Despite having 20 different toys—from LEGOs to a remote control car to games—Melissa Ingram’s third-grade class at Wesley Elementary in Addison got most excited about a cardboard box.
After debating the pros and cons of the toys we sent them, we got the most responses from the third-graders when we asked them if they had ever played with a cardboard box. Their faces glowed as they remembered the fun they had making forts, playhouses and racing cars.
“Why don’t they sell them in stores?” asked Marisa Noltin.
When it came to talking about the toys they had been testing for Chicago Parent, however, there weren’t any overwhelming class favorites. The top vote-getter was Professor Noggin’s Reptiles and Amphibians (Outset Media, $9.99), a card game that asks players to answer questions about snakes, crocodiles, lizards and other cold-blooded animals.
“It challenges your brain. It’s probably good for school because you get to learn about animals and you get the information even if you get it wrong,” said Becky McCoy.
The second favorite actually made the worst list, too. X-Pod (LEGO, $3.49) is a type of travel set that includes small pieces to build planes, cars, animals and robots, depending on the set (this class received the Auto Pod and Aero Pod, two other LEGO products that retail for $3.49 each). The kids liked building the cars and airplanes, but wanted more options and found it harder to build with the smaller LEGOs.
“Some of the pieces I couldn’t find because they didn’t look like the picture,” said Matthew Rendina. “The pieces fell off and the wheel came off.”
Another toy, Road Champ’s NASCAR Remote Control Car (Jakks Pacific, $24.99), merited a similarly split vote. The small remote-control car received seven votes for the best list, more than Professor Noggin, but the number of complaints we heard made us add it to the worst list (with just a few complaints from the kids).
Tony Tedeschi seemed to sum up most of his classmates’ feelings: “I was excited about it because I like to play with electronic stuff. It took a long time to charge, though, and it didn’t have a screwdriver [to open the battery compartment].”
Several students also complained that the car was too small and the remote didn’t have a very long range. Shawn Abraham found one good use for it, though: “When you’re driving it, you can crash into the girls.”
There was no ambivalence about the “girl” toys the class got: All of them tied for second place on the worst list.
Although the Clikits by LEGO were voted on as a whole, the class received the Designer Desk Set ($12.99) and the Ultimate Design Studio ($29.99). The desk set includes a pencil case, pencil, ruler and other school supplies along with Clikits icons that can be used to decorate the supplies. The design studio includes different forms and accessories that kids can use to make and decorate picture frames, mobiles, jewelry and other crafts. (Second-grade testers agreed.)
“It was dumb! You do the same thing over and over. You can’t do anything with it,” said Chandlyr Kulpa. Her classmates also said the small pieces hurt their fingers when they tried to snap them together.
The same was said about the Star Sisterz Deluxe Box (Wizards of the Coast, $19.99), a truth-or-dare type of game where players earn charms to add to the included bracelets each time they complete a task. Besides complaining about the difficulty of putting the charms on the bracelets, the girls also said the tasks were sometimes difficult to complete.
As for the last toy in the “girl” category, the Woodkins Groovy Girls Design Studio (Woodkins, $20), the main complaint was that the clothes were hard to make for the sandwich-board doll with the included materials.
“You couldn’t hold it and you couldn’t trace some of the things. It wasn’t fun after awhile,” said Emily Zadny.
Toys that worked Road Champ’s NASCAR Remote Control Car (Jakks Pacific, $24.99). This is a prime example of children and remote control toys: The kids voted to put it on their best list, but the number of complaints we heard made us place it on the worst list.
Professor Noggin’s Reptiles and Amphibians (Outset Media, $9.99). The kids voted this fast-paced card game No. 1 on their list of favorites, with five votes from the class.
X-Pod (LEGO, $3.49). This travel set of mini LEGO pieces that allows players to build planes, cars, animals and robots, tied for first place with five votes.
Xevoz Battling Figure Kits (Hasbro, $14.95). This toy, which lets kids build action figures and then battle them against each other, got four votes.
Coda (Winning Moves Games, $9.95). This code-breaking game tied with Xevoz with four votes for the best list.
Toys that didn’t work X-Pod (LEGO, $3.49). This mini-LEGO set, which tied for first on the best list, got more votes for the worst list with a total of seven.
Woodkins Groovy Girls Design Studio (Woodkins, $20). This toy includes a sandwich board in the shape of a girl and a variety of fabrics and accessories to create new outfits. The girls found it difficult to use and tired of it quickly.
Clikits (LEGO, $3.99-$34.99). This toy has consistently made the worst list in toy tests for the last two years. Its high-profile marketing and glitzy packaging initially attracts girls, but they soon get bored, complaining that the small parts hurt their fingers and that they are difficult to click together and take apart.
Star Sisterz Deluxe Box (Wizards of the Coast, $19.99). The girls complained that many of the truth-or-dare-type challenges were too difficult and it was tough to put the charms on the bracelets.
Road Champ’s NASCAR Remote Control Car (Jakks Pacific, $24.99). The kids did not vote this onto the worst list. We did, based on their complaints about the toy.
Jennifer Mesich is a former Chicago Parent intern. Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent.