Great Gift Ideas (and Reviews) #1

Gift Ideas and Reviews

It gets to be about this time of year, and we all start thinking past Thanksgiving and on toward Christmas. If you’re like me, you usually have the PERFECT gift in mind for one or two people on your list, but are still waiting for inspiration to hit for all of the others. Coming up with great gift ideas can be hard!

I don’t know about you, but when I’m trying to make decisions about what to give, I am a review reader. I love to see what other, real people, have to say about how something worked (or didn’t work) for them. And, when it comes to toys for children, I want to see what ages it worked well for, because, as we all know, the age recommendations on toys may or may not be truly reflective of what age child will enjoy the toy.

So, I thought I’d look back through some of the toy successes and failures around here and see if I could give you some useful recommendations as we head into the gift-giving season. We’ll start this week with one of our more recent successes, Snap Circuits Jr.

Great Gift Ideas for Children Snap circuits

Watching my son play with this toy last week (and again today) is actually what made me think about starting this series.  My son is 5 and we gave him this set for his birthday.  You can see in the image above that the age recommendation is 8 and up.

Back in 2009, we gave the larger version of this toy, Snap Circuits SC-300, to my nephew, who was about 8 1/2 at the time. According to my sister, he really loved it. Like my son, he enjoys making and building things. So, I’d been thinking about getting my son a Snap Circuits kit when he got old enough, and decided to go ahead and give it a try with the Jr. version for his 5th birthday.

Great Gift Ideas for Children Snap CircuitsThe long and short of it is: I don’t know why the age recommendation is so high. The kit is safe. I’ve seen no way for him to get shocked or otherwise injured (even if there were a shock, it would just be from the batteries powering the board, so it wouldn’t be much of one). Five year-olds, obviously aren’t likely to put small parts in their mouths, and while there are some small parts, the pieces are mostly larger and easier to handle than those contained in many Lego sets. So, I’m baffled about why they wouldn’t set a lower age recommendation. If you have a child who enjoys Lego sets and following the required instructions to build them, even if he or she is just in the early stages of doing so, then this is definitely a toy that I would consider.

The set contains a book with different projects and the child must follow directions in order to complete the circuit and get the promised result. My son’s favorite project so far was turning the plastic fan piece into a flying saucer and launching it across the room.  He also loves all the projects that set the board up to make (albeit, mildly annoying) noises. For the first few projects, he needed assistance, but since then, he has worked on the projects primarily alone. Occasionally, he’ll need to get a little clarification, but usually by the time I’ve disengaged from whatever I was working on to help him, he’s figured it out by himself.

My FAVORITE thing about this toy (besides the fact that he enjoys playing with it)? The box and packaging are extremely well designed (you can take a peek in the picture above). All the parts can very be easily put back in their place (by your child!) when he or she is done playing with it. It’s unusual for us to go this long with a toy of this nature and not lose a piece, or have to come up with another storage option to keep up with things that don’t fit back in the box well.  This gets played with regularly and he picks it up beautifully every time.  I love it!

And, of course, the bonus is that it’s really very educational, without his even realizing it. He’s learning to follow directions, complete real electronic circuits, and audit his work when there’s a problem.

Snap Circuits Jr. is a winner, in my opinion, and a great gift idea for children. I highly recommend it . . . for ages 5 and up!

This review is totally unsolicited. This really is just a great toy that we purchased and have really enjoyed!

I’ll be collecting all of the gift reviews that we do this year and putting them all in one place. You can see them here!


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