On the one hand, this foosball table demonstrates how active Barbie can be. Look, she can block and kick that little ball down the field. She’s playing what has been a male dominated game. That’s something. Yet, it just seems really wrong that these Barbies are armless – as if underscoring their lack of control in determining their own fate. With a flick of a wrist, you can now send an entire line of Barbies upside down (hope they’re wearing proper underwear). For $25,000 I wonder if the toy comes with a hair stylist to do touch ups when the round is over! Exclusively at FAO. (Thanks to our one of our testing families for sending this to me!)
When we started the toyportfolio I was pretty annoyed with all the pink building sets. They were all about building a mall or a pony stable– no skyscrapers, no superhero vehicles…just a very limited range of fantasy. We started the Gender Free Toy List in part to bring attention to this color coded approach to children’s play and toys. For the most part, I still stand by those early articles. There is no reason to limit girls or boys to the type of toys they play with. The Corolle Green Umbrella Stroller is on our list this year for a reason. And we have applauded Little Tikes and Step 2 for making gender free kitchens that are acceptable for both boys and girls. (When we started almost all toy kitchens were screaming pink.)
Today we just received the new Wedgits Pink & Purple Tote. Just like their primary sets, this is an open-ended construction toy that’s just fun.
It comes with a set of 48 design cards…that are abstract designs (no malls or ponies in sight). Each card tells the builder how many pieces they’ll need for the creation and then has a picture.
It’s just this type of experience with spatial relations that we want all of our kids to enjoy. The cards will give kids a jumping off point for exploring the set– but the truth is, just put this one out on the family coffee table and see what everyone builds. For a full review of the new Wedgits line, visit www.toyportfolio.com.
In the past you know we haven’t been too enthusiastic about gender specific building sets. In a perfect world girls and boys would be given gender free sets to explore and play with right from the start. Unfortunately, there is still a gender divide in construction toys. That said, we really like the new Pinklets- The Fairy Garden by Supertstructs (Waba Fun $39.95). Somehow the fairy theme is not as troubling as the construction sets of the 90s that focused on building malls and nurseries. I know I’ve written about this before but it is a subject close to my heart. The research indicates that kids that work with blocks and construction sets develop so many valuable skills: fine motor, problem solving, spatial relationships, visual discrimination, ability to work in sequence…you get the idea.
The moral: It is really important that boys and girls have opportunities to use both open-ended construction sets as well as model building where they are asked to follow directions. So if a pink building set makes this type of play more engaging for your child–go for it.
I’m always on the look out for toys that fly–that don’t hurt. As a professional toy tester, I do feel a responsibility to stick my fingers near the propellers (as I think most 8 year olds would) to see if it hurts. Most really do! For the past few years I’ve been a huge fan of the Kid Galaxy planes–they work, easy to launch and very satisfying. I still like those a lot. This week we received Wow Wee’s new Fly Tech Butterfly ($24.99). While I’m not big on gender specific toys, this pink and purple butterfly really works. Much like the Kid Galaxy launcher, you hold down the button until the wings really start to flutter–aim and there it goes! It’s really easy to use (the age label is 6 & up). The launcher takes 3 AAA batteries.
Interestingly all the boys loved playing with it but said they wouldn’t because it was sooo pink. There is also a yellow and orange butterfly (is that less gender specific or is it the butterfly itself that makes it gender specific?) We didn’t have one the day we tested this product with kids. I wonder if a blue butterfly would have sparked the same reaction from our boy testers. Would girls play with a blue butterfly? This would make an interesting research project.
In either case, the company also makes a mosquito! My suggestion, have a fly off–which flies further.