May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
Homeschool Panel Gives 3-D Puzzle Mixed Reviews
Voxal Challenges Some, Disappoints Others
Voxal Star, Pine, Ringo and Holly by VOXAL LLC
Age: 9 and Up
Gender: Boys and Girls
Category: Puzzles & Skill
What It Is: Made of durable, high-quality plastic, Voxal is a three-dimensional spatial puzzle consisting of three identical, flat pieces. When correctly assembled, the 3 ½”-diameter Voxal is symmetrical. Voxals are available in a variety of colors and shapes, but the basic solution remains the same.
What the Moms Thought: Ledford appreciated the offer of an online solution, though it was “not needed at our house.” Wilson found the web address “easy to remember” and noted that “should you not wish to keep the package, you can access the instructions, hints, warnings, etc., at any time.” However, she was not able to download and print the illustrations, as others were.
Ledford liked the term "Voxal," which “seems like it should be a real word but wasn’t in several online dictionaries.” Zuidema didn’t understand the space theme of the packaging and lamented that the Voxals would only be decorative if “glow-in-the-dark plastic is the look you’re going for.”
Shanahan noted the sturdiness of the pieces. Wilson liked the “instructions, tips and warnings clearly defined on the packages.”
What the Kids Thought: “Alyssa’s (8) favorite quality was how the puzzles looked when they were assembled,” Zuidema said. The Wilson children liked interchanging the pieces to create “new designs such as their own Beatle (Ringo Star).”
The Shanahan children were “intrigued” when they saw the pieces, but after “manipulating them briefly, the children would go back to the package, reread the instructions, then put it down and wander away,” Shanahan reported. Katie (7) wanted to use the pieces as “playground equipment for my little dolls.”
Shanahan said her children found “no enjoyment” in Voxal. Andrew (12) concurred, although sister Elise (9) was “spurred on by the challenge.” Wilson said, “She liked the fact that you can either disassemble them for another day or use them to hang in your room or keep on your desk.”
Dawson’s children liked the aliens on the packaging, and Joe (8) commented that the assembled Voxals “look like stars.” He and Ethan (9) were pleased when they were able to independently assemble a Voxal; Ethan had help from the online solution and Joe from his sister‘s example. “Spinning a Voxal made of three different colored pieces is really neat!” Joe raved.
What the Kids Learned from this Toy: “The toy challenged my kids to think of fitting puzzle pieces together in new (to them) ways,” Dawson said. Ledford plans to use Voxal to “show the concept of spatial dimensions.” Wilson reported that “Elise utilized her problem-solving skills as well as artistic intuition by ‘designing’ her own mixed models.”
How to Improve It: Since there is only one solution and thus no more challenge (which several participants noted), Dawson suggested focusing marketing “more on the decorative features … than on the challenging aspects.” Several children enjoyed using the completed Voxals as decoration, but Shanahan complained that “plastic is not an attractive art piece.”
“Victoria (12) suggested that it would lengthen the fun if there were a way to build upon a completed Voxal,” Ledford reported. [Editor's Note: Voxal Fractile, still in development, will do just that.]
Victoria also recommended updating the packaging, and Shanahan added that it “would not have caught our attention” as is.
“I like the different colors and shapes, and would like to see them combined into one package so the consumer can, without additional purchase, build both a single-color Voxal and a multi-color Voxal,” Ledford commented.
Wilson suggested imprinting the website onto the Voxal pieces so the instructions do not have to be kept. [Editor's Note: Fabio Elias, founder of Voxal, wrote in to say that the website is now marked on the pieces, the package is being improved and he's working on a glow-in-the-dark Voxal, too.]
Would You Want Another Toy Like This? “I appreciate games and toys that challenge a child to think spatially,” Ledford said. Zuidema, however, added, “These aren’t the type of brainteasers Alyssa (8) will come back to again and again.” Timothy (15) and Andrew (12) thought Voxals would best appeal to puzzle lovers.
Roundtable participants are former corporate accountant Robbin Dawson with Ethan (9) and Sara (6); Alison Shanahan with Elizabeth (15), Emily (13) and Katie (7); Teresa Wilson, editor of “HOMES Newsletter,” with Timothy (15), Andrew (12), Elise (9) and Steven (7); Jill Zuidema, former retail manager, with Alyssa (8); and Susan Ledford, editor of the "Homeschool Resources Directory for SC,” with Victoria (12), Joe (8) and Griffin (2).
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Writer'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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