September 25th, 2010

Assorted reviews of toys and gadgets

Dizzy Disc Jr.

This is a "sensory toy" or therapy tool for a "sensory diet". Basically, if you've got a kid who loves spinning, or looking at spinning things, this is a way to meet that need in a more formal, organized and/or satisfying way. It wasn't cheap. It was available through Amazon, but not with Prime shipping -- 3rd party seller. If you're thinking sit 'n' spin, kinda. But a sit 'n' spin is unbelievably cheap and crappy compared to this thing. I'm fairly certain I'm over the weight limit, but it had no problem with me sitting on it with A. in my lap, spinnning. No lame pillar, either, which could be considered a good thing or a bad thing.

T. immediately took to it: stood on it, sat next to it and watched it spin, including putting his eyes right next to the logo in the center. A. _loved_ it -- I had to enforce some turn taking. I completely broke the rules and put her on it and spun her around; I had to fold her legs in to keep them from stopping her. She unfolded them when she needed a break.

Tangle Therapy

I bought a smooth, simpler version of this after I saw the one K. had. This is a little bigger, more complicated, has a slightly tacky surface and nubs on it. The old one I had was pretty addictive; this is almost impossible to put down. The kids all like it, too, altho getting put in the sand box did not do it any favors.

Puffer Ball with light inside

R. calls these aneurysm balls. They look a little like an anenome, are a little rubbery with a slightly tacky surface. If you squeeze on them, they puff out. The LED light inside is motion/impact activated. I found these a little disturbing when the OT brought some over, but I got over it on the second encounter. They're kinda fun; the kids do like it.

FirstWords Deluxe by Learning Touch for iPad (but you can get it for lots of iPhone/iTouch)

I got several samples of apps, looking for things to entertain the kiddies other than with videos on the iPad. Most of them were things where you point at an icon or picture of an animal and it makes the animal sound. They were only very mildly interesting to A. I also got a sampler for this. It shows a cartoonish icon (of a shape, an animal, a vehicle, something from around the house, etc.). If you touch the icon, it says the word. The word is displayed in scrabble like grayed out tiles on the top half, and the bottom half is littered with full-color scrabble like tiles for the same word. If the tiles are dragged over the matching tile, they click in; when they are all in place, the icon spins around, becomes large, and the word is spelled out letter by letter and the word is pronounced. For reasons best known to A., this is really involving. She wants to play it several times a day, for many minutes at a time. She has learned to isolate her index finger ("point") from this, when nothing else had motivated her to do so previously. That's kinda cool. T. has started to be interested in it. He'll repeat the letters when the game pronounces them, and tonight he started playing it as well. The touch screen is pretty easy to use, but it does have a learning curve which becomes highly visible when a kid with fine motor skills is learning it.

Letter recognition learned in this game appears to generalize to other toys, such as v-tech laptop toys and similar.

Melissa & Doug Farm Sound Blocks

I would swear we had a different version of sound blocks at some point, but they are long gone, if, indeed, I am not hallucinating.

In any event, there are two (2) blocks, and a little tray. The tray takes 2 AAA batteries. When the blocks are placed to form a complete animal in the tray, a circuit is completed which produces the animal's sound (moo, etc.). It's kinda cute. The kids aren't all that interested in putting it together, but A. does like poking it to make it restart the noise when it winds down.

Toysmith PinArt

Back in the 90s, this was a computer geekboy workstation toy (along with koosh balls and similar). It is disturbingly fun to play with: to put your hand on it, to put a variety of things on it, whatever. Lots of fun. Kind of heavy if it gets dropped, so probably supervised play only.

Plan Toys Dollhouses, Doll families and assorted furniture set accessories

My First Dollhouse, Basement for My First Dollhouse, Chalet Dollhouse: we got the first two for here and the third for the nanny. Each setup got an adult bedroom, kids bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom. Our setup also got a laundry room and extra accessories, including kids toys indoors and out. We're thinking about buying a dog and accessories for the nanny, but haven't yet.

We love these. They company pushes the eco thing. The toys are very gender-neutral and supportive of pretend play, whether child-directed or adult-directed or some combination thereof. I looked at a bunch of doll houses online and in person: there are several choices out there suitable for a family looking to avoid pinks and other extremely girl-identified pastels; I really like Plan Toys. They definitely generate chokable parts if you drop them and the glue fails, so for A., they are supervised play only.

Paw Naturaw Bully Sticks

A little change of pace here: these are bull pizzle (that would be bull penis) that have been processed, mostly by drying out. This particular brand claims to be all natural and not result in bad breath or otherwise stinky dog. The neighbor's dog (large, kinda hyper, but very sweet) likes to chew on branches and so forth and then vomit. Rawhides are gross, and every other chew thing gets destroyed very quickly. I got some of these, thinking maybe they'd be a substitute for branches. They work great. The dog loves them. The dog doesn't chew on branches any more. The dog doesn't throw up any more. The dog's teeth are looking cleaner (not at the gum line, unfortunately). These things do everything they claim to do, and the dog's breath is not bad (never was bad; these haven't made it any worse).

Don't buy them thinking you can break them in half to stretch them. They are seriously tough. You would need a hacksaw. I've thought about it, but not actually tried it. Stunningly, the dog can get through one in less than 20 minutes. Your dog may make one last longer.

Plato Dog Treats, specifically the organic salmon

These have been fed to two different dogs: the large, kinda hyper one next door, and the lhasa apso that lives across the street with my walking partner. The dogs like them. They (the treats) smell good -- very salmon-y. No negative repercussions that I have noticed. The treats are a little expensive.