The Dr.’s Impressions This set contains 21 cards, each featuring a different location. Each card shows a beautiful photograph, facts, history and trivia about the location.
Kids’ Perspective The kids who looked at these cards, ages 9 and 12, liked the pictures and the strange facts but were a little overwhelmed by the amount of information.
Recommendation These cards are beautiful and the facts and trivia are fascinating, but it is a little like reading an encyclopedia. We take one or two out at dinner to introduce a new place, but are usually not able to read through the entire card without getting overwhelmed. — Dr. Tiffany Wright, 11/1/08
What Is It? This game for young children includes a soft, cloth box that opens to reveal four pieces of pizza joined by Velcro®. On the inside of the box top are five cloth toppings (pepperoni, mushroom, meatball, tomato and onion) tucked into pockets and a server holding four recipes (Majestic, Deluxe, Old Fashioned and Super Duper) that show the numbers and pictures of the ingredients that go with each. The toppings have Velcro backs for attachment to the pizza, and the box also closes with Velcro. What We Thought Pockets Pizza displays good, old-fashioned quality with hand-sewn appeal and a softness that makes it safe and playable for toddlers. The little server is cute, and the details of the presentation, such as the bright, embroidered names of the ingredients, make it attractive. Also, the opportunities to count, match and learn fractions make it a nice educational tool. Overall, the game might benefit from different or brighter colors, as the box and some of the other shades seem a bit dull. I would also recommend two more toppings, in order to fill all the open spots on the pizza. This game made me hungry! Why They’ll Want It Children will want to eat this game up as they act like little chefs, placing pepperoni or mushrooms onto their masterpiece. The machine-washable toy is a great take-along and would be easy to pack due to its soft, compressible nature. Especially with parents’ help, kids could really reinforce their early math skills and have fun while they’re at it. — Julie L. Jones, 2/7/08
Name: Senior Year Game Company: CYGNETCOMM Age: 12 and up Price: $29.95 Category: Educational
What Is It? “Senior Year Game” is a board game that helps prepare kids for the extreme social pressures of high school— in a fun way! Two to six players ages 12 and up move around the board, hoping to avoid pitfalls such as “Flunked test because you’re too high,” and make it to graduation. What We Thought Even good kids go bad in this game. In one turn, a player snags the lead in the school play; on the next he sniffs glue and can’t find his way out of the house. The game aptly mimics the public humiliations of high school by forcing players to answer “pop quiz” questions, thereby revealing their ignorance to co-workers and friends. In our experience, the “You’re Busted!” cards elicited the most glee from fellow players, but everyone got busted sooner or later. Some of the advice is questionable: On one space, a player is “involved in a ‘date rape’ situation”; the recommendation is “be more careful,” where it should be “report the creep to the police!!”
Why They’ll Want It Parents and educators will find “Senior Year Game” a useful tool for teaching kids how destructive behavior will hinder their progress in life. Kids will enjoy the extreme twists and turns of the play, as well as quizzing their elders on long-forgotten trivia. “Senior Year Game” also provides a great opportunity for adults to discuss serious issues, such as drug use, sexuality and responsibility, in a nonconfrontational way. — Alison Marek (8/28/07)
What Is It? It’s a board game that deals in math, but very specific math: adding and subtracting integers, positive and negative integers. For those who don’t remember what an integer is, or, more importantly, what a negative integer is, this is the game for you. And, it’s definitely the game for kids first learning about them. It has a colorful undersea-inspired board with a bubble route that leads to a treasure chest. Up to six “divers” (cool colored plastic game pieces) start at the top. In the easiest incarnation of the game, players roll three dice (one red, one white, one blue) and form an equation. If the answer is a positive number, the player moves forward accordingly. A negative number: back. First person to the treasure chest wins.
What We Thought Okay, this is a game for ages 8 and up and my son’s 7, but he’s pretty darn good at math (and we’ve done negative numbers for a couple years now), so we thought we’d give it a try. First, we talked about the cool underwater stuff (he just got back from Hawaii and has been seeing this stuff for real). We then started the game. He was green, and I was blue. He rolled the dice and made the equation. Negative number. I rolled the dice and got a negative number. This went on for awhile, and we got a little frustrated, but finally, he got a positive number, and we were on our way. It took a little skull work, and a long time (too many negative numbers), but we finally came to a final equation showdown. I got the negative solution, and my son got the positive and won.
