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October 2006 | Vol. V - No. 10
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Electrify Kids With Science Kits

Electronic Toys Light Up Sales


"It used to be a quiet area, but now it’s year-round interest."Nancy Stenak, Toys et Cetera
With reporting by regional correspondents Dennis Furlan, Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Willow Polson, Bonnie Priever and Donna Sacks

Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Michael Faraday: Giants in the toy industry. Well, actually, in electrical science, but what was then cutting-edge inventing is now a best-selling science kit. When TDmonthly Magazine correspondents asked 43 retailers across the country to spot the trend in science toys, “electrical science kits” lit up the boards. Why?

“Kids just love to experiment,” explained Neil Ramyad, assistant manager at Zittles and Zitomer in New York City.

What's Selling

Be it the classic-style Elenco’s (ToyShow) Snap Circuits Jr. kit or Playful Inventions Company’s newest PicoCricket set, electrical science kits call to a child’s sense of wonder.

These kits are “totally different from the normal school curriculum and really make kids think and explore,” pointed out Greg Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark.

This sense of discovery was cited as a strong selling point by many retailers. Take the Snap Circuit Jr. kit, which more than a dozen retailers named: “It has 100 projects … Kids love that they can do so many things with it,” reported Steven Levy, owner of Toy City in Surry, N.H.

Logiblocs' Super Inventor’s kit was also singled out as a toy kids could really explore.

What to Make of It

Nancy Stenak, owner of Toys et Cetera in Chicago, summed up the trend, when she commented that science kits have “exploded in popularity. It used to be a quiet area, but now it’s year-round interest.”

Humans’ inherent curiosity starts in the child, and the kits that follow start the child on the road to discovery:




MSRP: $29.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Kits



Kevin Tjaden, owner of Scientific Wizardry in Boise, Idaho, had this to say: “It's an electronic kit — kind of like the ones we had when we were kids. … It's really taken off. It also targets the right age range: 8-14, which allows for increased market share. It's become easier to use and easier to understand. As parents, everyone remembers it, but certain parts didn't work that well, certain springs would fall apart. … By solving those problems, people say, "This is like what I had as a kid, but better!”
— As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.9 out of 5 stars from 477 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 16 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games. PROS:  Fun and educational, lots of possible circuits.  CONS:  Kit doesn't always explain how the circuits work.
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, four out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Snap Circuits were one of their best selling Science & Nature toys.
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ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1116
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MSRP: $44.95
Age Range: 14 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Air Zinger inhales and then blasts out an included ball through its cannon-like loader. Zigging and zagging is no problem with its wired controller. A child can easily make it move forward, backward, left and right. When the propeller is activated to retrieve the ball, it is like watching a largemouth bass inhale its lunch. On command, its special compartment stores the ball and launches it. Quick and easy to assemble, this kit challenges cognitive skills and helps to develop a growing interest in science and robotic creation.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8751      (added 7/26/2006)
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MSRP: $250.00
Age Range: 10 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



A PicoCricket is a tiny computer that can make things spin, light up and play music. Lights, motors, sensors and other devices can be plugged into a PicoCricket, which can be programmed to react, interact and communicate. For example, it can be used to make a cat and programmed to purr when someone pets it. It can be used to make a birthday cake and programmed to play a song when someone blows out the candles. The PicoCricket Kit is designed for making artistic creations with lights, sound, music and motion.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8649      (added 7/21/2006)
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MSRP: $75.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Hot Wires is the ultimate in snap-together electronics. A child can make anything from a flying disk to a burglar alarm, from a voice recorder to an FM radio with automatic station selection or even a lie detector. With simple, full-color, step-by-step instructions a kid can become an electronic wizard in no time.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8752      (added 7/26/2006)
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MSRP: $92.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



This ultra-giant set comes with instructions for building light and sound detectors, an electronic eye, door and drawer alarms, metal detector, space ships and more. It includes 33 electronic blocks, two pressure mat cards, three wires, a jack plug, a light bulb and holder, a pouch, filter paper, stickers and an Inventor's Manual. All Logiblocs integrate with each other to provide an ongoing expandable discovery system of endless creative fun.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8753      (added 7/26/2006)
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MSRP: $16.95
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



A child becomes a static detective as he or she uncovers sources of energy with the glowing neon light. Kids just scrape their feet across the floor and watch the neon light flicker. It's a human-powered light that is both safe and inexpensive.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8755      (added 7/26/2006)
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MSRP: $249.99
Age Range: 10 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
Robotics
Electronics



For kids who have tired of swatting at gnats and mites, this new robotics construction set will give them something bigger to aim at. Kids can build a variety of critters, including a robotic bug. The bug will back off if it gets too close to an object or, if it feels threatened, it will reach out and “sting” the intruder.
This robotics toolset includes a “Quick Start” guide to build and program a robot in 30 minutes. Mindstorms uses “intelligent brick” and light, sound, motion and touch sensors. This product is blue-tooth wireless technology capable. LEGO Mindstorms NXT won first prize in the category “Technical Innovation” at the international Nürnberg toy fair in Münich. Launch date: 2006.
— "LEGO, if I can get them, but that's a whole other story," said David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont., when discussing upcoming holiday 2007 hot sellers for young boys.
— "We're the best ones to sell it for LEGO,” Campbell added. “I can steer people toward Mindstorms in my store, and I can steer them away from Mindstorms [if they] shouldn't have it. Walmart.com doesn't talk to people."
— Seven of 54 retailers said that despite the availability of LEGO in the mass market, it will still sell in specialty stores during the holidays.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7038      (added 2/28/2006)
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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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