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The Tuneables – Innovative Music DVD/CD Set for Youngsters

TheTuneables2“The Tuneables: I Love Music” is a video and audio package designed to teach young children the fundamentals of music. Its development was sponsored by “The Music Intelligence Project,” an organization created by Patsy and Robert Johnson who were music educators at the University of Michigan.
“The Tuneables: I Love Music” set includes a 30 minute animated DVD plus a companion CD with 18 songs, some of which are highlighted on the DVD. “The Tuneables: I Love Music” is intended for children ages 3-8 years old. The purpose of the DVD is to teach kids how to “move to the beat of the music,” “recognize tones,” “expand their singing range,” and finally to simply “sit back and enjoy some classical sounds.””The Tuneables: I Love Music” accomplishes those goals by introducing six key musical characters, Mo, the violin, Clara, the clarinet, Pete, the trumpet, Sunny, the cymbal, Snare, the drum and Gloria, the piano. Each of them plays a key role in teaching Annie and Max, two new musical students, the special qualities of music appreciation.

After watching the DVD and listening to the CD, I found myself actually humming the clever fun songs several hours later. But, the real test would be to see what the kids thought of “The Tuneables: I Love Music.”

We assembled a pre-school group of six youngsters ages 4-5 years old. We set things up on a large screen TV with great sound, and had the kids sit in chairs in a semi-circle about 10-15 feet back from the monitor. We told them to look, listen and interact. The_TuneablesWe stood back and watched, as the kids immediately began patting their knees, head and nose following the beat in the music as suggested in the video. They were also able to understand the different tones, like do, re, me, fa, so, la and ti. Then the oldest girl got up and began to dance and sing, and the rest followed her lead. “The Tuneables: I Love Music” DVD format had an amazing ability to keep the kids’ attention for the full 30 minutes. When it was over, we put on the CD and they all continued to dance and sing, even as they were putting on their coats to go home. “The Tuneables: I Love Music” collection also brought smiles to the faces of the parents. They were very impressed with the entertainment value to small children of a product intended to teach the basics of music. “The Tuneables: I Love Music” 2-disk set can be purchased at Amazon.com for $29.99. A special HD DVD set is also down-loadable for $31.99 at “TheTuneables.com.” We expect there will be additional DVDs released in the future as well.


— RJ Cullen

Posted in Learning

My Own Grill Set and My Own Laundry Set – Innovative Playsets from The Step2 Company




"The Step2 Company" is the largest toddler toy manufacturer in the USA. The Company uses a process called rotational molding with the plastic in their toys, and as a result the quality of their products has become legendary. "Toys Bulletin" got a chance to look at two portable play sets offered by "The Step2 Company."

First up was "My Own Laundry," which is basically a kid's size washing machine, that closely resembles the same front loading machine that mom uses. Although this toy could not use real soap and water, an on/off button on the front actually turns on the washing machine, which sounds very much like the real thing, including a buzzer when the "wash cycle" is complete. The top of the machine has a handy sink as well, plus there are lots of accessories including hangers, a spray bottle, an iron, a wash cloth, dryer sheets and even two soap boxes. It was perfect for the young homemaker. "My Own Laundry" requires just 2 AA batteries, which are included.

Next up was "My Own Grill." It is a kid's size barbecue grill, allowing children to stand side by side with dad, and make believe they are doing their own grilling. The play set features a glowing grill, complete with some sizzling cooking sounds. There are loads of accessories, including a hamburger patty, hot dog and a chicken leg. There is a spatula, tongs, fork and even a mustard bottle as well. The grill provides ample room to store everything in the two door front cabinet. "My Own Grill" also requires just 2 AA batteries, which are included.

We next tested both "My Own Laundry" and "My Own Grill" on an age appropriate focus group. The group consisted of 3 boys and 3 girls, ranging in age from 2-7 years old. We set both toys up on two separate tables, with the accessories laid out nicely for each. We showed the kids how to turn each of the toys on, so that they could hear and experience the special effects. They quickly took over from there.

The boys and girls were equally drawn to each toy. They enjoyed turning both the laundry and the grill on and off innumerable times, marveling at the sights and sounds offered by each. The food and cooking utensils that were included with "My Own Grill" were a big hit. But, several kids asked if there were shirts or dresses to put inside the washing machine. They also wondered what to hang on the hangers.

