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January 2006 | Vol. V - No. 1




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Tweens Elected President

Fun, Educational Games Catch Homeschooling Parents by Surprise


“Ohhhh ... I am such a bad politician!” Cabot Lee Petoia
While evaluating 4 new toys for TDmonthly Magazine, 5 homeschooling families in Western North Carolina discovered that their kids were greedy and electrifying: Politics by Chum Chum Games (ToyDirectory) and Snap Circuits Jr. by Elenco (ToyShow) tied for being the most fun, the Hit Kit by DK Publishing Inc. created intense excitement and Speed Spell by Speedspell (ToyDirectory) was valued for adaptability and … well … speed!

Participating were former teacher Lynn Costine with Sarah (12 years), Anna (10), Emily (8) and Will (6); former business owner Julie Petoia with Cabot Lee (11), Talia (9) and Malynne (8); Susan Ledford, editor of the Homeschoolers Resources Directory, with Victoria (10) and Joe (6); former corporate workshop manager Shawna Hughes with Alexa (10);; and Allison Seagle with Sara (11). (Click here to view the full results of the survey: Homeschool Families Rate Toys.)

Snap Circuits Jr. by ELENCO

The Seagles gave this kit straight “10”s.

“This was one of, if not the best kits of its type we have ever seen,” enthused Ledford.

Hughes said that Alexa had received a Snap Circuits kit last year and had already requested another one.

“I can’t wait to build something even bigger!” the 10-year-old exclaimed.

“I liked that it was a problem-solving activity; my kids had to reason why something did or didn’t work,” added Petoia.

All of the mothers praised the kits’ comprehensiveness. “Everything you need … is included in the package,” commented Costine, “which is why I think it would be a good homeschool toy.”

Politics by CHUM CHUM GAMES

The parents were sure that Politics would bomb: the packaging was drab, the subject boring and the instructions daunting. But their kids were soon off and “running.”

“My kids are actually power-hungry monsters!” laughed Costine. “They desperately want to be President.”

Politics gives depth to a subject that is dull three years out of four,” said Ledford. “It explains the election process on every level … and shows the impact of a scandal on an election.”

“I'm President, Mom!” cried Victoria. Competing against her brother to be President was “way cool.”

“My kids thought it was challenging and hilarious,” commented Petoia.

“Ohhhh. I am such a bad politician!” lamented Cabot Lee.

“It’s a game where everyone in the family has an equal chance to win,” noted Hughes.

Sara Seagle was President for one term. “Yes, she’ll run again,” verified her Mom.

Speed Spell by SPEEDSPELL

The best thing about Speed Spell, said the parents, was that the kids were able to devise their own solitaire games — an important attribute in a homeschooling environment.

“In a sibling group, the 12-year-old is going to whip the 8-year-old [at spelling],” noted Costine.

“I like that it’s interactive and fast-paced. It requires concentration and thinking ahead,” said Petoia.

The parents agreed that Speed Spell would be a good game for kids who have trouble spelling.

Hit Kit by DK PUBLISHING INC.

All of the kids couldn’t wait to try the Hit Kit. Unfortunately, just one parent had the computer and music savvy to make it work:

“My husband’s a musician,” explained Costine.

After Dad came to the rescue, the Hit Kit was a hit. “They loved it!” exclaimed Costine. “The [accompanying] booklet was very informative.”

Her kids recorded a Beatles song, “Orphan Girl” by Gillian Welch, and an original composition. They especially liked being able to add the included sound effects.

“They really enjoyed it … I’d recommend this kit to people who know how to record music,” concluded Costine.

The following is more information on the products reviewed and related products.





SKU or Item #: 0000001
Category: Board Games



This challenging game brings players laughter, tears, and pure fun as it allows them to experience the American government in action first hand. Politics offers players of all ages the highs and lows of a political career, as they rise from mayor to president, all competing to become the richest and most popular politician.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 3218      (added 3/15/2005)
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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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Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $12.00
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: October 2004
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: General Games



In this fast-paced game, the players race to complete words from multiple letter groups, building from the inside out. The more words players complete — or steal — the more points they earn. The rules contain several versions including the Solitaire, Switch, Molasses and the highly competitive Challenge versions. "[Speed Spell is a] unique blend of competition and cooperation that is super fun and helps build spelling skills without working at it," Becky Geist, creator of Speed Spell, told TDmonthly. The greatest educational benefits are reaped as kids play "out loud," naming possibilities for all that the less-skilled may not recognize. Jerrilee Geist, selected by By Kids For Kids as one of their kid inventors, created this game at age 9 with assistance from her mom. This game is a winner of the 2005 Dr. Toy Smart Play/Smart Play Children´s Products Award. Launch date: October 26, 2004. READ MOM REVIEW
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4165      (added 8/15/2005)
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Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Musical Toys



The Hit Kit is a complete guide to setting up, recording, producing and mixing music. The kit contains a 240-page instruction manual that follows the production process and is packed with hints and tips, an audio CD containing essential drum tracks and loops, and a CD-ROM containing an exclusive version of the industry standard sequencer package Hit Kit Logic Software. Logic Audio software can be installed on any home computer that meets its system requirements. Also included is a high-quality dynamic microphone that is ideal for both vocals and instruments. The kit's author is top record producer, Steve Levine. The Hit Kit requires Mac OS 10.2 or higher, 9.2 or higher, G3 with 250Mhz or faster Windows 98 SE/Me/2000/XP, Athlon/Duron or Pentium with 300 MHz or faster 128 MB RAM or more, and a CD-ROM or DVD drive for installation.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 6099      (added 12/20/2005)
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MSRP: $24.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Kits



Kids can make an erupting volcano, complete with light and sound effects, using this kit.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5251      (added 10/27/2005)
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MSRP: $19.50
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Educational
Science & Nature
Kits



Learn and build your own AM/FM Radio Kit. Safe,solderless,educational and fun!
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5248      (added 10/27/2005)
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MSRP: $29.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature



For all those kids who have a burning desire to launch a rocket, this is another creation from the man who created the Ultimate Robot Kit and the Robot Challenge Kit, David Eckold. The Ultimate Rocket Kit contains four different rockets, each with its own mission. Read up on rockets in the enclosed book, build one and get it ready to soar into space.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 5555      (added 11/15/2005)
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Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author

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