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December 2006 | Vol. V - No. 12
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Expect Experimental Kits to Sell

Retailers Excited About Chemistry, Microscopic Learning and Pet Insects


Norman & Globus "understands science.”
Frances Frinfrock, Aunt Franny’s Toys
With additional reporting by regional correspondents Dennis Furlan, Julie L. Jones and Ruth Evans Lane

Science was on the brains of 11 retailers who spoke to TDmonthly Magazine about holiday toy sales, hypothesizing that insects, microscopes and experimental kits could be a magic formula this Christmas. Almost half of the retailers acknowledged chemistry kits as their No. 1 toy for little mad scientists.

Crafty Chemistry

Experimental kits were by far the most popular response from retailers, such as Tara Friese of Tree Top Toys in Redmond, Wash., who mentioned After Dinner Science from Be Amazing Toys.

Robert Noe, owner of Playthings in Louisville, Ky., had good things to say about everything from Thames & Kosmos (ToyShow); their Creative Cosmetics Experiment Kit is one to watch.

Frances Frinfrock, owner of Aunt Franny’s Toys in Richland, Wash., spoke highly of  Norman & Globus (ToyDirectory) products, such as Crazy Chemistry Party Kit, noting that the manufacturer “understands science” and is “very good at explaining concepts.” 

What other experimental kits can we expect under the tree? “I'd probably say the Soda Pop Science Kit from Scientific Explorer,” Dan Willis, owner of Communique Toys in Seattle, said. “That's been a perennial good seller.”

Under the Microscope

From magnet sets to “electro wiz stuff,” Frinfrock has noticed a particularly high volume of sales in the fourth quarter. Seattle’s Dragon’s Toy Box sells microscopes routinely this time of year, manager Tristan Hewitt told TDmonthly.

Other toys that manufacturers and retailers said kids will collect and dissect include:




MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 3 to 99
Launch Date: December 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Even girls will like this antquarium with its bright pink gel. The product has a slightly rounded shape and contains the special transparent media where ants build their habitat creating new and unpredictable paths and tunnels. The set includes a large container, ants booster, a special 4x lens, a starter stick and an instruction handbook. The unit requires no food or water. Launch date: December 2006.
— “[It’s] the only pink gel-based ant habitat available. The space-age NASA-developed gel also produces oxygen, providing a beneficial environment for the ants,” Greg Adams, head of marketing at Bio-Spheres told TDmonthly. He mentioned that Bio-Spheres is the only company that offers replacement gel.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9884      (added 11/2/2006)
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A Zooquarium with its own mini-searchlight (Sea Monkeys always head towards light), it comes with everything one needs to start a Sea Monkey preserve. Easy to raise (if you let the water dry out, the Sea Monkeys go dormant ? add water, and voila: back in business), this is a fascinating toy for families on the go.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3978      (added 7/18/2005)
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MSRP: $19.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Based on a 2003 NASA space shuttle experiment to study animal life in space to test how ants successfully tunnel in microgravity, the nutrient-rich, nontoxic AntWorks™ Gel promotes healthy colony growth while viewers watch ants live and work to create series upon series of intricate tunnels. This easy-to-care-for set includes a magnifying glass, extreme zoom lens, tunnel starter tool and instruction booklet with fun ant facts. U.S. Patent pending. The transparent gel allows for “better representation of ants’ intelligent and architectural ability,” Gary Armstrong of Fascinations told TDmonthly. “The gel is also their food and water source. Ants are the perfect pet. They don’t need any care.”
— "We sell quite a few ant farms from Fascinations," said David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont., when discussing science and nature best sellers with TDmonthly in summer 2007.
— Two of 29 retailers TDmonthly spoke with said ant farms from Fascinations are best-selling science toys with customers. They sell about half a dozen ant farms from Fascinations each month.
— “We can't keep them in stock,” remarked Jude Larene, co-owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, Wash., of the AntWorks kits in his store. Of 64 retailers surveyed in August 2008, 12 percent named Antworks as a best-selling science and nature product.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 674      (added 12/1/2004)
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MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Kids can follow the life cycle of the mealworm with this easy-to-raise, easy-to-do kit. It comes with a tri-chambered “Barn” habitat, a super magnifier for insect observation, detailed instructions with acres of insect information, and, most important of all, a certificate for 25 to 35 mealworm larvae.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8747      (added 7/26/2006)
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Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



A whole science lab in a box, this 1200 X scope comes with a viewfinder and lighting system, with metal body and genuine glass lens, ranges from 100 X all the way up to a whopping 1200 X, and includes a Petri Dish, 5 prepared Slides, Gum Media, Shrimp Slips, Sea Salt, 34 Cover Slips, a Shrimp Hatchery Kit, a Scalpel, Scissors, Probe, Slicer, 17 Blank Slides, 2 Empty Test Tubes, a Dropper, 6 Blank Labels, 5 Collection Bottles, Eosin, a Spatula, a Condenser Lens, Tweezers, a Stirring Rod, and a carrying case for the whole shebang. Everything for the budding scientist.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6442      (added 1/9/2006)
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MSRP: $59.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Kits