Some of the accessory pieces were very small, so care had to be taken around the youngest children. The older kids enjoyed the learning experience, and several started asking their parents about the washing machine and grill they had at home. It was like a light bulb had suddenly went off, and they wanted to know more about their real laundry and grill.

Overall, "My Own Laundry" and "My Own Grill" were hits with both the focus group and their parents. Both items can be purchased at Amazon.com.
-- RJ Cullen
Posted in Learning

Connor’s Kits for Kids – Polymer Power – Let’s Create Slime

The origin of "Connor's Kits for Kids" is quite a success story. Connor Bernstein started the Company when he was just 9 years old. He had grown frustrated by the types of science kits he had found in toy and hobby stores.  He felt the explanations and materials were well below par, so with encouragement from his family, he began making science experiments for his friends.  Soon it was apparent that his love for science and teaching others was a special gift. He wanted to share it with others, and thus the birth of "Connor's Kits for Kids."

We are testing and reviewing the "Polymer Power" Kit.  It basically creates slime, and what kid doesn't like to play with slime?  We decided to test the product with four youngsters from 6-10 years old.  They each had at least one parent present to assist in the testing phase.

Remember, this is a science kit, so our goal was to complete the experiment using only the materials provided. The instructions were very easy to follow and the kit included not only the chemicals necessary, but also 3 mixing cups, a stirrer, and plastic bag.
We suggested that each of the four children take on a specific task.  The first child prepared the Slimerizer solution.  It was simply a matter of mixing hot water with the powered Sodium Tetraborate in the provided bottle. 

The next youngster poured 15 ml of Slime Base (Polyvinyl Alcohol) into a plastic mixing cup.  There were measuring lines on the cup so it was easy to see how much to pour.  Then, that content was poured into a larger plastic mixing cup. 

The third little scientist was given the task of opening the bottle of Slimerizer, prepared earlier, and pouring it into a new plastic mixing cup up to the 5 ml line.  Next that cup was emptied into the same large mixing cup containing the Slime Base.

The last child maybe had the most fun, even though he was growing impatient waiting for his turn.  Now, the wooden stick was used to mix and stir the contents of the large mixing cup. Suddenly, the bottom portion of the cup was filled with slime, or in more scientific terms, we had made a Polymer.

Lastly, all of the kids and the parents took turns squeezing, stretching and watching the slime drip over cups and peel off the carefully placed wax paper which formed our work area.  Everyone had a good time for sure.

The leftover Slime Base and Slimerizer are good for several weeks, but, both bottles should be stored in a refrigerator.  There was plenty available to prepare another batch of slime or two.  Once the slime is created, it is only good for about a week and then should be thrown away.  When not being used, the slime should be put in the provided plastic bag.

It should also be noted that none of the chemicals used were harmful, but it was recommended not to drink the Slime Base or Slimerizer.

This was a fun experience and all of the kids enjoyed making slime themselves.  It was educational for one and all, as the parents admitted they had no idea how slime was prepared before arriving. It was not nearly as messy as we had thought it might be, and clean up was as easy as soap and water.

Overall, "Connor's Kit for Kids" was a success at all levels.  The Polymer Power (Slime) kit can be purchased at the Kits for Kids Website and it retails for $17.95.  There are several other kits available, including "Insta-Pets" and "Crystal Explosion."  
-- RJ Cullen
Posted in Learning

ToysBulletin.com Announces its Best Toys and Games List for 2011

THE BEST OF 2011 FROM TOYS BULLETIN

It is a difficult task to compile a list of the year's best toys and games, since it is absolutely impossible to have played with every toy and game released in 2011. So, we have prepared our "Best of the Year" list based on toys and games that we have reviewed on our website from November 2010 through October 2011.

We have excluded some older items which we reviewed this year, because the toy or game had been around for years, but at the same time we have included some toys and games that were new to us here at Toys Bulletin, but may have been available prior to 2011. And most importantly, we kept with our mission statement of providing a list of the "Best Toys and Games You've Never Heard Of."

Here we go........

TOP TOYS AND GAMES OF 2011 (in Alphabetical Order)

Automoblox- from Automoblox Company, LLC

The best wood building toy we have ever seen (see review on 11-19-10)

Flip Six Card Game- from US Games Systems, Inc.

