Attention Science Teachers: Physics and Art!

October 5, 2010

Hasbro's Play-Doh 3-D Flash Art

We were really blown away by the Hasbro Play-Doh 3-D Flash Art.  It wasn’t until I tested it with two high school students (both having just finished AP Physics) that I fully appreciated how cool this toy is and how useful it would be in any science class. Watch the video and you’ll see how art is a beautiful display of science! Read our complete review.

Watch the video.


Pick of the Day: Mattel’s MindFlex

November 3, 2009
mindflex

Mattel's MindFlex Game

The first time we saw this game was at toy fair.  Now in all fairness, when we go to toy fair, we’re a pretty silly group.  So when the demonstrator for MindFlex at the Mattel showroom was trying his best to show us this super cool toy, we kept distracting him.  At one point, he even seemed a little anxious about not being able to perform his toy demonstrator duties.

He wore a headgear that had two clips that he attached to his earlobes.  From there he told us that he could control the little blue ball with his mind-making it go up and down and through the obstacle course.  To be absolutely honest here, I was sure we were being punked.  I kept looking around to see if this was a joke.  They assured me that it was for real–and that normally when people allow the guy to do his thing it really works.

Ok, ok…sometimes we don’t behave well.  I wrote down the toy as  something we’d love to see but then I stopped thinking about it.  Last month while I was at the Today Show, Dave– one of the best stage managers ever– showed me a clip of his son working the MindFlex. ( What would we all do without our iphone video clips?)  Anyway…he could not say enough great things about this toy.  How it appealed to both of his boys and that it  helped with working on concentration as a skill.

With that great recommendation, we asked for one to be sent right away.  Sure enough this is one of the coolest toys we’ve tested, period. We’ve added it to this year’s Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award List.

The other amazing aspect of the toy is that it appeals to tweens, teens and adults.  My dad, a spry guy in his late 70s, also took a run at the toy.  He was surprised , as was every adult that has tried it, that he could make it work.  It really is so futuristic — makes me wonder what kind of toys I’ll be reviewing down the road.

So if you’ve seen an ad or a commercial – know that this is for real and loads of fun.  The platform has interchangeable parts so that you can challenge yourself and others to different obstacle courses.  Such a great design aspect–making this a more open-ended play experience. And if you’re looking for something to buy a video game addicted teen, here you go.
Click here to read our full review…and watch the video.

 


Encourage Curiosity about Nature with Discovery Box

October 29, 2009

worlddiscoverytreasuresMy grandfather used to take us rock hunting at a quarry in Franklin, New Jersey.  These adventures with my grandparents (my grandmother went along for the ride, but did not share my grandfather’s enthusiasm for the rocks)…were part of our childhood.  After finding our rocks, we would then go into the dark room with our black light (along with other rock folks) and see if we had found any with fluorescent substances.  Pretty cool right?  Kick in a guaranteed trip for ice cream cones–and you could see how much fun this would be.  My grandfather (an engineer by training) sold the first tv in their area (in upstate New York).  My mother recalls that when there was a big fight or important event on tv, that people would gather to watch it in front of their appliance store.  His backroom was always fun to visit because there was always something to look at including his great collection of rocks.  He always encouraged us to build our own collections.  One of my last road trips with him before he died was to a rock show.  He was still delighted that I was interested (I was 17).  Truth be told, I just really enjoyed being with him.

worldbox

World Discovery Box with a sampling the treasures

So when I first came across World Discovery Box, it made me think of my Grandfather.  The focus of the company is to help build your child’s own collection of nature and science collectibles. Of course, you could do this yourself if you were so inclined but I really love the quality of the materials and boxes you can order. The wooden boxes and artifacts range in price from $69 to $199.  You can add to your child’s collection from their site – making this  a gift that you can add to as your child grows.

I also like the idea of using the box as a starting point.  Adding treasures you may find together-from a trip to the beach, on a walk in your own neighborhood.  Maybe because of my own experience, I think this is a great present for grandparents to give since it starts a dialogue. The only aspect of this product that could use some beefing up–the limited reading materials about the insects, minerals, shells, fossils that comes with the box.  (It’s just a folded guide). For the money,  I would have thought it would be paired with a book  about these topics and maybe some tools for your own rock, fossil and bug collecting adventures. In any case, it’s something you can add on your own.

Two great books:

Smithsonian Rock & Fossil Hunter

Smithsonian Bug Hunter

Bug tools:

Insect Lore Big Bug Magnifier

Creature Peeper


Update on Doodle Track Cars

October 19, 2009

You know how much we love the Doodle Track Cars…the folks at Daydream Toy just let me know that the interactive site is now launched–so that you can customize your own tracks.  You go to www.doodletrackcar.com and click on Design and Print a Track. Next week they will have a Halloween theme posted.  Lots of kids will enjoy customizing their own track–but my favorite is a huge piece of white paper and making your own track.  Either way, this is an affordable must have for kids 4 & up that love all things cars! Watch the video.


Pick of the Day: Doodle-Track Car…Amazing!!

September 21, 2009

By this time in the toy season, we’re pretty jaded. We’ve seen just about every new toy coming out for this holiday season. So when we say this is the most amazing toy of the year…we really mean it!  At $14.99, this is just a magical play experience!  The toy’s official name is Doodle-Track Car from Day Dream Toys. For a full review visit, www.toyportfolio.com.