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 TDmonthly asks 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.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5252      (added 10/27/2005)
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MSRP: $8.50
Age Range: 5 to 10
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Party Goods



Throw a party they will never forget. ScienceWiz's Crazy Chemistry Party Kit is the perfect addition to any child's party. Your child and six friends will have the chance to capture CO2 explosions, make candles, have a bulging penny contest, play the upside down water trick and have a sink or float balloon event. A time tested favorite from the ScienceWiz camps.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7745      (added 4/27/2006)
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These medium-sized round magnets are strong enough to stick together through a table (one on top and one on bottom). They sell well for Matt Hannifin, manager at Science Toy Magic LLC in Santa Fe, N.M.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 7385      (added 3/29/2006)
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MSRP: $60.00
Age Range: 12 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Science & Nature



The kit includes 17 different cosmetics base substances that can be used to make personalized makeup, lip gloss, body lotion, face cream and shower gel. The full-color, 48-page book guides young chemists through the science and history of cosmetics and gives dozens of beauty recipes and techniques. In addition, it teaches how to care for skin, hair and nails to keep them healthy and radiant and builds a young person´s foundation in basic dermatology.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 2835      (added 2/11/2005)
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MSRP: $10.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: January 2006
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature
Educational
General Toys



This kit includes a 7” gypsum block, tools, a paper clip and twine — everything needed to assemble a complete 11-1/2"- to 12"-tall pirate. The free Pirate Dig Kit POP contains two each of four styles. Launch date: 2006.
— “In this hot pirate market, these are incredibly well-done and particularly cute skeletons that are the perfect gift for any pirate enthusiast,” Cindy Vader of GeoCentral told TDmonthly.

ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9905      (added 11/2/2006)
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MSRP: $10.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Have you ever wanted to look through a high-powered telescope to explore outer space? This new product provides kids (and adults) with the amazing opportunity to explore the heavens by accessing time on an observatory. Log in and start exploring (by the minute, by the card); card-carrying astronomers will be notified in advance about upcoming missions so not to miss anything that maybe of interest. Furthermore, they can take and store pictures, zoom in on objects, listen to expert storytellers, etc. (uses either Mac or PC). Each $10.00 card is good for 50 minutes of viewing.
— Patrick Paolucci of Bluestorm told TDmonthly what makes the Slooh Explore Space Live Telescope a great alternative to a real telescope: "Families have the opportunity to access the same high-powered telescopes that professionals in the field of astronomy use to explore space. For most families, purchasing a telescope to explore the heavens is not a practical option.” The Slooh Explore Space Live Telescope Card is a winner of the 2006 Parents' Choice Gold Award.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6586      (added 1/17/2006)
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MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 5 to 13
SKU or Item #: ES3040B
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature



Join Sam as he explores mineral and rock formation, the rock cycle, mineral identification, the Mohs hardness scale and famous rocks around the world. Each kit contains a teaching manual, a student workbook, a rocks and minerals journal for each child to complete, field guide, mineral testing kit, rock samples, display box and supplies for a fun art activity. "Science, art, history and geography are integrated into each unique kit, giving children a much broader understanding. The kits are ready-to-use and parents do not have to gather obscure supplies,” Michelle Eichhorn, owner of Treasure Box Press, told TDmonthly. "Children seem to gravitate toward rocks. They enjoy filling their pockets with any unusual rock they find. After this kit, they'll be able to identify their finds as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary. What better way to learn?"
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9976      (added 11/9/2006)
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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 9 and up
SKU or Item #: 503
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Soda Pop Science is a unique kit that lets kids invent their own secret soda formulas, create some fizz, experiment with flavors and colors, conduct taste tests and make wild, fizzy drinks for their friends. “Soda Pop is a very original kit and was the product of a collaboration with early learning experts at the University of California Berkeley GEMS program,” Jean Bessette of Scientific Explorer told TDmonthly. “This kit has won several awards.”
— In a summer 2010 survey, three of 43 specialty retailers named Scientific Explorer kits a top-selling product in the science and nature category. One retailer cited the Soda Pop Science Kit as a favorite.
— “Scientific Explorer is our number-one science line,” Casey Sartain, buyer for Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah, told TDmonthly in August 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10243      (added 11/27/2006)
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MSRP: $20.00
Age Range: 8 and up
SKU or Item #: 3825
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



Kids will become after-dinner science magicians as they uncover the iron in their food, stretch a banana, bend spoons and mix up a batch of quicksand gravy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10245      (added 11/27/2006)
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