Easy to play card game, and so addictive (see review on 6-18-11)
Jukem- from Flying Pig Games

A simple, fun and fast football card game (see review on 3-14-11)
Khet 2.0- from Innovention Toys

A chess type game with laser beams, and simply amazing to play (see review on 3-25-11)
Kid's Safety Trampoline- from One Step Ahead

Sturdy, high quality and a focus group favorite (see review on 7-30-11)
Main Event Boxing- from Downey Games

An amazing Boxing simulation that can be played in just 5 minutes (see review on 10-1-11)
Puzzle Pyramid- from Ravensburger

An astonishing 3D jigsaw puzzle (see review on 7-26-11)
Redakai- from Spin Master Ltd

The new standard in trading card games (see review on 7-9-11)
Revomaze- from Ashton Pitt Ltd

The most fascinating, yet difficult, puzzle ever created (see review on 9-24-11)




Sword and Shield Set- from Rubbabu

Soft, flexible and unbreakable, young boys loved it (see review on 5-25-11)



The Wacky Whiddles- from Wacky Whiddles and More LLC

A truly fun word game, that is witty and clever (see review on 4-30-11)
Word on the Street- from Out of the Box Publishing, Inc.

So simple and easy to play, yet so rewarding (see review on 9-17-11)

-- List by Toys Bulletin Staff

Posted in Apps and Video Games, Board Games, Building, Christmas, Electronics, Figures, Games, Girls, Information, Learning, Nostalgic, Outdoor, Remote Control, Riding, Sports, Vehicles

Xoomy – A Drawing Machine for Children

Xoomy, an activity toy from Ravensburger, allows youngsters to draw near perfect illustrations from provided patterns in different sizes and shapes. There are two versions of Xoomy, one for girls and one for boys. We chose the girl's version for this review, although both are basically the same, except for the choice of image patterns and color of the box/case.

The girl's version comes in an appropriate pink container. The container includes not only the illustrating machine, but also serves as a carrying case for all of the Xoomy accessories. The case measures approximately 9"L x 8"W x 3"H. The case snaps open with ease and inside reveals the zoom device. One of the 20 included clear image patterns is placed on the viewing surface of the zoom device, which is back-lit by a small light bulb. 4 AA batteries (not included) are required to power the light bulb. By moving a small on/off switch, and an adjustable zoom lamp up or down, the chosen pattern is lit up in different sizes.

Next, the case is closed, and a 4" x 4" piece of white paper (small supply included) is placed on a screen centered in the middle of the outside case cover. The pattern shines through the paper perfectly and allows children to trace the image and create an illustration of varying sizes that matches the chosen pattern. A black felt tip pen is included for this purpose. The illustration can then be completed with colored pencils (not included) to create a beautiful final product.

Our age appropriate focus group enjoyed playing with Xoomy immediately. They were quick to understand the basics of creating their own illustrations, and everyone took their drawings home with them. We did provide a full supply of colored pencils to allow the kids to make final touches to their illustrations.

Overall, parents and kids agreed that this was a fun entertaining way to create a variety of illustrations, and the patterns included both unique designs and photos. Parents were a bit disappointed that a small set of colored pencils were not included and there was some grumbling about needing to supply 4 AA batteries. However, most of the parents wanted to know where Xoomy could be purchased and inquired about the price. Take a look at Amazon.com where Xoomy retails for $24.99.

-- Lance Manion
Posted in Learning

Rubbabu – 3D Shape Sorter and Rubbablox




Let's take a look at a couple of very educational toys from "Rubbabu." First, we spent a lot of time with the "3D Shape Sorter." The "3D Shape Sorter" is made of the same high quality rubber foam as all "Rubbabu" products. This basically teaches children to put nine different animal shaped puzzle pieces into the proper cut out opening on a puzzle board. Each of the pieces must fit exactly into the designated space. They will not fit upside down, and they must face the proper direction.

In our focus group, this toy had particular appeal to those ages 2 and up. "Rubbabu" had recommended it for ages 0 and older, but with very young children they definitely needed the help of a parent to teach them where to place each animal piece. The youngest children did enjoy simply playing with and squeezing the various animal shaped pieces. The bright colors (6 different colors in all) used for the different animals was a definite positive noted by the parents.

