Diary of a Toy Tester

Truth be told I really didn’t play with too many toys as a kid. I much preferred playing in the bottomless sandbox outside of our house. I was big on flooding — mud being one of my ultimate play mediums. My older brothers had also left years of treasures behind (mostly spoons) but sometimes there were Hot Wheels cars and plastic animals to unearth. I also spent a lot of time chasing frogs and salamanders…and bugs. (Probably why I’m always fascinated with the bug and butterfly kits that arrive every spring.)

So as an adult it wasn’t lost on me that my “job” was now to test toys. I’m always amazed by the number of toys that don’t do what they say they’re going to do. How could someone spend so much time making and marketing a product that doesn’t deliver?  So many of the products we see each year never get beyond this point.  We’re also big on directions. If the directions aren’t clear to us, how can anyone expect an 8 year old to follow along?

So when we started, I decided to take on a building set. Could I follow the directions for a Lego kit that had hundreds and hundreds of pieces? Well it took me until 1 o’clock in the morning the first time–but I did it! And I loved the experience. In fact I recommend trying a building set as an adult. It’s fun and very satisfying. I know lots of people feel that way about cooking something (I didn’t get that gene). I’ve always wanted to have a Lego building party for grown ups–and see what people would come up with. Kids have no problem getting started–they just build. I have a sense that a group of grownups would be more guarded if they were given no set plans to follow.  The sets we have on our Platinum List this year–really do require two sets of hands. Both Ferris Wheels from Lego and K’nex make great projects for two–but I’m suggesting a smaller set that you can do on your own. So next time you’re walking down that aisle, try a set.


3 Responses to Diary of a Toy Tester

  1. davidwein says:

    Thanks for always making great recommendations. We know there is so much bad product being marketed to us every year. What are some of the worst offenders that did not “deliver” on their marketing promises?

  2. toyportfolio says:

    Almost too many to list. I would say at least 50% of the products that come into for review are a disappointment. It doesn’t feel right to single any one out at this point. One parent reviewer hit on the head — she called the toys another “bottom of the toy chest” type of product. One of the most upsetting categories for me are toys that are over the top for young babies and toddlers. A great toy for this age group in the “make something happen” category doesn’t need to be exrtremely noisy or have too many things happen at once. If your baby or toddler hits a button, one thing should happen…not ten. When we test many of the toys in this activity category–so much happens that our baby testers either crawl away or cry….it’s just too much stimulation.

  3. spencer1984 says:

    I thought this post was very interesting: building sets definitely seem to be one of the “forgotten” toys in today’s market. But as you said, the pride and satisfaction that come with completing a project like this is tremendous (not to mention the patience, dexterity, and instruction-following skills learned during the build).

    In addition to Lego and K’nex sets, though, don’t forget about good old model kits. They’re fun for both kids and adults, and are a great way to spend some time together. With the predecorated and snap-together kits available on the market today, you don’t even need to worry about messy paint & glue…of course, more complex paint & glue kits are available for those who want to try expanding their skills.

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