Contraption & trap supplies for kids
December 2, 2016 8:33 PM   Subscribe

My five-year-old nephew likes building traps and contraptions. I know he uses tape and bungee cords, and presumably stuff from around the house. What could I give him for Christmas that would help support this hobby? Do you have kids that like to build? What're their favorite scraps and fancy things to create with?

So far I'm thinking maybe shoeboxes, tin foil, a few colours of masking tape, and more bungee cords. Any of this no go? Anything way better?
posted by Margalo Epps to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Boobytraps FM 5-31

Free PDF here.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:39 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

A variety of hasps and latches maybe?
posted by mcduff at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2016

This thing is great.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:47 PM on December 2, 2016

There is always the game Mousetrap.
posted by cecic at 8:53 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There are these cool plastic screws you can use to build things out of cardboard.
(This being Lee Valley, I'm sure they are listed at 3 times the cost they would be elsewhere, so you might be able to find them cheaper online.)
posted by bluebelle at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

We did this a lot using random stuff + TinkerToys, both the super-large-life-size and the tiny regular ones. The large ones were especially excellent, but I think they're not made anymore. Searching for [giant tinker toys] showed some on eBay. Check for safety. They made great light sabers, swords, etc. but also awesome frameworks for blanket forts.

The best, though, was using branches from the woods behind our house to lean against things, and to tie them with thin rope to trees.
posted by amtho at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2016

Due to my dad’s industrial design career we always had modelmaking stuff around the house. Bristol board, foamcore, and other stiff and cuttable materials were my favorites.
posted by migurski at 9:07 PM on December 2, 2016

You know what might be fun... an electronics projects kit? These used to be easy to come by, and would invariably include a tripwire alarm project and/or light-beam-break alarm. Probably harder to find age-appropriate stuff now (although the hobbiest electronics market in general has exploded, most things I see are aimed at older people.)
posted by teatime at 9:26 PM on December 2, 2016

Best answer: Some really nice rope would be great. I'd recommend 5 or 6mm cordage from a place that sells climbing ropes. At the same time, you can pick up some shock cord and maybe a few snap shackles that can be tied onto a rope.

My favourite toy at that age was a nice piece of rope with a brass snap shackle on the end, though I was also very fond of bungee cords.
posted by ssg at 9:37 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Please enjoy the glory of American Science & Surplus. At five, your nephew might get lots of fun just looking at a print catalogue and getting ideas ( and practicing reading, their copy is usually pretty good), but you will probably find lots of gems in the bulk section and arts and crafts supplies, deeply discounted and always a little quirky and almost never the same stock twice.
posted by Mizu at 9:41 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

This kid would enjoy some dominoes.
posted by bq at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

The book "sneaky uses for everyday things" seems like a good guide to making traps and contraptions from household items. I admit I haven't actually read this book, but I've been meaning to get it and your question just reminded me of it.
posted by Sleeper at 1:49 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

(The Makedo™cardboard screws from Lee Valley are great, and are very slightly cheaper than importing them, in Canada at least.)
posted by scruss at 5:55 AM on December 3, 2016

We just bought this for my six-year-old stepson for Christmas.
posted by ficbot at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2016

Best answer: Pulleys. Duct tape in a variety of colors. A big trap for himself to hide in: a big cardboard box like for a dishwasher or washing machine. Some kind of webbed material.
posted by mareli at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2016

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