Why They’ll Want It It’s an excellent primer for adding and subtracting negative and positive numbers; a fun way to learn. Unfortunately, for us, there was more going backwards than forwards. There’s a level 2 and level 3 (for more sophisticated players). These are decks of equations (with the answers on the backs). Rather than two term equations, there were three term equations, and the upper level added multiplication and division. This should be useful for a number of learning years to come. All in all it’s a fun game and keeps the mind sharp, but there could be a few more twists and turns on the board. It’s definitely unique for what it does.
Name: Light ‘N’ Strike Math Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC. Age: 6-11 Price: $29.95 Category: Educational
What is it? Light ‘N’ Strike Math is like an amusement park calculator: large and brightly colored with a soft mallet for striking big lit-up buttons in “Whack-a-Mole” style. Each button lights up with the correct answers for basic multiplication, addition, subtraction and division problems. Kids have to hit the button before the light goes out—a lot more fun than memorizing times tables. (AA batteries not included.)
What we thought Remember flash cards? Light ‘N’ Strike Math takes that concept it into the 21st century by upping the action and interactivity—two features kids today are reared on. It’s simple and fun; players wouldn’t be able to keep from learning math even if they tried.
Why they’ll want it This is an out-of-the-box learning toy that requires no instruction or down time, only a familiarity with basic arithmetic. It’s a great toy for reinforcing math skills through friendly competition between students or siblings. Besides, what kid wouldn’t want to whack something with a mallet?
What Is It? A cloth pizza box, decorated in the authentic pizzeria colors of red, white and green is secured by Velcro fasteners. Pull them open, lift the top of the see-through box and - Presto! - baby´s first pizza. But it´s not just any pizza, it´s four slices of brightly colored triangles with "crust" made of clingy fabric that´s just perfect for sticking to the cotton and Velcro "sauces" that kids can rearrange at will. Topping it all off are a variety of toppings that are numbered so kids can learn to count while learning to order the perfect pie. Inside the box there´s also a grill with a glossy card printed with flames that can be slid back and forth to turn the grill "on" or "off."
What We Thought The box and the slices are well-proportioned for little hands. The clear plastic window in the top of the box is not only authentic, but also gets kids hungering for what´s inside. But to get inside, they´ll have to pull the flaps and then lift the top, which means they´ll develop some dexterity while satisfying their curiosity. The toy encourages creativity, too, since kids can mix and match sauces and toppings to create a mouthwatering treat for Mom or Rocking Horse.
Why They´ll Want It Kids will feel grown up making, baking and delivering their very own pizzas. They can serve the slices plain, with sauce alone, toppings alone, or all three combined deliciously together. Kids will feel smarter, too, when they start recognizing the numbers that go along with the toppings. They´ll undoubtedly find ingenious ways of combining all the elements in this toy to make a pizza slice unlike any other. Pizzerias of the world, take note: Your competition is in training.
Name: Magna Morphs Company: WILD REPUBLIC Age: 3 and up Price: $13.95 Category: Educational
What is it? Magna Morphs are wild animal toys inspired by classic building play activity, employing a unique concept that uses animals as building blocks. Magna Morphs come in over 30 different species including alligator, gorilla, lizard, cheetah, toucan, elephant, giraffe and dinosaur. The animal body parts are held together by magnets, making the animal’s front legs, back legs, tail and head detachable from its body. With a number of Magna Morphs in hand, the limbs can be interchanged to build one’s own ferocious beast.
What We Thought Magna Morphs are made of plastic with magnets inside. They’re strong, durable, lightweight, and fit into a purse or large pocket. All of these qualities make it a great choice for travel. The magnets, however, could be a little stronger, as the Magna Morph will lose its limbs if dropped, but can easily be put back together.
Why They’ll Want It Magna Morphs inspire the imagination. Once a child gets a hold of one, he or she will want more to be able to create the beast of choice. With over one billion different combinations of animals that can be created, the possibilities are practically endless.
What is It? The Dinosaur Habitat is a set of four dinosaurs: Stegosaurus; Triceratops; Tyrannosaurus Rex; Brachiosaurus. The set includes two plastic boulders, two plastic plants, a natural environment playmate, and a backdrop so kids can set up a dinosaur environment anywhere.
What We Thought Playing with dinosaurs never goes out of style. The Dinosaur Habitat is timeless fun that will even bring back good times for adults. As children set up the habitat, they learn about the natural environment and history of the preshistoric age.
