Third Grade Toys

"The new cubed Lite Brite," Amy Jacquin pulls toys out of bags. "We have Shrink Dinks. Spiderman verses the Green Goblin. A Karaoke Machine."

A group of kids start-in on Spiderman, while we set-up the rest of the toys. ALL our toys in this series were donated by Toys R Us. And they're going to charity when we're finished. So we really appreciate Toys R Us for their partnership.

"Amanda, are you playing?" Asks one boy about the Spiderman game. Preparing this $13 game is slow-going. And reading directions is even worse. So this group of Blanchard Elementary third graders decides to try and figure it out as they go...

"But where do you put this?"

.... which obviously doesn't work too well. YOU'LL need to guide your kids through their first game or two.

Notice we're still trying to hook-up Karaoke. We get the machine working right away, but can't get the words to show on the television screen.

So let's move on to the$25 Lite Brite Cube. These Cape Girardeau kids seem to enjoy the flexible light tubes... which remind me of the old telephone switchboards! But of course you're supposed to use the black background... which their teacher suggests.

"Why don't you try to do that, and make a pattern?" she asks? But their response is less than enthusiastic. They just ignore her!

"What's the matter with the Karaoke machine?" a girl asks Amy. "Well, we don't know!" We call in a couple more electronics gurus, but they still can't get the connection to video.

So this time we try $35 Shrinky Dinks. It's just like the ones we played with... only now this machine applies the heat, instead of your oven.

"See, it's starting to curl?" Amy points out. "It's going to curl first and then flatten out."

But from the get-go, we have trouble getting the Shrinky Dink ornaments out.

"It's not coming out!" the students holler at Amy. The drawer is supposed to open when the timer runs down. But it doesn't. And the metal plates tip over, and ornaments fall loose inside the machine.

"Maybe it's not the machine," Amy asks the students crowded around the table. "Maybe we couldn't follow directions?" Quite possibly. That's the only reason Amy won't flunk this toy.

"I think we'll unplug it, get the loose ones out, and call it quites because it's just not working like it says," Amy decides, afraid of the loose ornaments causing a fire. This is one toy you DEFINITELY want to supervise. Frankly, Amy believes it's easier to use the oven!

We check back with our Spiderman board game, and notice the crowd is dwindling. It's more a consolation prize, than a fun game.

Meanwhile, the Lite Brite kids decide to try the black backdrops and follow patterns. And they create all sorts of glowing goodies. There is never a shortage of Blanchard third graders wanting to try their hand at this game.

Finally we give up trying to hook the $50 Karaoke machine up to video. I tried it at the station later, too, and still couldn't get it to work.

"The microphone part, you hear that?" Amy asks. "The microphone part works." And we let kids try singing to some of the pop songs included on the test CD. But frankly, they get confused and self-conscious without words to follow.

And even with Karaoke and Shrinky Dinks going down the tube, these third graders still don't want to play the Spiderman game! It sits untouched.

Finally, the class seems to have the most fun when they give up and just sing Christmas carols.

So here's how we grade. The $50 Karaoke set WE tried gets an 'D' -- despite the fact Toys R Us has one hooked up and working. The $35 Shrinky Dinks maker is to finicky for young kids, and tops out at a 'D.' But kids really like the idea, so we suggest the old-fashioned Shrinky Dinks, using your oven. Spiderman Verses the Green Goblin SOUNDS more exciting than it is. But at $13, it's priced right, there are no parts to break, and there IS a place for board games in every family. So we still give it a 'C.' The $25 Lite Brite Cube is the brightest spot in this test, and earns our only 'A.' And remember, you can find all these toys at Toys R Us stores in the Heartland.