Archive for the ‘toy’ Category

Another toy. Yes! Yet again, the label says it’s not for 2 year olds (the nephew is 27 months now) but labels are for jars and Bands. Not for a couple of crazy cats like us. (Note: you do have to be vigilant when using this with younger kids. Some of the pieces are small enough to swallow, but they are also large enough to keep track of). Even if he’s too young to use the toy by himself, at least he can point to things he wants to try (a safe introduction to experimentation) and be entertained by the results (if there are any).

      Snap Circuits® by Elenco (a Chicago based company we really need to support) is a take on one of those circuit making toys. The magic of Snap Circuits® is that snaps (like the ones on your shirt) are used to connect the various connectors, motors, resistors, lights, switches, and whistle chips. Perfect for little hands with developing motor skills.

snap circuits together

some of the parts

      I suppose I could mention here all we now know about development of cognitive ability through diverse mediums, advantages of tactile experiences, and all that. And I love all that stuff. But mostly, this toy is just plain sweet. It’s got all those colours, it’s easy to use (you can see everthing that’s going on unlike the sets where you just push pins into slots), and can be a thousand different things (the box says 100 creations, but that’s probably when they stopped counting). The spiro-graph-y thing we built was a particular hit. As was the helicopter, of course (flying, chaotic, potentially destructive). It even has a photo-resistor which ended up in a kind of a light theremin when paired with a flashlight.

      I only bought the set entitled Snap Circuits Jr®, which is the most basic self contained set you can buy. You can purchase add-ons like motion sensors, solar panels, and programmable micro-controllers (uses BASIC for all you geeks out there). You can also buy upgrade kits when you exhibit buyer’s remorse for not doing the right thing and shelling out the for the deluxe models. So here’s what elevates Elenco to the next level of toy/consumer goods companies. The combined cost of the basic set and the upgrade kit is about two dollars more than the deluxe set. Or to put it another way: they’re not going to hose you citizen, even though they could. In fact, I’d think they might even take a loss after the extra packaging and shipping on the upgrade kits. Still, the cost of entry is low thanks to the basic set, and you don’t have to debate the cost to get into these things too much because upgrading later is about the same cost as doing it right the first time. My advice: if you can afford it, do it right the first time like the song says.

      So here they are in grainy, poor resolution, noisy action.


      That last one is for the budding circuit bending synth-poppers. I even added a lightbulb for the music visualization artists. And for the future pilots/astronauts:


      I should also note that I first saw these things at a Radioshack somewhere in the States. Then on a recent visit to Seattle, I stumbled into Magic Mouse Toys in Pioneer Square and ran into these again. Two hours later, I left empty handed (but with a planned return visit the next day. But that’s another post) and another must-go place in any Seattle visit.

Addendum Nov. 15, 2010:

Snap Circuits Jr. can be had in Vancouver. Saw it in the Chapters book store Downtown at the corner of Robson and Granville for $29.95.

This one is about a toy. Hopefully, many more posts about toys will follow, and thanks to my 20 month old nephew, Max, there will be many more toys to post about, hopefully. So I got him a new toy. The package says 6+ but he’s pretty advanced. Here is a non-artist’s rendering of the little guy.

a non-artist's rendering of Max.

a non-artist's rendering of Max.

      I didn’t get the mouth quite right but he really does look a bit like that.

      I think these pictures of Tarata’s Balancing Act from New Zealand are pretty self explanatory.

Tarata's Balancing Act Monkeys in action

Tarata's Balancing Act Apes in action

      Kind of awesome. Exercises all sorts of brain and hand parts that don’t get enough work. And if you need more proof of that, maybe their genius copywriter can convince you:

From the package (all misplaced capitalization are exactly as is on the package):

“Playing the Balancing Act provides the Enjoyment of a Challenge and the Satisfaction of Success.

Making use of every day talents you are introduced to the Natural Law of Gravity, Leverage, Balance Point, Fulcrums, Friction, Weight and Dimension.

Along with the Development of Personal Skills including Patience, Perseverance, Problem Solving, Colour, Shape and Spatial Awareness and Hand eye Coordination, this simple toy is invaluable for Individual and Collective Creativity and Fun!”

      So good that I had to get a set for myself.

      The apes are the better set, not just because they have fewer nooks and crannies which makes their configurations more challenging and imaginative. More that the idea of stacking apes appeals more to my sense of logic. I mean, monkeys stack. They are quite agile and acrobatic creatures. That’s what they do. I’ve never seen dinosaurs pile on top of each other.

      So the apes are the set to get, except maybe for this guy:

Um, not sure about this guy...

Um, not sure about this guy...

      I’m sure his stance is incidental and I’m reading way too much into it.

ADDENDUM (May 29, 2010):

If you would like to know where to get the Tarata Balancing Act in the Vancouver area, that would be Kites On Clouds in Gastown. More than just kites, it’s a fine place to spend some time.

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