My young kids love making stuff and one of their favorite making tools is Make Do. It's a range of plastic tools and components for joining cardboard and other materials together to make cool stuff.
The Make Do range includes tubs that you can make anything you like with and also kits that are intended for a particular project (though you can use the pieces for other things afterwards.)
The Make Do kits include a saw tool that can be used for sawing cardboard, it's great for cutting holes in boxes or sawing off flaps that are not needed. My boys love being able to use a saw. They are 5 and 6 and still a bit young for a real saw, but they can use this plastic saw on their own to create whatever they like.
The saw also has a point on the end which is very effective at making holes in cardboard that you can then poke the clips through to join pieces together.
You also get a range of clips which are a bit like giant split pins - they have a plastic connector which locks the clip in place until you want to remove it. You also get plastic hinges which can be free-moving or locked into position - these give some great options for making cool stuff with parts that can be moved.
It's a bit different and most kids love making things. As well as the Make Do pieces you get ideas for making a robot and sticker sheets to decorate your creation.
There are other kits too to make a plane or a car if that better matches a child's interests. Of course they can still choose to make something different, the plastic pieces can be used to make whatever a child can think up.
As well as the kids using Make Do we have used it a lot to make cardboard accessories for birthday parties. Our most recent creation was a cardboard ninja for the kids to throw shurikens at. (The picture shows the back of the ninja where you can see the blue pins and connectors that make the joints.
We used Make Do clips like split pins to attach the arms and legs so they could move. This works really well as you can just remove the clips afterwards and recycle the cardboard.
In the past we've make a safari lodge and a Christmas grotto using Make Do. We now tend to keep large boxes when we buy a new appliance or piece of furniture as we know we'll make something from them at some point.
For young kids I'd make it in advance and use it as a party prop, but older kids would have great fun working together to build it during the party.
This is the kind of toy that my kids spend hours with. They have enjoyed making stuff since they were toddlers. A lot of children seem to stop once they get a bit older, but I think that's a shame. The planning and making skills are really useful ones to develop. And it's lots of fun too.
Once you've got the Make Do it's a very cheap hobby as you just let the kids use stuff before it gets recycled.
If you've got more than once child then it's worth getting one of the bigger sets so they don't have to fight over the saw (it's always popular!)
Buy: Make Do