Doodle-Track Car

Doodle-Track Car

Here’s what you do…you draw a line with a washable marker and then turn on the little car, put it on the paper with the drawn line–and it will follow the line…really….Each car comes with a little track and a marker, but we took big white paper and made our own track.  You can also download customized tracks on their website www.doodletrackcar.com.

Watch our video.


Best Outdoor Toys

June 4, 2009

I really love that we’re heading into summer with longer days – which means more time to be outside with our kids. Here are some of our new favorites for the season…we’ll be continuing to update this list in the coming weeks.

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Nature Station Playhouse (Step 2)  I love this little playhouse that is designed for older toddlers and preschoolers – maybe because it looks like Pooh, Tigger and Piglet should be there too. Kids enjoy having small spaces that are designed just for them. This playhouse has a working periscope (really fun), a sink, a working shutter,  and a fenced in area so if you’re invited in- there’s a bigger space for adults. This product is pricey at $249.99 but will be used for a long stretch. (This playhouse  is marked 3 & up  due to all the extra things that come with it–but the structure itself will be enjoyed by younger children. There are larger play sets from Step 2 that have more height–our recommendation is take your kids along when you’re shopping for this type of equipment. If you decide to bring this product  home to older toddlers, put the goodies away until they’re older.)

Sandbox Vehicles Eco Trucks from Sprig Toys were a hit with our testers.  These are very lightweight – making them easy for kids to use and to take along to the park or backyard sand box. Made from recycled materials. Our favorite is the Dump Truck.

Dump Truck (Green Toys)  The new line of green trucks from Green Toys are heavier than the Sprig trucks. They feel more like a traditional plastic toy truck- with the upside here being that they are also made from recycled materials.   Handsomely designed – they got high marks from our testers.

Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster (Mattel) I’ve already blogged about this toy and I think I’m a little sad that I gave our sample away!  My mother doesn’t agree with my over the top enthusiasm for this play set–but I really think this is one of the best toys going.  I’m suggesting that it’s even better if you play with it outside–because truth be told-it does get alittle wet if you’re really playing with it full tilt.  The cars react to cold and hot water–and will turn a different color when put into either temperature (I KNOW!)  Best yet, it comes with a squirt bottle so you can change the cars by squirting them.  If you don’t want to buy the whole set–I’d suggest buying one of the cars–you can use any squirt bottle to have the same experience.  If you want to be the super cool grown up, bring this toy home to any three year old you know. I do think the car that turns from blue to yellow is much more dramatic than some of the other color changes (yellow/orange).

Sports

Drive, Chip and Putt Golf Trainer (Little Tikes) There are two different”ts’ to hit the golf ball from…making this a little different from your average plastic golf set.  Our testers really enjoyed the sport of this game and the sturdy design made it a solid choice for the 2-4 crowd.

d431ae4ea2e0258e5b58795242af18f9 Monster Badminton Set (International Playthings)  This set will be ready next month but I had to show it to you now.  These over-sized rackets and birdies are just what our family needed. They are fun for little kids–but truth be told, if you’re not the most athletic person–this is a set for you!  You’d be hard pressed to miss this birdie!  It does not come with a net–our toy testers just liked playing with it alone.

Scooters

Maxi Scooter (Kickboard USA) Maybe because I’m not the most coordinated person, I loved the idea of this scooter.  It comes with three wheels and a wider platform for added stability but still  looks cool.  As I hoped, our new scooter testers had no trouble with this scooter and really enjoyed it. It comes with two handles–a traditional T-handle and a joystick.  We recommend the traditional handle as a starting point. It’s designed for kids 6-10.  The company now also makes a Mini Kick Scooter (smaller in scale for younger kids 2-5)…also with three wheels.  Helmets are a must!

Razor Spark Scooter (Razor) The granddaddy of scooters just got a very neat feature. When you break, it sparks out the back. Our testers thought this was pretty cool–although if you’re the one doing the braking, it is hard to see the spark–but your friends will!

Outdoor Treats

Freeze Pop Factory (Little Kids)  According to the company, more than 7 billion freeze pops are sold each year (makes you think we should all go into the freeze pop business!) ….in any case, this do-it-yourself kit is really fun. Comes with those pop sleeves (which magically close up and don’t leak) and plastic molds for making bigger pops.  You can experiment with making your own family recipes and limit the amount of sugar your kids use. Every grown-up I’ve mentioned this kit  to has asked the same question, “Could you make grown up freeze pop for a party?” and then they say…don’t say that out loud….but it’s true. Just don’t get them mixed up. It comes with 36 sleeves for making the pops…and the good news is that you can also order more ($4.95 for 50 including shipping) from the company’s site or by calling (800) 545-5437.


SmartLab’s new kits

April 20, 2009

We had high hopes for Smartlab’s Blast-Off Rocket Racer–where you mix baking soda and vinegar to propel your racer. Unfortunately–there really is no good way to bring the two pieces together (the one that stores the baking soda and the vinegar)…without it spilling.  I really like this type of kit where kids have hands on science experiences that are fun–but this one is a bit too hands on. On the other hand we got very strong reviews for their new Custom Motorcycle StudioOur 11 year old tester really stuck with this kit and enjoyed drawing his own customized motorcycle with the help of the small light table that comes with the kit, the acetate overlays and frames (also comes with colored pencils).  Most drawing sets on the market focus on fashion and are targeted to girls–this is a great set for kids that love drawing great detail but need some help getting started.  Our tester was really pleased with what he was able to create.  A good choice to have at the office if you have a child visiting.