"They’ve played and played and played with it."—Susan Ledford
If you want to keep a tween girl’s interest, give her a problem to solve. After seven months of testing 25 toys, nine homeschooled girls from ages 8 to 13 agreed that they can’t put down the Building Bridges sets by K’Nex and Lonpos 101 by Mic-o-Mic Americas (ToyShow).The top-five toys all received ratings of 9 or 10 for play value.
In addition to the games and toys that made the long-term top-five, the girls’ moms noted that some of the one-shot educational products deserved special mention. Energy Wiz by Norman & Globus (ScienceWiz) (ToyDirectory), Treasure Box Press’s (ToyDirectory) Pond Investigation Kit and Weather Station by SmartLab Toys all received good marks for educational value.
Participating were former art teacher Lynn Costine with Sarah (13 years), Anna (11), Emily (9) and Will (7); Julie Petoia, RN, with Cabot Lee (11), Talia (10), Malynne (8) and brothers Gabriel, Jeremiah and Jacob (4); Susan Ledford, editor of the Homeschoolers Resources Directory, with Victoria (11) and Joe (6); former corporate workshop manager Shawna Hughes with Alexa (10); and former fashion consultant, current radiology student Allison Seagle with Sara (11).
Respond! by JAX LTD INC.
The first player lays down a category card from her hand and says a word from that category. She then starts the timer and the next player must lay down a card from his hand and name a word from his category card — but it has to start with the last letter of the word that the first player mentioned. Cards with yellow borders permit any player to respond once the timer has been set — including the person who played the card. If the timer buzzes before a word has been named, the player must draw another card from the deck. The first player to put down all of her cards wins. Most of the five families from the Homeschooling Roundtable said they played Respond! “pretty regularly” between November 2005 and July 2006. But at the Petoia household, the six kids have played the game “at least 50 times,” said Mom.
Snap Circuits make learning electronics easy and fun. Kids follow the colorful pictures in the manual to build exciting projects, such as FM radios, burglar alarms, doorbells and more. Parts are mounted on plastic modules and snap together with ease. “Children can play with this kit for hours and hours and still have not completed all the projects the snap circuit kits have to offer,” Walter Larsen, national sales manager for Elenco, told TDmonthly. — One retailer said in summer 2007 his store sells 25 Elenco units monthly. Five percent of 64 retailers said in August 2008 that Snap Circuits are a best-selling science product, reporting average sales of six units per month. Four of 38 retailers echoed the same a year later. “They’ve gone back to this game six or seven times,” between January and July 2006, said TDmonthly's homeschooling mom Susan Ledford. — Any time TDmonthlyasks specialty storeowners about top-selling science toys, Elenco's Snap Circuits heads the list. This simple electronics kit appeals to both girls and boys. By making science fun and easy, Snap Circuits earned a TDmonthly Classic Toy 2007 award. — As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.8 out of 5 stars from 575 reviews on Amazon.com. Cons: One user said that her grandchildren were "not all that interested" in the Snap Circuits, and told her that they would prefer LEGOs on their birthday.
Darkness Falls on Sevinpold by SEVINPOLD CASTLES INC.
Darkness Falls on Sevinpold is a revolutionary new board game that's fun for the entire family. Sevinpold is a world where every castle is filled with secrets, perils, powers and magical creatures; where the heroes, known as the Valiant, must play as a team against the menacing Darkness in order to win; where victory cannot be declared until the very last roll of the dice when the Scepter is reunited with the Living Throne. With excitement at every turn, Sevinpold is a game that never plays the same twice. It challenges players every step of the way and maintains their interest so they want to play again and again. With two patents pending for its distinctive movement and innovative "team play" concepts, Sevinpold has changed the way board games are played. — “Sevinpold hits that demographic of 8 to 14,” said Darren Turbeville, owner of Toy Chest in Healdsburg, Calif. “We average a piece every 10 to 14 days.” — Sevinpold does “very well” at Thinker Toys in Carmel, Calif., said owner Mark Phillips. “I’ve sold through two or three re-orders. It’s selling without even being demonstrated. Knights and dragons and pirates are the biggest category in the world.” — “I love it!” enthused 11-year-old Sara Seagle. “I think it has beautiful illustrations on it.” TDmonthly's Homeschooling Roundtables families played with Sevinpold an average of seven times each from January to July 2006. VIEW ARTICLE, VIEW CHART
The Real Bridge Building Set builds seven 5’ long replicas of real world bridges, one per bridge type, two at a time. Models include replicas of the Firth of Forth Cantilever Bridge (Scotland), Tower Bascale Bridge (London), Golden Gate Suspension Bridge (San Francisco), Chesapeake Bay Beam Bridge (Virginia Beach), Columbia River - Astoria Truss Bridge (Oregon), Sydney Harbor Arch Bridge (Australia) and the Dames Point Cable-Stayed Bridge (Jacksonville, Fla.). Curriculum offers key features of each bridge type, statistics on each, and building challenges for each bridge type, written to middle school National Standards in Science and Technology. It supports six to eight students. — K’NEX is the best-selling transformable toy line at Learning Express in North Hampton, N.H., reported manager Linda Doucette. — “K'NEX is one of our first toys we started out with, and they've done very well for us,” said Kim Drilling, a three-year employee of the 4-year-old Fat Brain Toys in Elkhorn, Neb. — Real Bridge Building was the hands-down favorite of both the Moms and kids in TDmonthly's Homeschooling Roundtable for being educational and fun. “They’ve played and played and played with it,” between May and July 2006 , said mom Susan Ledford. “I’ve built about four of the bridges and I’ve built different things, too,” 11-year-old Sara Seagle told TDmonthly. (VIEW ARTICLE)
Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author