Another plus sited by the parents was the terrific non-slip surface on the bottom of the puzzle tray. It stayed in one place, rather than slide around, which was especially helpful when the little hands were trying to put pieces into place.

Next, we looked at "Rubbablox," a building toy for ages 2 and older.  The set contained 9 rubber foam blocks, each measuring approximately 3" by 3". The blocks can be connected to each other with 14 short cylindrical connectors, each measuring about 1 1/4" in height and diameter.  Of course, everything is made of the quality "Rubbabu" rubber foam material.  They connect very easily and the number of bright colors used were expanded beyond those used with the "3D Shape Sorter."

The kids (2+) loved this one, and most of them found it very easy to connect the blocks, and stack them up.  Many of the parents suggested that "Rubbablox" was a perfect pre-Lego type building set, allowing young children to easily handle and build with softer and larger size pieces.

The "Rubbabu 3D Shape Sorter" can be purchased for $29.95 directly from "Rubbabu." The nine piece "Rubbablox" set  can be found at Amazon.com for $36.95.  We gave both of these toys our "Silver Rating."
-- RJ Cullen
*Silver Rating*

Posted in Building, Learning

Kidzsack- Sports Design – A Backpack you can make your own

"Kidzsack" is a new type of backpack for children ages 4 and up. We had never seen anything quite like this before. The "Kidzsack" measures approximately 12" x 13" and looks like it is made of canvas, although it is manufactured of 100% recycled fabric. The sack itself opens from the top to allow kids to carry books, papers, or even a soccer ball, as suggested by the manufacturer. Two strong heavy duty rope straps are attached, one on each side, allowing the child to slip the "Kidzsack" easily over their shoulders.

But what makes this product unique is that each one comes with an original black and white design on the backside of the sack. Included with each "Kidzsack" is a complete set of 8 different colored washable markers. The idea is for your child to color the design, much like they would do in a coloring book. Our review sample was based on a sports design. Kids were able to color the design as they wished using the washable markers, and the result was a bright new look for the backside of the sack. Children seemed to love coloring and creating their own personal "Kidzsack." Certainly no two would ever look the same.

Now for the magic, the "Kidzsack" is completely machine washable, and once washed, all colors disappear, and the sack is ready to be colored once again.  Children can use totally different colors and create a totally different look. Kids loved coloring and wearing the "Kidzsack," but they were truly surprised, when we showed them the "Kidzsack," after washing.  In fact, once washed, we could not find any trace of the previous coloring on the product.  It looked brand new, and again ready for coloring.

"Kidzsack" is available with several different designs, so if you own more than one, kids can simply recolor the designs and have several unique looks on multiple "Kidzsacks."  A "Kidzsack" can usually be purchased for less than $20.00, and can be found at www.Amazon.com.  This is a great item for your little one.  Who would have thought you could have so much fun with a backpack.
-- Lance Manion
Posted in Building, Learning

Brush With Genius from Colorforms – A Magical Paint and Play Toy


The fine folks at "Colorforms" have designed a nifty new toy for kids ages 3 and over. It is called "Brush with Genius."

A brightly colored artist's tool holds a brush, which can be dipped in water or watercolor paints (included).  Using a plain piece of white paper, kids are able to apply the wet brush, and draw whatever they please.  By applying a finger from their opposite hand and rubbing it over their design, crazy sounds, almost like musical notes are heard at once.  

The key to this is that you must keep the brush hand in contact with the paper at the same time.  Using the watercolors makes it much easier to see and trace over the original design with your opposite hand.

What actually happens is that your opposite finger forms an invisible and harmless circuit between your drawing hand and your opposite hand. That connection provides the sounds that made the kids in our focus group scream with delight.  We also found the parents of these children fascinated, by what at first seemed impossible.  If a second or third youngster touches the opposite hand of the person using the brush, the sounds will also occur almost instantly. We even tried using the brush with water on a counter top, and it worked perfectly without the paper.  It basically worked on any flat surface.  But we would not suggest using the watercolors on anything but plain paper.

This was a fascinating toy, unlike anything seen recently.  We had participated in a demonstration of "Brush with Genius" at the New York Toy Fair this past February, and after trying it with our young focus group, it proved to be a huge success.  Two AAA batteries are required, and "Brush with Genius" retails at $14.95.  Take a closer look at Amazon.com.

-- RJ Cullen
Posted in Learning








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