When it comes to toys and games, fifth-graders have definite opinions: They either love them or hate them, with little in between.
This is not to say that everyone in Michael Likchite’s fifth-grade class at Evanston’s Orrington Elementary School agreed. That became very clear when Chicago Parent tried to take a vote and establish a best and worst toy and game list during the toy test.
While there were definite favorites, the Esphera 360 Puzzle (Warren, $14.95) got four votes for the worst list and five for the best. One student even suggested that the card game Slamwich (Gamewright, $12), an overwhelming class favorite, be put on the worst list (resulting in many groans and protests). Despite some disagreement, though, more than half the class liked two games in particular, the aforementioned Slamwich, and Wig Out (Gamewright, $5.99), a fast-paced card game that requires players to match pictures of hair styles.
“I liked all the wigs because you could picture other people in them,” said Dan Letchinger.
As for Slamwich, the students liked that other players could join in easily in the middle of a game.
“At the beginning of the game you deal out all of the cards, but you can come in during the middle of a game and get cards and start playing,” said Leah Chernoff.
Even though he helped vote Slamwich onto the “best” list, Michael O’Brien said he would not put the game on his wish list.
“It’s a waste of a Christmas gift,” he said, adding that he “would want it for another gift.”
His classmate, Michael Dorner, agreed: “It would be good for when I’m at my grandparents’ house.”
As for the toys voted onto the worst list, Woodkins Groovy Girls Design Studio (Woodkins, $20) and Builder Xtreme (LEGO, $19.99) tied for the top spot. Most of the votes against the Design Studio came from the girls, in part because of the way the toy is marketed and packaged.
“It’s way too girly-girl. It’s stereotypical and too pink. I personally do not like that,” said Ellen Roeder.
Besides disliking the pink packaging, the girls also complained that the toy did not work as it was supposed to.
“The scissors were dull and some of the stuff didn’t work,” said Leah. “They had pieces to show the shape of the dress, but you couldn’t trace it on the fabric.” (Younger testers had similar complaints.)
Builder Xtreme made the worst list for being too structured; the fifth-graders wanted to build things other than what the instructions showed.
“I liked it better when you could do whatever you want,” said Michael O’Brien, referring to the big buckets of LEGOs he had when he was younger. “You can’t really build other stuff because you don’t have all the pieces.”
Even though they had fun playing with the toys, most of the class said they did not really want toys for the holidays. These kids want money and electronics such as iPods and cell phones. While these choices may suggest they are eager to become teenagers, their top toy choices show they’re still not too old for games. Toys that worked Slamwich (Gamewright, $12). With 17 votes out of a class of 25, this game was the clear winner. Players build sandwiches with food-shaped cards and try to be the first to collect each sandwich as it’s discarded. The player who collects all the cards wins.
Wig Out (Gamewright, $5.99). A close second place with 16 votes, the kids loved the funny pictures of hair styles on the cards.
Wire Art Jewelry Can Kit (Duncan Enterprises, $16). Kids can make jewelry, sculptures and whatever else comes to mind with this craft kit. Luis Alfaro pointed out, though, that the small pieces can be dangerous for small children.
Toys that didn’t work Woodkins Groovy Girls Design Studio (Woodkins, $20). Marketed to ’tween girls, the toy comes with scissors, fabric, stickers and other objects to dress and decorate the sandwich-board doll (fabric is placed underneath the cover so it looks like an outfit when closed). The ’tween audience might be too old for this toy, though. “It was boring. All you do is make clothes for the person,” said Arielle Williams.
Builder Xtreme (LEGO, $19.99). Players race to be the first to finish building one of 20 different designs. Despite including 118 Lego pieces with the game, our testers wanted more. “If someone had one piece, you had to wait. You couldn’t really do it with a bunch of people,” said Luke Zunamon.
There’s a Moose in the House (Gamewright, $9.99). The goal of this card game is to keep the moose out of your house while giving it to the other players at the same time.
“It took us an hour just to get the game down. After 20 minutes we got bored and left it,” said Michael Dorner.
Jennifer Mesich is a former Chicago Parent intern and is a journalism student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent.