We all know that art and design museums are magical. Where else can kids feast their eyes on important paintings, goof around with hands-on exhibits, and giggle at naked statues (come on, you know that’s true), all before dinnertime? And with a lot of us nervous about major reported cuts to NEA funding, we love how shopping through museum stores are another way to help support the arts.
Museum shops are often where we find some of the best toys — whimsical, unusual, and often educational.
So if you’re looking for a birthday gift or just a “this made me think of you!” kind of present, check out these awesome toys we found from some of our favorite art museum shops, all under $50.
They’re all available online, too. So think of all you’re saving without plane tickets to NYC, DC or London.
Ball of Whacks Magnetic Blocks | Smithsonian Store
Older kids will love this creativity tool, which consists of 30 magnetic blocks (each a “golden ratio” rhombic pyramid) that can be rearranged into a perfect rhombic triacontahedron (or other imaginative sculptures) and ohmygosh just writing this sentence has already made me smarter. So just think what this thing will do for your puzzle-loving tweens and teens. ($40)
Rainbow Playing Cards | NY MoMA
Made by two Brooklyn-based designers, these playing cards are just so pretty. But each set also comes in a foil-stamped keepsake box and with a booklet all about the history of cards and card games. ($13)
Ryan McGinness Soccer Ball | Brooklyn Museum
Your kid doesn’t have to be a soccer stud to love this FIFA-approved ball designed by New York graphic artist Ryan McGinness. McGinness uses things like public signage and logos in his art, which you can see in each section of the ball. ($45)
Getty Marble Tricolor Pencils | J. Paul Getty Museum
The Getty is all about art and art-making, which is just part of the reason these made-for-the-museum pencils are a great gift. Each marbled pencil has three pigments in its nib, which lay down different colors depending on how your kid draws. Run a moistened sponge or brush over the results and — ta da! — the drawing becomes a gorgeous watercolor painting. ($2.95 each)
iWood My First Laptop | The Design Museum
This “powerbook” is fully powered by imagination. It has a hidden compartment for chalk, which kids can use to draw the screen and keyboard and anything else that they can dream up. (about $49)
MoMA Modern Play House | NY MoMA
This isn’t your grandma’s dollhouse. The Museum of Modern Art celebrates the evolution of the modern home (and its cool furnishings) in its exhibits, and this mid-century play house fits right in. The set includes six nested boxes, eight pieces of mix-and-match furniture, and vinyl clings that let kids rearrange and redecorate endlessly. ($9.99, on sale now!)
FlipBooKit: Metropolis Redux Edition | Whitney Museum
For kids who know everything about YouTube and Netflix, this DIY hand-cranked movie loop machine is a true treasure. Easy to assemble for kids 8 and up, the kit lets you make your own video or animated art, and it comes with a pre-made loop from the movie Metropolis. ($48)