February 16, 2010
Star Wars LEGO: Hans Solo being placed in carbonite
If you are a big Star Wars LEGO fan, you’ll be really excited to see the new sets scheduled for 2010. We asked LEGO’s Julie Stern to take us through the new sets so that you could take a look. Watch the video. You’ll hear both my mother Joanne and brother James (noted Tech expert and founder of jamesgames.com) on this video. We’re a noisy bunch.
Oh no! Hans! We'll save you!
On this second video you can see James’ reenactment of Hans Solo being taken away after being frozen in carbonite. It’s this attention to detail that we really appreciate. If you watch this video, you will have a glimpse into my childhood! You can also hear my mother in the background laughing.
February 1, 2010
If you’ve followed our reviews over the years, you know I have a soft spot for everything Star Wars. It is the one exception to our rule of no toys with aggressive or violent themes (hey, it’s fantasy).
One of the coolest toys we saw at Hasbro’s preview is from the Star Wars line…but we can’t talk about it until the 12th. In the meantime, there is a new lightsaber that is pretty cool. The General Grievous Lightsaber will retail for $34.99 and will be available in August. Take a look at both videos…one explains how it comes apart and the other demos the movement. I’m getting used to using my iphone video for giving you sneak peaks. Thinking maybe I should get a FLIP for toy fair.
Two quick videos to look at:
How it works video.
Demo of movement.
December 4, 2009
Hilary Stout’s article in The New York Times, With New Toys, More Assembly Required , correctly points out what we’ve been observing and writing about for years. You need to be ready to roll up your sleeves, arm yourself with a screwdriver, sometimes a power drill — all to put a toy together. If you’re not particularly handy, we recommend that you enlist the assistance of the store or a relative that doesn’t break out in a cold sweat when confronted with complicated assembly instructions. And whatever you do, don’t start at midnight on Christmas Eve–it’s almost a surefire recipe for tears and spousal strife.
That said…the article then goes on to talk about LEGO sets with too many pieces. Here, we have to disagree. The beauty of LEGO sets is that there are sets for all builders…beginners to the most advanced. Most hard core LEGO fans will tell you that the company has made it too easy for builders with the new bagging technique. Rather than open the box and find several hundred pieces — the company now pre-sorts the builds. For LEGO builders of the past– this new approach has been labeled strictly for whimps! You can hear many a parent say “in my day, we had to go through each and every piece” after we walked five long miles from school.
One of the big messages we try to get out each year is to start at the beginning. If you are doing all of the building and your child is just watching you–you’ve brought home the wrong set. The idea of these sets and why they appeal to kids — is that they build a child’s sense of what they can accomplish. Learning how to read and follow step-by-step instructions is huge. Having the patience to stick with a project – that not everything is instantaneous – is an important life lesson.
It is no surprise to us that LEGO has continued to do well in these tough times and has maintained a strong presence in an otherwise shrinking and battered toy industry. They have maintained their core mission by giving kids fun kits to build, they’ve improved their directions and they have stayed current by bring in themes and licenses that are attractive to their target audience. The most sought after LEGO kits from our testers are in fact the smaller sets where kids can build a car or Star Wars vehicle and then play with it. It is that sense of accomplishment that makes them ask for more. The focus is on building self-esteem and confidence and having fun–not how many pieces you can handle.
We also know that building develops the following skills: visual discrimination, fine-motor, spatial relations, math, reading, ability to follow directions in sequence and problem solving skills. We want both our sons and daughters to be competitive in math and engineering – it begins with these hands-on experiences. So start small. It’s like my grandmother always used to say, don’t worry about the size, buy what fits.
For reviews of our top-rated construction toys–visit www.toyportfolio.com.
November 18, 2009
Board books are great–they make books much more accessible to toddlers. They can enjoy “reading” a book even when they are in the search, destroy and taste zone! Recognizing that publishing a picture book in board book format gives a title two bites of the apple, books stores are now chock full of books that aren’t really for toddlers in terms of their content — but they are sturdy! We’ve written about this before.
But now we’re seeing books that aren’t even really for preschoolers in board book form. Earlier in the year there was Star Wars Spaceships.
Now there’s Star Wars Heroes….I LOVE Star Wars…but not for kids in the knowing and naming stage of toddlerhood. Somehow we’ve lost track of the developmental stage here–where they do not have the reasoning to make the distinction between real and make believe. So take a look at these images and ask yourself are these important images to know and name?
Maybe these books are really intended for Urban Outfitters and the teen/adult market–that’s fine. I just hope they’re not in any toddlers stocking this holiday.
September 3, 2009
I love Star Wars…and if you’ve noticed, Star Wars toys often find their way to our award list even though technically they violate our “no violent or aggressive toy” rules. It’s fantasy after all.
However, I have to draw the line at a board book – marketed to babies and toddlers – STAR WARS Spaceships (Scholastic). What could this possibly mean to children under the age of two? Is knowing and naming the different parts of the Imperial fleet important? How about more basic knowing and naming concepts like cup or banana?
Most outrageous really is the last page…here’s one you certainly will want to share with your baby on your lap….Let’s all say it together…
“Death Star ….This spaceship has a dangerous laser. BOOM!”
I certainly get mass merchandising as a concept…but this one goes too far.
March 20, 2009
We are now in full test mode here–and the number one request for boys in that 6-9 range are Star Wars sets. So here’s some initial feedback. The large and showy LEGO Star Wars Republic Attack Shuttle with 636 pieces got mixed reviews. One of our eight year old testers and his Dad had trouble with getting some pieces to connect. I loved that this tester could show me exactly which step (#25 on page 22 of the 1st model book) posed a problem. We then had a teen builder take a look. He did not have a problem but noted that this was a more advanced build.
Let us know if you’ve tried this one. It is a really neat build once you’re done! I would suggest that if you’re starting with LEGO (in any theme…start with the smaller sets and build up to the larger models). There will be a lot less frustration in your house.
February 19, 2009
I have to confess–we’re huge Star Wars fans here so we were really psyched to see Jakks Pacific’s new line of 3D kites that feature Luke’s X-Wing, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter and Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. So cool! We can’t wait to test them–each include a 15′ tail. Suggested retail wil be $24.00. And if you can think warm weather (the temp is dropping rapidly here in nyc)…there also promises to be Star Wars inflatables for the pool. If you’re a SW fan, these will have great appeal ($39.99). Jakks Pacific also has a new line of collectable marbles (they’re making a come back…apparently)…they look neat. They come with little stands–at $3.99 each, not sure how these will appeal to parents. They may find a great audience in the SW’s collectors – of course they’ll never never take them out their packaging.