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April 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 4
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Homeschoolers Puzzle Over Football

Outdoor Games and Indoor Puzzles Keep Them Active


“Can I try it next?” Petoia children, about Touchdown
This month, TDmonthly Magazine’s Homeschool Roundtable played new kinds of ball games with Top Toss Pro and BlongoBall, scored with K & T Toys’ Touchdown, and got an eyeful of prehistoric creatures with Safari’s Dinosaur Panorama Puzzle.

Roundtable participants were art teacher Lynn Costine, B.A., MAT, with Sarah (13 years), Anna (11), Emily (9) and Will (8); Susan Ledford, editor of the "Homeschool Resources Directory for SC,” with Victoria (11), Joe (7) and Griffin (1); Julie Petoia, RN, with Cabot Lee (12), Talia (10), Malynne (9) and Jeremiah, Jacob and Gabriel (5); Alison Shanahan with Elizabeth (14), Emily (12) and Katie (6); and Teresa Wilson, editor of “HOMES Newsletter,” with Timothy (14), Andrew (11), Elise (8) and Steven (6).

Touchdown from K & T TOYS INC.
Category: General Games
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 6 and Up
Price: $19.95

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: A unique, hand-held 3-D puzzle, with a “football” theme and three progressively challenging levels of play that develop and strengthen reasoning skills.

What the Moms Thought: Costine said, “Touchdown is great for trips!” Wilson raved, “The progressive levels of play keep it entertaining. No pieces to keep up with! Playing Touchdown definitely builds thinking and fine-motor skills, as each of my children has improved his time.”

What the Kids Thought: Will (8) loved the football theme, said his mom. He and his sisters raced to see who could complete the challenge fastest. Costine said, “This toy was equally popular with all four ages” — a sentiment echoed at the Petoia household of six.

How to Improve It: Costine suggested adding a simple timer.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This?
“Can I try it next?” the Petoia children asked endlessly. The Wilson children are still telling their mom,“Time me!”

250-Piece Dinosaur Panorama Puzzle from SAFARI LTD.
Category: Puzzles & Skill
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 6 and Up
Price: $12.95

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: A panoramic puzzle that features an exclusive image by world-renowned Japanese artist Haruo Takino and measures 39” x 14” when completed.

What the Moms Thought: Several moms commented on the high-quality graphics. “This is a good puzzle to glue and use as a poster when finished,” said Wilson. She added that the big size allowed for children to easily work together. Ledford noted that the pieces were good for smaller hands. “Some of the pieces are interchangeable in shape, though not in image,” she said. “The child really has to pay attention to match the correct piece.”

What the Kids Thought:
“Dinosaurs!” yelled the Wilson children. Joe (7) also liked the dinosaur graphics, and said the puzzle was “really, really challenging.” Costine said, “Will (8) and Emily (9) enjoyed putting it together.”

How to Improve It: Shanahan found the colors dull, and Victoria (11) commented that more vivid colors would make it easier to put together. Just as many moms liked the graphics as is.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This? “Kate (6) likes to do floor puzzles, and enjoys an exotic theme,” summed up Shanahan.

Top Toss Pro from FUNDEX GAMES LTD.
Category: Outdoor Fun
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: 8 and Up
Price: $30.00

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: A game in which players (or teams) try to earn the highest score by wrapping bolo balls (two hard rubber balls connected by nylon rope) around the rungs of the included towers.

What the Moms Thought: “This toy is lightweight, easy to set up and tear down, fit[s] easily into the included storage bag,” said Wilson. “A good yard toy,” commented Shanahan. Wilson noted that it could be played by “two players, four players or a lone child.”

What the Kids Thought: The Petoia children loved that they could play together. Wilson said her children call this “the easy game: easy to set up, easy to learn, easy to execute and easy to transport.”

How to Improve It:
“[Have] fewer pieces to put together,” said Petoia. Wilson suggested additional ball colors to accommodate more players/teams. At several Roundtable homes, the plastic towers broke within a few weeks, leaving Ledford to suggest sturdier pieces.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This? Joe Ledford (7) would: “I’m practicing my aim with just the balls, since the towers broke,” he said. Timothy Wilson (14) thought it “pretty entertaining.”

BlongoBall from BLONGO FAMILY FUN
Category: Outdoor Fun
Gender: Boys and Girls
Age: All Ages
Price: Base Game: $59.95; Bag: $4.95; Carryall Game Bag: $7.95; Soft Indoor Set: $7.95

TDmonthly rating:


What It Is: A game in which two or more players (or teams) attempt to throw rope-connected golf balls (BlongoBalls) onto the rungs of a BlonGoal (a stand with three horizontal rungs), opting for more formal play with the included rules if desired.

What the Moms Thought: Shanahan saw that BlongoBall appealed to all ages and abilities at her house. Ledford appreciated the laminated instructions with tips and guidelines for throwing, as well as rules for formal play and specific scoring scenarios. “You can also play this informally, with only one child, too,” she said. Ledford said the mesh storage (Carryall Game) bag makes BlongoBall perfect to take along, and the smaller bag keeps the balls organized. “The different colors of the balls make it great for groups,” she added.

What the Kids Thought: Victoria (11) said, “We begged to play it with our dad, and it’s always a favorite when company comes.” She and her mom agreed that the frame is much sturdier — and thus longer lasting — than that of similar games, although the rules are more complex. The Petoia family liked that it accommodated all ages. Ledford appreciated the soft ball option.

How to Improve It: Wilson suggested including the Carryall bag in the base BlongoBall set, rather than as an additional purchase, as she found the combination storage box/original packaging difficult to close.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This? Joe (7) is “aiming” for more BlongoFun. Sports buffs Andrew (11) and Steven (6) enjoy any activity involving a ball, and their sister Elise (8) finds this is one sport where she can hold her ground with her brothers.

Photos of children by Susan Ledford



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Susan LedfordWriter's Bio: Susan Ledford is the writer, editor and publisher of the "Homeschool Resources Directory for S.C."  She has been evaluating toys and games for TDmonthly's Roundtable reviews since 2005. She also is a homeschool veteran of seven years. Read more articles by this author

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