October 2014 | Vol. XIII - No. 10
Top-10 Most-Wanted Science and Nature Toys
With additional reporting by Chris Lundy and Brenda Ruggiero
Science & nature toys aren't just great for back-to-school — they make excellent holiday gifts too. Check out the best-selling science & nature toys according to specialty retailers interviewed by TDmonthly below.
*No manufacturer paid to be included in this list. All products listed were designated by editorial staff without regard to the company's relationship with TOYDIRECTORY.com/TDmonthly Magazine.
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)
Turn this plastic mason-style jar into your own little habitat with real plants and tiny figurines. Set includes a 5” h x 3 ¼” w jar, decorative lid, potting mix, organic chia and wheat grass seeds, garden figurines, decorative sand, river stones and a plant mister. Add dimension to your garden with translucent and glow-in-the-dark stickers – hold it up to the light and watch the fireflies glow.
— In a September 2014 survey, three out of 11 retailers told TDmonthly that this product was one of their top-two best-selling science & nature toys.
— Barbara Fineblum, owner of Barston's Child's Play in Baltimore, Md., told TDmonthly in October 2014 that this was one of her store's best-selling jewelry and accessories item.
Awards: 2014 TDmonthly Magazine Top Toy Award
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 36970 (added 9/29/2014)
Strange Attractor Thinking Putty by CRAZY AARON ENTERPRISES, INC.
Other products from CRAZY AARON ENTERPRISES, INC.
Deep black with subtle green sparkles, this slightly stiffer Thinking Putty has a mind of its own. Near a powerful magnet it comes alive! Strong enough to defy gravity. It can even lift tacks and paperclips on its own after charging in a magnetic field. One would be mesmerized by the invisible forces at play.
— Candace Gooch, owner of At Once All Agog in Limerick, Maine, told TDmonthly in July 2010 that this product is one of her top-three best sellers. She cited sales of 12 in the last month and three in the last week.
— In a late Summer 2012 survey, three out of 12 retailers said Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty was their bestselling novelty item. Richard Gibson, owner of Learning Express of Newton in Newton, Mass., told TDmonthly that the putty brings in $5-6,000 a year, and "the best is the magnetic one."
— In a Fall 2013 survey, three out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty was their best-selling novelty toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 26128 (added 11/19/2009)
Using this science kit, kids will learn the secret of the Giant Test Tube and how to make Touchable Bubbles that don’t pop. They can make a super bouncing ball and 20’ of gooey, slimy worms. Almost everything kids need comes in one clear vinyl bag for easy clean-up.
— In a September 2011 survey, Joe Berardoni, owner of Pun's Toys in Brynn Mawr, Pa., told TDmonthly, "Be Amazing’s Lab in a Bag (any one) does very well here. They have great experiments included and are a good 'birthday present' price."
— In a Fall 2013 survey, two out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Lab in a Bag was one of their best-selling science toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9698 (added 10/17/2006)
Kids can recycle a soda can into a silly, walking, wobbling robot. The kit includes all the parts needed, right down to the googly eyes, except for the two AAA batteries that are required. Launch date: 2008.
— “The Tin Can Robot is a huge hit. It’s from their Green Science series, which has been doing great,” Jennifer Schneeweis, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, told TDmonthly in late August 2009. Two of 40 retailers mentioned the brand when discussing best-selling educational items in fall 2009.
― “Right now we have the Tin Can Robot for 8- to 10-year-olds and that's doing well,” said Marlene, manager of Kits & Kaboodle in Carmel, Ind., when asked about her best-selling item for tween boys. Seven of 39 retailers surveyed in October 2009 said science kits are their top sellers for tween boys.
― “It's a good price point and an excellent product. It sells all the time,” Priscilla Moore, owner of Mr. Fub's Party, Toys and More in Yellow Springs, Ohio, said of the Tin Can Robot and other 4M science kits in spring 2010.
— In August 2010, seven of 43 retailers told TDmonthly that Toysmith is a best-selling science and nature brand. Two retailers named Tin Can Robot as a top product.
AWARDS: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 23707 (added 5/19/2009)
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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)
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Not only are MENTOS® great to eat, but these amazing candies are loaded with wonder. Learn how to create an enormous geyser by combining MENTOS® with soda. The eruption is amazing—up to 25 feet high—and so is the science just beneath the surface. The Geyser Tube™ allows you to load the candies and safely disperse them into the soda bottle.
— When asked about their best selling novelty toys in a September 2011 survey, Mary Porter Green, owner of The Curiosity Zone in Ashburn, Va., told TDmonthly: "We sell lots of the Geyser Tubes from Be Amazing! Toys."
— In a Fall 2013 survey, two out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Be Amazing was a best-selling brand of science toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 18072 (added 3/24/2008)
This is the first book & construction toy in the GoldieBlox series. Meet Goldie, her beloved dog, Nacho, Benjamin Cranklin (the cat with an attitude), Katinka (the dolphin ballerina), Phil (the sloth) and Flavio (the bear from Brazil). Help Goldie figure out how to build a belt drive to spin everybody. Includes: (1) storybook, (1) pegboard, (5) wheels, (10) axles, (5) blocks, (1) crank, (1) ribbon, (5) washers. Launch date: April 2013.
— In a May 2014 survey Suzi McMullen, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Falls Church, Va., told TDmonthly that Goldieblox was a best-selling construction toy in their store. "When we had it, we sold out all 24," she said.
— In a September 2014 survey, LyndaBlankenship from Smart Toys & Books in Knoxville, Tenn., told TDmonthly that Goldie Blox are one of the store's best-selling science & nature toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 35737 (added 12/10/2012)
A souped-up version of the best-selling Remote-Control Machines kit! Build your own motorized vehicles and machines and control them with a wireless remote control unit. A unique six-button infrared remote allows you to control three different motors simultaneously, moving each of them forward or in reverse, with easy-to-activate touch sensors. The three motors can be combined to make complex vehicles and machines in numerous configurations limited only by your imagination. Assemble 20 models demonstrating different ways in which the motors can be used including a three-wheeled car, bat-bot, stag beetle, robot, battle car, ball collector car, forklift, tunneling vehicle, truck, drilling machine, crane, robotic arm and more. After you have built the models in the instructions, you can design your own remote control creations! The kit comes with three motors, remote control unit, battery holder, and 155 building pieces. 128-page, full-color instruction book.
— In a September 2014 survey, Kai Rady, owner of Shenanigans Inc in Charlottesville, Va., told TDmonthly that Remote Control Machines is the store's best-selling science & nature toy.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 36715 (added 4/28/2014)
This sinister device seems at first glance to be an innocent ping-pong ball. Can be used to illustrate the idea of an electric circuit to children-show how electricity can flow through a chain of people holding hands, or that a little dampness can improve conductivity, et cetera.
— In a September 2014 survey, Mary Porter Green, owner of Curiosity Zone in Broadlands, Va., told TDmonthly that UFO Balls are one of the store's best-selling science and nature toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 36284 (added 7/30/2013)
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Writer's Bio: Justina Huddleston graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing in 2009. After graduating she was the on-site director of the Boston Children's Museum gift store for a year, selling educational, developmental, and creative activity toys that tied in with the museum's exhibits. Justina also interned at children's book publisher Candlewick Press before moving from Boston to Los Angeles, where she is now Editorial Director of TDmonthly Magazine. Read more articles by this author
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