October 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 10
|October 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 10|
TDmonthly's Top-10 Most-Wanted Science and Nature Toys
Science Goes "Bugzerk"
With additional reporting by regional correspondents Virginia Davis, Terri Hughes-Lazzell, Christine Lebednik and Brenda Ruggiero
Science and nature are going to the bugs, a survey of 32 specialty retailers told TDmonthly Magazine. Elenco still snaps up the top prize for best sellers with its Snap Circuits, but Insect Lore and Little Kids Inc. are hovering close by with their butterfly and bug projector offerings, respectively. And what would an article on science toys be without ant farms? Fascinations and Uncle Milton both contribute with their popular versions. Read more about science toys in Insects Intrigue While Science Kits Fade.
Here's what creeping and crawling in specialty stores:
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)
This giant live butterfly habitat allows children to grow butterflies from the caterpillar stage, hold them and then set them free. The airy bungalow offers up-close observation time, and the sturdy enclosure can be used again and again in a classroom or playroom. The habitat comes with a coupon for 10 caterpillars and food, plus a fun-filled fact guide.
— "The butterfly hut from Insect Lore ... where a child can get inside," said Diana Gisolfi, co-owner with her two sisters of Three Sisters in Springfield, Mass., when asked by TDmonthly about best-selling science and nature toys.
— Three of 32 retailers said Insect Lore butterfly sets are hot-selling items in science and nature.
— One retailer told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that she sells about six butterfly kits from Insect Lore each month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12406 (added 4/18/2007)
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)
Buzzerks give kids a bug's eye view of the world, and give everyone else a buggy view of them, too. The specially designed inner compound "bug-eye lenses" can be flipped forward so that a kid can see how a real bug sees. Each Buzzerk features realistic insect features: antennae, spines, leggy earpieces and mandibles. The hinged prismatic lenses let kids experience true insect sight by seeing bright and eye-popping metallic colors through compound eyes. Buzzerks come in FireAnt, Mantis and Hornet versions.
— When asked about best-selling science toys in her store, Frances Finfrock, owner of Aunt Franny's Toys in Richland, Wash., replied, "I think it's the Buzzerks. They're bug goggles. They're made by Insect Lore."
— Finfrock said she sells about three Buzzerks goggles a month.
— Five of 32 retailers told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that the Insect Lore brand is a best seller in their stores.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14858 (added 8/23/2007)
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Kids simply add baking soda to this mini volcano and place it inside a glass filled with water. They will be amazed by the bubbly reaction, which is similar to an underwater volcanic eruption.
— When asked about best selling novelty toys in a September 2011 survey, Mary Porter Green, owner of The Curiosity Zone in Ashburn, Va., told TDmonthly that Pocket Volcanoes from Toysmith were one of her top-two novelty items.
— Two of 32 specialty retailers mentioned Toysmith in summer 2007 when discussing their best-selling science and nature toys.
— This product is “safe, fun [and] educational,” Debra Ashley of Toysmith told TDmonthly. It “entertains while educating.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14859 (added 8/23/2007)
Introduce young kids to the magic of chemistry. This kit includes a microscope that magnifies 100x, 200x and 450x and comes with safe accessories. The science guide contains easy introduction activities to perform with the microscope. Kids learn about chemistry as they make a beautiful ornament and test acids and bases. The kit includes lots of activities and experiments for a younger scientist.
— "Scientific Explorer makes the ... My First Chemistry Set, and those have always done well for me," said Alison Cox, owner of Animal Quackers in Raleigh, N.C.
— Cox told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that she sells about five kits a month from Scientific Explorer.
— "The First Chemistry Set is for young children and parents to be introduced to a microscope as well as fun activities involving chemistry and chemical reactions. It's just fun to do,” Susan Rives of Scientific Explorer told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 8757 (added 7/26/2006)
Vintage Ant Farm by UNCLE MILTON INDUSTRIES INC.
Other products from UNCLE MILTON INDUSTRIES INC.
In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the Gold Ant Farm comes in its original die-cut display box with authentic 1956 graphic treatment. The back of the box contains a special message written by Milton Levine, creator of the Ant Farm. The set features a habitat with four connecting antports, clean tunneling sand, clear and flexible antway connecting tubes, an illustrated ant watcher's manual and a stock certificate to order ants through the mail.
— David Campbell, owner of Amazing Toys in Great Falls, Mont., told TDmonthly that ant farms from Uncle Milton are among the best-selling science and nature toys in his store.
— Campbell said in summer 2007 that he sells about "half-a-dozenish" of the ant farms a month.
— "This special Gold Ant Farm includes a commemorative 50th Anniversary logo and the true story about the origin of the original Ant Farm. It is perfect for collectors and new Ant Farm fans alike," said Andrew Sroufe, who handles media relations for Uncle Milton Industries.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14860 (added 8/23/2007)
The Young Scientist Series by THE YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB
Other products from THE YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB
The Young Scientist Series kits (new packaging for 2007) provide young scientists with hours of science experiments, learning and fun. The sets can be completed in order to experience the ultimate science adventure, or they can be done individually. Get young scientists hooked and they will come back for more. This product has received the following awards: Dr. Toy Best 100 products, The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Learning Research Institute Outstanding Resource Award, National Parenting Publications Honors Award, Learning Magazine 2004 Teachers’ Choice Award, and Practical Homeschooling Reader Award.
— When asked about best-selling science and nature toys in his store, Wayne Kneeland, owner of Toy Shop in Bristol, R.I., replied, "I would say the Young Scientists Club, including various kits such as Zany Crystals and Volcano Madness. They are some pretty interesting kits."
— Kneeland told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that he sells about 12 Young Scientists Club kits a month.
— "The multiple-award-winning Young Scientists Series is unique in that each set contains three complete science kits, including three manuals and three supply bags, that will provide ‘Young Scientists' with hours of science experiments, learning and fun," said Esther Novis, president of The Young Scientists Club.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 10990 (added 1/8/2007)
Available in assorted colors, JA-RU adds its Flarp brand to this fascinating "goop" that makes its own distinctive sound and has its own distinctive texture.
— "We sell a lot of those," said John Beutler, associate at Tinkerz Toy Shop in Coeur D' Alene, Idaho, about Flarp Noise-Making Goop.
— Beutler told TDmonthly in summer 2007 that his store sells about two dozen cans of the Flarp Goop on a monthly basis.
— "We've branded the 'Flarp' name so that the quality of our product can be distinguished from other versions out there," said Russel Selevan, vice president at JA-RU.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14861 (added 8/23/2007)
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Writer's Bio: Dennis Furlan is a freelance writer who lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. He works on a variety of writing and editorial jobs with clients and publications worldwide. Dennis is proud to be part of the TDmonthly team, serving as a regional correspondent for the northwestern U.S. Read more articles by this author
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