Why They´ll Want It What little kid hasn´t played with dinosaurs? Although it´s educational, the Dinosaur Habitat encourages an imaginative play-style that is fun for all. The detailed dinosaur figures can take the child back to a world of raw adventure and survival of the fittest beasts.
What Is It? Dunecraft (ToyDirectory, ToyShow) brings together the wonders of horticulture and the ancient age of dinosaurs to curious young minds. The Amazing Dinosaur Plant is a 250-million-year-old species that can hibernate for up to fifty years, reviving every time it is given water. The plant resembles a dead ball of foliage until immersion in water, when it transforms into an evergreen plant within hours. If it dries out, the plant will return to its dried state.
What We Thought The kit, which contains a plant, display bowl and real volcanic stones, is an educational winner, astounding kids as well as adults.
Why They’ll Want It The kit brings scientific wonder from the Jurassic age out of the books and into your living room. And best of all, it’s a renewable resource that will enchant children again and again.
Name: Learn Through Music Company: FISHER-PRICE INC. Age: 1 and up Price: $34.99 Category: Educational
What Is It? Learn Through Music is an interactive educational toy that teaches—both in English and Spanish—words for barnyard animals (with moos and oinks), find-it games, sing-alongs (with a karaoke-style mic included!) and lots more. The toy has touch-screen features, as well as large buttons a toddler can push to advance to the next game.
What We Thought We all remember learning our ABCs by singing them, and this toy works on the same principle: rhythm and melody help kids retain what they’ve learned. Learn Through Music is simple to operate; the touch-screen and toddler-friendly buttons make it a toy even the youngest child will be able to play with on his or her own. Familiar characters such as Blues Clues, Sesame Street, Barney and Dora the Explorer boost the appeal. And imagine how powerful a toddler will feel when he hears his voice projected through the built-in microphone!
Why They’ll Want I What parent wouldn’t want a toy that’s fun, educational and—perhaps most importantly—durable? Learn Through Music is all three. And the price isn’t bad either.
What Is It? Powertouch is an interactive system that teaches reading, numbers, shapes, colors and more. Kids touch words, pictures and numbers to hear pronunciations, spellings, phonetics, play counting games or follow along as the story is read aloud. Each Powertouch comes with two books.
What We Thought The “finger-touch” system is truly cool. Even holding a finger slightly over the picture or word will activate a response, and the auto-page detection makes sure you always get the right responses for the page you’re looking at. Powertouch is simple to set up and operate; kids can put the books in themselves and start reading along (There’s also a headphone jack to allow others to concentrate.). A row of menu tabs at the top of each page allows parents or kids to choose “story,” “words,” “phonics,” “find,” “spelling,” “music” or “surprise” for each page. My only criticism is that the pages of the books might be somewhat slim for little fingers to turn. (Note to budding DJs: the finger-touch response is sensitive enough to allow for scratching effects. Try the letter “P”: P-P-P-Party!)
Why They’ll Want It This toy can be shared by parent and child together, as well as letting kids practice reading and counting on their own with familiar characters such as the Sesame Street gang, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer and lots more. It’s an interactive toy that rewards intelligence rather than competitiveness and aggression—and it’s fun.
Name: Rainbow Color Cones Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC. Age: 3 and up Price: $12.95 Category: Educational
What is It? Rainbow Color Cones gives children the chance to build their own ice cream cone without the mess. This educational toy comes with two cones and eight scoops of ice cream with the name of its color underneath.
What We Thought This toy is a fun and creative way for children to learn color identification and practice their motor skills by building a delicious-looking treat. They will also build some arm strength since some of the pieces are difficult to separate once locked into each other.
Why They’ll Want It Kids love ice cream. Parents love toys that teach as well as entertain. Rainbow Color Cones make everyone happy.
What Is It? Pencil Works is a color-by-number product that allows children to experiment with mixing colors by following the numbers on the guide chart provided. The kit comes with a set of 12 coloring pencils, pencil sharpener and pre-marked picture.
What We Thought Through the easy-to-follow chart, little artists can achieve a professional-looking result while learning about color interaction.
Why They’ll Want It Dimensions (ToyDirectory, ToyShow)takes the guesswork out of discerning what to draw and allows children to focus on coloring itself.
What is It? Glass Art comes with four different colors, a glass template, eye droplet and materials to create a beautiful wind chime. Parents must provide aluminum foil, paper towels, cotton swabs, a cup of water, straight pins and toothpicks.
