The gender lines were drawn, and neither side on the great boy-girl divide was willing to cross to a compromise position when we first asked Laura Anderson’s fourth-grade class at McKinley Elementary School in South Holland to draw up the best and worst toy lists.
The class was given 24 toys to play with—ones the manufacturers had said were right for this age group. The students played with them for three weeks. Then Chicago Parent returned for the report, but the best and worst lists were a jumble. Many of the toys the boys thought were the best, the girls thought were the worst and vice versa.
Beyblades, a Hasbro line of battling transformers that duke it out in their own stadium, inspired the most debate. The class had received two of these very big sellers—the Beyblade Mangacore Starter ($6.99) and the Beyblade Mobile Beystadium ($17.99)
But the Beyblades were a problem from the start—before Anderson was able to accept the toys, she had to get a special waiver from the principal since the toys are banned from the school, where they are considered sharp and dangerous. The majority of the girls in the class agreed with that description, while the boys just thought Beyblades was fun. “It hurts when you try and pick it up,” said Regine Brown. “When more than two people are playing, it gets really fun,” said Justin Shaifer.
“The boys started trying to take over,” said Deshauna Russell, describing what happened when the girls tried to play with Beyblades. “If boys played with girls that could actually be a good thing,” said Stephanie Pallay.
There were many opinions and much debate, but the kids decided that the key to a good toy was that it challenges your brain and lets you be creative. Most thought they would want some toy they played with in the toy test, but they were surprised to find that, after playing with these toys, they didn’t. And about 14 of the kids said they would prefer gift certificates for the holidays instead of toys or even money.
Still, overwhelmingly, the cardboard box won. When the kids were asked if any had ever played with a cardboard box, every hand went up and every face brightened. Each had a story about what they had made with a box, what they would do with another and how much fun it was. Here are some of their thoughts on the toys.
Toys that worked Coda (Winning Moves Games, $10.95). “I like Coda because I like breaking codes,” said Danielle Jackson. The board game, for ages 8 and up, has players create a code and try to figure out opponents’. “It lets you be creative,” said Stephanie Pallay.
Wig Out! (Gamewright, $5.99), is a card game for ages 6 and up that has players matching cornrows, pigtails and mohawks. Brianna Bullock said, “I liked it. I like to match things up.”
Professor Noggin’s Earth Science (Outset Media, $9.99) is an informational card game that teaches about volcanoes and the Earth’s crust.
X-Pod (LEGO, $3.99-$34.99). From the designer collection to the individual robots and vehicles, these mini-LEGO sets were a hit. Players build planes, cars, animals and robots. While adults do not favor the structured nature of the game, the kids liked the compact version of LEGOs. “That one was cool,” said Alexander Solis.
Toys that didn’t work Clikits’ My Special Storage Space (LEGO, $34.99) and Clikits’ The Ultimate Jewelry Collection (LEGO, 19.99) just don’t seem to work for girls. This is the second class this year and the second year in the toy test that girls have said this toy line always looks like a good idea when they see the package, but the kits are just too hard to put together.
Woodkins Groovy Girls Design Studio (Woodkins, $20). The girls didn’t think that this toy, which allows players to create new outfits with fabrics and accessories for a cardboard cutout girl, had much staying power. “When people play before you, everything is cut up,” said Deshauna.
Star Sisterz Deluxe Box (Wizards of the Coast, $19.99). Just like the third-graders, the girls complained about this game, saying that: The truth-or-dare-type challenges were too difficult, you could not do it in school, you needed other items that were not included, the charms were hard to put on the bracelets and they thought there might be some wrong pieces in the set. But two girls thought the game was a fun challenge.
Ricochet (Gamewright, $5.99), is a card game for ages 10 and up, and did not work for this crowd. “It was really no fun,” said Danielle Jackson. The instructional manual, “was so confusing. I almost fell asleep. It was too long.”
Marshall Brodien’s Magic Hat (Cadaco, $9.99) just held no magic. “The card thing was easy, but everyone knew the tricks,” said Arianna Jenkins.
Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent. Graham Johnston, a former Chicago Parent intern and currently a student in the journalism program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, also contributed to this report.