Thursday, November 24, 2011

Should Boys Play with Dolls? Black Friday Find and Grab

These little bots can accomplish big things!
WHAT: Zibits
DOES: Move little robots via remote control, endless play scenarios
INVEST: $10-$18 for one robot, play sets costs more
TOOLS: More Make-Believe Please, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer

When you think of remote-control (RC) toys- you think of cars and trains.  Geotrax was a big Number 2 favorite but since he's outgrown them, the only thing to remotely control in our house is our television.

Because of various limitations including my extra-sensitive ears, I rarely take interest in RC toys. However, one day, while doing a regular run in a favorite discount store, I stumbled upon a pair of Zibits selling for dirt cheap.  Despite my aversion to toys-with-noise, I couldn't help myself and so I bought it.  Still, I had no clue what to do with them but when I brought it home, it was a different story.  The players: Numbers 1 and 2 and their Big Sister-like Helper/Tutor/Friend Number 3, a 12-year-old girl, did crazy things with these little robots.

The robots basically became remote-controlled dolls!  Number 3 took the Zibits with Number 2 and had them play Hide-and-Seek and even Tag.  This was awesome for Number 2 because he is so shy with other kids but now with the Zibits, he was practicing (sort of) this very prevalent children's game via a simple RC toy.   Moreover, the Zibits inspired Number 1 to dig into his imagination to invent games such as having a Zibit run through a maze that he created with wooden blocks.  To add to that challenge, we even used a stopwatch!

Soon afterwards, the Zibits were taken to a friend's place and the kids used their remotes to have the Zibits chase each other all over the house, even under the couch!  The little robots were also used to revive long-forgotten playsets from their preschool days. The friend's mom, a schoolteacher, was delighted to see all the pretend play action from these two boys whose only remote control experience together was that from video games.  She also remarked how portable they were. They fit in a child's pocket.

I was sold on the fact that make-believe play with Zibits could be crazy fun for just about any kid but New York City psychotherapist Christa Murphy saw something special after introducing one into a therapy session with a 1st grade boy.  For starters, Christa let me know that robots are usually not gender-specific nor gender-preferential.  Regular-Talk Translation: if you are looking at Zibits for doll-like pretend play, there will be no- "I don't want it because it's a girl."  Additionally, girls may likely to pick it up as much as boys.

And indeed, this 1st grade boy picked up the Zibit, started playing with it, and at one point he placed it in a Magna-Tile box structure that he built and then he placed the remote control in another Magna-Tile box structure.  Blind to the symbolism, I asked Christa what this meant.  She explained that this little guy was conveying feelings of being trapped.
Thrilled and not thrilled with the chalk drawing of "train station"
Christa further clarified, "Typically play therapists use dolls to help a child to project their feelings."  In plain speak, it means that doll play can help a child to get some things out that are bothering them.  And that is where the gender issue is significant, she told me.  Oftentimes boys will pick up animals instead of dolls.  However, as we all know, robots are often created in the shape of humans and so thanks to Christa, it seems that the Zibits can also be useful even in play therapy. I still can't believe that. It's really exciting.

There are various Zibits and they each have a name.  I have found that the Zibits who have the same shape but are in different colors can both be controlled with just one remote (example: Dex and Spex).  Number 2 was annoyed by this but Number 1 loved it.  Additionally, Zibits have their own play scenario sets. (Click here to see their Power Lab).  We actually haven't purchased one yet and we just may but the lesson to be learned is simple.  These little bots can do lots and lots of amazing things.  With your child's unleashed imagination, there are little to no boundaries for creative play.  If you decide to buy them, I suggest you just give them the robots, sit back, and let them surprise you.  It will likely be quite a treat.

Sample Zibit games courtesy of Numbers 1 and 3 and me:
  • Race to push blocks into a goal within a certain time. (see video)
  • Hide and Seek
  • Tag or Chase
  • Fight!
  • Push object over table edge without Zibit falling over with it
  • Zibits push each other head to head on a hot wheels track and you watch as one falls off
  • Stick out Zibit arms and spin them around and see if you can knock one off balance
  • Create a maze with anything in your house, toys, food, books, anything.....  let the Zibit run through with a stopwatch or race another Zibit
  • Soccer (there is also a Zibit "Lightning Ball" playset- but at the time of posting, I couldn't find this set  at a low price.  It does look very cute.) 
Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion for the publication of this post by the manufacturer or retailer of any of the products mentioned here . 

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