Monday, December 31, 2012

Hoping Shopping Will Get Easier in 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

It only took 14 months but I finally figured out a way to organize the toys I've reviewed AND create an Amazon store.  I know it is not perfect but it has been really hard to figure out how to categorize things in a neat and efficient way.

Additionally, I felt that since there are so many Amazon users, that you might find it easier to shop this way.

Two things you want to know.

1- Most of the items here have been reviewed by me.  Additionally, some have been played with by the testers and just not formally reviewed.  (Thoughtful reviews take a while, sorry).

2- If a product is there and you don't see a review for it in Toys are Tools, then just know that it is a product in my list of products that answers the question: "If I could buy any toy in the world (of Amazon), what would you buy?"

To be sure, this store will grow!!!!  I will keep looking for more cool things and I will try my best to start filling in the blanks with more comments but if you have a question about a product in my store, I will do my best to answer your question.  Drop me a note at 

toysaretools at gmail dot com   and send me a link of the product in which you are referring.

Most importantly, 

Thank you so much for shopping through my link!!!  

I am grateful to you whether you bought a Kindle or a 99 cent app.  The point is that you cared to shop through my link.  I was floored!  Thanks to you all, I was able to hold my head up this holiday season in front of my family! I have had to ignore the bit of teasing from my big brother who thinks I spend way too much time on Toys are Tools (kind of true but thoughtful reviews don't write themselves...).  But I truly believe that there are many of us out there who want more for our children (and our money), so please like this page, spread the word.   It's okay if there aren't millions of readers but as long as those who drop by find the information useful, this writer can post another review of another fabulous toy that may have missed your attention.  There is so much out there and they're so wonderful.... sometimes I just want to sit and look at them!

Hope the new year brings you and your family plenty of opportunities for play and good times. 

Please bookmark the store link and thanks for your support!

And if you choose to support your neighborhood toy store instead, just want to say... I think what you're doing is smart and wonderful

Ten thousand blessings of happiness and fortune,

Jenn Choi

p.s.  our store is already being renovated!  you'll see it being a bit different from the photo above but it will be bigger than this for sure.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review and Giveaway: The New Sifteo Cubes: Get the Gift You Really Wanted

Sifteos: It helps us to think through, and to problem solve, essentially at a higher level - Dr. Gayle Herman, Child Psychologist  photo: Sifteo

WHAT: The New Sifteo Cubes

DOES: The closest that any video game has ever come to TRUE multi-sensory fun and learning.  
INVEST: MSRP  $129.95
TOOLS:  Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, My Body Needs to Move, Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner, Flexibility is My Superpower, Foment the Love of Language
AGES: 8+  (our 5-year-old plays with them too but most games are for 7+ so far)
EXPERT OPINION: Dr. Gayle Herman, Child Psychologist
GIVEAWAY: one whole set shipped to you (U.S. only) DETAILS BELOW 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Lose the Battle, Win the War: Sometimes You Have to Give In

Yes, if you saw a disheveled Asian American woman giftwrapping a DS cartridge in the middle of Game Stop late Christmas Eve, that was me.   I can recommend toys to all but my own kids?  Ha! I am the worst mom ever!

If any of you are depressed because you are looking at your kids clutching their new tablets and ignoring the "smart" toysgames you gave them, I have something to say. You are not alone. I am just as sad as you and probably, because of my job, a little embarrassed too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Review: Last Minute Gift Idea: Yahtzee Flash

They are portable!  All you need is a flat surface! 

WHAT: Last minute gift idea if you live near Toys R Us
 Yahtzee Flash from Hasbro

DOES:  If you are familiar with Poker or Yamslam type of games, Yahtzee Flash can be a treat.  It's portable too.
INVEST: MSRP Set $29.99 (have seen it on sale at many places- at time of posting Amazon is selling for $8.73)
AGES: 8 and up (my five year old played with it because he learned how to play Yamslam)
TOOLS: Lose and Win Gracefully, Math is Everywhere

Review: Magformers 30 Piece Classic Set: Building with Ease is Relaxing

This needs a little bit more pieces than what the classic set offers, that's why we bought two sets.
WHAT: Last minute gift idea if you live near cool toy stores
 Magformers 30 piece Classic Set from Rainbow Products
DOES:  very easy to use and build with these magnetic shapes.  learn geometry and get a sense of measurement through uniformity of shapes and sizes, attractive colors and uniquely satisfying building experience
INVEST: MSRP Set $49.99
AGES: 6 and up  (five year olds have played with it too)
TOOLS:  My Body Needs to Move, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Red Toolbox Tools and Treasure Chest: Learning to Make or Making to Learn?

