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.
As you know the time frame for the new safety regulations under the CPSIA have been extended by a year. We asked Jim Becker, the co-partner of becker & mayer! some questions about the regs and the new direction of their science/activity kits under the SmartLab brand.
How has the last year of changing safety regulations affected your business?
Because we’ve been selling a lot of products to major retailers over the last few years, we’ve been in the thick of safety regulations for a while now. So we are ahead of the curve, so to speak. I would guess the effects on us are probably less than for other companies.
There are certain kits that we just won’t be able to sell anymore. For others, it’s an added extra expense. And for new products, we really have to design around the safety regulations.
Do you think the extra year before the enforcement of the new CPSIA was necessary?
Yes, because manufacturers need time to redesign their products to meet the regulations.
What was the goal of new redesign [rebrand] of your kits?
While we love the SmartLab dog, as do all of our loyal customers, we decided to rebrand in a way that showcases the components. Our goal was to retain the fun of the dog but focus on the excitement of the product.
What is your favorite kit in the new line?
You-Build-It RoboXplorer…We really created something entirely new that allows kids to build a robotic mechanism that is not only fun to play with, but also teaches kids the fundamentals of robotics. One of the greatest features is kids get to experiment and change things learning through trial and error—the best way to learn!
(SEO: we haven’t tested this one yet.)
What was your favorite toy as a kid?
Legos…I loved to endlessly build things. As a teenager, I graduated to building simple electronics, so my other favorite “toy” was a soldering iron. And, I still have it!