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Cheap Kids' Crafts Buying Guide

For budding designers, try Harumika Style Starter Sets (starting at $7.75) from toymaker Bandai. Although nominally a cheap toy for girls, the Harumika fashion sets let any style-savvy child create high fashion by tucking and wrapping fabric swatches and accessories around plastic dress forms.

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This fall, Bandai released a line of Harumika Mannequins (starting at $17), complete with heads, arms, and legs -- features missing from the original dress forms but desired by many little consumers. You can also buy Harumika Style Accents kits, which consist of additional fabric and accessories, as well as purse and shoe kits to the Style Starter sets or Mannequins. A deluxe set, such as the Evening Gown Set (starting at $25), Bridal Collection (starting at $36), or Runway Showstopper Set (starting at $23) are upscale options.

The Friend 2 Friend Friendship Bracelet Kit (starting at $13) from Alex Toys gives children aged 8 and up a way to make friendship bracelets without the frustration that sometimes accompanies cheap crafts requiring lots of manual dexterity. A set of special foam looms enable bracelet weavers to keep track of strings and avoid tangles. Up-and-coming jewelry designers can string together colorful wooden beads with the Gleeful Garden Wooden Bead Set (starting at $10).

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Future DIY-ers who like to build can saw and hammer to their heart's content with the Real Construction Starter Workshop (starting at $13) by Jakks Pacific. This cheap toy for boys or girls includes child-safe "tools" and heavy-duty wood-look foam and instructions for six starter projects, such as an airplane or a birdhouse. Replacement foam, called "kid wood," and fasteners can be purchased separately to extend the useful life of this craft toy, as can other child-friendly tools. Dinosaur lovers can forge their own prehistoric pals with a 3-D Dinosaur Woodcraft Construction Kit (starting at $6) by Puzzled, or with a foam construction kit by Blocco, such as the Vilociraptor & Pterosaur (starting at $20) or the larger Dinosaur kit (starting at $20).

Another cheap craft toy is Paperoni (starting at $8), a cheap craft set that lets youngsters create designs by sticking tiny rolls of paper to adhesive forms. Paperoni Deluxe Studio Bendaroos (starting at $6), flexible wax-coated strings that twist, roll, and stick into whatever shapes active imaginations dream up, is also a good cheap gender-neutral craft kit.

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The Orb Factory puts out a line of Sticky Mosaic craft kits (starting at $17) with themes like unicorns and ponies, fairies, pirates, and dinosaurs that include small, adhesive foam squares for making mosaics on numbered templates. These cheap craft kits for girls and boys are aimed at the 6-to-10 crowd, but the Orb Factory also offers My First Sticky Mosaic kits (starting at $10) for tots aged 3 and up.

One benefit of giving the gift of a kids' craft toy is that many can be used again and again. One mom writes on the MomsTakeOnThings blog that she can stretch the fun of her daughter's Harumika fashion set with household fabric scraps. The Friend 2 Friend Friendship Bracelets also gets extended life with the purchase of additional embroidery floss, notes a parent in a toy review on Amazon. Even crafts that get "used up" leave behind a work of art for kids to show off or play with, as this toy review on FatBrainToys.com notes about the Melissa & Doug Decorate-Your-Own Wooden Train that a young boy received. (See our full review and child tester video review for more information.)

Art and building projects have good educational value: They teach children about problem solving, awaken creativity, and hone fine-motor skills. Many children find crafting soothing, while others get frustrated or discouraged by projects that are too challenging or just not engaging. The Friend 2 Friend Friendship Bracelet Kit is a good example; some toy reviews on Amazon say kids (including teens) quickly learn the process and are thrilled with the results while others report the instructions are confusing and adult assistance is required. So know your customers and carefully choose a cheap craft toy for kids that caters to their interests and abilities.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Children, Family, Holidays,
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