What We Thought Glass Art makes a craft project accessible to even the youngest artist. Children can create a piece of real artwork, while learning patience, concentration and precision.
Why They’ll Want It Glass Art will not only entertain kids, it will give their parents a piece of childhood to be cherished for years to come.
What is It? The My First Real Watch set, created in collaboration with the French Ministry of Education, features an animated watch with pictograms, another more traditional watch adorned with the cartoony character, “Tim,” and a glossy picture book and playing cards. Both watches are water-resistant and boast a one-year warranty and hypoallergenic bracelets.
What We Thought Maybe if I’d had this set in kindergarten it wouldn’t have taken me ten minutes to answer when the teacher asked, “What time is it?” This toy is a fun and engaging way to introduce preschoolers to telling time.
Why They’ll Want It Parents of kids who need to be weaned off digital time-tellers will enjoy the simple card game and pictogram watch: both keep kids´ attention while teaching basic daily routines. (The included book offers a narrative review of school, play and lunch times.) Kids can wear the pictogram watch or the standard face version and learn which hour goes with what activity.
Name: Phonics Activity Set - Word Building Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC. Age: 6 and up Price: $24.95 Category: Educational
What is It? The Phonics Activity Set By Learning Resources (ToyDirectory) was developed by educators to help kids group rhyming words, play with vowels and recognize spelling patterns.
What We Thought Parents looking for a tactile and fun way to engage post-alphabet-block kids in learning the foundations for reading will enjoy this set. Sophisticated, but straightforward and easy to understand, the Phonics Activity Set supplements any formal reading program.
Why They’ll Want It This kit creates and encourages budding wordsmiths. The carrying case looks just like a high school binder. Unzip it to reveal a well-organized safe place for Reading Rods, activity cards, stand and a dry-erase board. The included "Dear Parent" pamphlet reads like a letter from the perfect teacher.
What is It? Evan-Moor´s (ToyDirectory, ToyShow) four activity books: Teaching Young Children (ages 1-6) and Never-Bored Kid Book (books for ages 4-5, 6-7, 8-9).
What We Thought Teaching Young Children is the play manual I wish I’d had in my babysitting days, especially with its rundown on profiles of 1-6 year-olds. Never-Bored Kid Books are deliciously colorful and cool with cut-out quasi-origami projects.
Why They’ll Want It Day-care providers, teachers and parents will be happy with Teaching Young Children´s pages of educational and fun activities: everything from “how to throw a parachute party” to “learning fractions with food.” Never-Bored Kid Books are more straightforward activity books filled with crafts projects, mazes, dot-to-dots and riddles.
Name: Word for Word Game Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC. Age: 7 and up Price: $29.95 Category: Educational
What is It? The package says it´s fast-paced, word-building fun for the family. Don´t cringe; it really is. Snap together different words with Reading Rods (those color-coded, interlocking manipulatives designed to teach phonics and literacy) until a timer goes off. Instructions give tips on how to tailor the game to various age and skill levels.
What We Thought Another Reading Rods educational set, this game is more toy than tool. Unlike the Phonics Activity sets, which have a definite academic—though fun—feel, Word for Word is brain-flexing sport.
Why They’ll Want It Teachers, parents and students will appreciate the challenging, competitive, but light fun of Word for Word. Owners of other Reading Rods sets will think this set is the icing on the cake.
What is It? Sorting Shapes Cupcakes comes with a plastic cupcake tray and six durable plastic cupcakes. The set is designed to teach children shape recognition, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by getting them to figure out which cupcake top fits into which bottom.
What We Thought Kids love cupcakes, and this game is a straightforward and fun way for preschoolers to use this familiar treat to learn shapes. And it made me hungry.
Name: Measuring Monkeys Company: LEARNING RESOURCES INC. Age: 5 and up Price: $17.95 Category: Educational
What is It? Measuring Monkeys teaches kids how to use a ruler by moving plastic monkeys up and down a tree-shaped game-post. Kids spin the wheel to determine how far up or down the tree to move and then place their monkey at the appropriate measurement with a banana-shaped peg.
What We Thought The game teaches kids the American (non-metric) measuring system while meeting the litmus test of all educational toys: creating enough fun that kids hardly notice they’re learning something.
Who Would Like It Any kindergarten or grade school kid who needs a fun introduction to fractions.
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