Monday, November 7, 2011

Can Beyblades be Educational?

WHAT: Beyblades
DOES: Game of metal spinning tops launched to spin and bump into other tops.  Last top spinning wins.
INVEST: $8 and more for related products
TOOLS: Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, More Make-Believe Please, Lose and Win Gracefully

Number 1 gets paid a little money now and then for doing chores. He also gets the loose change piles that are everywhere around the house.  That probably doesn't help motivate him for chore work but I have to get rid of the piles.  In the end, I know we will take all of it to the bank to exchange it for bills.  That practice has become a favorite ritual in our household because after we get the bills, we go straight to the toy store.  

On our last trip, Number 1 chose a Beyblade.  I think he picked it because he had watched a Beyblade TV show on Netflix the week prior.  He loved it. Japanese anime that isn't too scary works for him thanks to Hayao Miyazaki films.   I liked the show because there was no physical fighting, guns, or blood.

The toy is itself is really just a spinning top.  There is a "launcher" and a ripcord that you use to send your "bey" (top) spinning off.  The battle is to see whose bey is the last bey spinning.  It looks like there is a big element of chance in this game but my son who is now a serious "blader," would argue that I'm wrong.

In the TV show, it looks as though a blader wins by having self-confidence and channeling that positive energy through his bey.  It's a hard concept to grasp but for Number 1, make-believe seems to fill in the gaps.  While he plays, he and other boys exchange made-up reasons why their bey is still spinning.  This type of verbal ping-pong keeps the play stimulating. I also love that he's doing this because my guy needs more practice articulating his thoughts. I find this kind of fantasy conversation much akin to how I talked about Wonder Woman when I was little.

What is even more interesting to me is to watch kids play in the playground with this toy. I had no idea that it had any social scene helping qualities but for my son, it serves as a very reliable tool.

Recently, I spoke with a mom who told me an uplifting account of her son's first time playing Beyblades.

Her bubbly 8-year-old boy loves being with other kids, but his frequent social faux pas present real hurdles in the friendmaking department.  However, at a sidewalk gathering of some neighborhood kids who have not always dashed to include him, this young lad somehow easily inserted himself into this crowd of boys as they were huddled over a "plastic thing" (stadium) to watch multiple spinning tops battle.  Soon another boy was teaching her son how to launch a bey and to "let it rip."  She watched joyfully as her beloved social fumbler got to join in on the fun.

She thought to herself that day, "I don't care what these things cost. I'm buying them." Luckily for all of us, many of these tops cost just $8 or $9.

Here are some other observations about Beyblades:

  • Beyblades don't require a large amount of eye contact or conversation, just like with a video game.  Shy kids who have trouble entering into games will have an easier time joining in or just watching.  A child's own bey can act as a conversation piece to ease him into the group.  
  • Impressively, throughout the first season, the t.v. series showed a lot of rivals becoming friends after battling each other.   Some of the storylines involved standing behind your friends no matter what, giving it your all even if you're competing against friends, and always seeking to battle the "strongest" to improve one's own skills. 
  • Number 1 is too young for this but there also seems to be a real beyblading subculture.  There is even a World Beyblade Organization.  Here is a video of a tournament I found.
  • Additionally, since this game also looks somewhat like a game of chance, at least to a non-blading mom, there seems to be less upset when "losing."
  • Despite the social help qualities of the beyblade, kids who get bullied need to be careful about bringing these to school.  They should feel safe that their toys will not be snatched from them.
  • The actual launching of the tops is not hard to do.  However, we have a lefty friend who has complained that it was awkward at first. I think there is at least one launcher that can be used for lefties or righties.  So if your child is a lefty, see if this will be an issue.  It might be annoying in the beginning so then you can at least prepare your child.  
  • Again, there is no violence but plenty of roaring and bumping beys.  Thus boys have an outlet for rough battling without anyone getting hurt.
  • What about the girls?  Remember, they can kick butt in the "stadium" without touching anyone or vice versa.  The young lady character, Hikaru Hasama who sports the Storm Aquario bey probably has the most intimidating persona on the show.  
  • I love how Number 1 comes up with different places for a stadium.  He has used computer lap desks, pencil boxes, empty drawers, buckets, and the list would get longer if I let him.   I've even seen beyblades on ice and beyblades in water.  I try to encourage this kind of play even though it is messy and my boys do not know how to clean up.   Of course, you can buy a stadium too. I like the one that belongs to my son's friend the most.  
  • The bey is heavy but in comparison to other toys it is very portable. The smaller standard launcher, bey, and ripcord can fit into your child's pants pocket and the least expensive ones are around $8 dollars.  So if they get lost, there might be a few tears but it's not like losing a DS cartridge.
The question was, "Why are Beyblades good for kids?"
You might dislike my answer but in the past six months, I have used Beyblades in an educational way more than any other "tool" in my house.  Number 1 is kind of addicted to it and I am shamelessly exploiting this.  Time spent beyblading with friends, me, by himself, as well as buying new tops, stadiums, launchers..etc..   These have been great incentives for him to work on his writing skills which is an academic target this year.  He was immensely proud of himself when he earned a nice-sized stadium-bey-special launcher set for reaching some writing goals.   Another plus is that it is always quick and easy to earn one bey at a time.  There are so many to choose from and if he ever tires of the ones sold in America, we can go to eBay or Amazon and see what is being sold in the East  from where Beyblades originate.  While writing this post, I found a remote control beyblade (see video) for which Number 1 would likely write an epic novel, just so he can get his hands on one.

I should also say now that given all the good things he does with them, screen time has decreased a lot as he spends more time playing with his beys.  

So are they educational in their own right?  Bottomline, for me, this is a nice addition to a parent's toolbox.  The first reason is that I have seen this toy bring out creative commentary from kids.  It is nice that it is half-based on the actual physical mechanics of the beys (beys come in five parts and spins differently as you interchange parts).  Mixing parts up and changing the tactile arenas brings on inquisitive thinking.  And there is no denying that inquisitive thinking is educational.  Moreover, if you look at Number 1's "essay" (photo above) you can see that he's really thinking about how to make a bey go faster.  Can we call this mini-engineering? I say YES.

Bravo Number 1.  I hope you will continue to figure out just how much faster you can make it go because that would be good "brain thinking" as you like to say.   For my little scientist, I'll call this his early work in studying the science of centrifugal force and spin velocity.

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the manufacturer or retailer of this product for the publication of this post . 

Toys are Tools also is very grateful to have found these fantastic YouTube videos made by huge fans of BB.  Three cheers for YouTube, one of my favorite teaching tools.  

p.s. I received a message about a world championship scheduled for March 2012.   I just found out that the tournament was even in New York City.  Hope they come back next year.  That would have been really fun for Number 1.

1 comment:

  1. So, I told a friend (who has an ASD daughter same age as mine) about getting beyblades on your recommendation. Guess what? She was thinking of getting a battle set for her daughter, too! Will let you know how they work a social tool for our two assiduously asocial girls.