beginning with the history of the LEGO company, it moves right to the question many feel compelled to ask: Why are LEGOs irresistible to grownups? The chapter on minifigs could be answer enough, with exquisite pages on the history, scale, design and creative customizations of the tiny, iconic LEGO humans. Those of us who are certifiable LEGO junkies are examined just as closely, from the ones who re-create real-life landmarks, buildings, vehicles and movie scenes, to the glorious geeks who explore fantasy and sci-fi themes like steampunk and the post-apocalyptic. Other chapters introduce recognized artists who use LEGOs as a medium; fans who create visual narratives with models, comics, stop-action film and dioramas; the digital and online LEGO worlds; robotics (Mindstorms is LEGO’s best-selling product); fan conventions; and, most surprising, the application of LEGOs in therapy, architecture, medicine and engineering. The diversity and loyalty of LEGO fans really are as marvelous as the toy itself.