photos above: Reeves International 

WHAT: Eight-Piece Toolset and Treasure Chest Kit from Red Toolbox (Reeves International)
DOES:  REAL tools designed for younger makers.  Kids making functional things or art with their own hands is rare these days but it's a powerful method of learning and building confidence
INVEST: MSRP Set $39.99, Kit $14.99
AGES: 8 and up
TOOLS:  My Body Needs to Move, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer, Holiday/Birthday Build-Uponner 
EXPERT OPINION: David Wells, Manager, Creative Making and Learning, New York Hall of Science
GIVEAWAY: (Total Value $65) Win a Toolbox + Six Piece Toolset and Treasure Chest Kit

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review + Giveaway: Morphology Jr.: Flexibility is My Superpower

Using these pieces, you must provide clues to your partner to guess the word you've been given.   It's crazy fun! photo: Morphology Games

DOES:  one of the smartest games ever invented-period.
INVEST:  $29.99 MSRP  
AGES: 8+ (box says 4 or more players but we have done 2 players EZ)
TOOLS:  Express Yourself, Flexibility is My Superpower, Foment Love of Language, My Body Needs to Move, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
EXPERT OPINION: Susan Schwartz, MAEd, Learning Specialist, Friends Seminary
GIVEAWAY Details Below:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Seeds for the Birds: Savvy on Social Needs of Preschoolers

One lesson from a "cooperative game":  It sucks to get caught cheating "for the team." I think kids can sense that it is worse than being caught cheating for just yourself.  photo: Peaceable Kingdom

DOES:  great "first game" experience for little ones; an educational game that helps kids practice cooperation,good game-play manners,  encourages conversation, and invites strategic thinking if you're ready!
INVEST:  $15.99 MSRP  
AGES: 3+ (we've played successfully with an 8 year old too)
TOOLS:  Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Lose and Win Gracefully, Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer 
GIVEAWAY Details Below:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best Toys and Games 2012 Holiday List and $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway! Just Vote! (Closed)

I never thought I'd write this post.  The whole idea of Toys are Tools is to show that all children are different and so what would be a great educational toy for one child may not be great for another.  That is one reason why we have 7 kid testers ranging from ages 3-13. 

But alas, I admit that having a shortlist can be helpful. Thus, I've created a list of educational toys and skill-building games that left a strong impression this year. Most of these toys will be from 2012 but some may have peeked their heads earlier. It's my first full year writing toy reviews so I think I'll get away with it just this one time.

One thing that is abundantly clear, the readers here are very passionate about toys and so I am hoping that through this "Best Of" list, everyone's voices will be heard.  But I'll provide a delectable incentive for your time.  So please have some fun and vote for your favorite toy or game of the year!  The winner will take up a cozy spot on the right hand column of Toys are Tools for the entire year of 2013.   And the coolest part?  One winner will get a $50 dollar Amazon gift certificate. If you win, you have to promise me that you will spend it on you. No toys for the kids, okay? What are you waiting for?  Read on and VOTE! 

Best Toys and Games of 2012 Holiday List

Friday, December 7, 2012

Excited About:New Sifteo (and a Coupon Code)

WHAT: Sifteo
DOES: things that we haven't even imagined yet; learning component is strengthened because of the bilateral coordination and kinesthetic appeal (English: using both hands, fingers, and arms in a way never done before in gaming is exhilarating) 
INVEST: MSRP  $129.95 for initial set which include three cubes, additional is 29.95

TOOLS:   will be named during a more in depth review
AGES: 7+  (will try to use Gen 2 Sifteos with younger kids for our upcoming review)
See Coupon Code Just for TAT readers below:

I hate to make you all wait for a review on this because this is the season to be buying things and for the past couple of weeks, I have been presenting gifts to children that sort of mesh with the whole family.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Cart Before the Horse: "Control Your Mental Effort"

"You have to control your mental effort," said one of Susan's students about Cart Before the Horse.

WHAT: Cart Before the Horse by Mindware
DOES: allows you to work on skills including: working memory, following directions, spatial reasoning; excellent bonding activity with child
INVEST: MSRP  $17.95 
TOOLS:  Think Like a Scientist/Engineer (super visual-spatial), Lose and Win Gracefully - this one player game can be played with friends too, Remember to Learn, Foment Love of Language
AGES: 8+  (younger kids can definitely enjoy this too)
EXPERT OPINION: Susan Schwartz, MAEd, Learning Specialist, Friends Seminary

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Community: Leadership Training for Kids

There is a reason why colleges look for community service in prospective applicants.  Knowledge about one's community's needs is essential to good leadership.

WHAT: Community by eeBoo
DOES:  practice being part of a team,  practice being a leader and being supportive, practice problem solving as a group and individually, play a game where there are no "losers"
INVEST:  $19.99 MSRP  
AGES: 5+ (we've played successfully with a four-year old)
TOOLS:  Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Flexibility is My Superpower, Lose and Win Gracefully, People are People, Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer 
EXPERT OPINION: Alison Berkley, Co-owner, Special Education Teacher, Emerge and See Education Center, Blogger, Breaking Barriers at Psychology Today
GIVEAWAY Details Below: