November 25, 2002 at 3:25 PM CST - Updated June 17 at 9:24 PM
"Harry Potter Whopping Willow game. Ever heard of that?" Amy Jacquin asks an excited group of kindergartners at Immaculate Conception in Jackson. "Or Barbie's Laptop? And we have eKara Karaoke. Pixter!"
Four new toys, tons of questions, and unlimited curiosity.
"Select a word that begins with the same sound," instructs Barbie's computer. "L for ladybug!" One girl shouts back.
Educational toys continue to be a big seller this year, and the $25 Barbie laptop tops the list for many little girls. And with most electronic toys, you can buy new cards or software to update the games or add more variety.
"Okay, where's the L? Boink!" Cool sounds and quick responses keep kids playing with this computer. We notice this toy doesn't attract a big crowd... it's more one-on-one. But the girls who get to handle the mouse and keypad seem to be mesmerized.
Same thing with Pixter. You select a mode and then draw on the screen. But parents are going to need to get involve with Pixter. This $35 dollar toy can be a bit intimidating to 5-year-olds UNTIL they're told how it works. We saw a lot of the Immaculate Conception kids quickly passing it back and forth.
Meanwhile, Amy is still trying to figure out Harry Potter's Whomping Willow tree. Here's a word of wisdom for all Santa's helpers out there... read directions before you start! Even after the $30 game is put together, the top of the tree keeps toppling off. Sometimes you don't even have to be touching it to yell "timber!" But turn the contraption on, and the kids quickly forget about the trouble.
"Each player has to try to take one item off the tree," explains the kindergarten teacher. "And if it falls, then it's the next players turn."
"I got one! I got one!" yells one excited boy, holding his treasure high over his head. Game pieces aren't the only things hooked on this turning tree!
But we had some trouble with eKara Karaoke. The $50 singing and music machine came with a popular music card... but no CHILDRENS' songs.
"You can't read big words yet, so I don't know if this will work," the teacher breaks the news to them. That's Amy's fault, for not making sure the music is appropriate. But we set the screen to "microphone test" and these kindergartners come to life!
"Down came the rain and washed the spider out," the kids sing. Accompanied by a CD of sing-a-long songs, groups of 5-year-olds tried to squeeze closer to the mic. Of course, you can buy microphone systems for less than this $50 eKara Karaoke, but seeing the songs on the television screen would definitely add to their fun.
Here's how Amy came up with the toys to test. She monitored multiple toy company and toy store websites, AND asked for YOUR input. She narrowed all that down to the most repeated requests. And from there, tried to pick a variety of prices, plus a combination of classic and new. Then she frantically searched the aisles at Toys R Us, and with LOTS of help from the employees, walked away with four toys for each age group from Kindergarten through fourth grade.
To summarize, these kindergartners liked all the games! The computer and Pixter were harder to "share" and would be good choices for families with only one child.
"Which one would you like Santa to bring you the most?" the teacher asked. All their hands go up, and one by one they give their choices. They all seemed pretty popular.
So here's how we grade: Harry Potter 'B,' only because it's not very sturdy. Pixter 'A.' Karaoke 'B,' because you need to make sure you have age-appropriate music cards. And Barbie's Laptop 'A.'
We really want to thank Toys R Us for donating all the toys used in this series. And when we're finished, they're being given to charity.