Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Questions About Toys are Tools?

We know there are lots of new people here.  Allow us to reintroduce ourselves as we have updated our Q and A page.

UPDATED: 3/4/13

There is a difference between a review and an advertorial.  Pictured: Jenn is in front of a mirror trying out different photo taking positions with her FlyGrip.

Jenn, are you paid for writing reviews?

To my husband's dismay, I do not accept payment for reviews by anyone. I think that perhaps, I won't be in this business for very long if I don't but if I have to make such big compromises, I really rather try to go back to my old life as an academic medical publicist.  But honestly, I love sharing my experiences with toys.  It's hard to give up this job.
I am still in this game because I really believe that it is difficult for many folks to get good stuff for their kids these days.  Our time and dollars are limited and we waste what little we have of it reading tons of reviews from strangers and opening boxes of un-returnable disappointments at home.  I believe we buyers of good toys and gadgets need good pictures, decisive language, some usage ideas, and maybe even some video.  Best of all, sometimes we can bring you advice from real experts in the field of child neuro-psychology and education.

But please note this.  Apparently giveaways are really popular and I hope everyone will give it a try.  We have a bunch of 3-time winners here.  Since giveaways create the splash that a review sometimes needs to turn heads, I provide more editorial space for toys that may come with giveaways but believe us when we say, just cuz they want to give it away, we still won't talk about it if is it going to disappoint.  And we still encourage readers to read reviews that don't come with giveaways (we do have limited space for those but it is there).  You will see that those reviews are just as thoughtful as the rest.

Thank you 2-dollar frisbee on clearance rack for giving my kid some serious happiness.

But you get the products for free, isn't that "payment"?
All the testers, who live in different states in the U.S. work hard to tinker around with these wonderful creations that have been sent to their home.  Their parents give detailed feedback and take tons of pictures so that the editor may select the best images to help readers get a sense of what their children can do with these products.  We also never promise reviews but I have to tell you, we really admire the companies that send products to us and so if and when that happens we feel really really bad

While we don't have an obligation to write a review, we do have an obligation to view the toys sent to us and if we requested the submission then heck we are really obligated to test it out thoroughly. So  basically, the answer is, they are not payment, at least not to us.  But, we tell our kids testers to not only respect the people who will read the review but also to respect those who have designed the products.  All toys are a result of someone's work.  We try our best not to forget that.
Oh, and I still buy my own toys.  So do the parents of the other Toys are Tools' testers.  If we did not pay for any of the toys we owned, how would we be able to relate to your concerns? 

What does "educational" really mean? Are chairs educational? We think so. Even video game beanbag chairs! (black, left)   Check out the one in this link- to me, it says, there is nothing more pleasurable on this chair than reading a book.

Do you only review educational toys and games?

Sometimes you will see me use this term in a review.  And in truth, many of these toys are labeled as "educational" and I have to stick those words here and there so that the search engines will pick it up but I would much rather use terms like "Think Like a Scientist/Engineer" or "More Make Believe Please."  I think the readers here are savvy and want to know what the heck is so educational about their educational toys.  Besides, ever try telling a kid to pick out an "educational toy?"   You might as well tell them to go study for a test during their break time. 

But seriously, we support learning- all kinds of learning.  We support real THINKING.  We support competence-building.  We support confidence-building.  We support job-skill building.  We support preparing our children for a future that we can't even imagine.

Why do you only write positive reviews?

We have so little time these days.  Why waste it on learning what not to buy?  We all want to see the cool stuff.  Even if we are just browsing....  Cool stuff gives us all cool ideas.

Love Q-BA Maze.  We received one submission from Mindware but now all the testers have the BIG BOX in their home.

How do you select links for products? What's with the Amazon links on the bottom?

When introducing a product in a review.  The first hyperlink I use is usually that of the manufacturer's link to the product being reviewed.  This writer is a participant in the Amazon Associates program which means that if you were to purchase something from Amazon after you have gone through our link but before logging out, then Toys are Tools will receive a small percentage of that transaction.  This is at no additional cost to you.  For a certain period of time, if a person were to go through our link and then put the product in their shopping cart and then purchased it on another day, Toys are Tools is likely to receive a percentage then too. If you ever shop this way, then thank you sooooo much. I love this website and your support and your emails really helps keep me going.   Hope you can support us but we also support you saving money and supporting your favorite neighborhood toy stores.  

How often will you publish?

At least 2 original posts per week. Sometimes more.  Almost all of them will be reviews.  And a large majority of them will have a fun giveaway attached!

To contact Toys are Tools please email us at: toysaretools at gmail dot com

or write to us at:
Toys are Tools
P.O. Box 778242
Woodside, NY 11377
our P.O. Box has retired.

If you would like to send us a package or letter, please email us for our address.

Being a toy tester is not as glam as it may appear to be.... Testers can lose their "job" or be forced to take a "leave of absence" if they do not keep up with chores and schoolwork.
How do you become a tester?

A few months ago, we asked for applications and now we have many.  We do not know when we will be taking more applications as we are set for now.  If you are interested, please read and comment frequently.  Let's get to hear your voice!  This is the best way we can find out what pleases our readers.

Toys for who? For what ages?
Many of our toys will be for kids ages 3-12.  We will always strive for games that can bring a family together so we often consider the grown-ups' needs too.  Most of the toys are for both boys and girls.  We have a great interest in tech and construction toys here but we like to look at lots of things.  You usually will not see very very gender-specific toys but once in a while we may do such a review.   We will also pay special attention to products that help children become more independent.  We also love products that helps parents do the job of parenting.   We love things to help them focus!  If you have a product you would like to tell us about, please email us at:

toysaretools at gmail  dot com

Kids keep playing with them or even turn them into science projects!  Love K'nex Education!

What do you do with the toys after you review them?

Well, that's simple.  We keep on playing with them!!!  The kids are the testers so there is no sense in taking it away.  That's just plain cruel! But if a kid outgrows his toy, we may pass it on to a school or to younger neighbors, the youngest testers gets some of them too.  Sometimes there is an exchange of toys and games between the testers as well.  This helps us to keep the learning alive even after a review has been published. (Jenn also hides some in her closet for her future grandchildren but please do not tell Mr. Toys are Tools)

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